Skip to main content

House Publications

The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 271

CONTENTS

Monday, June 17, 2013




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
l
NUMBER 271 
l
1st SESSION 
l
41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[Private Members' Business]

  (1100)  

[English]

Financial Administration Act

    The House resumed from April 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-473, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to this bill, for several reasons. I would like to start by supporting the notion behind this bill, which is that we need to see an increase in the participation of women on corporate boards in this country. Certainly there is a lack of women on corporate boards. Women are not equally represented on corporate boards now, and that is worthy of debate in this House. Our government has looked at different ways to address this issue, one of which I will speak to a bit in my speech.
    As far as the functionality of this particular bill, I do have some concerns with regard to the prescriptive nature of the mechanisms included therein. I have always questioned the notion of prescribed quotas for any type of legislation or mechanism. As a woman, and as someone who has worked my way through life, I have to raise in this House today the argument of merit over tokenism. I will give a bit of my story to give some context to why I have this feeling.
    When I was 18 years old, I started to put myself through school full time. I worked full time in a professional job, and gradually increased my responsibility. I remember working full time, taking evening classes, doing my homework at 12 a.m., doing housework at 3 a.m. and then going back to work at 7 a.m. I also put my husband through school during this time. It was tough. It was a real learning experience. However, progressively I increased my responsibility in my job. During this, I took a lot of time to volunteer in my community. I became politically active and started to run political campaigns. I participated in my party's policy development process. I took professional training opportunities. I asked for increased opportunity in my job, and here I am today.
    I am not saying that is a path that most women can or should follow because everybody has their own unique experience. One issue that faces women in the development of their career is the reality that women are the primary caregivers. This is a role that should be celebrated within our society. Women who choose to raise a family, or to forego the advancement of career opportunities that may otherwise be afforded them but for the time they would put into their families, are to be celebrated. This is an issue we have to look at when it comes to women's participation in the workforce, and certainly in politics as well.
    My story is from the perspective of one who has foregone having a family in order to achieve my career. That said, any type of advancement that I achieve in my career, I want to be measured on merit and not on gender. If one were to talk to many of my colleagues in this place, this could be fundamentally described as the next wave of feminism in this country. Equality means equality in performance and merit. That is why I have an issue with this bill. I think it suggests that women cannot get there on their own. Rather than prescribing quotas as to how many women should be or need to be on a board legally, we are doing the women in this country a disservice if we do not first ask why women are not on corporate boards right now.
    To mirror this policy, our government announced, in budget 2012, that we would launch an advisory council on women on corporate boards. My colleague, the Minister for Status of Women, chaired the first meeting of this group last week. This is a positive step in the right direction. This group is on a very tight timeline. It expects to table recommendations after a full review, but in due course because it is such an important topic.

  (1105)  

    However, the fundamental question we have to ask is why. I have sat on round tables across the country on this particular issue. If there is one thing I have heard from colleagues who are both my contemporaries and mentors is that simplifying the issue of women's participation on corporate boards down to the issue of quota does a disservice to women. We need to talk about things like how women balance the reality of being a primary caregiver as well as obtaining the necessary skills and networks needed for a corporate directorship position.
    I heard one colleague of mine make a comment that I thought was quite interesting. She is the CEO for a major corporation, and when her corporation looks at the skill set for a board of directors position, it looks at whether a person has led an operational division in a major company, been required to make senior level decisions with regard to projects or consolidation of services, or led a company through a major business decision.
    Many of the professions in which woman participate may or may not offer them the opportunity to make those types of operating decisions. A discussion of how we can get women those skills so they are considered for corporate directorship positions is very important. I certainly hope the advisory committee I just spoke about would look at that issue.
    The other thing is that we need to make women aware of positions that become open. Quite frankly, in this debate in the House we have addressed the white elephant in the room. Traditionally the selection of corporate directors has been a very closed circle of people making decisions. Where there is a closed circle of folks who may have had opportunities given to them, how do we break that open? How do we make sure, when there are qualified women to take these positions, that they are connected with them? Finally, how do we overcome the notion, which is so inherent in the bill, that women cannot overcome these two obstacles and need to have quotas?
    I know that is an esoteric argument to some extent, but it is very important. As women, and men, in this House, debate this type of legislation, it is one we have to be very cognizant about. I do fundamentally believe that if we are to have true equality in this country, we need to be measured on merit, not simply on our gender.
    Some of the technical aspects of the bill, which I find a bit troubling, are regarding the quotas therein. It could potentially elevate the consideration of one designated employment equity group, women, above others, such as aboriginal persons or persons with disabilities. It could ultimately fetter the discretion of the Governor in Council in appointing qualified candidates to boards of directors.
    The other problem with quotas is that sometimes we encounter the law of unintended consequences. This is one issue that I have not heard adequately discussed in debate. Currently the Governor in Council selection and appointment process needs to be flexible enough to ensure the attraction and appointment of a diverse pool of individuals possessing the right skills, expertise and experience needed by crown corporation boards of directors to effectively fulfill their new stewardship role.
    What does this mean? It goes back to what I originally spoke about. Rather than simply legislating in quotas, we need to, as legislators, as people who are concerned with this very legitimate issue, ask how we empower women. How do we enable them to get the skills they need to participate in corporate boards? How do we develop less qualified women, and how do we connect people in positions who are making these decisions for corporate boards?
    These are the questions this House should be seized with. I am very encouraged by what the Minister for Status of Women has done with the advisory board on this particular issue. The people she has drawn from to sit on this board are very qualified. There are some women on that board whom I particularly look up to.
     I certainly hope my colleague opposite will understand that I cannot support the bill because I believe it is fundamentally flawed. However, I certainly hope she will support the ongoing dialogue that is taking place with the advisory board.

  (1110)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's speech. She is making some interesting proposals, but there is one I do not understand.
    How would prescribing quotas for women be doing them a disservice? My question does not go against her suggestions, but I really do not understand how that could be doing women a disservice.
    There is actually no time allocated for questions and comments right now. That time is allocated only for the first speech during private members' business.

[English]

    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-473. It is clear to the House that the intention of the proposed act is to amend the Financial Administration Act to provide some method of balance. It is a laudable goal of a Canadian just society to ensure that gender equity is not a slogan but a commonplace action within our society.
    The fundamental goal, recognition of equality and respect of everyone, is very commendable, and so I am pleased to speak to some of the strengths of the bill. There are some issues that need to be addressed, obviously. The bill does not prescribe any method of attaining the gender equity it attempts to achieve. There is no method laid out as to exactly how this statutory provision would be enacted, controlled and monitored.
    That said, I will speak to the general parameters of the bill.
    It has been a long-standing and well-established practice that we move, wherever reasonable and possible, to bridge the gap, to prevent an unjust or unfair and disproportionate imbalance in gender within our own federal jurisdiction. We have long moved toward gender equity with pay equity issues. We have seen the value of ensuring that there is gender equity and the recognition of gender equity within hiring in the federal public civil service. Therefore, it only stands to reason that we would also incorporate gender equity within the governance of our major crown corporations, which are governed by the government and accountable to this House through various ministers.
    Primarily, Bill C-473 proposes to require that the composition of the boards of directors of a parent crown corporation shall be such that the proportion of directors of each gender is not less than 30% the second year following the coming into force of this proposed section, not less than 40% the fourth year and not less than 50% the sixth year following the coming into force of this section. The proposed bill clearly outlines these requirements and stipulates that the aforementioned numbers may vary when the board of directors of a parent crown corporation consist of no more than eight members, and so there is latitude and flexibility built into the bill.
    For example, in such instances, it is proposed that the difference between the number of directors of each gender may not be greater than two. For small governed boards, obviously it is a little more difficult at times, such as in the immediate aftermath of the coming into force of the proposed legislation, to be able to reconstruct the board, and the bill does provide that flexibility. However, there are no specific requirements or criteria as to how this would get done exactly. We would like to see a little more detail on that.
    It is worth noting that Bill C-473 is premised on Bill C-407, but this new legislative proposal seeks to elevate the percentage to 50% from the current of approximately 30% non-legislated average commencing in the sixth year.
    Prior to endorsing Bill C-473, we would like to better understand whether or not the breakdown of gender numbers cited in the legislative preamble are indeed accurate and if there is an appropriate reason for the current levels. However, these issues would come out if the bill were to be passed at second reading and sent to committee.

  (1115)  

    We would like to know what the real-world impact would be on business if mandated quotas of this nature were established within the timeline suggested, 30%, 40% and 50% within two, four and six years respectively.
    We would also like to know what specific penalties would be imposed upon non-compliant boards and agencies. Legislation that is absolutely toothless just merits a public rebuking and does not go beyond that, with no scope of arbitration, no scope of determination of whether or not proper compliance requirements are being met and if not, what the consequences are of such decisions.
    It becomes a bit of a fool's errand in the sense that we actually institutionalize non-compliance, even though we could enact laws to prevent this. If it is absolutely baseless and there is no consequence whatsoever except for a public rebuking, which may or may not be scoffed off by those who have been cited, the legislation becomes somewhat worthless. It speaks to a platitude but not to an action. That is really not where we necessarily need to be.
    If concrete proposals could be brought forward as to how this could be done and what the consequences of this being done would be, greater comfort would be provided to all of us, I am sure. We should be prepared to say here and now that the concept is not only valid but that it is necessary. It is necessary to work toward gender equity at the highest echelons, in the most prominent and largest profile of organizations within the federal jurisdiction.
    We have not had very much feedback from stakeholders at this point in time; in fact, very little. One of the opportunities at second reading is to be able to receive input from stakeholders as to how exactly they feel about this, what they would offer in terms of strengthening and criticizing and in terms of impacts, and receive their other views about the nature of this legislation and what it would do. That would be extremely helpful.
    There also has not been a huge amount of feedback in terms of the real-world analysis of the consequences of this. There are many organizations that can offer that. We look forward to hearing from them so that we have a better idea of exactly what the legislation could present to us.
    Finally, it would be helpful at this point in time for the parties within the House to pronounce where they stand on the general principles of the bill. I have pointed to the fact that there are obviously some inherent issues, some concerns, some information that is not contained within the bill, which may be necessary for the enactment of legislation, in the opinion of some. If we are going to pose a statutory requirement on somebody to do something, that statute should also lay out a process as to how that would be done and what the consequences of not adhering to it would be.
    While we can all recognize that there are some issues surrounding this, it would be helpful if we could understand a bit better whether or not the parties within the House support the concept of gender equity within the governance structure of our crown corporations, boards and their directorships, instead of just simply saying this is not a piece of legislation that can be supported. That would be very helpful.
    I appreciate the work done by the mover of this particular piece of legislation. I look forward to hearing the debate. I also look forward to, hopefully, having this piece of legislation before committee, so some of these questions can be given proper answers.

  (1120)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-473 to help achieve gender parity on the boards of directors of crown corporations.
    I would like to start by congratulating my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for her efforts on this file. I know that this issue is important to her and she works very hard to promote gender equality.
     Despite the progress women have made over the past few decades to take their place in the workforce, in certain settings they are still grappling with a glass ceiling that prevents them from reaching the highest levels in some organizations. In spite of their progress, women continue to be under-represented in the executive ranks and earn 70% less for every dollar men earn.
    For this situation to improve, we must act by using tangible measures such as those proposed in the bill. This bill provides a logically sound and effective mechanism to help increase the number of women in the executive ranks of Canada's crown corporations. This proposal should be relatively simple to implement and has the potential to help improve the situation of women across the country.
    I would like to give a few examples that really illustrate the scope of the problem related to the under-representation of women in decision-making roles. At this time, over 2,000 Canadians occupy executive positions in more than 200 crown corporations, organizations, boards of directors and commissions across the country; yet women occupy only 27% of senior management positions. In addition, only 16 of the 84 presidents of crown corporations are women. That is only 19%.
    Canadian women are also under-represented on the boards of directors of private corporations. According to the Catalyst 2010 study, women occupied only 16.9% of senior management positions in Fortune 500 companies. Worse still, over 30% of those companies counted no women among their senior officers.
    In December 2010, Anne Golden, chair of the Conference Board of Canada, appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and noted that, “At that rate, it will take approximately 151 years before the proportion of men and women at the management level is equal”.
    In light of these troubling statistics, clearly, we need to take action to promote fair gender representation in the business world. Bill C-473 aims to achieve gender equality on the board of directors of crown corporations within six years by establishing criteria to ensure that women occupy 30% of positions within two years of the bill's coming into force, 40% within four years, and 50% within six years of its coming into force. Implementing these requirements will guarantee gender parity.
    In addition, this legislative measure will indirectly force crown corporations to expand their search for qualified, effective candidates and to target non-traditional recruitment pools.
    It is important to note that, compared to other countries, Canada is falling behind. According to the World Economic Forum report on the global gender gap, Canada has fallen seven places since the first report was published in 2006, currently ranking 21st. Catalyst Canada noted that the proportion of women on the boards of companies listed on the stock exchange had increased by only 0.1% between 2007 and 2011, rising from 10.2% to 10.3%.
    Unlike the Conservative government and previous Liberal and Conservative governments, numerous countries have introduced legislative measures to address the fact that women are under-represented in the boardrooms of various types of organizations. For example, Norway, Spain, France, Iceland and the Netherlands introduced legislated quotas to increase the number of women on various boards of directors, while Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Finland have implemented mandatory disclosure and transparency initiatives.
    In some countries such as Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom, corporations have been urged to close the gender gaps on their boards under the threat that quotas could be introduced if voluntary measures are seen to be ineffective.

  (1125)  

    In that same vein, I would like to dispel a perverse myth that exists within the Conservative government. The government is proposing a voluntary approach to ensure increased representation of women on boards. I am thinking, in particular, about the member for Mississauga South who, on April 23, stated in the House that legislating a quota system to increase the proportion of women on crown corporation boards “is not acceptable”. She said that legislated quotas are rigid and arbitrary thresholds that would adversely affect the appointment process for board members. The member for Winnipeg South Centre said that efforts to promote qualified candidates in the business community and to recognize and encourage business leaders are more effective than legislative measures.
    Basically, the Conservatives believe that we can attain parity by using a laissez-faire approach. However, Norway provides us with a case study that puts an end to the far-fetched myth of voluntary parity. Norway was the first country to legislate gender balance on the boards of public limited companies.
     The legislation applying to state-owned companies came into force in January 2004. The government had originally tried to negotiate voluntary quotas with the private sector to reach 40% representation of women on boards, with an ultimatum that restrictive legislative measures would be introduced should the desired gender representation not be attained by July 2005. This voluntary measure did not achieve the desired effect.
    A survey by Statistics Norway showed that by the July 2005 date, only 13% of companies complied with the voluntary quotas, with women representing only 16% of board members. As a result, legislation was applied to public limited companies. The legislation came into force in January 2006, giving the companies in question two years to comply with the targets. To illustrate how effective a legislative measure can be, in Norway, the representation of women on the boards in question has been more than 40% since 2008.
    For progress on similar gender equality measures, we can look at our own successes here in Canada. In 2006, the Government of Quebec introduced Bill 53 in order to set criteria for state-owned enterprises so:
    (1) that the boards of directors of the enterprises as a group [would] be composed of members whose cultural identity reflects the various segments of Québec society; and
    (2) that the boards of directors of the enterprises as a group [would] include an equal number of women and men as of 14 December 2011.
    Although this legislation still has not fully achieved its objective, the numbers are impressive. In December 2011, which marked the end of the five-year period by which crown corporations were to have achieved gender equality, 141 women and 128 men held positions on the boards of directors of 22 Quebec crown corporations. All that remains is to ensure balanced representation in the number of women and men appointed to the board of each crown corporation subject to the act.
    The Conservatives' unwillingness to achieve gender parity in the public service is symptomatic of their general attitude toward promoting gender equality. Let us not forget that in addition to deleting the words “gender equality” from Status of Women Canada's mandate, the Conservatives closed 12 of the 16 offices of the only federal agency devoted to promoting gender equality.
    Hon. members will also recall that the Conservative government cut funding for the court challenges program, which was created to defend equality rights cases guaranteed under the Constitution of Canada.
    The Conservative government's dismal record on gender equality is attested to by the fact that Canada ranks 21st in the World Economic Forum's gender gap index, after countries such as the Philippines, Latvia, Cuba and even Nicaragua.
    It is obvious that, in reality, Canadian women cannot count on the Conservative government to promote gender equality.
    Therefore, I want to reiterate my support for Bill C-473, and I urge my colleagues in all parties to vote for it.
    Finally, this bill clearly shows that the NDP has real measures to achieve balanced gender representation when it comes to the management of public finances and thus to better reflect the Canadian population.

  (1130)  

    Gender equality is still an issue for Canadian society today. Progress has been made, but we need only look at the membership of the House to see that we still have work to do.
    This bill seeks to achieve balanced representation of men and women serving as directors on boards of crown corporations within six years. It should be noted that it applies only to crown corporations and not private businesses.
    First, we must understand that gender equality, in my opinion, is the responsibility of a proactive government. If government sets an example, hopefully others will follow.
    Women are still under-represented on boards of directors of crown corporations in Canada. Most of these corporations have more men than women on their boards, and it is estimated that women make up approximately 27% of these boards.
    Many Canadian women have the skills and experience needed to serve on these boards of directors. I think that women should have the same opportunities as men to be appointed to these boards of directors.
    Equality in how our crown corporations are managed is an important issue, since these corporations offer a window into our country and how it manages gender equality. The fact that there are still too few women leading our political institutions, businesses and crown corporations is a problem that we should be looking at if we want to set an example as a society with equal rights in terms of gender representation.
    Of over 200 crown corporations, agencies, boards of directors and commissions, only 27% of all available positions are held by women. Furthermore, fewer than 20% of chairs of these boards of directors are women.
    Many people tend to celebrate the achievements made in recent years regarding women's rights. However, I do not think we should fall into the trap of taking gender equality for granted. We must continue to work. A lot of work remains to be done to make more progress and to protect what some may want to take away.
    To those who say that appointments to senior government positions must be based on merit, I agree. I do not think this bill will change the fact that people are appointed based on merit. However, we must not forget that there are highly skilled female workers in Canada. There are enough women with the skills required to fill these positions and who deserve to be there. What we primarily need to change are the mindsets and the stereotypes that are perpetuated.
    As the member for Mississauga South said, research shows that businesses with more women on their boards are more profitable. These businesses generally outperform other businesses with fewer women.
    According to the bill's proposed roadmap, the implementation will be gradual. We are talking about 30% women after two years, 40% after four years and 50% after six years.
    The bill also stipulates that:
    105.2 Any appointment of a director of a parent Crown corporation in violation of section 105.1 [in other words, the percentages I just gave] is invalid and the vacant position shall be filled without delay by the appropriate Minister, with the approval of the Governor in Council
    Therefore:
    105.4 (1) Five years after the coming into force of sections 105.1 to 105.3 and every five years after that, a comprehensive review of these sections and of their operation shall be undertaken by such committee of the House of Commons or of both Houses of Parliament as may be designated or established by Parliament for that purpose.

  (1135)  

    Therefore, there will be a review after this bill is implemented to ensure that we stay on track. This is quite important. According to the Conference Board of Canada, without a quota, gender parity will take over 150 years to achieve. Even I will not be able to live that long. It will take 150 years to reach parity in important positions. I am not sure that waiting one and a half centuries is really the best solution in this case.
     Moreover, when a gradual gender representation quota is imposed on the boards of crown corporations, people in charge of recruitment and appointment recommendations will be compelled to expand their recruitment efforts and extend their search to candidates with the required skills in non-traditional or less traditional recruitment pools.
    In addition to seeking more women, organizations will also look for women who may have different backgrounds, more varied experience and different visions, which can only help enrich the boards of our crown corporations. Studies have shown that a higher percentage of women in senior management can generate tangible benefits for businesses. This will then foster economic growth and help develop our country to its full potential.
    Of course we want peak performance from our crown corporations. We have known for some time now that female members of corporate boards offer Canadian companies a different and valuable perspective.
    We can work with crown corporations to institute change and raise the bar for corporations that belong to Canadians and play a leading role. This is our opportunity to ask crown corporations to show leadership and say that women should play as great a role as men in managing them.
    Drawing from a wide talent pool instead of accessing the assets of only a portion of Canadian society, as we are doing now, would be logical and beneficial. Gender parity will truly benefit Canadians both socially and economically. Bill C-473 can take us one step forward in that direction.
    I sincerely believe that those who see impediments to this bill are mistaken because we have seen over and over that there are plenty of competent women. Maybe they are just shyer.
    Recently, several people have written about female representation on boards of directors and in companies, suggesting that they might be shyer. They might not stand out as much or express their interest, but they are still there. Some of them need a little encouragement, a few compliments on their work. Maybe they need to hear that people have been admiring the quality of their work since they have joined a particular company or crown corporation and that they would make an excellent board member. Recruiting such women and helping them reach their potential would be good for both our image and for our crown corporations.
    Canada should have high-performing crown corporations. Consider Canada Post, which is dealing with some major challenges at the moment. I think that such a corporation would benefit from having more women on the board. We must enable women to progress. If we do, we will all win.
    I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to this issue in the House and to highlight, once again, how women can help enrich Canadian society. I sincerely hope that all members of Parliament will agree and will enable our crown corporations to move forward because it is clear that we cannot afford to wait 150 years. I would really like to see this happen in my lifetime. Fortunately, I am pretty young, so that gives us a lot of room to manoeuvre.
    We cannot stand back and let things happen or merely encourage women. We have to be more aggressive if we want to achieve this goal.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am truly pleased to speak for five minutes today to Bill C-473, which would amend the Financial Administration Act in order to improve the representation of women on boards of directors of crown corporations.
    I would like to reiterate that gender equality must be a priority for Canadians. In its Constitution, Canada recognizes that men and women are equal under the laws of Canada. However, when it comes to economic independence, equality in decision-making, violence against women, pay equity and other issues, there remains a great deal of work to be done in order for men and women to be equal in economic, social and political terms in Canada.
    In the last hour of debate, my colleague from York West raised a number of points that should be clarified for the benefit of all members of the House.
    First, I would like to speak about the percentage mentioned in the bill's preamble. The data were provided by the Library of Parliament and indicate that women represent a mere 27% of directors on boards of Canada's crown corporations.
    It is the responsibility of parliamentarians to enact legislation on this matter. This morning, the member for Calgary Centre-North spoke about private enterprises, whereas I am referring only to crown corporations. They are two completely different matters, and we must not mix them up.
    She also spoke about aboriginal peoples. I would remind the House that when we are discussing women, fairness and representation on boards of directors, the appointment of aboriginal women will also be welcomed.
    There were also questions about how to go about this. It is so simple that we could provide ministers with a basic guide on how to appoint women to boards of directors. I would humbly remind members that the minister has people from the crown corporations managed by his or her department make these appointments.
    Competency must remain the basis for recruitment. As I explained earlier, it is merely a question of ensuring that male and female candidates are presented for each position. There are enough talented, competent and experienced women in the areas of management, finance, law and engineering to ensure that 50% of the positions are filled by women.
    I would remind the House that many appointments are made based on the “old boys' club” model. We all know or have worked with someone who approached us to do some lobbying, for instance. Then, when the time comes to appoint representatives, we think of that individual.
    People often go as far as relaxing the qualification criteria, in order to appoint a male candidate rather than a woman who has the required skills. I would also remind the House that, since the late 1980s, more women than men have been graduating with degrees in public administration.
    I want to reiterate once again that Bill C-473 deals only with crown corporations. It imposes absolutely no restrictions on private corporations, which is why it is so important for the government, as an employer, to set an example and hold itself to higher standards of female representation among executive ranks.
    There is absolutely no downside to this. In Quebec, women make up over 50% of boards of directors of crown corporations. This has no negative impact. Quebec crown corporations have not been altered because they have appointed women as leaders.
    Lastly, Bill C-473 aims to achieve gender parity in six years. Why six years? Simply because Quebec managed to achieve it in five years. We therefore believe that the federal government can achieve it in six years.

  (1145)  

    The NDP has always been a strong advocate for women's rights and always will be. We have an opportunity here to make a significant gesture in support of Canadian women and to allow them to take their rightful place in the decision-making processes that govern our democracy.
    In closing, let us not wait 150 years.
    The time provided for debate has expired.
    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 Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 19, 2013, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

  (1150)  

[English]

Suspension of Sitting  

    In accordance with the Standing Orders, the House will stand suspended until 12 noon.

     (The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:50 a.m.)

Sitting Resumed  

    (The House resumed at 12 noon)


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

  (1200)  

[English]

First Nations Elections Act

    The House resumed from June 14 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.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to add my voice in support of this very worthy legislation, which would see the federal government stop meddling in first nations' electoral affairs, which rightly rest with those communities.
    As some of my hon. colleagues have explained, current provisions in the Indian Act have created a democratic anomaly within Canada. Instead of empowering first nations community members to exercise their democratic rights and hold their own governments to account, the Indian Act places the responsibility in the hands of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. This is completely backwards. That is why our government has introduced the first nations elections act. It would provide an alternative to the paternalistic Indian Act and would put the accountability squarely back with first nations members where it belongs.
    The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development plays a disproportionately large role in first nations elections, one that he would gladly give up.
    Sections 74 and 79 of the Indian Act set out the rules and regulations governing the current electoral system. Under section 74, the minister may declare by order that a first nation hold elections under the act and the Indian Band Election Regulations. Since 1951, approximately 350 first nations in Canada have been ordered to hold their elections under this system. Over time, 100 first nations have been removed from the system and now hold their elections under the community elections system instead.
    All first nations that hold their elections under the Indian Act are subject to the same rules and eligibility requirements. The Indian Act sets out the size of a band council based on a first nation's population, generally called “the one per 100 rule”. It stipulates that a band council shall be made up of a chief and one councillor for every 100 members a first nation has. Although the act allows a first nation to reduce this complement of councillors, any such change requires the approval of a minister.
    A typical election under the Indian Act includes the appointment of an electoral officer charged with managing the overall election process and all related activities. This appointment must be approved by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada provides training support to electoral officers throughout the election to ensure compliance with the election rules under the Indian Act. Once elected, the chief and councillors hold office for two-year terms.
     One of the most serious complaints about the Indian Act system arises when election results are disputed and a lengthy appeals process begins. At the moment, election appeals are received, reviewed, and, if necessary, investigated and decided upon by the department and the minister. The minister has the authority to remove elected officials and to recommend the setting aside of elections. Most appeals relate to election results. The minister can declare that a specific elected official was guilty of corrupt practices in connection with an election. Such a declaration causes the council position to become vacant. The minister may also declare any individuals removed from the office to be ineligible to be candidates for up to six years.
    If it is determined that corrupt practices took place or that there was a violation of the Indian Act or the regulations that might have affected the results of the election, the minister reports to the Governor in Council. Only the Governor in Council has the power to set aside an election. If the election of a band council is set aside in its entirety, another election is held under the accelerated process.
    It is no secret that first nations are critical of the electoral process under the Indian Act. They complain, with justification, that it sets out an electoral regime that is antiquated and paternalistic. That is not surprising when we consider that the minister even has the power to remove someone for missing band council meetings.
    First nations members believe that the minister and his department are far too involved in elections on reserves, especially in handling appeals. The framework for an election appeal under the legislation is one of the most criticized components of the election system. In this day and age, approving changes to the number of councillor positions on a band council, approving a first nation's choices of electoral officer, investigating election appeals, removing elected officials for whatever reason and banning them from running in future elections, and setting aside elections in their entirety are simply roles the government and the minister should not be playing.

  (1205)  

    I cannot stress enough how paternalistic this is and how it goes completely against the view that first nations band councils are governments and should be treated as such.
    Our government agrees entirely that first nations have good grounds for these criticisms. We understand that they want a better alternative. Members on both sides of the House believe that sticking with the status quo makes no sense and is just plain wrong. This simply will not wash with the growing number of first nations that are fed up and frustrated with the current system.
    It is long past time for us to fix these structural flaws and it is time to implement the many recommendations brought forward by first nations, which form the foundation of this proposed legislation. They, and we, want to bring the system into line with the way other jurisdictions work.
    This modernization is consistent with other first nations legislation, from first nations lands management and financial management to local by-laws. Doing so would strip away some of the electoral system powers that rest with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, a situation that is simply unacceptable in the 21st century.
    First nations electors wishing to challenge the results of their election based on violations to the rules and alleged corruption practices would no longer appeal to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Neither would the minister be involved in removing a chief or councillors from office before the end of their term. Instead, election appeals would be addressed by the courts, just as they are in elections in all other jurisdictions.
    The courts already offer an independent and transparent appeal mechanism open to public scrutiny. They already have the power to determine wrongdoing in federal, provincial and municipal elections, so they are well positioned to address issues in first nations elections.
    As an added benefit, this approach would discourage frivolous complaints, which are prominent under the Indian Act election system. Such complaints create uncertainty over the band council's legitimacy, hurting the community's day-to-day business activities and discouraging economic development, often for a long period of time. An appeal can take anywhere from six to 18 months to be resolved, and in the end little may change.
    About 30% of all band council elections under the Indian Act are appealed, which amounts to about 40 elections per year. Of these, usually no more than five appeals result in an election being overturned. Given that applications to the courts require that grounds be clearly presented and supported, it is likely that fewer frivolous appeals would be launched.
    We would be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that the minister must continue to hold the powers he does vis-à-vis first nations elections. We certainly would not find first nation leaders saying this, and I doubt Canadians at large would take this position either.
    Bill S-6 is what first nations have been asking for. It is what their members want and need. First nations recognize that a sound, open, transparent election process in an important part of a strong, stable and effective first nations governments, effective governments that respect their citizens' democratic right to be informed and to be heard, governments that respond to the priorities of their residents.
    Equally essential is that with stable and legitimate first nations governments in place, first nations, businesses and municipal and provincial governments can pursue mutually beneficial projects. First nations would be able to use the income flowing from these investments to build their economies and improve the lives and livelihoods of their members. That is something that people living in first nations most definitely want.
    It is now up to parliamentarians to unleash this tremendous potential by passing this worthy legislation. As we do, we will build a better future not only for first nations, but for all Canadians.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the member's speech and it was interesting to hear him talk about sound, open and transparent election processes. Although this is not my question to the member, it would be interesting to see when the government is going to bring forward its changes to the Canada Elections Act, since there were such difficulties in the last federal election.
    My question to the minister is with regard to the testimony of representatives of the national aboriginal law section of the Canadian Bar Association before the Senate. When they testified before the Senate, they indicated that it was unfortunate that clause 33 states that everything will go to the Federal Court. They said that there are many recommendations for either a first nations electoral commission or a first nations tribunal to settle any election disputes and that the federal government and all provinces already have this as a regular part of democracy. They questioned why, if it is good enough for the feds and the provinces, it is not good enough for first nations.
    I wonder if the member could comment on why there was not a similar kind of process recommended in the bill, instead of only a court process.
    Mr. Speaker, having lived and worked in first nations communities and witnessed first nations elections, what I have seen throughout the process, specifically under the outdated Indian Act, which goes back to 1876, is that there is a lot of corruption. I have seen first nations chiefs, past and present, campaign during their elections and provide funding or, if I could put it more bluntly, bribes of $50 to $100. There has to be some mechanism that looks at that problem.
    That is why the framework for election appeals under the Indian Act is one of the most criticized components of that election system, particularly because it involves a paternalistic role for the minister in making decisions to remove elected officials and recommending the setting aside of elections.
    One of the key criticisms of this process is simply that the minister should not play a role. In addressing appeals under Bill S-6, the creation of an independent first nations electoral appeals commission was reviewed, and there are a number of reasons that the commission was not deemed the appropriate strategy. One is that this option would require a significant amount of resources, which would be difficult to justify for an optional legislative framework. Second, the role such a commission would play in electoral appeals is questionable, particularly given that the offences and penalties provisions of Bill S-6 would be responded to and addressed by law enforcement, crown attorneys and the courts. That is what first nations are asking for: the same privileges that every other Canadian has provincially and municipally.
    Mr. Speaker, would the member please outline the more important aspects of the opt-in and opt-out provisions?
    Mr. Speaker, under the Indian Act electoral system, election appeals are received and reviewed by departmental officials based on evidence gathered. If it is determined that there was a corrupt practice in connection with an election or that there was a violation of the rules that might have affected the results of the election, the minister may recommend that the Governor in Council set aside the election. In the event of a finding of a corrupt practice, the minister may also remove elected officials and prevent them from being candidates in future elections for a period of up to five years.
    I have seen this countless times. I am hearing from my constituents on first nations reserves, and currently from Ahtahkakoop First Nation, that they are having problems under the old Indian Act in trying to address this current election process. That is why Bill S-6 is pivotal in trying to reform elections for first nations under the current Indian Act.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his previous answer to my question. What I heard him say was that it was too expensive to set up an electoral commission for first nations, but he said nothing about whether resources would be made available to first nations that then end up having to go to court to get this resolved. We all know that most first nations are cash-strapped.
    I wonder if he could comment on the fact that this is going to be an expensive undertaking for first nations and that the Conservatives are downloading this on first nations once again.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, under the current system and the current Indian Act, we see how first nations have to appeal the process. There are numerous funding mechanisms being utilized to address those corrupt or misleading elections.
    We have heard from the Manitoba first nations about how they want the system to be. They have gone across Manitoba. Chief Evans has been paramount in trying to address all elections that first nations face across Canada. For one thing, if a mechanism is in place, there would be fewer corrupt practices or fewer first nations appealing the current election system. That is where money will be saved, because under Bill S-6, for first nations to participate and opt in, there will be cost savings.
    Mr. Speaker, in an ideal world, there would be no need for debate on this bill. The outdated and paternalistic elements of the Indian Act governing first nations elections would no longer have any effect, because first nations would be universally self-governing. That is the goal we are all working toward.
    Unfortunately, however, this is not yet the case for the majority of first nations across the country. Some communities on their way to self-government have employed different strategies, such as adopting community election codes that help them get around holding their elections under the Indian Act, but not every community has the capacity to take that on either. Others have chosen to focus their energies and resources on the many other high-priority issues that they face.
    We want to meet first nations like these halfway, by providing an alternative to the current Indian Act election system. It is an out-of-date system that has remained largely unchanged since the 1950s. It is riddled with weaknesses and problems that destabilize first nations governments. It is a system that is not only frustrating but also, in many cases, undemocratic.
    It is little wonder that so many first nations have demanded another option in addition to the systems currently on offer. That is exactly what Bill S-6 would provide. It would provide another way for first nations to hold elections that is outside of the outdated election system set out in the Indian Act.
    Before exploring the many benefits of this legislation, it would be helpful if I first explained a little bit about the various electoral systems currently available to first nations.
    Different communities exercise different approaches to elections. At the moment, 238 first nations hold their elections under the Indian Act system. This represents about 40% of all communities. The many problems, and even abuses, under this system have been well documented in numerous reports and reinforced by various speakers during this debate.
    The majority, 343 first nations, or 55% of the total across Canada, select their leadership under a community-based system. Most of these first nations develop their own community election codes to elect their leaders. For many, this system offers the essential elements of good governance: open and transparent elections and effective mechanisms for redress when necessary.
    Unfortunately, that is not always the case. A small percentage of first nations with community election codes experience recurring disputes, some of which have led to breakdowns in governance, the imposition of third party management and lengthy and costly court actions between community members.
    These disputes are usually based on a lack of community consensus on the actual election rules and procedures, exacerbated by the absence of a viable redress mechanism. There have been occasions when two separate election processes have been held in parallel in the same community, with those elected in each case claiming to be the legitimate and duly elected leaders. Needless to say, all of this negatively impacts community well-being and discourages economic development.
    The remaining 36 first nations, or about 5%, have leadership election systems based on their community constitutions under self-government arrangements. As I mentioned earlier, this is the ultimate goal to which most first nations aspire.
    As I also noted, many communities still caught with the Indian Act system may not be ready to take on self-government or even go so far as to develop community election codes. However, that does not diminish their desire to have an alternative: a fairer, more transparent and more accountable way of conducting elections on reserve.
    I want to be clear that I am not talking about every first nation in the country. There is no question that there are some that seem satisfied with the status quo, while others may accept nothing less than self-government. I can assure the House that Bill S-6 would provide a robust election system for those who may choose it.
    John Paul, executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs, testified on these issues before the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.
    This legislation is precisely what many communities want. People in first nations communities all across the country have told us that they want change that leads to self-government, but they want it to be built on a solid foundation. They want certainty and stability, which they do not now have.

  (1220)  

    What many of these first nations are looking for is what Jody Wilson-Raybould of the Assembly of First Nations described in her appearance before the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples when it examined Bill S-6. She said, “...“stepping stone” legislation, such as Bill S-6...fits into and supports a vision of moving along the continuum of governance....” That is who this legislation is for. At their request, our government has been working in collaboration with first nations partners to develop an optional legislative framework for the election of band councils that covers this middle ground.
    We have followed the lead of our first nations partners, the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. They have done the necessary research and conducted consultations in their own regions as well as across the country to come up with the viable new option outlined in Bill S-6. Bill S-6 would provide an optional electoral system that would ensure transparent and accountable governments, while providing first nations with the flexibility to choose the elections system that best suits them.
    Our government simply wants to create the conditions for strong, stable and effective first nations governments that are transparent and accountable to their membership. A free and fair leadership selection process promotes accountability of leaders back to their band members rather than to the Government of Canada. It is a cornerstone of greater self-government and better outcomes. Bill S-6 is a concrete step forward in that direction. It is not meant to be a one-size-fits-all remedy for all that is wrong in the existing election system under the Indian Act.
    The legislation would help those first nations that choose to opt in to overcome the numerous limitations of the Indian Act election system. It is designed to address the several weaknesses identified in the AFN study on election reform in 2008, the Senate committee's 2009 study and the thorough work of the APC and the AMC, problems that are holding back too many first nations communities at a great cost to their economies and to the well-being of their citizens.
    Ideally, we would do away with the outdated Indian Act altogether. However, it cannot be replaced overnight. That would only create more problems than it solves. As the Prime Minister observed at the historic gathering, after 136 years that tree has deep roots. Blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole. We certainly do not want to do more harm than good.
    The alternative is to modernize the most damaging provisions of the Indian Act. This could be achieved not by updating the Indian Act itself but by equipping first nations with new tools and mechanisms to manage their affairs. That is how we could creation conditions that enable sustainable and successful first nations. As they build capacity and create the certainty necessary for investments they can unlock the untapped wealth on their lands, creating employment and improving social services for their citizens.
    That is exactly what our government has been doing. We are taking important incremental steps forward to achieve the results first nations desire and that our government is determined to deliver. For example, we support Bill C-428, the Indian Act amendment and replacement act. It proposes a series of modifications to the Indian Act, some of which eliminate paternalistic sections such as those dealing with residential schools and bylaws. Other parts of the bill propose amendments that help contribute to healthier, more self-sufficient first nations communities. They dovetail with aspects of Bill S-6, which reduce ministerial involvement in community businesses. Bill C-428 would provide greater accountability and responsibility of first nations governments to their members and improve their capacity to meet the needs of their communities. This would be achieved by diminishing the role played by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the day-to-day lives of first nations.

  (1225)  

    The numerous proposed amendments to the Indian Act contained in Bill C-428 are our government's larger objective of providing first nations with the tools, resources and authorities they need to eventually transition completely out of the Indian Act.
    This same objective and philosophy are at play in the First Nations Land Management Act. Prior to the enactment of the First Nations Land Management Act, first nations were hamstrung by the cumbersome land management provisions of the Indian Act. Instead of moving at the speed of business, the Indian Act slows the system to the pace of internal approval processes within the federal government. Needless to say, this often stands in the way of time-sensitive economic opportunities. Both first nations and their private sector partners complained loudly about the challenges of delayed decision-making.
    The first nations land management regime enables first nations to opt out of the land resource and environmental management sections of the Indian Act. It removes many of the impediments of the outdated Indian Act, allowing for the creation of greater economic development opportunities and allowing communities to seize business development opportunities.
    The legislation gives first nations that opt into the program the freedom to manage reserve lands under their own land codes. They can also negotiate contracts and enter into joint ventures with other communities, governments and with the private sector without ministerial approval.
    Chief Ann Louie of the Williams Lake Indian Band in B.C., one of the first nations that opted in to the First Nations Land Management Act, is on record as saying, “It represents almost freedom, getting into self-governance away from the Indian Act so that we can manage our own lands so that our people can become prosperous and develop economically.” Her enthusiasm is backed by studies of the regime by KPMG. It has concluded that in addition to increased job creation on reserves in communities that utilize it, the First Nations Land Management Act option is proving to be a practical step toward self-government.
    The First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act is another example of legislation that diminishes the minister's role for communities seeking greater control over their financial affairs. The legislation provides an alternative avenue to the Indian Act for first nations determined to achieve self-sufficiency. It allows first nations to develop a sophisticated, transparent and responsive property tax system on reserve. It also creates a securitized first nations bond regime that gives them access to municipal-style financing to invest in infrastructure on reserve. And it supports first nations' capacity in financial management, all of which support economic development.
    Communities that choose to utilize its provisions can draw on the services and supports of the first nations institutions created under the act. As they do, outside investors can proceed with confidence and first nations can negotiate from positions of strength because the act provides the type of certainty that is lacking under the Indian Act.
    The improvements contained in the acts I have talked about today have come about at the request of first nations that want greater control over their communities' day-to-day activities. We have been listening, and we are acting.
    Bill S-6 is yet another piece to join the family of legislation to support first nations by offering a legislative alternative to first nations elections that would not involve the minister. It would provide the foundations for more stable and effective first nations governments through longer terms of office. With four years between elections, first nations governments would be able to work with potential partners for longer term development opportunities that would bring prosperity.
     Bill S-6 fits with what other legislative initiatives have done, which is to provide alternatives to the Indian Act for willing first nations on important subject matters. These acts lay the groundwork and provide the frameworks for first nations to be successful, and successful first nations means a better quality of life for their members.
    Bill S-6 is opt-in legislation. First nations could choose to adopt it or not to adopt it as they see fit.

  (1230)  

    From Bill S-6 to Bill C-428, these examples of modern legislation that empower first nations send a strong signal. We are focusing the federal role to that of an enabler rather than that of an impediment to progress. Our government is committed to putting an end to the historic isolation of first nation communities that has marginalized these members of our society for far too long.
    Step-by-step, bill-by-bill, we are responding to first nations calls for greater decision-making powers and less ministerial involvement. In the process, we are creating the conditions for strong, effective and accountable governments for first nation communities. We are providing first nations with the tools they need to become more self-sufficient as they work their way toward self-government.
    It is now up to us, as parliamentarians, to take the next step forward on this path of steady progress. We must support first nations, which are demanding change. We are calling for all-party support to unleash the tremendous potential of Bill S-6, the latest in a series of legislative reforms that remove the shackles of the Indian Act for those first nations that opt to take advantage of its new authorities.
    I am asking all members to join us in our efforts to help first nation communities achieve their goals, for the benefit of their residents and our country as a whole.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech, but I have some concerns. It was very clear from my discussions and my hon. colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan's interventions with first nations people that not every community acknowledges or buys into what the Conservatives are putting forward. There are legitimate concerns.
     I am wondering if the member could advise the House as to what degree the government is willing to acknowledge those concerns and sit down with first nations to resolve issues that affect communities across this country.
    Mr. Speaker, I think the member has missed a very key component of this legislation, and that is the fact that this is an opt-in system. It is an opportunity for those first nations that choose to participate in this alternative method. As I outlined in my speech, there are a number of different ways.
    Certainly there are about 40% of bands that participate under the current Indian Act process. There are a larger number of reserves which have community election codes. However, this is an opportunity for those first nations that wish to have another alternative. It removes the minister from the appeals process. It gives an opportunity for those willing first nations that want to opt into this type of a process with an opportunity to do just that.

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague across has spoken about the need to incrementally wean ourselves from the Indian Act. I am in favour of getting rid of the Indian Act now, biting the bullet and making all the necessary changes that we need to do. Why is there this incremental approach? Why is it going to be stretched over possibly decades, as opposed to attacking this situation which is unacceptable now and going much further than what is being proposed?
    Mr. Speaker, in response to the member's question, I should point to something I mentioned in my speech. It was a quote from the Prime Minister, who basically said that we cannot take the tree, remove it and blow up the stump because it would leave a big hole. We are moving in steps and creating opportunities and options for first nations governments that choose to do so. Whether it would be looking at new opportunities for economic development creation on reserves through changes to the land management reserves, or whether they would be able to opt into another alternative for elections processes, we would get to where we need to be in an orderly and coherent fashion. I believe that is the approach we need to take.
    Mr. Speaker, one of the methods that can be used to determine whether or not a band wants to opt in is a referendum.
    Would the member please explain to this House what possible drawbacks there might be to that method?
    Mr. Speaker, any time that citizens have an opportunity to make their own choices about their government, obviously that is always something we want to see. I believe that opportunity would be welcomed by first nations members all across this country.
    Mr. Speaker, although we certainly support the four-year election term under this legislation, there are a number of other parts of the legislation that are ill-defined. We have to look to other instances where people cannot trust what is in legislation. I look to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its ongoing dispute with the government over relevant documents.
    In this piece of legislation, clause 41 sets out the regulation process. This regulation process is important because it covers the appointment, powers, duties and removal of electoral officers and deputy electoral officers, the manner of identifying electors of a participating first nations and so on. There are a number of very important clauses that regulations would define.
    Nowhere in this piece of legislation is the process outlined by which first nations will be included in the development of regulations. At least in Bill S-8, the clean drinking water bill, in the preamble it said “working with first nations”. However, it does not say that anywhere in this act.
    I wonder if the member could address specifically how first nations would be included in the development of regulations.
    Mr. Speaker, I will once again remind the NDP member that this is an opt-in process for those bands which choose to do so.
    I was glad to hear the hon. member mention in her comments that the NDP support the idea of the four-year terms. The instability created by short two-year terms of office can be problematic for first nations communities.
    I wonder if the NDP also supports some of the other things that the bill would fix. With regard to the lack of rigour in the process to nominate candidates, often frivolous nominations are invited, making for excessively long slates of candidates. There have sometimes been over 100 candidates for positions. Does the NDP support the removal of the paternalistic elections appeals process that involves the department and affords decision-making powers to the minister?
    The system now is vulnerable to abuse and to fraudulent activities because of the absence of defined offences and associated penalties that act as a deterrent. I would certainly hope that the NDP is supportive of those measures in the bill—

  (1240)  

    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre.
    Mr. Speaker, a few things that have come up that I think are key are the willingness to opt in and the incremental versus do-it-all-now approach.
    I would ask my colleague about the power of the example that might be set by willing and progressive first nations to those who are not quite so enthusiastic or perhaps not so progressive. Such an example could speed up the process that may start as incremental. It might pick up speed if there were good examples presented by those who are willing and progressive enough to adopt this program.
    Mr. Speaker, that is a great question and it hits on a very key aspect. Certainly with regard to this incremental approach we are doing as far as working toward changes that would help improve conditions and create new opportunities for those in first nations communities, I would look at things like the changes to land management. There is a number of first nations communities which are very excited about the potential economic developments that could occur there. It would mean jobs for members in first nations communities, which would mean improvements. When we look at some of the more progressive first nations that have taken some of these opportunities and worked toward economic development initiatives, there are some great success stories.
    The member is right in saying that those kinds of opportunities, when they are taken, and the examples of the success stories that are out there, would incite and encourage other first nations to follow in those footsteps. I believe that is where the opportunities would be for improvements of the lives of those in first nations communities.
    Mr. Speaker, I wonder how the Conservatives feel about some of the alleged legal difficulties of one of their former candidates when they are talking about selection of candidates.
    The former chief of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Tammy Cook-Searson, raised some concerns with regard to the process of first nations being forced into courts whenever there is a dispute around the electoral process. I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that this act does not specifically allow for either an independent tribunal or an electoral commission, similar to what federal and provincial governments have in place.
    Mr. Speaker, what this in fact does is to take the paternalistic parts of an election appeal out of the process.
    It takes those decision-making powers away from the minister and the Governor in Council. Those changes are a very key aspect of the bill. I would remind the member of that, and certainly hope there is support from that side on the issue as well.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, to begin, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Windsor West.
    We are looking at the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain first nations, with emphasis on the word “certain”. I will be speaking to my own reality at the 52nd parallel and that of the five Innu and Naskapi communities in my riding.
    A debate on the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain first nations is an appropriate time for sharing realities that Canadians still know nothing about. I should say that it was honourable of the government to include the notion of corrupt practice in connection with elections when drafting this bill. It gives us an opportunity to discuss the notions of influence peddling, lobbying, conflict of interest and financial wrongdoing. I will therefore be making reference to those notions.
    Over the past two years of my current term, I have shared with Canadians some realities that are far too often ignored. The truth is that the national media and the media in general have an editorial policy that means that the public does not hear about certain first nations realities. One reason is that the issues are restricted to reserves, another is that there is an agenda dictating the kind of news that is reported about Indian reserves.
    In my speech today, I will make Canadians aware of the financial and political wrongdoing that is found on certain reserves. More often than not, the key players involved are off the reserves and outside the clan dynamic. As always, I will speak to my own reality.
    I have mentioned this many times before, but far too often, shysters lurk around Indian reserves, including all kinds of lawyers, professionals, anthropologists and all kinds of people claiming to be “first nation specialists”. This is seen most often on Indian reserves that are rich in natural resources, because resource extraction is a very lucrative business. In fact, keeping Indian reserves at a certain cultural, social and educational level allows the work to be done in obscurity and with impunity. That is why there is political interference during the election of the chief and councillors.
    As a lawyer and a member of Parliament, my services have been requested many times over the past few years. People have told me about situations involving influence peddling and wrongdoing in connection with band council elections. My reputation as a whistleblower has probably reached certain isolated communities because I have had to deal with several dozen of these cases recently, including in my own community.
    It seems there was some interference by mining companies during the last tribal election at home. Currently, at the 52nd parallel, "extractivist" measures are being introduced. In other words, natural resource extraction is perceived as the only driver of economic development. The mining companies and various lobbies are putting their pawns in place in the band councils. That is why some community members have gradually distanced themselves from democratic life on reserve and even nationally.
    People in the communities are disillusioned, and voter turnout for democratic elections on reserves is very low. I proved that wrong when I was elected, since 4,000 Indians voted for me. Many of them had never voted before. I had to get out there. People likely felt I had integrity because of my reputation and my youth. That is why people voted for me, and I think I represent them well here.
    Although the situations I have repeatedly denounced in my speeches are not generalized, I will focus on my own reality and talk about the reserves in my riding. Because I saw these issues come up in both my legal and political experience, I would like to talk about the harmful socio-political effect they can have on tribal life.

  (1245)  

    I said that first nations members have no interest in or choose not to participate in democratic measures. The Conservatives often say that they conducted a consultation and that only 15 people showed up. I have heard that a lot. Even before the Conservatives that was often the easy answer. They would say that very few Indians showed up, so why should they invest all that money to go meet 15 people?
    That is the reality. Few people show up because they are disillusioned. Some people have gradually become disinterested as a result of repeated abuse over generations, wrongdoing and the lack of transparency in tribal politics. It exists in Canada too; we preach by example.
    Although this bill contains some interesting measures, we also need an independent process to investigate, challenge and question the government's tribal measures. This will require investigative powers and the necessary personnel. Since reserves tend to be tough to penetrate, this will take some specialized individuals.
     When I met with Indian Affairs officials to discuss this bill, they told me that, ultimately, it would be up to the RCMP to conduct investigations on the reserves and to track down those who commit abuses. Knowing full well that the RCMP is already overstretched and that this is a rather specialized field because of the closed nature of Indian reserves, it is my humble opinion that the RCMP will have to be granted supplementary funding and that some staff will have to be assigned exclusively to this matter, not only for elections on reserves, but also for economic abuses in the broader sense, because there are some.
     The succession of statutory measures drafted and unilaterally introduced by this government during the current mandate shows how important it is for people to be involved in and contribute to the democratic process in this country. I am going to talk about the importance of that. In fact, citizen assertiveness, by Indians and Canadian citizens as a whole, is viewed as a barrier to economic expansion. That is why the Conservatives are currently taking every back-door measure possible to ensure that the public is ultimately not consulted. When you consult people, they have the opportunity to agree with a project or to oppose it. I am well aware that the Conservatives fear public opposition and mobilization more than anything else. That is why no effort has been put into the census to truly seek the public's opinion.
     The same type of reasoning applies to aboriginal issues because aboriginal assertiveness is also perceived as a barrier to economic expansion. That is deplorable and utterly reprehensible. The true barrier to economic expansion is not citizen assertiveness, but rather a lack of transparency. If people were transparent, there would be no reluctance to consult the public.
     Although the bill before us provides for the codification of offences and penalties under which charges may be laid and penalties imposed for any fraudulent activity related to elections, it is apparent from my discussions with the various stakeholders and legal experts in this matter—and there are a lot of them—that they are unclear about what entity will have investigative authority and about the actual scope of the coercive power that will then be exercised. I was briefly told that the courts could hear this matter at trial, but more user-friendly measures that are more tailored to first nations will be necessary. More user-friendly measures will be needed so that people can finally share their opinions and speak out against the abuses, particularly given the literacy problems as I understand them and see them on a daily basis in my community.
     This is a major investigative task. At the risk of repeating myself, substantial funding will have to be allocated. Staff will have to be assigned exclusively to this case if we ultimately want the RCMP to investigate it.
     Lastly, although the bill addresses certain aspects in a way that suggests an improvement in the first nations electoral system, it does not directly address the Indian Act. Under the proposed provisions, the minister would be able to determine the future of a band without consultation, for a change, which violates the principle of self-government.
     I will now let the House absorb all that.

  (1250)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for that speech. I know he was pointing to some challenges in first nation communities with elections. However, we know in Canada that in the last federal election there were a number of challenges for Canadians, with low voter turnout, robocalls and some MPs being under investigation for allegedly not following the Elections Canada spending rules.
    With regard to first nations, this piece of legislation would only provide for courts as a remedy. There would be no provision in this piece of legislation to have an independent tribunal or a commission, like Elections Canada, for first nations.
    I wonder if he would comment on the fact that for many first nations the cost would be prohibitive if they have to end up in courts to dispute elections rather than having that independent process.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    I mentioned more user-friendly methods. Ultimately, our critic in this area obviously has a clearer idea than I of the form that will take.
    We will really need a kind of parallel tribunal assigned exclusively to aboriginal matters, not simply election-related issues. Too often I mention the idea of puppet governments. I know perfectly well that pawns are put in power on reserves by lobbies, but also by the governments that have succeeded one another here and that always make sure they choose who they deal with. That is probably why, even though this bill addresses some essential concepts, it nevertheless transfers responsibility to the law courts.
    That may be off-putting for some, particularly considering the burden of proof associated with it and all the subtleties of the legal system in this country. Some first nations members might view all this as an obstacle to the exercise of their most basic rights.
    I submit all that to you.

  (1255)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have noticed a pattern with the official opposition. That is that those members seem to oppose all the reforms we are trying to bring forward, from what we are talking about today to matrimonial rights for first nations women and children.
     It just seems that the NDP is opposing for the sake of opposing and is not being very helpful in working with the government to come up with solutions. Perhaps the member can explain how his party's members could possibly have voted against the matrimonial rights bill, and it seems as if they are going to vote against this one too.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    I gave the government credit at the outset when I mentioned that it had included fraudulent election-related activities. Coming from the government, I think that is a major step forward and I therefore congratulate it today.
    The current situation is also as follows: we have to be consistent with the position expressed by many stakeholders in the field, many organizations that work with aboriginal communities. They say there is too much government interference under this particular bill. However, we have suggested potential solutions that can be introduced on third reading. There could be an amendment, and everyone would be happy; I would be pleased to support it, provided certain problems are identified and certain comments that have been made are taken into account.
    The problem is that the concept of consultation is being disregarded and the government is not seeking the first nations' consent before unilaterally imposing legislation on them, which is highly reprehensible. However, the government has nevertheless made progress with this bill, and I give it credit for that; it is now on the right track. It should therefore continue on this path, and I will be here to support it.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to contribute to the debate about this issue. It is a very important one for our aboriginal and first nations peoples.
    One of the first things I thought about is my good friend who passed away, Earl Scofield, who was a senator. He flew 17 missions in a turret during the Second World War and later on came back to Canada, where he contributed not only socially but politically. He was involved as a founding New Democrat and also contributed many volunteer hours across the community, as a veteran and also as a citizen in our community. I could not help but think about some of the lessons he taught me about inclusion, the importance of listening at times and at times making sure to take the advice of others. Sadly, the government has not done that.
    I thought about my own community and its relationship with the aboriginal communities in actually founding this country. There was Chief Tecumseh, who assisted Sir Isaac Brock of the British forces in defeating General Hull in Michigan to ensure our country would be born. There was co-operation. At that time it led to quite a significant quote by Sir Isaac Brock. Talking about Chief Tecumseh, he said, “A more sagacious or a more gallant warrior does not, I believe, exist”. That showed the level of developed maturity and relationship of trust that was created there.
    It is important to talk a bit about process and then get into the bill. It is interesting that we have the unelected, unaccountable Senate as the kick-start to the bill, none of whose members has the same type of accountability as those in the House do and as others who are elected in the country do. That is unfortunate because often when bills come through the House it allows the elected body to move the bill through the proper process and channels.
    In the past in this Parliament, closure has been moved many times and committees have been moved shorter than would allow for what could be done in terms of analysis. Bill S-6 is now going through this process. That is rather unfortunate.
    It was interesting as well that one of the members on the government side said the government has introduced Bill S-6 for this, and meanwhile other bills that have been passed in this chamber, such as Bill C-290, the sports betting bill, languish in the Senate. It was passed with unanimous consent in this House, as no members decided to rise during any of the process to oppose it, to force a vote. It went unanimously to the Senate and it still sits there today. It seems we have our processes backed up and backwards. It is important if the House ever wants to get back on track that we look at those issues and a more balanced approach to processing legislation.
    Bill S-6 would create an election cycle longer than two years. That is something important. One of the things we heard was that, when there is a controversy or contestation of an election, a two-year turnaround time is not enough because it could take that amount of time to actually do a full-out investigation. As my colleague pointed out, with the limited resources of the RCMP and the technical nature of these types of investigations, they could take a long time and be very burdensome.
    Therefore, moving to the four-year element is something we could support. It has also been something consistent with other types of democracies. For example, in recent years city councils in Ontario moved from a three-year cycle to a four-year cycle, giving extra time for governance. That is important because with the turnover that can take place and the types and intensities of campaigns, they can be quite a distraction from actually getting some of the work done that needs to be done.
    I point south of the border, where some of the U.S. elections are held every two years. I know from congress and senate that some of those that are on a two-year cycle for governance are literally fundraising constantly for their campaigns. Therefore, moving to the four-year cycle is something that could provide some greater stability and some improvements, and it is something we do support.
    There would also be the ability to have a common election date, giving the minister of aboriginal affairs the power to order the first nations with community-designed elections to adhere to new regimes. It would also provide for election appeals through courts rather than through the department of aboriginal affairs. There would also be penalties for breaking election rules, and penalties are important.
    First nations initially supported the bill, but here is the catching point. They asked for some amendments related specifically to the opt-in and other amendments as well. They have decided they cannot universally support the bill now.

  (1300)  

     The bill is just the beginning of what needs to be changed in the Indian Act.
    I want to touch on the three election methods. The first is an election according to the provisions of the Indian Act. I will get into the problems later. The second is a community-designed or custom election whereby a first nation is allowed to adopt its own rules for an election rather than follow the Indian Act provisions if it has always been recognized by the federal government as selecting leaders by custom or if it submits written codes, approved by the majority of band members, for the approval of the department. Last is according to the provisions of a self-government agreement. Therefore, three different styles of elections that can take place.
    The first, which was enacted under the original Indian Act, has caused several problems over the years on a wide range of social and justice issues that I cannot even get into, given their degree. They have gone on for many years.
    The Indian Act displaces first nations' traditional political cultures and political systems. It actually intervenes in some of the existing cultural systems that have been in place, thus undermining them.
     The Indian Act created the two-year election cycle. As I noted, and I think it is important, a two-year election cycle is not a lot of time for members and their councils to work together to create good governing environments. Having four years would be a benefit to all.
    As well, right now, the minister and the Governor in Council have a significant degree of power over a first nation's elections and governance structures, including being able to determine the size of the council. It is critical that band councils have more flexibility with regard to the size of the governance structure they want. This is done in other governing systems, whether it be the House of Commons or in municipalities in Ontario. Again, the size can be worked on by the government.
    The appeals process is lengthy and lacks rigour. As well, there are a number of other issues for which the Indian Act has not been a proficient and effective way of having these types of relationships.
    The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is opposed to this and have asked for the opt-in process to be changed. Here I would quote Aimée Craft, chair of the national aboriginal law section of the Canadian Bar Association:
[D]ealing with the level of ministerial discretion to include First Nations in the schedule of participating First Nations, this changes the opt-in nature of the legislation. It continues minister discretion to exercise control over First Nations governance and it would result in some First Nations being subjects of the act rather than participants. In addition, the bill lacks clarity as to the standard that the minister will apply in making determinations about what constitutes a protracted leadership dispute that has significantly compromised the governance of a First Nation.
    To conclude, it is important to go back to the fact that the Conservative government has not done its due diligence on the inclusion of the aboriginal organizations and first nations that are affected by this act. We have heard from my colleague on the lack of outreach and the fact that it is very difficult to pull people out to meetings, because the trust is not there, the confidence that something will get done is not there, and the actions taken that would affect members of first nations and their families will not be in their best interests. We cannot blame that situation for the evolution that has taken place over a number of years and different circumstances.
     I want to thank our critic on this issue for the very important work that has been done. The Indian Act needs extensive work. This type of half-effort is not sufficient for our partners out there who feel that they would like to have some changes. I hope the amendments called for can take place so that we can have more support and buy-in from those affected.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Windsor West for his comments. One of those comments was on the fact that the bill, like many of the other bills that impact on aboriginal issues, originated in the Senate. Of course, as the member pointed out, it is unelected and unaccountable.
    One of the previous members talked about wanting this piece of legislation to ensure a sound, open and transparent process for elections in first nations communities. Of course, what we have recently seen on the Canadian electoral scene is that many Canadians feel that the last federal election, in particular, was not sound, not transparent and not accountable.
    I wonder if the member could comment on the difference in accountability first nations would be held to, because they do not have access to an independent tribunal or electoral commission whereas Canadians in the federal and provincial systems do have an electoral commission. I wonder if he could talk about the difference he sees.
    Mr. Speaker, the reality is that with this piece of legislation, the minister and the Governor in Council would still have far too much power compared to us, who at least have the Chief Electoral Officer who can bring some public accountability to cases.
    We have had a number of situations that have taken place that need to be pointed out. We had the robocalls in the last election. We had a member in the House who overspent prior to his election. He had to go back to the people, and he lost his seat. Now we have other Conservative members, in the same situation, who are in a fight with the Chief Electoral Officer.
    At least there is that process we can appeal to, and at least there is that process Canadians have, under law, that will be taken up.
    Mr. Speaker, I am amazed that the NDP members seem to oppose for the sake of opposing.
    There is a recognition that there are positive items in this bill. It is an opt-in situation. However, the NDP members oppose it. They oppose matrimonial rights, and if they had their druthers, they would deny rights to aboriginal women that every other woman in the country has. They always fall on the issue of process.
    However, is not right right? Sometimes are things not just self-evident and we can move forward, such as having equal rights among all Canadians?

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, I think the difference is that we listened. We listened and we acted according to what we were being advised. That is the difference. There is nothing amazing about listening and then trying to find a common solution, at the end of the day. That is the difference. If we can actually find that common solution and work to get to that ground, we will have better legislation for all of us. We listened.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
    I would like him to comment on something. From what I understand, as a bill evolves, it usually improves. It should be better and enjoy increasingly broad support. Yet, it seems that even though first nations were at first quite supportive of this bill, this is no longer true of the latest version we have before us. Apparently they also suggested a number of amendments but struggled to be heard.
    Are aboriginal communities now suffering the same fate as the parliamentary committees on the Hill, namely lack of attention, no consultation, and the total dismissal of any proposed amendments to improve the bill?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is a great question from my friend and colleague.
    The reality is that if we look at the omnibus budget bills that have had legislation in them, they have not had proper study. I would point to the Investment Canada Act, which for the third time is being changed in a budget bill, because it has been botched so many times because it has not gone to the committee properly. It has not gone through the due diligence process.
     There is common ground we could work on. That is the whole point of bringing in experts and bringing in people to help work on legislation. Even on my own private member's bills I have done that. When we brought in people on my right to repair bill, it made it better.
    Before we resume debate and recognize the hon. member for Brampton West, I will just let him know that there are about six minutes remaining in the time allocated for debate on the motion before the House. He will be able to judge his time accordingly.
    The hon. member for Brampton West.
    Mr. Speaker, I would love to have a full 20 minutes to talk about this exceptional piece of legislation, but I will accept the six minutes we have left here today.
    This is another great bill. Bill S-6, the first nations elections act, is another great piece of legislation on an issue that concerns first nations Canadians. It is another great bill, much like the bill for safe drinking water we recently passed in the House. It goes back to things such as Yale, which was recently passed by the House, and the northern jobs and growth act. We have brought forward a suite of legislation designed to assist first nations in moving forward on many fronts.
    When we talk about this particular piece of legislation, the first nations elections act, it is very important to note that this is, by definition, truly a grassroots bill. Why would I say that? It is because it was actually initiated and brought forward by two groups in this country: the AMC and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs. They were looking at ways to reform the election process as it exists under the Indian Act.
    What does that mean? They decided that they wanted to have a broad-based and significant consultation on how we could design some electoral reforms that would assist first nations in their governance. What did they do? I can tell the House that they had extensive consultations with first nations. For example, between January and March 2010, then-grand chief Ron Evans travelled to almost every first nation in Manitoba that holds elections under the Indian Act. At the time, there were 37. He held engagement sessions with these communities to find out the kinds of things they would like to see in this legislation.
    A similar format was followed by the Atlantic Policy Congress. They had the same kinds of discussions in their own region. They went from community to community and spoke to chiefs. They asked what they would like to see to reform elections for first nations that have their elections governed by the Indian Act. That is the critical thing we have to look at when we look at this particular piece of legislation. This has been driven by first nations communities themselves. By far, the vast majority of the things in this piece of legislation are things brought forward and asked for by first nations communities.
    When the first set of recommendations came forward, the AMC and the APC were asked to partner on a national engagement effort to present their recommendations to first nations across the country. Then-grand chief Ron Evans met with first nations organizations in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. He also wrote to every chief and council in Canada elected under the Indian Act. When we talk about the kind of input and consultation that took place with respect to this particular piece of legislation, we can see that this is an enormous amount of consultation.
    The other thing that is important when we talk about this particular piece of legislation is that it is opt-in legislation. The difference between that and another piece of legislation is that first nations communities can choose if they want to opt in to this particular piece of legislation. When we combine the fact that it is opt-in legislation with the fact that there was extensive consultation with first nations communities, I can say that this is an exceptional piece of legislation that is going to do a lot of good for first nations communities.
    Of course, one of the things they looked at in the legislation was moving the election from every two years to every four years. That just makes sense. Here in the House of Commons, when there is a majority government, there is an election around every four years. For first nations communities that have their elections operate under the Indian Act, it is every two years. We can think about the kinds of things that become difficult when we look at a two-year horizon versus a four-year horizon. It is much more difficult for them to make some of those longer-term plans that are so necessary for good governance, because they end up in a cycle of having another election so soon after the previous one and they need to start thinking about re-election.

  (1315)  

    This will be a significant step forward for first nations communities. It will also allow a new, modern and transparent electoral regime for first nations. Why is that important? One has to look at the things one needs, which are good governance and good elections. That will lead to stronger communities. First nations will have a better sense of how their communities will be governed and they will know when elections will take place. It will, in my view, increase accountability and transparency.
    I wish I had more time and look forward to perhaps speaking to this legislation in the future.
    It being 1:19 p.m., pursuant to an order made Tuesday, June 11 it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill now before the House.
    The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: On division.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

    (Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

  (1320)  

Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder), as reported (with amendments) from the committee.
    The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands is not present to move her motions at report stage. Therefore, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to Bill C-54 report stage amendments. In this regard I hope to be brief and I raise the matter, not to secure a ruling from you, Mr. Speaker, but rather for the completeness of the record and so you may take the matter under advisement in conjunction with the Clerk for further action as you both deem appropriate.
    Briefly, Bill C-54 completed clause-by-clause review at committee Wednesday evening. I began contemplating report stage amendments immediately thereafter and made a request with the Legislative Counsel for the preparation of amendments with the belief that report stage would begin the House on Tuesday. On Friday, it became clear the debate would actually begin at report stage on Monday, today, and thus the amendments were needed by 2 p.m. Friday to comply with the exigencies of Standing Order 54. This was communicated by my office to the clerks preparing the amendments requested.
    As I fully appreciate and understand, the amendments I sought were complex from a drafting point of view. Indeed, while I sought that one concept removed from the bill, this alone required the drafting of 32 separate motions to ensure that the statute would be intelligible if the House were to agree with this initiative. Unfortunately, it seems that the revised version of the bill, reflecting committee amendments, was not immediately available to counsel working on my amendments and as a result of the changed deadline, I was not provided with the amendments I requested before the Friday deadline had passed.
    Indeed, I only received some of the amendments back this morning. I do not wish to fault anyone for this. Counsel could only work with the correct clause numbers after the bill had been reported since there were amendments. While I am making this point, I want to comment and commend all the hard-working individuals involved in the law clerk's office, in particular, Wendy Gordon, Marie Beauchemin, Anita Eapen and Doug Ward for their excellence and dedication. I know they are often underappreciated, particularly when asked to, as is often the case at report stage, draft amendments only to have them found inadmissible for procedural reasons.
    As such, while there is a privilege issue to be advanced here because had my amendments been timely and ruled admissible, I could speak to them this morning, I simply wish to request that the Speaker and Clerk look into ensuring that the law clerk and parliamentary counsel have the staff and resources they require to complete the drafting task within the tight deadlines that I think only arise in exceptional circumstances such as this one.
    While you look into this, Mr. Speaker, I would also ask that you investigate whether the e-notice system could be expanded to work with more browsers. While I acknowledge that I do not understand fully the technology terms, I gather that when the motions were received by my staff, they were unable to upload the amendments on my behalf remotely due to compatibility issues with e-notices and Firefox Chrome.
     I realize these amendments, which for those curious would have removed the high risk designation and all references to it, may never yet see the notice paper. Indeed, they might have been ruled inadmissible upon introduction. That said, it is unfortunate that this situation occurred given the seriousness, yet complexity of my request and related deadlines involved.
    I would therefore ask that you, Mr. Speaker, take the matter under advisement, while again expressing our support, and I believe all parliamentarians would join me in this for the hard work and dedication of the law clerk and parliamentary counsel's office.
    Before I conclude, I am told that the only way these amendments could yet be considered, despite delay notice, which as I explained was unavoidable, is through unanimous consent. Therefore, and so that the hard work of the drafters involved is not completely forgotten, and the amendments proposed, I move: That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House in relation to the report stage of Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder), that the notice requirement in relation to the 32 motions submitted to the Table by the member for Mount Royal be waived and that those motions that the Speaker would normally find admissible and selected at report stage be included for consideration at this same stage.
    I thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for his intervention. On the first item, the request, I will certainly take that matter under advisement and get back to the House if necessary.
    On the request for unanimous consent, does the hon. member for Mount Royal have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

  (1325)  

Hon. Steven Fletcher (for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)  
     moved that Bill C-54, as amended, be concurred in.
    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): When shall the bill be read a third time. By leave, now?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Steven Fletcher (for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)  
     moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate in support of Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act.
    The bill would ensure the mental disorder regime under part XX.1 of the Criminal Code, which deals with persons found not criminally responsible, NCR, for their actions, would be mindful and responsive of the needs of victims. In my view, Bill C-54 would indeed reflect the voices of victims from across the country.
    During the review of the bill, the Standing Committee for Justice and Human Rights received important submissions from several victims. In my remarks, I will be reviewing and reflecting on these submissions.
    While the committee hearings demonstrated that victims had diverse perspectives about the NCR regime and even Bill C-54 itself, it was equally clear that the bill would address key concerns of victims and would include public safety, victim participation and the overall confidence and the administration of justice, while also respecting the rights of NCR accused.
    On June 3, the justice committee heard from two victims who had lost loved ones due to tragic circumstances involving an NCR accused. These two brave women travelled to Ottawa to share their stories with the committee. They had experienced first hand the current way in which victims were dealt with following an NCR verdict and agreed that changes were necessary for the system.
    One explained how members of the family had an encounter with the NRC accused who was involved in their case while out shopping in the community. She explained how this encounter had impacted her family and how the provisions of Bill C-54, with regard to the involvement and notification of victims, would go a long way in helping the victims.
    Needless to say, she supported Bill C-54.
    One of the core victim protections contained in the bill, the availability of no-contact orders, would help ensure that families like hers would have increased confidence in their safety as NCR accused were reintegrated into the community. No-contact orders, as proposed in clause 10 of the bill, can be imposed by either a court or a review board if it is desirable in the interests of security or safety of persons including victims.
    These orders would prohibit an NCR accused from communicating directly, or indirectly, with victims or from going to specific places in the order, such as within the vicinity of the victim's residence. This is a targeted and important measure that should be supported.
    The second victim who appeared at committee also expressed support for Bill C-54. She was very concerned that victims simply did not have enough information provided to them about the NCR accused, especially if the accused was released from secure custody.
    In addition, she highlighted the importance of protecting the safety of the public through the NCR regime. She noted that while it was true that NCR accused were not criminals, in some cases, NCR accused did commit violent acts. There needs to be adequate safeguards in place to ensure that victims like her and her family, as well as the general public, are protected from such persons.
    The availability of the “high-risk” designation in Bill C-54 would respond to this concern. Clause 12 of the bill proposes that where the court is satisfied there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will use violence that can endanger the life or safety of another person or where the court is of the opinion that the act constitutes the offence of such brutal nature as to indicate the risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person, the court may designate an NCR accused as high risk.
    The designation would increase the safeguards on that person to both ensure protection of the public safety and to ensure that the person would obtain the treatment that he or she would require to no longer present a threat to society. If treatment were successful and the risk was no longer present, Bill C-54 would require that designation be removed.
    This provision is an appropriate response to address the concerns of these victims and will help ensure that the small number of NCR accused who pose such a high risk to the public safety will be subject to the appropriate and necessary restrictions on his or her liberty in order to protect the public.
    I believe Bill C-54 maintains the crucial distinction between persons who are morally culpable for their conduct and found guilty and persons found NCR whose illness at the time of the offence rendered them incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of their actions or of knowing what they were doing was wrong.
    The government also acknowledges that while providing mental health services generally falls within provincial and not federal jurisdiction, the government has taken concrete measures in this area. For example, it has increased transfer payments to these levels of government, through the Canada health and social transfer, and also has supported the creation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada to help combat the stigma of mental illness.

  (1330)  

    At its June 10 meeting, the justice committee had the opportunity to hear from more victims. One victim, speaking on behalf of her cousin, shared the heartbreaking story of her family's loss. No doubt, it was very difficult for her to make this presentation and one that was difficult for committee members to listen to.
    But her insights were invaluable. She emphasized that the current process of annual review hearings of an NCR accused disposition has had the effect of re-victimizing her family. In particular, the annual review hearing process for assessing the disposition of an NCR accused, at least in serious cases such as her family's where the underlying act was the killing of three children, has made it more difficult to heal. Every time her cousin, the mother of those children, begins to make some progress a yearly review comes up. In her particular case, the month of review is also the anniversary of the tragedy. This particular example illustrates why Bill C-54's victim-related reforms to the NCR regime in the Criminal Code are necessary.
    Clause 15 of Bill C-54 aims to address the concern raised by this victim by empowering review boards to extend the time for holding a hearing in respect of a high-risk NCR accused to up to 36 months if the review board is satisfied that the person's condition is not likely to improve and the detention remains necessary for that time period.
    This longer review period may also be imposed with the consent of all parties, including the NCR accused. This measure respects the rights of the NCR accused as it would continue to be based on an individualized assessment of treatment, progress and circumstances. However, it would also allow, in appropriate cases, for review periods to better align with realistic medical expectations regarding a particular NCR accused and in so doing, reduces the burden on victims.
    This proposal would also respond to the concerns of the final victim who appeared before justice committee on June 10. He described his frustrations with the NCR progress. Bill C-54 would increase the flexibility and discretion for review boards in determining the appropriate review period for high-risk accused. This should help put victims at greater ease that painful hearings would be held at sufficient intervals to ensure that they are meaningful and enough time has elapsed to ensure how a high-risk accused has responded to treatment received in forensic care.
    Also on June 10 the committee was able to hear from a victim via teleconference. This victim explained how his brother and his brother's spouse were killed by a person who was later found to be NCR. The victim explained how after the incident he was not informed of key information about the process and the disposition of the NCR accused. This lack of information added to his feeling of powerlessness and victimization.
    While every victim is different and not all want to be involved in subsequent proceedings, for this person it was very important to his healing that he be afforded the chance to learn about and participate in the process. He also expressed how not knowing when the NCR accused was released caused his family, and particularly his parents, to feel unsafe. As I mentioned earlier in my remarks, the no-contact provision proposed by Bill C-54 would help families such as these victims to feel safer.
    More than that though, Bill C-54 would also enhance the quality of the information provided to victims and ensure that they would be able to properly observe and participate in proceedings following an NCR verdict. For example, Bill C-54 would make it mandatory for courts and review boards to inform victims of their right to make a victim impact statement before an initial disposition is made or if a high-risk NCR accused designation is referred to a court for review.
    Bill C-54 would also require, at the victim's request, that victims receive a notice of discharge from the review board if the NCR accused receives an absolute or conditional discharge.
    By strengthening the information and participation rights of victims, Bill C-54 would go a long way toward addressing the concerns that were raised at the justice and human rights committee.
    Also on June 10, a further victim addressed justice committee and shared with members the devastation caused to her family by the death of her stepfather after he was killed by a person found NCR. She expressed unqualified support for Bill C-54. In her view, public safety has to be more clearly set out as a central value in the legislation that deals with NCR accused. She expressed concern and fear for her family and the families of others in the future, particularly if the NCR accused involved in her matter were allowed to be released on unescorted passes into the community. For this victim, public safety must be the paramount consideration in the mental disorder regime.

  (1335)  

    To respond to concerns of Canadians like the victims I just referred to, Bill C-54 would clarify that public safety is the paramount consideration in determining the appropriate disposition for an NCR accused.
    In addition, Bill C-54 would help make the law more accessible and easier to apply. It would introduce the phrase “necessary and appropriate” to describe the permissible restrictions on an NCR accused that may be imposed in order to protect the public safety. This proposal would maintain the existing test provided by the Supreme Court of Canada, but would simplify its articulation and thereby more clearly signal to all Canadians, including victims, that in carrying out their work, review boards must give due consideration to public safety and security.
    Also, Bill C-54 would explicitly specify that when review boards assess whether a given NCR accused is a significant threat to the safety of the public that they are to consider any risk posed by that person of serious physical or psychological harm to victims, witnesses and persons under the age of 18, as well as other members of the general public. This proposal speaks directly to the concern we have heard from several victims. Bill C-54 would thus increase confidence in the NCR regime and in the administration of justice more generally.
    In addition to individual victims, on June 10, the committee also had the opportunity to hear from l’Association des Familles de Personnes Assassinées ou Disparues, which in English is the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared. It is referred to as AFPAD. It is a victims organization that since 2004 has advocated for families who have survived horrible tragedies. AFPAD supports Bill C-54. It noted that while primary prevention is important in cases involving persons found NCR, secondary prevention must also be meaningfully addressed. Secondary prevention, in this context, means taking reasonable steps to ensure that a person who has been found NCR is not able to commit another serious crime. Bill C-54 would ensure that NCR accused receive the care they require so their illness no longer renders them a threat to society.
    I have also addressed several aspects of the bill that would respond to AFPAD and to other concerned victims in this regard. Let me also point out that Bill C-54 maintains important judicial oversight. For example, the proposed high-risk designation can only be imposed by a court and can only be removed by a court acting on the recommendation of a review board. This is important because such judicial oversight would ensure that a high-risk designation is only used in appropriate circumstances, which makes it a proportional and reasonable measure. In addition, Bill C-54 would also empower judges who are experienced in assessing competing rights and interests to carefully balance the liberty of the high-risk NCR accused against the need for public safety. While the review board's recommendation would likely carry a lot of weight in hearings to change or remove a high-risk designation, Bill C-54's proposed scheme of allowing for additional judicial scrutiny of these designations would help preserve the public interest and confidence in the NCR regime overall. Victims and Canadians would demand no less of important decisions that can have severe impacts on public safety and the liberty of the NCR accused.
    On June 12, the final day of the justice committee hearings on this bill, members had the opportunity to hear from more courageous victims who stepped forward to share their stories with us. One victim mentioned his experience with review board hearings. He noted that he has had no standing at all at these hearings and that the crown attorney has even been lectured to by the review board for raising the issue of victim safety. Bill C-54's proposed new guidance to review boards, which I referred to earlier in my remarks on the need to take victim safety into specific consideration, would arguably help change the culture of the review boards so they are more receptive to this evidence in future.
    That individual also supported the high-risk designation in Bill C-54 overall, noting that each NCR case is unique and that the law must contain the necessary tools to allow review boards and courts to tailor their responses to meet the needs of diverse situations. By adding new tools like the high-risk designation into the mental disorder part of the Criminal Code, Bill C-54 would respond to these concerns.

  (1340)  

    On June 12, the committee also heard from another victim who raised the common concern that under existing law her participation rights were severely limited. The victim noted that, even though it is very painful reading and presenting victim impact statements, it is critical because it ensures that a victim's voice and perspective are not forgotten by review boards. Without these perspectives, review boards may not make the most appropriate decision in the circumstances, and public confidence in the whole NOR regime could suffer. I mentioned earlier that, if Bill C-54 is enacted, victims would have increased rights to give victim impact statements and to ensure that interests would be taken into account by review boards. This government is listening to victims.
    In addition to hearing from victims, on June 12 the justice committee also heard from victims' advocates from such groups the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, which this government established in 2007 to ensure that victims of crime had a voice at the federal level. The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime was also represented. Both of these groups supported Bill C-54. The ombudsman's office representative acknowledged that Bill C-54 reflected victims' concerns regarding their safety as well as a desire for increased notification and participation. Bill C-54 would provide review boards and courts with new tools to make public safety the paramount consideration.
    While no individual bill can completely solve all the challenges faced by the courts, review boards, experts and victims, it could make the needed improvements to properly balance public safety and the liberties of the NCR accused. In my view, Bill C-54 would do just that.
    At the justice committee, we had the privilege of hearing diverse perspectives from victims and their advocates. These individuals did not come to Parliament to seek the spotlight, and even appearing before the committee in such a public forum would have necessarily involved a degree of hardship. Rather, the witnesses appeared to share their stories to help us as lawmakers to produce a better NCR system for Canadians. I cannot overemphasize how the experiences of these persons plays a valuable role in forming our debates and decisions of this House. By carefully listening to victims, the government has crafted a bill that would be constitutionally sound and would not detract from the rights of the NCR accused, and yet also would manage to improve victim notification, involvement and protection in the context of the NCR regime. This is a worthwhile initiative that deserves the support of this House.
    Mr. Speaker, the member referred to Darcie Clarke who lives in my riding. She was the victim who lost her three children to her husband at the time, Allan Schoenborn. That was a very public case, and I understand this legislation would address some of the problems associated with the Schoenborn case; obviously not all but it would be a move in the right direction.
    I know there are certain groups across the country that have expressed their concerns with this legislation. In fact, we had made some suggestions at the committee, but overall Bill C-54 would improve the circumstances for victims.
    Once the “high risk” designation is assessed, I understand the judge has discretion for providing a term of up to three years before the review is deemed necessary. Could the member comment on that time frame, how that works and where it could be one year, which is what I understand it is now, and where three years may be appropriate?

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, the designation of “high risk” could impose a period where there would be no review for up to three years. Under the current system it is reviewed annually. However, when the “high risk” designation is put into place, first the Crown bears the burden of proving that such a designation should be put in place, in other words that the person is an additional risk to society, and we know that the number of people who would probably fit into this category is very few and far between.
    However, what is assessed is also how much time it would take for the person to be treated. Medical and psychological evidence are considered in determining the length of time it would take to treat the person. If it is longer than one year, it could be up to three years. Forensic treatment is put into place to treat the person and reassessed if he or she can be reintegrated into society. It would be discretionary and based on hard evidence of experts.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, not only for his leadership on the committee as parliamentary secretaryparliamentary secretary, but also for the collegiality he has shown in welcoming me to the committee.
    We have studied the bill, and I can say that in the seven years I have spent as a member of Parliament, I have never heard more gut-wrenching testimony from witnesses than I have from the victims who appeared before the committee. The victims, virtually unanimously, want the changes.
    The defence lawyers association, the bar association and so on have some concerns. One of their concerns is that because of the changes we are proposing, defence lawyers will be advising their clients to go through the criminal path, which could see terms of 25 years' imprisonment to life, for certain offences, in order to avoid the stigma of having a three-year review through the not criminally responsible path.
    I do not think that argument holds weight. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could share his views as to whether that would seem to be a lucid or rational argument from the other side.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and for his fine work on the justice and human rights committee.
    It is perhaps no surprise that I do not find the argument holds weight. Let us face it. These are practising lawyers, usually with a degree of specialization when they take these cases on. I cannot see that ethically they would have a client who was suffering from a mental disorder that would qualify them as being not criminally responsible and they would try to put them into the regular criminal system where they would get less treatment.
    I believe that the law society members are highly ethical and that this is a tactic that, quite frankly, would not be used. If so, it would definitely be reprehensible.
    We cannot forget that whether the period is one year or three years, during that period before which we would review the reintegration, treatment is ongoing. These people are not thrown into a cell and the key is thrown away. Treatment is ongoing. It is a balance of treatment and reintegration versus the protection of the public.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his speech.
     He talked about clause 12, which creates a new category of high-risk accused. This definition refers to offences of a brutal nature. The parliamentary secretary mentioned some victims' cases. When the Minister of Justice and also certain experts were asked about this, they said there was no definition of offence of a brutal nature. We therefore suggested we should rely on what was already in the Criminal Code.
    I would like to know whether the parliamentary secretary can define “brutal nature” and tell us why he did not rely on what was already set out in the Criminal Code, as was requested by the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau du Québec and several experts?

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, the notion of brutality referred to by the member has been defined by the Supreme Court, and several cases have been interpreted based on that definition.
    I would also like to point out that when a request is made to designate someone high risk, the decision-makers take more than just the brutal nature of the offence into consideration; they consider all relevant factors, including medical evidence and the circumstances surrounding the offence.
    There is more than just a single, isolated factor at play, such as the fact that the individual committed a very brutal crime, as defined by the Supreme Court. All of the circumstances surrounding the individual and whether that individual can reintegrate into society without posing a risk to public safety must be taken into account.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary both for his speech and his work on committee.
    Obviously this is an important piece of legislation. Questions have been brought up by members on both sides about the current process for NCR.
    One thing I have found out through the process is that in the case of someone who has been designated not criminally responsible, the Criminal Code already allows the review to be extended up to 24 months by the Mental Health Review Board, in the case of a serious personal injury offence. By adding the extra 12 months of flexibility, it actually empowers the Mental Health Review Board.
    There is a fine balance between making sure the safety of the public is paramount and that there is ample opportunity for treatment. Under this new high-risk designation, I would ask the parliamentary secretary if he feels there are sufficient provisions for both public safety and mental health treatment, to allow the NCR person to receive the treatment they need, while, again, balancing the aspect of safety.
    Mr. Speaker, of course there is a balance when it comes to the treatment aspect.
    When the period of time is determined for the review, whether it be one year, two years or three years, the main test is determining what length or period of time is going to be necessary for the treatment. If one year is sufficient, then that will suffice. However, to go beyond the two years, which is also provided for, and the three years in this case, there absolutely has to be evidence that the longer treatment will be needed.
    When there is a need for longer treatment, there are provisions that these people cannot go into the community unescorted, and when they go into the community escorted, it will be for necessary and obligatory medical or mental health treatment so that they can be reintegrated.
    Again, the key is not thrown away and these people locked up. They will not be able to go into the community unescorted because the paramount consideration is public safety. However, they will go, escorted, to necessary medical treatment.

[Translation]

    Before I recognize the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie, I must inform him that I will have to interrupt him at about 2:00 p.m. The hon. member has about seven minutes remaining. Of course, more time will be available when the House resumes debate on this motion.
    The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie.
    The whole issue of mental health and crime is a very emotional subject. We saw this when we were examining it in committee. This subject really moved us.
    I would especially like to thank my colleague from Gatineau, our justice critic, for all of her hard work on this bill.
    Few of us are extremely familiar with the topic of mental health. We sometimes generalize. People have a certain idea of what this entails. However, we do not know everything we need to know.
    One of the problems we noted in committee was the Conservative government's failure to consult with experts in the field with regard to this bill.

  (1355)  

[English]

    One example I have is from our committee on June 5. Chris Summerville, from the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, mentioned that nine associations were not consulted. We are talking about the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention, the National Network for Mental Health, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, and further, 19 members of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, all of which are members and none of which were consulted either.
    When I asked why, they did not understand. They are the first ones on the ground. They are the people who actually have the knowledge. It is very unfortunate that the government only decided to consult with them when we were working on and dealing with the bill, and then, when we had amendments, those amendments were not accepted by the government.

[Translation]

    This is a very sensitive issue and victims have asked us not to make it a partisan issue. They have asked us not to play politics. Unfortunately, that is what the Conservatives are doing.
    Jenni Byrne, the 2011 national campaign manager, sent an email dated May 29 that reads:
    You probably remember the story of Vince Li—a man who, five years ago, beheaded and cannibalized a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus. He was found to be not criminally responsible for his actions—and was even granted escorted leave in to the community by the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board. This is an insult to his victim—and this is not what Canadians expect from their justice system.
    She then asks for a donation to the Conservative Party.
    This is the type of petty politics that we find very disappointing. It is absolutely deplorable to see the government use victims in order to raise money. In addition to what I was saying about the lack of consultation, the fact that the government keeps using cases like this is just as deplorable when it comes to stigmatization. The public does not necessarily understand mental illness. I encourage all Canadians to talk about it. In the House, I have talked about a friend of mine who committed suicide. It is important to talk about it. I think we need to talk about every aspect of mental illness.
    Using high-profile cases to raise money is serious. It is not what responsible parliamentarians should do, but it is what the current government is doing. We are asking the Conservatives to show more respect.
    Our approach to the bill is simple: this bill is important for victims. As the Conservatives have mentioned, this bill will provide a way to help us inform victims about what is going on with offenders. All the witnesses we heard from agree with this, including the Barreau du Québec, the Canadian Bar Association and mental health associations.
    We support this bill and we did even more than that. What is surprising is that the Conservatives accepted one of our amendments to inform victims of the offender's place of residence. Once the offender is released from prison, the victim should be aware of everything that is going on. All of the victims we consulted asked for this. We therefore thank the government for accepting the NDP's amendment to ensure that these victims are better informed.
    We are very sensitive to this situation, and we were touched by the victims who came to testify. I want to acknowledge these victims, who showed extraordinary courage. Talking about their problems and their experiences was very difficult for them. As I said, it is very emotional for members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to hear people share their stories, but that is what pushes us to keep going.
    One of the problems is the lack of consultation from a legal standpoint. The government proposed changes, but it is reassuring to know that the court will have the last word. That is why we supported some of the amendments proposed by the government. However, we would have appreciated it if the government had considered more of our amendments.

  (1400)  

    The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie will have 14 minutes when the House resumes debate on this motion. Of course, he will have the usual 10 minutes for questions and comments.
    We will now proceed to statements by members. The hon. member for Ahuntsic.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[Translation]

Nathalie Morin

    Mr. Speaker, this weekend we learned that two human rights advocates in Saudi Arabia have been sentenced to 10 months in prison and will be prohibited from leaving the country for two years after that simply because they brought food to Ms. Morin.
    I would like to remind the House that for eight years, Ms. Morin and her three children have been detained in Saudi Arabia by her husband, the children's father, yet the Conservative government has stood idly by.
    In June 2011, Quebec's National Assembly unanimously called on the federal government to bring Ms. Morin and her children back to Canada. At the time, the federal government said that it hoped “for a positive resolution”. We have heard nothing since then.
    The government needs to stop calling this a private dispute and hiding behind that excuse to justify its lack of action. Let us hope that officials at the Canadian embassy in Riyadh will be able to propose a solution to Ms. Morin the next time they interview her. It is Canada's responsibility to protect Ms. Morin, as well as her children.

[English]

Bowmanville Historic Site

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are fortunate to have a network of national parks and historic sites to allow our citizens to explore this magnificent country and learn about the people and places that made it great.
    I am happy to inform the House that very soon the Municipality of Clarington and the town of Bowmanville may be the home to the latest national historic site. For almost a century, the place known as the boys' training school or, during World War II, Camp 30, has been a part of Bowmanville. During the war, Camp 30 was perhaps best known for the concept of Ehrenwort, where local prison guards would allow German prisoners to leave the camp unescorted, provided they gave their word of honour that they would return.
    No major project like this happens without the tireless energy of many. I would like to thank Martha Rutherford Conrad, Faye Langmaid, Kelvin Whalen and the Kaitlin Group, as well as Mayor Adrian Foster and Clarington council for their vision and energy on this project.
    In the coming years, I would like to invite Canadians to explore the Clarington area and our national history.

[Translation]

Expressions of Thanks

    Mr. Speaker, as the parliamentary session winds down, I would like to thank a few people.
    I would like to thank the members of my staff, who fight every day to ensure that our constituents receive their due from the government, a government that too often portrays Canadians as cheats and fraudsters.
    I would also like to thank the organizations in Trois-Rivières that work with me. One example is Culture Mauricie, which led the fight against Parks Canada for the Forges du Saint-Maurice and made some progress on that front. I am also working with Proprio-Béton to make the Conservatives understand that they are the only ones taxing people's misery instead of helping them.
    I would like to thank all public servants who continue to provide services on par with the best in the world despite the tension and fear overshadowing their working conditions.
    I would like to thank everyone who has taken our message about working together to heart. In 2015, let us work together to elect a government with a clean record when it comes to cronyism and scandal, a government dedicated to the best interests of the people, economic growth and sound management: an NDP government.

[English]

Events in Mississauga East—Cooksville

    Mr. Speaker, several great events took place in the riding of Mississauga East—Cooksville last Saturday.
    The 13th annual Race Against Racism, hosted by Peel Regional Police diversity relations unit at Mississauga Valley Park, was a great success and provided a positive environment for members of diverse cultures and an important sense of inclusiveness. Funds raised will go toward scholarships for Peel students. Congratulations to Chief Jennifer Evans, Constable Lovejeet Bains, the entire Peel police force, volunteers and participants for a great event.
     Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre celebrated the 25th anniversary of its service for Mississauga communities. Its mission “to foster an atmosphere which will encourage our community as a whole to participate in and develop a positive, healthy and caring neighbourhood” describes it all.
    Many thanks and best wishes to the board president and chair, Kelly McDonald, and all other board members and volunteers on this special anniversary. I thank them all for their involvement and participation.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, today in 20 cities across this country, including here on Parliament Hill, health care workers, social workers and concerned citizens have gathered together to protest the cruel cuts to refugee health that have been brought on by the government. The minister continues to say that all he is doing is denying gold-plated health care to these people.
    Children with extreme asthma cannot get help, children with epilepsy cannot get help, and mothers who are pregnant and have toxemia cannot get help. As every physician knows, toxemia puts the mother and her child at great risk, so we know that what the minister is saying is absolutely untrue.
    The position the minister has taken may well offend the rights of the child under section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the name of common decency and fundamental justice, will the minister please rescind the cuts and give people the health care they absolutely need?

  (1405)  

Turnaround Achievement Awards

    Mr. Speaker, recently a very special event was held in my riding called the Turnaround achievement awards. Started a number of years ago, this event pays tribute to students at the elementary, middle and secondary school levels who have turned their educational experience and their lives around.
    Listening to the individual stories as told by the teachers took the people in the attendance on a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from humour to tears.
    A quote from Michael Jordan typifies what this event is all about: “If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it”.
    In every case, these young people tackled their obstacles and turned their lives around. They took personal responsibility and learned valuable skills that will benefit them for years to come. The next time they face adversity, they will not sit on the sidelines. They will get back in the game.
    Special thanks to John and Betty Lou Craig of Craig Manufacturing for taking on the sponsorship of this event. Thanks to the teachers who have made a difference in these young people's lives. Congratulations to all the students, including grade 12 students Brandon Sharpe and Dallas Greer, who will be graduating this week. I wish them the best of luck as they pursue their post-secondary education and careers in the workforce.

Rail Safety

    Mr. Speaker, VIA train 92 derailed last year, killing 3 and injuring scores. Last week the Transportation Safety Board made three recommendations: that railway cabs be made safer so that engineers are better protected; that recorders be on board so that investigators can find out what happened after a crash; and the most important recommendation, that railways be required to put into place automatic braking systems to prevent these crashes.
    Recorders were recommended 10 years ago. There has been no action from the Conservative or predecessor Liberal government. Safer cabs are mandatory on new locomotives, but too many are grandparented. Automatic braking systems, the norm in most of the world, are not even on the minister's radar when he talks about the reports of the safety board.
    The board said the conditions that resulted in the Burlington crash happen once a month, a frightening statistic. It recommended action on the part of the government to prevent future deaths.
    We in the NDP are calling on the government to act to implement these sensible recommendations. To do otherwise is to fail to stop a ticking time bomb.

Members' Personal Accountability and Dedication

    Mr. Speaker, the privilege of holding this office demands the highest level of personal accountability and dedication. Most of us hold this principle true, because while we may fundamentally differ on ideology, many come here first seeking to build a country that is healthy, prosperous and just.
    While there are those who lose sight of this because of the trappings power can afford, I first choose to think of my colleague from the NDP who came back here a month after giving birth, my independent colleague who battled cancer of the lymph nodes, my Liberal colleague who only just left to be with his very expectant wife, and my Conservative colleague who overcomes a severe physical restriction, all these things done to be here in support of our democracy. Then I think of the greatness that is in fact Canada.
    To this, and to all of us here, to our families, who shoulder the oft-lonely reality of absence and the sometimes painful nakedness of public life, this role is indeed honourable and it is incumbent on each of us, as well as those who hold the lens through which this role is perceived, to uphold this above all.

House of Commons Pages

    Mr. Speaker, as this session of Parliament begins to wind down, I would like to take a few moments to recognize the hard work that has been done this past year by pages in the House of Commons.
    Each year, 40 students from across Canada are selected from hundreds of applicants to serve as pages in the House of Commons. They perform very important duties for all of us members of Parliament, which can often go unnoticed. From delivering messages from our respective lobbies and serving water to the handling of important documents, pages have a great deal of responsibility in this place. I would like to thank each and every page for his or her hard work. It has indeed been a pleasure to get to know some of them on a first-name basis.
    I am also very pleased to recognize Hannah Nicholls-Harrison from my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, who has served as a page this past year. Her family, I and everyone in Bruce and Grey counties are proud of her accomplishments.
    I would like to congratulate all pages on a successful term of duty. It has been a pleasure getting to know all of them. I wish them all the best of future successes.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

Canada's Foreign Service Officers

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's foreign service officers are currently on strike. These workers have been without a contract for two years. They represent our international trade and diplomatic interests.
    The current situation is having a serious impact on the processing of visa applications. For example, the largest festival in the Drummondville region, the Mondial des Cultures, invites more than 800 artists from all over the world. This event's executive director is worried about the negative effects of delays in processing visas.
    The NDP believes that Canadian workers have the right to improve their working conditions. The Conservatives must negotiate in good faith with public sector unions and workers. The Conservatives must abandon their confrontational approach and settle this labour dispute as quickly as possible.
    A fair and equitable settlement for everyone can be achieved by negotiating with Canada's foreign service officers.

[English]

Volunteerism

    Mr. Speaker, in my community, the charitable sector makes a significant impact. As a member of Parliament, I like to volunteer in support of these organizations.
    I have been a celebrity dancer in the Dancing with the Stars Halton competition for Easter Seals, which I lost, by the way. I was a model and auctioneer for the Joseph Brant Hospital fashion show. I think I was the "before" of the before and after models. I walked a kilometre in women's high heels as a participant in the Hope in High Heels fundraiser for Halton Women's Place. Those shoes hurt and they were red. I was a young Elvis in an Elvis-impersonator contest for the Compassion Society of Halton. I sang Hound Dog, and I sounded like one.
    I want to thank the charities in my community for allowing me to volunteer to be part of their efforts to raise money and awareness in Burlington. As a member of Parliament, I should be an asset to my community's charities and not an expense.

[Translation]

House of Commons Pages

    Mr. Speaker, as we approach the end of this parliamentary session, on behalf of the NDP, I want to thank all of the House of Commons pages for their extraordinary work over the course of the past session.
    The pages worked very hard and put in long hours, especially in recent weeks, but they always remained very professional, courteous and available.
    Congratulations to the pages and thank you.
    I also want to thank the page supervisors, Sylvain Desrochers and Daniel Cardinal, who help make our work easier and more pleasant every day.
    I want to mention that Sylvain will be retiring when we adjourn for the summer. My colleagues and I wish him an enjoyable retirement and commend him for his dedication over the years.
    Happy retirement, Sylvain.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, being friends with the Liberal leader is not cheap. Nor is it cheap for charitable organizations to have him come and grace them with his presence. After seeing him prepared to do anything, even take his shirt off, now we know that charities are paying an arm and a leg in exchange for his services.
    We always thought that the Liberal leader's policy of charging charitable organizations, churches and seniors' groups tens of thousands of dollars was wrong and that it was against conventional practices in relation to his duties as a member of Parliament.
    We encourage the Liberal leader to follow the example set by the hon. Prime Minister, who donated thousands of dollars to charities when he was an ordinary MP.
    The fact that the Liberal leader is prepared to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from charitable organizations demonstrates that what the Liberal leader cares about the most is the Liberal leader. This is proof that the Liberal leader is simply incapable of being charitable.

  (1415)  

[English]

Conversation on the Hill Last Week

    Mr. Speaker, Reflections of a Conversation on the Hill Last Week:
    

“Don't you know who I am?” in a tone forced and feared.
“You're the lead-footed driver with a grey suit and beard”.
“I'm the big shot in O'Town; I'm a really big deal”.
“I'm certain you are sir; now take your hands off the wheel”.
“I'm the NDP leader; I can show you the proof”.
“Step out of the car, sir; put your hands on the roof”.
“I'll talk to your boss; you will sure change your tune”.
“Well...it didn't seem to work for Reese Witherspoon”.
“I'm going to be late for anger management class”.
“Well, you should have pulled over and not been such a...bad driver”.
“Lady, you're in big trouble; your job's on the line”.
“You enjoy question period; I'll be just fine”.
The moral of this story is, by chance or by plan, never start a conversation with...
“Don't you know who I am?”

Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, “Don't you know who I am?”
    The leader of the NDP does not stop for the RCMP. The leader of the NDP does not stop for the interests of national security. The leader of the NDP does not stop when police chase him. The leader of the NDP does not stop for pedestrians visiting the House of Commons. The leader of the NDP does not stop for left turns like a $21-billion carbon tax. The leader of the NDP does not stop for left turns that kill jobs. The leader of the NDP does not stop for any left-turn tax hike.
    If the leader of the NDP does not stop his left turning, “You're going to be in a lot of trouble”.

The Senate

    Mr. Speaker, we can all now understand the look of pain on the faces of parliamentary guides when they have to explain the Senate. It turns out they have been forced to use a manual written during the Mulroney era.
    These poor guides have to spin some real whoppers. They have to say that the Senate is “non-partisan”. They are forced to praise the Senate by saying it does not suffer from “excessive media exposure”. The manual even disparages members of the elected House of Commons. It says the work of the House is inferior to that of the Senate. “In a multi-party group system, the voter is liable to be confused” and goes on to describe voters as donkeys.
    It is time we revised this outdated manual. Let us free these poor guides so they can tell the truth about the corruption-plagued upper chamber, or even better, let us abolish the Senate and free all Canadians from this unelected, unaccountable relic of the 19th century.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I believe as a member of Parliament, one of our fundamental roles is to do everything we can to help people and organizations in need. That is why I believe charity starts at home.
    As an auctioneer, I have had the great opportunity to help many charities and organizations throughout the riding of Huron—Bruce and beyond: Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority, Goderich Legion tornado fundraiser, Central Huron community living, WOAA, Clinton Hospital and many more. As athletes and hockey players, many of my parliamentary colleagues and I have had the great honour of raising money for the United Way, muscular dystrophy, Robert Warner Memorial Fund, and the RVH Cancer Centre, to name a few.
    Martin Luther once said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
    With $1.3 million dollars in speaking fees charged to charity, I know which side the Liberal leader has picked.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, the Prime Minister stood in this House and said that he had—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. Leader of the Opposition has the floor now and I expect the House to come to order.
    The hon. Leader of the Opposition.
    Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, the Prime Minister stood in this House and said that he had not been briefed on the audit of Senator Pamela Wallin's expenses. He insisted that he knew nothing, but last week, Senator Wallin revealed that she had indeed briefed the Prime Minister's Office in detail.
    Who is telling the truth: Senator Wallin or the Prime Minister?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, on behalf of all members, I would like to thank the leader of the NDP for being here today without incident.
    The Prime Minister has been very clear on this question and the leader of the NDP opposite knows very well that there is, of course, an independent audit and examination of this very matter going forward.
     The Prime Minister has been very clear to all senators, including Senator Wallin, that any expenses have to be paid and have to be associated directly with their responsibilities as a senator and that any expenses that are not associated should come directly from their own personal pocket.

  (1420)  

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, so we can expect the Prime Minister himself to come and clear that up for us this week. Is that right?

[Translation]

    The arrest of one of the Conservatives' star candidates has tainted everyone directly associated with them. After his defeat in 2011, Saulie Zajdel benefited from the patronage of the Conservatives when he was given a bogus job by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. The minister raved about the great job Saulie Zajdel had done for the Conservatives.
    What was this great job Saulie Zajdel did?
    Mr. Speaker, the charges relate to municipal issues and not the federal government. Until today I had not even heard about an investigation or charges against Mr. Zajdel.
    However, to be clear, if Mr. Zajdel, Mr. Applebaum or anybody broke the law, they should be punished to the full extent of the law.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we do know that Saulie Zajdel was a star Conservative candidate. We know he got a patronage job from that minister just days after his defeat. We know that he was going around Mount Royal acting like he was the member of Parliament and not our distinguished colleague. We know that a little over a year ago, Zajdel joined the Prime Minister at a happy hour pub stop for some Conservative fundraising. We know that Zajdel was arrested today on a series of corruption charges.
    What we do not know is what Zajdel was doing on the payroll of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. Tell us.
    Mr. Speaker, as I just finished saying in French very clearly, if Mr. Zajdel or Mr. Applebaum have in any way broken the law they should have the book thrown at them and they should be accountable to the full extent of the law.
    With regard to what my office has been doing proudly for the city of Montreal, we have been doing things like investing in important events like Les FrancoFolies, Festival International de Jazz, festival Juste pour rire, and inventing a cultural infrastructure in the city of Montreal like les 2-22, le Quartier des spectacles, and expanding the programming and physical space of the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. That is the work that indeed my office is very proud of, because it will serve the people of Montreal and all Canadians.
    It is like Whack-a-Mole, Mr. Speaker. They whack one scandal down and another one pops up. The Conservatives' former shadow MP from Mount Royal was arrested this morning. Saulie Zajdel is now facing charges of abuse of trust, fraud and corruption.
     Mr. Zajdel was praised by the Prime Minister and he was hired by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, and then suddenly, without explanation, he left his lucrative ministerial job. Why?
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague knows very well, I found out this morning, of course, we all found out, that Mr. Zajdel was under investigation and now there are charges pending. If he or Mr. Applebaum or anybody broke the law, they should be punished to the full extent of the law. That is how it works.
    The justice system also works best when those who are aware of corruption, like the leader of the NDP, co-operate with police and tell the police about corruption that they know about. The leader of the NDP was offered a bribe 17 years ago, which is a crime, and he did not report that bribe and that crime to the police. Why was he covering for corruption in the city of Laval?

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, so many Conservatives under police investigation and yet, so little contrition.

[Translation]

    Let us stay on the topic of criminal investigations involving the Conservatives. In February, the Prime Minister claimed that he had personally reviewed Pamela Wallin's spending and found nothing unusual about it. However, in August 2012, the Senate administration found problems with Ms. Wallin's expense claims.
    Why did the Prime Minister choose to ignore this information?
    Mr. Speaker, as I just said to the leader of the NDP in English, the Prime Minister made it very clear that any expenses claimed by senators have to be associated directly with their responsibilities as senators.

  (1425)  

[English]

    It is the ethical and responsible thing to do. Just as the ethical and responsible thing to do for any member of Parliament, for example, is to do work for charities and to give money to charities, not take money from charities.
    The member for Halifax knows that. The member for Outremont knows that. We know that. A member of Parliament showing up at a charity event should give money to charities not take it away from charities like the leader of the Liberal Party does.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians' confidence in our public office-holders has been shaken by the opening of a criminal investigation into the Prime Minister's own office.
     By raising the bar on openness and transparency, we can begin to restore confidence in our public institutions.
    Will the government choose transparency over secrecy? Will it publicly release a copy of the $90,000 cheque written by the Prime Minister's chief of staff to Mike Duffy?
    Mr. Speaker, somebody really should advise the Liberal leader not to lead with his chin in question period.
    As I said last week, we do not have access to a personal cheque of Nigel Wright.
    However, the leader of the Liberal Party does have access to a personal cheque that was given to him, for example, from the Canadian Mental Health Association that paid him. He took $20,000 from the Canadian Mental Health Association while speaking at a charity event. He also took $7,500 from the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. He took $10,000 from the Children of Hope, which is a charity organization that helps orphaned children.
    If he believes in accountability and transparency, he should show us the money he took from the charity.
    Mr. Speaker, while they break the rules any chance they can get, we do not just follow the rules, we raise the bar.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please.
    The hon. member for Papineau has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, a simple question. In the weeks following Nigel Wright's resignation, has any member of the cabinet or any senior member of the Prime Minister's Office met with him?
    However, if the leader of the Liberal Party wants to talk about raising the bar, I do not think he is talking about an ethical bar. Do members know those novelty thermometers that they have at charity events when they raise the bar when they are increasing money for the charity? He must have one in his home or in his office and he raises the bar of that thermometer of money that he personally gets from charities across the country. That is the bar that is being raised.
    Again, if the Liberal leader wants to lecture others about accountability, he should come clean. What is it about the ethical standard of giving money to charities rather than taking money from charities that he does not understand?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will ask the question again to give the minister a chance to think about his answer.
    Did any government minister or PMO staffer meet with Mr. Wright in the weeks following his resignation, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, no, I did not speak to Mr. Wright after he resigned.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, a prime minister once said, “The RCMP is doing very independent work...the Auditor General...is a very important independent officer of the House and both of them are doing their jobs.... I have nothing else to add.”
    Who said that? That was Jean Chrétien defending the Liberal sponsorship scandal, sounding an awful lot like this Prime Minister, speaking of which we now know the RCMP is investigating the secret payout to Mike Duffy.
    Has the current Prime Minister been in contact with the RCMP and who is the point person in his office for ensuring the full co-operation with the RCMP and the PMO staff?
    Mr. Speaker, again, the RCMP operates independently.
    Frankly, it would irresponsible for the government to tell the RCMP to whom it should or should not be speaking. I, the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister personally have not been contacted by the RCMP on this matter.
    However, if the hon. colleague has questions about how the RCMP is fulfilling its obligations, he should direct those questions to the RCMP. It operates independently of the government.

  (1430)  

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, it sounds like the Liberal speaking notes from the sponsorship scandal.
    Let us try something else. Saulie Zajdel was hired by this minister as his special adviser in Montreal. He was part of the Prime Minister's entourage on the trip to Montreal in 2012.
    He is now charged with abuse of trust, fraud and corruption. What exactly was he doing working for the Minister of Canadian Heritage? Did the Minister of Canadian Heritage hear any of the rumours that were swirling about Montreal, about the reputation of Mr. Zajdel before he hired him?
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague should know, he was a municipal councillor for over 23 years. His job in my regional office was to do the coordination with cultural communities in the city of Montreal.
    If in his municipal career, and this is what the allegations are, prior to his involvement in federal politics, he in any way broke the law, he should have the book thrown at him. He should be held responsible and he will be by our justice system.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the RCMP is investigating a possible crime in the Prime Minister's Office.
    UPAC, Quebec's anti-corruption agency, arrested their former candidate for the riding of Mont-Royal, who is also a former employee of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and a good friend of the Prime Minister's former director of communications. The Conservatives should start taking this a little more seriously.
    Dimitri Soudas's buddy, Saulie Zajdel, pocketed plenty of cash thanks to corruption. Once on a Conservative minister's payroll, he is now facing several charges, including breach of trust, fraud and corruption.
    What exactly did the Conservatives know about him before hiring him?
    Mr. Speaker, as I just explained to the member's colleague, we were not aware of any of the activities related to these charges.
    I learned this morning that there was an investigation concerning Mr. Zajdel's activities between 2006 and 2011, before his involvement in federal politics. He was involved in municipal politics in Montreal during the period in question. That is what this is about, and we did not know what was going on until this morning.
    Mr. Speaker, this all looks very suspicious.
    Their man in Mont-Royal in 2011 was Saulie Zajdel. UPAC's charges relate to his activities between 2006 and 2011. We have to wonder what particular skills made the Conservatives nominate him as their candidate and then reward him with a job working for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
    Let us be honest: trusting Zajdel with any kind of file is like trusting Vladimir Putin with a Super Bowl ring.
    Did any law enforcement agency contact the Minister of Canadian Heritage or his office about Mr. Zajdel? Was he contacted, yes or no?
     Mr. Speaker, no, because this investigation is related to municipal affairs near Montreal. They never contacted me because this is not a federal issue.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, if we add Saulie Zajdel to the party's list of friends, which includes Arthur Porter and Bruce Carson, there are quite a few Conservative appointees linked to corruption or influence peddling.
    However, let us get back to the Senate expenses scandal.
    Has anyone from the Prime Minister's Office spoken to Nigel Wright since the start of the criminal investigation into the $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy?
    Mr. Speaker, quite simply, the answer is no.
    I never spoke to Mr. Wright after May 15, when everything became public.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister spoke to no one. I thank him very much for the information. Perhaps someone could speak for more than just the minister.
    Perhaps the Conservatives could add Mr. Zajdel to the list of Senate prospects and include him in the select club of senators appointed by the Prime Minister who are facing charges, such as senators Brazeau, Wallin and Duffy.
    Could the minister perhaps tell us if he or his colleagues know whether the Prime Minister's Office obtained legal advice concerning the criminal investigation into the questionable activities of its former chief of staff that occurred in this Prime Minister's Office?
    Mr. Speaker, in answer to the first question on her list, Mr. Zajdel will never be appointed to the Senate.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, 62 days ago, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform said, “Our government is pleased to announce that it will introduce comprehensive legislation on Thursday”.
    Nine Thursdays have come and gone since that announcement, and still nothing. It is all well and good for the minister to say that he wants to do things properly, but election fraud legislation needs to be passed by early 2014 so that it can be enforced during the next election campaign.
    When will the minister finally introduce his bill?

  (1435)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear that we have committed to introducing legislation to reform election laws and we will introduce that legislation.
    What is not clear is this. Why do the NDP members believe they are above the law? It was that party over there that accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal union donations. The leader of the NDP did not tell the police about a crime for over 17 years. Then just last week he did not stop for stop signs and did not stop for the police. Why do they believe they are above the law?
    Mr. Speaker, nine months of these feeble lines wore thin a long long time ago. This is about strengthening Elections Canada to be able to go after fraud. The minister promised that he would table a bill so many times. He then met with the Conservative caucus and, poof, up in smoke, he suddenly changed his mind.
    The Chief Electoral Officer said that we needed this bill before the next election. Why are the Conservatives dragging their heels, missing deadlines and actually risking not having this bill in place before the next election?
    Mr. Speaker, I have been clear that we will introduce reforms to our election laws. However, what about traffic laws? What about traffic laws for stopping at stop signs, endangering pedestrians, construction workers and others on the Hill? Why do the NDP members believe they are above the law?

[Translation]

The Senate

    Mr. Speaker, I would not want to be a Conservative minister caught defending the indefensible, any more than I would want to be a tour guide caught defending the Senate.
    Documents reveal that Parliament Hill tour guide manuals use outdated Mulroney-era statistics to refer to the supposedly non-partisan Senate. The manual even recommends defending the two-party system. That is not very nice for the few Liberals left.
    Has anyone from the Minister of Canadian Heritage's office spoken to the National Capital Commission employees about this guide?
    No, Mr. Speaker, we have not spoken to them about this guide.

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, this morning Saulie Zajdel was arrested on five charges from fraud to corruption. This is the person best known as the failed Conservative candidate and then the paid shadow MP in Mount Royal where fraudulent Conservative calls took place, which you yourself called reprehensible, Mr. Speaker.
     This was a highly paid senior adviser to the heritage minister. Did the background check on this person not reveal any wrongdoing as alleged by the Montreal police today?
    Mr. Speaker, a background check in 2011 would not have revealed a charge that was levelled in 2013. That is not quite how the order of time works in the universe.
    If Mr. Zajdel or Mr. Applebaum are found to have broken the law in any way in their behaviour when they were involved in municipal politics, which is what is being referred to here, from 2006 to 2011, they should have the book thrown at them and they should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

41st General Election

    Mr. Speaker, election overspending is a serious offence, but Conservative MPs seem to think election laws are optional.
    Elections Canada has now said that there are three Conservative MPs who are not entitled to sit or vote in this place: the member for Selkirk—Interlake, the member for Saint Boniface and now the member for Essex. Last week the member for Peterborough tried to abuse his parliamentary privilege and interfere with an Elections Canada investigation in his riding.
    The law is clear. Why does the Conservative government refuse to enforce the Canada Elections Act?
    Mr. Speaker, these members of Parliament were duly elected. We expect they have the right to speak in defence of the filings they made and which Elections Canada has in the past accepted.
     The member across mentions their right to sit in the House of Commons. In fact, we all have the obligation to sit in the House of Commons. That is why we are paid. Unfortunately, her leader actually skipped out on his obligation to vote in this chamber in order to get paid a second time for a charitable appearance that all of us in the House would normally attend for free as a matter of our parliamentary duties. It is time he paid back the money.

  (1440)  

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister hand-picked both Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright. They are now under police investigation for a $90,000 deal that corrupted a sitting legislator. Another former chief of staff, Bruce Carson, is on trial for influence pedaling. Arthur Porter, the man the Prime Minister put in charge of national security, is in jail in Panama. Then there are Zajdel, Penashue and Brazeau and the list goes on.
    Were security checks not done on any of these people before the Prime Minister personally endorsed them, or did he just ignore the risk that his bad judgment would cause for Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, what security checks were done on Mac Harb before he was named to the Senate and took $231,000 from taxpayers? What background check was done on Mac Harb before the Liberal leader said that he was welcomed to come back to the Liberal Party even though he took $231,000?
     What background check was done by the leader of the Liberal Party on these charities that he took money from rather than give it to them? Did he have as a rider on all his contracts, that he would speak to them only if they paid him x thousands of dollars? When will the Liberal members come clear on their corruption and their pocketing of money from charities?

[Translation]

Bullying

    Mr. Speaker, this spring, people across the country were shocked by the death of Rehtaeh Parsons.
    This is one of countless cases where the Internet was used to bully someone. As is the case with far too many of our laws, the Criminal Code does not take into consideration the reality of new technologies.
    In April, we asked the Prime Minister what he planned to do about this. We are still waiting.
    When will the Conservatives finally fill the gaps in the Criminal Code?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is a tragic incident and our hearts certainly go out to the Parsons family. However, the hon. member may have missed the announcement by the Minister of Canadian Heritage about some of the efforts this government has made toward anti-bullying.
     We are working with the provinces and we will be reviewing the laws with respect to this. Canadians can count on this government to stand up for victims across the country and move forward on this issue.
    Mr. Speaker, we have heard what the Conservatives have said, and it is not enough. Rehtaeh's tragic death brought our country together, not just to mourn but to urgently look for ways to ensure these kinds of tragedies did not happen again. We all know that changes are necessary and the proper authorities need the tools to do their jobs.
    People who distribute intimate images without consent need to be held accountable. Today, I am introducing a private member's bill that would make the malicious distribution of intimate images without consent a crime.
    Will the minister work with us to ensure this bill is passed as soon as possible?
    Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear that a crime that happens on the Internet must still be considered a crime. We have brought forward legislation that would, for instance, require the Internet service providers to report incidents of child pornography. We have raised the age of consent and we have cracked down on individuals who bring this kind of pornography and child sexual abuse.
     I wish, for once, we could have received the support of the New Democrats. We would be in a much better position today, if we had received their support on any of these issues.

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, again today Canadians are condemning Conservative cuts to refugee health care. These changes hurt some of society's most vulnerable people. The changes have been confusing, have failed to save money and have downloaded refugee health care costs on to provinces, families and individuals.
     Canada was built on the belief that we would welcome strangers in need and take care of one another. When will the minister reverse these mean-spirited and short-sighted cuts?
    Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. The thousands of resettled refugees whom Canada welcomes every year, the largest number per capita in the world, all receive comprehensive federal health insurance. The bona fide asylum claimants who are demonstrated to be real refugees in need of our protection receive comprehensive federal health insurance until they qualify for provincial insurance.
     However, those people whose claims are rejected as being from fake or bogus asylum claimants no longer receive federal health insurance. They never should have in the first place because they are here illegally, are no longer welcome in Canada and we respectfully ask that they leave.

  (1445)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, only a Conservative minister devoid of feelings could think that children and pregnant women are abusing the health care system. Shame on him.
    The provinces, hospitals and health care professionals, who are already overburdened, are suffering the consequences of the transfer of responsibility for refugee health care from the federal level to the provinces.
    Will the Minister of Health listen to the provinces, hospitals and doctors and cancel these irresponsible cuts?
    Mr. Speaker, what is irresponsible is the NDP policy that would force Canadian taxpayers to pay the medical expenses of bogus asylum claimants, failed claimants and illegal migrants, people who have no right to be in Canada. If a person comes here as a visitor, student, worker or new permanent resident, then they have to pay their own medical expenses before becoming a permanent resident.
    Why does the NDP want to force taxpayers to pay the universal and supplemental medical expenses of illegal migrants? It makes no sense.

[English]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are increasingly concerned about high-risk individuals being released back into the community. While our government is taking strong action to reform laws in this area by empowering victims' groups, the Liberal leader empowers his own bank account by taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from key stakeholders and charities.
    Could the Minister of Justice please inform the House of the latest developments regarding the not criminally responsible reform act and the importance of supporting victims rights' groups?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that this important piece of legislation is back from committee and in the House of Commons.
    However, I am troubled that the Liberal leader has picked up speaking fees totalling at least $270,000 from mental health groups, crime prevention centres and victims' rights groups.
    I am proud of the fact that our government works tirelessly for victims. We work to keep our communities safe and we support non-profit groups. The Liberals, on the other hand, think these groups should be supporting them. That is the difference between our two parties.

[Translation]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, the F-35 procurement process has been badly botched. Senior officers in the Royal Canadian Air Force warned the government that the F-35s were not compatible with our air-to-air refuelling fleet. Despite the mismanagement of this file and all of the alarm bells, the Conservatives are still in love with the F-35s and refuse to put an end to this misadventure.
    Why do the Conservatives still refuse to hold an open and transparent bidding process?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the RCAF will look at options to deliver air-to-air refuelling capabilities as indicated in the KPMG report. It is the government's intention to maintain a strategic aerial refuelling capability no matter which fighter is chosen.
    The evaluation of options being conducted by the secretariat and the Air Force is currently looking at all fighter options and Canada's requirements. The government will inform Canadians once decisions are taken.
    Mr. Speaker, it has been a merry-go-round of ministers on this file, but the one constant has been Conservative mismanagement.
    We know that the F-35 is not compatible with our current air-to-air refuelling fleet, and it is in this context that the Canadian Armed Forces has warned the minister that air-to-air refuelling is “critical to the defence of Canada”.
    When and how is the government going to account for the need for a brand new refuelling fleet to accompany the purchase of the F-35?
    Mr. Speaker, I just stated the RCAF will look at options to deliver air-to-air refuelling capabilities. That has been indicated in the KPMG report. It is part of the government's options analysis, which is ongoing right now, and we will be maintaining a strategic aerial refuelling capability no matter which fighter is chosen.
    The government has a plan to replace Canada's aging CF-18 fighter fleet. The first annual costing report was released in December, and we will inform Canadians once these decisions are taken.

Labour

    Mr. Speaker, we know the PMO likes to have its dirty work done by backbenchers, and now we have had it confirmed that this is exactly how the unconstitutional union disclosure bill came to be. An access to information request revealed that the government asked the Canada Revenue Agency to provide language for the bill, hardly a normal procedure for a private member's bill.
    Will the Conservatives finally come clean and admit that this attack on workers came straight out of the PMO?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, public polling indicates that the overwhelming majority of Canadians, surtout les Québécois, support union financial disclosure. They support it because unions receive millions of dollars in tax benefits, and taxpayers deserve to know how those benefits are spent. As well, workers deserve to know how their forced dues are spent.
    The only ones who are opposed to it are the NDP members, because the NDP received at least $340,000 in illegal union money and it has something to hide.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, with Bill C-377, the Conservatives are going after unions the same way the IRS went after the Tea Party in the United States. The Canada Revenue Agency is trying to squeeze $72 million out of unions.
    The Minister of National Revenue continues to claim that she has not put a figure to the penalties, but an internal document from her agency proves the opposite. Why?
    Mr. Speaker, the vast majority of Quebeckers support this bill. According to Leger Marketing, more than 80% of Quebeckers are in favour of union transparency. They know that workers are required to pay high dues. They also know that the New Democrats received more than $300,000 in illegal union donations.
    The time has come for unions to be transparent.

[English]

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has been at the centre of several investigations involving a call on ECBC, one by the Public Service Commission and an ongoing one by the Ethics Commissioner involving John Lynn, with whom he is familiar.
    I can inform the House today that a third investigation has now been initiated surrounding ECBC. It is related to the hiring of people right out of the office of the Minister of National Defence, this one by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner out of concern for potential gross mismanagement at ECBC.
    Who will be accountable for all this? Is it the current Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the former minister for ACOA or the Minister of National Defence?
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak to any details of any ongoing investigation, but as soon as we became aware of any allegations, I directed ACOA officials to refer the matter to the Ethics Commissioner.
    We expect that ECBC will conduct their business with integrity, accountability and respect for Canadian taxpayers. I can say that the proper process is in progress to deal with these issues, and they will be addressed in due course.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, I hope the integrity commissioner's report is not whitewashed like the last one.
    The member for York Centre lists the Economic Club of Canada as a source of significant income for him, which he continues to receive in addition to his salary as a member of Parliament.
    Could the government disclose how many times federal cabinet ministers have appeared at the Economic Club of Canada to the profit of the member for York Centre since the May 2011 election campaign, and could it also tell the House how the rate of attendance of these cabinet ministers compares to two years prior to the May 2011 election campaign?
    I have not spoken at many events, Mr. Speaker, but certainly most of the charitable events I speak at benefit charities, unlike the case with the leader of the Liberal Party.
    Further to this list, he took $7,500 from the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. He took $20,000 from the Learning Partnership, which encourages students to stay in school, and $20,000 from the Canadian Mental Health Association.
    When we speak at a charitable event, we should always give to the charity, not take from the charity. What is it about the Liberals that they do not understand?
    Public service is about supporting charity, supporting our constituents and supporting the public, not ripping them off. Why do they not get it?

  (1455)  

[Translation]

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, under this government it is apparently easier to give someone a job in the Senate than to provide employment to young people.
    Without a targeted plan to create quality jobs, the Conservatives are mortgaging the future of an entire generation, namely mine. This generation's wage gap and the difficulty young people are having in finding a job are in themselves extremely disturbing. The government should actually be helping young Canadians lead Canada into the 21st century.
    When will the Conservatives come up with a real action plan and a real job plan for young Canadians?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the numbers speak for themselves: 54,400 new jobs for young Canadians.
    I urge the member opposite to read the budget and look at all the wonderful things that are being done to create jobs and opportunities for training for young Canadians, whether that be 5,000 paid internships, the Canada job grant or opportunities with pathways to education. These are all great things for young Canadians.
    We are getting the job done. We encourage members opposite to get on board.

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages keeps insisting that the charges related to Saulie Zajdel's are only related to his time as a municipal councillor.
    How does he know that none of these potentially illegal activities happened while he was in the minister's office? Does the minister really have no concerns about fraud, corruption or breach of trust that may have occurred while Mr. Zajdel was working in his office?
    Why is he dismissing these concerns so casually?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not dismissing the concerns, but that is the scope of the mandate of the investigation. It is 2006 to 2011, because the police said so this morning. He does not have to believe me, but he might want to believe the Montreal police. That is the scope of the investigation mandate.
    Again, if Mr. Zajdel, Mr. Applebaum or anybody else broke the law, they should have the book thrown at them and be held accountable, because it is what taxpayers expect. If anybody steals money, they should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is blessed to have the third-largest deposits of oil on the planet. Oil is a vital energy resource, providing one-third of global energy needs.
    Canadian oil production is creating jobs and economic growth across Canada, and our government is currently fighting for Canadian jobs overseas by ensuring that Canada has access to markets.
    To that end, I wonder if the Minister of Natural Resources can update the House on the lastest problems posed by the European fuel quality directive.
    Mr. Speaker, the European fuel quality directive is non-scientific, discriminates against Canada, discourages transparency, undermines European competitiveness and will not achieve its environmental objective, yet the NDP deputy leader told reporters it was a perfectly reasonable way to set regulations.
    This bizarre statement is the latest attack by the NDP on Canada's reputation and economic prospects in a foreign country. It is yet another instance that the NDP does not know when to stop.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the United Nations recently released its horrific report on death, destruction and devastation in Syria: 93,000 dead, 5,000 killed monthly, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed daily, 4.5 million displaced internally and 7,000 new refugees each day.
    While the government has increased aid to refugees in Jordan, will it increase aid to internally displaced persons in Syria, facilitate family reunification and resettlement for Syrian refugees, join the Swiss-led initiative to bring war criminals to justice and, finally, affirm and implement the responsibility to protect doctrine?
    Mr. Speaker, our government condemns the actions of Assad and his thugs. Canada commends Syria's neighbours for their generosity in welcoming those seeking safety within their borders. Our government has committed additional humanitarian assistance for people affected by the Syrian crisis, and we remain committed to saving lives and addressing the needs of those affected by the Syrian crisis both inside and outside of Syria.

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, another cloud of toxic dust engulfed people in the Quebec City area this weekend.
    The province is concerned, Quebec City is concerned and hundreds of worried citizens have already signed the NDP's petition. Arrimage du St-Laurent, a stevedoring company, has proposed an action plan that has been addressed by all levels of government, except of course the one responsible for the port.
    What does the Minister of Transport, or his Environment colleague, think of Arrimage du St-Laurent's plan?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Port of Quebec is an independent port authority and is responsible for managing its own operations and activities.
    That being said, the port has invested $12 million in preventive measures to remedy the situation. We will continue working with the people in the area and we will continue monitoring the situation very closely.

[English]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, last week the leader of the NDP was confused. When he arrived on Parliament Hill, he must have thought that he had arrived at the Montreal Grand Prix. He admitted that he sped through numerous stop signs on his way across the parliamentary precinct, but rather than being greeted at the winner's circle, he was met by an RCMP member who had been pursuing him. Rather than showing contrition for his reckless acts, he berated the female officer, saying he would get her in a lot of trouble.
    Could the Minister of Public Safety tell the House the importance of security on Parliament Hill?
    Mr. Speaker, contrary to the suggestion of the NDP member for Timmins—James Bay that female RCMP officers are meter maids, our Conservative government thanks all RCMP members for their service.
    Thousands of tourists, including many children, pass through Parliament Hill every week. Last week, the conduct of the NDP leader could have put them at risk. Angry outbursts, intimidation and seeking special treatment are no way to treat the women and men who ensure our safety here on Parliament Hill.

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, they should be dealing with their own scandals instead of concerning themselves with someone else's.
    The Navigable Waters Protection Act—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.
    Mr. Speaker, the Navigable Waters Protection Act used to be held up as a model of environmental protection. Any project that could restrict Canadians' right to navigate their country's lakes and rivers had to undergo an environmental assessment, as required by the act. The Conservatives did away with that protection and, instead of acknowledging their error and reversing their decision, they decided to attack the NDP, simply because we want to restore that protection, which is crucial for the environment.
    Why are the Conservatives not listening to the thousands of Canadians who have signed our petition and are calling for this protection to be restored?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should read the Navigable Waters Protection Act. She would know that it was never an environmental protection law. There are environmental laws that protect the environment and the habitats of fish and other organisms, but the Navigable Waters Protection Act is not one of those laws.
    It was a law about navigation. It was a law that needed to be updated, and we did that.

Intergovernmental Relations

    Mr. Speaker, no one is buying the arguments used by the government to justify the decision to unilaterally impose a new job training program. In a letter sent just last Thursday, Quebec's minister of employment and social solidarity again pointed out to her federal counterpart that there is a consensus in Quebec on the issue.
    Employees, employers and trainers, who are members of Quebec's labour market partners commission, all agree that Quebec must retain control over training and are asking for the agreements to be renewed with the existing terms and conditions.
    Will the government finally respect Quebec's approach to labour training and renew the agreements as they stand?
    Mr. Speaker, we want to work with the provinces in order to ensure that the training flows from the government to employers and available workers. There are too many vacant jobs in Canada because employers cannot find workers with the right skills.

  (1505)  

[English]

    We are focused on creating jobs for Canadians and on providing them with the training they need to acquire those jobs. I encourage the opposition to get on board.

[Translation]

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, the situation in Syria is catastrophic. While the fiercest battles have raged in recent months, the Canadian government has even recognized the use of chemical warfare against the Syrian people. Without any help from the government, I identified 17 Canadian children who are caught up in this hell and cannot leave Syria without their immediate family—father, mother, sister or brother—who do not have Canadian citizenship. I have been forwarding this information to the minister for the past week, but he has done nothing about it.
    I gave him this information again today. What does he plan to do? We are talking about the lives of 17 Canadian children.
    Mr. Speaker, as I have explained to the hon. member, my office receives several thousand claims a month. I personally receive over 100 immigration files a week. I am sorry, but I am not a fast-food joint, and I cannot give answers to such complex cases in just a few hours.
    That being said, I am happy to say that we have nearly completed processing all of the family reunification applications for people in Syria who were already in our system.

[English]

    That concludes question period for today.
    The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer is rising.

[Translation]

Points of Order

Statements by Members  

    Mr. Speaker, in my statement earlier today, I talked about Sylvain Desrochers' retirement.
    I would like to add that Daniel Cardinal will also be retiring at the end of this session.
    On behalf of all of my colleagues, I would like to wish him a very happy retirement and congratulate him on the commitment he has shown over the years.
    Happy retirement, Daniel.

[English]

    Of course, on behalf of the Deputy Speaker and the Assistant Deputy Speakers, I too would like to pay tribute to our page supervisors, Daniel and Sylvain.
    It has been a pleasure working with them in my time in the Chair, and I am sure previous speakers would say the same thing; they were very ably and professionally served by two members of the team who had a real sense of dedication to this institution.

[Translation]

    Daniel and Sylvain, we wish you both a happy retirement. Congratulations.

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Committees of the House

Public Accounts  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts in relation to its study of chapter 6, “Transfer Payments to the Aerospace Sector—Industry Canada”, of the 2012 fall report of the Auditor General of Canada.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of the Commons, the committee requests the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

[Translation]

Finance  

    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if you would just allow me, this bill was done in a very quick period. I would like to thank all three political parties in that committee, all members of that committee, for coming together in a very quick period. I would also like to thank all committee staff, especially our clerk, Christine, for all her efforts in putting this together very quickly.

  (1510)  

Constitution Compliance Review Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce the constitution compliance review act, legislation that would require, for the first time, constitutional examination of all bills introduced in Parliament, the tabling of a report of constitutional compliance and an independent non-partisan review and compliance mechanism.
    It is imperative that parliamentarians be informed of the constitutionality of bills, given our obligation to uphold the Constitution and to oversee the public purse. This bill would thus seek to improve transparency in the parliamentary process by ensuring that all parliamentarians are given an independent analysis of the constitutionality of all bills, regardless of whether they are introduced by the government or opposition, in the House or in the Senate.

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

Navigable Waters Protection Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, the importance of protecting our natural resources is something I value. I feel the need for it every time I take a moment to stop and appreciate all the beauty my community of Surrey has to offer. That is why I applaud the initiative of the member for Halifax to ensure the protection of lakes and rivers across our great country. It is in this spirit of protection that I am proud to introduce this private member's bill to ensure the protection of Bear Creek, a special and very important creek located in Surrey.
    Bear Creek is both meaningful and valuable to the people of Surrey, and it is vital that we protect it. The creek is unique, because it provides spawning and rearing habitat for five species of salmon and trout as well as a variety of wildlife.
    If people visit the stream in mid-November, they may be fortunate enough to see spawning salmon returning from their long journey from the Pacific Ocean. In one season over 900 spawning chum salmon have been observed at Bear Creek.
    I believe that protecting the environment is important to the people of Canada, as demonstrated in my riding of Surrey North. It is my pleasure to introduce this bill and to work hard to keep Bear Creek a protected creek.

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

[Translation]

Promotion of Local Foods Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, this is the first bill I am introducing in the House. It is about promoting local foods.
    This bill will raise awareness of the work that producers in our regions do and improve access to high-quality, fresh products. It will reduce transportation and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
    The bill recommends developing a pan-Canadian local foods strategy. It directs the minister of agriculture to meet with his or her provincial counterparts to develop a definition of what constitutes a local food, to create a forum for sharing best practices, to consult with producers and distributors and to raise awareness of the strategy.
    The bill also suggests a local foods procurement policy for federal institutions. The federal government would set an example and enable all of our producers to sell their products to federal institutions.
    I hope that all members of the House will be able to vote in favour of this bill to recognize the work of our local producers. They make a tremendous contribution to regional economies and Canada's economy as a whole.
    I would like to thank everyone who participated in consultations over the past year. I would especially like to thank my assistant, Isabelle Bourassa.

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

  (1515)  

[English]

Criminal Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and table this very important piece of legislation today. I thank my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, for agreeing to second the bill.
    In the constituency I represent, the tragic death a short time ago of Rehtaeh Parsons led to people across the country, and not just across the country, mourning her death and the circumstances around her death. At the same time, people began to urgently ask what they could do to make sure this type of situation or incident was not allowed to happen again.
    People in Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia, municipalities, school boards and provinces throughout the country have been working towards developing strategies to make sure this type of event does not happen again.
     A cyberbullying task force in Nova Scotia has been working away at developing protocols and standards of contact for identifying who needs to accept responsibility, whether it be in schools, health care or justice.
    One thing identified as a gap was the responsibility of the federal government. It is a matter of making sure that the Criminal Code of Canada is brought up to current times to reflect the circumstances of what is happening on the Internet. That is what this bill is intended to do. It is to recognize that there is a gap and that we need to take action to make sure there are consequences for this type of behaviour.

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

Petitions

Genetically Modified Alfalfa  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present eight petitions that call upon Parliament to impose a moratorium on the release of genetically modified alfalfa in order to allow a proper review of the impact on farmers in Canada.

Asbestos  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by tens of thousands of Canadians who call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. More Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial and occupational causes combined.
     The petitioners call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms, institute a testing and removal program for property owners and stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

Emerald Ash Borer  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition on behalf of my constituents from the town of Hampstead calling upon the government to increase co-operation with and provide financial compensation to Canadian municipalities in order to combat and prevent the devastating economic and environmental effects of the emerald ash borer. The ash borer has proved to be highly destructive. Since its arrival, it has killed millions of ash trees with its significant impact on both the local and national economy and ecology.
    I share the concerns of my constituents who understand the ruination that has resulted elsewhere to both urban and major wooded regions of the country and continent. Complete destruction of the affected resources typically results within six years of infestation, making the need for action in this regard of particular urgency to both my constituents and the region.
     As such, the petitioners call for both financial compensation from an increased coordination with the federal government to combat this threat.
    Order, please. I see quite a number of members rising who wish to introduce petitions so I will ask members to be very brief in their explanation of the petitions they present.
    The hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia.

  (1520)  

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by a number of citizens from my riding.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to instruct Canada Post to halt its plan to downsize and downgrade public post offices and consult with the public and others to improve the Canada postal service charter by developing a better process for making changes to the retail and delivery network.

[Translation]

Humanitarian Aid  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition signed by 681 people who are calling on Canada to keep its promise to give 0.7% of its GDP in humanitarian aid. The people who signed the petition come from across Quebec.

[English]

Public Safety  

    Mr. Speaker, today I present three petitions regarding steps to end violence. The Somali Canadian community left a war-torn community to come to our peaceful country only to have many of their children die at the hand of violence. Almost 50 young Somali Canadian males have been killed in Ontario and Alberta since 2006. In 2012, 6 of 33 Toronto shooting homicides befell Somali Canadian men.
    The petitioners call upon the government to investigate these deaths through the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, develop federal-provincial job programs, particularly with the RCMP, and examine witness protection.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, I stand on behalf of Calgarians and Albertans on a petition which states that as Canada is a nation that has long promoted the right of equal protection and equal benefit of the law, preventing the birth of baby girls through sex-selective abortions is an affront to the dignity and equality of women and girls. Sex-selection abortions have denied millions of girls in Canada and throughout the world the chance to be born merely because they are girls.
     The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to condemn discrimination against girls through sex-selective abortion and prevent sex-selective abortion from being carried out in Canada.
    I hear these cries for baby girls loud and clear.

Shark Finning  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from thousands of Canadians who ask that measures must be taken to stop the global practice of shark finning and to ensure the responsible conservation and management of sharks.
     The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to immediately legislate a ban on the importation of shark fins to Canada.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, Canada Post continues to close post offices, including in historic villages on the Island of Montreal. In particular, it recently closed the Pointe-Claire post office in the village of Pointe-Claire. It now has plans to close the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue post office in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, one of the oldest communities in Canada.
    I have petitions from people who object to the closing of the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue post office and also to the two post offices a little further east, namely in Snowdon and in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to present a petition signed by dozens of local residents who are outraged by the unnecessary death of a young woman killed by a drunk driver.
    The petitioners call upon Parliament to enact tougher laws, including mandatory sentencing, for those persons convicted of impaired driving causing death. They also ask that the offence of “impaired driving causing death” be redefined as “vehicular manslaughter”.

[Translation]

Crown Corporations  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today to present a petition signed by nearly 800 people who are complaining about the interference in collective bargaining that would arise from Bill C-60. The petitioners are seeking to preserve the autonomy of these crown corporations.

[English]

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions.
    The first petition 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, called “Families for Justice”, wants to see tougher laws and the implementation of new mandatory minimum sentencing for those persons found guilty of impaired driving causing death.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition states that citizens are very concerned that sex selection is happening in Canada.
     The petitioners reveal a CBC article saying that ultrasounds are being used to tell the sex of a unborn children so expecting parents can terminate the pregnancy if it is a girl. Canadians are outraged, and they want Parliament to condemn this practice.

  (1525)  

Cluster Munitions  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by about 175 people from southern Ontario who are concerned about the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
     The petitioners believe that Bill S-10 contains exceptions which run counter to the object and purpose of that treaty. They ask Parliament to amend Bill S-10 to remove those exceptions, to include an explicit prohibition on investment in cluster munition production and to add mention of the positive obligations Canada assumes by signing the convention.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Questions Nos. 1345, 1347, 1348, 1350, 1352, 1355, 1356 and 1357.

[Text]

Question No. 1345--
Ms. Anne Minh-Thu Quach:
     With regard to Budget 2012: (a) how many full-time equivalent (FTE) positions has Parks Canada eliminated of the approximately 500 FTEs that existed in the Parks Canada Service Centers before the remaining positions were transferred to other parts of the Parks Canada organization; (b) how many of the FTE reductions have been charged against the Strategic and Operating Review reductions announced in Budget 2012; (c) if Budget 2012 reductions included vacant positions, what are the number, title, group and level of each of the positions that existed in Parks Canada Service Centers before reductions were announced or implemented; (d) what is the number, title, group and level of each of the positions that have been eliminated; and (e) what is the number, title, group and level of those positions that were transferred to other Parks Canada organizational units as a result of elimination of the Service Centers?
Hon. Peter Kent (Minister of the Environment, CPC):
     Mr. Speaker, as announced in budget 2012, Parks Canada is consolidating and streamlining its service centres and national office as part of its efforts to help reduce the federal deficit. These efforts will improve internal efficiencies and reduce costs while allowing Parks Canada to continue to respect its core mandate and offer Canadians the quality services they expect. In addition to budget 2012, Parks Canada has also had to absorb increases to salaries and inflationary operational costs announced in budget 2010.
    Parks Canada sites play a key economic development role in more than 400 communities across the country. National parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites are entering another exciting season and are looking forward to welcoming visitors from across the country and from around the world with a full complement of services to discover these special places at their best.
    Parks Canada continues to tell the stories that are important to our national identity, manage species at risk, provide meaningful experiences that promote an understanding and appreciation of Canada and support communities through tourism, as it has done for the last 100 years.
Question No. 1347--
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
     With regard to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the Canadian Forces (CF), what is the number of CF members, both Regular and Reserves, which have been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD during calendar years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012, broken down by rank and base of affectation?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the most accurate information on post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries is based on a recent study that examined the cumulative incidence of these illnesses attributable to deployment in Afghanistan. The study group included all Canadian Armed Forces members enrolled in the regular or primary reserve forces who returned from deployment of any duration in support of the mission in Afghanistan between October 1, 2001, and December 31, 2008. The Canadian Armed Forces identified 30,518 such personnel and examined the medical records of a random sample group of 2,045 personnel. Information available based on this recent study by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces indicates that 8% of the entire cohort was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder related to Afghanistan. As indicated above, this is based on a sample of Canadian Armed Forces members who deployed in Afghanistan and not a representation of the overall situation in the CAF as a whole.
    The Canadian Armed Forces are currently conducting studies to further develop their understanding of the impact of operational stress injuries on their members, including those who deployed to Afghanistan, and on mental health among Canadian Armed Forces members more generally. These studies are ongoing and their results are not yet available.
Question No. 1348--
Hon. Wayne Easter:
     With regard to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, since August 1, 2012, how many access to information requests have been received and of those, how many (i) were completed within 30 days, (ii) were extended for 30 days, (iii) were extended for 60 days, (iv) were extended for 90 days, (v) were extended for more than 90 days, (vi) missed the deadline to provide the requested information?
Hon. Gerry Ritz (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, there were 286 access to information requests received since August 1, 2012. Please note that some requests have been extended for periods other than 30, 60 or 90 days. Others are still open or have not missed the deadline, so these numbers may not be captured in responses (i) through (vi). In addition, some requests that may have been extended by 30, 60 and 90 days may have also missed the deadline, so these would be reflected twice in the metrics.
    Of the 286 access to information requests received, with respect to (i), 104 were completed within 30 days. With respect to (ii), two requests were extended for 30 days; this includes a total of 1125 pages released. With respect to (iii), 66 requests were extended for 60 days; this includes a total of 5648 pages released. With respect to (iv), 13 requests were extended for 90 days; this includes a total of 6494 pages released. With respect to (v), 20 requests were extended for more than 90 days; this includes a total of 50 717 pages released. With respect to (vi), 85 requests missed the deadlines, this could be for a number of reasons, including the volume and complexity of the requests, a requirement to conduct external consultations and the overall workload.
Question No. 1350--
Hon. Wayne Easter:
    With regard to the Department of National Defence (DND), what are the details of all contracts for consulting services or advice purchased by the department during fiscal years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, including the name of the consultant, the nature of their services, their location, the amount paid, the file or reference number of the contracts, the file or reference number of any reports prepared by the consultant, and was the consultant a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces or a former civil servant within DND?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
     Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces do not possess a central database containing all the contract data requested in this question. The authority to issue contracts resides with more than 20 organizations within the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, each of which retains the contracts that it has issued. A manual search of the estimated several thousand contract records from 2010-11 and 2011-12 would be the only method to obtain the requested detailed information. Information regarding whether a consultant was a former civil servant within the Department of National Defence or a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces is in many cases not readily available even through a manual contract search, and would require some organizations to contact the consulting companies directly. It is estimated that the research required to respond to this question could take at least six months of full-time work for several officials. Therefore, a response cannot reasonably be produced for this question. However, in accordance with the Treasury Board Secretariat’s policy on contracting with former public servants, the Department of National Defence is undertaking efforts to improve, as expeditiously as possible, the data integrity of the system in place to track contracts with former public servants.
Question No. 1352--
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
     With regard to the cost of post-secondary education paid for by the Department of National Defence, for all currently serving Deputy Judge-Advocate Generals: (a) what is the date of their nominations to the position of Deputy Judge-Advocate General; and (b) what are the direct and indirect costs paid for, including but not limited to (i) allowances of all types, (ii) travel and moving expenses for them and their families, (iii) salaries, (iv) reimbursement of the costs for academic books and materials, (v) the degrees obtained, (vi) tuition and academic fees?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), there are currently five serving Deputy Judge Advocates General in the regular force. To protect their privacy, their names were not included in the response. The dates of nomination for these Deputy Judge Advocates General were as follows: Deputy Judge Advocate General 1: September 4, 2009; Deputy Judge Advocate General 2: July 1, 2011; Deputy Judge Advocate General 3: August 2, 2005; Deputy Judge Advocate General 4: May 4, 2012; Deputy Judge Advocate General 5: August 13, 2010.
    With regard to (b), these responses do not include post-secondary education provided at the Royal Military Colleges in Saint Jean and Kingston, as the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces own these institutions and do not reimburse any of the costs associated with the degrees obtained there.
    With regard to (b)(i), information concerning allowances could not be generated within the allocated time.
    With regard to (b)(ii), information concerning travel and moving expenses could not be generated within the allocated time.
    With regard to Deputy Judge Advocate General 1, the salary range is $62,635 - $87,710; reimbursement of the costs for academic books and materials was $435; degree obtained was Master of Laws, LL.M., in legislative drafting, 1998; tuition and academic fees were $6,074.
    With regard to Deputy Judge Advocate General 2, the salary range was $42,096 - $55,632; costs for academic books and materials were included in tuition and academic fees; degree obtained was Bachelor of Laws, LL.B., 1994; tuition and academic fees were $12,148. With regard to Deputy Judge Advocate General 2 as well, the salary range is $134,484 - $142,920; reimbursement of the costs for academic books and materials was $2,827; degree obtained was Master of Law, LL.M., in international law, 2007; tuition and academic fees were $26,938.
    With regard to Deputy Judge Advocate General 3, salary range was $42,096 - $55,632; information on costs for reimbursement of academic books and materials could not be generated within the allocated time; degree obtained was Bachelor of Law, LL.B., 1993; information on tuition and academic fees could not be generated within the allocated time. With regard to Deputy Judge Advocate General 3 as well, salary range is $131,460 - $139,704; reimbursement of the costs for academic books and materials was $2,471; degree obtained was Master of Law, LL.M., in air and space Law, 2006; tuition and academic fees were $8,010.
    With regard to Deputy Judge Advocate General 4, the question is not applicable.
    With regard to Deputy Judge Advocate General 5, salary range is $138,552 - $147,240; reimbursement of the costs for academic books and materials was $2,024; degree obtained was Master of Law, LL.M., in international law, 2009; tuition and academic fees were $50,311.
Question No. 1355--
Hon. John McKay:
     With regard to the latest edition of the Department of National Defence’s Investment Plan, what is contained within the current list of investments, including (i) description of the investment, (ii) expected costs, (iii) timeline for completion, (iv) current status of each investment?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the latest edition of the Department of National Defence’s investment plan is considered cabinet confidence. Neither the document nor extracts from it will be released.
     Detailed information on defence investments has been reported in reports on plans and priorities and departmental performance reports, which can be found at the following links: for the report on plans and priorities 2013-14, http://www.vcds.forces.gc.ca/sites/internet-eng.aspx?page=15184; for the departmental performance report 2011-12, http://www.vcds-vcemd.forces.gc.ca/sites/internet-eng.aspx?page=14493.
Question No. 1356--
Hon. John McKay:
     With regard to the ex gratia payments to Canadian Forces members in relation to the Home Equity Assistance (HEA) provisions: (a) how many members received a payment; (b) what is the rank of each recipient; and (c) what is the date and amount for each ex gratia payment that was made by the Department of Justice, Office of the Department of National Defence Canadian Forces Legal Authority, concerning HEA provisions, as governed by the Department of National Defence HEA, Integrated Relocation Program (CF IRP), between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2013?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces searched their records and found no instances of ex gratia payments to Canadian Armed Forces members in relation to the home equity assistance provisions between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2013.
Question No. 1357--
Hon. John McKay:
     With regard to the Canadian Forces Medical Service and the treatment of ill and injured Canadian Forces personnel, between 2000-2012, what is: (a) the total number of members who were prescribed opioid narcotics for pain management; (b) the total amount spent on opioid narcotic drugs during this time; (c) the total number of Canadian Forces members treated for opioid narcotic drug abuse; (d) the number of Canadian Forces members that have been released from the military due to opioid narcotic drug abuse; and (e) which treatment methods are used to aid in the recovery of Canadian Forces members with opioid narcotic drug addiction?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), (b) and (c), the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces do not maintain a central database to track information related to the prescription of opioid drugs to Canadian Armed Forces members. It is not possible to produce a response in the time available, as this would require a manual search of medical files of all Canadian Armed Forces members who have served during the time period.
     With regard to (d), Canadian Armed Forces personnel are not released for drug abuse. Personnel may be released as a result of a violation of the Canadian Forces drug control program, and this may involve the use of opiates. Between 2000 and 2012, eight members were released in relation to opiates under the Canadian Forces drug control program.
    With regard to (e), all Canadian Armed Forces members diagnosed with substance abuse problems will be assessed for any underlying medical conditions, such as chronic pain, etc., and offered the appropriate level of treatment, including the opportunity to undergo a residential treatment program for substance abuse.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, furthermore, if Questions Nos. 1343, 1344, 1349, 1351, 1353 and 1354 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 1343--
Mr. Matthew Dubé:
     With regard to the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund, since its creation: (a) what is the total amount awarded by all regional development agencies; (b) for each agency, how many applications were received and, of that number, how many applications were refused; (c) what was the selection criteria; and (d) for each agency, how many projects were funded and, for each project funded or refused by the Fund, what was the type of community infrastructure (based on the definitions of eligible infrastructure), the amount awarded or refused and the name and place (city, province) of the applicant organization?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1344--
Mr. Matthew Dubé:
     With regard to the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit: (a) how much has this credit cost the government for each fiscal year since its introduction; and (b) how many Canadians have claimed this tax credit by household type, by income bracket and by province?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1349--
Hon. Wayne Easter:
     With regard to the Canadian Armed Forces, in each year since 2006 inclusive, what has been the number of: (a) harassment complaints other than that of a sexual nature; (b) sexual harassment complaints; and (c) harassment investigations, broken down by the following locations (i) Department of National Defence (DND)/Canadian Forces (CF) establishments located in the National Capital Region, including NDHQ, (ii) Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Halifax, (iii) CFB Cornwallis, (iv) CFB Gagetown, (v) CFB Valcartier, (vi) CFB Kingston (not including the Royal Military College), (vii) CFB Petawawa, (viii) CFB Borden, (ix) CFB Shilo, (x) CFB Edmonton, (xi) CFB Comox, (xii) CFB Esquimalt, (xiii) Royal Military College (Kingston), (xiv) Royal Military College (St-Jean)?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1351--
Hon. Wayne Easter:
    With regard to the Department of National Defence (DND), what is the detailed breakdown of: (a) Canadian Armed Forces executives by rank (General, Lieutenant-General, Major-General and Brigadier-General); and (b) DND executives by classification (DM-4, DM-3, DM-2, DM-1, EX-5, EX-4, EX-3, EX-2 and EX-1), on December 31, 2005 and December 31, 2012?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1353--
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux:
     With regard to the Department of National Defence (DND): (a) what are the ranks of each Canadian Armed Forces member and classification of each DND employee who, on December 31, 2012, attended post-graduate training at public expense at a Canadian or international educational institution; and (b) for each, what is (i) the actual yearly salary of the student, (ii) the program of study, (iii) the number of semesters of study paid for by the government since the start of their career, (iv) all the institutions attended, (v) the total cost of tuition paid with respect to the student’s training, (vi) whether relocation costs were paid with respect to the training and the amount of those costs, (vii) any other associated costs?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1354--
Mr. Yvon Godin:
     With regard to the Centre of Excellence for Evaluation (CEE) of the Treasury Board Secretariat: (a) why is the 2012 Annual Report on the Health of the Evaluation Function not available online; (b) why are official languages not included in the 2011 Annual Report on the Health of the Evaluation Function; (c) how are official languages integrated into the work of the CEE; (d) does the CEE work closely with the Official Languages Centre of Excellence and, if so, how; (e) how are official languages integrated into the evaluation function as regards expenditure management in the public service as a whole; (f) why are official languages not included in the Leadership Competencies for Federal Heads of Evaluation; (g) why are official languages not included in the Policy on Evaluation; (h) how does the CEE ensure that federal institutions have access to external evaluators with official languages experience when necessary; (i) how many CEE employees work on files with an official languages component; (j) does the Framework for Professional Development for Evaluators have an official languages component and, if so, what is it; (k) why has the Audit and Evaluation Database been offline for a number of weeks, and when will it be working again; and (l) how does the CEE ensure that the tools it provides on its website take into account its official languages obligations?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

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

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Canadian Museum of History Act

Bill C-49—Time Allocation Motion  

    That, 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, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the bill and five hours shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said bill; and
    That, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration of the report stage and at the expiry of the five hours provided for the third 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 stages of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 67(1) there will now be a 30-minute question period.
    The hon. member for York South—Weston.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak. I have lost count now as to the number of closure motions the government has put forward to limit debate, but it is clear the members opposite have virtually no regard for what parliamentary democracy is all about. We are now rushing through debate and consideration of every bill that comes before the House, yet when it comes to the democratic process itself, the government has failed to provide the bill that it has promised for I do not know how many months on reforming the democratic system to allow Elections Canada to have more oversight over spending and how elections themselves are conducted.
    The government is only interested in pursuing its agenda in a rapid-fire way, in a way that undermines the very ability of Parliament to study and debate matters, while at the same time refusing to put forward the changes to the elections process that it has promised over and over again. We are at the point where we honestly do not believe the legislation will ever come forward.
    Could the government tell us when the reforms to the elections process will be coming?
    Mr. Speaker, very clearly the actions that were taken to move forward with Bill C-49 could not have had better testimony than the intervention from the member opposite. Even in this context of a 30-minute question and answer period, he wants to talk about another bill. He does not even want to talk about this legislation.
    We are very pleased to have this legislation move forward. It is what we promised to do. On October 12, we tabled Bill C-49, the legislation to create the new Canadian museum of history. Now, more than eight months later, we have had time to debate and discuss this matter. We have had it through all stages of Parliament. We had a thorough conversation about this at the legislative committee process. Amendments were considered and debated. Witnesses have come forward. This has been debated in the media widely.
     This legislation has had thorough discussion and debate. We are pleased to see it now move forward so we can have a new Canadian museum of history that will serve all Canadians for generations to come.

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is some sort of record, today. How can the government beat its own record? I guess it has until June 21 to break today's record number of time allocation motions.
    An hon. member: I think it will be broken today.
    Mrs. Sadia Groguhé: Indeed, it might be today.
    We feel that this is a major challenge to our democracy. Whether we are here in the House or at committee, when a time allocation motion is moved, it challenges our democracy, which is taking a beating. At least, that is what the official opposition and Canadians think.
    We are once again being gagged by a government exerting unacceptable but continual control over us. We, as parliamentarians from the government side or from the official opposition, are here to do our work, to represent Canadians and, above all, to debate the issues that are important to them.
    Canadians across the country are not the only ones who feel this way. People around the world are taking note of this. We are really concerned and frustrated that another gag order is being imposed with regard to this bill.
    Mr. Speaker, I would just like to tell my colleague that we are extremely proud of this bill and of our government's new initiative to better support our knowledge of Canada's history in every region of the country.
    Marie Lalonde, Executive Director of the Ontario Museum Association, supports this bill. She also supports the process to encourage MPs to vote for and pass this bill before Canada's 150th birthday in 2017. Ms. Lalonde stated that:
    [I]n partnership with this new museum, local museums will be able to offer their visitors distinctive exhibits and initiatives that would otherwise not be available.
    In addition, Yves Fortier, a member of the Historica-Dominion Institute's board of directors, said that, “the Historica-Dominion Institute enthusiastically supports the creation of the Canadian Museum of History”.
    We are very proud of our process because we worked with members of the opposition prior to introducing the bill. We launched respectful discussions in the House. In addition, a great deal of input was heard in committee.
    However, it is very clear that, after more than eight months of work on this issue, eight months of considering this bill and eight months of debate, it is time to proceed with the bill and pass it so the new Canadian Museum of History can be created.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I guess because the House leader is not here or does not have the courage to address the time allocation motion, here we are, once again. I think we are in the fifties of time allocation in the House. If we add committees, we are probably in the hundreds or maybe thousands of time allocation that the government has been imposing--

  (1535)  

    Order, please.
     I would point out to members that it is improper to note whether someone is not present.
    The hon. member.
    Mr. Speaker, I just meant that out of respect, not out disrespect for the minister, because I know he will be answering the question.
    Do we really need time allocation on this bill? It is not controversial. There are some aspects of the bill that need to be discussed. I know there were some amendments put before committee. However, none of the amendments were accepted.
     The minister is more of a conciliatory type individual. From his point of view, would it not have been better if we had just sat down, come to some kind of agreement, accepted some amendments and decided that maybe we did not need to have time allocation on the bill?
    I am asking the minister if that is possible.
    Mr. Speaker, I did indeed try to reach out to opposition members in this House, all parties, to try to gauge their support for this project itself. I approached the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, and showed him the language in the legislation before we tabled it in Parliament; equally with the NDP; as well I extended it to the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who is the leader of the Green Party and showed her the legislation of what we had in mind. We consulted with the opposition before we tabled the bill. We invited them to support this legislation. It has broad-based support, not non-ideological, I can tell members, but broad-based support across this country, from historic institutions, museums, galleries, heritage organizations and communities all across the country that are supporting this initiative.
    I did my best to reach out to the opposition, to invite them to support this legislation before we tabled it, showing them that this was a genuine effort to try to build a great national institution that would be national in consequence, not just a beautiful institution here in the national capital, but one that would benefit everybody. That is why we have broad-based support.
    The Liberal Party, to its credit, did show some openness in the early days. Unfortunately, it backed away from that, yet we still have the support of the leader of the Green Party. We have the support of the member from Thunder Bay who was elected as a New Democrat. We have support from individual Canadians. Provincial governments, NDP, Conservative and Liberal, have all come out and openly supported this legislation and the creation of this museum because it would benefit every region of this country.
    We are moving forward after eight and a half months of consideration on this matter. I think it is time. We are looking forward to the doors opening at this new, great institution, with this new vitality that would be injected as a result of our investment and this legislation and its new mandate.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, once again today, we are being cut off; we are being prevented from speaking on this subject. Even though the Minister of Canadian Heritage felt that this was something simple that everyone would rally around, unfortunately, that is obviously not at all the case. What is shocking today is to see how hard the government members are pushing to pass his bill, his idea. That is the problem: it is his idea. That is where the problem lies.
    People have spoken out many times to say how important it is that the bill be supported by everyone. Today, everyone is pleased to see what phase 2 of this museum will be, travelling exhibits and exchanges with other museums in Canada. However, it is quite cunning on his part to have included that aspect in the bill, an aspect that was already part of the existing museum's mandate. We are focusing a lot on that, but less on the fact that we could very easily have improved the existing museum rather than demolishing it in order to build another one. That is what is happening.
     In conclusion, I would like to ask a question. The minister says that he consulted everyone and that everyone is happy. What then does he think about the comment made by Mr. MacDonald, a director whom I am sure he knows very well? Mr. MacDonald said that he was outraged to hear the minister claim that aboriginal peoples were excluded from the exhibits in the Canada Hall. He added that it was clear that the minister had not understood the mutual obligations nor the meaning of this exhibit to aboriginal communities on the west coast that make a living from fishing. We are talking here about the famous Nishga Girl. Again according to Mr. MacDonald, the pressure that the minister is exercising to have that exhibit removed contradicts what he claims are the very objectives of his bill.
     What does the minister have to say on the matter?
    Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I said that the museum bill has broad-based support in every region of Canada, but that does not mean that everybody supports it.

[English]

    Nothing is ever fully unanimous. However, we should take note of two things that are most important to take away from the intervention by the NDP member opposite.
    I will comment first on the second thing he said. He said that the decision to not put on the Nisga’a presentation at the Museum of Civilization was a demonstration that it was not in the best interests of Canadians. He has also commented that I should interfere. On the other hand, he also got up in the House this past week and said I should not interfere with the museum when it was going to put on an exhibit of underwear. The NDP has to decide. Does it want us to have an arm's-length relationship with museums or not? We think it should be arm's-length. Museums can decide the exhibits that they choose to put forward, first of all.
    Second, the most important thing to take away from the comment by the NDP, and why we have had this roadblock against the NDP on this subject altogether, is he has said the NDP does not support this because it is an initiative that I, as the minister, have personally brought forward. On the other hand, we hear from New Democrats from time to time, chastizing other cabinet ministers, asking why they do not show leadership, come up with ideas, do something innovative, why are they not taking risks and moving forward. That is what we have done here.
    Yes, I had the idea to create a Canadian museum of history. I brought it to all of the opposition parties, invited them to contribute to support this initiative going forward. We have NDP provincial governments that are supporting this. We have Liberal and Conservative governments supporting it. The leader of the Green Party is supporting it in this House. This has broad-based support because we have approached it in a way that we thought was collaborative and responsible. If the New Democrats do not think cabinet ministers should show some initiative and leadership, then frankly, I think they do not understand part of the responsibility of being a minister.
    As Minister of Canadian Heritage, I am proud to stand up for Canada's history, to put in place a great institution that will champion Canada's history as Canadians wish to tell it to each other.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for those responses. I just want to touch further on a bit of the independence that he talked about. The member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher in his speech said governments should not be deciding what is in our museums. That seems like a pretty obvious principle.
    He went on to say that the contents of museums should be left up to the experts and professionals and that the government, and we as legislators, have no place in determining content or the orientation of a national--

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, are we not debating the time allocation motion rather than the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher's remarks on Bill C-49?
    This period is set aside for questions regarding time allocation and the bill. Both are allowed.
    The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage may proceed with his question.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is kind of odd, since one of the members talked only about the bill with respect to election reform.
    As I mentioned that quote, there was also a lot of mention from the members opposite with respect to time allocation. They were talking about the fact that they want more debate, but when we look at committee and what was presented to us with respect to amendments from the opposition, both the NDP and the Liberals, the vast majority, in fact, almost 99%, just dealt with adding one word to the name and had nothing to do with respect to independence.
    I wonder if the minister could talk about a couple of things with respect to this. Why does he think that no substantive amendments were brought forward at committee by members of the opposition? Why, and how can we, guarantee the independence of this museum? Could the minister also talk about the mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau and why it is important, if they support the bill, that we move forward with this?
     The members opposite noted that this is the 50th time we have had to bring in closure. I think it is a damning indictment of the opposition members that 50 times this government has had to force them to debate issues in this Parliament and to stop filibustering bills that have broad-based support from Canadians across the country. Imagine that, 50 times the Government of Canada has had to force the opposition to actually work in Parliament. That is a damning indictment of the opposition and either their inability to work on behalf of Canadians or their inability to get how important it is that we focus on jobs and the economy, and, of course, something like this, which would bring immense pride to all Canadians and help all regions of the country.
    Mr. Speaker, only in overly bureaucratic, centre-left thinking does it constitute going too fast when we have eight and a half months of debate on legislation that, frankly, is very non-controversial. The legislation itself is only a couple of pages long. It is not complicated. The change to the mandate of the museum is only a couple of sentences long. It is not complicated or difficult to understand.
    The members opposite took a position very quickly. As a matter of fact, there was a leak from one of the stakeholders who supports this museum. In his enthusiasm to support the bill, he spoke to a journalist and said what our government was planning on doing, on October 11, 2012. On October 12, we announced it, but before we tabled the bill in Parliament, NDP members had already commented on October 11 that they were against it. They were opposed to the legislation.
    It is a bit rich for New Democrats to suggest that we should debate this more and be more thoughtful and substantive with the legislative process as we are now coming to the end of consideration of Bill C-49 when they showed no respect whatsoever at the introduction of this legislation to wait for it to be tabled before they actually took a position. Before chastising others about our approach to Parliament and how we deal with legislation, it would be great if the New Democrats would show some leadership and some example at the introduction of legislation with some open-mindedness in supporting a bill.
     The Toronto Star supports this legislation. Here is what it said, showing open-mindedness. They say, “Oh, wow, the Toronto Star”. The New Democrats like the Toronto Star. It endorsed them in the last election. Here is what the Toronto Star said:
    Canada’s history should be celebrated in revamped museum....it was welcome to hear [the government] announce this week....rebrand the Canadian Museum of Civilization....as the Canadian Museum of History....we want to make history come alive, ensure we don’t forget our shared past, and honour our heroes.
    People get it who are not Conservative supporters. They understand that this is an institution that will benefit all regions of the country.
    Even if New Democrats rejected it before we tabled it, we are happy to go forward now eight and a half months later to have final passage of this bill so we can all move forward and celebrate Canada's 150th birthday in our biggest and best museum.

  (1545)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote Joe Dassin, who stated that, “life is but one day after another, and every day is the same”. This is the 47th time allocation motion. If members were looking for a sign—as if one were needed—that the government is tired and no longer knows what to do, they would be hard pressed to find a better example.
    I would remind members that time allocation motions are usually for a specific purpose, and denote some urgent need to act. However, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages certainly knows how to play up the benefits of his bill, and has been doing so for some time. Despite cutting short debate—which he has done 46 times—his colleagues and he claim that they do occasionally have ideas, but that they are not overly interested in debating them. They also claim that they want to be more efficient and insinuate that the parliamentary system is a hindrance to Conservative governance. Basically, the Conservatives wonder whether they might not simply do away with the parliamentary system altogether.
    In my opinion, when the House reconvenes in September, an omnibus bill will be introduced that clumps together all the legislation that has been discussed over the course of the year. That will mean voting once, and only once.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Robert Aubin: I can already hear the applause, which is proof that this is, indeed, the approach the Conservatives intend to take.
     For once, in a debate on time allocation, might we not debate the urgency of completely disregarding any and all procedure in order to ram through bills that members would still like to debate? I would like to have time to make my rebuttal concerning the bill itself, and I hope that I will have a few minutes remaining to do so. I will not do so during this debate because it deals with time allocation.
    Mr. Speaker, to say this is indicative of a tired government is not a strong argument. We want to go through the process. We want to move this bill forward. We want to move ahead with the creation of this new museum, which will benefit every region of the country.
    As I just said, we have had eight and a half months of debate. We will have five more hours to debate this bill at third reading in the House of Commons.
    The NDP will thus have the opportunity to emphasize that it does not like this bill or this new museum. The Liberal Party will also be able to express its position on the museum and to talk about the amendments it sought in the committee process. It will be able to state clearly what it does not like about the idea of creating a new Canadian Museum of History.
     Unlike them, we will express our pride: our pride in Canada's heritage, as well as our pride in this new museum, which will be created as a result of this bill and the $25 million that we will invest in it thanks to partnerships that we are establishing with museums across Canada.
     I also want to tell my colleagues that I was in Winnipeg last Friday with the francophone communities, historians, and members of the historical community there and representatives of the Metis community. They were there for the signing of the agreement between the Manitoba Museum and the new Canadian Museum of History that will be created.
     They were proud and pleased with this process and this bill. They were delighted with the new partnership that will give them access to this new museum's three million artifacts. They will be able to bring them to Winnipeg and talk about the heritage and history of Winnipeg and the history of Canada.
     We are proud of this process. We have had eight and a half months of debate. We will have five more hours to talk about this bill.
     The NDP can express its position again. I know that the NDP's position is not popular in Canada. According to that party, we should not be proud of Canada's heritage. We should not move forward with this museum bill. We do not want to have a genuine legacy for Canada's 150th anniversary thanks to this new museum of history. That is the NDP's position. It is not ours.
     We are proud to talk about this bill, about the process, the partnership, the investment, the new museum and the new creations that will start once we have passed Bill C-49.

  (1550)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, having watched and participated in the debate over these many months, I know how much this means to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. In fact, it means so much to him that he mistakes approaching members from our caucus in back hallways for consultation with Canadians.
    He wants it so badly that he gets the process of consultation backwards. He had the plan. He announced the plan. He announced how much money he would spend, and then he embarked on a bogus consultation with Canadians. He has already made the decision. Now he is asking Canadians to give him some cover on that decision.
    He has spent an extra $1 million on the consultation on the name change. Only the Conservatives would call this an inconsequential, non-controversial move. Only the Conservatives would call $26 million they plucked out of thin air a non-controversial move, because of course, this is the government that has lost $3.1 billion and cannot seem to find it. This is a minister who hired a staffer who is now under a cloud of indictment in Montreal. We do not need a lecture on leadership from this minister on this file or on any others, for that matter.
    I would ask the minister how he got the process so wrong. Why was he so blinded by his own ambition on this?
    Mr. Speaker, the real question is how the member for Davenport, who has been involved in this process, could be so utterly and completely ignorant about how this process actually unfolded.
    We were clear from the very beginning. It is eight and a half months later, and he still does not understand where the $25 million for this museum came from. It came from the cancellation of the creation of the Canada Prizes. Does he not know that? I told him that personally. It was reported in the Toronto Star. He is from Toronto. It is the largest circulation newspaper in the city of Toronto, where he is from. I am from Vancouver, and I read the Star as well. It was reported in the Star. The hon. member should read his local paper—he might learn a thing or two—or he could remember the conversation we had when I told him where the money was coming from.
    I have been very clear about this process from the beginning. That is where the money came from. We are going to have a vote on this very soon. I hope it is now clear to the member where the money came from. It is the third time it has been reported to him, so he should now know.
    With regard to the consultation, he should have been there at the announcement, when we had historians from across the country who have come out in support of this process, in support of this legislation and in support of this museum. As I have said before, these are people who are not by any means small-c Conservatives or ideological allies of our government. They could actually move beyond the knee-jerk partisanship the NDP has shown in this process.
    Again, the leader of the Green Party is supporting this bill, because she gets it. The former NDP member from Thunder Bay is supporting this legislation, because he gets what this will mean to Canada.
    The Liberal Party members have shown their openness and willingness to discuss this like adults rather than with the knee-jerk opposition the NDP has shown. It declared its opposition to the bill the day before we tabled it in Parliament. NDP members had not even read it. Now the member chastises me and the government about how we ought to approach these things, be respectful and work with others. He opposed the bill before he even read it. That is the highest level of disrespect that can be shown in this place.
    Mr. Speaker, one of the individuals we spoke to during the committee process was Mr. Rabinovitch, who was the former head. He brought up a very valid point, which was that the former name, the Museum of Civilization, had a very respectable name internationally. He said it would be a crime if we let go of that name for the sake of branding it as something else.
    Whether the member agrees with calling it a museum of history is one thing. However, the Museum of Civilization did carry with it a great deal of international significance. One of the things he proposed was that we name it the Canadian museum of history and civilization. That is really not a bad idea. That is a genuine way of keeping what was and pushing forward the agenda of this new museum and the vision he says is there.
    None of the amendments was given due consideration. One was to have curatorial independence enshrined in this piece of legislation instead of our just relying on the Museums Act. I thought they were quite genuine and open for discussion, but the discussion really did not take place.
    Is a Canadian museum of history and civilization so wrong?

  (1555)  

    Mr. Speaker, there is nothing so wrong, I just do not happen to agree. Our government thought about it, and we debated it. We saw the amendment he put forward. We discussed it, and we did not think it was the best direction.
     The member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor has been sincere in this process all the way through. I know what he is trying to accomplish with the amendment, and I do not doubt it. We do not happen to agree on what it would be called. The majority will win in the House, and the majority has rights. We are going to move forward on the creation of this museum as we designed it.
    I am glad the member raised the more substantive amendment brought forward at committee by both the Liberal Party and the leader of the Green Party, which was the idea of enshrining curatorial independence in a specific section with regard to what would be the Canadian museum of history. Quite frankly, it does not make sense. There is nothing wrong with it on the surface, but it does not make sense for this reason.
    The Museums Act already enshrines the absolute curatorial independence of all of our museums. Whether it is the Aviation and Space Museum, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights or the Canadian Museum of Immigration, it already guarantees it in the law. If one of Canada's museums is singled out by saying that this will have a special level of curatorial independence above and beyond all the rest, one could perceive that the government has not gone far enough or that Parliament has not gone far enough in protecting the curatorial independence of all the others. Therefore, it is redundant and unnecessary. It is already enshrined in the Museums Act. Having this one museum singled out would look odd legislatively, so it does not make any sense.
    The protections are there for good reason. As the minister, I have never once, nor could I, interfered with the decision of a museum to put on an exhibit or not. From time to time, any individual who goes into any one of our museums or galleries looks at a certain display and says, “I think I would have emphasized more of this or less of that or chosen these artifacts instead of those”. Those debates happen all the time, but there is an absolute legal barrier keeping any parliamentarian and/or the minister from telling a museum what it can or cannot do. It is enshrined in law for very good reasons.
    We have brilliant museums in this country. They operate independently. They do great work. This new Canadian museum of history will be Canada's biggest and best museum. It will tie all of our local history and local museums in the country together. We will share collections all across the country. They will all be made stronger as a result.
     I look forward to passage of Bill C-49 after eight and a half months of consideration. I thank of all my colleagues who have approached this with an open mind. Their vote in support of this will be to the benefit of all of Canada.
    The time has expired for questions and comments. 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.

  (1640)  

[Translation]

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

(Division No. 756)

YEAS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
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
Crockatt
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Fantino
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Goodyear
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
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Leitch
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
Obhrai
O'Connor
Oliver
O'Neill Gordon
Opitz
O'Toole
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Rickford
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Stanton
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Toews
Trost
Trottier
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
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: -- 143

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Angus
Ashton
Aubin
Ayala
Bélanger
Bennett
Benskin
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boutin-Sweet
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisholm
Choquette
Chow
Christopherson
Côté
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver East)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Easter
Eyking
Foote
Fortin
Freeman
Fry
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (St. John's East)
Hsu
Hughes
Jacob
Julian
Kellway
Lamoureux
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
Mai
Marston
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Mourani
Mulcair
Nantel
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Plamondon
Quach
Rafferty
Rankin
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
Toone
Tremblay
Trudeau
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 107

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

[English]

Report Stage  

     The House resumed from June 14 consideration of 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, as reported from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage has four minutes left in his debate time.
    Could I ask all members who are not going to stay for the debate to depart the chamber now and those who are staying to stop talking in your loudest voices, please. Try whispering.
    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
    It is okay, Mr. Speaker. I have no problem talking over the opposition.
    It is a pleasure to rise again to complete my discussion on the Canadian museum of history. As I said in questions and comments earlier, it is really a shame that for the 50th time we have had to force the opposition to debate a bill in the House. The opposition has been so afraid to do work that, for the 50th time, the government has been forced to bring in time allocation, after eight and a half months of those members delaying and refusing to deal with the important business of the people of Canada. We have been forced to bring in the motion so we can deal with the important matters of governing. It is truly amazing, and I am sure the massive amounts of people watching at home are wondering to themselves what would happen in this country if we ever let the opposition govern. Nothing would get done. Those members would probably talk themselves in circles.
    We have heard a lot about what is actually in the bill. Opposition members keep saying we did not listen to them with respect to amendments, and it keeps talking about how we brought in time allocation. As the minister said, this piece of legislation has been before us for eight and a half months, and as much as the opposition has talked about the things it does not like in the bill, 99% of the amendments it brought in were focused on one thing and that was the addition of one word to the name of the museum. Opposition members focused on that in committee. They were okay with calling it the Canadian museum of history, but they wanted us to add the word “civilization”. That made up 99% of their concerns.
    After eight and a half months and hours of debate, this legislation sailed through committee. It did not even take us the full amount of time in committee to deal with the proposed amendments. As a result of there being so little opposition by the parties opposite, the legislation sailed through. Because we did not agree to adding that one word, they want to continue debate for many more months.
    A number of things have been brought forward by the opposition. I will focus on the opposition critic, the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, who talked a lot about critical understanding. Using his own words in his speech, he said, “What a scary word. The museum will no longer have the mandate to share its wealth of knowledge with the rest of the world”. That was one of the reasons he will not support the bill. Had he read paragraph 9(1)(h) on the second page of the bill, he would have seen it says that the museum will be continuing to do research.
    That member also talked about how the people of Ottawa and Quebec and the tourism commission would react to this legislation. We already know that the mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau support the bill. The original architect Douglas Cardinal supports the bill. Thousands of Canadians participated in discussions and consultations with respect to the new mandate of the museum.
    Hundreds of Canadians across Canada are excited about this new Canadian museum of history. Communities across the country are excited at having the opportunity to share in the collections that are currently in storage. Even more important, as we approach Canada's 150th birthday we would have a new institution that would tell the stories of Canada, not only to Canadians but to people around the world. We live in the best country in the world and we should not be afraid to show that off, not only to Canadians but to people around the world.
    I commend the Minister of Canadian Heritage for bringing the bill forward. I also commend all those members on both sides of the House who will be supporting it.

  (1645)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has said that no substantive amendments were brought forward, but in fact there were two very substantive amendments. He is mistaking substantive with simple. They were simple and substantive at the same time. Those members over there have a problem with some of this stuff. The amendment was around research and posterity. It was a motion that included bringing research and posterity back into the language. This is important because we heard witness testimony from the former head of the museum stating that, time and time again, he and his staff referred to the mandate of the museum as a way of guiding them in their internal decisions. That is why we thought this amendment was so crucial.
    There was another amendment that included just adding the word “civilization” back into the title of the museum.
    Both of these amendments were simple and substantive, and the government voted them down. Those members are mischaracterizing the debate that went on in committee. They allowed only one day for witnesses to come forward for this study. Also, earlier this afternoon we heard another motion for time allocation.
    Why does the member opposite have such a hard time parsing simple and substantive, when both of those measures were simple and substantive?
    Mr. Speaker, it is funny listening to the member because he tried to pull this in committee. He said we only allowed one day for witness testimony. Then the Conservative members called him on that and actually went back and unanimously decided to release the minutes of the committee meeting to the public where it had been unanimously agreed how long we would spend dealing with witnesses. They had agreed to how long we would spend talking to witnesses. The New Democrats say one thing in private and another thing in public and they have been caught out on it.
    This is the same thing. They ask why we have to bring in closure. It is because they say one thing in public and another in private. The Government of Canada has a responsibility to move forward with things like the Canadian museum of history, as well as jobs and economic growth. We do not have time to play the silly, childish games of the NDP.
    Specifically to some of the other questions, the member talked about research. Had he read page 2 of the bill he would have seen that in paragraph 9(1)(f) it talks specifically about research. He talked about putting history in the name. The whole mandate of the museum is Canadian history. I do not know what more we have to do to put it in. He talked about curatorial independence. The only people who are asking the government to interfere in the museum's independence are the New Democrats.

  (1650)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned something about only a very small portion of the amendments dealing with the name change. In our case actually that represented less than 20% of the amendments that we put forward.
    One of the amendments that I thought was a reasonable one was that a review process would be set up, similar to what was proposed in Bill C-11, the Copyright Act. I said every three years, but would have been open to five years. By doing that, we would get to review the mandates of each of the museums, not just this one. This was a golden opportunity to open up all these national museums, because we are now getting into an area where we are looking at these national museums, this one in particular, sharing their resources with the rest of the country.
    I thought this was a good way to review how this process would be being played out for the sake of the institutions across the country that want to share in this. How does he feel about this review process?
    Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Canadian heritage committee, we have jurisdiction to do that any time we want. We do not have to wait three years to review the mandate of any museum.
    The Liberals and the NDP have a number of opposition day motions that they can bring forward for us to debate in the House. At committee, we can discuss anything we want whenever we want and call whatever witnesses we want. In fact, if the member looks, he will find that at Canadian heritage committee many of the motions that we have brought forward and that we have discussed recently have been motions that were brought forward by the opposition.
    Do I think we should be reviewing it? Absolutely. That is our job. Does it need to be in legislation? No, because I do not think as parliamentarians we need to be told when and how we should be reviewing any of the functions of government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very keen to rise today to voice the opinion of many Canadians, especially many of this country's historians, and to debate the Conservative government's Bill C-49 to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History.
    In my humble opinion, this is not a very good or a very welcome idea. Of course, that is quite the opposite of what we have been hearing for a number of hours, but I believe that I have some points that deserve to be shared, considered and discussed.
    Why is it a bad idea? First of all, I strongly suspect that the Conservative government—particularly the Minister of Canadian Heritage—does not know what history is, who makes it, and the issues related to teaching, education and Canadian history. In fact, the last few minutes of debate have bolstered my convictions. I am talking about history with a capital “H” because we are talking about the science, not Canadian history.
    Perhaps there is an excuse. After all, he is the Minister of Canadian Heritage, not the minister of history. That would explain the confusion because when we talk about heritage, it is easier to draw up a list of cultural assets and items that attest to the identity of a country, a people or a nation.
    Historical objects are a part of heritage. However, history itself, the historical narrative and the Canadian identity are not as easy to put on display. If that were the case, historians would have stopped producing works about Canada's colonization, the establishment of the parliamentary system in our country or the emancipation of women in our society.
    The fact that we continue to debate these phenomena is proof that our understanding of them is not static. When I say “we”, I am referring to historians rather than politicians. By putting these phenomena in a museum, we run the risk of ending debate and dissimulating the reality.
    In even clearer terms, creating a museum with objects that represent Canadian history and identity stems from a particularly dated concept or vision of history. There are not many historians left in Canada or the world who describe the science of history in this way.
    Many historians would say that this idea could only come from a conservator. I mean that in the sense of a conservator who wants to preserve something in its existing state and perhaps even wants to have something preserved by the state. Who knows? The idea that history is an unchangeable, written, eternal truth that lends itself to being put in a museum is an idea that no longer holds true in this day and age. That goes without saying.
    There may be one exception. There was a major history museum project in France, championed by President Sarkozy. However, after much opposition, the project completely fell apart. No, we should not be following France's example. I agree. However, when it comes to museums, it could be useful to look at what our partners are doing. France does have a certain amount of museum expertise that warrants our respect.
    It seems that the history museum was, by his own admission, the Minister of Canadian Heritage's idea. I heard him say it. Since when do politicians deal with history-related issues? Leave that to the historians.
    As politicians, we may have the luxury—perhaps even the duty—of creating history through our actions and our contributions, but we should never impose our perspective on history. Politicians are involved in commemorating and celebrating historic events, but they are not involved in history with a capital H. Those issues are far too serious for us as politicians. It needs to be said: we are not experts in teaching history.

  (1655)  

    For pity's sake, let us leave history to historians and museums to museologists, or at the very least, let us consult them before going any further. Moreover, the Canadian Association of University Teachers expressed a number of misgivings, particularly about the way things were done. The members of the association said:
    We call on the federal Department of Canadian Heritage to stop its process of redesigning that museum until a panel of distinguished figures in historical and museum work is created and has an opportunity to prepare recommendations on a more appropriate direction for re-developing this outstanding heritage site.
    Note the use of the verb “call on”. This is rather strong language. The members are not saying, “we ask”, “we advise” or “we suggest”, but rather, “we call on the Department of Canadian Heritage”.
    Clearly, therefore, it is not simply a matter creating a new museum out of thin air, a museum that will grow out of nothing. It is about transforming a museum that already exists and that has already acquired a sterling reputation.
    As I stated, these issues are far too serious for the humble politicians that we are. Let us leave history to historians and museums to museologists. Let us allow them to decide among themselves how best to define the parameters, the strategic directions, the problems and the subject matter that will be exhibited at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which will eventually be renamed. The Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation is a crown corporation set up under the Museums Act. The Minister of Canadian Heritage is therefore responsible for it and the act determines the museum’s mandate.
    Before changing a winning formula—one of the most-visited museums in Canada, and certainly one of the best-known outside our borders—why does the minister not consult the various interested parties more broadly? For example, he might consult the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, stakeholders in the Outaouais region, historians and the first nations, who are heavily involved in and well represented at the current Canadian Museum of Civilization.
    Once the announcement was made, public consultations were held in about a dozen Canadian cities, but the consultation process seemed bogus because the decision was already made. Earlier, I heard that contracts had already been signed. I therefore wonder what we are doing right now in the House.
     The examples of decisions made on this issue unfortunately leave me no ray of hope. The sudden closing and hasty dismantling of the Canadian Postal Museum show the total lack of transparency around the process. There were tightly controlled consultations, which had limited success. However, the consultations did not allow Canadians to question the decision to transform the museum, despite opposition from a large number of Canadians who traveled to take part in them. The minister is intervening in an area that is not his cup of tea, and without extensive consultation with experts.
     Mr. Speaker, I would be lying if I said I had total confidence in this bill and in the future of the museum. Over the weekend, just when I was telling him about the bill, a friend of mine who is a historian said the following. I am quoting him, because I would have great difficulty putting it any better: “It is difficult to express an opinion on the real intentions of a Conservative government that is as reluctant to show exactly what is underneath this matter as it is to show exactly what is underneath women’s clothes.” We spent the rest of the time just having a friendly discussion.
     There is another aspect of this bill that bothers me. With the change in the mandate and the name of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the public is being introduced to the idea that political power, that is, the Conservative government of Canada, may decide on its own about the content and significance of the exhibits that will be presented there, or at least strongly influence them. I find the possibility of partisan politics interfering in a world-renowned scientific and cultural institution to be absolutely unbearable.
     The artist that I am, or that I am modestly trying to be, is completely averse to any use of culture and the arts for partisan purposes. While scientists and artists look at the world with creativity and critical judgment, the political world is generally quite risk-adverse, especially the party opposite.

  (1700)  

    As my time is quickly coming to an end, I will leave out some of the arguments that I had kept in reserve. I will conclude by saying that it is because I am certain that Canadian history and Canadian historians deserve better that I cannot support such a bill.
     The role of a government in the area of culture is to allow debates to be held and to provide locations for meetings, research and expression. I cannot support this partisan initiative, as it promotes Conservative symbols, such as an attachment to the monarchy, an insistence on military values in a civilian context, an inordinate celebration of old wars, and so on.
     This is a deliberate strategy designed to rewrite Canadian identity. This is not the role of the House of Commons, and it is not the role of a member of Parliament or a minister.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will focus my comments and my question specific to the member's discussion with respect to content in the new museum. He talked also about one of the witnesses at committee, the representative of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, James Turk.
    At committee, I asked Mr. Turk if professors taught the same lesson plan year after year. Professor Turk answered back as I expected, that they certainly did not. I asked if they modified it and updated it and he said yes. I asked him why they did that and he said that knowledge and information changed. Therefore, I thought that somehow within the teaching of education things changed, but our museums were supposed to stay the same forever. They were never supposed to change.
     More specifically, he talked about the content of the new museum and who would put it together.
     We heard from the president of the museum. After the consultations, when we had hundreds of thousands of responses from Canadians across the country, he said:
    Those comments, suggestions, and pleadings will inform our every decision going forward. The content for this new exhibition is being developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts at the museum...This team is made up of researchers, curators, and museologists working in close collaboration with advisory committees composed of historians and experts from across Canada.
    Does the member know something about Dr. David Morrison, who has a Ph.D. in archaeology, is very well published and has years of experience? Is there something about him that we should know that makes him unqualified to lead the research into these new exhibits?

  (1705)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I am all the more comfortable answering it since I myself changed my lesson plans to adjust them to each new element that shed light on what I was teaching, on my assigned mandate.
    The idea today is not to determine whether new light can be shed. The bill in fact changes the purpose of the course. The difference is like night and day. It goes without saying that a qualified teacher who says that updates are always welcome is absolutely right as long as the objective and the subject of the course remain the same. However, the aim of this bill is to change the subject of the course.
    Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the Conservatives tell us, this bill does not just change the museum's name. Several amendments have been made to section 8 of the Museums Act. The purpose of those amendments is to change the museum's areas of interest. Thus, instead of covering all of Canada and other countries, it will focus solely on Canadians.
    In many instances, culture is also a way of engaging in diplomacy. Under the Conservatives, unfortunately, Canada has become the laughingstock of the international community in negotiations on climate change and in its lack of support for Canadian culture.
    As my colleague said, Canadians and Canadian history deserve better than the Conservatives. Does he have any comments to make on that subject?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for appropriately raising that point.
    One of the legitimate fears regarding Bill C-49 is that it will become a symbol of an inward-looking attitude. The Museum of Civilization, as we currently know it, is probably one of the Canadian museums, if not the Canadian museum, with the greatest international reputation. We would be depriving ourselves of that and would stop developing our international brand in order to turn inward and focus on our history. Not that we should stop studying our history, far from it, but we would be studying Canadian history without viewing it in a distinctly broader international context.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-49, which would create the new Canadian museum of history. The Canadian museum of history would provide the public with the opportunity to appreciate how Canada's identity has been shaped over the course of its history. Canadians deserve a national museum that tells our stories and presents our country's treasures to the world.
    The Canadian museum of history would strive to be a national and international destination, but would also focus on its role as a leader, a hub in the network of Canadian history museums and a centre of expertise. The Canadian Museum of Civilization has always had an international role as a knowledge-creating institution. This will not change. Indeed, the museum will continue to conduct scientific research and share its expertise on collections, management, research and conservation with other museums around the world.
    It is important that we all understand that the focus of research in the archaeology, history and ethnology sections of the Canadian Museum of Civilization has always been the advancement of Canada's human and military history. The new mandate confirms that focus and nothing in this legislation will diminish that role in any way.
     In fact, it is expected that the museum would create its activities working closely with the network of Canadian museums to make its national collection available through loans and travelling exhibitions. It would also provide a permanent venue and an additional 7,500 square feet at the new museum for other Canadian museums to showcase their collections and contribute to the national narrative.
    I am pleased that these partnerships would do four things. First, they would further the collective telling of Canadian history. Second, they would leverage strengths of partners, for example, in the area of loans expertise and exhibitions. Third, they would focus on gaps in the collection. Finally, they would achieve financial benefits, such as cost-sharing and joint initiatives. Partnerships would promote collaboration and co-productions, the sharing of artifacts, the development of online projects and the exchange of professional expertise.
    I would like to outline how the museum plans to establish three levels of partnership. These plans include a history museum network, a museum affiliate program and formalized partnerships with federal organizations and other key public and private institutions.
    First, the history museum network would consist of several of the largest museums in the country, museums that have significant capacity and have the mandate to cover the history of Canada. There will be many advantages to members of this network, including a venue at the new museum where exhibitions and programs produced by members can be showcased, the ability to receive exhibitions and programs developed by the Canadian museum of history, opportunities for co-production of exhibitions and programs, visual brand association and identity and links to the Canadian museum of history and Canadian War Museum websites.
    Second, the museum affiliate program would consist of a group of generally smaller institutions across the country that, subject to criteria and standards, would be able to borrow or co-operate on collections, programs and exhibits. These advantages to affiliates would include, but not be limited to, the ability to borrow collections, programs and travelling exhibits from the Canadian museum of history, the ability to partner with the Canadian museum of history as a research affiliate and opportunities to showcase affiliate-produced exhibitions at the Canadian museum of history.
    I am particularly excited that the smaller museums will be able to borrow collections at the national level. This means that these exhibits, which display our rich history, will travel across the country. Also, affiliates will be invited to an annual affiliates conference in conjunction with the Canadian Museums Association, which will be an opportunity to share expertise and ideas that will benefit all.

  (1710)  

    Third, the Canadian museum of history would have formalized partnerships with key public and private organizations. It would play a leadership role as the hub in a network of Canadian history museums.
    I am pleased to relay that all of the partner museums will have a role to play in shaping and reshaping the network over time. It will be a collaborative effort with local museums being able to contribute and share knowledge.
    The museum network will be able to take coordinated, common approaches to the history and exhibits of key moments in Canadian history. These moments will not be defined at the national level, but rather defined by local museums from one end of the country to the other.
    The years leading up to 2017 will provide many great opportunities for our history museums across the country to celebrate Canadian history. The millions of people who visit Canadian museums of history will not only see exhibits created by staff at that museum, but they will see exhibits created by museums of all sizes in all part of Canada. They will, perhaps for the first time, be presented with key historical events, people, experiences and objects that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
    We all have museums in our ridings. In many ridings, museums are housed in an old mill or factory, or maybe an old school or train station. In these museums, there are often not any employees, only volunteers. These are people who may not be recognized around the world for their expertise in museums, but who are certainly recognized in their communities for their dedication to doing their best to conserve and display objects for future generations.
    The network of Canadian history museums is just one of the reasons why I urge my colleagues to support Bill C-49. This is one of the most important bills before us.
    Our government believes in our national museums and we recognize the tremendous value they hold for all Canadians. As we approach Canada's 150th birthday, it is an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate our history and those achievements that define who we are as Canadians.

  (1715)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that this is only the beginning, because if we want to explain history to Canadians, it first must be written. We will have to remember what happened in a country where a war of conquest took place, where slavery once existed, where aboriginal populations were repressed and where colonial laws have reigned for the past 150 years.
    Who will write it and whose version of history will we be able to agree on?
    Canadians themselves.
    Mr. Speaker, there is nothing more controversial than history. We have not yet finished learning about our past. Soon we will have no more archeologists to carry out digs where they are urgently needed.
    It will be such a disaster the day they begin trying to tell their version of history. We have to wonder who will write this history and how it will be used.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member asked about the chaotic development of a museum. I am not quite sure what the question was. He kind of rambled around from the history of long ago to the history of today and which venue of history we would believe in.
    However, there is only one venue to believe in, and that is the historical truth of Canada. We will rely on museums that are in existence and we will rely on expertise that can help us develop those museums further. As I said in my speech, we have dedicated 7,500 extra square feet to do just those kinds of things.
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague spoke about the Canadian museum of history, he talked about the 150th birthday that Canada would soon be celebrating and the importance of the museum.
    Could he reflect for a moment on its importance to his riding, how this museum would tie directly into his riding and how his constituents would then celebrate our 150th birthday of Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague said, 150 years are fast approaching. A couple of years from now we will be there.
    In the riding of Palliser there are many museums. One of the finest is in Moose Jaw. It is air conditioned and heated to the tune that it will house any kind of painting. It is the only facility like that between Toronto and Vancouver. There are many opportunities for other smaller museums to enjoy borrowing a display from larger museums for a number of days, returning it and taking another display. I am thinking of those in Assiniboia, Rockland and Avonlea, which are small but unique museums.
    That 150th anniversary will be an exciting time, and we are looking forward to it.
    Mr. Speaker, how are those museums that the hon. member mentioned going to afford to do that? Do they get in on that $25 million as well? Perhaps they have their own way of doing it. It could be problematic if there is no financial support for these places to be able to share in this national collection.
    Mr. Speaker, to answer my hon. member from across the floor, some dollars would be earmarked for the exchange of artifacts between museums. That amount has not been determined. Restructuring of existing dollars may well handle the whole operation without any further drain on the taxpayer.
    The museums themselves often stage various fundraising events that make a lot a money. I am always surprised how small communities of 700 or 800 people are able to raise $10,000. There are avenues to explore other than just government grants. I am sure they would do that.

  (1720)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and speak on this subject, although the trajectory of some of the changes that are being considered in the bill saddens me to a certain extent.
    The government announcement was that the new Canadian museum of history's emphasis will be on dates, events, heroes and narrative timelines: basically, in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. That is how many of us learned history back in the day, and it is one of the reasons I hated history.
    I have since learned to love history for the simple reason that there have been teaching methodologies, teachers in particular, who have created a link between history and what it means to young Canadians today. They have brought out the relevance of that history.
    My concern with this redirection of history into more of a “great man” approach—this person did this on this date, that person did that on that date—is that we lose the context of how certain things came to be. We lose the context of the contribution of so many different groups of people, so many different individuals who have done heroic things but may not be considered heroes in the context of great events.
    We all know the adage that history is written by the victors. As the government likes to remind us far too often, Conservatives won a majority back in 2011. They have used that majority as a battering ram, as opposed to taking a responsibility to make sure that not only the majority are taken care of, but the minority as well. What we do not want to see in this situation is a majority museum, where the exhibitions, the explanations and the narrative speak to a selective memory of history, to selected events. It is an environme