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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 076

CONTENTS

Wednesday, February 8, 2012




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 076 
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1st SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 2 p.m.

Prayers


[Statements by Members]

  (1405)  

[English]

    It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem led by the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.
    [Members sang the national anthem]

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Team Ontario Golf Program

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today with the pleasure of congratulating one of my young constituents on a great achievement.
    Zaafina Naqvi has accomplished an outstanding feat at the young age of 14. This past July, she won the Ontario bantam golf championship held in Cambridge, Ontario.
     She is the first resident of Sault Ste. Marie to ever earn a berth in the prestigious under 17 Team Ontario golf program. This program provides support, guidance and training to aspiring athletes. I would like to extend my congratulations to Zaafina for earning a place in this prestigious program. On behalf of the Canadian government, I would also like to wish her the best of luck in her training.
    As an avid golfer myself, I am happy to see such excellence displayed by members of my own constituency. I hope that this program provides her with the tools necessary to take her golf game to the next level.

[Translation]

Bagotville Airport

    Mr. Speaker, the Saguenay region has had a civilian airport since 1942. Over the past few years, the City of Saguenay, which owns the airport, has been improving airport facilities, tripling the runway and apron area, building a new road and increasing the number of parking spaces.
    There is just one thing missing; a customs service would enable the airport to reach its full potential. Thanks to the presence of the Bagotville military base, the airport site boasts exceptional infrastructure for a regional airport: a control tower, precision radar, a weather station, a round-the-clock rescue service and level 5 fire service.
    A customs service in Bagotville would not only enable the people of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord to travel internationally, it would also constitute a major economic driver for the entire Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. It would open the whole region up to the world. I am therefore asking the Minister of Transport to be proactive. It is high time the Canada Border Services Agency gave Bagotville a customs service.

[English]

Toronto Garrison Officer's Ball

    Mr. Speaker, I had the honour and privilege to attend the 2012 Toronto Garrison Officer's Ball, hosted by the Queen's York Rangers.
    This was an important event to launch a year of celebrations for the bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812. The Garrison Ball brought us back to a time of historical significance to Canada and our regiments. Canada's historic regiment has a story that has been linked to Canadian and North American history for over 250 years. The Rangers trace their roots back through some of the most notable conflicts and events in our history.
    The Garrison Ball was a resounding success in raising funds for the Wounded Warriors. I would like to take this time today to thank the men, women and families of the Canadian armed forces for their immense sacrifices at home and around the globe in the name of freedom and democracy.
    I wish to congratulate and thank both the Wounded Warriors and the Queen's York Rangers for their continued support of our military and communities.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon near the town of Killam, Alberta, two RCMP officers were shot while fulfilling their duties to their community.
    One officer was shot in the back, the other was shot in the arm, shoulder and leg. Thanks to the quick and efficient response by emergency services, both officers were airlifted to hospitals and are now recovering in stable condition.

[Translation]

    The day could have taken a far more tragic turn for the officers and their families. This is a harsh reminder of the danger that our RCMP officers face in their communities and of the sacrifice that the men and women of the RCMP are prepared to make in the line of duty.

[English]

    We thank these two brave officers for their continuing service. Our hearts and prayers are with them and their families at this time. We wish them a speedy and full recovery. We await the conclusion of the investigation and hope that those responsible will be brought to justice.

[Translation]

Jean Pigott

    Mr. Speaker, it is with great emotion that I rise here today to pay tribute to a member of the 30th Parliament, the late Jean Pigott.

[English]

    Jean was a distinguished MP for Ottawa-Carleton, an Officer of the Order of Canada, confidante of prime ministers and paupers alike, a trusted daughter of the late Cecil Morrison, a loving wife for Arthur Pigott, a caring mother for John, David and M.J., and a doting grandmother.

[Translation]

    At the national, provincial and local level, she acted with authority and determination in order to always get the best value for taxpayers' money.

[English]

    The first woman chair of the NCC, she enhanced the national capital region for the enjoyment of all Canadians and increased its national and international significance.
     She cared about people and we cared about her. I want to tell her sisters, Grete and Gay, that I miss her too. Arthur knows that she had the best cookie jar in town. I wish him well in this hour of sorrow.

  (1410)  

Tibet

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to stand in solidarity with the people of Tibet.
    Our Prime Minister currently is on day two of a four day visit to the People's Republic of China. It is critical that while there he take a strong stand for human rights in China and in Tibet.
    As many as 19 Tibetans, primarily Buddhist monks and nuns living under Chinese control, have set themselves on fire in the past year alone to protest the Chinese occupation of their land. It is important that the people of Tibet know that Canadians are with them in their struggle for freedom. Moreover, it is crucial that while in China, our Prime Minister treat the issue of human rights as the core commitment his government claims it to be and not as some kind of frill, secondary to trade.
    As the NDP human rights critic, I say Tibetans should not be forced to live in circumstances so bad that they would rather set themselves on fire than to go on living under Chinese rule.

Firearms Registry

    Mr. Speaker, it has taken many long years but, finally, law-abiding firearms owners can see the end in sight.
    For some 18 years, I have been defending the interests of law-abiding gun owners in Canada. The long gun registry has been targeting the wrong people, and not the criminal use of firearms. Responsible long gun owners would no longer be forced to expose their names and addresses in a computer database that has been hacked by criminals over 300 times by the RCMP's own admission. The registry data must be erased.
    Today, it is estimated that fewer than half the guns in Canada are actually in the registry. Moreover, the data is riddled with errors and omissions. Front-line police officers refuse to rely on it when answering domestic calls because it can get them killed.
    With the registry gone, we would be able to focus our tax dollars on more effective crime control. One witness at the Bill C-19 hearings hoped:
    Bill C-19 will serve as a memorial of sorts, a tombstone marking the final resting place of wrong-headed policy-making.
    Amen to that.

Mental Health

    Mr. Speaker, today, I encourage all Canadians to support mental health.
    At least one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime. Unfortunately, the reality is that most will not seek treatment because of the stigma surrounding the disease. There is so much that we can do to support those with mental illness so that they do not have to struggle alone.
    Today is Bell Let's Talk Day. For every long distance phone call or text message sent by Bell customers, Bell will donate 5¢ to programs dedicated to mental health. Last year, over $3 million was donated to support mental health in Canada as a direct result of Let's Talk Day.
    Other organizations, like the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, are doing their part to raise awareness about mental illness.
    This initiative, and those like it, send the message that Canadians want to listen and we want to help. I congratulate businesses and organizations like these for their dedication to this cause.
     I encourage all of us to join in the dialogue today and to support mental health.

[Translation]

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the members opposite that the Prime Minister and his government are improvising at every turn and saying things to scare anyone approaching retirement. One of my constituents has worked hard her whole life to raise her son and even send him to university. She will be 65 in May and she is extremely worried. She is wondering what will happen to her and how much longer she will have to work.
    If the Prime Minister has no intention of touching that, he needs to say so unequivocally, because millions of Canadians are worried at this time and are wondering what their futures hold.

  (1415)  

[English]

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, Today, I have the honour and privilege of welcoming Boris Nemtsov to Ottawa. Mr. Nemtsov was deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation from 1997 to 1998. He was also the youngest governor in the history of the Russian Federation.
    As an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, he was co-founder of the political party Union of Right Forces. Mr. Nemtsov has been a significant opposition political leader in the Russian Federation. He has been active in promoting free speech, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
    In 2008, Mr. Nemtsov co-founded Solidarity, a new pro-democracy opposition movement. He was one of the organizers of last week's pro-democracy rally in Moscow, which attracted tens of thousands of people. Mr. Nemtsov has devoted his life to championing for democracy and human rights.
    As the Prime Minister of Canada has said, one of the human rights we treasure most is the right to freedom of expression. Without it, there can be no democracy, no free press, no free enterprise and no free exchange of ideas, the universal catalyst for human rights.
    All of my best wishes to Mr. Nemtsov in his efforts to make the Russian Federation a more free and--
    Order, please.
    The hon. member for Joliette.

[Translation]

Women and Poverty

    Mr. Speaker, the issue of poverty concerns us all personally as parliamentarians and even more so as women. When we look closely at the situation in Canada, there is cause for concern when the Conservative government is planning to make cuts to the old age security programs. Poverty hits women harder than any other group in our society.
    In 2003, 150,000 older single women were already living in poverty. What is more, poverty is widespread among women who are widowed, separated or divorced, women who have recently immigrated to Canada, and those who do not have a private pension plan or who have a low income. Older single women account for 60% of all seniors living below the poverty line. Surely such observations should give us reason not only to reflect, but also to react and take concrete measures in order to rectify the situation.

[English]

Police Officers

    Mr. Speaker, every day, across our nation, police officers face life-threatening situations as they protect our families and communities.
     Yesterday afternoon, we learned that two RCMP officers in Alberta, Constable Sidney Gaudette and Constable Sheldon Shah, were shot and seriously wounded during the execution of a standard search warrant. One of the officers is a young father and recently married. Our prayers and thoughts are with these officers and their families and we wish them a speedy and full recovery.
     I invite the House to join me in expressing our utmost gratitude to these officers and to all the men and women who serve as police officers across our nation for their continued courage and bravery as they serve our communities. Their enduring dedication and commitment demand our highest admiration and respect.

Mental Health

    Mr. Speaker, Bell Canada is sponsoring a nationwide conversation today on mental health. I want to thank it for this initiative.

[Translation]

    I suffered from depression when I was younger, and I greatly appreciate the social change being encouraged by companies like Bell Canada.

[English]

    Mental illness is treatable and curable. It affects every family in this country. It costs billions of dollars to the economy and we need to all join together to help each another. The conversation starts with looking each other in the eye and asking “How are you doing?”, and then listening with care and attention when the answer is more than “Fine, thanks”.
    It means national and provincial strategies on mental illness and suicide prevention to help our kids, our adolescents who are straight and gay, people coping with life crises of so many kinds and even more serious challenges that face literally hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
    We must be leaders in listening, in caring and, finally, in acting decisively on an issue that touches all of us.

London North Centre

    Mr. Speaker, here we go again. The opposition has once again painted a dark, dreary picture of my beautiful city of London, Ontario. The closure of Electro-Motive Diesel was, indeed, unfortunate and my heart goes out to all those affected. However, my constituents and all those affected deserve the facts.
    As London economist, Mike Moffatt, recently pointed out, Caterpillar was not given a tax break from this government. Rather, it was a capital cost allowance increase for the entire industry, an increase that all parties, including the NDP, supported at committee.
    Since 2008, our Conservative government has invested over $257 million in the City of London. Since being elected last May, I have been pleased to deliver nearly $20 million for organizations across the riding of London North Centre.
     Our government is taking real action to create and sustain jobs, strengthen our local economy and work with those affected by EMD. I am proud of my city.

  (1420)  

Committees of the House

    Mr. Speaker, any time the Conservatives hear something they do not like, they just run and hide.
    Yesterday, in the heritage committee, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage blew a gasket and ordered all eight witnesses out of the committee room. It did not matter that they had come from all across the country to give expert opinion. What seemed more important was the parliamentary secretary's own personal temper tantrum.
    Unfortunately, that is how the government treats the important legislative work that should be done in committees. Committee after committee is shut down and held in camera anytime the Conservatives do not want Canadians to know what is going on.
    Canadians elected all of us but the government believes it is entitled to shut down those voices. It is an insult to Canadians and democracy.
     It took the Liberals 13 years to get this arrogant. My goodness, the Conservatives are a quick study.

Canada-China Relations

    Mr. Speaker, today, the Prime Minister attended the official opening of the Canadian Tourism Commission's newly outfitted marketing centre in Beijing. This centre will play a key role in highlighting Canada as a destination of choice for tourists. It will further facilitate the flow of people among our two great countries and strengthen our ties with one another.
    2012 marks an exciting year for the CTC as it aims to promote Canada as an all season destination of choice by focusing on a collection of unique travel experiences offered by our country. In particular, the CTC's 2012 international marketing campaign will highlight the centennial celebration of the Calgary Stampede.
    Moreover, our 2012 government introduced two new Canadian visas, the long term multiple entry visa and the parent and grandparent super visa, making the visa application process easier and more efficient.
    By increasing people-to-people connections, Canada is strengthening its economic co-operation with China.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Government Policies

    Mr. Speaker, I will summarize the Conservative government's week thus far. It suggested giving ropes to prisoners to hang themselves, it reopened the debate on the death penalty, it reopened the abortion debate, and it said that gun control was a Nazi policy and that, henceforth, obtaining information by torture is acceptable. What is going on with the government?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, of course none of that is true. We have taken responsible positions, whether it be with the economy, whether it be with respect to the treatment of seniors or whether it be with law and justice issues, which is all about protecting victims in this country. We are making fiscally prudent decisions that will preserve our social network well into the future.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives need to rein in their Reform Party wing, especially those in cabinet.
    Yesterday, the Minister of Public Safety said, “information obtained by torture is always discounted. However...”. What does he mean by “however”? There is no however and no but. People either condone it or they do not. Which is it: no however, no if or no but?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's position, the Conservative government's position, has always been clear. We do not condone torture. We do not engage in torture as a country. CSIS, its employees and all of our defence security officials are clear on that and they are bound by Canada's laws. Our government expects all of our officials to abide by those laws.
    We will always protect Canada's security and Canada's human interests.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I must say that the minister's reply is interesting. If that is the case, will he withdraw his directive?
    Not only is it immoral to obtain information by torture, but the information is often false or incorrect. We know that a person who is being tortured will say anything to make the torture stop. The minister has opened the door to abuse, torture and wrongdoing, as we saw in the Maher Arar case. Just a transfer to a country where torture is acceptable. No big deal.
    Does the minister realize that this does not make sense? Again, will he withdraw the directive—
    Order. The hon. Minister of National Defence.
    Mr. Speaker, I will repeat that Canada does not condone the use of torture and does not engage in this practice.

[English]

    What the hon. member opposite appears to be indicating is that, under no circumstances, if information came into the possession of Canadian officials that would stop the death, a mass death perhaps, such as a bomb threat at the Air Canada Centre, that we would be forced to refuse to use any information that would save lives. That is not the position of this government.
    Mr. Speaker, the problem is that information from torture is unreliable. Has the government learned nothing from the Maher Arar affair?
    We know there are countries and agencies that use torture as a matter of course but, instead of moving to stop this, the government turns a blind eye. That is what it really means when the Minister of Public Safety directs CSIS to use information extracted through torture.
    Torture will continue if the information keeps being used.
    Will the minister acknowledge, as his predecessor did as public safety minister, that torture is morally wrong and information extracted through torture is unreliable?
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot be any clearer. Our government does not condone torture and certainly does not engage in torture.
    However, when we have information that Canadian lives are at risk we will act without delay. Canadians expect no less. The security of Canadians is paramount. We will use information that comes to our attention that may save the lives of Canadians, and we will do it without dispatch.
    Mr. Speaker, torture is prohibited under the Criminal Code of Canada and the United Nations Convention against Torture, to which we are a signatory.
    The minister claims not to condone torture and then, however, he opens the door wide for other countries to use torture and for us to use that information.
    In 2009 the Conservative public safety minister said, “If there's any indication...that torture may have been used, that information is discounted”.
    Why has the government flip-flopped and thrown open the doors to use immoral and unreliable information extracted through torture?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is someone who, if he knew there was a plane with some of his constituents on it, men women and children, and he obtained information which came from a questionable source, he would do nothing. That is the position of the NDP. The NDP would not take the appropriate action to ensure that the lives of Canadians were protected.
    That is why those members are over there. They are not fit to be trusted with the security of Canadians.

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, it is not the Reform wing we worry about, it is the whole bloody bird over there that is the problem. That is the issue we face.
    Let me turn my attention to the report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer today stated very clearly that there is no issue with respect to the fiscal sustainability of the federal pension plan in Canada, none whatsoever. Old age security is not at risk. Old age security is not in doubt for fiscal reasons.
    The only risk to old age security is the Government of Canada and the Reform-Alliance reactionary agenda over there.

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a bit rich coming from that member to be on a high horse about political affiliations given his past.
    Let us be clear. There is not a single recipient of old age security today who is going to lose a red cent, and that would be a Liberal red cent, as a result of any future contemplated changes.
    Let us contemplate the words of another individual:
    Everybody recognizes that demographic changes in our society mean that we will have to make changes to ensure that our pension system remains sustainable for future generations of Canadians.
    Who said that? His predecessor, Jean Chrétien.
    Mr. Speaker, better a high horse than a helicopter.
    We are saying to the minister as clearly as we can that it is precisely because the Liberal government of the day recognized a problem with respect to the Canada pension plan that it changed the plan, amended the plan, fixed the plan, added to the plan, added contributions to the plan, and fixed it for Canadians. That is what the Liberal Party did.
    The difference is that what the government is now talking about, what the Prime Minister flew over to his alpine perch to talk about, was not the Canada pension plan; it had to do with hurting poor people with respect to old age security.
    Mr. Speaker, what nonsense and rhetoric. The member would know about helicopter rides. He took one to his cottage when he was premier of Ontario.
    Our government is committed to protecting the OAS for our current seniors and future seniors.
    Let me refer to another document the member might be familiar with, although he was in another party at the time:
    [T]he future affordability of our public pension programs is challenged by major demographic and economic changes that have occurred since these programs were developed in the 1960s.
    What is the source of that statement? The 1996 Liberal budget.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the minister does not accept the report released by this official representative of Parliament, which clearly states that there is no problem with respect to the future of public pensions in Canada, except the Conservative Party's position. It is the Conservative Party that is attacking poor people. It is the Conservative Party that is abandoning the poor and the provinces, and it is the Conservative Party that is trying to change a system that has been working for half a century. The government must change its mind. Now is the time for it to do so.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are taking action to ensure that the old age pension will be sustainable and affordable in the long term. There are, in fact, other independent reports to which we can refer--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. minister has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, this is from a February 2012 publication by the Macdonald Laurier Institute:
    There can be little doubt that Canada, like all industrialized countries, may soon face the full burden of an aging society. Canada will either proactively implement solutions to this coming problem or react, probably in crisis, when the full weight of the costs of an aging society fully confront our society.
    There is lots of information that rebuts the position of the member opposite.
    Mr. Speaker, let us try again.
    In 2004 the Liberals wanted to raise the OAS eligibility to 67 years, and guess who ridiculed them? The Conservatives. They railed that the Liberals wanted to have seniors work two more years to get less out of their pension. Now the Conservative government is proposing exactly the same option.
    It is time for the minister to tell seniors the truth. Is the government planning to raise the OAS eligibility to 67, yes or no?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I have said, what we are going to do is take care of seniors, whether they are current retirees or future ones.
    I am glad that at least one member of the NDP agrees that something needs to be done. I quote:
    Issues facing seniors are only going to intensify as more Canadians reach their senior years. Action now is critical--we need a plan in place, we need the structures in place to deal with this dramatic shift in our country's demographics.
    Who said that? The NDP member for London—Fanshawe.
    Mr. Speaker, on February 2 the human resources minister stood in this place and stated that there was a revenue shortfall due to boomers retiring. However, today the Parliamentary Budget Officer released his report which disputes that claim. The PBO in his report confirms what we already know, that there is no crisis of sustainability with respect to old age security.
    The minister has upset Canadian seniors across Canada from coast to coast for no good reason. Why does the government always want to manufacture a crisis where there is none?
    Mr. Speaker, our government's aim is to prevent a crisis, the kind of crisis that we have seen hit in Europe, where government expenditures on pensions climb as high as 14% or 15% of GDP. That is almost equivalent to our entire government spending on all of our programs combined. We are trying to prevent that so we can make sure that programs are affordable for current Canadians who are retired and those approaching retirement and indeed for future generations. That is the responsible thing to do. It is long term and I realize that, but we have to take a look at the long term. That is our responsibility.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is not true that the government has to cut social programs. This is not true. There are other options. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and experts have been clear: the program is viable in the long term. People are planning for retirement now, whether they are 59 or 29. The younger generation of workers is concerned, and they have the right to plan their retirement like everyone else. People need this information.
    Can the minister tell us whether or not the government will increase the retirement age from 65 to 67?
    Some hon. members: Yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, what we are going to do is ensure the viability of the old age security program both now and in the long term because we have to respect the rights of our seniors.
    It is very important to listen to the other experts who are saying that, if nothing is done now, this program will well and truly be in crisis.
    Mr. Speaker, it disgusts me that the government is making cuts like these on the backs of future generations. It is unacceptable. By threatening to change the old age security program as it is currently doing, the government is clearly pitting one generation against the other. In fact, the government is mortgaging the future of our future generations. That is what is really happening.
    What will happen to young workers when they reach retirement? We do not know yet; that is for certain.
    Will the government increase the retirement age from 65 to 67 or not?
    Some hon. members: Yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, if the government were to take the NDP's advice and do nothing now, the young workers of today would not get anything from the old age security program. That is for certain. We want to prevent this from happening. That is why we are taking action now to ensure that the old age security system is viable for today's seniors and for future generations.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when I warned the government that there was a crisis, it did not listen. It has no plan--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
    Mr. Speaker, the government has no plan for affordable housing for seniors, no plan for home care, no plan for long-term care. The Conservatives have no plan for responsible pension reform, except that they march in here and say that they are going to cut the OAS. That is despicable.
    Canadians, especially those who have lost their jobs and are worried, want a clear answer from that bunch. Are the Conservatives going to protect the OAS, yes or no?

  (1440)  

    Order. I am sure the member appreciates the assistance when she comes to the end of her question, but I do not know that it adds to the debate here. I would ask members to ask their questions on their own and give answers on their own as well.
    The hon. Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.
    Mr. Speaker, the NDP members cannot seem to make up their minds. On one side they say no, but on the other, the member says that she warned us of the coming crisis.
    We know there is a coming crisis in old age security. That is why we are taking steps now before it is too late. We do not want to burden future generations with massive tax increases to support the OAS. We need to take steps now. It is the responsible thing to do. Our population is aging. Pretty soon we are going to have three times the cost of OAS payments to make with only half the working population to support it. That is not enough. We have to act now.
    Mr. Speaker, that is categorically untrue. The PBO said that the OAS is sustainable. The only--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
    Mr. Speaker, the PBO is clear; experts are clear: the OAS is sustainable.
    Canadians, especially those who have lost their jobs, would like an answer from the government. They cannot save for retirement now and they have no pension income. At the end of their careers, can they rely on the OAS to make ends meet?
    Is the government going to make it harder for new Canadians and all Canadians to retire by changing the OAS, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is ensuring that there is an OAS program now and for future generations. We have to do it. It is the responsible thing to do because Canadians are counting on us.
    That means we have to take a longer view of the world than what the NDP likes to take. We have to take a look at it and see if we can afford it over the long term. If we cannot, we need to make changes. It is only sensible when there will be half as many people who will have to pay three times as much. It is the single biggest transfer that the government makes. We have to make changes. We are going to do it responsibly and gradually to make sure that there are no cliff drops and that everybody is taken care of.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, many Canadians with disabilities count on old age security and the guaranteed income supplement to round out their income. The amounts provided are nowhere near enough to ensure a decent standard of living.
    When the Conservatives were in opposition in 2004, they accused the Liberals of having a hidden agenda to increase the retirement age. It is crazy how little things have changed.
    Does this government plan to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67? Yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, what we plan to do is ensure the security and viability of the old age security program for the pensioners of today and tomorrow and for future generations. That was our promise to Canadians and that is what we will do.
    If the NDP is interested in helping seniors, why did it vote against increasing the guaranteed income supplement, the biggest increase in decades? Why did it vote against pension splitting? Why?
    Mr. Speaker, one thing is clear: the government's only long-term vision shows ill will towards seniors, considering its plans to take their money and hand it over to big oil companies and banks in the form of tax cuts. That much is clear.
    The provinces will be left to foot the bill in the form of social assistance payments if the retirement age goes up. The provinces will have to bear the financial burden of the Conservatives' bad choices.
    The provinces want to know and Canadians want to know: is this government going to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, if the NDP members care about helping seniors as much as they claim, why do they not walk the walk? Why do they act against our seniors? For instance, why did they vote against increasing the guaranteed income supplement? It was the largest increase to the GIS in decades. Why did they vote against increasing the GIS exemption? Why did they vote against affordable housing? There was a lot of money.

  (1445)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we voted against it because it did not get the job done for seniors.
    Let me tell the House about a constituent of mine. He receives about $1,000 a month in CPP disability, but this will be slashed when he turns 65, when OAS is supposed to kick in. If he has to wait until he is 67, he will lose close to $600 a month for two full years, and he is not alone. He wants answers and so do all Canadians.
    If the government is going to raise the OAS from 65 to 67, we want to know, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, if the NDP member is going to say what she said, she had better talk to the more than 14,000 people who benefit from 14,000 projects in affordable housing to which New Democrats said no. That is shame. We need to help. We are helping and we are with any changes that come with OAS, trying to ensure that Canadians have enough time, in fact considerable time, to adjust their own retirement plans so they can adapt to any changes that are made. It is going to be fair and it is going to be gradual.
    Mr. Speaker, earlier today the Parliamentary Budget Officer reported that there was no valid economic reason to slash old age pensions. Over 50% of OAS recipients live on less than $25,000. Survival of the fittest is bad enough, but cutting pensions to pay for jets and jails goes too far. The Prime Minister needs to fess up and admit that his choices are not in the best interests of Canadians.
    What kind of country have we become when government spends more on housing criminals than protecting seniors?
    Mr. Speaker, what kind of country has it become when opposition members are allowed to fearmonger, especially our seniors? That is not fair to our seniors. We have been—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians and Canadian seniors deserve the facts, which is what we have been giving. The hon. member is accusing us of planning to do things that we have clearly stated we are not going to do.
    Let me provide a quote, “People are not looking at 65 any more as the natural cutoff. That has implications for all public pensions and that is something we need to discuss”. Who said that? It was the interim leader of the Liberal Party.
    Mr. Speaker, there is no fearmongering here. We have real facts.
    Cape Breton has one of the highest percentages of seniors in the country. Unfortunately most are below income. They have gone from shock to anger over the Prime Minister's announcement of raising the age of old age security. This weekend I visited the Gillis' in my riding and they are scared. Their disability pensions stop at 65. Without old age security for two years, they will lose everything they have and be forced into welfare.
    Seniors like the Gillis' have done so much for our country. Why are the Conservatives throwing them out on the street?
    Mr. Speaker, it is exactly the rhetoric like that which is going to scare people, because what is being said is not factual. Those individuals are not going to be thrown out on the street. What we are doing is ensuring that they will receive the retirement security that they expect and have every reason to expect. However, we are also going to ensure that future generations are going to have an old age security system to look forward to. That is the responsible thing to do for all generations and that is exactly what we will do.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the changes that the government is planning to make to old age security will increase financial insecurity.
    Is the government aware that its announcement in Davos has made seniors feel more insecure?
    Can the minister tell us how increasing retirement age from 65 to 67, as suggested by the Prime Minister, will affect provincial social assistance budgets?
    Mr. Speaker, we will ensure that the old age security system remains viable for today's retirees, for those nearing retirement, and for future generations. That is a fact.
    An hon. member: Oh, oh!

  (1450)  

[English]

    Order, please. I am sure the minister appreciates the help from the members down in that corner, but I will ask them to let her finish before they ask a supplementary. It is getting kind of late in the afternoon. I know it is a Wednesday, but we have to get through question period.
    The hon. minister has the floor.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is what we are going to do. We will do it responsibly, fairly and gradually. It is important to proceed in this manner so that younger people can plan their retirement responsibly.

[English]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, in 2011 the auditor general reported that the government had failed to address the significant gaps in education opportunities for first nations children. She reported that conditions actually worsened despite her calls, over 30 times over a decade.
    The national aboriginal education panel today reported calls for an immediate action. We must act now.
    Will the Conservatives commit today to end the 2% cap on aboriginal education funding in the coming budget? Will they make Shannen's dream a reality?
    Mr. Speaker, our government believes a strong economy and a good education go hand in hand. We will continue to work with first nations to improve their quality of life and develop long-term economic prosperity.
    I would like to thank the national panel on K-12 education on behalf of the government for its work. We will be reviewing the report and the recommendations carefully.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the first nations have made their position clear. The only acceptable action plan is one that meets all education-related needs, from early childhood to post-secondary education.
    Will the government commit to developing legislation that takes into account its duty to provide ongoing funding for the education of first nations people? Will it commit to developing predictable criteria for program funding, including the administration of programs by first nations and respect for language and culture? And will it finally commit to doing this in partnership with first nations?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, last June we announced the joint action plan with the national chief. It was at that time we decided that the priority was K-12 education. We launched a national panel on June 21, National Aboriginal Day. It has travelled the country. It has come up with a very good report. There are a lot of recommendations in it.
    We are going to review that report very carefully and be reporting in due course.
    Mr. Speaker, there is no need for further study. It is a time for action. The education panel demands that the government codify the right of education. As a right, education cannot be interfered.
    Yesterday, when I asked the minister why he had cut off funding to Attawapiskat students and teachers, he said that it was a fabrication. Does he not even know what is happening on the ground in Attawapiskat?
    Why is he cutting off funding to the school? Why is he targeting children in order to force the band into submission? Is this his idea of putting first nations children first?
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to say that the education authority in the community of Attawapiskat is working with the third party manager to ensure he has the information he needs to flow funds. As well, my department recently announced the tendering process for construction of the new school.
     We urge the chief and council to get on board and work with the third party manager in the best interests of the people in the community.
    Mr. Speaker, let us go through the facts for two months. He has frozen $1 million in education to the band. There is no jurisdiction in the country where it would be legal for a government to cut off funds to a school to punish a municipality.
     Why is he treating these first nation children as bargaining chips? He cut off the funds to the school. He cut off the funds to the students who were going off reserve to high school.
     I know these students. They have done nothing wrong. Why have they been used as bargaining chips in his fight with a third party manager and the band?
    Mr. Speaker, the one who is trying to use the school, the children and the teachers as bargaining chips is the member for Timmins—James Bay.
    We are working with the education authority in the community. We are working in a way that will allow us to flow the funds, pay the bills, pay the payroll.
    The person who does not understand what is going on in the community is the member for Timmins—James Bay.

  (1455)  

Tourism Industry

    Mr. Speaker, our government understands that tourism is a key industry and an economic driver in nearly every region of our great country. The Prime Minister has been working diligently since 2006 in order to facilitate growth on the Canadian tourism front.
    Would the Minister of State for Tourism please share with the House some of the fruitful results our Prime Minister has delivered just today on his trip to China?
    Mr. Speaker, the tourism industry is a very important industry for our country. It creates wealth and jobs. Therefore, I am pleased to inform the House that today in Beijing the Prime Minister launched the new 2012 tourism marketing strategy. This will bring more tourists from China to visit our country.

[Translation]

    This strategy will be very productive and we will welcome tourists from every country, from China in particular.

[English]

Manufacturing Industry

    Mr. Speaker, with the manufacturing trade deficit that has ballooned to more than $60 billion under the Conservative watch and with factories from White Birch to EDM shutting down, one would think the Conservatives would be looking to secure more manufacturing jobs. However, the Minister of Industry is in Canada.
    Why is the Minister of Industry not in China promoting our manufacturing sector? Why has the government abandoned it and the workers they have left twisting in the wind?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, we sympathize with what is going on in the London area with EDM. As we said earlier, we will continue to work toward economic growth and job creation.
     That being said, if we follow the NDP's advice, the almost $270 billion that we have had in foreign investment in Canada over the past five years of our government would have never occurred and our economy would have suffered because of it.
    We welcome foreign investments to create jobs and economic growth.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that when it comes to manufacturing the Conservatives have just not got the job done. On their watch, we have witnessed hundreds of thousands of lost manufacturing jobs and devastated communities line up one after the other.
    Trade with China is important, but trade deals must be fair and they must serve Canada's interest. There must be more value-added jobs for our communities.
    Could the minister tell the House how many new manufacturing jobs will be created from the trade mission to China, not the phony bogus phantom jobs the Minister of Finance bellows out, but real ones that one can raise a family with?
    Mr. Speaker, we are focused on pursuing opportunities for Canadian exporters and investors in what is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
    Under our government, Canada's exports to China have increased 85%. Just today, we announced the foreign protection and investment treaty with the Chinese and that will protect manufacturing jobs and create opportunities in Canada.

Transportation Safety

    Mr. Speaker, on Monday a horrific van accident claimed the lives of a local driver and 10 seasonal workers. Our prayers and our thoughts go to the families of those workers in our country and for those foreign workers who come from abroad. Unfortunately it is not the first time that seasonal workers have been killed travelling on Canadian roads.
    These workers play an absolutely important role in Canada's agriculture industry, but many are left in a vulnerable position, not even informed of their rights as other workers in our country are.
    Will the government finally stand up for the rights of these workers and act now to prevent unsafe transport?
    Mr. Speaker, this was a terribly tragic collision that occurred in Ontario. I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families.
    Transport Canada has been in contact with the OPP. We offered our technical expertise and support that may be helpful for its investigation, and we will surely await the report.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in 2010, following another tragic accident in Bathurst involving a minivan that cost the lives of seven students and a teacher, I introduced a private members' bill on the safety of such vehicles. Transport Canada announced that it would conduct a study on these multi-passenger vans. Two years later, the government still has not taken any action.
    How many more lives have to be lost before this government does anything about it? When will this government make the safety of these vehicles a priority once and for all?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member could at least wait until the bodies of those who just lost their lives get cold before making this a political issue. We think it is important to show some respect for what just happened in Ontario. An unfortunate accident occurred and a number of people lost their lives.
    The hon. member knows full well that a three-phased report has been prepared, two phases of which are available on the Transport Canada website. We are simply going to continue to do our job. To us, the safety of all Canadians is very important and we will continue to focus on that.

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, today yet another voice was added to the question of the government's stubborn insistence on the F-35 acquisition. Yet each day the Conservative drumbeat of 5% to 10% cuts across the board beats louder.
    Forcing a faux choice between pensions and planes is tantamount to procurement malpractice. When will the government give Canadians a plan B to get both pensions and planes at a realistic cost in a realistic timeframe?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has had to re-equip our military to repair the damage done by the Liberal decade of darkness. Now the Liberals are aligning themselves with a group that wants to make deep cuts to military spending. This is why Canadians gave us a strong mandate to give the Canadian Forces the equipment it needs while creating jobs for Canadian workers.

Census

    Mr. Speaker, Statistics Canada published the bare basics population count today. However, the real story is the fact that the Conservatives' 2010 decision to kill the long form census will render the newest census data unreliable. The minister gloats about a 69% response rate that is far lower than the 94% response rate in the census.
    Why are the Conservatives doing such a disservice to the poor, immigrants, seniors, people with disabilities and all of those who are now the invisible one-third?
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to the national household survey, the national collection response rate was 69.3%, well above the target of 50%. The number of households responding to the 2011 national household survey was greater than that of the mandatory 2006 long form census.
    That being said, I prefer to rely on the experts. Statistics Canada has said that the NHS will yield useful and usable data that will meet the needs of the user. I appreciate the member's opinion but I prefer to rely on the experts.

Airline Industry

    Mr. Speaker, it has been almost five years since Parliament passed a truth in advertising law but the government is still failing Canadians, allowing airlines to hide their fees. Last week, the Conservatives voted against an NDP motion demanding immediate protection for our travellers. Today, making a mockery of the government's refusal to act, two Canadian airlines voluntarily moved to all-in-one pricing. When will the government act?
    Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that in 2007 when we proposed the bill, the member voted against it. Some years later she is saying that because of what her party is doing, we have to deliver on it now. That is very special.
    Our government continues to work with all the airline companies and we are very proud of the job we have done. All customers will see the right price when reading newspapers or on TV, the price they expect to buy at.
    Mr. Speaker, we did not support years of consultation without any action.
     Consumers in Toronto and across the country have been pushing for all-in-one pricing for years. What does the government do? It does nothing other than make a Christmas announcement that was actually a media stunt.
    After years of foot-dragging and inaction the government did not get the job done. What is it waiting for?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, in fact we made an announcement on December 16. We have been pushing for this. That member proposed a motion last week after we had already made the announcement.
     Today we have to congratulate Air Canada and Porter Airlines. These airline companies are giving the right information to all of their customers to be sure that they have the right price when they buy their tickets.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, this government has been working with first nations to improve education on reserves because, as the minister has stated, we know that a strong economy and a good education go hand in hand. It is in all of our interests to see aboriginal people educated, skilled and employed. That is why our government worked with the Assembly of First Nations to establish a national panel on education.
    Could the minister further elaborate on the important work of this panel?
    Mr. Speaker, today National Chief Shawn Atleo and I were provided with the national panel's report and recommendations on first nations education. I thank the panel for its hard work. We will be reviewing the report carefully. Our government will continue to work with first nations' partners on this shared priority to improve long-term economic prosperity.

Sealing Industry

    Mr. Speaker, on January 12, 2011, over a year ago, the then minister of fisheries and oceans announced that the Government of Canada had acquired market access to China for Canada's sealing industry. To this day not a single transaction has taken place.
    Will the Prime Minister bring up the sealing market issue in China? If he does, when he makes another announcement will it mean that we have the necessary market access to China?
    Mr. Speaker, as we have indicated before, this side of the House supports our sealers and our sealing industry.
    The Chinese government is currently doing a technical review of the policy and hopefully we will see good news forthcoming.

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, new documents show that the government is prepared to sacrifice the public health care system in its secret negotiations for a trade agreement with the European Union. Quebec health care unions and organizations are sounding the alarm. They believe that the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec is not being adequately protected in the negotiations, which are opening the door to more and more privatization.
    Why is the government refusing to adequately protect our public health care system? Will the government exclude public services from the negotiations, yes or no?
    Some hon. members: Yes or no?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would thoroughly caution the hon. member from seeing any truth in leaked documents.
    When it comes to social services and health care, a free trade agreement with the European Union, like all of Canada's trade agreements, would exclude public services such as public health, public education, social services, water and the rest of the list.
    The member should not put any credibility in leaked documents.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, communities like my city of London benefit from greater international trade.
    The Prime Minister's current visit to China will strengthen our trade and economic ties, and sets the foundation for long-term economic growth in Canada. Under our government, Canada's exports to China have increased by 85%, and this visit is crucial for Canadian jobs.
    Today the Prime Minister announced that our Minister of International Trade signed and concluded a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with China.
    I would appreciate it if the parliamentary secretary would tell the House how this agreement will create jobs and promote long-term economic growth for Canada?
    Today the Prime Minister announced the conclusion of a landmark job-creating investment agreement between Canada and China. It shows that our ambitious pro trade plan is delivering results by forging new links with high growth markets. This agreement will provide a more stable and secure environment for investors on both sides of the Pacific.
    This is good news for Canadian workers and their families.

  (1510)  

[Translation]

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, the situation at the immigration detention centre in Laval is cause for concern. The verification of refugee identities takes far too long. Due to the excessive workload, it can take months for officials to process claims.
    This leads to health problems and depression among the refugee claimants.
    What is more serious is that passing Bill C-4 will make things worse by increasing the time frame from a few months to several years.
    Why treat these newcomers like criminals?
    Why is the government doing nothing to deal with this situation that is intolerable for the officials and newcomers?
    It is true that there is a waiting list for refugee claimants. We inherited it from the previous government. Fortunately, since last year, the backlog of refugee claims has been reduced by 20,000. The new system that we will be implementing within a few months will accelerate the processing of claims. The processing period will be a few weeks. New claims will be heard by the IRB within two to three months.

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, in 2006, the Prime Minister was preaching about human rights and telling anyone who would listen that he would not back down on fundamental rights in order to trade with China.
    Today, it seems the opposite is true; while we have learned that the Conservatives authorized the secret service to use information obtained through torture, the Prime Minister is in China bragging about the importance of economic exchange between the two countries and is content with a simple dialogue on human rights.
    How can the government explain this turnabout? Has it abandoned respect for people's most fundamental rights?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is our Conservative government that has aggressively pursued Canada's trade expansion with China. We secured approved destination status for Chinese tourists. Two-way trade is almost $60 billion. That is up from $36 billion under the Liberals. We will not take any lessons on trade from any of the opposition members.
    However, let me be clear on human rights. We take every appropriate opportunity to express our human rights concerns to the Chinese government, in a respectful manner.

[Translation]

Privilege

Status of Women in Parliament 

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, you know that I have a great deal of respect for you. I voted for you to be the Speaker. You are a young face in this chamber, a young Speaker, the youngest Speaker in the history of Canada, I believe. I am convinced that a young Speaker such as yourself will breathe new life into the rules, customs and practices of this chamber.
    I was pregnant while a member of Parliament and I had a premature baby. I was told that I could not come and vote with a baby in my arms. Is there a rule against this? A custom in this regard? I do not know, but that is what I was told. I was very upset that I was unable to do my parliamentary duty from start to finish, that I was unable to vote when I should because I had my baby with me.
    I bring this up now because, as you know, the situation has arisen again in the House. I read what you said to the media to the effect that there is reportedly no rule on this subject and that you did not intend to remove a baby from this chamber. I am sure that you did not intend to do so because I know that you are a very honourable person. You are a father, and I am sure that this was not your intention. However, there is now some ambiguity because I experienced a similar situation.
    I would humbly ask you to clarify whether or not there is a rule. If there is a rule, I would like you to do away with it. If there is not, I would like you to clarify this situation so that we women of childbearing age will know how to mange our family lives and achieve a work-life balance.
    By so doing, you will also send a message to Quebec and Canadian society saying that women can participate in politics even if they are in their childbearing years and that they have a place in this chamber. This is a key message from both a political and human standpoint.
    Right now, we are like the cobbler's barefoot children. It seems that we do not have the right to vote when our babies are with us. I am speaking of newborn babies, not children who are five or six years old and who can be taken to daycare. I am asking you to consider this issue.
    There is another thing that I would like to mention. It is like a scavenger hunt to find the infamous change tables in the Parliament buildings. I remember very well that it was extremely difficult for me to find them. The washroom right here still does not have one. I would like to have a few more change tables and the tools for us take care of our small babies while still doing our duties as members of Parliament.
    I would like to thank you and tell you that you can rest assured that I will vote for you again if the constituents of Ahuntsic vote for me again in the next election.

  (1515)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, those of us who are the parents of young children know very well that there are real challenges in managing and juggling the needs of our children, as well as the demands of our workplace. That applies not just here in the House of Commons or in the Parliament buildings but, in fact, in all workplaces across the country.
    I think this is a question that is appropriate for the procedure and House affairs committee to look at.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the point that is being made but, just for the record, we need to be clear about what happened in the House yesterday. I spoke to you after the incident and you assured me that it was about the use of the cameras in the House. I appreciate that was the right course of action. We all know we cannot take pictures in this House, so I just want to set that record straight.
    I also appreciate that all members in the House have been very generous in the past in allowing young mothers to bring their babies into the House, to recognize the difficulty with respect to work-life balance.
    There are incidents where Sheila Copps brought her baby into the House, Caroline St-Hilaire brought her baby into the House and Michelle Dockrill brought her baby into the House. There certainly are such precedents.
    I appreciate the understanding of all members about how difficult it is to do this job and have a newborn. I take it on faith that all the members will continue to exhibit that goodwill. I do not think we need to debate this issue further. I appreciate the understanding and support that all members are showing the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on this point to make an additional comment because there is need for the ambiguity to be cleared up.
    The hon. member just mentioned Michelle Dockrill, the former member of Parliament from Cape Breton. She did bring her son, Kenzie, into the House but she was told never to do it again. She was nursing her son at the time and was told that eating in the chamber violated the rules of the chamber. I think we need greater clarity.
    I appreciate the interventions and I have spoken to some members in my chamber about this. I will come back to the House with a clarification. I can assure the House, as a father of four, the youngest being 11 months, that I have a great deal of sympathy for the challenges that parents face.

Statements by Members  

    Mr. Speaker, during members' statements today, the member for Davenport used his member statement to attack me and my reputation with respect to some of the events that occurred during our Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage this week.
    I want the record to clearly show that the member characterized some of the events that happened there as a temper tantrum by me. However, if you were to read the blues, Mr. Speaker, you would see that there was no temper tantrum.
     What actually happened was that the hon. member, instead of using his time for questioning witnesses, decided to drop a motion that he wanted to be dealt with in a public session. When the members on our side decided that we would allow that to happen in a public session and tried to give unanimous consent to do that, the hon. member decided he did not want that to happen.
     There was no hissy fit and I would ask that--
    I do not hear a point of order in that. It seems like continuation of debate. If there is an argument as to what happened at committee, that can be taken up in committee, or perhaps the member would like to refute it during statements on another day.

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1520)  

[English]

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the following reports of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group and its participation in the following meetings: first, the U.S. congressional meetings that were held in Washington, D.C., March 1-2, 2011; second, the fourth annual conference of the Southeastern United States-Canadian Provinces Alliance held in Fredericton, New Brunswick, June 12-14, 2011; and third, the Western Governors Association annual meeting held in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, June 29 to July 1, 2011.
    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union respecting its participation at the 102nd IPU Assembly and related meetings in Bangkok, Thailand, March 27-April 1, 2010; the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union concerning its participation at the 259th session of the IPU Executive Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, February 17-19, 2011; the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union concerning its participation at the annual 2011 session of the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, March 21-22, 2011; and the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union concerning its participation at the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Working Group in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 14, 2011.

Committees of the House

Public Accounts  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts in relation to its study of chapter 3, internal audit of the 2011 status report of the Auditor General of Canada.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Petitions

Suicide Prevention  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a number of petitions signed by over 600 people from all across Canada: from Ottawa, British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to meet the public health challenges posed by suicide by adopting legislation that would recognize suicide as a public health issue, provide guidelines for suicide prevention, promote collaboration and knowledge exchange regarding suicide, promote evidence-based solutions to prevent suicide and its aftermath, and to define best practices for the prevention of suicide.

[Translation]

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition from people in Quebec and New Brunswick to support CBC/Radio-Canada, and also to protest the funding cuts to our only national, bilingual broadcaster, whose funding was reduced by more than 50% by two parties: the Liberal Party, followed by the Conservative Party.
    Despite these cuts, CBC/Radio-Canada continues its powerful presentation of the voices of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Those Canadians like and want CBC/Radio-Canada. For the Conservatives to say that they speak on behalf of all Canadians is false, just like their politics.

  (1525)  

[English]

Multiple Sclerosis  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present this petition on CCSVI.
    The government claims that most of what I am asking for in Bill C-280 is already underway, which is absolutely not the case. For example, follow-up care remains a problem today and has not been adequately assessed. Phase I and II trials will not put Canada at the forefront of international research. Funding for trials still has not been provided. There is no advisory panel composed of CCSVI experts. I would remind all hon. members that the dates in the bill can be amended at committee.
    Therefore, the petitioners call for the Minister of Health to consult experts actively engaged in diagnosis and treatment of CCSVI to undertake phase III clinical trials on an urgent basis at multiple centres across Canada and to require follow-up care.

Abortion  

    Mr. Speaker, I have been asked by the constituents in my riding to present the following petition. They point out that Canada is the only nation in the western world, in the company of China and North Korea, without any laws restricting abortion, and that Canada's Supreme Court has said that it is Parliament's responsibility to enact abortion legislation. Therefore, they call upon the House of Commons and Parliament to speedily enact legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible.

Telecommunications Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition from the residents of my riding of Davenport in Toronto. The residents want to add their voices to the growing momentum in our country expressing concern around the government's plans to introduce what we call “lawful access legislation”.
    The petitioners state that this legislation would require all telecommunications companies to collect and store personal information about their users and hand over the information at the request of law enforcement without a warrant. They state that Internet and phone providers would pass the cost of this spying program on to consumers. They state that Canadian authorities have not provided the public with evidence that they cannot perform their duties under current regulations. They also state that the Canadian Privacy Commissioner has stated that the legislation would substantially diminish the privacy rights of Canada.
    The petitioners, therefore, call upon the Government of Canada to respect the privacy rights of Canadians by maintaining the need for law enforcement to secure judicial warrants before receiving personal information from telecommunications providers.

Trans-Labrador Highway   

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to present a petition today on behalf of the people of the Big Land in Labrador regarding the Trans-Labrador Highway. It is signed by many people from the coast, from Mary's Harbour to Cartwright to St. Lewis.
    The Trans-Labrador Highway is a vital transportation lifeline for Labrador communities, providing access, greater economic activity and allowing residents to attain health care and other public services. Labrador cannot afford to wait years or decades for the upgrading and paving of phase I and III of the Trans-Labrador Highway.
    The petitioners, therefore, call upon the Government of Canada to provide additional funding for much needed improvements to the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Human Trafficking  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a number of petitions to present.
    First, I have 459 petitions that people put together in support of my Bill C-310. It is a bill that is going to committee. It is with respect to stopping human trafficking, and reaching into other countries to bring traffickers of children back here if they are Canadian citizens to be judged under Canadian law.
    Another 389 petitions also came in a couple of days ago supporting the Nordic model. The petitioners want our government to put the Nordic model in place.
    Another 1,000 signatures have come in with respect to the Nordic model focusing on men rather than women. The women are sold for sex and are victims. The men who buy those services from these victims will be the focus of the Nordic model.
    With respect to the national action plan which was announced during the last election, we have almost 1,000 signatures. The petitioners are asking the government to implement the action plan as soon as possible.

  (1530)  

Veterans Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by several citizens of British Columbia concerned over the cuts to the budget at Veterans Affairs and over the impending job losses.
    These citizens call upon the government to restore funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Public Transit  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition signed by many people in the city of Toronto.
    If Canada had a national transit plan, the good citizens of Toronto would not have seen the absurd situation where a hole was dug in Eglinton for a subway, only to be filled in immediately after when the government cancelled the subway program. It is now 16 years later and the City of Toronto is debating whether it will dig a hole in Eglinton again.
    Canada is the only OECD country that does not have a national public transit strategy. Over the next five years there will be an $18 billion gap in transit infrastructure needs. These petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to enact a national public transit strategy.

Shark Finning  

    Mr. Speaker, sharks are an integral part of the world's most delicate marine ecosystems. However, the practice of shark finning, which refers to the removal and retention of shark fins, is threatening the balance of life in the sea.
    I would like to present to the House a petition signed by 64 of my constituents from Oakville's Dearcroft Montessori School. I am happy to present this petition for a response from our government.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition on behalf of my constituents calling for the establishment of a royal commission on the environment and health.
    This is the brainchild of one of my constituents, Marsha Akman, who has been championing this cause for some time. The petition notes that the past several decades have seen a rise in the use of chemicals, many of them cancer-causing, in industrial processes and in the production of consumer goods.
    Accordingly, the commission will be mandated to examine and make recommendations to mitigate the deleterious environmental and health consequences of such industrial and commercial activity. Particularly, the petitioners are calling on the government to invoke the precautionary principle in order to protect public health and the environment while regulating these industries.
    My constituents have invested a great deal of time, energy and commitment in this cause, and I am pleased to join their call for the establishment of a royal commission on the environment and health, which will surely benefit all Canadians.

Wine Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present two petitions this afternoon.
    The first petition is from residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands, particularly from the beautiful islands of Pender, Galiano and Salt Spring. They are petitioning this House to please pass the private member's bill from the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla. This is a brave bill to free the grape, to allow us to transit wine from province to province.
    I submit this petition and hope that all members of this House will support the member's bill.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, my second petition is on behalf of residents of Ontario and Manitoba.
    The petitioners are asking the House to examine the fine work of an agency associated with the Government of Canada, the National Round Table on the Environment and on the Economy. It is warning of the large annual costs that will hit our economy if we fail to take action on the climate crisis.
    The petitioners are urging the Government of Canada to come up with a plan to meet the target set and previously inscribed in legislation in this House, 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Human Rights  

    Mr. Speaker, I have privilege today of tabling a petition from residents of Ponoka, High Prairie, Lacombe, Oyen, Hanna and Edmonton, Alberta. They are bringing to the attention of the House that it is essential that Canada maintain, promote and enhance its role in upholding human rights and sustainability worldwide. That includes the condemnation of practices of Canadian and other corporations forcing displacements, social conflicts, violent disruptions of protests against unfair employment practices, poisoning local water and the destruction of farmland and fisheries. They are bringing to our attention that Canadian legislation must be reformed to hold accountable those who violate human rights or harm the environment.
    They call on members of the House to support Bill C-323, the international promotion and protection of human rights act and thereby create a new civil cause of action to enable the Federal Court to hear claims for a violation of international laws outside of Canada.

  (1535)  

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that has come to me from the beautiful city of Calgary. It urges the government to look after our national public broadcaster, which plays an integral role in the culture of this country. The petition describes our national public broadcaster as a sounding board for all regions of this country. Our national public broadcaster allows us to stay in touch with one another in a very efficient way and is supported by the vast majority of people in this country. The petitioners are calling on the government to maintain stable, predictable, long-term core funding to the public broadcaster, CBC and Radio-Canada.

Questions on the Order Paper

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

Motions for Papers

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Copyright Modernization Act

Bill C-11—Time Allocation Motion  

    That, in relation to Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, not more than two further sitting days shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the Bill; and
that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the second day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will be a 30 minute question period. I invite hon. members who wish to put questions to the government to rise in their places at the beginning of the question period so as to gauge the number of speakers who may wish to participate. As in the past, we have generally considered that one minute is a good timeframe for questions to be put and, similarly, for the response.
    Mr. Speaker, I was going to start off by saying, another day, another motion to terminate, to muzzle debate in this House, another anti-democratic motion, but that would not be fair to the government.
    What I should be saying is, another week, another motion to muzzle debate, to terminate debate, to strike severe blows to the democracy that should be functioning in this Parliament. Because, including this motion, this will be the 15th time that the government has moved either closure or time allocation in 73 sitting days. That is more than one a week now. The speed at which the government is bringing in these motions to terminate debate, to strike blows to democracy is occurring more rapidly than at the start of the session.
    Every time it happens, one more record is set that belies anything but that this Parliament is being turned into a farce. We are not being given the opportunity, either on this side of the House, in opposition, or on the government side, the people in the backbenches in particular, to have any meaningful debate on bills that are before this House on issues that are confronting this country. The government is shutting down debate repeatedly.
     I say to the minister responsible for this, and to the House leader, how many more times will we see this? Will I have to stand every single day to face these motions?

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, after months of the NDP delaying and obstructing important legislation, it has actually revealed its true agenda. It intends to delay all legislation as long as it possibly can. That explains why the NDP has almost never agreed to hold a vote on any piece of legislation in this House.
    Last week, I issued an invitation to come to an agreement on moving forward with legislation. The NDP member for Acadie—Bathurst revealed the NDP plan to delay and obstruct all legislation by putting up every speaker possible. He justified this by saying the rules allow that every member has the right to speak. Indeed, that is the case. It is called “a filibuster” when parties put up every single speaker. The normal practice is not to do that.
    The bill that we are talking about today has already been the subject of 75 speeches in this House and an opposition to block it from even getting to second reading.
    By contrast, the identical bill, word for word, was sent to committee in 2010 after only seven hours of constructive debate in this place so that it could be reviewed in detail and improved through amendments.
    If the NDP members had their way, Canada would go the way of other countries, such as the United States and countries in Europe, that have faced a political gridlock in a decision that caused economic uncertainty that threatened the world economy.
    That is not what we want from our government. That is not what Canadians want. We are going to continue to have a productive, hard-working, orderly government that makes decisions and does the work that Canadians sent us here to do.
    Questions or comments. I will add, as I should have done earlier, there will be a preference given to opposition members, in terms of putting questions to the government in the course of this 30 minute question period.
    The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie
    Mr. Speaker, the identical bill that the House leader refers to is Bill C-32. I was involved on the legislative committee. Of course, after hearing about 150 witnesses and receiving untold written submissions, when it appeared in its new form as Bill C-11 under the new Parliament, not a single comma had been changed. This leads us to the conclusion that there was no intention to do anything with all that testimony that occurred before the committee.
    The House leader mentioned that he invited the opposition to tell him how many speakers it would like to put up at second reading. We came forward, in the Liberal Party, and said we would like to have eight speakers. We were hoping that perhaps he was turning over a new leaf and was going to allow some proper debate. Then we find out today the time allocation is two days. We will be lucky if we get two or three speakers.
    Is this an indication of the goodwill that the government is showing toward democracy?
    Mr. Speaker, I will address the first part of the member's question. He is right. We have tabled the exact same bill. It is not because we are not interested in having a parliamentary debate. We put forward the exact same bill and sent it to a legislative committee. His hon. colleague, the critic responsible for this, and I have spoken about this. We are sending this, not to the heritage committee nor to the industry committee which already have very busy agendas on their own, but to a stand-alone legislative committee, specifically on this bill, so that we can have exhaustive consideration of this bill and consideration of the amendments. We have been very open about that.
    We tabled the exact same bill on purpose. We had a legislative committee on Bill C-32. We want to have a legislative committee on Bill C-11 to continue the debate. We want this process that began a year and a half ago to continue right through passage of updated copyright reform. We want to hear the opposition amendments. We want to hear what the opposition has to say. We want to continue the debate substantively, with actual amendments, at the legislative committee. We want to move it forward. It is time we get this done, and it is time the opposition stops delaying.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, again, we have a time allocation motion. I am really having a hard time understanding this. In parliaments similar to ours, in New Zealand, Australia and England, for instance, this measure is very rarely used and the Speaker has the power to say that it is not an appropriate time to use it.
    In my opinion, a time allocation motion should be used only during a national crisis, for example, for safety's sake, or in the case of an impending war. That is absolutely not the case here. I absolutely do not understand why time allocation motions are being used the way they are now. Time allocation loses all meaning. Using a time allocation motion should truly be reserved for cases of extreme urgency. The way it is being used now diminishes the meaning of using such a motion.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, first, we are all well aware that the NDP's strategy is to block virtually all bills. That is what the member for Acadie—Bathurst said. He revealed a plan to impede the progress of all bills by putting forward as many speakers as possible to justify a strategy in which members have the right to speak.
    As my colleague, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, pointed out, many speeches have been given during the current session. During the last session of the previous Parliament, there were, once again, 17 speeches with a range of exchanges concerning bills C-32 and C-11. Before that, there had already been 27 hours of debate.
    That is why we are saying it is now time to pass the bill as is. We will accept amendments in committee, but it is time to leave vinyl and VHS behind and move into the digital age. We have to move on without further delay. To do otherwise would be to let the nation get bogged down in yet another political impasse and fail to fulfill our international obligations according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the hon. government House leader.
    My concerns with time allocation on Bill C-11 are similar to those of the hon. member of the official opposition. I am concerned that the government House leader and the Conservative Party members do not give the respect that is required toward the functioning of Parliament as a whole and I wish they would. I know the government House leader objected to my tribute to Vaclav Havel, for example.
    Free speech in the House is something that should matter to all members. We are elected as equals. In this case we see time allocation over and over again. When we debate time allocation, the inevitable result is representatives of smaller parties, and I admit it only applies to five of us here, such as me for the Green Party, are deprived of the opportunity to debate. The House of Commons itself is the Government of Canada, not an individual party. The result of time allocation, particularly when the government House leader said that to have a full debate under Westminster parliamentary democracy would in itself represent an instability which would jeopardize our economy, suggests that the Conservatives find democracy not only inconvenient but dangerous.
    Mr. Speaker, on the topic of the legislation before us, the government is actually restoring the identical bill from the previous Parliament to where it was in the previous Parliament so we can continue consideration of it.
     I know it is my hon. colleague's first term. This is my 12th year as a member of Parliament and I can tell her that except for the Liberal government's Bill C-2, the response to 9/11, this legislation will have had more consideration at a stand-alone legislative committee and parliamentary and public consideration with all of the tens of thousands of submissions we received from Canadians in person and in writing and the consultations we did across the country before we drafted the bill. Then we drafted the legislation.
     There was reaction to Bill C-32. The committee was considering the bill. I think the committee on Bill C-32 received over 100 witnesses before it, giving us constructive criticism and feedback on how the bill could go forward. Then we had an election.
    However, we want to continue all the hard work that was done on Bill C-32. We want to carry it forward with Bill C-11 and continue the process as though it was uninterrupted because there is so much at stake and so much went into the drafting of the legislation.
     My hon. colleague should know that this bill will have had more consideration by Canadians at two stand-alone legislative committees and more time in the House than any bill Parliament has seen since the Liberals' Anti-terrorism Act back in 2001. That shows our commitment to ensuring we listen to all Canadians when it comes to getting intellectual property right.

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise on this issue.
    I happened to be the chair of the special legislative committee on Bill C-32. That bill received some debate in the House and with all party agreement it moved through second reading and to committee where committee heard from about 125 different groups and about 70 witnesses. There was a great deal of opportunity to work on the bill. Unfortunately, the election happened and at the point the committee's work came to an end.
    The fact is a lot of work has already been done on this legislation. I have been here on a number of days in the House when we have had debate. Many members have already had an opportunity to speak to the bill.
    Other than to delay and obstruct the legislation getting to committee, maybe the Minister of Canadian Heritage could tell us if there is any other reason that the opposition does not want us to move toward having a vote on this, getting the bill to committee and getting the work done so we can do what we can to ensure we protect jobs with this legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, the dedication of my hon. colleague from Leeds—Grenville to this issue has been very helpful. His work on the legislative committee has been important.
    Just in the past few hours, as we have said as a government that we want to go forward with this legislation, a number of folks have come forward to support this. I want to read into the record what some of the folks have said, who by the way are not necessarily habitual Conservative supporters, but people who recognize the legislation will be balanced and responsible in the way that we go forward.
    A press release was just sent to me from IATSE, which is the international union that represents members employed in stagecraft, motion picture and the television production and trade show industries. This union backs this legislation. It says, “The IATSE applauds the government for moving forward with this bill, The Copyright Modernization Act, because the bill will help ensure a stable entertainment industry which is what keeps its 16,000 employees working”.
    This legislation is important for the Canadian economy. It is time to get down to work in committee, listen to the amendments of the opposition and move forward with something.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I admit that, in these circumstances, I find it difficult to rank the irritants raised by this issue. I also admit that, unfortunately, I do not have a statistician working for me. However, based on the figures provided, the Conservatives believe they are justified in moving time allocation when just 75 members have spoken to a bill. According to my quick calculation, it seems to me that there are 308 members who have the right to speak in the House. Until the last member who wishes to rise has the opportunity to do so, it is too early for such a motion.
    Some hon. members: Bravo.
    Mr. Robert Aubin: Thank you.
    I would therefore like to support the member for Acadie—Bathurst, who is not here; he does not systematically obstruct debate but fights for the right of elected members and the people of this country to speak. He has my respect.
    Mr. Chris Alexander: Where is he?
    Mr. Robert Aubin: We will find out at the appropriate time. He is not the type of member who tends to hide when he has something to say.
     Bill C-11 will bring fundamental change to the lifestyle, or should we say survival style, of the creators who are the foundation of the entire cultural industry in Quebec and Canada. The Conservatives want to wrap it up in just a few hours. That is absurd. I could also quote other unions, such as the Union des artistes, to which I belong, that are not in favour of Bill C-11 as it stands. Can we debate—
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to repeat that this is not my first term, either. I have been here for six years. I have watched this law evolve, given that the Liberals also tried to reform this legislation. However, during the third session of the 40th Parliament, the committee discussed Bill C-32 for 39 hours—a total of 20 meetings at which 78 organizations and 122 individuals appeared. Also, 91 speeches were given over a period of eight days, for a total of 28 hours. This was followed by another seven hours with 17 more speeches.
    Also, during this session of the current Parliament, we have heard over 20 hours of debate and 75 speeches. As my colleague was saying, this bill is quite possibly the most debated bill in this House. Speaking of statistics, I have some here and I can say that many people are pressuring us to pass this bill since it will have major repercussions. People are asking us to pass it sooner rather than later, because frankly, the VHS era is long gone.

  (1555)  

    Mr. Speaker, I found it interesting to hear the Minister of Industry say that many people are pressuring him to pass this bill. The Minister of Canadian Heritage said he received a few emails in favour of this bill. But they did not mention the 50,000 emails they both received. I know, because those messages were also sent to me.

[English]

    I was copied on those 50,000 messages. They do not mention those 50,000 messages from people who are opposed to Bill C-11 and who have put pressure on the government to say no.
    When we consider that this is the 16th time in less than 6 months in this Parliament that the government has used time allocation, which is a new record for sure, and when we consider the fact that in this debate there have actually only been three speakers from the Conservative side, two of whom are ministers, it makes one wonder if the Prime Minister's Office and those ministers are not allowing their backbenchers to say something, to speak on this. I hope their muzzles are not chafing them. It makes me wonder if they want to speak out on behalf of the people who are so strongly opposed to this, but they are not willing to.
    For instance, I have a message from a person from Halifax who said:
    Please do not endorse or push through any legislation that gives more powers to corporations and takes away the rights of the individuals. As you've seen in the U.S. in the last month with the debacle surrounding SOPA, corporations are pushing for the support of laws that take away the rights of citizens to fairly use that which has been paid for, which is what these guys are trying to do too.
    Mr. Speaker, we have not put up government members because we want to get the bill forward. We have had ministers who have stood in the House. The Minister of Industry and I have stood in the House, spoke to and outlined the intentions of this bill, what we hoped to achieve and made the government's case. Now we want it to go back to where it was in the previous parliament and get down to the details.
    What we have done as a government is ceded all of our time for speaking in the House of Commons to the opposition party. We have had an unprecedented number of NDP members of Parliament, who are new MPs who did not get to speak on Bill C-32, who can now address Bill C-11, which is the same bill, and can make their points so we can move forward.
    Forty-five speakers.
    It is actually 75, Mr. Speaker.
     I think it makes my hon. colleague's argument fall flat on its face. In fact, we have heard from a lot of Canadians on this legislation. Certainly, we recognize that.
     Intellectual property law is incredibly complicated and is a balancing act. We think we have the right balance with regard to this legislation, but I do not think that any serious legislator in the country can say that Canada's current copyright legislation works for the digital age.
    We have put forward what we think is responsible and balanced legislation. If the opposition parties actually want to approve this bill and table amendments, then let us get on with it and stop delaying what is needed to be done for Canadian creators.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is the first time since I arrived here on May 2 that I have heard the Conservatives use unions as an example.
    I say to them no, no and no. There have been exactly 75 speeches. That is the magic number, the yellow light. At 80 speeches, a red light goes on and that means we must stop debating, that it is over and we have to adopt a closure motion.
    All 308 elected members here have the right to make speeches on the subject. If the bill comes back at second reading, they have the right to make a second speech. Members have to be given time to express their views. The public, Canadians in every riding have the right to hear their member speak about the subject. It is a question of democracy. Closure is being invoked on debates and bills are being passed quickly. This has been done 16 times. That is a record and it has to stop.

  (1600)  

    Mr. Speaker, in the previous Parliament, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and my predecessor at Industry Canada held consultations. There were approximately 8,000 submissions from all manner of people. This does have to stop. People are telling us to move on to the next stage and to pass the bill.
    In our pre-budget consultations, I have had the opportunity to sit down with people in the information technology and communications sector. Failure to move on this bill has put on the brakes. It is dangerous for them because it creates uncertainty in terms of innovation. That is what creates wealth and distinguishes us, increases our competitiveness and helps us find niche markets. However, this requires tools, such as the reform of the Copyright Act. Once again, Bill C-11 is balanced.
    All Canadians had the opportunity to be heard and they want us to move on. In 1996, we made that commitment to the World Intellectual Property Organization. It is time to live up to our commitment.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things to clear up. For the sake of time, I will not get into the time allocation itself, but I would like to talk about the bill.
    The impression was that when a bill is brought forward the government wishes to continue the process all the way through. It originally was one bill and after the election it was brought back to the House as something else without changes being made. Quite simply, the Conservatives have done this before. In a fisheries bill, the actual bill tabled in the House was debated, and after the election, the bill was brought back but they managed to make changes to it that had been suggested during the process. They could have done that.
    In this particular case, the Conservatives are so concerned about having the bill quickly go through committee, they could have done that anyway. Legislation can go to committee before second reading. It has been done before. It was done with the Clean Air Act back in 2006. Perhaps that is the way they should have gone if they wanted the bill to go to committee so quickly.
    Mr. Speaker, there are a number of options, but we did not. This is better and it gets the bill to a legislative committee more responsibly and, by the way, at the start of the parliamentary process, allows more members of Parliament to speak.
    We have the numbers here from the House leader's office and the hon. member opposite has spoken twice to the bill, by the way, in a respectful and responsible tone, because I know that he wants to see progress on this. We disagree on some of the details and we will get down to those details at committee.
    I did want to take a minute, though, because my colleague from Halifax West, if memory serves, mentioned there are some who oppose the bill. There is no doubt about that. It is complex, and certainly in many quarters it is a very divisive part of the legislative process. There is no doubt about that, but there are many of those he is counting as folks who are opposed to the bill who are seeking amendments. There are many people who are seeking amendments and as I said, we will certainly be considering those amendments. We want to get this right.
    However, to say that because somebody is seeking an amendment that person is opposed to the bill is not true. There are many organizations that support the bill because they see it as progress, maybe not necessarily the ideal as they see it, but absolute progress in terms of protecting the rights of creators, protecting the rights of consumers, and moving this country forward so that we have the best intellectual property regime possible.
    We have that balance. We want to listen to the amendments. We want to move forward. Let us continue the debate in a substantive way at the committee stage.
    Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that copyright legislation is complex. In fact, the first time I came to Ottawa as a creator and I met with the minister of Canadian heritage and the industry minister, it was not the two individuals I see before me today.
    We know that it has been discussed a lot and that it is complex. That speaks also to the reason it is important that we get this right. It speaks to the importance of members being able to weigh in on the bill.
    What we are really talking about right now is the government's credibility on transparency, of which the Conservatives have absolutely none. I want to speak to one clear example of the hypocrisy of the government's moving time allocation. The pooled registered pension plan came before the House. The government moved time allocation on the first day of debate after only the second speaker from the opposition.
    We have a serious problem around transparency with the government and once again time allocation. This is a blunt instrument of democracy and the government is using it way too often.

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, with regard to transparency in this legislation, I have been a part of this bill from its very inception in the previous Parliament as Bill C-32.
    We had webcasts and copyright.gc.ca. We had open forums where the public could attend in Quebec City, Montreal, Halifax--I was there--Vancouver, Calgary, here in Ottawa and over in Gatineau. More Canadians participated than I ever thought would participate. There were tens of thousands, and all their submissions were put on the web for free. We made it accessible to everybody. They were freely available for people to see them, download them, debate, disagree. To be honest, it was a fantastic conversation. It was wide open, like something we have never seen before.
    Let us move forward with this. Let us make it work. If my hon. colleague thinks there should have been more time used in the House and more MPs should have spoken, as he spoke on the bill twice, maybe he should have given one of his two speaking spots to one of his colleagues who did not get a chance to speak.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I find what is happening with Bill C-11 to be really pathetic. If there is one bill where members ought to be walking on eggshells, this is it. Do members agree that this is a really complicated bill? This is the perfect proof of this government's lack of foresight. The government wants to move quickly and says that the opposition has said enough. It is outrageous. I am very familiar with this bill and I can say that it is very complex. Everyone has something they want to say about it.
    What is outrageous is that the government is once again imposing a gag order. Clearly, everyone has something to say. It affects me, my colleagues from other ridings, everyone. We want to have choices on cultural issues, and I know that the ministers opposite know this. We are talking about art and inspiration, but this bill is not inspired. The government is telling us that this bill is balanced, but it is just as balanced as a car where the front is a Jetta, the back is a Chevrolet Impala and the middle is some other car. This bill is a nightmare. It is flawed. It is a series of incoherent intentions. It is a major problem. We have things to say and the government is bulldozing us once again.
    Mr. Speaker, this bill is balanced. More consultations were held than ever before. This is the most debated bill since the anti-terrorist measures in the early 2000s. Is everyone happy? No. Is everyone angry? No they are not, because the bill is balanced. Everyone benefits, whether it be authors, creators, consumers, IT and communications workers, intermediaries, institutions or the education community. That is what we tried to do.
    With all due respect, the hon. member is coming out of nowhere and wants to change everything. We have been talking about this bill for two Parliaments. Consultations were conducted by my colleague, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and by my predecessor. There have also been many speeches here. The hon. member is asking us to mark time, to stay in the era of VHS tapes and vinyl records and not meet our international obligations. It does not make any sense.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to put aside the issue of the bill itself and talk about the process. The government House leader, not once or twice, but more like 14, 15, or 16 times has walked into the chamber and moved time allocation. The time allocation rule is being abused by the government House leader. The government House leader needs to negotiate in good faith with opposition parties to allow people who want to speak to the legislation to do so. The government House leader needs to do the job that he is being paid to do.
    Would the minister across the way agree that the government House leader has a primary responsibility to negotiate and talk with opposition House leaders so that things can be done in a more appropriate fashion?
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to this bill, we have been more than open. We have given our speaking slots in the House to the opposition parties. We have ceded our time to the opposition members so that they can speak, make their points and arguments. I think that is pretty fair.
    As a matter of fact, I invited the opposition critics to my department to have a full briefing on the legislation when we tabled it so they could understand the intricacies of it and the direction in which we are trying to go so that they could plan their amendments, so that when Parliament came back and we re-tabled the same bill, we could get down to work and they could consider the direction in which they wanted to go.
    With regard to this bill, it is not an overstatement that there has not been a single piece of legislation in my 12 years here where there has been more open co-operation and good faith demonstrated between the government and the public, and the government and the opposition in trying to get their views on how we can move the bill forward. That includes the next step after this process, which is to go to a legislative committee, hear from witnesses, and get this done. Creators deserve it. Consumers deserve it. Canada needs it. Let us get on with it.

  (1610)  

[Translation]

    It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood, National Defence; the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway, Citizenship and Immigration.
    It is also my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith all questions necessary to dispose of the motion 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: 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:
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton): Call in the members.

  (1650)  

[English]

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

(Division No. 122)

YEAS

Members

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

Total: -- 146

NAYS

Members

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

Total: -- 128

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.
    I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If I am not mistaken, I believe the Minister of National Defence rose to vote in this particular vote. I know that the Chief Government Whip is usually very meticulous and conscientious about these kinds of things. I trust he will ensure that the vote count is corrected accordingly.
    Mr. Speaker, the precise rule in this House is that once the Chief Government Whip sits down and the Speaker then begins to define the issue, in the moment between, someone can sit down. Mr. Speaker, you had not said any words.
    Order, please. It is the rule and the standard practice of the House that once the Speaker begins to put the question, then at that moment no member is allowed to take their seat and then have their vote counted. As I saw events, the Minister of National Defence sat down before I began to put the question, and so I do not think there is anything untoward there.

Second Reading  

    The House resumed from December 12, 2011, consideration of the motion that Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to see that the motion passed, as we now have the opportunity to have further debate. There has been significant debate already on this bill and I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to speak on the copyright modernization act.
    This bill proposes amendments to the Copyright Act. As my colleagues know, our government made a firm commitment in the Speech from the Throne to introduce and seek swift passage of copyright legislation that balances the needs of creators and users. Our government is delivering on this commitment. We all know there has been significant debate on this issue. In the last Parliament, I had the opportunity to chair the special legislative committee on Bill C-32, the exact same bill now before the House as Bill C-11.
    I am happy to see that our government has taken this commonsense approach to modernizing the copyright laws in Canada. We have crafted a bill that differentiates between positive activities and illicit activities in the digital environment. Furthermore, this bill would make Canada an attractive location for creators, innovators and investors. In short, it is a key element of our government's commitment to help create jobs and build the industries of the future.
    Our government recognizes that Canada must keep in step as countries around the world respond to the new realities posed by rapid technological change. Every day there is something newer, something faster or better out there for creators and users. Determined new competitors are rising. We need to keep pace. Canada must be prepared to compete in this global economy. This bill is an important tool in accomplishing this.
    A modern copyright framework would strengthen Canada's competitive position. The copyright modernization act would bring our copyright law in line with advances in technology and current international standards. It would give Canadian creators and innovators the tools they need to keep Canada competitive internationally. It would implement the rights and protections of the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization's treaties, also known as the WIPO Internet treaties, which represent an international consensus on the standard of copyright protection.
    I am sure that hon. members will recall that in the early 1990s, international discussions were initiated by WIPO member states on the type of copyright protection needed to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the Internet and other digital technologies. These treaties established new rights and protections for authors, sound recording makers and performers of audio works. They built on existing international frameworks found in the Berne and Rome conventions.
    All these agreements established a minimum level of rights granted to creators under the national laws of WIPO member states. These WIPO standards have been implemented in more than 80 countries worldwide. Complying with them just makes sense. All of our major trading partners have ratified or acceded to these treaties, including the United States, the EU and its member states, and China, Japan and Mexico.
    This bill seeks to protect the rights of Canadian creators in a number of areas that are as diverse as the works they create. To this end, the bill institutes new rights, such as the distribution right to control the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials; the making available right for performers and producers of sound recordings, who would enjoy an exclusive right to offer copyrighted material over the Internet; and moral rights for performers to ensure, for example, that a work is not altered in a way that harms an artist's reputation.
    The bill would also provide new protections for our artists and creators. For example, it prohibits the circumvention of digital locks, as well as the removal of rights management information such as digital watermarks. It would also establish new rules that would prevent the manufacture, importation and sale of devices and services to break digital locks. In addition, with this bill the term of protection for sound recordings of performers and producers would be extended to 50 years from the time of publication of a musical performance.
    I would also note that the bill would make photographers the first owners of the copyright of their photographs. The copyright would be protected for 50 years after the life of the photographer, harmonizing the treatment of photographers under Canada's copyright law with that of other creators. It would also harmonize with it the laws of many other countries. This would allow photographers to take advantage of opportunities in the global marketplace. At the same time, the people who commission photographs would be able to make personal or non-commercial use of the photos unless there were a contract that specified otherwise.

  (1655)  

    The bill would strengthen the ability of rights holders to control the use of their works online so that they can prevent widespread, illicit use and to promote legitimate business models. Such provisions include the creation of a new category of civil liability that targets those who enable online piracy.
    The bill is also about meeting the needs of users. For example, under the fair dealings section, the bill adds education, parity and satire as purposes for which copyright works could be fairly used provided the use of the work does not unduly harm the legitimate interests of the copyright owner.
    Finally, the bill introduces technological neutrality. By promoting creativity and innovation, our government is enabling the members of Canada's creative community to assume their rightful place alongside the best in the world.
    Before I wrap up, I will say that there have been significant opportunities to debate this bill. In the last Parliament, there was Bill C-32 and there were previous bills in previous Parliaments. There has been more public consultation on this bill than on any other topic that we have dealt with in this House.
    In the last Parliament, we saw that the committee, for which I had the honour of chairing, worked well together. The election was called and we never had the opportunity to have amendments to the bill at that point. I know the government is open to amendments and to some potential changes to this bill. We will have another couple of days of debate on this issue. I look forward to seeing this bill getting in front of committee. In the last Parliament the committee did work well together and there were opportunities to hear different viewpoints. This is a bill that is very complicated.
     For those who are new members of Parliament, they will hear from a lot of different people about the various parts of this bill. There are many technical things to this bill. It does take a lot of effort to get up to speed and understand this bill. I encourage members to take the time to learn about this and the digital economy. I know many do know a lot about it.
    We put this bill forward in the last Parliament and are now putting it forward in this Parliament to help create jobs and to protect jobs in Canada. I encourage the opposition and all members in this House to see this through to committee. I know that when this bill gets passed through second reading, the committee will do good work. I know there are many members of the public and many organizations who want to be in front of the committee to bring their concerns forward.
    I look forward to this bill passing because it is something that is long overdue. It will be good for Canada, good for the economy, good for all people in Canada and good for creating jobs.

  (1700)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for having provided some clarification, given his experience working with the legislative committee. Based on his experience, can he further explain the amendments he would have made to improve the bill, since we want to save time? Also, what were the major shortcomings the committee identified in Bill C-11 compared to Bill C-32?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, what we want to hear right now from the opposition members is how they feel we can improve this bill. I know there are some very contentious parts of this bill, specifically the digital locks and the education exemption. Those things are definitely controversial. We want to hear from the opposition. I know the government is open to amendments on this. This is something we will be dealing with for a long time. This is an ongoing situation. The name of the bill is the copyright modernization act.
    One of the key things in this bill, which is a very positive thing, is the fact that part of the bill calls for a mandatory five year review. This may never be a perfect bill but being that it is in the bill that the law can be reviewed five years later, this will take into account additional technological changes that are sure to happen in the next five years.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, since the member has opened the door, let us go through it. We are proposing amendments to withdraw from the bill all clauses that criminalize the removal of digital locks for personal, non-commercial purposes. We support reducing penalties for those found guilty of having breached the Copyright Act, since that would prevent excessive prosecution of the public, a problem that exists in the United States.
    Is the government prepared to accept these amendments?

  (1705)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, one of the key things in the bill is that it would protect our creators. It would allow us to have the opportunity to go after the enablers. The bill is not necessarily targeted at the kid in the basement who might be downloading a song, although we should not be encouraging that kind of stealing. The bill is targeted at the enablers, those who are allowing those things to happen, those who are setting up sites like The Pirate Bay and others and are just out and out stealing the works of creators. We want to support culture and our creative industries here in Canada and this legislation would make it very difficult to steal their works.
    Mr. Speaker, I, too, congratulate my colleague from Leeds—Grenville for his work in the previous Parliament to bring this important bill to fruition in the form that we now find it before the House.
    Would my colleague not agree with the statements that the minister made in the House before the vote we just had and with the whole spirit of the government's approach to the bill, which is that time is of the essence?
    There will be amendments and there will be hard work in committee. There are some issues on which there will never be unanimity in the country. However, to protect creators from the scourge of piracy, especially when it involves organized crime, and to protect the rights of millions of Canadians who want full legal access to copyrighted products in the digital age, we need to move forward on the bill. It is a question of jobs, competitiveness and the future of this country. Would my colleague agree?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Ajax—Pickering was elected last May and he has quickly caught on to the importance of this legislation with respect to our economy and jobs. He is from the Toronto area and many of these jobs are located in the GTA.
    I was first elected in the 38th Parliament in 2004. I sat on the heritage committee at that time, which was where I first learned about the WIPO treaty. The WIPO treaty was signed in 1996-97 by Canada. Eight years later, in 2004, it still had not been signed, and here we, are almost another eight years later, and it still has not been signed. Canada has not come into compliance. Time is of the essence. This is costing Canadian jobs.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this may be a little sarcastic, but I feel like this is my lucky day and that right after my speech, I should go buy a lottery ticket, because it seems I will be one of the few and final members to be able to speak to this bill, which is vital not only for the arts community, but also for the business community. I will come back to this eagerness to supposedly save jobs, when in fact, the bill is about to undermine the foundation of all the creators that make up this industry.
    To begin my speech, I will say that it is fascinating to see how various experiences in one's life can greatly affect how one understands and interprets a problem. That is what concerns me here today, especially as a former teacher, singer and producer, which are all jobs that I have had over the past 20 years. The issue of copyright is something that I am extremely concerned about. I know from my own personal experience that some of the government's proposed exceptions will cause considerable damage.
    Before examining them more closely, let us revisit the objective of Bill C-11 for just a moment, that is, modernizing copyright legislation. When I think of “modernizing”, several images come to mind, including some very positive things that we could do with that. As a singer, after reading page after page of Bill C-11, I became disillusioned. Although the existing legislation is far from perfect, so far it has managed to ensure a favourable environment for the artistic development of creators, producers, broadcasters and consumers of Canadian cultural content.
    If we try to determine how much of the industry's $46 billion in economic spinoffs should go to the creators, considering the 600,000 jobs that are directly or indirectly affected by this cultural industry, we must admit that creators are probably fewest in number and definitely the lowest paid, and yet they are the foundation of the industry. But what is copyright? Let me remind the House, just to make sure we are all on the same page. Copyright is for artists. We will see in a moment what this means for companies. Copyright is the right enjoyed by every artist and creator to set the commercial terms for the use of their work, either partially or in full, to authorize the use and to receive royalties in compensation for that authorization.
    Those earnings represent the bread and butter of Quebec and Canadian creators. Every time the bill introduces new, ill-conceived exceptions that diminish or eliminate the possibility of earnings for copyright holders, it spells out the decline of the production and expansion of Canadian content here at home and abroad. We will not be able to ensure growth of the cultural industry or offer more to consumers if we undermine the opportunity for creators to live from their craft.
    Take for example these new exceptions included in Bill C-11 that further shrink creators' earnings.
    The first is the exception regarding user-generated content, also quite often referred to as the YouTube exception. This exception would, for example, allow the average citizen to broadcast a video taken during Christmas vacation set to a song the user thought would go quite well with it. That is now allowed. It may be, but just because technology makes it easy to create personal videos of a professional quality, does not mean we should forget the tools we use to produce these gems that we share with our families.

  (1710)  

    It may be, but we have to stop believing that the artist—the one who created the music that goes so well with our family images and tales—is giving us that music for free. He does not even know us. If it is true that all work deserves pay, then why should the composer not get his due?
    Obviously, it is not a question of individual negotiations between each Internet user and each creator. Collective licensing does the job and ensures the necessary balance.
    However, this government plunges ahead fearlessly, and by accepting Bill C-11, we would become the first country in the world where companies like YouTube would enjoy the right to use copyright-protected works for profit, without any obligation to have the rights released or to compensate the content creators.
    Instead of developing new business models for the ever-changing digital age, we are taking the easiest route. Bill C-11 will become an expropriation of the creators' right to control the use of their works and to earn fair compensation for them.
    Then there are the exemptions specifically for the education sector. It is somewhat odd. In the case of educational institutions, it goes without saying that a good administrator saves money by any means possible. He or she may approach competitors or try to use group orders to take advantage of economies of scale when purchasing goods needed by the school. But when it comes to music or movies, oddly, we seem to forget that we will have to buy the materials and pay for the rights. No one, not the administrators nor the teachers, would ever think of stealing furniture from a store or borrowing—in perpetuity—the goods needed for education. That is exactly what is happening with copyright when we appropriate works without asking for the licences that apply.
    I would like to share an anecdote from a wise producer with whom I worked a few years ago, and who was often called on to ask the artists he represented to participate in charity events, naturally for free, for a good cause. Each time, this wise producer—and there are not many like him—replied that his artist would agree to perform for free at the event if the employees of the same company would also contribute one day's wages to the same cause. That was a very tangible and real expression of the demands made of artists and the fact that people want to take advantage of their visibility and their role in society.
    I will say it again: all work deserves to be compensated. The issue is all the more sensitive in Quebec where the market for French educational publications is very small and cannot forego the funding provided by copyright without running the risk that publishers will close their doors because they are unable to provide financial recompense to their creators.
    I would have hoped that resale rights would be addressed in Bill C-11. If we truly wanted to modernize copyright, we would allow visual artists to obtain resale rights on their works. Unfortunately, these rights do not seem to be addressed in Bill C-11, despite the fact that 59 countries have already incorporated such a measure into their legislation. It seems that, once again, our legislation will be lacking.
    I could go on for several hours but I imagine that I should already count myself lucky to have had these 10 minutes. I will therefore end my remarks by saying that, to date, copyrighted works may not be used without permission, and exceptions are just that—exceptions.
    The biggest problem with Bill C-11 is that it reverses that framework. Exceptions become the rule because, in its haste to please large corporations and their financial interests, the government was too quick to forget those who supply content to the industry through their creativity and who are the driving force behind the cultural industry in Quebec and Canada.

  (1715)  

    What is more, even legal recourse will no longer be an effective avenue. I could also speak about that exceptional provision but, unfortunately, I am short on time, so I will stop here. I would be happy to respond to any questions or comments from members.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Trois-Rivières on his very clear remarks. He did a good job of explaining the intricacies of this bill, which is deeply flawed with respect to the importance of royalties paid to creators and artists. He mentioned resale rights, which exist in several other countries. I would like him to go into more detail about the benefits of resale rights.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my esteemed colleague for giving me the opportunity to elaborate on that issue. Many of us are familiar with the idea that if, for example, an actor makes a television commercial, the artist is paid for a certain number of broadcasts. If the commercial is broadcast more times, the actor is paid again in recognition of the work.
    If the government had seen fit to include such a provision in Bill C-11, the same would apply to visual artists, many of whom gain tremendous recognition once their paintings are resold. Resale rights would give, say, 5% of the profit from the resale of the work to the artist or group of artists that created it. In Canada, one group of artists that would benefit enormously from this are aboriginal artists whose works are widely known. The value of those works has skyrocketed on the international market. Unfortunately, who profits? Those who had the foresight to buy the works for very little money in the communities where those artists still live, many of them beneath the poverty line.
    Resale rights would ensure that every time the work is resold, the artist who created it can collect royalties.

  (1720)  

     Mr. Speaker, although the Conservative government continues to say that the proposed changes to the Copyright Act will protect the best interests of Canadian consumers, the reality is that the Conservatives have based their policy on the concerns of large copyright holders, especially those in the United States. The real winners with Bill C-11 are the major movie studios and record labels, and not Canadian consumers.
    Would my hon. NDP colleague agree?
    Mr. Speaker, I could give a very succinct answer or a very elaborate one, but clearly, the answer is yes. I was afraid of this shift towards an American approach. I think this has gone beyond just a shift; the Conservatives are copying the American model outright. I must admit this frightens me.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Trois-Rivières for his very enlightening speech. I noticed, however, that he seemed to run out of time, since there is so much to say.
    I would like to hear more about his experience as a producer, if he could elaborate on some of his concerns regarding compensation for creators.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question. I could go on about this for the next half hour, but I do not think I have that much time. It is clear—and the principle is a fundamental one—that all work deserves pay. It is simple. There will be no shows, no artistic events, nothing to post on the Web, nothing to share and nothing to exchange if we do not allow creators to live from their craft.
    Art is an essential condition for a society to flourish. We cannot address art from a purely financial, material or industrial perspective. It is much broader than that. Creators and artists in our societies are the ones who earn the least. On average, artists and creators live on a salary of roughly $14,000 a year or less. Guaranteeing their right to negotiate the marketing of their products and the fruit of their creation is the least we can do. I will stop there for now.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act.
    We live in an increasingly digital society with Canadians spending more time online than ever before. We are creating new and powerful information and communications technologies that are transforming our economy. These digital technologies have had an enormous impact on how people can develop, transform, distribute and make use of copyrighted works.
    To be sure, this impact does not come without challenges, primarily the imperative of combatting the theft of copyrighted materials. However, it also creates opportunities which, with the right framework, can be seized by Canadian creators and consumers to add enormous value to our economy.
    Consumers today use copyrighted material in ways that were not available a decade ago. Today's technology allows us to copy the films and music we bought onto our personal devices, shifting it from one format to another. We have the ability to back up our pictures on computers or on the cloud. Gone are the days when we had to watch our favourite program at a certain time. We can now time-shift programs by recording them on a PVR, or simply by streaming the content off the web to enjoy at our convenience. Bloggers and vloggers are finding new and exciting ways to create their own non-commercial web content, posting it on YouTube for the world to see.
    Today I would like to direct the attention of the House to one particular sector of consumers, those who would use digital technology for educational purposes.
    The explosion of digital choices presents many opportunities to the education sector. Perhaps nowhere is the potential of the digital society more exciting than in the field of education. The Internet has made available educational material that was once much more difficult to access. Online learning has created new opportunities for all Canadians, especially those in rural and remote locations.
    The bill before us would modernize Canada's Copyright Act to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital age. It would expand the ability of educators and students to make fair use of copyrighted materials in the course of their education and learning. It would also ensure a technologically neutral approach to education, removing references to things like flip charts and overhead projectors. These much needed updates reinforce our government's long-standing policy support for education and training.
    Canada's current laws on copyright were last amended before the Internet was available as a powerful educational tool. As a result, the rules around how copyrighted material may be used to support learning have simply lost step with reality. Bill C-11 would correct this problem and ensure that our copyright laws will be able to adapt no matter how the technology evolves. The Copyright Act already acknowledges that certain uses of copyrighted material by educational institutions serve the public good and in many cases provides special flexibilities to foster learning. The bill would enable educators and students to adapt to new and emerging technologies. We want to enhance the traditional classroom experience and facilitate new models for education outside the physical classroom.
    We are building on the existing Copyright Act to grant a larger range of uses for copyrighted material. We are expanding a feature of Canadian law known as “fair dealing” to include education. Fair dealing permits individuals and businesses to make certain uses of copyrighted material in ways that do not threaten the legitimate interests of copyright owners and where the use of the copyrighted material could have important economic, societal and cultural benefits. For example, a teacher might provide students with copies of a recent news article that applies to a current lesson.
    We also propose allowing teachers and students to use publicly available material found on the Internet, which has been legitimately posted for free by copyright owners, for the purposes of teaching and education. For example, a teacher could make handouts that include an illustration from a website that is freely accessible.
    Schools would also be allowed, subject to fair compensation for the copyright holders, to digitally deliver course materials. As well, educational institutions may make a copy of a broadcast of a current affairs program for educational purposes.
    The bill would further facilitate online learning. It would allow schools to transmit lessons which include copyrighted sections over the Internet. This would allow, for example, a student in Nunavut to access an online course offered by the University of Alberta. What could be more important for education in a country as vast as Canada than to make sure students in all regions, including Canada's north, have better opportunities to learn?
    We are also proposing new measures aimed at supporting libraries, archives and museums in the preservation of our culture. Libraries would be permitted to make copies of copyrighted material in an alternative format if there is a concern that the original is in a format that is in danger of becoming obsolete. Moreover, libraries would be able to electronically deliver material, such as scholarly or scientific journal articles, through interlibrary loans.

  (1725)  

    These changes are not only important, they are vital to ensure that the products from innovative creators will not be disadvantaged under the law. By extending the fair dealing provisions to the realm of education, we will improve the educational environment, giving Canadians the opportunity to learn in innovative and dynamic environments. At the same time, we will reduce the costs for fair uses of copyrighted materials in a structured educational context.
    These changes will bring our educational environment into the 21st century.
    As Paul Davidson, the president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, said:
    This bill reflects a fair balance between the interests of creators and users of copyright works and is a positive step forward for university communities across Canada.
    The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada also responded positively to Bill C-11, saying:
    Ministers of education recognize that this federal copyright legislation will have significant implications for how the Internet is used by students and educators across Canada.
    Its support is echoed by over 1,000 organizations and associations which have come out in support of copyright reform.
    The Government of Canada has also made significant investments in Internet infrastructure, education and skills development. The bill would reinforce and complement those investments.
    We are in the process of implementing our strategy for the digital economy, a key element of which is ensuring that we have modern laws and regulations. We passed important new anti-spam legislation and introduced a bill to update privacy laws. These measures will build confidence among consumers, cut costs for businesses and protect the rights of Canadians.
    The copyright modernization act will help to advance Canada's strategy for the digital economy. It will assist us in making better use of our substantial investment in education and digital infrastructure. It will help protect innovation and attract new investment, enabling Canadian consumers to make the most of new technologies, while ensuring that creators are fairly compensated for their work.
    I encourage all hon. members to join me in supporting this important bill.

  (1730)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member, with whom I sit on the Standing Committee on Industry. I would like him to elaborate on the way in which creators will be paid for their work. I am talking about authors of textbooks or articles, musicians, etc. What would Bill C-11 do in terms of providing the creators with fair compensation for their work?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I look forward to working with the hon. colleague on the copyright committee, the legislative committee to study this legislation.
    The bill is all about finding the balance between the creators of copyright material and Canadian consumers. We want to ensure that we have a regime that rewards creators for their work. Right now the existing legislation does not deal with these new technologies in a way that would allow creators to be compensated fairly for their work. We want to ensure that we create an environment where consumers are paying for the music they listen to, that they are paying for the movies they watch, that they are not watching pirated copies, and that they are paying for the books they choose to read. We want to create an environment where that exists. That environment is not protected right now to the extent that it should be. The bill is all about that.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I will tell it like it is. The Conservative member is trying to sell us on Bill C-11. However, recent information published by WikiLeaks indicates that the main American copyright holders probably colluded with our dear Conservative government with regard to the Copyright Act.
    The most disturbing WikiLeaks revelation is that a key staff member of the Industry minister at the time, now the President of the Treasury Board, encouraged the United States to put Canada on their piracy watch list in order to pressure the Canadian Parliament into passing copyright legislation that would weaken the rights of Canadian consumers.
    What does the Conservative member have to say in his defence?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, this legislation is among the most consulted on pieces of legislation that I have seen in the six years I have been a member of Parliament, consulted on with Canadians from coast to coast.
    We ran two town halls in Montreal and Toronto. We had nine round tables across the country: Vancouver, Calgary, Gatineau, Winnipeg, Halifax, Edmonton, Quebec City, Toronto and Peterborough. We had 8,000 formal submissions and 2,000 comments posted on an online forum by Canadians. We had hours of speech. I believe altogether right now we have had 27 hours and 5 minutes of speeches within the House of Commons on the legislation.
    The bill addresses the needs expressed by Canadians. I do not know whether the hon. member will be on the committee, but he will have the opportunity to work, through his colleagues in the NDP, to have his voice represented in the committee hearings if he wants to, and we will have further hearings to hear from witnesses who we have not heard from before.
    Rest assured that the bill reflects the interests of Canadians as they have been expressed. We urge the quick passing of the bill in the interests of all Canadians.

  (1735)  

    Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak in support of the copyright modernization act. The amendment proposed in the bill will not only lay the foundation for the modernization of the Copyright Act, but will also respond to the future demands as technologies continue to converge at breakneck speed.
    The bill represents a common-sense approach that considers how Canadians create and use content. The bill, which was introduced in September 2011, is our government's response to the commitment made in the last Speech from the Throne, which we delivered in June of last year.
    Members may recall that in 2010 our government first introduced the copyright modernization act. It was introduced following national consultations on copyright reform that were held in 2009.
    Thousands of Canadians, businesses and stakeholder organizations shared their ideas on how best to adopt Canada's copyright framework for the digital age. The remarkable response to the consultation demonstrated the importance of copyright in the daily lives of Canadians. It also highlighted its importance to the digital economy and Canada's global competitiveness.
    Our government has listened to Canadians and responded. Canadians told us they wanted a technology-neutral framework that would stand the test of time. We have responded with a bill which introduces technological neutrality. This means the law is adaptable to a constantly evolving technology environment which ensures appropriate protections for the creators. The bill provides technology-neutral exceptions for the private use of copyrighted work. This includes exceptions for time shifting, format shifting and making backup copies. These proposed exceptions are not limited to specific formats or technologies.
    Canadians also told us they wanted fair treatment for copyright infringement. We have responded with a bill that significantly reduces existing penalties in the Copyright Act for non-commercial infringements. It also introduces proportionality as a factor for the courts to consider in awarding damages.
    The bill also provides strong new tools to target those who profit from infringement. For instance, there are new provisions to target online enablers, those who wilfully enable the large-scale infringement of copyright.
    Also, the bill's notice and notice regime ensures that Internet service providers have a part to play in curbing piracy and requires them to notify their subscriber when copyright owners detect infringing activity.
    Artists and creators told us they should be fairly compensated for their creative works and the investment they have made. Copyright owners told us they needed legal tools to sustain business models in a digital environment. We have responded with a bill that provides new rights, protections and tools to encourage new business models and provide certainty for artists and creators to engage in the global digital marketplace with confidence.
    The bill would implements the rights and protections needed to meet our WIPO obligations.
    Copyright owners also told us that some online and digital business models depended on strong protections for digital locks. We have responded with a bill that proposes protections for digital locks. This will give businesses that choose to use them the certainty they need to roll out new products and services.

  (1740)  

    In addition, Canadians told us that they wanted to make reasonable use of content that they had legally acquired. We have responded with a bill that would legitimize many commonplace private and non-commercial uses of copyrighted material. Many of these uses are currently not allowed or were not clearly dealt with in the Copyright Act. These uses include posting match-ups on the Web or time-shifting television programs.
     We also heard from Canadians that they wanted more flexibility to use copyrighted material. We have responded with a bill that expands the existing uses allowed as fair dealing, adding education, parody and satire. This reconfirms our government's commitment to education and responding to the needs of educational institutions.
    Teachers and students told us that they needed greater freedom to use copyrighted material together with new classroom technologies such as SMART Boards. We responded with new exceptions that recognize the incredible potential that technology offers Canadian students.
     We also recognize that copyright law needs to reflect the needs of perceptually disabled individuals. That is why this bill permits Canadians with perceptual disabilities to adapt legally acquired copyrighted material to a format that they can easily use.
    Finally, Canada's innovative firms told us that they needed clear copyright rules in order to roll out novel business models. We have responded by proposing new exceptions for computer program innovators as well as limitations on liability for Internet service providers and search engines. We are also clarifying that making temporary technical reproduction of copyright material would be acceptable.
    The copyright modernization act recognizes the everyday use people make of technology, both new and old, and provides a clearer set of rules. These rules would better reflect the interests of all Canadians, including those who hold copyrights.
    The proposed reforms to Canada's Copyright Act support creativity and innovation in several fundamental ways. This legislation would provide Canadian copyright owners with a solid framework that would better allow them to respond to piracy of all kinds. It would allow them to roll out new business models that support the creative process and to do so with a new degree of certainty.
    At the same time, the bill would also foster new and creative uses of digital technologies to provide our educators and researchers with increased access to the vast area of copyrighted material. It would do this while also allowing them to develop evermore efficient ways to conduct their academic research, deliver course material and lessons, and contribute to Canadian innovation.
    Canadians are very proud of the high profile that we currently enjoy on the international cultural scene. In order to maintain that enviable position, we heard that we need amendments to our copyright regime that will position us for success both at home and abroad. I am proud to say that our government's response to what Canadians told us would help ensures that creativity and innovation continue to contribute to our lively Canadian cultural life and Canada's economic future.

  (1745)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to ask the hon. member a question.
    In our opinion, the bill is not at all balanced, as the Conservatives have been claiming in a number of their speeches. Creators will lose millions of dollars. It is true. It has been proven. I would like to hear a little bit more of what the hon. member has to say about this. We know that artists are among the lowest paid workers in Canada. On average, they earn $12,900 a year.
    Can the hon. member confirm today, here in this House, that, once this bill is passed, artists will not lose a single penny and that they will receive as much income as before? I would like him to provide some reassurance in this regard.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I would encourage my hon. colleague to read at the complete bill very carefully. It does protect the interests of creators and artists.
    The government undertook a huge consultation, which was probably one of the most detailed, with Canadians from all walks of life, including artists, creators, businesses and individuals who would be affected.
    The bill would help in the current digital environment, such as the Web and the new technology that is being introduced on a daily basis. I would encourage the member to read the bill.
    Madam Speaker, from the Liberal Party's perspective, the success of our artists has long been attributed to a regulatory regime that has recognized the creator, whether that be visual artists, creative artists, writers, singers or songwriters. There has always been the ability for remuneration.
    We continue to hear concerns from creators as to whether this legislation would, in fact, hang them out to dry. Are we making it more difficult for them to earn a living and continue to pursue a dream and a career? Could the member offer some kind of assurance that those provisions are within this legislation?
    Madam Speaker, this bill was put together after huge consultations were conducted throughout the country. There were hundreds of written submissions, round tables, town halls, et cetera. Taking everything into consideration, I feel that the bill serves the purpose and needs of everyone.
    For example, I have a constituent who is a photographer in my riding. He is very concerned about being able to protect his property and his livelihood. This bill would help individuals like my constituent.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I have a stack of emails about Bill C-11, sent to me by my constituents in Saint-Lambert. They told me about their concerns with Bill C-11 on copyright modernization. The large number of email messages supports my belief that Bill C-11 deals with an important issue which, unfortunately, is not being given its due because the government has moved time allocation.
    Here is an example of what the people of Saint-Lambert have to say:
    Although the bill [C-11] seems more flexible than previous attempts to reform copyright, this bill is, by definition, inadequate because of the very strict anti-circumvention provisions it contains. As a Canadian, I am both worried and disappointed to see the extent to which my rights are easily violated by means of the universal and absolute protection of digital locks envisaged by the legislation.
    Copyright involves the competing interests of a particularly broad range of Canadians.
    One of the issues raised by Bill C-11 on copyright modernization is knowing how to ensure that the interests at stake are balanced: the interests of the artistic community, business community, consumers, universities and scientific research entities, new technology and media communities, and the public, generally referred to as the general interest.
    I would like to remind the House that one of the objectives of Bill C-11 on copyright modernization is to ensure that Canada can ratify the WIPO Internet treaties and strengthen protection for works and other aspects of copyright by recognizing technical protection measures.
    We should remember that the WIPO copyright treaty and world performances and phonograms treaty, collectively known as the WIPO Internet treaties, were signed by Canada in 1997. However, to date, these treaties have not become part of Canada's legal system because they have not been ratified. The treaty rules adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization to deal with ongoing technological advances have never been integrated into Canadian law. From this perspective, Bill C-11 is a decisive step towards integrating Internet treaty law into Canadian law. This integration will come with the ratification of the WIPO Internet treaties.
    The government says that it introduced Bill C-11 to change current copyright legislation to adapt some of the rules to keep up with technological advances and harmonize them with standards adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization. Before getting into the problems with Bill C-11, I would like to reiterate a number of facts that demonstrate the imbalance within our society between the significant contribution of the arts and culture sector to the national economy and the paltry earnings of artists, the driving force behind our arts sector.
    I will show how Bill C-11 is not a solution to that imbalance and will do nothing to improve our artists' standard of living. This bill confirms what the NDP feared: this government is more interested in pleasing big U.S. content owners than in improving our artists' standard of living.
    The facts speak volumes. The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists estimates that the arts and culture industries in Canada contribute $85 billion a year to our economy and provide 1.1 million jobs, employing approximately 6% of Canadian workers. These industries and the jobs that depend on them can survive only in an environment in which intellectual property is protected.
    Despite the major contribution of these industries, the average income of an artist in Canada is just $12,900 per year according to 2009-10 figures. A 2008 Conference Board of Canada report found that the cultural sector generated some $25 billion in tax revenue in 2007. That is three times more than the $7.9 billion invested in culture by all levels of government in 2007.
    The federal government invested $3.7 billion in arts and culture in 2007-08, just 1.6% of the government's total spending.

  (1750)  

    Statistics Canada's Survey of Household Spending found that, in 2008, Canadians spent $1.4 billion on attending live artistic performances, or more than twice as much as on attending sporting events, spending $0.65 billion on those.
    The least we can expect from the copyright modernization bill is that it not jeopardize the contribution that our arts and culture industry makes to the Canadian economy. Members of the NDP are of the opinion that Bill C-11 hurts the interests of creators and consumers. The bill will take millions of dollars in revenue away from creators and erode the market. The long and complex list of exceptions does not adequately recognize creators' rights. In fact, these exceptions create new ways for consumers to access protected content without simultaneously creating new avenues through which to compensate creators for the use of their work.
    Bill C-11 does not adequately protect the ability of people to post content submitted or produced by users themselves, even if it were easy to collectively authorize this.
    Bill C-11 creates an artificial distinction between copying for private use and reproducing for private use.
    For consumers, the "no compromise" provisions grant unprecedented powers to rights owners, which supersede all other rights. If Bill C-11 is enacted, it could mean that consumers will no longer have access to content for which they have already paid, and which they have every right to use. For example, in the case of distance education, it is draconian and unacceptable to ask students to destroy course notes within 30 days of when the courses end, as this bill proposes.
    Even if the Conservative government continues to say that the proposed changes to the Copyright Act are in the best interests of Canadian consumers, the reality is that the Conservatives have the concerns of major copyright holders in mind. The real winners with Bill C-11 are the major film studios and record companies, and not Canadian consumers. That is why the digital lock provision in the bill trumps almost all the other rights, enabling record companies and film studios to protect their dwindling ability to generate huge profits.
     Recent information published by WikiLeaks also demonstrates that the main copyright owners in the United States conspired with the Conservatives regarding Canada's Copyright Act. Bill C-11 does not propose adding new digital storage media to the existing private copying system, but rather protects this system in its current form. However, the Conservatives strongly opposed the NDP's proposal to extend the private copying exception to include digital audio recorders. The Conservatives repeatedly described this as an iPod tax that could cost Canadian consumers up to $75 per device. Nothing could be further from the truth, since the scope of the levies would be determined by the Canadian Copyright Board, a government agency under the supervision of the industry minister.
    Here is another thing: the Conservatives' copyright bill, Bill C-11, would ultimately increase the existing levies on cassettes, CDs and DVDs. In the words of the Conservatives, we might say this is a tax on these items. There are other causes for concern in Bill C-11. The bill indeed proposes, in uncompromising provisions, new anti-circumvention rights that seem especially powerful for owners of content, who are not necessarily the creators or developers of the content. These anti-circumvention rights prevent access to copyright protected works.
     These new provisions are strengthened by fines of over $1 million and sentences of five years in prison. A further provision prohibits access to information protected by a digital lock, such as a digital watermark. This would lead to a situation whereby digital locks would take precedence over virtually all other rights, including the fair dealing rights of students and journalists.
    Internet law experts who have read the bill under review say that some of the exceptions in the bill do not seem to adequately recognize the rights of creators in that they make it easy for consumers to access copyright protected content.

  (1755)  

    In closing, NDP members agree with the people from Saint-Lambert who wrote:
...it is in the best interest of Canadian consumers and creators alike to amend Bill C-11 to clearly link the act of circumvention to infringement, remove the all-encompassing ban on circumvention tools and establish a new TPM labelling provision.

  (1800)  

    When we resume this debate, we will have five minutes for questions and comments.

Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

[Translation]

Parliament of Canada Act

    The House resumed from February 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-306, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (political affiliation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
     It being 6:00 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-306 under private member's business.
    Call in the members.

  (1840)  

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

(Division No. 123)

YEAS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Angus
Atamanenko
Aubin
Ayala
Benskin
Bevington
Bezan
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boivin
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brosseau
Caron
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisholm
Choquette
Chow
Christopherson
Cleary
Comartin
Côté
Crowder
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Day
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Freeman
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Hassainia
Hughes
Jacob
Julian
Kellway
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
Mai
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
Michaud
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Nantel
Nunez-Melo
Papillon
Patry
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Quach
Rafferty
Ravignat
Raynault
Richards
Rousseau
Sandhu
Savoie
Sellah
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
Stewart
Stoffer
Sullivan
Thibeault
Toone
Trost
Turmel

Total: -- 91

NAYS

Members

Ablonczy
Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Andrews
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Bateman
Bélanger
Bellavance
Bennett
Benoit
Bernier
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brison
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Bruinooge
Butt
Byrne
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carrie
Casey
Chisu
Clarke
Clement
Coderre
Cotler
Cuzner
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dion
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dykstra
Easter
Eyking
Fantino
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Flaherty
Foote
Fortin
Fry
Galipeau
Garneau
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Hoeppner
Holder
Hsu
James
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Lake
Lamoureux
Lauzon
Lebel
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
Leef
Leitch
Lemieux
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacAulay
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
May
Mayes
McCallum
McColeman
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McLeod
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Mourani
Murray
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
Obhrai
Oda
Opitz
Paradis
Payne
Penashue
Plamondon
Poilievre
Preston
Rae
Raitt
Rajotte
Rathgeber
Regan
Reid
Rempel
Richardson
Rickford
Saxton
Scarpaleggia
Schellenberger
Sgro
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Sorenson
St-Denis
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Toews
Trottier
Trudeau
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Valeriote
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Zimmer

Total: -- 181

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion lost.

[English]

    It being 6:42 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity During Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act

    The House resumed from November 17, 2011, consideration of the motion that Bill C-309, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (concealment of identity), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-309.
    I know issues related to justice and to making our communities a better place to live concern all members of Parliament as we try to make a difference in improving the quality for the citizens we represent. I look at Bill C-309 as a genuine attempt at making a difference in certain situations.
    I am sure we can all reflect on some of the riots that have occurred in the past in Canada and abroad. Valid arguments have been made that we need to do more to protect our citizens, police agencies, law enforcement officers and individuals who are called in to riot situations. I think of individuals such as first responders, paramedics, ambulance attendants and fire personnel. These individuals put their life on the line in many situations in which the average individual is not obligated to participate.
    We want to be sensitive and do the right thing to protect those individuals and, as I mentioned, the many different police agencies in situations that come before us for a wide variety of reasons. I could cite the old G20 and G8 conferences that were conducted.
     Television networks across Canada televised some of the rioting that took place as a result of the G8 and G20. What Canadians saw on TV or in the pictures that were published left a lasting impression in their minds. One needs to be very sensitive to what our population as a whole thinks and how those people want politicians to respond to what they see.
    A vast majority of protestors see a situation or a government and the many flaws that a government might have or want to propose throughout the years. In this case, governments from across the world came to Canada. We have to go the extra mile to ensure all residents of Canada have the right to express themselves, to show up and protest the issues that are important to them.
     A vast majority of protestors are good, law-abiding citizens who want to express how they feel about important issues. Unfortunately, at times, that could lead to situations which become dangerous. What might start off as a peaceful demonstration will quite often have people come in to aggravate things. In essence, they are there to try to agitate and cause violent reactions.
     It is important for us to recognize the validity of protests and the freedoms of individuals to participate in that process.
    On the other hand, we have other types of situations that come before. We can look to Vancouver at the celebrations that followed the Stanley Cup, where citizens came to the street. Once again, a vast majority of those who participated came out because of that high sense of civic pride. They felt good about the Stanley Cup and the fact that Vancouver had made it into the playoffs. They wanted to share that experience and those emotions in a large gathering.

  (1845)  

    Much like protests that take place in Toronto, unfortunately, individuals will get themselves into these large crowds to aggravate, to try to cause problems for the community as a whole. It raises the issue of safety. All of us, I suspect, would argue that instigators are the ones on which we need to focus some attention. It is reasonable for us to try to come up with ways that will make a difference.
    I see this private member's bill before us as a bill in which the member has given a personal assessment of how he feels on the issue. In reading his comments, I understand that he has done some consultation. However, more important, his comments indicate that he would be open to the process of committee and the possibility of making changes to the proposed legislation. I am encouraged by that in the sense that we have to go the extra mile to ensure we are not, in any fashion whatsoever and in no way, telling residents, citizens, landed immigrants and the like that they do not have the right to assemble. In the vast majority of cases, 99% plus, we should encourage people to convene and share their ideas, to share their sense of civic pride.
    There are issues that will come and go and some of those issues will ignite. When they do, we have to ensure there are things in place that allow Canadians to vet themselves. There is a very good example that we have debated for the last week or so, and that is the whole issue surrounding pensions. I can envision that in the future large numbers of Canadians will get quite upset at the government for its plan. A budget will be presented and within it more detailed explanations will be given as to what will happen with our pension programs.
    I suspect there will be a reaction to it and I, for one, will encourage individuals to participate in lawful gatherings in order to express their concerns. That is why it is so critically important, as we debate this bill, that we send a very strong, clear and succinct message to Canadians as a whole that as parliamentarians we view large gatherings of people as something good. We see them playing an important role in democracy, whether it is the protesting of issues or even, for that matter, supporting issues. I will make quick reference to Veterans Day and the large gatherings for our veterans, as well as large gatherings for sporting activities. It is something we need to underline.
    The core of the bill suggests that there are those who gather with the idea of instigating in an unlawful way by using masks or disguises in order to evade being identified and we are right to be concerned. The bill at least attempts to bring that issue to the fore.

  (1850)  

    After today's debate, I believe the government might be in a better position to evaluate. I know one member of the Conservative caucus has suggested 10 years versus 5 years. The current bill, I believe, suggests 5 years as a potential penalty.
    However, I do not want the specific debate on masks and disguises to take away--
    Order, please. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of private member's Bill C-309 introduced in the House of Commons on October 3.
    In my remarks today, I will explain why Bill C-309, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (concealment of identity), is consistent with our government's commitment to protect law-abiding citizens and keep our communities safe.
    When my colleague from Wild Rose introduced the bill, he indicated two reasons for doing so. The first reason was to create two new offences to discourage the wearing of a mask to conceal identity during an unlawful assembly or riot. Second, my colleague indicated that these offences would facilitate the arrest of rioters at early stages of the commission of these offence.
    Why is this important?
    First, the results of the bill would be safer communities, which, again, is our government's commitment, and to protect those who lawfully assemble with peaceful intentions, as well as to protect the businesses and properties that are surrounded during protests or other activities.
    The volatility and danger of riots has long been recognized at common law. This criminal behaviour is made more serious by wearing a mask for the express purpose of making it more difficult to identify the persons taking part in riots and unlawful assemblies.
    As members know, it is quite easy to pull out a digital camera on a BlackBerry or an iPhone, which is why we have seen over the last year people wearing masks during riots. There is an express intent to conceal their identity during criminal behaviour. The bill has been introduced to deal with this issue, to deter people from escalating into the cause of rioting and to hold them accountable for such actions.
    The Criminal Code already contains the offence of being a member of an unlawful assembly and taking part in a riot. However, this bill would add a new offence to each of these provisions to address wearing a mask or a disguise to conceal identity without lawful excuse during the commission of either of these offences. It would also provide new penalties to reflect the more serious nature of the new offences.
    At the present time, taking part in a riot is an indictable offence with a maximum penalty of imprisonment of two years. The new offence in the bill for taking part in a riot while wearing a mask or other disguise to conceal the identity without lawful excuse would be an indictable offence with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for five years.
    Similarly, the current offence for being a member of an unlawful assembly is a summary conviction offence, which is less serious than an indictable offence, with a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and/or a maximum term of imprisonment of six months. This difference in penalty reflects the fact that an unlawful assembly precedes a riot.
    Bill C-309 would create a new offence of being a member of an unlawful assembly while wearing a mask or other disguise to conceal identity without lawful excuse. The new offence would be a dual procedure offence with a maximum penalty of $5,000 and six months' imprisonment if the prosecution elects to proceed by summary conviction and a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment if the offence is proceeded with as an indictable offence.
    It should be noted that Bill C-309 would fill a gap in the current law. At the present time, persons who wear masks or disguises with the intent to commit an indictable offence, including taking part of a riot, is subject to an offence under subsection 351(2) of the Criminal Code and is liable to a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.
    However, subsection 351(2) does not apply to summary conviction offences. This means that the Criminal Code does not specifically address the situation of persons participating in an unlawful assembly who wear a mask or other disguise to conceal their identity without lawful excuse.
    Essentially, what this means is that when someone participating in a riot knows that he or she will be captured on video on a cellphone and puts on that mask, we now have a way to hold him or her to account in a much clearer way than is currently outlined in common law.
    To harmonize maximum penalties available for wearing a mask to disguise while taking part in a riot, and I believe my colleague opposite had discussed this earlier, this government will support an amendment to raise the maximum penalty for the new offence in the bill from 5 years to 10 years.
    I want to assure members of this House that the new bill would not target people who wear masks or costumes that may conceal their identity while they are engaged in lawful protests, marches, gatherings or other activities commonly associated with the exercise of freedom and expression of lawful assembly. I will re-emphasize that this would not affect people who are protesting peacefully or are within the context of a law-abiding activity. This would affect people, when the riot act has been called, who don a mask to conceal their identity.

  (1855)  

    The rights to freedom of expression and lawful assembly are specifically and expressly recognized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I will explain why this bill would not endanger any of these freedoms.
    First, a person cannot be charged with either of the new offences in the bill unless he or she is already engaged in committing the criminal offence of being a member of an unlawful assembly or taking part in a riot. It is only during the commission of either of these offences that the new offence provisions may apply.
    A second requirement is that the wearing of the mask or other disguise during the commission of the offence of being part of a riot or unlawful assembly must be done for a specific purpose. This level of intent is referred to as “specific intent” and it is a higher level of intent than general intent.
     The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was wearing the mask or other disguise for the purpose of concealing his or her identity while engaged in criminal activity. Implied in this is the concept that the person is concealing his or her identity for an unlawful purpose. Specifically, the person is concealing his or her identity to make it more difficult to be identified for the lawful purpose of law enforcement. As I will discuss in more detail in a moment, this is important because a person who wears a mask for a lawful purpose, such as safety reasons, does not have the specific intent to conceal his or her identity.
    The reference to “without a lawful excuse” of each of the new offences in Bill C-309 confirms that the defence of lawful excuse applies to the new offences. This means that even if a person is wearing a mask or disguise to conceal his or her identity while committing the criminal offence of taking part in a riot or participating in an unlawful assembly, he or she would have a defence if the reason for concealing his or her identity is a lawful one. I will explain what I mean by this.
    Although the situation may arise, in rare cases there may be circumstances where a person taking part in a riot is, for example, wearing a mask to conceal his or her identity to ensure that he or she is not recognized by someone at the riot who is a threat to his or her personal safety. I expect that in most cases it would be clear from the circumstances that the person is wearing a mask or disguise for the purpose of facilitating his or her anonymous participation in the riot.
    As with all criminal offences, the prosecution would be required to prove the intent element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the defence of lawful excuses are available to ensure that the new offences with higher penalties do not apply to people who wear masks for lawful purposes, even if they are a member of an unlawful assembly or take part in a riot.
    I would like to stress that although these people may not be liable to be charged with one of the new offences in the bill, the current Criminal Code provisions still apply and, thus, these people remain accountable to Canadians for their criminal behaviour.
    In closing, I believe this legislation is important because it fills a gap in the current law and clearly denounces the wearing of masks or other disguises to conceal identity without lawful excuse during an unlawful assembly or riot. By denouncing this behaviour that is the antithesis of lawful expression and assembly, the bill underscores the Canadian values of freedom, tolerance, respect and rule of law.
    Therefore, for those who have been saying that this would hinder people who are participating in peaceful protest, I believe that it would the opposite. It would deter those who would come, escalate the situation into a riot and then try to conceal their identity so that they are not held accountable to law-abiding Canadian citizens.
    At the end of the day, I think a lot of Canadians were shocked by the riotous activity that occurred in two Canadian cities over the last year. This bill is in response to that. As a government, we want to send a strong message to Canadians that we are committed to safe streets and safe communities, and to ensuring that businesses are protected and that the activity of peaceful protest can go on as part of Canadians' rights and freedoms.

  (1900)  

    Madam Speaker, I would like to say that I am pleased to speak to this bill but I am actually saddened that yet again the Conservative government has put forward a bill with the sole end to put people in prison. This is the third such bill that has come to us and I must ask why.
    In this place, be it a naive point of view being a new member, it seems to me that our job is to find answers. Our job is to create bills and create tools that answer some of the issues that affect Canadians. Rather than use private members' bills and these moments to put forward ideas that could help Canadians, this is the third time that a bill has come forward that is meant to throw Canadians in jail.
    The hon. member just spoke about the protection of property, streets and cities, but these bills are designed as reactionary after the fact. Businesses are not protected because they are already damaged. The streets are not safer because the riots have already happened. Yes, there may be methodology to take care of things after the fact but I am not sure why there is not more energy going into trying to figure out how to deter these things and dissuade people from committing these acts.
    I listened very intently to the member's distinction from the Criminal Code. Section 351(2) of the Criminal Code states:
    Every one who, with intent to commit an indictable offence, has his face masked or coloured or is otherwise disguised is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
    Although the hon. member pointed out some subtleties in terms of what already exists in the Criminal Code, I am wondering why this bill needs to exist. I also wonder why the bill was put forward. I do not know why there are not bills that come up that actually help Canadians. Maybe it is a means of finding more bodies for the $19 billion prison scheme that the Conservative government has in mind. That is a whole lot of prisons and a whole lot of space.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Tyrone Benskin: It is unfortunate the hon. members cannot behave in an honourable way and allow a person to speak without heckling, as we did them. It just shows what they are.
    Lawful assembly is something that is held sacred in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When an assembly turns unlawful and people are wearing a mask, are they then going to be held liable, through this bill, for being part of this assembly even though they may not be committing a criminal act? How does one prove intent? How does one show intent as people are running through the streets trying to get away from a riotous situation? If they happen to be wearing masks because it is cold in the winter in Canada, would they be held liable because they are wearing masks but are just trying to get out of a dangerous situation?
    It is unfortunate that the government feels that it needs to tackle a situation with a bazooka in order to feel better about itself, but I guess that is what it needs to do. However, we on this side question the actual need, as well as the intent of a bill such as Bill C-309.
    Lawful assembly is something that is part of our rights as Canadians and a bill like this may deter those rights. What I fear it would deter is people's safety and comfort in feeling that they can express their views in a public manner in safety.

  (1905)  

    It seems to me that people will become less and less inclined to speak out against the government and against wrongdoing. The civil rights movement was built on civil disobedience. When laws are unjust, one of the recourses citizens have is to take to the streets and speak their minds. My fear is that a bill like this would be more of a deterrent to that aspect of free speech, as opposed to protecting property and streets after the fact.
    Why does the government feel the need to act only after the fact? Why is it that these bills have come forward? There have been three, as I said before. One bill would put people in jail for defacing monuments, as opposed to educating and rehabilitating individuals. Another bill would put people in jail for telling people they cannot fly the flag, rather than developing a program to make Canadians proud of the flag, proud of the work Canada does and proud of what Canada represents. Now we have a bill that would throw people in prison for wearing a mask. If an individual were to wear a mask while defacing a monument and telling somebody else not to fly the flag, does that mean the person would get 15 years in prison? Is it concurrent? Is it added on to? We do not know.
    The government comes across to this side of the House and I am sure to the majority of Canadians as they see more of these bills, as a vindictive and punitive government, as a government that does not respect Canadians, that does not have faith or confidence in Canadians, that feels it has to legislate Canadians into obedience and the government's way of thinking. That is a sad indictment of the group of people that is supposed to be taking care of Canadians and looking after Canadian needs, not after the fact but before the fact.
    This bill is so pointless that I do not really have that much more to say. I leave members with these questions: Why is it that the government needs to act after the fact? Why is it that the government feels it has to be punitive in order to get its point across? Why does the government not trust Canadians? Why does the government not believe that Canadians can learn through positive reinforcement rather than punitive, vindictive and sorely misguided options?

  (1910)  

    Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak in favour of Bill C-309, introduced by the member for Wild Rose.
    I will approach this from a different realm, that being my experience as a police officer. I will speak to a specific event that occurred on July 28, 1991, which was a defining moment for Penticton, British Columbia. It pertains to a riot which I investigated. I can speak to this bill with some knowledge regarding riots and unlawful assemblies.
    On July 28, 1991, at 41 minutes after midnight, the mayor of Penticton made a proclamation under section 67 of the Criminal Code with regard to an unlawful assembly and riot situation. The police waited 30 minutes before taking action, as required under the Criminal Code. At one o'clock in the morning, the police took action on approximately 5,000 to 10,000 people who had congregated in the downtown area of Penticton, which is commonly referred to as Main Street and Lakeshore Drive. My colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla will remember it well. It was a night like no other.
     When police officers are involved in a riot, their hearts are pumping and they are thinking at a million miles an hour as to what they can do to try and quell the situation and minimize the damage that will occur or has occurred. As a result of that, they are trying to be as proactive as possible.
    As opposed to the member who spoke before me, I see this as a proactive bill. I will explain why.
     In 1991 we did not have the electronics we have today; we had videotape and TV cameras. We had one sole purpose: we had to be able to identify people. Under sections 67 and 68 of the Criminal Code, one must be identified to be convicted in a court of law. Back in 1991, those who were masked, and there were many, had to be ignored because we could not identify them. As a result, there was a lot of damage that had been done on Main Street and a couple of other streets down in the lower part of Penticton that we could do nothing about by people who had concealed their faces.
    Members must understand that the police officers were put under a lot of constraints at that time. There were not a lot of us. There were only 38 officers to deal with about 5,000 people. We did what we could do. The main thing we wanted to do that night was disperse the crowd, but we could have done a lot more had this law been in place. We could have started apprehending people immediately, thus hopefully stopping other crimes from occurring, such as wilful damage, break and enter, and theft.
    This bill which the member for Wild Rose has brought forward is proactive. I will explain why.
    During a riot, normally people conceal their identity for three reasons. The first and most important is they want to conceal their identity so that the police cannot identify them. The second is that under most circumstances during a riot tear gas is lobbed and one can be protected from it by wearing a mask. The third is that it empowers people to do something they may not normally do if they could be identified by the police. I believe that is what the bill is all about, taking the empowerment away from those who believe they have carte blanche during a riot or unlawful assembly.

  (1915)  

    The intent of Bill C-309 is to do just that, to take away the empowerment. I do not believe this is trying to throw people in jail for the sake of throwing them in jail.
    I understand that after 30 minutes of the proclamation being read under section 68 of the Criminal Code, anyone who does not disperse can be arrested. It is at the discretion of the police officer whether or not that person should be arrested.
    As the member who spoke before me has said, for those who are trying to flee, in all likelihood, if the police are coming toward those people and they run away, that is a good thing, because we would like them to get out of the area. We want to get the people who provoke the police, and they normally are the ones who have their faces concealed.
    The addition of a charge under these circumstances is quite relevant. The relevancy is that those who cover their faces with a disguise or a mask are the ones who are provoking the riot to continue.
    It is very difficult for the police to stop something when they do not have the power to stop it.
     Bill C-309, brought forward by the member for Wild Rose, is an exceptional bill. It would help police immensely. It would not be used during peaceful demonstrations. It would not be used to discourage people from providing their opinion during a peaceful demonstration, but should the Riot Act be read, the game would change, and all of a sudden it would not be a peaceful situation.
    The bill would allow police to arrest those who conceal their identity. It would stop crime from happening before it happened. It would dissuade people from continuing an act of empowerment and egging on the police. It may stop a riot a couple of hours earlier. That is what it is all about. It is about trying to sway people to be peaceful, as opposed to being in a riotous state.
    As a police officer who has been involved in a riot, I know it is not fun. It is very dangerous for everyone involved because everyone is pumped up and wants to do something.
    That night in Penticton, there was over half a million dollars damage done in under two hours. I do not know how much damage was done at the G20 summit, but I do know that we could have prevented at least some of it had the bill been in place.
    This would help police officers move forward so they can immediately arrest someone who is wearing a mask and then identify the person. The sole reason for the bill is to identify those people who have masked themselves.
    Again, I appreciate the bill being brought forward by the member for Wild Rose. It would be a great opportunity for the police to use it when they need to. It would not be abused. I believe the bill would dissuade people in the future from entering into riotous situations and/or unlawful assemblies.
    I do not have much more to say. I wanted to speak to my experience. I believe that this bill would be a great move forward for the police community.

  (1920)  

    Resuming debate. Seeing no further speakers, I will turn to the hon. member for Wild Rose and ask for his comments in his right of reply.
    Madam Speaker, we have had some excellent debate on my private member's Bill C-309, the preventing persons from concealing their identity during riots or unlawful assemblies act.
    Bill C-309 would improve public safety. There is a great risk of injury to anyone involved in, or in the proximity of, an unlawful gathering or a riot.
    Those risks are only compounded when people intent on causing trouble wear masks and conceal their identity. Police say the main reasons masks are worn in a riot are for the purpose of committing crimes or intimidation. Wearing disguises in such chaotic situations emboldens offenders by giving them the anonymity to commit crimes without fear of consequences. They know that they are not likely to face prosecution if they cannot be identified.
    I do not think any member in the House would deny that it is in the public interest to stop riotous behaviour as quickly as possible. Therefore, Bill C-309 aims to strip away the anonymity that criminals depend on by making the wearing of a mask without lawful excuse a new offence. The ability to remove people who don a mask to deliberately cause trouble would be a new tool for police to prevent these individuals from instigating or committing criminal acts.
    As we bring second reading debate to a close, I would like to encourage all members to support the bill. To those who are still undecided, I would like to speak now from the perspective of the many police officers, business owners and individual citizens who have expressed their support for this legislation. Police chiefs in Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria all support its aims.
    Recently, Toronto police officers took me on a tour of the streets that were hardest hit during a riot there. It was an eye-opener to see first-hand the route that the rioters took and to have police explain their efforts to try to control such a volatile situation.
    A group of masked individuals, who police say showed up with the intent to cause trouble, inflicted massive damage on private businesses and torched four police cars along the way. According to best estimates by police, businesses endured $2.5 million worth of damage.
    I certainly hope that the NDP member for Trinity—Spadina and the Liberal member for Toronto Centre, who represent the area of Toronto that was most affected, are paying very close attention. I hope that those members' votes on the bill will reflect a determination to stop that kind of mayhem from happening again against their constituents and business owners.
    Business owners and operators are virtually sitting ducks when riots occur. Storefronts seem to bear the brunt of the destruction. It does not matter how large or small the operation, these are all businesses that have made investments in our local economies. They employ our citizens. They pay taxes to all levels of government. They improve our quality of life by providing services for consumers. They do not deserve to be sitting ducks for violent masked thugs.
    Measures to deter riots from escalating are the best safeguards against the destructive results of a riot. Business owners who have suffered loss certainly know this.
    The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association is composed of member businesses that were hardest hit by the riot in that city. It has unanimously endorsed this legislation. I would like to read its letter of support. I certainly hope the Liberal member for Vancouver Centre, who is supposed to represent the interests of those business owners, will take note and consider the concerns of her constituents when she votes on this bill. To quote the DVBIA:
    June 15, 2011 is a dark moment in our city's history that traumatized thousands of residents, employees and hard-working business people.
    The property damage incurred that evening combined with the looting that took place is in the millions of dollars. Vancouver's picture postcard image was sullied by the actions of reckless and irresponsible individuals who have no respect for the laws of our country.
    Any and all efforts to further strengthen the laws to mitigate any unlawful public gatherings... are welcomed by our members.
    The last word goes to Brian Rogers, a resident of Baie-d'Urfé, Quebec, who is a constituent of the Liberal member for Lac-Saint-Louis. He wrote:
    Congratulations on introducing your bill which would make it illegal to wear a mask during a riot or civil insurrection. Its moral intention is entirely in line with Canada's heritage of the common law...
    I urge all members to join me in improving public safety by taking away criminals' ability to hide in plain sight during a riot.

  (1925)  

[Translation]

    The time provided for debate has expired.

[English]

     The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 15, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Adjournment Proceedings

[Adjournment Proceedings]
    A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

[English]

Citizenship and Immigration 

    Madam Speaker, recently I rose in the House following a very critical report from the Auditor General that highlighted some serious shortcomings in Canada's visa system. The Auditor General's report found what he called “disturbing weaknesses” in the way Canada's border and immigration officials issued visas. He noted that CBSA analysts were not properly trained, their work was rarely reviewed and there was no evidence that mandatory checks of their work were completed.
    With regard to officials at the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, the Auditor General found that many of the resources provided to our public servants were inadequate and out of date. He noted that security manuals had not been updated since 1999 and health screening procedures had been narrowly focused, primarily on tuberculosis and syphilis for the past 50 years. The report went on to say, “The system lacks basic elements to ensure that they”, meaning public servants, ”get the right information to make those decisions”. How can we trust the integrity of the visa system when we are failing our public servants by not providing them with the resources they need?
    In general, the visa system is not serving Canada well. Every day in my office, and I think in MPs' offices across Canada, we deal with distraught constituents whose relatives have been denied visas to visit Canada, to participate in a wedding, attend a funeral or be present for the birth of a child. Every day we see cases where these denials are not justified or are the result of a lack of care and attention. There are visa offices, like Chandigarh in India, where the rejection rate for visitor visas is over 50%. This means that over half of the people who seek to visit Canada are told no, that they are not welcome.
    These unjustified denials need to be addressed immediately. The situation is damaging Canada's reputation as a welcoming country and creating great distress to Canadians and their families overseas. I have personally seen the pain and sadness felt by these families when they learn that their relatives have been denied a chance to visit. When Canadians hear these stories and become aware of reports like that of the Auditor General, they rightfully ask themselves whether they can trust the integrity of the entire system.
    If we cannot trust the decisions of visa officers who have allowed people into the country and we know that they are denying entry to worthy applicants, at least on some occasions, then we can see there is a major problem. It is issues like these, systemic issues, that need immediate attention and on which Canadians become outraged when they hear about how the government wastes their money and resources.
    Just last week we heard how the minister's office directed departmental officials to concoct a made-up citizenship ceremony so Sun Media could have a photo op. When we hear about how our officials need better training and resources, why is the minister bending over backward so that a private media company can create news? Why is the department wasting precious resources on fake photo ops when our officials need resources and Canadians need immigrant services?
    We heard that departmental officials were directed to make over 300 phone calls to recently-admitted citizens to Canada to try to entice them to come a fake citizenship ceremony. There are quotes by departmental officials who said that this was a lot of work for very little benefit and that this wasted resources.
    This is not justified at a time when the Auditor General is pointing out that our officials are in need of resources because there is a lack of resources for them to do their jobs, particularly when there is a backlog of one million applicants worldwide and people are waiting years and years for all sorts of permanent resident applications.
    I would ask the government for a further explanation as to why it is directing resources to things like fake photo ops when there is such a pressing need for immigration officials to spend time giving Canadians and their families the services they require and for which their taxes pay.

  (1930)  

    Madam Speaker, I am certainly pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this issue in the House. I welcome the question by the member for Vancouver Kingsway and am very happy that for once we have a member from the NDP standing up in the House and demanding tighter security for those who want to come to this country. Members of the NDP are usually trying to stop the government's efforts to make the immigration system more secure. If this is a step in that direction, then having to stay after the House normally rises is certainly worth the wait.
    I would also like to thank the Auditor General on behalf of our government for the great work he did. Our government agreed with every one of his recommendations. We are already working toward implementing every recommendation he made. We are concerned about health and security and health screening and that is why we have made many important investments in these areas.
    Shamefully, the NDP member for Vancouver Kingsway and his NDP colleagues have voted against every measure we have taken to improve the security of our immigration system. Not only do we agree with the Auditor General's report, but our government is also moving much further with his recommendations, just to ensure that people who are a threat to the health and safety of Canadians do not gain entry to this country.
     For example, one of the most important things Canada is doing when it comes to security screening is moving toward implementing biometrics. As a result, no longer will foreign criminals who pose a threat to Canadians and who use false documents or change their appearance be able enter or re-enter Canada. Collecting fingerprints is one of the most effective ways to prevent those who pose a security risk from entering our country. This will also put us in line with almost every other developed country in the world.
    I wish I could say that we had the support of the opposition on this matter. The opposition members speak about security and about auditor generals' reports, but when it came to action, they voted against the investment in biometrics.
    We have also introduced the most wanted foreign criminals list. Thanks to the help of countless honest and hard-working Canadians, the Canadian Border Services Agency has located 24 foreign criminals and has already removed 11 of them from our country. This list and program have been a success, and are another example of how our government is taking action to ensure that foreign criminals are no longer in Canada where they pose a risk to the safety of Canadians.
    I would love to hear my colleague from the riding of Vancouver Kingsway stand up and tell the House and his party that he supports that initiative, just as he says today that he wants tighter security on these issues with respect to immigration.
    The Prime Minister also recently announced the action plan on perimeter security and economic competitiveness with the United States. This agreement includes development of robust information sharing agreements that will further ensure that we will know when someone who is a security threat is trying to come to Canada.
     There is much more to say, but the point is that the government is taking unprecedented action on screening and in ensuring that Canada's immigration system is secure. With the Auditor General's recommendations, we are going to move that much further and implement those recommendations as well.

  (1935)  

    Madam Speaker, what the New Democrats are proud to vote against are bills that the government puts forward that fail to get the job done when it comes to improving our immigration system and serving Canadians and their families. We will continue to vote against bills that fail to get the job done in that area.
    The Auditor General noted that his office has been reporting some of the same problems for 20 years. A quality management system was recommended over 11 years ago, and both Liberal and Conservative governments have ignored these recommendations.
    It is absolutely relevant to mention the fake citizenship ceremony in this context, because it illustrates the focus of the government. Or maybe it would be more accurate to describe it as the lack of focus of the government, because government is about making choices and distributing public resources in an effective manner. It is about running public programs with integrity and instilling faith in citizens that our government is treating everyone fairly.
     There is much work to be done to restore Canadians' faith and trust in the visa system, and that trust is greatly diminished when we see this minister's office forcing public servants to participate in misleading publicity stunts instead of providing public servants with the resources they need to ensure that Canadian families can get their relatives here safely and securely.
    Madam Speaker, I find it fascinating that the member for Vancouver Kingsway spent almost no time speaking about the issue he put to the government this evening. Instead he wants to talk about an issue that has nothing to do with the running of government. He spoke about an issue where ministry officials have come forward and acknowledged that a mistake was made and apologized.
    That event takes place across this country in dozens of different locations and actually delivers upon something that is critical and important to all of us, our Canadian citizenship. The member very well knows that government's actions with respect to immigration over the last six years, especially over the last couple of years, have addressed the issues, whether security, refugee reform, or ensuring that the family part of immigration when it comes to parents and grandparents is being dealt with.
    Safety and security is a priority for the government. If only we had the support of the opposition on some of these issues, members would be amazed at how much quicker we could move forward.

  (1940)  

    The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood is not present to raise the matter for which adjournment notice has been given. Accordingly, the notice is deemed withdrawn.

[Translation]

    The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
    (The House adjourned at 7:40 p.m.)
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