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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 267

CONTENTS

Tuesday, June 11, 2013




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 267 
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1st SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Information Commissioner of Canada

    I have the honour to lay upon the table the annual reports on the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act from the Information Commissioner of Canada for the year 2012-13.

[Translation]

    These reports are deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

[Translation]

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34.1, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association respecting its participation at the association's 39th annual meeting held in Bordeaux and Paris from April 7 to 11, 2013.

[English]

Committees of the House

Canadian Heritage 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in relation to Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendments.

Trent-Severn Water Authority Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise this morning to say something of substance for the first time in more than five years.
    The Trent-Severn Waterway is a vast network of water management and recreational boating infrastructure in central Ontario that stretches from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. The TSW region is home to more than a million people, including more than 120,000 properties, homes and cottages that front directly on the system.
    The Trent-Severn Waterway is many things to many people, but, in my view, one thing it is not is a park. That is why I am introducing this private member's bill that would create an independent entity called the Trent-Severn water authority. It would help to realize the unbelievable potential that many of us believe the Trent-Severn has. Over the years the Trent-Severn Waterway has reported to Transport Canada as well as Canadian Heritage, and currently to the minister responsible for Parks Canada. This independent entity ought to report directly to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
    I look forward to ongoing discussions with my colleagues about this idea of realizing the potential of the Trent-Severn Waterway.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions

Child Nutrition  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition regarding access to healthy food, which is critically important for a child's development. Child and youth nutrition programs are a cost-effective way to encourage the development of lifelong healthy eating habits, support Canadian farmers and food producers in the development of local markets, and reduce future health care costs.
    The petitioners call upon Parliament to provide national leadership and support for child and youth nutrition programs through the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, develop a national child and youth nutrition strategy in consultation with stakeholders across the country and develop partnerships with farmers, food producers, et cetera, to stimulate economic development.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, there is strong opposition to EI reform in my region, in eastern Quebec.
    Accordingly, I would like to present to the House a petition signed by nearly 400 people who oppose not only Bill C-38 and the provisions that changed the EI program in a particularly devastating way for the economy of eastern Quebec, but also all the measures implemented by the government since the introduction of Bill C-38.
     I am pleased to present this petition signed by nearly 400 people opposed to employment insurance reform who are calling on the government to go back to the drawing board and consult with the entire population to study the impact of this reform.

[English]

Cluster Munitions  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions in support of Bill S-10 signed by residents of Regina and the surrounding area.
    The petitioners note that cluster munitions cause a great deal of harm to civilians and that Canada is among the 110 nations of the world which have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
    The petitioners call for an amendment to Bill S-10 to close the loopholes and make it clear that no Canadian should ever be involved in using cluster munitions, for any reason. They also ask that Bill S-10 mention the positive obligations that Canada has assumed by signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

  (1010)  

[Translation]

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present three petitions calling on the Canadian government to reverse the devastating changes to employment insurance introduced through omnibus Bill C-38 in spring 2012.

[English]

41st General Election  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to present two petitions.
    The first is from residents of the Ottawa and Perth areas, who are calling on the government to bring about a full public inquiry into the misleading phone calls that were made during the last federal election.
    This petition deals with both the live calls and what is called robocalling. Interestingly, the Federal Court decision recently found that thousands of such fraudulent efforts to defraud voters were made as live calls. Live calls were the subject of that court action.
    We still do not know who was responsible. The petitioners are calling on the House to call for an inquiry.

Human Rights  

    Mr. Speaker, the second set of petitions is from residents of the Toronto area relating to the tragedy of human rights abuses in the People's Republic of China.
    The petitioners call for the Parliament of Canada to stand up for the rights of people who are practitioners of Falun Gong or Falun Dafa.

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition that highlights the sad fact that last year 22-year-old Kassandra Kaulius was killed by a drunk driver.
    A group of people who have also lost loved ones to impaired drivers, called Families for Justice, want to see tougher laws and the implementation of new mandatory minimum sentencing for those persons convicted of impaired driving causing death.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents regarding the death of Helen Sonja Francis, a registered nurse, who was tragically killed by an impaired driver.
    The people who caused this crime were not brought to justice due to administrative errors.
    The petitioners are calling on Parliament to amend the Criminal Code of Canada to change the current four-hour limit dealing with warrants to a six-hour limit.

Human Rights  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition on behalf of a number of my constituents, practitioners of Falun Gong, who are calling on the Canadian government to intercede on their behalf with regard to the persecution of their people and their practice.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
     The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Question of Privilege

Elections Canada  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise briefly to respond to yesterday's intervention by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth. I can assure the House that I will not take 50 minutes for my intervention.
    In his submissions yesterday, the member canvassed the 1966 case of Mr. Berger. I want to briefly distinguish between that case and the present circumstances, both of which are very different.
    In that case, Mr. Berger had failed to file any expense return. There was no doubt about that fact, nor was there any doubt about the legal requirement to file a return, a condition precedent for triggering the 1966 equivalent of today's subsection 463(2). Mr. Berger had sought an order from the superior court permitting him time to file a return after the deadline.
    The present case is entirely different. It represents an accounting dispute. The Chief Electoral Officer had requested that each of the hon. members for Selkirk—Interlake and Saint Boniface make amendments to the returns they had already filed, and that those amendments reflect an interpretation by the Chief Electoral Officer as to evaluation of materials used in the election.
    They each dispute that interpretation. As a result, they are seeking rulings from the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba in that regard.
    There is a very clear distinction. They have filed their returns. They are in the process of attempting to resolve interpretation questions. It is entirely different from the case of Mr. Berger who had filed no return.
    I thank the hon. government House leader for his further contribution to the question, and of course I will get to the House in due course with a ruling.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

  (1015)  

[English]

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act

     The House resumed from June 10, consideration of the motion that Bill S-2, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill S-2, family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act.
    Currently men, women and children living on the majority of on-reserve communities have no legal rights or protections in relation to the family home. In situations of family violence, for decades women have been victimized and kicked out of their homes with nowhere to go.
    Statistics show that aboriginal women are almost three times more likely than other Canadian women to experience violent crime, including spousal violence. According to the 2009 general social survey, approximately 15% of aboriginal women in a marriage or with a common-law partner reported that they had experienced spousal violence in the previous five years. Of those who had been victimized, 58% reported that they had sustained an injury, compared to 41% of non-aboriginal women. Further, 48% reported that they had been sexually assaulted, beaten, choked or threatened with a knife or a gun, and 52% reported that they feared for their lives.
    This is why Bill S-2 is so important. It will help to mitigate occasions of domestic violence on reserve by providing for emergency protection orders and exclusive occupation orders.
    Currently, individuals living on reserve cannot go to court to seek exclusive occupation of the family home or apply for emergency protection orders while living in a family home on reserve in the event of a relationship breakdown or the death of a spouse or common-law partner.
    Bill S-2 extends this basic protection to individuals living on reserve. In situations of family violence, a spouse can now apply for an emergency order to stay in the family home, at the exclusion of the other spouse, for a period of up to 90 days with the possibility for extension. These orders may be granted upon a hearing or an application to vary the original order at the judge's discretion.
    An emergency protection order is quick, follows a simple process and is recognized by child and family justice advocates as being one of the most significant means of preventing family violence. Violations of these orders can result in fines or jail time. We know that emergency protection orders are invaluable tools in efforts to end family abuse and violence. Each year, hundreds of Canadians, most of them women who are victims of spousal abuse, petition courts to acquire these orders and access the legal protection that they can afford.
    Police who are authorized by the courts to enforce the orders typically represent an effective line of defence for victims of family violence. As it stands today, residents of most first nation communities cannot access these tools. I say “most”, because a handful of first nations have established and enforce laws in this area through authorities acquired in self-government agreements or through the First Nations Land Management Act. Nevertheless, the vast majority of on-reserve couples cannot access these orders because no court has the legal authority to issue them.
    Bill S-2 would change this. For every other region in Canada, other than on reserve, family law is the domain of the provinces and territories. Legislation exists in most provinces and territories that deal specifically with violence and intimate relationships. Although the names of these laws, along with the specific legal instruments that they include vary from one jurisdiction to another, they all provide powerful forms of protection to victims of spousal abuse and violence.
    In general, the laws authorize two types of protection orders: short-term and long-term. These orders, sometimes known as an intervention, prevention or victim assistance orders, can be obtained 24 hours a day, by telephone or appointment, from a trained justice of the peace. In many cases a police officer or a victim services worker can apply for the orders on behalf of the victim.
    To me, the absence of legal protection on reserve is simply unacceptable. We have tolerated a legally sanctioned form of discrimination in Canada, for women and children and other victims, for far too long. It is one that has claimed and continues to claim victims. Bill S-2 will change this.
    In order to understand the value of these orders, it is crucial to appreciate the larger context. An act of domestic abuse, such as a husband beating his wife, may be an isolated incident, but it is also part of a relationship's larger dynamic.

  (1020)  

    Domestic abuse is often a gradual and incremental process, and the frequency and seriousness of the violence tends to escalate slowly over the years, even decades. In many cases, abusers express deep remorse and promise to change, and then go on to break these promises.
    For the victims of violence, it can take years to recognize that the violence will never stop and that the relationship is poisonous, dangerous and unsalvageable. Until victims come to this conclusion, though, they often cannot conceive of acting decisively by leaving the family home or by securing a court order to banish the abusive spouse.
    The victims' long-term experience leads to the erosion of self-confidence, making it even more difficult to believe that they deserve better treatment, that they can find the courage to leave and that they can manage on their own.
    Exclusive occupation and emergency protection orders provide the separation victims often need to heal and to make a new start. It is regrettable that the need for these orders remains so strong in 2013. Part of the reason for this sad reality lies in the history of how our society and legal system address relationships between spouses. As my hon. colleagues recognize, the law has not always protected the rights of women as it does today.
    Of course, we all recognize that our laws have evolved dramatically over the years to reflect the needs and aspirations of Canadians, but the legacy of the past shapes our current circumstance. There was a time when Canadian women had few options in life. Living as independent citizens was virtually impossible, employment options were extremely limited and few of the jobs that were open to women paid a living wage. The vast majority of women married, and most went on to have children and to enjoy happy, fulfilled lives.
    Women were assigned a specific role in society, were expected to fulfill this particular role and were respected for it. The laws at the time reflected this social norm. As norms have changed in recent generations, we have done much to eliminate outdated laws and attitudes. Bill S-2 would take us one large step further along this road.
    Part of the legislation now before us addresses the link between spousal violence and matrimonial rights and interests. Over time, the laws governing matrimonial rights and interests have evolved to reflect new social norms, yet this type of evolution typically occurs in fits and starts, and the law usually lags behind progress in societal attitudes. This is because the impetus to amend the law often comes only from incidents and trends that the public considers repugnant; such as husbands being able to beat their wives with impunity.
    Today, of course, Canadian attitudes about violence against women have changed dramatically. Violence against women is no longer socially acceptable, and the law reflects these attitudes to a large extent. This is why family law includes instruments such as emergency protection and exclusive occupation orders. These orders are designed specifically to address spousal violence and to complement the protections provided by the Criminal Code.
    However, the authority for these orders exists only under provincial or territorial law. The Supreme Court ruled that these laws do not apply on first nation reserves. Bill S-2 proposes to fill this unacceptable gap and to help prevent the harsh reality experienced by so many victims.
    Under Bill S-2, a spouse or a common-law partner residing on reserve could apply to a judge or justice of the peace for an emergency protection order. The order, enforceable by police, would exclude the spouse or common-law partner from the family home for a period of up to 90 days. The order may be extended once, for a period of time determined by a judge. Orders issued by a justice of the peace or a provincial court judge must be reviewed by the superior court as soon as possible.
    The federal regime would authorize applications submitted by telephone or email to ensure that people living in remote communities could access the orders. The regime would also authorize a police officer or another appropriate person to apply on behalf of a spouse or a common-law partner. This provision would enable people who face dangerously unpredictable spouses or common-law partners to secure orders without exposing themselves to undue risk.
    The regime would also enable people to apply for exclusive occupation orders, which could provide longer-term protection.

  (1025)  

    Exclusive occupation and emergency protection orders are only one part of the protection that Bill S-2 would provide. It would provide stability for women and their children, through continued access to the family home; continued connection to the community and extended family; access to services, children's programs and education facilities within the community; and the equitable distribution of marital real property assets. In addition, it would improve the ability of first nations to meet the specific needs within their communities.
    A little more than 30 years ago, the members of this House laughed when one of their hon. colleagues raised the issue of violence against women and suggested that new laws were needed. The laughter caused a public outcry and inspired a host of changes, including legislation. Today, violence against women is widely recognized as a scourge.
     Statistics Canada research indicates that aboriginal women are more likely than non-aboriginal women to suffer severe injuries, such as broken bones, inflicted by a violent spouse. Today, we have an opportunity to help eliminate a factor that contributes to this violence.
    Canada has made substantial progress in the issue of violence against women, but much more remains to be done. While the factors that contribute to the issue are manifold and complex, there can be no doubt that emergency protection and exclusive occupation orders are effective, both as deterrents and as defensive mechanisms.
     Today, we are seeking to eliminate a human rights issue. Through Bill S-2, we would finally be extending the same basic rights and protections to aboriginal women as all other Canadians currently enjoy.
    I urge the opposition to stop denying aboriginal women equal rights and to vote in favour of this legislation.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question about her speech.
    This is the fourth version of this bill. Were first nations involved so that their needs were made known, their concerns were heard and those needs and concerns were incorporated into this bill?
    Can the Conservative member explain how this bill fulfills the needs that were expressed during meaningful consultations with first nations?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, one of the witnesses, Rolanda Manitowabi, said at committee that if this bill were in place, there would have been an option. In a situation where there is domestic violence or abusive behaviour, there are no choices. When she was thrown out of her home, she had no place to go; that was her home. To this day, she continues to pay for that home. If this bill had been in place, it would have given her an option for some place to go with her children.
    This victim came to our standing committee and told us a horrible story of how, for years, not only was she thrown out of her home with her children but she was also thrown out of her community. Due to family violence and the breakdown of her marital situation, she and her children had no place to go. Bill S-2 would address this.
     As the member opposite knows, this bill has been debated a fair amount. There were 172 consultations across this country. This government spent some $4 million on consultations with groups. The Manitoba Legislative Assembly sent us a resolution, and it completely supports the bill. This has certainly been discussed, and consultations have occurred; we have heard of real-life situations in which this bill could help these women.
    What is interesting is that, last Thursday at the special committee for missing and murdered aboriginal women, we had a chance to hear first-hand about an aboriginal woman's experience. What I have been most consumed with or have grappled with at great lengths in this piece of legislation in particular is the emergency protection order and the priority occupation, which the member just referred to in her response to the question by the member opposite.
    I wonder if the member could expound a bit more on how that could definitely make a difference in a situation where there has been an unfortunate situation in the home that has resulted in domestic violence, so that the courts, the judge or the police officers would have the opportunity to ensure that the woman and her children stay in the house, as opposed to their having to move out, which is very problematic if not troubling, as I have seen first-hand in first nations communities.

  (1030)  

    Mr. Speaker, I worked in the downtown east side of Vancouver some 20-odd years ago. It was heartbreaking to see women arrive with garbage bags of clothing, their children in tow, not having had a meal and with nowhere to go. That is because for 25 years there has been a gap in legislation, as has been pointed out by the Human Rights Commission. For 25 years this bill did not exist, which has impacted hundreds, thousands, of women across this country. Previous speakers have spoken about the statistics and the horrifying impact this has had on women and their children across Canada.
    I would like to quote from Jennifer Courchene, who is also a member of the first nations in Manitoba. She came to the standing committee as well and told her heartbreaking story. She said that she and her children became homeless after her abusive partner forced them out of their home.
    She stated:
    I'm sure I'm not the only one who has gone through this in a first nation community. There are probably many, many other women who have gone through what I've gone through, and the story is pretty much the same: the woman loses the home. I'm not sure how other first nations communities are run, but if there had been something to help us, we would have taken it, rather than be homeless, that's for sure.
    The acting chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission came to committee as well. He said the situation was urgent. I asked him what exactly he meant by “urgent”.
     It has been 25 years. The opposition has been vehemently opposing this legislation to grant these rights and protection for these women and children for more than 25 years. I ask the opposition members how much longer they will oppose this for these hundreds and thousands of women who have been in the streets. I not only ask but beg them to vote with us on this legislation.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Bill S-2 puts the onus on couples to resolve disputes in court, yet it does not improve access to provincial courts. In addition, it is difficult for the bill to be enforced, in a practical sense, in many first nations communities. It is unrealistic.
    Instead of presenting first nations with a bill that is ineffective, will the Conservatives commit to supporting the implementation of remedies within first nations communities that would stem from their own legal traditions?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that would be like saying that human beings cannot fly in an airplane. Just because things are sometimes difficult, it does not mean they are not the right thing to do, nor are they insurmountable.
     We have built into Bill S-2 all kinds of abilities with respect to technology, as well as funding a centre, which would help first nations across Canada devise their own laws and devise how they would implement this within their own communities across Canada. With this new convention centre as well as the ability to phone, email or talk to a peace officer, certainly the access points for an order would be there, through Bill S-2.
    In addition, I do not believe that this Parliament, in righting a wrong, should hang on the fact that it is difficult. The government and this country have overcome many other difficulties and we are confident that this is a good bill, a necessary bill and an urgent bill.
    Again, I would urge the member opposite to vote with us on protecting women and children on reserve.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not doubt for one moment the intention my friend from Vancouver South brings to this is to right a wrong.
    My problem is that I have looked at the briefs and talked to women in first nations communities who do not think the bill would accomplish its end, and they see significant problems.
    Because she is not on the floor of the House to say this, my friend Ellen Gabriel from Kanesatake in her brief said that the areas of concern for the bill, the problems, include, one, the incorrect assumption that the bill was accompanied by a consultation process. She was clear that it was not. Two, the lack of inclusion of the Constitution Act that protects and affirms inherent treaty rights of aboriginal peoples; three, the lack of resources for communities' implementation of the bill and problems with potential court orders; four, non-legislative matters and lack of access to justice; five, financial burdens placed on women who pursue these issues and are reliant on their spouses; and six, jurisdictional issues of provincial, federal, common law, civil law and indigenous customary laws.
    Native women's associations of this country are not supporting the bill, and I ask my hon. friend from Vancouver South if we cannot step back and ensure that any bill we pass can work.
    Mr. Speaker, I am indeed shocked that someone of the member's stature, being a lawyer herself, does not recognize the fact that we need to start somewhere. By starting somewhere, we need to have the legislative framework to do so.
    My short answer is, without the bill, women and children have no rights on their reserve. There is nowhere to start in terms of any of these programs and services.
    The hon. member knows that consultation has occurred extensively across this country.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who will be taking the second half of the speech on Bill S-2.
    I was deeply disturbed last night by the aggressive, attacking tone of the government on the bill. What we heard last night from speakers, and we are hearing a bit of that today, are very aggressive attacks from the government.
    I certainly understand that the government feels it is in a weak position. The Conservatives brought forward Bill S-2 for consultation. They actually tried yesterday to say that they consulted with groups like the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada. They talked about the consultation process as something meaningful. None of them, not a single Conservative member of Parliament who spoke on this issue last night, and we have not heard any this morning, acknowledged that those organizations opposed the bill. In the consultation process that supposedly took place, the government was met with opposition from aboriginal women's groups from across the country.
    There is something profoundly disturbing about government members who would stand in the House and say that they have done some kind of consultation when the organizations that they consulted with have said that the bill would not get the job done and, in many respects, the bill would actually be harmful.
    The aggressive tone of government members has done nothing to allay the many concerns that we are hearing from first nations, aboriginal women's groups and aboriginal groups across the country. The reality is, the aggressive tone belies what the government's agenda has been when it comes to first nations. We have seen it cut back on funding for the aboriginal police forces that should be ensuring that women are protected on reserve across the country. It slashed and closed the First Nations Statistical Institute that gave us important information about what was happening right across the country. It closed down the National Centre for First Nations Governance.
    The Conservative government has a lamentably poor record when it comes to adequately funding of first nations organizations. It is making first nations and aboriginal peoples in Canada pay the price of the Conservative agenda of bestowing billions of dollars on its pet projects, whether it is the F-35 or many others that we have spoken of over the last few days. It is aboriginal Canadians who are paying the price for the government's mean-spirited attitude toward first nations across the country and indeed toward all Canadians.
    The government stands in the House and says it has slashed funding and would not provide any funding for Bill S-2, yet any aboriginal women's organizations that raise concerns, any opposition members of Parliament who raise concerns, are treated with an aggressive and attacking tone. We simply beg to disagree. This is a fundamentally wrong approach.
    There is a duty to consult by the government and it did not consult in any meaningful way. Aboriginal organizations across the country are opposing Bill S-2.
     Aboriginal organizations and aboriginal women's organizations are on one side saying the bill should be opposed. The government says it knows better, it will try to ram it through with closure and takes a very aggressive attacking tone with anyone who raises any of the very valid concerns that aboriginal organizations, aboriginal women's organizations and first nations have raised across the country.
    The question then is, who has credibility? It is worth reading into the record what the Conservative government's record is. It has closed a wide variety of first nations organizations doing important work. It actually shut down the statistical institute that allowed all Canadians to understand the current situation of first nations. After seven years in power, here are the results: a quarter of first nations' children live in poverty. That is double the national average.

  (1040)  

    Suicide rates among first nations youth are five to seven times higher than rates among young non-aboriginal Canadians. Life expectancy of first nations citizens is five to seven years shorter than that of non-aboriginal Canadians. Infant mortality rates are 1.5 times higher among first nations. Tuberculosis rates among first nations citizens living on reserve are 31 times the national average.
    A first nations youth is more likely to end up in jail than to graduate from high school. First nations children, on average, receive 22% less funding for child welfare services than other Canadian children. There are almost 600 unresolved cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
    The Conservative government's record is appalling. It has not taken action on any of these issues. Last year, we saw our former leader, the member for Hull—Aylmer, go with the member for Timmins—James Bay to Attawapiskat, where they saw appalling housing conditions.
    In the same way that the government is attacking members of the opposition, it told aboriginal women's groups and aboriginal groups in first nations across the country on Bill S-2 that if they dared to disagree, it would attack them. It would insult them and degrade them. In the same way that the government did that, we can remember the attacks on Attawapiskat. The attacks were on the first nations there, which were simply looking to ensure a better future for their children.
    The Conservative government's attitude is that anyone standing in the way of its agenda is somebody to be attacked, insulted and degraded. The first nations of this country deserve much better than a government that will insult and deride them when they disagree fundamentally on a bill's direction.
    The government introduced the bill, first in the Senate and then here in the House. The government introduced the bill and it has not got it right. The government cannot stand and say that it has done the consultation when the groups that it consulted with oppose the bill. There is an illogical disconnect between government members standing up and saying they have done the consultation and not mentioning that the groups they consulted with oppose the bill. It simply does not make any logical sense.
    What it does, of course, is lessen the integrity of the individuals from the government side who are standing up and making these comments. Maybe they do not know. Maybe they are reading prepared talking points from the Prime Minister's Office, so maybe they really do not know that the organizations that they are trumpeting about having consulted with are opposing the legislation. I do not know.
    On this side of the House, when we carefully read our comments on any bill that is coming forward, we make sure that we get it right. We make sure that we are making comments that are factually true. However, here we have Conservative members who, perhaps in a mean-spirited way or perhaps unknown to them, are mentioning organizations like the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada and saying that they have consulted with them, when those organizations oppose the bill and disagree with the government, very vehemently in some cases.
    Where do we go from here? We have an appalling state of first nations after seven years of a Conservative government. We have slashing and cutting of a wide variety of important first nations organizations, including the First Nations Statistical Institute. It did not cost a lot of money, but given the horrendous situations in health and unemployment and the lack of opportunities for children and youth on reserve, one would expect that a government would want to know what was going on. The Conservative government wanted to be blind and wanted to shut off that source of information.
    With that approach from the government, we can only say this. Yes, we will continue to stand up and speak against this bill, as so many aboriginal women's organizations, aboriginal organizations and first nations have. The New Democratic Party members of Parliament will be the voice of first nations, the voice of aboriginal women and the voice of aboriginal Canadians here in the House of Commons. We will continue to say, very clearly, that this bill needs to be strongly redrafted.
    The duty to consult still exists for the government. The government has the obligation to consult with first nations and heed what they say.

  (1045)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member if he has any support for matrimonial real property rights for women on reserve who have gone through a marital breakup. Does he think there is any circumstance when that would be good public policy?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. It was a sincere question, and I appreciate it.
    There are numerous reports that deal with matrimonial real property that make solid recommendations. I am talking about “A Hard Bed to Lie In”, 2003; “Still Waiting”, 2004; “Walking Arm-in-Arm”, 2005; the Status of Women Report, 2006; and the Wendy Grant-John ministerial report from 2006.
    All of these reports could have been guidelines for the government. They spoke to the issue of matrimonial real property rights and provided very substantive recommendations. A number of the aboriginal organizations across the country supported those recommendations. The question is this: Why did the government not heed those reports and follow those recommendations? The work had already been done, which is what I find so sad.
    Aboriginal women have been waiting for such a long time. The government had a number of reports that provided substantive recommendations, but instead of following those recommendations, the government ignored them. Then, when first nation organizations said that this bill was inadequate and would do more harm than good, the government refused to listen to those aboriginal organizations and women's groups. It is sad. However, there is still time for the government to pull back and do the right thing.
    Mr. Speaker, there is a concept that has been developing over the last two decades, and that is the honour of the Crown as it applies, in particular, to the aboriginal communities of Canada. I have been listening to some of the interventions on this debate at various readings, but I have yet to hear this mentioned. It puts on the Crown, as my colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster said, a true obligation to consult, and not to consult without the conclusions the consultations would lead to. The honour of the Crown is almost a fiduciary obligation and responsibility vis-à-vis our aboriginal peoples. I was wondering if my colleague would comment on that.
     I hope that some members from the government side will speak to this later today. I might ask this question again. This is a very important matter that, unfortunately, has been neglected, but it should not be, because there is an obligation upon the Crown, and therefore the government, to act in a very particular manner vis-à-vis the aboriginal peoples of this country.

  (1050)  

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, the Conservative government has imposed closure, so there is not going to be this debate. The government's position seems to have weakened as the fact that it has not consulted aboriginal women's groups and organizations has become more apparent, and the government is shutting down debate.
    I would quote Ellen Gabriel, the former president of the Quebec Native Women's Association. This is what she said:
    It is reprehensible that the Government of Canada is so eager to pass legislation [that seriously impacts the collective human rights of indigenous peoples] without adequate consultations which require the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. While it is understood that legislation is not accompanied by commitments to adequate financial and human resources necessary to implement laws, these Bills will create further financial hardships on First Nations communities.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this bill is the fifth of its kind to be introduced by the government since 2008. The background on this issue has been given and we have debated it. Every time it has had the opportunity, the NDP has opposed the bill, and that is the case again here.
    I am a feminist and I fight for women's rights. I fought as part of the Quebec section of the NDP women's council for years, before I was elected, and I have had the honour of chairing the NDP women's caucus. I take these issues to heart.
    Division of matrimonial property is an important issue. Courts have rendered decisions on this issue since the mid-1980s, and parliamentary committees have been studying it since the early 2000s.
    Right now, when a couple divorces, the division of family property, such as the house and the couple's personal property, is determined by provincial legislation. Subsection 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867, provides that property and civil rights are under provincial jurisdiction. However, under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution, the Parliament of Canada has exclusive legislative jurisdiction over Indians and lands reserved for Indians. Therefore, provincial laws are not applicable to the division of property on the reserves.
    In 1986, in the Derrickson case, the Supreme Court of Canada created a legal vacuum when it ruled that the courts could not rely on provincial law when determining the division of matrimonial real property on reserves. The absence of provisions at both the federal and provincial levels with regard to the division of matrimonial real property on reserves is a problem, because the people who live on reserves cannot appeal to the Canadian legal system to resolve issues relating to the division of property when a marriage has broken down. It is usually aboriginal women who pay for this legal vacuum.
    The Assembly of First Nations determined that the following three broad principles were key to addressing matrimonial rights and interests on reserves: first, recognition of first nation jurisdiction; second, access to justice; and third, addressing underlying issues related to housing and economic security.
    The bill does nothing to address any of these principles. On reserves, gender discrimination clearly exists when it comes to matrimonial real property. Everyone says so, including the courts, aboriginal people and politicians.
    Bill S-2 does not solve the problem. It does not address the issues related to a lack of financial resources to support first nations governments to actually implement the law, a lack of funding for lawyers and legal advice, a lack of funding to account for limited geographic access to provincial courts, a lack of on-reserve housing, and a lack of land mass that would be necessary to give both spouses separate homes on reserves.
    Here is what Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo had to say:
    The legislation...does not provide the necessary tools or capacities for first nation governments to deal with the issues that arise when marriages break up. This is rightfully a matter of first nation jurisdiction and we must have this capacity.

  (1055)  

    First nations have repeatedly and forcefully called on the government to work with us on an approach that will truly give our people in our communities access to justice. There are already first nations that have put their own laws and approaches in place on this matter. These must be respected and a similar approach must be supported for all first nations.
    The Native Women's Association of Canada also has a problem with this bill.
    Despite previous recommendations that first nations must be involved and create the solutions that will address the multitude of socio-economic issues impacting on families, the government has consistently tried to rush the process and to push through legislation that has been drafted mostly on its own, with little involvement and disregard for the comprehensive recommendations of the past ministerial representative, and many first nations governments and organizations.
    As I indicated earlier, a lot of work has already been done on this issue. For example, there was the 2005 report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development entitled “Walking Arm-in-Arm to Resolve the Issue of On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property”.
    The report set out a number of very worthwhile suggestions. It recommended that the government consult with the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations in order to develop a new law or amend the Indian Act. It also recommended that the first nations be given financial assistance so that they can develop their own matrimonial real property codes, and that any new legislation should not apply to first nations that have their own codes. What is more, the Canadian Human Rights Act should be amended to apply to people living on reserves. The report also suggested that Canada recognize the inherent rights of first nations to govern themselves.
    Canada is a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and, as such, consultation entails the consent of the people consulted. Although Canada conducted some limited consultations, no consent was given by the rights holders. As a result, we are opposed to Bill S-2 because it violates article 32 of the UN declaration, which requires the free and informed consent of the rights holders prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or well-being.
    Those are the reasons why I cannot support this bill. However, I would like to add that the government must treat our first nations with more respect. In addition to a better bill on matrimonial real property, it is urgent that the government work with first nations in order to put an end to violence against aboriginal women. It must improve living conditions on reserves, particularly with regard to the housing crisis, and it must put an end to systematic discrimination with regard to funding for first nations children.

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all of the hard work she has been doing on women's issues for several years now.
    She pointed out some problems inherent in this bill. Could she elaborate on those? We heard from first nations women, particularly in our women's caucus.
    What is the member's perception of violence against women in aboriginal communities? What concrete measures could be taken, particularly with respect to the housing crisis and the fight against poverty?
    I would like to hear the member speak to these major issues.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my passionate and hard-working colleague for her question and I thank her for giving me the opportunity to talk about the testimony we heard in our women's caucus.
    Aboriginal women are very disappointed that the government has not taken action to combat the violence they are experiencing. They told us that nothing has been done. Study after study gathers dust on the shelf. No action plan has been created. These women took the initiative to get organized and put pressure on the authorities to open inquiries, particularly in the case of abused, missing and murdered women.
    These women do not even have the right to a roof over their heads. They have no financial assistance. WIthout a home or financial means, how do we expect them to be able to access the courts? That is the problem with this bill, which was unfortunately introduced in the Senate and not by the government. The government is trying to pass this bill today, but in my opinion, this bill is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
    The government boasts about having held consultations. Indeed, perhaps it did. However, after consulting communities, the government has to respond to their demands. In this case, most of the groups were very critical of this bill.
    Does my colleague think that sound consultation involves taking into account what was said during the consultations and then incorporating all this information in a bill? Is that what the government did?

  (1105)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank our hard-working member, the youngest in the House, for his insightful question.
    As I mentioned earlier, the government claimed that it consulted everyone, yet these consultations were quite limited. I quoted Mr. Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and his words spoke volumes. Moreover, according to the Native Women's Association, this bill does not provide any tangible solutions to address the problems they face every day.
    It is obvious that this government is once again trying to pass bills in a hurry just to get them done and pretend that it has already done all the required work.
    Since the 2000s, no tangible solutions have been found to address the problem at the community level.

[English]

    Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The parliamentary secretary will have approximately five minutes.
    Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this particular piece of legislation. There have been discussions and contributions by a number of stakeholders. From my own experience and context, I think back to the more than eight years that I spent living and working in isolated first nations communities across Canada, in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and parts of the Arctic Circle.
    I mention this experience because earlier in the debate we heard some concerns put forward. I do not know if they are on the record or not, but I heard the words “jurisdictional matters”, and if I might say so with some humility, I have a sense not just for the issues as legal counsel for first nations communities over a number of years but for any of the jurisdictions where this might be a problem.
    Earlier I had a line of questions for members across the way and in my own caucus, tough but fair questions around the emergency protection orders and priority occupation measures that this piece of legislation contemplates. In my respectful view, these are two key components of this legislation.
    In the special standing committee on murdered and missing aboriginal women we heard from a witness who was unequivocal and categorical in her understanding of this legislation, particularly with respect to emergency protection orders and priority occupation. We heard that these two pieces would have, in fact, spared her from a tremendously difficult process that arose as a result of a domestic violence situation perpetrated on her by her partner at the time.
    In the progression of this debate, we have heard members, particularly in the official opposition, identify a number of groups that they say are in principle against the legislation overall. With the greatest of respect, I do not think that considers some of the good people who commented on this legislation and may have made a general statement about it, because what they were really concerned about—and I think we are all in agreement on this point—is that whenever and wherever possible, the real effort should be to encourage first nations communities to develop their own matrimonial real property regime.
    This bill would achieve that end. It says to first nations under a variety of different agreements, such as the First Nations Land Management Act and self-government agreements, to go out and make this. In fact, first nations do not even have to belong to one of those two categories to design or develop their own framework for matrimonial real property.
    It is important, because we know that whether it is first nations communities or non-first nations communities, relationships do break down. In that final and most unfortunate category of relationship breakdown, or along the way, violence can arise. That is why my emphasis is on emergency protection and priority occupation: it is because this is where the real vacuum in the law exists. It is that fundamental ability of a police officer and a magistrate at that difficult time to give a woman and, most importantly, her children an opportunity to stay in the home.
    I, unfortunately, have had a ringside seat in this special category that I am referring to. I have seen a woman and her family taken out of the home. It is not a very nice thing to see. I cannot imagine experiencing it. I can only relay to my friends across the way and to members of this government and caucus the importance of these two elements alone as grounds to consider matrimonial real property and how it would work on reserve until or unless first nations communities were in a position to develop their own regime that would respect these two important principles.

  (1110)  

[Translation]

    It being 11:12 a.m., pursuant to order made Tuesday, June 4, 2013, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill now before the House.

[English]

    The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to order adopted Wednesday, May 22, the deferred recorded division is deferred until later today at the end of oral questions.

  (1115)  

First Nations Elections Act

Bill S-6—Time Allocation Motion  

    That, in relation to Bill S-6, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the Bill; and
that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration of the second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

[Translation]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

[English]

    I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in the question period.
    Questions and comments.
    The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a sad moment. This is the 44th time the government has invoked closure in the House of Commons. It is a record.
     We have never had a government in such disgrace and a government so willing to trample on the rights of parliamentarians who have been elected across this country to represent their constituents and to represent Canadians here in the House of Commons.
    We have never had a Prime Minister who has shown such profound disrespect in the midst of the greatest scandal we have had in recent memory: repeated scandals in the Senate and payments coming out of the Prime Minister's Office. In the midst of all of this, what the government is trying to do is shut down parliamentary debate. It has been 44 times. It is a sad record of the government's complete lack of respect for Canadians.
    This is compounded by the fact that what the government is invoking closure on now are very contentious pieces of legislation on which it did not perform its duty to consult with first nations organizations and aboriginal peoples. This is another bill the government wants to ram through, because it is acutely aware of how embarrassing its record is in regard to first nations. It just wants to force the bill through without debate.
    There have been two short speeches on this. That was on Wednesday night, at midnight, a few weeks ago. That is it in terms of any sort of input from members of Parliament on a bill that is this contentious. The government just wants to sweep it all under the carpet. It wants to shut down and put the locks on Parliament and forget about the democratic debate that so many Canadians hold dear.
    After 44 times showing disrespect toward Canadians, why does it not start showing respect for Canadians and allow debate to take place in the House of Commons?
    Mr. Speaker, again, we are moving this motion to expedite a matter that is of great importance and that will bring transformative changes to the way certain first nations choose to carry out their elections.
    We all know that the work on this bill started back in 2008 at the request and insistence of first nations. The first nations of the country that conduct elections of their chiefs and councils under the Indian Act have all been engaged and consulted in a major way. As a result, the department and previous ministers have been provided with recommendations, from first nations, upon which this bill has been drafted.
    But for this motion, the bill would not be passed, and first nations would suffer the negative consequences of the colonial, paternalistic Indian Act they are under right now.

  (1120)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague realizes how ridiculous and inconsistent the situation is.
    The government says that Canada is doing well compared to other countries, but it moves 44 time allocation motions, or 44 gag orders. It thinks these bills are so urgent and the situation is so bad in the country that these 44 bills have to be passed right away. This makes no sense. It is totally inconsistent.
    On one hand, the government tells us that Canada is doing well compared to other countries, and on the other hand it acts as though everything is urgent, as though there is some sort of catastrophe and everything must be passed right now. This makes absolutely no sense.
    What is more, the government rises and moves a time allocation motion every time. This shows that it is incapable of governing. Normally, a government would have discussions and negotiate with the opposition to pass bills. The Conservative government is proving incapable of sitting down with the opposition to negotiate within our very own country.
    What message does this send to the international community? If the Conservatives cannot even sit down with the opposition to negotiate, what does that mean when they negotiate with other countries? It must be utterly pathetic. They should reconsider their approach. They keep making fools of themselves.
    Mr. Speaker, it is strange to hear the hon. member compare Canada's parliamentary performance with that of other countries. I encourage the hon. member to think about how other majority governments throughout the world operate. I think she could learn something.
    The fact that the government has had to move a 44th time allocation motion is not ridiculous. What is ridiculous is that this shows that, for the 44th time, the opposition party is unable to support a legislative measure proposed by the government. There is something wrong when we cannot rely on our parliamentary system or the discussions that take place in committee to improve bills.
    Once the five hours of debate on the bill in question are complete, it will be sent to committee. There, MPs will have ample opportunity to propose amendments.
    Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what the minister just said.
    He wants to send the bill to committee so that members can propose amendments. However, after second reading, members are more limited in the amendments they can propose.
    The question that I would like to ask the minister deals with procedure. If what the minister just said is true, why did the government not choose to send the bill to committee before second reading?
    A period of five extra hours is allotted for debate, as with the motion moved today. No vote is necessary; the bill is automatically sent to committee. The committee would therefore have all the latitude it needs, and the minister seems to want to give the committee that latitude.
    In addition, we could have avoided this 44th time allocation motion, which imposes a time limit and a vote and undermines Parliament. We are going to waste another hour—a half-hour of debate and a half-hour to call in the members for the vote.
    If the Conservatives were really serious, why did they not choose to send the bill to committee before second reading in order to make the committee's job easier?

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, the bill was introduced in the Senate over 18 months ago. Many witnesses appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and representatives from the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs clearly indicated that they supported the bill in its current form.
    The measure was not imposed on anyone. In fact, it is a concessive law that will empower first nations to choose a new election system, which would be developed by first nations.
    If the Liberals and NDP want to oppose first nations' desire to update their election system, they are free to do so. However, we believe that it is time for action.
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the minister that it is MPs who are elected by the people, not senators.
    What is done there does not count for most people. Canadians will not stand for people wallowing in their tax dollars.
    Earlier members were talking about what was ridiculous, and I would like to continue along the same lines. What is truly ridiculous is that 44 gag orders mean 44 30-minute debates and 44 30-minute bells for votes. That is the equivalent of two days lost. The Conservatives tried to make us vote until midnight, until the end of the session, and they gave all kinds of absurd reasons to justify the gag orders, which is completely ridiculous. They spent weeks doing absolutely nothing this spring, while we on this side of the House did all the talking.
    Mr. Speaker, I will simply say that Bill S-6 is necessary so that Canada's first nations can have the option of conducting their elections within a legislated system, a system that is robust, modern and similar to electoral systems used by other levels of government in the country. That is what we will accomplish by passing this motion. A standing committee of the House will study the bill.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our government has and will continue to work closely with first nation organizations to bring about a real process and improvements that would make the election process work for first nations.
    We know that a stronger electoral system would help first nations create the political stability necessary for solid business investments, long-term planning and relationship-building that would lead to increased economic development and prosperity and job creation for first nation communities.
    Today, would the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development please explain how this legislation is different from the antiquated, archaic election system in the Indian Act, which certainly has not been serving first nation communities?
    Mr. Speaker, the simple fact of the matter is that the Indian Act is an antiquated, outdated, archaic, paternalistic piece of legislation that dates back to 1867, I believe. It must be replaced with modern legislation.
    On this side of the House, we understand that it cannot be replaced overnight. That is why we are taking practical, incremental steps to do just that. Bill S-6, which we are dealing with today, would be just one of those practical solutions.
    The bill would offer several key improvements over the current Indian Act election system, including four-year terms of office; the possibility that several first nations could hold their elections on a common day; defined offences and penalties that would allow questionable election activities to be prosecuted; and, finally, the removal of the role and decision-making power of the minister in election appeals.
    I know that on that side of the House, the NDP and the Liberals would like to keep the minister intervening with this paternalistic approach to first nations, but we do not agree.

  (1130)  

    Mr. Speaker, I always regret that the government House leader comes in and tells us that we are going to have time allocation and then leaves whatever minister is responsible for the bill to account for the fact that we have, yet again, a consistent approach of limiting time for debate on bills. As far as I can see, it is the decision not of the hon. minister who is here to answer questions but of the government House leader who is not.
    I would once again bemoan the fact that with time allocation having been brought 44 times into this Parliament, we are breaking all historical records. One of the inevitable results of time allocation is that members of Parliament who are not in recognized parties, such as me, as leader of the Green Party, will not have an opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill S-6 other than through questions and comments.
    I ask the hon. minister if he would please prevail upon his colleagues in the Privy Council of this particular Prime Minister to change this anti-democratic trend, which is really going to be the legacy of this particular administration as the most repressive in the history of Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I hope that my hon. colleague finds solace in the fact that this act, indeed, would be of benefit to first nations.
    I understand that many members on the opposite side of the House like to talk. However, on this side of the House, we like to act, and this is about acting. This piece of legislation has been in the works for over eight years. First nation communities under the Indian Act have been fully engaged throughout the country. It is simply time that we passed this bill so that those first nations can get the benefit of the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, when I heard the minister describe the Indian Act as being antiquated, outdated, et cetera, I thought he was talking about the Senate, where this bill originated a year and a half ago. It was debated in this House for a few minutes, at around midnight, last week. Now the minister says that if time allocation is not brought in, it will not be passed.
    What is going on is that democracy is being turned on its head. The Senate had this bill a year and a half ago. The unelected Senate, which has no New Democrats and has only appointed people, has debated this bill. It called witnesses, and it heard all about it.
    Now, for some reason, all of a sudden, it is urgent that we not have debate on this except for five hours. Is this now becoming routine that this House will effectively be only the rubber stamp for what goes on in the Senate? We are turning democracy on its head here. I hoped that the minister would not want to continue doing that.
    Mr. Speaker, as the experienced member likes to talk about the Senate and democracy being turned on its head, maybe he could explain to Canadians why his party opposes all efforts made by this government to put democracy back on its head by electing senators at the provincial level.
    The member complains about the Senate, yet at every step of the way, New Democrats do everything they can to prevent this government from transforming the Senate to an institution with elected members that has the respect of Canadians.
    If the member is really concerned about democracy, he should put pressure on his leader, his colleagues and his party to change their position and support Senate reform.

  (1135)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will try this again. Earlier, I asked the minister a question, but he did not answer it.
    If the government had chosen to send the bill to committee before second reading, we could have used the same number of hours of debate but avoided this confrontation and this situation, which is undermining the role of Parliament. Those are the rules of the House. That would have been far more respectful of the parliamentary process.
    Why did the government choose to impose time allocation instead of sending the bill to committee before second reading?
    Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for the member, he is talking about following the rules. Those rules allow the government to move a motion such as the one moved earlier by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
    If, despite its openness towards the opposition parties in trying to pass a bill, the government simply faces opposition, it is set out in the rules that the government may, at a given time, act in the best interests of Canadians and first nations. That is the goal of the motion currently before the House.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I, like my colleagues and the rest of the House, abhor this constant closure of debate.
    I have a follow-up question for the hon. minister. He was talking about electing a Senate. I heard the Prime Minister, in response to a question in question period the other day, utter about his party perhaps waffling between their lame reforms, I would say, for the Senate, and abolition.
    The Prime Minister himself said abolition, so I wonder if the minister could answer as to whether or not that is now in the plans.
    Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, with the exception of the question from my friend from Ottawa—Vanier, the questions coming from the official opposition have been focused on the abolition of the Senate.
    The minister has some important things to say about the piece of legislation that we are supposed to be debating.
    Mr. Speaker, I would respectfully ask you to refocus the debate, for the benefit, I am sure, of the members across the way.
    In fact, the questions have been relevant to the motion before us with regard to the Senate, since it is a Senate bill.
    The hon. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
    Mr. Speaker, this important piece of legislation will have serious and significant benefits for first nations whose election system is currently under the Indian Act.
     Because of the work that has taken place since 2008, and the full engagement of first nations who have made all of the recommendations that have led to the drafting of the bill, we believe on this side of the House that it is time that first nations received the benefits of their bill.
    That is why the motion is before the House, so we can finally pass this piece of legislation and make it law.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for taking the time to be explicit about what the bill is about.
    It is only the opposition members who would think that having something started in 2008 and having it resolved in 2013 is pushing it through.
    However, I want to get back to what we are here to speak about. It is my understanding that the election of chiefs and councillors can be held in three ways. One of the ways is outlined in the Indian Act, and it falls under the Indian band election regulations. The other way falls under the first nation's own leadership selection process, under what is called “custom election code”. To my understanding, the third way is also pursuant to the community's constitution contained in a self-government agreement.
    Some of the background I have is that of the 617 first nations in Canada, 239 hold elections under the Indian Act and the Indian band election regulations, 342 will select their leadership according to their own community or custom election code, and 36 of those are self-government.
    Could the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs explain why Bill S-6 is necessary as an additional option by which first nations could hold their elections?

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is absolutely right in terms of the current situation.
    The Indian Act election system contains several weaknesses that contribute significantly to unstable first nations governments. Among these weaknesses is the two-year term of office. Therefore, a good chief with a good council have a mandate of two years. We know, as legislators, that we cannot engage and execute a program or an initiative within two years; we need more time to execute a plan. However, chiefs and council have difficulties because of that two-year term of office.
    There is currently a very loose nomination system. Sometimes there can be as many as a hundred candidates for a post of councillor. The mail-in ballot system is open to abuse. I have received numerous complaints as the minister of the department on this. Additionally, the current Indian Act contains no defined offences and penalties to enforce a rigorous, fair and transparent system, which this bill would achieve.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Conservative minister. Why is his government so incompetent in comparison to all other governments in the history of Canada?
    True, the government's toolbox does include the discretion to use time allocation motions, but never in the history of Canada and all the parliaments has a government used a time allocation motion 44 times to silence the opposition. The Conservative member complained and moaned that NDP members opposed his bill and that is why he moved this motion.
     However, why were previous Canadian governments, the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals, more competent in terms of getting their bills passed? The current government is apparently too incompetent to get its bills passed, ostensibly for the good of Canadians.
    Why did the other governments in Canada's history not need as many time allocation motions as this government?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned competence.
    In this regard, I would remind him, along with all my colleagues in the House and all Canadians, that this government's legislative agenda and the actions it took helped the country come out of the recession that took such a devastating toll across the world.
    Just last month, about 95,000 new jobs were created in the country. This is the result of the Conservative government's policies. In addition to successfully creating so many jobs for Canadians over this short term, the government has also lowered taxes to a level where a typical small Canadian family consisting of a father, a mother and two children is saving $3,200 per year.
    Perhaps $3,200 a year does not seem like much to an opposition member, but to an individual or a small family...
    The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, earlier when my Conservative colleague rose on a point of order to ensure that the debate, both the questions and the answers, was on the time allocation motion, I thought he made a good point. I would therefore remind the minister that he should do the same thing and not talk—
    That is not a point of order.
    The hon. minister.

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, he opens the door, but he does not want us to come in. He should just reword his questions.
    The fact remains that it is important to pass Bill S-6 in order to give first nations living under the Indian Act the means to have transparent and open elections. These elections will in turn create a better climate in first nations for the economic, cultural and social development of their communities.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask a question.
    My colleague must be sick of getting up in the morning to be told by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons that he is moving a time allocation motion on a bill that relates to his portfolio. This is the fourth or fifth time this month, at least, that the minister has had to answer our questions. He should talk to his leader if he is starting to grow tired of it because he seems to be sick of answering these questions.
    Based on the answers he has been giving today, we see that the minister knows very little about parliamentary procedure. He seems to find that funny. I see him laughing. That is just fine.
    Does he think that a bill can be passed without a time allocation motion and, if so, would inordinate delays slow down the process to the point where it would be impossible to make progress?
    Mr. Speaker, I am laughing because the member brought up parliamentary procedure. I was thinking about the period from 1984 to 1993, when I sat in the House of Commons on the government side.
    I watched federal politics closely for more than 20 years before I returned in 2011. My experience in Parliament has taught me one thing: when the opposition systematically prevents Canadians—and in this case, first nations—from benefiting from a bill, the government should do everything it can to get the bill passed as quickly as possible, which is what we are doing.
    Order. It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith the question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

[English]

     The vote is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Deputy Speaker: Call in the members.

  (1225)  

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 746)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Aspin
Bateman
Benoit
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Holder
James
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Leef
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
Obhrai
O'Connor
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Sopuck
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Toet
Toews
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 145

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Bélanger
Bennett
Benskin
Bevington
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisholm
Choquette
Christopherson
Comartin
Côté
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Foote
Fortin
Fry
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Groguhé
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hughes
Jacob
Jones
Julian
Karygiannis
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
MacAulay
Mai
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Murray
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Patry
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Plamondon
Quach
Rafferty
Rankin
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
St-Denis
Stewart
Stoffer
Sullivan
Thibeault
Toone
Tremblay
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 118

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

Second Reading  

    The House resumed from May 28 consideration of the motion that Bill S-6, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Order. When Bill S-6 was last before the House, the hon. member for Western Arctic had completed his speech. There are eight minutes remaining in questions and comments.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Sherbrooke.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to ask my colleague a question in response to his speech on Bill S-6, which we are debating today. This is another bill regarding first nations.
    Every time we talk about first nations, we must remember that the government has a duty to consult when it is doing anything regarding rights, reserves or anything related to first nations.
    I would like to ask my colleague whether consultations on Bill S-6 were done regarding elections on aboriginal reserves. If so, were the results of those consultations taken into account in the Bill S-6 we have before us today?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, of course, there were consultations that took place with two first nations groups in particular. However, the requirements that came out of those consultations were not met. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has withdrawn its support for the bill. There is still some support from the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs.
    I want to read an email that I was copied on, which was directed to the parliamentary secretary for aboriginal affairs. It is from a person from Band 23 in New Brunswick. She says:
    I was watching second reading of the Bill on CPAC last night (Tuesday May 28, 2013) and it brought to mind some interesting concerns regarding the process by which this legislation and others, has unfolded. You specifically mentioned an organization that supposedly represents the interests of the people in Atlantic Canada—the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs—and praised their input in the process. And there was mention, I am not sure if it was by you, that Chiefs were asked to take this legislation back to their communities to solicit input from the people. Well, from a personal perspective there has been no consultation with the people in my community. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find someone who has any idea these changes....have been duly informed and have had an opportunity to question and comment. This has not been the case with Woodstock Band 23 in New Brunswick and if one community has been left out then I am sure there are others have been as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Western Arctic for his input on this piece of legislation and, of course, for the great work that he does on the aboriginal affairs committee.
    There is one specific clause in the bill that I want to ask the member about, clause 41, which provides for Governor in Council to make regulations.
    We just finished with Bill S-8 on safe drinking water, which was all about making regulations. The concern that was raised under Bill S-8, and I am sure it will be raised under Bill S-6, is the fact that there is no rigorous provision for first nations to be involved in making regulations. In fact, the NDP proposed an amendment to Bill S-8 that would see regulations come back before the House and tabled to the appropriate committee so that there would be parliamentary oversight.
    Could the member comment on the fact that there is no provision in this piece of legislation for first nations to be involved in the development and implementation of regulations?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly that is the nub of the issue with this bill and so many of the bills that the Conservatives have put forward regarding first nations governments. There has been lip service paid to the idea that first nations governments have a legitimate status, and they do under the Constitution and in so many ways, yet we leave them out of so much of this legislation that is going forward right now.
    Regulation is where the rubber hits the road in this bill. Under section 3, the minister would just have to be satisfied that a protracted leadership dispute has significantly compromised governance of a first nation, whatever that means. The minister could then force that first nation into the Elections Act and put forward the regulations of how that would occur. Without any appeal, if the minister had a problem with a first nation, he or she would have the ability to shut it down and put in new elections regulations. This is really inappropriate.

  (1235)  

    Order. Before I go to questions, I would ask all hon. members, if they are staying in the chamber, to take their seats and listen to the debate; it would be greatly appreciated.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands
    Mr. Speaker, we are looking at time allocation on this complex bill and less time to get at it. However, I can see from presentations from first nations, such as the one from B.C. Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, that there is acknowledgement that the bill represents some progress. At the same time, there is deep concern that it is not the right way to move toward a transition to greater self-government.
     Given time allocation, does my friend for Western Arctic think there is going to be any way that we can repair the things that are wrong with the bill and pass it in a form that would meet with the approval of first nations across Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that is simply not going to happen, whether time allocation occurs or not. The Conservative majority government has chosen not to deal with amendments in a good fashion on the aboriginal affairs committee for the last two years that I have sat on it.
    A good example was Bill C-47, a bill that deals only with specific regions of the country. Representatives of those regions of the country put forward 50 amendments. New Democrats brought them forward and the Conservatives chose not only to vote against them but to not even speak to them. Once a bill is written, they do not seem to be interested at all in trying to work with the bill to make sure it is in a good fashion. The consultation is weak. Witnesses now would rather not come to the aboriginal affairs committee because they see it as a waste of their time.
    The process is falling apart around the Conservative government, and it keeps pushing forward with these bills.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sad to say that the bill represents yet another of the bait-and-switch approaches of the government. In good faith, the first nations have suggested the need for legislation in a certain area. The government went forward and drafted a bill and then put in a poison pill that no first nation can live with.
    This was to be an opt-in bill. That was the purpose of the bill, that first nations could decide whether to adopt the template for first nations elections as outlined in the bill. Then the government put in paragraphs (b) and (c) of one clause that give the minister unprecedented powers to impose it on a first nation.
    Yet again, the Conservatives cannot help themselves. Why can they not listen? They pretend they do not know, but the bill actually came from the Senate and all of this was debated in the Senate. The Assembly of First Nations, the Atlantic Policy Congress and all of these people told the government that, and yet there is no concession that there needs to be an amendment and that these egregious paragraphs of the clause need to be removed.
    The bill is to establish an alternative regime to the one in the Indian Act to govern the election of chiefs and councillors of certain first nations. Among other things, the regime would provide that chiefs and councillors hold office for four years. It would provide that the election of a chief or councillor might be contested before a competent court and sets out the offences and penalties in relation to the election of that chief or councillor. The enactment would also allow first nations to withdraw from the regime by adopting a written code that sets out the rules regarding the election of members of their council.
    Although the Liberal Party is very supportive of what was the intent of the bill, we will be moving amendments that would remove the part that is so offensive to first nations in terms of, yet again, the paternalistic approach—father knows best—of the minister being able to impose this on what was intended to be a purely opt-in piece of legislation.
    Although we will support the bill, and again we agree with the choice to adopt an improved election process over that contained within the Indian Act, we insist that Parliament must ensure that Bill S-6 does not give the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs new powers that go against the opt-in nature of this legislation.
    For first nations that currently hold elections under the Indian Act, this opt-in legislation contains many improvements to the election process, including extending the term of office for chiefs and council from two to four years and removing the involvement of the minister and the department in the appeals process in setting out offences and penalties for corrupt and fraudulent activities.
    However, given the opt-in nature of Bill S-6, it is unacceptable that the Conservatives have included a clause that introduces a new power for the minister to compel first nations currently under their own custom election code to go under the elections process established in the bill. The Assembly of First Nations calls this “inappropriate use of federal legislation”.
    Further, rather than creating a new independent and impartial first nations elections appeals body, the government chose instead to refer the appeals process to the court system, which might prevent first nation citizens from bringing forward legitimate appeals, as the cost of going to court could be prohibitive.
    While the bill is largely based on consultations with first nations, the Conservatives have included elements that were not supported during the consultations and have refused to remove or amend the offending sections. Yet again, the government has no idea what consultation means. Consultation means we go out and ask the questions and actually listen to the answers.

  (1240)  

    Consultation does not mean an information session, just dictating “take it or leave it” and then not coming back with the amendments or some evidence that we had heard what was said.
    It is clear that no first nations, even the first nations who brought the idea of this bill to government, are in favour of these two paragraphs in clause 3 that give this unprecedented power to the minister.
    As we said before, Bill S-6 is largely based on the outcome of a consultation process conducted by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs, which resulted in the publication of the discussion paper, “Improving the System for First Nations Elections”, in October 2010.
    The discussion paper identified problems with the election provisions under the Indian Act. There are 240 first nations in Canada that hold elections under the Indian Act electoral systems, 341 first nations that hold elections under their community or custom election code and 36 first nations that currently select their leaders under self-government agreements.
    Bill S-6 would allow first nations under the Indian Act system or custom codes to opt in to the proposed legislation through a band council resolution.
    The AMC-APC discussion paper identifies several reasons why there should be another option for first nations that wish to leave the outdated Indian Act system.
    The term of office for elected chiefs and councils under the Indian Act is only two years, which places communities in a continual state of electioneering and undermines long-term planning.
    The mail-in ballot is prone to abuse.
    The appeals process to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is paternalistic and complicated and often takes too long to produce findings and a final ruling.
    The absence of defined election offences and associated penalties, like those in the Canada Elections Act, allows alleged cheating and activities like selling and buying of votes to go unpunished.
    The AMC-APC discussion paper made suggestions to remedy these concerns, which are included in Bill S-6: namely, the term of office is increased to four years; the mail-in ballot system is improved; the minister is removed from the appeals process; and new election offences and penalties are prescribed.
    In addition to these concerns, the discussion paper as well as the May 2010 report by the Senate committee on aboriginal peoples, “First Nations Elections: The Choice Is Inherently Theirs”, suggested that a new and independent impartial elections appeal body be established to provide culturally appropriate and cost-effective appeals.
    The government chose instead to refer the appeals process to the court system, which might prevent first nations citizens from bringing forward legitimate appeals, as the cost of going to court could be prohibitive. It appears that this is simply a transfer of costs related to appeals from the department to individual first nations citizens.
    The Senate committee's observations on Bill S-6 also noted that, “...the proposed approach may not practically address the need for an expeditious and culturally appropriate appeals process”.
    Bill S-6 is an optional piece of legislation and is clearly preferable for first nations that are dissatisfied with the current Indian Act system but have decided not to enter in a community or custom election code.
    However, the bill as currently written, provides in paragraph 3(1)(b) the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with explicit powers to bring first nations currently under the Indian Act system or a custom code under Bill S-6 if:
the Minister is satisfied that a protracted leadership dispute has significantly compromised governance of that First Nation;
    Paragraph 3(1)(b) is deeply problematic for two reasons. First, it would give the minister new powers to place first nations, which are currently under custom code, under the new first nations election act, despite the fact that under current legislation the minister has no power to intervene in custom code first nations without a formal request from the first nation or a court order. The minister does have similar powers under the Indian Act, but not related to custom code first nations.

  (1245)  

    Second, the terms “protracted leadership dispute” and “significantly compromised governance” are not defined in the legislation. Paragraph 3(1)(b) should be amended to define these terms and clarify that paragraph 3(1)(b) does not apply to custom code first nations, which should retain the ability to choose if and when they wish to enter into new legislation.
    I would recommend to the government and to the minister to read what happened in the Senate. Here on this side we are blessed to have senators who do extraordinarily good work. I commend to the government the six reasons as stated by Senator Lillian Dyck in her speech in the Senate as to why this bill needs to be amended.
     She gives six reasons. The first is that no one agreed with these measures, except for the Department of Indian Affairs. The second is that it is unconstitutional; third, the minister gains new powers; fourth, there are better ways to intervene; fifth, there is no guarantee that the minister would not use the clause inappropriately; and sixth, it is just not the right thing to do in the 21st century, when we are trying to have first nations communities build capacity to develop their own custom code elections.
    In her speech, Senator Dyck went on to quote from the organizations that had provided the genesis for this bill and explained that both the regional first nations organizations, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Conference, who were the instigators of this legislation, were asked only for opt-in provisions with regard to paragraph 3(1)(b). She quotes Chief Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, who stated:
    If I may, I would agree with a recommendation that 3(1)(b) and (c) be severed from the legislation. I agree with your characterization of these provisions to be reflective of a time that has come and gone, a paternalistic approach to management of the relationships within our communities.
    She went on then to quote Mr. John Paul of the Atlantic Policy Conference, stating:
    Imposing the will on a community externally has consequences. We have learned over the years that if anyone imposes their will upon communities, they are very negative about that kind of stuff.
    Then she went on to quote Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould of the Assembly of First Nations, saying:
    Unfortunately, the power set out in subclauses 3(1)(b) and (c) of this proposed bill . . . is actually an example of an inappropriate use of federal legislation, an inappropriate use of federal legislation I referred to at the First Nation-Crown gathering. These provisions essentially give the minister the ability to impose core governance rules on a First Nation, which, if ever used, would be resented by that First Nation, would not be seen as legitimate in the eyes of that nation, and would probably add fuel to an already burning fire.
    Dr. Dyck then went on to quote the witness from the Canadian Bar Association, who stated that that clause should:
...explicitly exclude First Nations with self-government agreements and First Nations that are currently operating under customary systems of governance, unless their consent is obtained in accordance with either their customary practices or, in the absence thereof, by a double majority vote.
    Witnesses from the Assembly of First Nations, she says, as well as the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Chief Cook-Searson from Saskatchewan, all thought that paragraph 3(1)(b) should be deleted from the bill. The message was very clear: paragraph 3(1)(b) should be deleted because it is unacceptable practice in the 21st century and because without excluding the first nations operating under custom code elections, the bill goes beyond the scope of opt-in legislation for first nations under the Indian Act.

  (1250)  

    Dr. Dyck then went on to her second reason to delete the clause: its unconstitutionality.
    She again quoted the witness from the Canadian Bar Association, who said that application of paragraph 3(1)(b) to first nations with customary systems of governance potentially infringes on constitutionally protected rights of self-governance. The witness stated:
    Allowing the minister to prescribe a form of election for First Nations that currently operate in accordance with customary elections would represent a significant interference with protected rights of self-government.
    She went on to quote the witness, who stated that:
    The broad discretion afforded to the minister to include participating First Nations could then impact on constitutionally protected rights and international legal principles.
    Dr. Dyck then went on:
    In addition, while the government officials stated that the minister has ordered a new election only three times in First Nation elections in the last 10 years, and while they insisted that the minister would only do so in rare circumstances, such an action would be a continuation of archaic colonial practices and is completely contrary to the inherent right of First Nations to govern themselves.
     She stated she felt that:
    Granting such legislative power to the minister of AAND is particularly troublesome coming right after the Crown-First Nation accord in January, where National Chief Atleo urged the government to "re-invigorate the original relationships that were based on mutual recognition, sharing, and trust" and reset the agenda.
    Dr. Dyck talked about the third reason to delete paragraph 3(1)(b), explaining again that new powers under the custom code first nations through this clause are unacceptable. She said:
    There are 341 First Nations that operate under custom election codes. If Bill S-6 passes, the minister would be able to intervene in any protracted leadership disputes they may have, and such intervention would supersede the voluntary Custom Election Dispute Resolution Policy.
    That is the policy that is now in practice.
    Her fourth reason to delete paragraph 3(1)(b) was that:
...there are better ways to intervene in prolonged election disputes. AANDC witnesses stated it was necessary to order such First Nations to hold Bill S-6 type elections because in Indian Act elections there are no provisions defining election offences or setting penalties for such offences. However, this could be remedied simply by amending the Indian Act to contain the same provisions as in Bill S-6 that outline the offences and penalties. If the minister then orders an Indian Act election for a First Nation that operates under custom code, the Indian Act election would have the same offences and penalties as under Bill S-6.
    The fifth reason Dr. Dyck cited was that:
...there is no guarantee that the minister will not use clause 3(1)(b) inappropriately. The department argues that First Nations can trust the minister not to use this clause inappropriately because the minister of AANDC has intervened only three times in the past 10 years; however, there is no guarantee that this will hold true in the future.
    As we know, there is very little trust between first nations and the government at this time.
    It is concerning to Dr. Dyck, as she has said:
    For example, as pressure mounts to increase natural resource development on or near First Nation land, there is great potential for significant dissension, and as First Nation communities, provincial governments and private sector organizations try to negotiate agreements, there likely will be protracted leadership disputes in First Nation communities.
    Her sixth reason was that it is simply not the right thing to do in the 21st century. I quote her closing. She said:
    Honourable senators, please let us do the right thing, let us do the honourable thing: Let us pass an amendment to delete clause 3(1)(b). I outlined six reasons why we should do this. First Nations deserve our support in amending Bill S-6 to delete clause 3(1)(b). Please, honour their request.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was listening intently to the member for St. Paul's and I just want to clarify something that she said.
    She said the bill is very specific as to the conditions under which a minister may bring a first nation under the act without its consent. It states that the minister may do so if satisfied that a “protracted leadership dispute” has “significantly compromised governance” of that first nation.
    The power under the Indian Act has only been exercised three times, as she mentioned, for the purpose of addressing a governance dispute. In each case, the minister exercised his power after reasonable efforts to reach a community-based solution had been exhausted.
    Does the member not feel that the minister makes every opportunity available to the first nation to ensure that it has exhausted every option to try to resolve it from within before the minister gets involved?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question, but I think the point is not whether it has been abused in the past but that there is obviously concern and a lack of trust as to whether it could be abused in the future, particularly around natural resources.
    The issue right now is that this was a good bill that came forth, bottom-up, from first nations as an opt-in piece of legislation. This clause would now actually be a poison pill to first nations. What could have been an excellent example of bottom-up development from first nations coming forward with an idea for a bill would now see this increased power of the minister imposed upon first nations.
     It is wrong in the 21st century for us to be doing this in a top-down way. This could have been a good piece of legislation. We implore the member to implore the government to get rid of this clause that is causing so much trouble.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for St. Paul's for her speech on this bill, which was very enlightening and informative.
    She must be just as frustrated as I am that the government has once again limited debate in the House. She raised some irrefutable arguments.
    I would like to hear more about the government's recurrent paternalistic attitude and the bill that perpetuates it, and about the fact that the government is once again taking a piecemeal approach to reform.
    Does my colleague not think the government should have had real consultations with first nations to develop a new rapport with them?

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question.
    If first nations wanted opt-in legislation, that would be a good idea.
    However, when the government insists on adding a clause reflecting its paternalistic attitude, that is unacceptable. It is the 21st century, and we cannot abide this paternalistic attitude.
    Mr. Speaker, I am a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. About a year and a half ago, we examined the auditor general's report on a 10-year study of the quality of life in Canada's first nation communities.
    The observations in that report were really hard to believe. The auditor general pointed out that, despite the investments and good intentions behind all the bills introduced in the House, we are just not seeing any results. Living conditions in aboriginal communities have not improved at all in the last 10 years.
    Why? The auditor general mentioned some structural barriers that must be overcome:
    We recognize that the federal government cannot put all of these structural changes in place by itself since they would fundamentally alter its relationship with First Nations.
    The next sentence is very important:
    For this reason, First Nations themselves would have to play an important role in bringing about the changes.
    What does my colleague think of the role that first nations have played in developing the bill currently before us, Bill S-6? Did they play enough of a part? Was this bill created in a true spirit of co-operation? If not, what impact could this lack of real co-operation have?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her good question.
    The government's approach does not take into account reality, or in other words, the connection between quality of life for first nations and their ability to manage their own affairs.
    Research conducted by Chandler and Lalonde from the University of British Columbia concluded that first nations should have the authority to manage their own health care, education and elections. When a first nation has that authority, it has a higher quality of life.
    This government's paternalistic approach is really bad for first nations' quality of life. I think that is the reason for the paternalistic little clause found in the bill. It is good for some first nations. However, once again, it is unfortunate that the government is taking a paternalistic approach.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, I heard my colleague, once again, express how disappointed she is in the government's paternalistic approach to this bill.
    Does she know exactly what role the first nations played in the drafting of this bill?
    Mr. Speaker, the Atlantic and Manitoba first nations participated in the discussions that led to this bill. However, it is unacceptable for the government to insist on adding a paternalistic clause without consulting all the first nations.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, today I have the privilege of speaking in support of Bill S-6, the first nations elections act. Before I start, I would note that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Winnipeg South.
    The bill we have before us today is the result of a comprehensive process of engagement that stretches back more than four years. I think that raises a question as to how fast we are trying to ram something through the House, when its birthdate was four years ago.
     First nations community leaders and members across Canada have all had input on the bill. The engagement that took place over these years, led by first nations organizations with the support of the government, has allowed Bill S-6 to be inspired and developed, in large part by the people it would affect most, first nations community members.
    It is the participation of first nations individuals and organizations that I would like to highlight today. In particular, I would mention the determination of the two first nations organizations, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, under the leadership of former Grand Chief Ron Evans, and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs.
    Individually at first, and then together with the support of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic policy congress, this legislation evolved.
    These organizations began their work in their home regions. Convinced of the need for electoral reform, they consulted at length with local leaders and communities. The quality and scope of regional consultations, and the similarity of their recommendations, encouraged the government to ask the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic policy congress to carry on the process and jointly lead a national engagement.
    The aim of the Canada-wide effort was to share the recommendations of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic policy congress and to seek the input and support of other first nation leaders and organizations across the country. With the support of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs focused its efforts in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, while the Atlantic policy congress covered Ontario and Quebec.
    If the opposition should question the extent of this engagement, l would suggest that they look no further than British Columbia. Former Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and his team, sat down first with the chief negotiators at the First Nations Summit in North Vancouver. The team then met with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council on Vancouver Island. They appeared before the British Columbia First Nations Summit assembly, and the Chiefs' Council of the union of British Columbia chiefs.
    I would also add that the consultations undertaken by both the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic policy congress included more than just chiefs and band council leaders. From the very beginning, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic policy congress reached out to individual band members across Canada. Their concern was not just with the steps in the engagement process that underpin the first nations elections act, but also the tools and mechanisms of engagement.
    With dedicated modules on their respective websites, they outlined the recommendations and provided the reasoning behind each of them. With the addition of a simple feedback form, it was possible for individuals to express their ideas and thoughts about the initiative being proposed.
    The government placed high value on this feedback during development of Bill S-6. The first nations elections act is not only informed by engagement, it is a stellar example of the benefits of engagement. It is an example of how collaborative efforts among first nations people, their leaders, their representative organizations and the federal government can devise solutions and achieve common objectives. It demonstrates the clarity that emerges from an open and authentic sharing of ideas.

  (1310)  

    Consider the consensus that flowed from this national effort. First nations people and their communities across Canada identified the same weaknesses in the Indian Act election system. Both groups of individuals found, first of all, that two-year terms of office were not satisfactory. A loose nomination system was not good. A mail-in ballot system was open to abuse and no defined offences and penalties were in place at that time.
    The recommendations presented to the department, in 2010, by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic policy congress are astonishingly similar. As a result, there is widespread agreement on the path to an effective and meaningful electoral reform agreement, which is now before the chamber in the form of Bill S-6. It is reform that would provide first nations with a solid legislative alternative to the Indian Act. It would create a truly democratic, open and transparent electoral system that would benefit first nations communities.
    I also want to draw attention to the concurrent and complementary work of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. The committee's report, entitled “First Nations Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs”, is based on testimony delivered at approximately 20 public hearings in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario. These hearings ensured even greater opportunities for concerned citizens to weigh in on issues related to first nations electoral reform. In addition, these hearings and the committee's detailed report further legitimized the comprehensive process of enlightenment and engagement at the heart of the legislation.
    Bill S-6 responds directly to a recommendation provided by the Senate committee and to several recommendations provided by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic policy congress. It is informed by the feedback obtained from national engagement efforts. One noteworthy recommendation was for longer terms of office. With this longer term, first nations governments will be much more stable and better positioned, to not only work on their long-term plans, but to solidify other aspects of their governments as well.
    Once the whole package is examined, I am sure the House will agree they can effectively hear and decide upon first nations elections as well. Indeed, the first nations elections act would honour the process by which it was created. It is legislation that results from a progressive electoral reform initiated to address weaknesses in the Indian Act and to bring modern governance to first nations.
    Our government has brought forward this legislation as a legislative alternative, particularly for those first nations currently operating under the Indian Act It would allow them to hold elections under a legislative system that is strong and modern, and comparable to municipal, provincial and federal election systems in Canada. I commend the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Atlantic policy congress for their efforts on behalf of all first nations communities, and for showing all Canadians how an open, collaborative and participatory process can help propel a matter as complex and fundamental to our democracy as electoral reform.
    I am counting on all members of the House to show their support for the hard work of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic policy congress by the adoption of Bill S-6.

  (1315)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, why are the Conservatives not addressing real issues related to the governance of first nations by providing the Assembly of First Nations with what it has asked for, namely, a simple and effective mechanism whereby the basic governance of a first nation can be exempt from the Indian Act—that title should be changed, by the way—once the first nation in question is ready, willing and able to govern itself and once its members have legitimized the governance reform with a community referendum?
    Personally, I think that this would be the decent thing to do in order to stop treating Canada's aboriginal peoples like second-class citizens.
    I would like my Conservative colleague to answer my question.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we first have to understand that this act would give first nations an element of choice. There would be no gun to anyone's head to join. It would be totally up to first nation communities to decide whether they wanted to be part and parcel of the act.
    Both the AMC and the APC have recommended the development of new and optional first nations elections. They want to provide a term of office of four years rather than two. They want to allow first nations to line up their terms of office and have a common election day. They want to provide more processes for the nomination of candidates. They want to provide a mail-in ballot system that is less susceptible to fraud and abuse. They want to remove the role of the minister in receiving, investigating and deciding election appeals, and they want to define and set out election offences and penalties that would reflect this interpretation of the act.
    It is an act of choice; it is not one of dictatorial direction. Each community would have its own election to decide whether it wanted to belong to this new act.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Palliser for an excellent speech and for his wisdom on this very important issue.
    He talked about how the government took this on and consulted with first nations, a process that he quite rightly said was four years long. It was about engaging first nations.
     I think everybody realizes that this is an obsolete election process. As he said, it is fraught with fraud and abuse. It is about giving first nations a process that modernizes it and is respectful of the work of the Manitoba chiefs and other first nations who put so much time and effort into putting this piece of legislation forward.
    A Liberal member recently spoke about how paternalistic this is, but this is about democracy and choice. I wonder if my colleague from Palliser could comment on why opposition members do not want democracy and equality for first nations. We are seeing a trend. We saw how they voted on matrimonial real property, which would give equality to first nations women. This is a trend.
     I wonder if he could comment on the importance of moving forward with this legislation.

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is a very insightful question. It is hard for me to know how to respond. As my colleague said, every act the government brings forward to assist first nations with their issues and concerns as bands and communities is voted down by the opposition. If it were not for strong government support, there would not be any of the improvements we now see in a lot of band councils that are moving forward with their issues, with help from this government. I do not know what the answer is to that.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on Bill S-6. I thank my colleague from Palliser, who has done great work on behalf of first nations people throughout Canada over his years as a member of Parliament. He deserves to be commended for that.
    When I was first elected in 2006, I was very fortunate to have been appointed parliamentary secretary to the department of Indian affairs, as it was known at that time. After receiving that appointment from the Prime Minister, and coming from Manitoba, I was tasked with many of the issues that face first nations people.
    One of the first meetings I had in my office in Winnipeg was with Ron Evans, then first nations grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. One of the first things to come out of his mouth at that meeting was in relation to these very topics we are talking about today. He said that he had a dream of seeing Manitoba and the entire country changed such that first nations electors could directly elect and do so in a common way on a common day. I was struck by his fervour for seeing a new system of electing first nations councillors and chiefs.
    When I heard his message, I absolutely embraced it and immediately advocated taking his position to Ottawa to communicate it to then minister of Indian affairs, the Hon. Jim Prentice, and anyone else who would listen. I must say that Ron Evans did a great job communicating that philosophy.
    When we look at the issues facing first nations in Manitoba and throughout the country, one of the core challenges is that upon someone becoming an elected councillor or chief, he or she is immediately faced with a very short electoral cycle.
    As many of us will recall, when we were first elected in 2006, it was a minority Parliament. To become fully acquainted with all of the opportunities, roles and powers that come with being a member of Parliament requires time to become apprised of the role we are in. One of the challenges I think many of us found in the minority era was the fact that our electoral cycles were quite short and did not allow members to fully deliver on the roles they were given, because electoral politics became such a significant part of their day-to-day activities. One never knew when the next electoral event would happen.
    That is the situation first nations chiefs and councillors face. They have a two-year cycle, which is very short. When they are first elected as councillors or chiefs, it takes them significant time to appreciate the finances and the files before the band. As they always have an eye on the next electoral event, they quickly realize that instead of chasing every file with the fervour they would like, they need to engage in the real politics of the role. No one should be blamed for that. It is just part of becoming an elected official.
     It is very difficult to maintain the cohesion of a vision and actual policies within a two-year context. After two years, if they and their councils see a major change because of electoral results, there is a huge new process for having the entire council come together again with a collective vision to move forward for the community.

  (1325)  

    When former grand chief Ron Evans first brought this idea to me, it was definitely something I viewed as a historic change that should happen.
     I am so proud that our Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and the parliamentary secretary have taken the time to craft this legislation on the basis of many of the recommendations the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs first brought forward, not only in 2006-07, when it was more in the discussion phase, but at the 2008 grand assembly held just outside Grand Beach, Manitoba. I was fortunate enough to attend that meeting with a few other members of Parliament, including former Liberal member Tina Keeper, who is no longer in this House.
    There was much support from all parties for those resolutions, which were passed unanimously by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, which again, as many in this House know, represents a significant body of first nations in Canada. As the Treaty 1 through Treaty 8 first nations in Manitoba, they have a historic relationship with Canada as some of the first signatories to the important treaties that really helped develop western Canada. To have this specific body of chiefs speak with such unanimity on this issue really, in my opinion, gives a lot of force to the philosophy of what is being suggested.
    Another element that I think probably gets less attention but is very important, at least to the original drafters of the concept, Ron Evans and the other chiefs and councillors who first recommended it, is a common election day. It would have a significant effect on the body politic in the jurisdiction. In this case, it was Manitoba.
    The dream of Ron Evans was to have a single election day, which would allow both first nation and non-first nation people to appreciate the governance and the politics and the electability of first nation people. By having it on one day, it would become a significant event in Manitoba. There would be considerable attention and considerable media coverage. It was his dream that this would bridge some gaps that exist between first nation communities and non-first nation communities. A celebrated electoral event would bring more transparency to the process and would allow all Canadians, all Manitobans, in this case, to see in full public view the people who were being elected. He felt that this degree of transparency would lead to a real culture of governance improvement. If elections were not held in the dark days of February but rather were held on a common day, it would bring a greater degree of transparency to the entire process. It would be a simple change that would lead to better governance for all first nations.
    I think the common day is something that is perhaps not given as much attention in this bill, but it is a significant innovation. Upon being embraced by first nations, I think it would lead to a greater degree of transparency. It would lead to the larger society embracing it as an actual legitimate governance structure, akin to municipal levels of government and provincial levels of government, because they would view it as something much like the election events people in this House take part in.
    I am very hopeful that this bill will be a great first step, for those first nations that want to opt in, in delivering the type of transparent governance they believe their electors deserve.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member was talking about the former grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, who supported the bill, and I think he is absolutely correct. We, on this side of the House, support the move to a four-year term.
    However, as is often the case, what the government has done is stick a poison pill into this bill, and paragraphs 3(1)(b) and 3(1)(c) are good examples of that. We now have the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs' Grand Chief Derek Nepinak saying that they cannot support this bill, despite the fact that initially the assembly was in favour, because the bill, in its current form, does not reflect the recommendations that were made.
    I wonder if the member would comment specifically on the insertion of paragraphs 3(1)(b) and 3(1)(c) and the fact that it would allow the minister to ignore the opt-in provisions and would force a band into something it may not want to participate in.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe that what the member is suggesting is an actual legislated power that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has currently under the existing Indian Act. It has been used very rarely in Canadian history, just a few times as far as I know. It is my opinion that this would simply reflect an existing power that the minister currently has. Therefore, I personally do not see it as the issue that others see. However, in this place we are allowed to disagree and it is valid for her to disagree with that point.
    Personally, I think that if there were a first nations community, after many years of going through a rancorous process of elections that were quagmired and everyone was literally at their wits' end, where nothing was progressing, and this clause in a very rare case had to be used, I am quite certain there would be the opportunity for that first nation to likely challenge that if its members chose to. I am sure that could be the case. Our courts offer lots of powers to anyone who has a grievance.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank this member for the important work that he did as my predecessor, in the position of parliamentary secretary of Indian Affairs, as it was then and, with respect to this important piece of legislation, really brokering the relationships and putting all of us here in this place in a unique position and providing a unique opportunity with respect to this legislation.
     In addition to the extensive consultation that was done, this really reflects the simple fact that it was actually authored by first nations leaders themselves, in particular Ron Evans, a gentleman for whom I have a great deal of respect in his former capacity as chief of Norway House, as I was then living in his community as a nurse. He did great work, and I appreciate that.
    My question is with respect to this legislation and that it is really a fourth option. The member has described some of the problems with the Indian Act: the opportunities that communities have to tailor to their own needs and, of course, under self-governing agreements. However, this would give communities an important fourth option. Just beyond the governance piece, can the member talk about the new stability under this regime that communities could opt in to and could provide real economic stability in addition to the complementary governance piece?

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that when they have a stable governance system, the benefits from the economy naturally follow suit. When there is stability, then the economy can grow. We have seen that in Canada with the most stable governance system in the world.
    An hon. member: We have good government and a good economy.
    We have a great economy.
    Mr. Speaker, I think first nations also would love to focus on their economies versus these biannual electoral events, which have been very challenging.
    Therefore, that would be a natural progression; hopefully, the communities would embrace this. However, much like the parliamentary secretary said, it would be purely on an opt-in basis.
    Before I start, I would like to read from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In article 18, is says:
    Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters that would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.
    That particular section of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is particularly important because, of course, what we are talking about today is how first nations elect their chiefs and council members.
    I will turn for a moment to the legislative summary. It indicates that, “First Nations may choose to opt in to the new elections regime proposed under the legislation, or they may be brought under the new elections regime by ministerial order in some circumstances.”
    I would agree with previous speakers that moving to a four-year term on an opt-in basis absolutely makes sense, but there are other elements of this legislation that first nations have spoken out against. If the government would entertain some amendments to this piece of legislation, I am sure we could all agree on how to move forward.
    I would like to go back to the legislative summary:
    According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, 240 First Nations hold elections pursuant to the Indian Act, 341 First Nations conduct “custom” or community-based elections rather than elections under the Indian Act, and 36 First Nations select their leaders according to their self-government agreements.
     This is an important point because of the fact that there are already a variety of ways by which first nations select their leadership.
    The legislative summary notes that the Senate released a report entitled, “First Nations Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs” and says:
    It indicated that the existing two-year term of office imposed on First Nations by the Indian Act is too short to provide political and economic stability, often creating deep divisions in communities. The report further noted that Indian Act election systems are often fraught with administrative difficulties and inconsistencies, resulting in frequent election appeals.
     The legislative summary goes on to talk about the number of times attempts have been made to make reforms to the Indian Act around the elections process. It notes that:
    Attempts to reform the Indian Act election system arise from growing First Nations dissatisfaction with the operation of the regime, including its administrative weaknesses, such as loose nomination procedures and a mail-in ballot system that is open to abuse.
     Other substantive concerns with Indian Act elections relate to the degree of ministerial intervention, the lack of an adequate and autonomous appeals process and the absence of flexibility to set the terms of office and to determine the size of councils.
    It is those points around the ministerial intervention and the autonomous appeals process that are sticking points in the current piece of legislation.
    The summary goes on to talk about the fact that a number of recommendations arose as a result of the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and some of these recommendations that are not included in this piece of legislation are as follows, and this is from 1996:
    With respect to elections, a key proposal was to develop community leadership selection systems and remove the application of the Indian Act as a preliminary measure to re-establishing traditional forms of leadership....To accomplish this, the following steps were suggested: community-level development of custom codes; community development of local dispute resolution procedures; the establishment of regional First Nations capacity and advisory bodies;
    And so on.
    Again, some of the elements that were recommended back in 1996 are not present or appropriately resourced under the current legislation. I mentioned earlier that one of the sticking points was under clause 3(1), which states that the minister may, by order, add a first nation to this schedule of first nations participating in the new election system.
    Once again, I know that the former parliamentary secretary pointed out the fact that this power has been in place, but here we are reinforcing and reiterating that power once again. This is one point where first nations are saying to butt out. They should be able to have an appeals process internally to look at this. I will speak to this point in a little more detail later.
    The other problem with this legislation is the regulations in clause 41. The clause provides for the Governor in Council to have broad and general powers to make regulations with respect to elections. Again, I will touch on this point a little later.

  (1340)  

    With regard to the support, initially we had the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress that were engaged in consultation around the development of the legislation. However, this is a pattern that we continue to see with the government. There are reports and recommendations from first nations, and then the government disregards some or all of those recommendations and reports.
    This is the case in point. According to the legislative summary:
    Opinions on the ensuing legislation are divided among First Nations organizations involved in the engagement process: while some support the new legislation, others do not view it as reflective of the report and recommendations.
    Some First Nations leaders expressed strong support for Bill S-6. At the December 2011 announcement of the new legislation...the Atlantic Policy Congress, echoed the government's view that the Act will support sound governance and increase economic development in First Nations communities.
    The current Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Derek Nepinak, however, has expressed strong opposition to Bill S-6. In a written statement, quoted in several media outlets on 7 December 2011, 37 Grand Chief Nepinak stated that the proposed legislation does not fulfill the recommendations put forth by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and represents an apparent “attempt by the Minister to expand governmental jurisdiction and control of the First Nations electoral processes that are created pursuant to the Indian Act or custom code.”
    In particular, Grand Chief Nepinak has criticized the following features of Bill S-6: in certain circumstances, the Minister’s ability to bring First Nations under the legislation without their consent; the lack of a First Nations appeals process; and the conduct of draws to resolve tie votes in elections for band council chiefs and councillors.
    There is not the kind of support that the government is touting. I want to turn to a legal opinion from December 29, 2011. This has been provided primarily to first nations using a customary election code or regulations, and this is the legal opinion, and this is why it is important for first nations that are currently under custom code:
    Based on a preliminary review of the proposed legislation, Bill S-6 may offer an improvement over the existing Indian Act election provisions. However, for those First Nations that already operate under their own customary election codes or regulations, opting into the First Nations Elections Act would provide only marginal benefits and may in some instances be viewed as a step back in a First Nations pursuit of self-government.
    While there may be specific provisions within Bill S-6 that a particular First Nation may find attractive (such as a four year election term), First Nations should consider amending their existing custom codes or regulations to incorporate any provisions of interest as opposed to opting into the First Nations Elections Act.
    I mentioned earlier clause 41 and the concerns. What we saw with Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act, was that bill was enabling legislation that laid out a process and some content for regulations.
    Of course, what happened is that there is no meaningful provision for first nations to be involved in the development of regulations and the subsequent implementation of regulations. That is the same case in this legislation.
    The legal brief says:
    The Regulations—the Devil is in the Details
    At this time, all that the Government has shared with First Nations are the provisions within Bill S-6. Section 41 of the Bill provides for the regulatory making powers of the Governor in Council. The Regulations to be passed include those dealing with the appointment, powers and duties of Electoral Officers, the certification (decertification) of Electoral Officers, who are electors, who and how candidates may be nominated, how voting is to be conducted, and the removal of a Chief or Councillor by way of a petition and anything else in the Act that requires regulation.
    Those are pretty broad scopes of power under the regulations, and nowhere in Bill S-6 does it talk about how first nations will be included in that process. People are right to raise flags around that.
    The brief goes on to say:
    Ultimately, how attractive this legislation will be to any First Nation will depend greatly on what is, or is not included or provided for within the Regulations. However, it should be kept in mind that Regulations are designed and intended to be amended easily and quickly. Therefore, while a First Nation may opt into the First Nations Elections Act on the basis of what it considers to be attractive Regulations, there is no guarantee that the Governor in Council will not change these Regulations to something that a First Nation may find less appealing.
    That is why when we had Bill S-8 before committee, New Democrats proposed that a clause be inserted that required regulations to come back before the House and referred to the appropriate committee, so there would be some parliamentary oversight. Otherwise, there would be no parliamentary oversight.

  (1345)  

    There is a precedent for it because in 2003 or 2004, the Quarantine Act had a clause that had the regulations come back before the appropriate committee.
    Under the clause opting into the first nations election act, pursuant to section 3(1)(b), the minister may order a first nation to use the first nations elections act in circumstances where the minister is satisfied that a protracted leadership dispute has significantly compromised the governance of that first nation. What qualifies as leadership dispute in the first instance, let alone a protracted leadership dispute? There is no definition, no qualifiers around that.
    Under what circumstances is there significantly compromised governance? This section is extremely subjective and at the sole discretion of the minister there is a potential that any first nation could be forced to use the first nations election act if chief and council cannot agree on issues such as budgets, funding, housing and so on, on what the minister may consider to be a timely basis.
    On the opting out piece, opting out of the first nations election act, while it is simple for a first nation to be added to the first nations election act, being removed from its operation is a far more complex undertaking. To be removed from the act, a first nation must satisfy a number of specific requirements and the minister “may”, not “shall”, remove the first nation from the operations of the act.
    The key requirement that must be satisfied includes establishing a new election code that is approved by a majority of the majority of the voters. The code must include amendment procedures and there can be no outstanding charges under the act against any member of the first nation. Even if these requirements are met, it still remains at the minister's discretion as to whether the transfer out of the act will be approved or not. Therefore, we again caution first nations already using a custom election code or regulation, their customary powers should be guarded and protected jealously since it may be difficult to regain these customary powers once a first nation opts into the first nations elections act.
    I mentioned earlier the appeals procedure. When I quoted Article 18 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it indicated that representatives needed to choose their own procedures as well as maintain their own indigenous decision-making institutions. The appeal procedure is problematic in this act.
    Under sections 30 to 35 of the proposed legislation, there is only one way to appeal an election: apply to either the Federal Court of the court of Queen's bench for a review of the election. The only ground available to overturn an election is to prove that a provision of the legislation or regulations was contravened and the contravention was likely to affect the outcome of the election. Internal appeal mechanisms are not provided for.
    Using the courts is a costly and time-consuming process. The legislation does not provide for funding of these appeals to the court. Therefore, only applicants who can afford to hire a lawyer are likely to pursue an appeal. Further, appeals to the courts can be time-consuming and may take months for an appeal to be dealt with. On a side note, we only have to look to what is going on currently with various alleged misdemeanours, or perhaps outright fraud, under the current Canada Elections Act and the amount of time it takes for that process to unfold. We are going to see the same kind of process when it comes to forcing first nations to resort to the courts in order to sort some of this out.
    On the other hand, if the regulations are to provide that the first nations will fund appeals or if courts make a practice that all or most appeals will be funded or paid for by the first nations, significant expenses may be incurred by first nations following every election. Many, if not most, custom election codes or regulations provide for some form of internal appeal process that will allow first nations members to file and have heard an appeal or grievance in regard to an election, usually without the need to hire a legal counsel. These processes will allow for most members with a grievance to participate in the appeal process if so inclined.
    Further, if an appeal is unsuccessful, the aggrieved member may still choose to pursue the matter to court. That is, most of the existing custom election codes and regulations provide or allow for both an internal appeal process and a court-driven appeal. The proposed legislation only provides for the courts to be the final arbiter of election disputes. That is an enormous problem. It would seem perfectly reasonable, and again I go back to the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report, that indicated dispute resolution mechanisms needed to be developed by the first nations themselves. It would seem a perfectly reasonable approach to take.
     I referenced clause No. 41 earlier in my speech about the problem with having regulations developed essentially without input and without any oversight.

  (1350)  

    In addition, we proposed another amendment with regard to Bill S-8, which would be an appropriate amendment for this legislation with regard to looking at whether there would be unintended consequences with legislation.
    With respect to Bill S-8, we proposed that within five years after the act came into force, a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the act and of the regulations made under this act would have to be undertaken by such committee of the Senate and of the House of Commons as may be designated and so on.
    The purpose of having some sort of five year review would be to look at what was happening with the regulations and also to look at whether the act was achieving its intended objective.
    We heard from other members who spoke in the House about the fact that the legislation would provide stability in the communities and add to economic development opportunities.
    I was first elected in 2004 and was in constant election mode. I understand the challenges for chiefs and councils when they are in two year election terms. It is not a reasonable period of time to develop and implement an agenda and to look at some of the results of it. If the government had just stuck to the four year term in the legislation, we would have had no problems supporting the bill, but it had to stick in other mechanisms.
    I want to turn briefly to testimony that was heard in the Senate with regard to objections to the bill, and I want to refer to Derek Nepinak, the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. I will read some of his testimony before the Senate. I have no idea how much time we will have when the bill gets to committee, because time allocation has become a way of doing business here. I do not even know if we will have time to have witnesses before committee. Chief Nepinak said:
    Regarding clause 3(1)(a), we know already that the development of custom codes in our communities and the passages of them requires a double majority vote, meaning that we need to hold a referendum which includes a majority of the electors, as well as a majority passing the customary code. That double majority is reflective of the ability and willingness of our community members to participate in governance processes. I think that this bill undermines that somewhat in allowing a chief and council to move a resolution to opt into this new legislation. I think that is problematic because it excludes members of the community.
    I have concern with respect to the phrase “protracted leadership dispute”. I am not quite sure what that means. I find the term overly ambiguous. It opens up a broader discretion for the minister to impose Bill S-6 on a community that might not otherwise wish to be part of the new legislation.
    He goes on to outline a number of other clauses. Then he goes on to say:
    Speaking broadly with respect to clauses 30 to 35 on contested elections, the chiefs in Manitoba supported the resolution to move forward in the discussion on the basis that we would discuss a process of tribunals or regional tribunals to engage the challenges resulting in our elections. I think it is fundamental to the self-determining efforts of communities to be able to engage their conflicts, be able to engage conflict, and to make difficult choices. I believe it is in the form of a tribunal...that...really come to the surface...the form of a decision-making body with authority—that our values and our systems of decision making...We can really show, and once again redevelop, those systems that were once there. I believe we need to be shown the respect and given the room to develop these tribunals so that we can adjudicate these matters within our systems. I believe that is a critical piece of the legislation that is missing.
    I want to quote Ms. Cook-Searson, who also was before the Senate. She said:
    I just wanted to comment on the question...One of my points was that we should have an independent First Nations electoral commission or a First Nations tribunal to settle any election disputes because it is afforded already for the federal government, the provincial governments. You have mechanisms in place where it is part of the regular part of democracy. If it is good for the federal government and the provincial governments, why is it not good for First Nations? Why not an option for a truly independent electoral commission? I do agree there will be disputes and you do need a mechanism to deal with them. However, rather than go through the minister or the cabinet or through the courts, we could have this independent First Nation electoral commission or First Nations tribunal to settle any election disputes.
    Ms. Cook-Searson raises a really valid point. Elections Canada is doing its job currently about some allegations with respect to members of the House. Why do first nations not have access to the same kind of process?
    I will end on that note. I hope the government will entertain some amendments to the legislation.

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan is suggesting that the minister's power to order a first nation under Bill S-6 should be removed. We all agree that the Indian Act contains many paternalistic provisions, but by doing what the opposition suggests, first nations would be left with only the paternalistic Indian Act to address the damaging governance disputes.
    When governance has broken down in a community to a damaging extent or when there are repeated challenges on who the legitimate leaders are in a community, what would the member suggest should be done?
    Mr. Speaker, I just finished reading into the record what I suggested should be done. Ms. Cook-Searson recommended that a process be put in place that would be selected by first nations, a tribunal or first nations electoral commission. That would seem to be a reasonable process. If a first nations electoral commission existed, there would be a non-partisan, arm's-length process that could oversee disputes and elections. We have that for our federal members of Parliament. Why not have it for first nations chiefs, councils and community members?
    Mr. Speaker, given the fraud in the last election, the robo scandals, the ongoing missing $3 billion that the federal government cannot seem to find and all the repetitive Senate scandals, there is no doubt that the government has real governance problems. It can certainly not be an example to anyone given the fraud, corruption, misplaced money and funding and trying to turn elections.
    I want to ask the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan this. Does the government have any credibility at all when it comes to due process?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. We have rocked Canadian confidence in our electoral system, whether it is the court findings on robocalls, the in-and-out scandal, for those of us who have been around long enough, and the current allegations about campaign spending that undermine people's faith in democracy.
    We also have a very interesting bill before the House of Commons with respect to certification for trade union members and that people who do not vote, would be counted as a vote no. Imagine if that had happened in our electoral system, where the current government only received 39.6% of the vote and all the people who did not vote, about 40% of the population, would have been considered a vote no against the Conservatives. We would have a whole different government.
    When looking at democracy and a democratic process, I would encourage the government to take a hard look at some of the testimony around due process in first nations communities.
    The time for government orders has expired. The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan will have seven minutes remaining for questions and comments when this matter returns to the House.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[Translation]

175th Anniversary of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean

    Mr. Speaker, the first settlers arrived in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean on June 11, 1838. Today, the region is celebrating its 175th anniversary. On this occasion, I want to tell the people living in that part of the country that it is a privilege to be one of their own. I have always felt a strong sense of belonging to my region.
    I am very proud to tell everyone I meet that ours is the only region with a flag that truly represents us. The silvery cross in the centre of our region's flag symbolizes the strength and determination of our workers, who developed prosperous industries in such sectors as pulp and paper and aluminum smelting.
    I am proud of where I come from because I am aware of our ancestors' efforts to settle the area and make our natural resources available to all Quebeckers. Happy 175th anniversary to everyone.

  (1400)  

[English]

Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour

    Mr. Speaker, last Saturday night, Orillia's literary community gathered at the Geneva Park Conference Centre to award the 2013 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. As members may know, Leacock, Canada's most famous author of humour, made his summer home on Lake Couchiching near Orillia, the fictional town he called Mariposa.
    This year, the Leacock Associates have awarded the medal for humour to Cassie Stocks of Edmonton for her novel Dance, Gladys, Dance. She joins a distinguished group of Leacock medal winners, including W. O. Mitchell, Farley Mowat, Mordecai Richler and Stuart McLean, but even more remarkable is that this is Cassie's first novel.
    I would like to thank the Leacock Associates and TD Financial Group for recognizing these outstanding contributions to Canadian literature each year. I invite all hon. members to join me in congratulating the 2013 winner of the Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, Cassie Stocks.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, I was honoured to be one of the MPs in attendance five years ago, when the residential school apology was made in this chamber. Every seat in the gallery was filled, and thousands more people watched this historic event on the front lawn of Parliament. Even more watched it in their homes and communities. It was a good day.
    As the late Elijah Harper once said, the apology lifted people’s hearts and opened the doors to reconciliation. From the thousands of Canadians who have already attended events arranged by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, to the many young voices, some on the Hill today, who are part of the Our Dreams Matter Too campaign to bring equal funding to all schools in Canada, to the many workers participating in national Aboriginal History Month events, people want the apology to mean something tangible. They want it to bring a change in perspective and a new relationship between First Nations, Inuit and Metis and other peoples of Canada.
    As Jack Layton said that day:
...reconciliation must be built through positive steps that show respect and restore trust. This apology must not be an end; it must be a beginning.
    New Democrats want to build on those words.

Robert Cottingham

    Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I pay tribute to Robert Cottingham, whose funeral service is this afternoon. Bob Cottingham epitomizes what makes a great Canadian. He bravely fought for his country and dedicated himself to building a better nation through community service.
    Bob served as a bomber pilot during the Second World War, flying the four-engine Stirling bomber. Captain Cottingham flew an astounding 41 missions during the Battle of Britain, when the average tour of duty was only 24. Bob continued to fly missions until the war was over.
    After the war, Bob returned to Manitoba to farm and raise his family, and he continued to serve. He was an active lifelong member of the Teulon and District Agricultural Society, the Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Canadian Legion. Bob always had a smile and a kind word. He never complained, even though his feet had been frozen numerous times as a bomber pilot and pained him greatly in his latter years.
    As a sign of my admiration and our country's appreciation, I presented Bob with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal last year. Captain Robert Cottingham was a Canadian hero who will be dearly missed and fondly remembered.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, this morning, the member for Papineau and I were proud to attend the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada event, Our Dreams Matter Too, at Victoria Island.
    I would like to read to the House the poignant words of Raiyah Patel, a young student from Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School in Gatineau, who welcomed us there. She said:
    Welcome elders, community leaders, teachers and fellow students to Our Dreams Matter Too.
    We meet here today on traditional Algonquin territory to remember, to dream, and to walk.
    June 11th has special meaning because it marks the anniversary of the Canadian government's apology for residential schools, and their terrible effects on First Nations children.
    If we forget our history, we will never be able to correct our mistakes.
    So on this day we remember the apology, but this apology has meaning only if First Nations children have opportunities, can grow up happily in their homes, have a good education, be healthy and have pride in their culture.
    Shannen Koostachin had dreams and hopes, and only wanted what many Canadian children take for granted: a good education and a nice school.
    Shannen's dream still inspires us, and today we walk in her memory and with her hopes in our heart—
    Order, please.
    The hon. member for Barrie.

  (1405)  

Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes

    Mr. Speaker, this weekend I participated in the Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes, hosted each year by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Along with 45,000 other people across Canada, I walked to help raise funds for research to cure, better treat and prevent type 1 diabetes. To date, this annual walk has raised $90,000 in Simcoe County alone. This year's walk had 800 participants just in Barrie.
    As chair of the all-party juvenile diabetes caucus, I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of Canadians affected by type 1 diabetes. Currently, there are more than 3 million Canadians living with some form of diabetes and more than 300,000 Canadians living with type 1 diabetes.
    Although a cure has not yet been found, Canada has long been a world leader in diabetes breakthroughs in the realm of science, including the discovery of insulin and the Edmonton protocol.
    I would like to recognize Simcoe County's JDRF youth ambassadors: Noah Stock, Sydney Grace, Carson, Rebecca, Michael and Olivia for all their hard work in making this past weekend's fundraising walk a big success.

[Translation]

Relay For Life

    Mr. Speaker, last Saturday, I had the opportunity to walk alongside thousands of my constituents as part of the Relay For Life. There were over 4,000 participants, divided into 88 teams, in Rimouski, and there were over 350 participants, divided into 36 teams, in the Cabano sector of Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac. They walked all night. I participated with them in this walk, which is a show of solidarity, to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society.
    Thanks to the volunteers and people in my riding, nearly $289,000 will stay in the Lower St. Lawrence region and will help people affected by cancer. The money will go to research, prevention, the purchase of wigs and prosthetics, and other forms of direct support for patients going through difficult times.
    I am proud that the dreary weather and even the rain that we had in the middle of the night did not dampen the enthusiasm or the spirits of the people of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. The Relay For Life in Rimouski even beat its own record.
    Cancer is a terrible disease that can attack us or someone we love. I want to thank and congratulate those who participated in the Relay For Life events in Rimouski and Témiscouata. In the face of this terrible disease, you chose to take action and celebrate life.

[English]

High School Graduation

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to honour all of the students who are graduating this year.
    It is no small accomplishment to complete high school, and one of my constituents, Claire Ritchey, is a shining example of how hard work and perseverance pays off. Claire had just completed the 11th grade when she left Kelowna, British Columbia, to attend school in Lacombe, Alberta. She expected that she would automatically go to grade 12, but not all of her grades were transferrable and she had to take grade 11 classes again. When Claire left school she was just a few courses short of her diploma.
    A year and a half ago, she returned to school at the Parkview Adventist Academy in Lacombe, and this year Claire was one of 37 graduates who were rewarded for their hard work.
    What makes this story so amazing to me is that Claire Ritchey has 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Ms. Claire Ritchey is 85 years old, and I am proud to have her as one of my constituents.
    Maria Robinson once said: “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning but anyone can start today and make a new ending”.
    We congratulate Claire. Her friends, family and community are very proud of her.

Working Parents

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of all working parents who face the challenge of maintaining a work-life balance. We live in a society where the fact is that in many families both parents must work. All parents, whether working or staying at home, make the right and sometimes difficult decisions that are best for their families.
    I am a proud, hard-working mother of a young son and I am the daughter of a working mom.
    Whether one is a nurse, a waiter or even an astronaut like Chris Hadfield, with three kids, our work often takes us away for days, or months in some cases, from our family and our kids. However, our kids are always at the heart of everything we do.
    The most recent figures from Statistics Canada indicate that 72.9% of women with children under the age of 16 living at home are currently employed. Today, I join all Canadians to recognize and take a moment to appreciate the difficult choices that accompany this reality.
    Parenting is a full-time, tough yet rewarding job and being a mom or a dad is truly the best job.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has developed a bad habit of gutting environmental protection in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and across Canada. Last year, in Bill C-38, it eliminated protection for all streams, rivers and lakes on Vancouver Island under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
    In response to the concerns of my constituents, I have introduced Bill C-509 to restore federal environmental protection to the Goldstream River. It is the Goldstream River where local salmon begin their life and return to spawn. Thousands of visitors come to Goldstream Provincial Park each year to watch the spawning and to learn about salmon in the many outdoor education programs that take place in the park.
    A tragic accident on April 18, 2011, demonstrated how fragile the river is and the extent of the impact that accidents such as oil spills impose on iconic rivers like the Goldstream.
    I am asking the Conservative government to reconsider its short-sighted plan to cut federal protection to our rivers and lakes on Vancouver Island and to support my bill to protect the Goldstream River and the salmon and other wildlife that rely on the river.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

Tax Invasion

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that unpaid taxes hurt all honest workers and taxpayers. The Auditor General was clear: we are collectively missing out on billions of dollars in unpaid taxes.
    To combat this problem, our government has taken strong action to improve the integrity of the tax system. Last year, $40 billion in debt was recovered.
    The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber can attest to the effectiveness of these measures. That member is teaming up with the Leader of the Opposition to impose a $21-billion carbon tax. How hypocritical.
    Our government is disappointed in the NDP's attitude. We have a message for them. Before imposing new taxes, they should start by paying their own.

[English]

69th Anniversary of D-Day

    Mr. Speaker, last Sunday I attended the service in remembrance of the 69th anniversary of D-Day. In attendance were members of the Mount Dennis and Silverthorn branches of the Legion, veterans, politicians of all stripes and air cadets from the 700 David Hornell VC Squadron.
    In a very moving and poignant service, the Reverend Canon Allan Budzin remarked that we, as Canadians, ask a lot of our soldiers. He said we give our young men and women rifles and ask them to go to foreign lands and fight our enemies. Then when they return, we give them pencils and ask them to go and fight our bureaucracy.
    It is a shame that we, as parliamentarians, cannot put aside our partisan bickering for a few moments and begin fixing the bureaucratic nightmare that awaits our veterans and their families as they grow old.
     For some, it will be a minefield of government lawyers to fight, as it was for disabled vet Dennis Manuge. For others, it will be discovering too late that they fought in the wrong war to be given all the rights and privileges they deserve as our protectors.
    Let us fix it now, lest we forget.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, after weeks of defending the status quo in the Senate, the Liberal leader is now coming to the defence of Liberal Senator Mac Harb, who even the Toronto Star has called disgraced.
    Speaking to Global News recently, the Liberal leader said he would absolutely welcome the senator back to the Liberal caucus.
    Senator Mac Harb is refusing to repay more than $50,000 in inappropriately claimed housing allowances and, instead, is trying to stick taxpayers with the bill.
    Defending Senator Mac Harb is not the only lapse in judgment on the Liberal leader's part in recent weeks. The Liberal leader continues to allow Liberal Senator Pana Merchant to sit in the Liberal caucus despite uncertainty over the status of a $1.7-million offshore bank account that media have reported she has not declared publicly, as required by Senate rules.
    The Liberal leader's defence of Senator Mac Harb and Pana Merchant is just more proof—
    The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

World Oceans Day

    Mr. Speaker, I am fortunate to live just a short walk from the Pacific Ocean in my riding of Vancouver Quadra, and some days I can hear and even smell the ocean from home, so I am pleased to highlight June 8, World Oceans Day, as a chance to celebrate our oceans and to thank all who help us understand and protect them.
    With every breath we take, every drop of water we drink, they are our human life support system. Oceans generate more than half of the oxygen we breathe, regulate climate, provide invaluable resources, support businesses, trade and commerce and, most important, offer an endless source of inspiration for the human spirit.
    Eight out of ten human beings live within 100 kilometres of an ocean, and billions depend on oceans for food, yet too many commercial fisheries are overfished. Climate change is making our oceans warmer and more acidic, and a mere one-half of 1% of global marine habitats are protected.
    World Oceans Day is an important reminder to each of us to protect the health of our oceans every day, literally as a way of life.

  (1415)  

Tax Evasion

    Mr. Speaker, this government is proud of its record when it comes to cracking down on tax cheats. However, let me take a moment to point out the NDP's blatant hypocrisy on tax evasion.
    This government has introduced 75 measures to improve tax fairness, and the NDP has voted against each and every one of them.
    This government recently proposed measures that would give the Canada Revenue Agency unprecedented powers to crack down on tax evaders. The NDP voted against these measures.
    When the NDP became the official opposition, NDP members picked an MP with tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes to be their revenue critic.
    If that is not enough, they allow the member for Jeanne-Le Ber to continue to sit in their caucus despite hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax debt.
    While the NDP supports tax delinquents in its caucus, our government has taken concrete steps to combat tax evasion, both at home and abroad.

Conservative Party of Canada Fund

    Mr. Speaker, whether it is the SS Duffy sailing the Caribbean claiming per diem amounts or the Liberal leader defending Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau for their “honest mistakes”, whether it is a secret payment to Mike Duffy or the duelling parliamentary secretaries making up contradictory stories about a secret Conservative Party fund controlled out of the PMO, the member from Nepean was flatly denying the very existence of the fund.
     However, on CBC, the member from Ajax was singing a different tune. When asked whether there was a special fund controlled by the Prime Minister's chief of staff, the parliamentary secretary replied, “No one is denying that”—no one, that is, except his colleague, the member from Nepean.
    Therefore, as we start another question period, I urge my Conservative friends to turn away from the PMO gutter politics, show some contrition and finally answer some questions.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party is in way over his head. While we know that Liberal senator Mac Harb owes taxpayers $50,000 for inappropriately claimed housing expenses, media in fact are now reporting that he will owe taxpayers up to $200,000 in inappropriate expenses.
    The Liberal senator is refusing to pay back to taxpayers the money they are owed. How does the Liberal leader respond? He responds by telling Global News that he will absolutely welcome the senator back into the Liberal caucus.
    What is worse is that the Liberal leader has come out and championed the status quo in the Senate, because according to him, it benefits his home province of Quebec.
    To top it all off, the Liberal leader has known for months about Liberal Senator Pana Merchant and her $1.7-million offshore bank account, which the media are also reporting. The Liberal leader has said nothing.
     Does the Liberal leader not understand what meaningful reform in the Senate looks like, or is he just simply in over his head?

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, before resigning, did Nigel Wright speak to any Conservative Party officials about the Senate expense scandal? In particular, did he speak to Jenni Byrne, the party's director of political operations?
    Mr. Speaker, we do not have any information to suggest that he did. Mr. Wright himself said that he acted alone in the case of Mr. Duffy, and that is why he resigned. He acted alone.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a correction. Nigel Wright never said that he acted alone. He said that he took responsibility for his actions. That is an important distinction.
    When he was the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Nigel Wright controlled partisan political polls carried out for and on behalf of the Conservative Party and paid for by the party.
    PMO employees are paid by taxpayers. PMO activities are paid for by taxpayers.
    Why were this office and the people who work there used to carry out partisan activities?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party has a single fund for partisan expenses, including the party leader's partisan expenses.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we know that Nigel Wright controlled funds in the Prime Minister's Office. We know he controlled funds at the Conservative Party.
    Has the Prime Minister ordered that these funds be audited to make sure that Nigel Wright did not make any other illegal or unethical payments to either himself or Conservative senators?

[Translation]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, five years ago today, the government officially apologized to residential school survivors.
    However, five years later, none of the promises of assistance they made at the time of the apology have been kept.
    Aboriginals have to go to court to ensure that treaties regarding energy development projects are honoured.
    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission must also take the government to court to get access to documents. Why?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the legacy of the Indian residential schools is still felt today by aboriginal people all across Canada. That is why we are placing such importance on reconciliation and the restoration of Canada's relationship with aboriginal people.
    We must forge a new relationship based on an appreciation of our shared history, a respect for each other's cultures and traditions and an honest desire to move forward.
    Mr. Speaker, Indian residential schools were a tragic chapter in our history, and five years after this historic apology, survivors and their families deserve more than just words.
    First nations children are gathered today on Parliament Hill and are asking us for the same opportunities that others have: to grow up in safe homes and communities, to get a good education, to be healthy and to be proud of their culture and languages.
    Their dreams matter. They deserve better than the status quo. Why is the minister not listening?
    Mr. Speaker, I could ask the hon. member why her party is voting against each and every step we take to try and improve the situation.
    The fact of the matter is that today marks the fifth anniversary of the Prime Minister's historic apology to Indian residential school survivors, their families and communities.
    The road to reconciliation is not an easy one, but we shall overcome the obstacles. We are determined to do so.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, it has been nearly a month, and the government still has no clear or believable answer on why the Prime Minister's chief of staff cut a $90,000 cheque to a sitting legislator.
    The government should consider the statement of the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, who recommended a little contrition and humility instead of simple bluster and blunder on this subject.
    Will the government finally tell us the real reason that Nigel Wright gave for writing that cheque?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed the Prime Minister has answered these questions and has been forthright.
    We do wish that all senators would pay for their expenses and not do inappropriate billing, as has clearly been the case. Not only has it been the case, as has been exposed widely, but it is also the case for Liberal Senator Mac Harb.
    While the Liberal leader is here in the House of Commons, it would be great if he could explain to Canadian taxpayers why he thinks it would be a great idea for the Liberal senator from Ottawa Centre, who claimed $50,000 in illegal money to come back to him for the costs of living in Ottawa Centre to be a senator.
     He thinks it is perfectly fine for him to make those expenses and ask taxpayers to pay that money, and he thinks it is perfectly okay for him to continue in the Senate.
    If he believes in accountability, perhaps he could—
    The hon. member for Papineau.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be very clear: if he is innocent, he is in; if he is guilty, he is out. However, nobody on this side is going to cut him a $90,000 cheque to avoid the problem.
    My question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, who publicly defended Nigel Wright after his resignation. Does he accept as credible Mr. Wright's explanation that he wrote a $90,000 cheque in order to save taxpayers money?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, I see the Liberal leader has changed his position on Senator Mac Harb, and he is doing it right here in the House of Commons.
    I wonder what his position is now of Senator Pana Merchant. Senator Merchant has $1.7 million that she is hiding from having to pay taxes.
     If Mac Harb is in or out, and he has changed his position on that, would the Liberal leader now very clearly say that hiding her obligation from taxpayers is acceptable behaviour from a millionaire Liberal senator? Is that behaviour acceptable to the Liberal leader?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, confusion abounds, and no one has any idea what is going on with the cheque, the secret fund and the government's conflicting versions.
    Former Conservative staffer Émilie Potvin was right on the money when she alluded to the government's paranoid mentality. Canadians deserve answers.
    Will the government finally show Canadians a copy of that infamous $90,000 cheque?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows very well that a process with the Auditor General is already under way. Furthermore, the Ethics Commissioner will examine all of these issues and documents.

[English]

    If the Liberal leader does want to again show transparency and the importance of transparency, perhaps the Liberal leader could tell Canadians if he indeed claimed MP expenses and MP travel when he took money from charities when travelling to their events?
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader says he looks forward to welcoming chronic expense violator Mac Harb back into the fold once he pays the money.
    Now if a Tim Hortons cashier steals money, they do not get invited back. They get fired and charged. Where is the accountability for Liberal and Conservative insiders who break the rules?
     For example, when will they stop hiding the source of the Mike Duffy payout and show us the cheque? They have to have a higher standard than the Liberals, surely. Show us the cheque.
    Mr. Speaker, as I have just finished saying to the Liberal leader, the Ethics Commissioner, the RCMP and the Auditor General are looking into this matter.
    Of course all documents that should be examined will be brought forward, but the member opposite should know that we do not have access to a personal cheque by Nigel Wright.
    This process will go forward, and all the information will come out.
    Mr. Speaker, we are talking about the ethical judgment of the Prime Minister.
    This Prime Minister personally appointed Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, the three most ridiculous Senate appointments since Caligula appointed his horse.
    Then his top adviser cut a secret $90,000 cheque to keep Mike Duffy quiet. We are talking about what is going on in the Prime Minister's Office.
    We will keep this one simple. Did Nigel Wright, in any shape or form, direct any Conservative Party spending while working in the Prime Minister's Office? It is a simple question.
    Indeed, Mr. Speaker, that question has, in fact, been answered, but a question that has not been answered, while the member for Timmins—James Bay raises—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Hon. James Moore: It was the purpose of his question. He raised the issue of appointments, who makes appointments, and what it says about their judgment. What does it say about the judgment of the NDP leader, who appointed as his revenue critic somebody who owes tens of thousands of dollars in taxes?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it will take more than Nigel Wright's chequebook for the government to buy back its credibility.
    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence said that it is not in the public's interest to show the $90,000 cheque that Nigel Wright wrote for Mike Duffy.
    Why exactly are the Conservatives refusing to show a copy of the cheque, which they surely have in their possession?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I just said, the Auditor General will look at the file as well as all of the documents.
    In addition, as I just said to the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, we do not have access to Mr. Wright's personal cheque.
    Mr. Speaker, not only will the Auditor General take a look at and have something to say about what is happening, but the RCMP will also be involved. That is because of the work of the NDP and my colleague from Timmins—James Bay.
    I have two questions. First, do the Conservatives believe that the Prime Minister's chief of staff is also the Conservative Party leader's chief of staff? Second, did Nigel Wright speak to Conservative party director of operations, Jenni Byrne, about the Senate expense scandal? Did they talk about it, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, as we already know, Mr. Wright resigned, clearly stating that he acted in a way that was not in keeping with the Prime Minister's guidelines and that senators should be held personally accountable for what they choose to do with taxpayers' money. That is why he resigned. He alone made that decision.
    Mr. Speaker, do the Conservatives believe that the chief of staff of the Prime Minister's Office, whose salary is paid by taxpayers, also works for the Conservative Party? It appears that the line separating partisan activities from government activities has disappeared.
    We would like a clear answer. Did anyone at the Prime Minister's Office discuss the possibility of using funds transferred by the Conservative Party to the Prime Minister's Office to reimburse Nigel Wright and, consequently, pay for Mike Duffy's fraudulent claims?
    Mr. Speaker, we have already answered this question. A single fund is used to pay for all Conservative Party spending and that fund is controlled by the Conservative Party.
    Mr. Speaker, how can the parliamentary secretary answer the question, when he was the one who was initially saying there was no secret fund, that he did not know what we were talking about? One of his colleagues said there definitely is one, and no one is contradicting him. It is no longer a secret. Thank you, but I am not sure that the parliamentary secretary can really answer these questions without talking through his hat.
    However, perhaps he can answer the following question. Did Nigel Wright still have access to the account that the Conservative Party made available to the Prime Minister's Office when he was negotiating to buy Mike Duffy's silence?

Elections Canada

    Mr. Speaker, they are taking Canadians for fools.
    For some time now, the government has been promising to amend the Canada Elections Act, but so far nothing has been done. On Tuesday, April 16, the minister went so far as to state that: “...our government is pleased to announce that it will introduce comprehensive legislation on Thursday...”
    When will they finally introduce amendments to the Canada Elections Act to deal with fraudulent calls?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, election reform is something our government takes very seriously, and that is why we are ensuring that we take the time to get it right. We committed to introducing legislation, and we will introduce legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, it is as if the minister thinks his primary duty is making up word games to avoid responsibility. Seriously, these are important powers that would help the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada investigate voter fraud, but after promising the bill with much fanfare, the minister had to backtrack and withdrew the bill under pressure from his own Conservative caucus.
    Summer is fast approaching, so I have a very simple question for the minister. Will he or will he not table this bill before the House rises? Yes or no.
    Mr. Speaker, we committed to introducing legislation, and we will introduce that legislation. We are taking the time to get it right.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, I do not envy Conservative backbenchers as they head out on the barbecue circuit, forced to defend broken promises on the Senate 59 times, broken promises on transparency, broken promises on electoral fraud and phony campaign financing. The only defence they can come up with is that they are not quite as bad as the Liberals used to be.
    Through you, Mr. Speaker, I ask Conservative backbenchers: Is this really what they came to Ottawa for, to defend the unbridled patronage and rum bottle politics that they used to so resoundingly condemn?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, one thing I do know is that there will not be any Conservative members of Parliament who, unlike the member for Winnipeg Centre, will be defending lawsuits for libel this summer.
    What we will be talking about this summer is, indeed, our government's record of delivering for Canadians. In fact, it was announced last week by Statistics Canada that the Canadian economy has created over a million new jobs. In fact, Canada has the best jobs numbers in the G7 and the lowest taxes in 50 years. We will be proud to stand on our record all summer.

Elections Canada

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians have had enough of paying for the Conservative pretty department.
     First, the Prime Minister gets caught paying his personal makeup artist and stylist out of taxpayer funds. Then the finance minister is caught billing taxpayers for Maybelline and CoverGirl cosmetics, trying to look good on budget day. Now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs is trying to get a taxpayer rebate for beauty products and services during the last election.
    Would the government confirm that the parliamentary secretary did not break Elections Canada rules?
    Mr. Speaker, more than two-thirds of my personal expenses were for child care, as I campaigned from 7 a.m. until after 10 p.m. every day. While voters can tell members that my five-year-old son came to many doorsteps, he also had to eat, play and go to sleep at a reasonable hour. I had to keep campaigning.
    In fact, the media called my campaign particularly respectful, intelligent and focused on issues, not on mudslinging.
    Elections Canada has very clear-cut rules and definitions of what can and cannot constitute a personal campaign expense. All campaigns, including my campaign, need to follow those definitions.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, Corporal Kirkland was given his discharge papers, and in rejecting the terms made to him by the Canadian Forces, he wrote:
    As of 15 Sept. 2015 I would be able to collect a Partial index Pension, this pension would help me in my quality of Life and is essential to my successful release. The [Minister] has stated in Parliament on 6 June 2013 that I may stay in the forces as long as I need. I believe this option should be available to ALL wounded soldiers.
    Does the minister agree?
    Mr. Speaker, as is the case with all injured members, Corporal Kirkland, in fact, will be able to fully prepare mentally, physically and occupationally for his eventual release. That is his option. That is the case with all Canadian Forces members injured in combat.
    With respect to Corporal Kirkland, I can inform the member that, in fact, Colonel Blais, of Canadian military forces personnel, spoke with him and confirmed that this direction applies to him and that this option for release will be his and his alone.
    Mr. Speaker, I am actually pleased to hear the minister's response. I do hope that his response is assurance that Corporal Kirkland will receive his pension, that he will receive his medications, that this option will be available to all the wounded soldiers, because that is a policy decision, and that further, the chain of command is onside.
    I am pleased with the minister's answer, and I am hoping that when he responds, he will recognize that, in fact, Corporal Kirkland is watching his response.
    I am pleased that he is pleased, Mr. Speaker.

[Translation]

Search and Rescue

    Mr. Speaker, over a year ago, Defence Research and Development Canada's report indicated that increasing the search and rescue service's hours of operations helps save lives. The Conservatives knew that, but they did nothing about it. It took NDP motions and a report from the Auditor General for them to realize that it might be time to stop dragging their feet. We are talking about people's safety. It is a matter of life and death.
    Why did they not do anything before?

  (1440)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I announced on May 2, in order to help the Canadian Forces optimize its SAR preparedness, its readiness posture, a comprehensive analysis of peak periods of seasonal, weekly and daily SAR activities across the country has been conducted. This was in addition to a number of measures we announced at that time to improve the ability of the Canadian Forces to respond to the largest search and rescue territory on the planet.
    We are continuing to make improvements in that regard and are continuing to bolster and improve the ability of the greatest search and rescue technicians anywhere in the world.
    Mr. Speaker, it was a half measure. The reality is, they claim that search and rescue is a “priority”, then they fail to act when warned. For over a year, the report from Defence Research and Development Canada gathered dust, potentially putting lives at risk. New Democrats were warning them. Experts were warning them, and even internal reports were warning them. Improving response times saves lives. They were warned, but they did not act. Why?
    Mr. Speaker, we acted, and we continue to act. I remind the hon. member that our SAR crews frequently surpass their mandated response times. In fact, in 2011, 103 Squadron, based in Gander, in the member's home province, averaged a 21.3-minute reaction time in the 30-minute posture, and 58.7 minutes during the two-hour evening posture.
    This is a remarkable accomplishment brought about by training, dedication and the willingness to risk lives in the service of our country.

Privacy

    Mr. Speaker, that is not what the Auditor General said. Why can the minister not just admit that he was wrong?
    Yesterday, the minister could not answer questions about whether the Communications Security Establishment received information from the U.S. program known as PRISM. Hours later, though, CSE released a statement.
    Can the minister now tell us if he has raised any concerns with the United States about the NSA eavesdropping on Canadians? What steps has the department taken to help the Privacy Commissioner in her investigation?
    Mr. Speaker, I can advise my hon., albeit paranoid, friend that, in fact, CSE does not target Canadians, and of course, nor do we ask our allies to do so.
    CSE is also, of course, very much subject to the Privacy Commissioner, but we have our own commissioner, a former federal judge, who has said on a number of occasions that it highlights CSE's genuine concern for protecting the privacy of Canadians and that to date, all recommendations related to privacy have been addressed, and he has lauded CSE's ability to protect Canadians' privacy.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, Corporal Glen Kirkland is one of the heroes of Canada who served so valiantly in Afghanistan. He appeared before the House of Commons defence committee, telling everyone of his fear that the military would try to release him early to deny him possible benefits. He wishes to be released on September 15, 2015, but the other day, he got a release notice saying that he is supposed to go in a few months.
    The minister in the House said very clearly that he can stay as long as he desires, and so my question is quite simple. On behalf of Corporal Glen Kirkland, will the minister now honour his commitment and allow him to stay in the military until September 15, 2015? Yes or no.
    Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have already answered that question. In fact, all injured members are not released from the military until they are prepared to do so. Until they are prepared for release, they work with members of the Canadian Forces on their transition plans. When it is appropriate for their families and they are ready to make a shift into the private sector, there is a program specifically designed to help with that transition. That will be the case for Corporal Kirkland. That will be the case for injured members of the Canadian Forces on my watch.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, Richard Falk has once again disgraced himself. Mr. Falk is once again attacking UN Watch, an NGO led by Canadian Hillel Neuer, and has called for it to be investigated. This is McCarthyism in the worse sense of the term.
    Will the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism inform the House as to whether the government agrees with Mr. Falk or not?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, Richard Falk is an embarrassment to the United Nations Human Rights Council. He has praised 9/11 conspiracy theorists repeatedly. He has suggested that the United States provoked terrorist attacks against it. He is now attacking a Canadian-led UN Watch.
    We call on Richard Falk to be fired as a special rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is a disgrace to that body and the United Nations.

Rail Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, three engineers paid with their lives when VIA derailed in Burlington.
    For a decade, the Transportation Safety Board has asked the minister to mandate automatic braking systems and voice recorders for all trains. Derailment after derailment, year after year, the minister failed to act. Today the safety board asked the same thing again.
    How many more crashes and how many lost lives will it take for the minister and the Conservative government to act and put safety first?
    Mr. Speaker, naturally our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the tragic Burlington derailment and all traffic accidents on the tracks. We take these issues very seriously.
    I will point out that safety has actually improved over the decade. However, we have listened to the recommendations in the report and the Minister of Transport is encouraging the Railway Association of Canada, CN and CP to install recording devices. It would be a big help.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I think that Canadians would appreciate less lip service and more action from the government.
    How many more people will have to lose their lives for the government to do something about this?
    For years the NDP has been calling on the government to make employee and passenger safety a priority and to have automatic braking systems installed on trains.
    Will the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities respond to the recommendations of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada by introducing a bill that would make automatic braking systems mandatory?
    We have already taken action to improve our railway safety system. We introduced a bill on this mandating stricter penalities for those who break the rules. What is more, legislation protects whistleblowers who expose safety problems in our network.
    We have already initiated the process to put recorders on VIA Rail trains and we will continue our work.

Library and Archives Canada

    Mr. Speaker, on another topic, it seems that Library and Archives Canada is currently in discussions with Canadiana regarding a project to digitize archives and set up a paywall.
    The minister found a way to compensate for the cuts the Conservatives are making to this institution: charge people for services, yet people are already paying for these services when they pay their taxes.
    Does the minister really intend to charge Canadians for access to publicly owned archives?
    Mr. Speaker, that is not exactly the case.
    As the hon. member must know, the former head of Library and Archives Canada, Daniel Caron, resigned. Someone is currently filing the position on an interim basis. A new head librarian and archivist will likely be selected this fall, and we will examine this policy more closely.
    The hon. member's information is not quite accurate. We are going to examine these policies and other hot issues that are very important to all Canadians in order to protect Canada's heritage.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the fact is the government is taking public property and it is selling it back to Canadians at a profit. These documents belong to the people of Canada. They have already paid for them. However, if they want to have access to them, they will have to pay again.
    The digitization plan at Library and Archives Canada is already under free-fall due to the minister's reckless cuts. These are his mistakes. Does he really think it is fair to make Canadians pay for them twice?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague again does not quite have it right like his colleague opposite. Library and Archives Canada receives over $100 million every year from taxpayers. It is a lot of money and the digitization that it has been doing is the modernization that libraries and archives across the country and in comparable countries are doing. Canadians want to have access to this, not just those who have the opportunity to come here and physically access the archives, but to have it available digitally online in the format that Canadians choose to have it available in.
    When the new permanent president is installed, probably this fall, he or she will look at the digitization aspect and will look at these questions and ensure the Library and Archives is modernized in a way that will benefit all Canadians.

[Translation]

Privacy

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are worried about the fact that the government has been giving CSEC access to metadata from their personal communications since 2011. Our privacy is at risk, and Parliament needs to talk about this.
    Why did the government, which claims to be so concerned about protecting Canadians' privacy, get rid of the long-form census? Why is the government not protecting Canadians and why is it allowing this spying?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I have now stated a number of times in the House, CSEC is prohibited by law from directing its activities toward Canadians, or directing its activities at any person in Canada. The only targeting that is done, and the member, as a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces would know this, is on foreign intelligence. We work with our allies, but as I stated yesterday, we do not have access to the PRISM data and we use metadata to identify and collect international, not domestic, communications.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, Great Lakes water levels are at historic lows. In January, water levels were the lowest they have been since 1918. This is threatening the $34-billion shipping industry, forcing ships to carry less cargo and ultimately increasing the price of consumer goods for the middle class.
    Will the government finally admit that its inaction on climate change is forcing Canadians to pay the price?
    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, it has been our government that has had to pick up the Liberals' inaction on climate change. We saw a 30% increase in greenhouse gas emissions under that government's tenure. In fact, it has been under our government's watch that we have seen a reduction in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions while our economy grows. We would not have seen this under the Liberals' policy that would have put a carbon tax, which would have actually reduced the size of Canada's economy and not seen any tangible results.
    Our sector-by-sector regulatory approach is getting the job done. We are looking at results of each of the key emitting sectors. For once, Canada can be proud to stand and say we are taking real results on climate change as opposed to what the Liberals did.

[Translation]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the international community, the G8 and various UN bodies have made it a priority to put an end to rape as a weapon of war.
    In order to eradicate the scourge of sexual violence in conflict areas, we absolutely must promote gender equality.
    Could the government explain its position at the UN regarding the use of education and the promotion of gender equality to put an end to sexual violence in conflict areas?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is pleased to take a leadership role in the resolution of this important topic about gender violence. Canada is a world leader in the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls. We continue to focus on concrete measures aimed at improving the lives of women and children around the world.
    Mr. Speaker, the fact is people are concerned that the Conservatives will apply a double standard when it comes to reproductive rights. Survivors of sexual violence in conflict areas need comprehensive reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, gender equality and sexual education, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and abortion services.
    Will the government commit to supporting international efforts to help survivors of sexual violence, including helping to provide a full range of sexual and reproductive health services?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I just said, Canada is pleased to take a leadership role. Canada is a world leader in the protection and promotion of rights of women and girls. We continue to focus on concrete measures in the different lives of women and children around the world. We will continue doing this on the international stage. However, most important, we have to comply with our laws in our country and that is what we will do.

Canada Revenue Agency

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP is not on the side of Canadian taxpayers. The New Democrats advocate higher taxes for hard-working families and allow MPs to sit in their caucus despite tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes. In spite of this total lack of credibility, left-wing groups with ties to the NDP suggest that Canada will resist efforts to combat tax evasion and tax avoidance at the upcoming G8 meeting.
    Could the Minister of National Revenue please set the record straight and clearly state our government's position ahead of next week's G8 meeting?
    Mr. Speaker, the suggestion that we are resisting efforts to combat tax evasion is completely false. We support Prime Minister Cameron's efforts to achieve a G8 consensus on tax havens and on tax evasion.
     The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance was at the OECD just last week, working on this very issue. Our government has a strong record of getting tough on tax cheats, including obtaining information on Canadians with offshore assets from our international partners. Since 2006, we have introduced over 75 measures to improve the integrity of our tax system—
    Order, please. The hon. member for Sydney—Victoria.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, Crystal MacKinnon is a widow with two small children. She has worked on her uncle's boat for 20 years. She gets up at 4 o'clock in the morning, baits and sets the traps. This past winter she was cut off EI and forced to go to a local food bank. The intimidating appeal process has denied her again.
    The government is chasing people out of seasonal industries like the fisheries, from Atlantic Canada, northern Cape Breton and Quebec.
    Why is the government attacking our most vulnerable citizens?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is making common sense changes to ensure we can attach unemployed individuals to opportunities for employment. In fact, this government has created over a million net new jobs since the downturn of our recession, creating opportunities for Canadians.
    As I have mentioned before, employment insurance will continue to be there for those individuals who are unable to find work, through no fault of their own, when they need it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, one of my constituents, Michel Morin, has been waiting for months for his appeal to be heard by the Social Security Tribunal.
    The problem is that the transition is rather chaotic, with cases being transferred from separate tribunals to the single tribunal. Wait times are very long and Canadians are not getting justice.
    How long will Mr. Morin have to wait before getting an answer?
    Fewer than one out of three appeals is heard within 30 days. The new Social Security Tribunal will continue to provide all Canadians with a fair, quick and accessible mechanism, while eliminating unnecessary duplication of administrative procedures.

[English]

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, we have heard veterans, loud and clear, on the importance of military and medical experience for members of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.
     Could the Minister of Veterans Affairs update the House on the appointment of a new vice-chair for the Veterans Review and Appeal Board and why this appointment is so important for Canadian veterans?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for his question about appointments to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, something that affects our veterans. We want people who have military experience.

[English]

    Today, I am proud to announce that for the first time in the history of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, the vice-chair position will be held by a veteran. Retired Lieutenant-Commander Owen Parkhouse has over 25 years of remarkable military service and experience, having worked in the operational stress injury clinics across Canada.
     That is what veterans have been calling for and that is what this government, with its great caucus members, is delivering.

  (1500)  

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, the Pattullo Bridge in my riding is long overdue for upgrades, in fact 26 years overdue. However, this upgrade is more than what municipalities and TransLink can afford. Proposals call for a toll that would target Surrey residents. Surrey already has a toll bridge, the only one in the Lower Mainland.
    Could the minister support the Pattullo Bridge upgrades without tolls?
    Mr. Speaker, we often get requests such as this, but in most cases ferries fall within provincial jurisdiction.
    I would like to highlight that we do have the Canada building fund part 2 coming up, which would allow municipalities to pick and choose projects that they wish to invest in.
    Certainly, if there is a proposal for this particular ferry, we would be happy to look at it.

[Translation]

Sport

    Mr. Speaker, when the Quebec Soccer Federation decides to follow FIFA rules, which prohibit the wearing of turbans, Conservative ministers and the Liberal leader shout about intolerance.
    By supporting the suspension of the Quebec Soccer Federation, they are preventing thousands of young Quebec players from participating in Canadian and international competitions. These people are criticizing the Quebec Soccer Federation for following the international federation's rules. Rather than attacking young soccer players in Quebec, we need to ask FIFA to consider changing its rules.
    Will the minister responsible for amateur sport intervene and call for the reintegration of the Quebec Soccer Federation, which simply decided to follow the rules?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we believe that amateur sports like soccer should encourage the participation of children rather than exclude them.
    We see no valid reason that kids should be banned from playing soccer because of their religion.
    I encourage Quebec Soccer Federation to follow the lead of soccer leagues across Canada and the Canadian Soccer Association, and not create barriers for children who want to play sports they love.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act

     The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-2, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment
    Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment of Ms. Crowder to the motion at third reading stage of Bill S-2.
    Call in the members.

  (1510)  

    (The House divided on the amendment which was negatived on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 747)

YEAS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Bélanger
Bennett
Benskin
Bevington
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisholm
Chow
Christopherson
Comartin
Côté
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Foote
Fortin
Freeman
Fry
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hsu
Hughes
Jacob
Jones
Julian
Karygiannis
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
MacAulay
Mai
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
Michaud
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Mulcair
Murray
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Patry
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Plamondon
Quach
Rae
Rafferty
Rankin
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
St-Denis
Stewart
Stoffer
Sullivan
Thibeault
Tremblay
Trudeau
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 124

NAYS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Aspin
Bateman
Benoit
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Holder
James
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Leef
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
Obhrai
O'Connor
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Sopuck
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Toet
Toews
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 149

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the amendment defeated.
    The next question is on the main motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the said motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: All those in favour will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Speaker: In my opinion, the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:

  (1515)  

     (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 748)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Aspin
Bateman
Benoit
Bergen
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Holder
James
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Leef
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
Obhrai
O'Connor
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Sopuck
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Toet
Toews
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 149

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Bélanger
Bennett
Benskin
Bevington
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisholm
Chow
Christopherson
Comartin
Côté
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Foote
Fortin
Freeman
Fry
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hsu
Hughes
Jacob
Jones
Julian
Karygiannis
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
MacAulay
Mai
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
Michaud
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Mulcair
Murray
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Patry
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Plamondon
Quach
Rae
Rafferty
Rankin
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sellah
Sgro
Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor)
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
St-Denis
Stewart
Stoffer
Sullivan
Thibeault
Tremblay
Trudeau
Turmel
Valeriote
Williamson

Total: -- 125

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

    (Bill read the third time and passed)

    The Speaker: The hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest is rising on a point of order.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, you can obviously see the point I am trying to make here. In the past, when members voted on both sides of the question, I believe the Chair asked for clarification.
    I am pressing this point because when members rise on a question in this House, I think it is important that the rules apply equally and that when members inadvertently vote one way or the other, they are asked to stand to correct the record.
    For the record, I am glad you did not ask the whip for the NDP as to how I vote. I would like to affirm now that I vote with the government.
    I think there is a point to be made that there may be room for discussion on inadvertently doing something versus purposely doing something. In any event, I appreciate the clarification.
    I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 16 minutes.
    On a point of order, the hon. member for Papineau.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think if you sought it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion.
    I move that the Board of Internal Economy begin posting the travel and hospitality expenses of members on a quarterly basis to the Parliament of Canada website in a manner similar to the guidelines used by the government for proactive disclosure of ministerial expenses.
    Does the hon. member for Papineau have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
    I move that the Board of Internal Economy begin to post expense reports organized by member, every quarter, on the Parliament of Canada website, in a form more accessible to the public.

[English]

    The member may know that usually a period of time has to proceed before a member seeks unanimous consent for the same motion.
    Is it a different one? It is.
    Then does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
    I move that the House ask the Auditor General to conduct performance audits of the House of Commons administration every three years.

[English]

    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I think if you sought it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion.
    I move that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be directed to develop guidelines under which the Auditor General is asked to perform more detailed audits of parliamentary spending and report these guidelines to the House no later than December 10, 2013.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: There is no consent.
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley on a point of order.

Points of Order

Board of Internal Economy  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I find the new energy and spirit of disclosure coming from the Liberal Party to be interesting.
    I think if you would ask it, you would find unanimous consent and support for the following motion. I move:
    That the Board of Internal Economy investigate the potential use of the members' Travel Points System to attend paid speaking engagements.
    Does the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley have the unanimous consent of the House?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

    Mr. Speaker, because it is a very serious issue and given that there is a sense that we have all come together, maybe both the New Democrats and Conservatives will agree to the motions that the leader of the Liberal Party just presented.
    Could we maybe canvass them?
    They may, but as I said, there has to be some period of proceedings that transpire before members can move the same motion seeking consent. Perhaps that might come at a later time.
    The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on a point of order.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, now that we have been able to agree on something here, if I may press the point, could we also agree that we would publish the expenses of members of Parliament when they travel across the country to participate in by-election campaigns?
    I did not really hear a motion there.
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: There does not seem to be consent.
    I have called for orders of the day. The hon. government House leader.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act

Bill S-10—Time Allocation Motion  

[Government Orders]
    Mr. Speaker, I too have a good idea. I move:
    That, in relation to Bill S-10, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the Bill; and
that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration of the second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
    There will now be a 30-minute question period.
    The hon. member for Ottawa Centre.
    Mr. Speaker, this is number 45; here we go again. This is 45 times that the Conservative government has brought in closure. It is a government whose members said they were going to do things differently; and, not once, not twice, but 45 times, they have broken that promise they made, how many years ago?
    It is important to understand the legislation we are going to be debating. It is on cluster munitions. This is a very serious treaty that we signed onto. The bill comes from the Senate where there is testimony from witnesses who condemn this bill. In fact, most people who went to speak to members on the other side said that this bill in its present form is retrograde. It would undermine the spirit of the treaty.
    So let us get this straight. We have a government that brought in at midnight, a week or so ago, this bill to the House. The Conservatives had one speaker on it at midnight; that is how seriously they take it. They then brought in closure on it. After having heard what happened in the Senate, they feel that the bill is okay the way it is, because I suspect that they are going to ram it through. After we have watched this bill come from the other side, not from this place, and after we have seen it brought up for a couple of minutes after midnight, by the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, and after we have seen what the Conservatives are doing on issues like the arms trade treaty, we certainly need a lot more debate on this. We need to take it more seriously, and we need to see amendments.
    Are the government members actually going to listen to what Canadians are saying on this bill? Are they going to listen to witnesses who condemn this bill in its present form? I know the minister knows this. I have talked to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I know the Minister of National Defence knows the criticisms of this bill. He knows that if it is passed in its present form, many people will say it is better not to bring in enacting legislation because it would undermine the spirit of it.
    Therefore, why is the government rushing this through again? Why are the Conservatives bringing in closure on a bill that is so very important? This is about Canada's reputation on the international stage. Why closure, why this bill in its present form? And will they allow amendments this time, or are they just going to shut it down like they always do?
    Mr. Speaker, I have listened to my hon. friend, and I understand his point of view. However, the reality is that this effort to bring forward both the convention and now the accompanying legislation has been under way since 2008. The member has read the issue and has said it is a very serious one; it is one that has far-reaching implications and in which Canada has exhibited leadership. We were there in the early days of the negotiation to ensure that we were complying with both the spirit and the letter of the law. This is now the time to step forward, bring the legislation to fruition and allow Canada to go forward and ratify.
     This prohibiting cluster munitions act would fully implement the legislative commitments that are there under the convention, which the hon. member mentioned. It would strike the balance between the humanitarian obligations, which are very real; we know the grave implications that come about with the use of cluster munitions. As well, it would preserve our national security and defence interests. I add that, because of the realities, that we work with other NATO allies, most notably the United States of America, in missions that very much have a humanitarian component as was the case in Afghanistan, to comply with some of the amendments and the position taken by the member opposite would prohibit that international contribution.
    Therefore, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs indicated quite clearly in his testimony in the other place, this is an honourable compromise. This is the way to move the legislation forward, to move forward with a ratification of the convention, and allow us to continue to act interoperably with our allies.

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have found in recent weeks that the government is short on inspiration. No one really knows what direction it wants to take. The schedule changes randomly. As my colleague, the foreign affairs critic, has said, the government introduced a very significant but very flawed bill.
    Why is this government introducing such a significant bill at the last minute? This bill has international implications for Canada.
    Also, why is the government imposing a gag order and bypassing important steps, thereby preventing this significantly flawed bill from being properly studied?
    What is going on? What are the government's priorities, especially in terms of Canada's reputation on the world stage?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the short answer to what it means for Canada is action, not words. It means we are actually implementing and moving forward on this important issue.
    I note that the legislation would very much preserve Canada's ability to continue to work internationally, but, at the same time, it implements Canada's commitments to the convention, as is in line with our key allies. I note that Australia and the United Kingdom, and many of our NATO allies, many of the countries we have worked with abroad, are in fact taking the same steps.
    My colleague from Ottawa Centre a moment ago mentioned that there are those who are critics of the legislation. That may be, but I also note that there are a number of NGOs calling on Canada to ratify the convention. They are calling on us to move forward and ensure that Bill S-10 is enacted as quickly as possible.
    Let us not let perfection get in the way of progress on this. Let us allow Canada to move forward, to step out on the international stage, as we have throughout this process, as we have been leaders in this process, and move this legislation forward. That is what we seek to do. That is why we are taking this step. This legislation is important when it comes to Canada meeting its international commitments, protecting civilians, protecting those affected by cluster munitions, and allowing Canada to continue to play a significant role internationally.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we have now reached the 45th time allocation motion. This makes no sense.
    Does the government intend to move time allocation motions for all bills until the end of the session? Are the Conservatives planning on proroguing so they can pack up and go home because of all the scandals coming out these days? Are they not willing to answer any more questions from parliamentarians or the public?

  (1535)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the answer is no, but what I can say is that on this particular piece of legislation, we have a history that goes back to 2008. We have international commitments that we seek to comply with. This legislation would allow us to do just that.
    This bill is very much in keeping with the intent for Canada to continue to play a leading role internationally in addressing the humanitarian impact of land mines and explosive remnants of war. This bill is also in keeping with Canada's commitment since 2006 to continue with the disarmament of these types of munitions that have such a devastating impact. Canada has contributed more than $200 million through 250 projects internationally to this global effort, which makes Canada one of the top contributors to this issue. That is, again, in keeping with the spirit of the legislation and the ratification of this convention.
    We are deeply committed to this cause, as witnessed by this legislation and international contributions. The total amount of support by Canada continues toward the area of mine action and the issues that vary from year to year. We want to be consistent in demonstrating that, both to our citizens and those internationally who watch these issues very closely. That is why we think it is time for progress, it is time to advance the legislation, and advance this cause generally.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for answering many of the questions on this bill, as the NDP critic mentioned the other night at midnight when I spoke on this bill and gave the government's position.
    What is important is that Canada has been a very strong contributor toward the damages of the remnants of war, mines and cluster munitions. The minister just mentioned the $200 million. I was in Cambodia earlier this year, where I saw a massive effort being made in war countries in removing mines and cluster munitions that have been left behind and have been injuring children. I have been to Mozambique and saw how much damage has been done to livestock, as well as to young children playing there, as well as in Angola. The Government of Canada is very proud to support all the things it has supported, over and above this bill. We should not look only at this bill but the larger picture of what Canada has been doing.
    I would like the minister to elaborate on what Canada has done in meeting the goals in the bill but that are also part of Canada's core foreign policy.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague for his understanding of the far-reaching implications of this, and the fact that this is but one piece of a larger puzzle when it comes to Canada's international efforts vis-à-vis demining efforts and the use of this legislation to help implement the convention banning cluster munitions.
    In his extensive travels, I know the member has on many occasions encountered representatives of nations around the world who are very grateful for Canada's efforts. Whether it be in some of the conflict zones in which Canada has been involved over the years, in Bosnia, Kosovo, and more recently, Afghanistan and Libya, we have seen the devastating effects and countries that are mined to the max, where the remnants of war have such grave implications particularly for schoolchildren.
    It is something that we need to reflect on. The fact is there are many countries where the mere effort of going to school or playing in a soccer field or going out with friends to take part in the simplest of activities can result in death or grave injury because of munitions left in the ground.
    Our country has in fact played a leading role over the years, internationally, in addressing this humanitarian impact of land mines. We continue to work with organizations, with other countries, to meet that standard and to play that type of leadership role on the international stage.
    I mentioned some of the earlier commitments that we have made monetarily. Canada, for example, provided $16.8 million just two years ago to support victim rehabilitation, and clearance and capacity building in nine countries: Colombia, Afghanistan, Cambodia, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Libya, Jordan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Palau.
    Dating further back, in 2007-08, our contribution was $51.4 million. That year we ranked third overall in our contribution.
    These are just a few examples of how we remain deeply committed to this cause. We continue to elevate possible mine action projects that will deliver tangible results. Here at home, this is an opportunity for us to send a very clear signal of that commitment, by passing this legislation, by moving forward with the ratification of the convention. I would encourage all members to support that effort.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments that the minister is attempting to put on the record, but it is not the issue of the substance of the bill.
    What we should really be talking about is the attitude of this majority government and how that attitude has actually shifted. The direction we are going in is very negative. Canadians are becoming more and more aware how this Prime Minister, more than any other prime minister in the history of our country, tries to limit and prevent members of Parliament from being able to debate important issues that come before the House of Commons.
    That is the issue. We have a government that has now introduced time allocation 45 times. It is unprecedented. It is limiting the abilities of individual members of Parliament to share their thoughts and their ideas, and hold the government accountable for the type of legislation that it is bringing forward.
    It does not matter what the minister has to say about the legislation right now at this very moment. What we are concerned about is why the change in attitude. Why is the majority Conservative government not allowing members of this House to have due process on a wide variety of issues that are important to each and every Canadian?
    My question is to the Government House Leader, not the minister. Why does the government continue to limit debate on a wide spectrum of legislation when Canadians have a right to have their members of Parliament standing in their place, being heard?
    Mr. Speaker, I sense some degree of frustration on the part of the member. He stated that this is not the issue. The issue is in fact moving this legislation forward.
    We feel it is a priority for our government. We feel that we need continued efforts, consistent with Canada's principled position on the world stage, to play an important role when it comes to the banning of munitions and the demining issue that Canada championed some years ago, one in which his party played an important role—
    An hon. member: He left.
    Hon. Peter MacKay: Oh, the member is no longer here.
    In any event, the real issue is very much how we can progress on an issue as important as this and to move legislation. While it is not perfect, there are issues that could be taken with any bill on any issue. However, the reality is that we have an opportunity with this legislation that has received scrutiny in the other place, that has followed the process of legislation that comes from the Senate and that presents the opportunity to the House to move this bill forward.
    We are proud of the negotiations in which Canada took part in the early days to bring about Canada's compliance and position. To remind the House, practically speaking this legislation would prohibit all possession of cluster munitions, including the stockpiling of any munitions in Canada, or cluster munitions belonging to states that are not parties to the convention.
    This is a prohibition across the country that would bring Canada in line with its international partners. We do have cluster munitions, which we are now in the process of disposing. I will state for emphasis that we have not used them operationally. We have destroyed most of the stockpiles already. We are in the process of exploring the options to dispose of these final stockpiles. Practically speaking, we are well down the road when it comes to Canada's compliance.
    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs is rising on a point order.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to go on the record to say that the Liberal member who asked a question immediately walked out. That shows his commitment to this question.
    The parliamentary secretary is well aware that it is improper to note the fact of someone not being in the House.

  (1545)  

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou for a question or comments.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence, like most of his colleagues, is trying to manipulate reality to his liking. I serve on the Standing Committee on Finance, and I have seen just how often the government chooses not to play by the rules. That is why it is imposing this 45th time allocation motion under false pretenses that are completely unfounded. The real problem is that the government is trying to impose its will from a to z, without listening to proposals from the opposition parties.
    I want to speak briefly to the bill. The problem is not with the agreement itself; we are completely in favour of the agreement. The problem is that the bill undermines the enforcement of that agreement. Once again, as it did with the provinces and the health care agreement, for example, the government is trying to impose its will, to erode and sabotage perfectly valid agreements.
    In a similar fashion, the government has turned a blind eye in other cases. It absolutely refuses to hear proposals from the opposition parties. Am I right to think that the minister will say the bill is perfect and that no NDP proposals will be received, debated, studied or considered by the government?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would not for a moment suggest that the hon. member's views on this important issue are somehow invalid or would not contribute to its improvement.
    However, again, this legislation is now at a place before the House where we can move forward on an international convention that dates back to 2008. This is an occasion in which action, not words, is needed.
    The legislation is not perfect. I have said that. Most bills that come before the House are not in a perfect form, yet here we have broad support. There are NGOs that are very much in favour of the legislation, calling on the government and the Parliament of Canada to move forward and allow us to ratify it and live up to our obligations. We have taken substantial steps to do that.
    Again, I repeat that Canada has an opportunity to demonstrate continued leadership in the world, to show a forward-leaning attitude when it comes to an issue as important as the ban on land mines. I would suggest that gives us the moral authority to then approach many of our allies, who have not taken the steps that Canada has and who have not moved forward in demonstrating the same type of forward-leaning attitude.
    We can say definitively to them that we have passed legislation in our country, that we have taken concrete action in moving forward with our own obligations and that we encourage them, our friends and allies, to do the same.
    Mr. Speaker, the member may not know this, but Earl Turcotte, former senior coordinator for Mine Action at DFAIT, was the head of the Canadian delegation to negotiate the convention. He also negotiated the convention on certain conventional weapons and the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines. He knows his stuff. He said about this legislation, that “the proposed...legislation is the worst of any country that has ratified or acceded to the convention [on cluster munitions] to date”. What does the minister have to say about that?
    Mr. Speaker, I would repeat that this legislation meets our obligations. This legislation would allow us to now ratify, as opposed to being on the sidelines and talking about it, as the NDP like to do incessantly.
    We want to demonstrate action, movement forward, and progress. We embarked on this process in 2008.
    An hon. member: What took so long?
    Hon. Peter MacKay: Mr. Speaker, the member asks what took so long. We are standing here ready to make it happen, and as usual the member and his party want to block progress. They want to stand in the way of progress. They throw up their hands and say “it is not perfect” or “somehow it could be better”. For want of a nail, a shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, a horse was lost. For want of a horse, a soldier was lost, a war, a continent. This is the classic NDP position. They want to hold up progress and seek the perfect, which may never come.

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, this is the classic Conservative stance. They bring forward a botched bill that has opposition, and they are trying to ram it through without the democratic debate that would strengthen it. That is exactly what Conservatives do.
    This is the 45th time that the Conservatives have imposed closure. That is a record beyond belief. That is a record beyond even the corrupt Liberal regime in its dying days, with scandals left, right, and centre. The same thing is happening with the Conservatives. Even the Liberals did not impose closure as much as the Conservatives are doing now. They are showing total disrespect for Canadians, total disrespect for their own constituents.
    The question is very simple. We have had 10 minutes of debate in the House on this legislation, and that was midnight on a Wednesday three weeks ago. We have had 10 minutes of debate. As the member for Ottawa Centre has said so eloquently, a whole bunch of problems were exposed with the bill after only 10 minutes of debate. That is really why the Conservatives have invoked closure and are trying to ram this through and shut down debate. This is typical Conservative attitude. They do not care about the problems with the bill. They do not care about the opposition. They do not care about Canadians. They are just going to ram it through. That is simply not good enough. Canadians deserve better.
    Why can the Conservatives not do better and allow for debate on this legislation so we can improve what has been a pretty shoddy exercise in drafting?
    Mr. Speaker, we see from that member the usual grandstanding, waving of his arms, the dramatic presentation that he so often brings to the House, the stepping into the aisle as if he is somehow being provocative and cool.
     Canadians want to see actual results. They want to see legislation. They want to see their laws. They want to see their government. They want to see programs and projects advance. They do not want to hear endless debate.
    The member says we have only had 10 minutes; the reality is that we have had since 2008. I do not know where the member was in 2008, but I can tell the House, as a minister in the government, that we knew then as we know now, that what is required is action. We do not require endless debate, the flapping of the gums, as the member is doing right now, and shaking his bushy head and showing what a cool guy he is. Canadians want action. They want to see movement. They want to see implementation. Canadians do not want to hear this wrangling and members suggesting that the government is offside with the international community.
    We are now stepping in line with our colleagues and allies and trying to bring other countries to the position where we can ratify the convention, where we can start removing land mines and munitions from the ground that risk the lives of children. That member's blowhard talk over there is not going to save children. Moving on this legislation will.
    Mr. Speaker, I am frankly disappointed by the attitude of the opposition. The Minister of National Defence has put this very eloquently. This is not a perfect piece of legislation, but the opposition would wilfully throw out the good in pursuit of the perfect.
    This legislation is the result of an international consensus. This is Canada's opportunity to ratify what is an international consensus, but the NDP stands opposed to that.
    My constituents would like to see this ratified. They would like to see these kinds of protections in place for people around the world who do not have the kind of protections that we in Canada take for granted.
    Could the minister speak to that?
    Mr. Speaker, there is an individual who seems to represent his constituents and the electoral constituency of Peterborough with clarity. He has a thoughtful approach that says, “Let's get things done. Let's show our ability to actually demonstrate action and leadership in the House of Commons”.
    In the last days of the House, I would suggest it would be very fitting to say to the world, “Look at what we have done on such an important issue”. The Canadians Forces will similarly act. We are already taking steps, as I said earlier, to ensure that cluster munitions are in fact out of harm's way, out of the ability to be put to use. It is a Senate bill, of course, but it is here in our House of Commons. “Wake up and smell the thing”, as my friend would say.
    The legislation would preserve Canada's ability to work alongside our allies. It is legislation that would prohibit all forms and possession of cluster munitions, including stockpiling, as I mentioned before.
    As a result of this and other actions we would take, the Canadian Forces would make it a policy to prohibit its members from using cluster munitions, including our members serving on exchange with allied armed forces. However, we have taken practical steps to protect interoperability and not stand in the way of our ongoing efforts. As we have seen in Afghanistan to date, we have the ability to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies in the completion and the work that is being done on behalf of Canadians who help bring about peace and stability in many of these forlorn countries.

  (1555)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to ask the last question. I would like to ask the minister how this bill can be considered urgent, given that it was introduced six month ago, on December 6, 2012.
    The government is just now waking up. It allowed 10 minutes for debate on a Wednesday evening a few weeks ago. After 10 minutes of debate today, it says it has to limit the time for debate. The Conservatives do not even know if the opposition opposes it. In fact, we have not even had time to announce our position. They are already thinking that everyone is going to impede the process.
    Earlier the minister said that most bills are not perfect. If that is really what he thinks, why not allow an open, rigorous debate to really identify what does not work in this bill in order to try to improve it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, he has just said himself that he is not sure why there is urgency around this bill.
    I would ask the member to read the bill and see the impact that this bill would have. I would like him to see the ability, the enabling of our country to move forward on legislation that represents Canada's effort going back to 2008. They say the bill has only been here for six months. The effort has been ongoing for years. I would suggest that the need has been around for decades, if not centuries. This type of indiscriminate cluster munitions could have devastating impact. Why would we want to have this kind of procedural wrangling?
    He says we do not know what the opposition's position is going to be. We have heard clearly from members of the opposition in the last 30 minutes about their position. They want to pursue the perfect. They want to bring about amendments. They want to have further debate.
     Let us wrap it up. Let us get it done. Let us pass the bill.

[Translation]

    It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put the question necessary to dispose of the motion before the House.

[English]

    The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion, the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Deputy Speaker: Call in the members.

  (1635)  

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)