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39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 058

CONTENTS

Tuesday, October 3, 2006





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 141 
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NUMBER 058 
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1st SESSION 
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39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Committees of the House

Public Accounts 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on chapter seven, “Acquisition of Leased Office Space”, of the May 2006 report of the Auditor General of Canada.
    In addition, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.

Government Operations and Estimates  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007.
     Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House that, in relation to the second reading stage of Bill C-24, and notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-24 shall not be subject to any further amendments or subamendments; and on any day Bill C-24 is under consideration at second reading, the House shall sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment and shall not be adjourned before such proceedings have been completed except pursuant to a motion to adjourn proposed by a minister of the Crown.
    Does the hon. the government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: No

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006

    That, in relation to the second reading stage of Bill C-24, and notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-24 shall not be subject to any further amendments or subamendments; and
on any day Bill C-24 is under consideration at second reading, the House shall sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment and shall not be adjourned before such proceedings have been completed except pursuant to a motion to adjourn proposed by a minister of the Crown.
    Will those members who object to the motion, please rise in their places.
    And fewer than 25 members having risen:
    The Speaker: Fewer than 25 members having risen, I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

    The Speaker: The hon. member for Saint-Jean on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I saw you count us one by one and I heard you say there were 25 members present in the House. I would like to know the breakdown, please.
    There were only 21 members. I said 25, because that is the required number. That is why I mentioned that number. However, I counted only 21 members.

[English]

Petitions

Trent-Severn Waterway  

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member for Simcoe North, I would like to table a petition today with over 900 signatures supporting an evaluation by the government of the Trent-Severn Waterway as proposed in Private Member's Motion No. 161, which is currently before the House.
    The petitioners are asking the government to consider the advisability of evaluating the future of the historic Trent-Severn Waterway and its potential to become a premier recreational asset; a world class destination for recreational boaters; a greater source of clean, renewable electric power; a facilitator of economic renewal to the communities along its 386 kilometre length; and a model of environmental sustainability.

  (1010)  

Age of Consent  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present a petition from members of the public in Vancouver who wish to draw to the attention of the House their concern about the need for protection of children from sexual predators.
    The petitioners ask that this be a top priority for the federal government. The petitioners are very concerned about young people who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and have signed a petition to that effect calling on the House to protect these vulnerable members of our society from harm. I am pleased to present this petition today.

Justice  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table four petitions. The first two relate to crime and punishment in our society, and are signed by residents of Windsor West, Windsor--Tecumseh, and Essex County. The petitioners call for sentences to be fully abided by with respect to serious crimes.

Trade  

    Mr. Speaker, the next two petitions are very important. They are signed by members of the CAW who are opposed to the Canadian negotiations that are going on with South Korea with respect to free trade.
    This is historic because the first two sets of petitions are part of 47,000 signatures that will be tabled in the House of Commons. I have invited members of all parties to table these petitions to reject the current actions of the Minister of International Trade who is moving ahead with a trade deal which is very much against the interests of Canadian manufacturers across this country.
    I am pleased to table this historic petition to stop the madness and make sure that our auto jobs, our shipbuilding jobs, and other manufacturing jobs are protected against the harmful practices of the South Korea free trade deal.

Age of Consent  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today and present a petition on behalf of constituents from Calgary and area regarding the protection of our children from sexual predators. The petitioners ask that this become a top priority of the government.
    The petitioners request that the government assembled take all necessary measures to immediately raise the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age.

Questions on the Order Paper

    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Windsor--Tecumseh and I am now prepared to hear the hon. member's submissions. I call upon the hon. member for Windsor--Tecumseh.

Privilege

Law Commission of Canada  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on this question of privilege because I believe it is a very grave matter with regard to democracy in this country. It is a grave matter with regard to the issue of respect by the government of the day to the House of Commons and the elected members of the House of Commons.
    I rise with regard to the announcement last week by the government that it was terminating all funding to the Law Commission.
     The Law Commission was established by legislation in 1996. It has functioned since that time with staff preparing reports, et cetera. The legislation that empowers the establishment of that commission was passed by Parliament through all stages. Nothing has been done with regard to that legislation to alter it in this period of time of 10 years.
    What is happening is another attempt by the government to thwart the intent of Parliament to the expressed wish and desire of Parliament in the form of that legislation. What the government is doing, if I can put this in street language, is trying to do through the back door what it should be doing, if it is serious about this, through proper mechanisms through the front door.
    The government is simply saying by stroke of the pen through, and I am not entirely sure where it thinks it gets the authority, either the chair of the Treasury Board or through some officer in the Prime Minister's Office that it simply is eliminating all the funding for the Law Commission.
    It was quite clear when the commission was set up under the legislation that it had certain duties. One duty in section 6 of the legislation is to report to this House. It requires the Law Commission to establish a president and a set of commissioners. Those commissioners shall be paid by the government of the day by direction of this legislation. In addition to that, the commission would have full time staff and operate an office to do research and report on issues of the day in the legal community. As an aside, the Law Commission has done an excellent job in that regard.
    This is not the first time that we have been confronted with this type of an issue and by this government. It is not as though the government could claim “sorry we slipped”. We went through this earlier this year with regard to the Firearms Act. We had speculation coming from various members of the government side that it was simply going to gut the provisions of the gun registry under the Firearms Act unilaterally by way of regulatory decree. This would have come from the PCO and/or the cabinet.
    The government knows it cannot do that. The government received legal opinions that it cannot do that. There is no difference in that situation than in the situation with the Law Commission. The Law Commission is bound to be established by that legislation of now some 10 years. It has been established. The Law Commission had been complying with the legislation up until a week ago.
    The Law Commission has been directed to cease operations completely by the end of the year. The government is cutting out the entire budget and have in effect directed the Law Commission to cease operations before the end of the year.
    The government knows it cannot do it under the Firearms Act. It cannot do it under this legislation either for exactly the same reasons. In addition to that, and I think this goes to almost the contempt that the government has for the House of Commons, the previous Conservative government did the same thing to the Law Reform Commission back in 1992-93. At least that government followed the law and that was a majority government, which maybe is the difference that we have here.
    This government knows that in a minority government, this particular minority government, with regard to this issue that it could not get a piece of legislation destroying the Law Commission through the House. The government knows that all three of the opposition parties would be opposed to that occurring. We believe in the institution of the Law Commission and so we would vote that legislation down.

  (1015)  

    If I again may go back to 1992-93, the previous Conservative government did in fact destroy the Law Reform Commission, the predecessor of the Law Commission, but it did so by legislation. The Conservatives had a majority government and they shoved that through the House at that time.
    We have two solid authorities to say that the government cannot do what it last week proposed to do. The Conservatives cannot cut that funding and thereby destroy the Law Commission. They know they cannot do it because of the opinion they got on the Firearms Act. They know they cannot do it because there is a precedent specifically on the Law Commission, named the Law Reform Commission at the time, when a previous government did the same thing but did it by way of legislation through the front door, not by the back or side door.
    In terms of the impact this has, it is not just a privilege to me as an individual member of Parliament, quite frankly, it is for every single member, including the members on the government side. If we are not going to abide by our own laws that we pass here, what could be more undermining of the authority of this House? I cannot think of anything.
    This is a direct attack on our privilege as members. The laws we pass have to be abided by and have to be carried out. If they are not going to be, that is, if the government of the day wants to change this, then the government has to change the law. The Conservatives cannot do it by fiat. They cannot do it in the backroom. They have to do it publicly. They have to bring it to a vote in the House.
    Mr. Speaker, I am asking you to find that in fact our collective privilege has been damaged and has been interfered with and that you provide us with that ruling. If you do, Sir, I would then ask that the issue be referred to the justice committee. Upon your ruling, I am prepared to submit a motion with regard to this.

  (1020)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to support this privilege motion today.
    The minority Conservative government has made drastic cuts and has given notice to the Law Commission of Canada which will, for all practical purposes, eliminate the working of this independent federal law reform agency.
    The Law Commission of Canada was established on July 1, 1997, under an act of the Parliament of Canada entitled the Law Commission of Canada Act, which was assented to on the May 29, 1996. This act provides that the commission is an independent departmental corporation that is accountable to the Parliament of Canada through the Minister of Justice. This is explicitly set out in sections 2 and 6 of the act.
    Under section 7, the act further requires the appointment of a president and four other commissioners. Subsections 11(1) and 11(2) provide that the president and the commissioners shall be remunerated. That requires funds.
    Under subsection 15(1) we see that an “executive director of the Commission, and such other officers and employees as are necessary for the proper conduct of the work of the Commission, shall be appointed in accordance with the Public Service Employment Act”.
    Subsection 18(1) established a council consisting of not less than 12 and not more than 24 members, called the Law Commission of Canada Advisory Council.
    Section 19 went further and stated that the council “shall advise the Commission on the Commission's strategic directions and long-term program of studies”.
    The duties are stated in subsection 5(1):
    The Commission shall
(a) consult with the Minister of Justice with respect to the annual program of studies that it proposes to undertake; ...and
(c) submit to the Minister any report that it has initiated itself or on the request of the Minister.
    Therefore, both options are available to this group.
    Section 23 requires that “the President shall submit to the Minister of Justice an annual report of the activities of the Commission in that year”.
     Section 24 requires that the “Minister of Justice shall cause a copy of any report of the Commission to be tabled in each House of Parliament”.
     Finally, section 25 requires that the “Minister of Justice shall cause a copy of the Minister’s response to any report of the Commission to be tabled in each House of Parliament”.
    Mr. Speaker, the words of the statute are mandatory words, as you would know, stating “shall”, not “may”.
    When the previous Progressive Conservative government, under Prime Minister Mulroney, ended the work of the predecessor Law Reform Commission, which was also constructed by a similar act of Parliament, the Law Reform Commission Act, it had to repeal the act and did so in 1993. The work of the Law Reform Commission was mandated by Parliament. Thus, we do have the precedent of having to end the work of the current Law Commission in the same manner.
    This minority government cannot unilaterally decide that it will ignore statutes put in place by Parliament. These decisions serve parliamentarians. It is particularly appalling that the Minister of Justice is choosing to ignore the instruction of a law of this chamber which addresses the members of Parliament in both Houses.
    Under section 3, we see that:
    The purpose of the Commission is to study and keep under systematic review, in a manner that reflects the concepts and institutions of the common law and civil law systems, the law of Canada and its effects with a view to providing independent advice on improvements, modernization and reform that will ensure a just legal system that meets the changing needs of Canadian society....
    Is this another case where the government, as in the case of the firearms registry, is trying to slash critical funding instead of coming back to this Parliament and these parliamentarians to debate and decide the future of the statutorily instituted Law Commission of Canada?
     The Law Commission of Canada Act created Canada's internationally respected Law Commission. What the funding cuts to this commission that were announced last week accomplish is the virtual elimination of the commission. It has been advised that it is to cease operation within the next couple of months. Under what authority can the government do this?
    This, I believe, is a contempt of this Parliament, of the members of this Parliament and, through us, of the public of Canada. We have a statute on the books that if Parliament is to be served by this commission, it has to have funds to operate. It cannot be a shell.

  (1025)  

    We cannot have a Minister of Justice in this country who sits and chooses to watch this happen. He is part of the cabinet that makes these decisions on funding cuts. He knows that this is a statute. Do other Canadians then follow the example and choose what statutes they should look to and which ones to ignore?
     Mr. Speaker, I believe and I heartily hope that you will find there is a prima facie case of privilege. I believe this is even a contempt of this Parliament.
    Mr. Speaker, I am quite sure you will not find that anyone's privileges have been violated in this case. It is just the opposite.
    The hon. member of the New Democratic Party indicated something about this being a threat to democracy.
    It seems to me it is a threat to democracy when governments do not follow through on exactly what they have promised the people of this country.
    Mr. Speaker, you would know that during the last general election my political party came forward and very clearly told Canadians they were overtaxed and that we intended to do something about it. We saw this in the budget that was tabled in the spring. There were definite tax cuts.
     At the same time, we indicated to Canadians that we would not spend money when we believed it was not absolutely necessary and that we wanted to be careful with the tax dollars of ordinary Canadians. That is exactly what was done by the President of the Treasury Board.
    Mr. Speaker, you have heard this before from individuals in positions similar to that of the President of the Treasury Board. There is no law that compels us to spend every single cent we can. We heard the argument when there was a more than $13 billion surplus that somehow we had an obligation to find places to spend it. That is ridiculous.
     When you have a look at this argument, Mr. Speaker, I think you will come to the conclusion that the President of the Treasury Board and the Government of Canada are not obligated to continue to spend money in areas that the government has decided it does not want to spend in, in trying to protect the interests of the taxpayers.
    Mr. Speaker, I think you will be able to make a very quick decision on this, but whenever you make that decision of course it will be respected. It will be well considered, I am sure, but I believe you will conclude that the government has acted quite properly and is being very careful with the money of the taxpayers of this country.
    I thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the hon. member for London West and the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their submissions on this matter. I will take it under advisement.
    The hon. member for Vancouver East is rising on the same question of privilege. I hope it will be a new point, because I feel I have heard both sides of the argument at this stage. If there is something new I will hear it, but in fairness I think we have heard a fair bit on this already.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the member for Windsor—Tecumseh because I think this is a very important matter for all members. We are the guardians of Parliament. If we do not act, speak out and protect the measures and processes we have in place, then they will fall by the wayside.
    I would like to draw to the Chair's attention page 51 of Marleau and Montpetit, which makes this clear. It states:
    The House has the authority to invoke privilege where its ability has been obstructed in the execution of its functions or where Members have been obstructed in the performance of their duties. It is only within this context that privilege can be considered an exemption from the general law.
    This is the point I want to stress. It states:
    Members are not outside or above the law which governs all citizens of Canada. The privileges of the Commons are designed to safeguard the rights of each and every elector.
    This is precisely the point we want to make today. Members before us came to this place to debate that legislation back in 1990, with the due process that was given then, on behalf of the electors of Canada. It was duly passed. For it now to be thrown asunder and just written out with a stroke of a pen I think violates every sense of democracy and decency we have and really does affect our privileges.
    I hope you will consider the arguments put before you today, Mr. Speaker, and consider that the government has created a wrong. It needs to be addressed by the Speaker. The due processes and traditions of this place need to be upheld.

  (1030)  

    I thank the hon. member for Vancouver East for her submissions on this point. I will take the matter under advisement and come back to the House in due course with a ruling in respect of these submissions.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006

    When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Mississauga South had the floor. There were five minutes remaining in the time for questions and comments following the hon. member's remarks.
    I therefore call for questions or comments. The hon. member for Windsor West.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to ask my colleague a question in starting the debate this morning.
    One of the things that is important to remember about Bill C-24 and the subamendment from our colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, is that this affects a whole series of trade agreements with ourselves and the United States.
    Does the hon. member believe that this sets a precedent? What we have here is basically the hijacking of a trade agreement that we have with the United States where a set of rules have been put in place and those rules are now being altered unilaterally by one side and now, with complicity, the government.
    Does the hon. member feel that it will affect future trading relations under this current agreement?
    Mr. Speaker, I tend to agree with the member that what has happened on the softwood deal, where we have a minister in the previous government being the same minister in the current government on one side he was fighting to the finish utilizing the NAFTA and WTO rulings as well as relying on the dispute resolution mechanism to help us to deal with these.
    Now he has abandoned it totally and he has abandoned the industry. What is worse, now we have a situation where not only has he threatened those who have not signed on to the deal, he has also said that the government will make their lives uncomfortable. We have also found out that if others choose to pursue their legal rights, this may jeopardize the current deal.
    Therefore, I would think that this whole softwood sell-out has been a boondoggle right from the beginning. The government should be ashamed of itself for not standing with the softwood industry rather than threatening it.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having had the opportunity to listen to the debate over the last number of days on Bill C-24, the softwood lumber agreement. A number of members have spoken about the impact on their own communities of job losses and the impact on their local economies. This is something that needs to be brought to the forefront.
    One of the concerns we have about the bill is that it is not based on any kind of coherent industrial strategy. We have an agreement that basically violates all the procedures and processes that we have in place under our trade agreements and it puts people's backs to the wall in terms of signing it, but it is not part of any coherent strategy that is based on sustainability, on value added jobs and on ensuring the strength of local economies.
    I would like the hon. member to comment on that in terms of how this is an isolated agreement that is not connected to a broader industrial strategy that is needed in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, I also have some grave concerns about the impact on other trade arrangements. This has obviously not worked because the government has not supported the process.
    However, I think it is even worse than that. We all know that the deal was not supported by the industry some time ago and all of a sudden there is a mysterious flip-flop to taking a cash settlement which left a billion dollars on the table to the benefit of the U.S. industry and to the U.S. government.
    Could it be that the change of position has to do with the government's preponderance of decisions it is taking, which seem to be following an American policy rather than a Canadian policy, the republicanization of Canadian policy? Whether it be foreign or economic policy, there is a litany of examples. I think it is time the Conservative government was exposed to its beholdenness to George Bush.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill C-24, the softwood lumber sellout deal, as it is known across the country. We have heard a lot of discussion in this chamber about the bill. I would like to first thank my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who has done an incredible job and put a lot of hard work into this file as well as other trade files that are important for Canadian jobs, which is what this is about.
    This is Canadian jobs, cultures and communities that will be grievously affected by unfair trading practices. This is a trade crime that is being perpetrated on this country and facilitated by the current government.
    I will begin by reading a quote from the House of Commons Debates that we had about this issue over a number of years in this chamber:
    Most recently, the NAFTA extraordinary challenges panel ruled that there was no basis for these duties, but the United States has so far refused to accept the outcome and has asked Canada to negotiate a further settlement. Let me repeat what I have said before, and let me be as clear as I can. This is not a time for negotiation. It is a time for compliance.
    The right hon. Prime Minister made those comments and then he flip-flopped on his position. It is an unconscionable dodging of accountability. We have a Prime Minister who gave his word to Canadians that he would live up to ensuring that Canada and its trade agreements would be effectively moved forward through the negotiation settlement that we had under NAFTA and free trade and he has abandoned that.
    It is also important to note, not only for members in the chamber but for experts and panel members abroad, that those who have been affected by this issue have come in and made comments. I would like to read a comment made by Frank Dottori, co-chair of the Canadian Free Trade Lumber Council, an advocacy group representing Canadian lumber companies. He says:
    We expect our government to help us fight U.S. protectionist forces, and get our industry a long-term solution.
    I have another comment by BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst, Stephen Atkinson:
    Why would you give 22 per cent to your competition? This money belongs to the companies and their shareholders, and the Canadian government is giving it away.
    It is a broad range of people in Canadian society, whether it be the workers who are affected, whether it be industry analysts or whether it be advocacy groups that are rejecting this deal.
    It is important in the context of our greater trade relations with the United States.
    When I first came to this chamber in 2002, I remember participating in a softwood lumber lobby. We went to Washington to talk with a number of different analysts, advocacy groups and organizations, as well as different members of Congress and of the Senate about the harmful practice this was having on the Canadian industry and how unfair it was.
    People need to understand, going back to that time then and to this date now, that many groups and organizations support the Canadian position. The Canadian position that should be from the House of Commons is that of a fair trading relationship with the United States and we have an injurious affection. However, it has been the high-powered ranking lobbyists, a select few from Congress and the Senate, who have driven the White House in this direction. We have many American friends who understand this is hurting both of our nations.
    I do not care if the current Minister of International Trade is a Liberal or a Conservative and whether his position flip-flops just like he does on parties. What we need is a cessation of this legislation, the introduction of supports and the continuation of a fair settlement. This is not just about what we gave up in the past, which I will discuss later, but also where we go in the future with our trading relations and how it affects Canadian jobs.
    I come from an area of the country that has flourished in many respects but which has struggled in relation to the auto industry. In 1965, Canada negotiated an auto pact with the United States that was based upon fair trade between our countries. It was one that benefited both countries and one that had a lot of strengths that developed, not only the automotive industry in Canada, across Ontario and other parts of our country, but even in American counterpart jurisdictions like Michigan and a whole series of other states. It also led to other industries, for example, the tool and die industry, the mould making industry, all of those technical innovation industries that are responsible for Canadian economic development. It was a fair trade deal that was set up with rules and those rules were respected.

  (1040)  

    What ends up happening? We enter into NAFTA, and the free trade agreement later on, and we lose a ruling that kills our auto pact. Since that time we have struggled. We have diminished market share. We have had a whole bunch of obstructions put in place that are difficult to compete against. We have lost a very good trade agreement that was a great success for Canada. It paid millions into our coffers on an annual basis through taxation, it provided good jobs for families and it provided innovation in our schools and universities. We gave that up because we played by the rules.
    What do we have now? We have an agreement where the Americans have decided unilaterally that they will not accept panel after panel rulings in favour of Canada. We have continued to have success through this difficult process, a process that has required Canadian politicians and governing bodies to support the industry during these harmful times, but one with the goal at the end of the day of having a fair trade agreement and a settlement that makes sense of the trade agreement we have signed.
    What the government is saying right now is that the Americans do not have to play by the rules because if they are tough enough and their lobbyists are powerful enough, Canada will capitulate, not just in terms of a settlement that has a series of clauses that are harmful for communities and industries across this country, but also in cold, hard cash. Canada is giving away over a billion dollars.
     Some of that money will be given directly to American lumber associations so they can compete against Canadian companies. Other money will go into a discretionary fund at the White House that does not even have to go back to Congress for it to decide how it will be spent. It is unconscionable. The money should go back to the people who paid it out, and those are our companies in the industry that have been harmfully hurt during this practice.
    The government's response to those who have been critical of this has been unacceptable. Basically, it has used strong arm tactics and it has made sure that those who are speaking out will be injuriously affected. It will not provide loan guarantees and it will not assist companies to move their rights through the court process, which they are entitled to do under this agreement. It is unacceptable.
    I am greatly concerned as to where the minister is going in terms of other international agreements and trade policies.
    I know the trade committee met this summer because we were concerned about what the minister was doing on the fair trade with Korea file. There is nothing fair about that file. We have been objecting to it since day one. We are hoping other members join us in that fight.
     However, back in June, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster tabled a report in committee showing that if we were to go ahead with this particular agreement we would lose more auto jobs. It is not just the fact that the minister has a bad deal set up for Bill C-24, it is also his competency and his motivation in where he is moving. It gets to a broader picture of this.
    Why are we actually doing these things? The study, which the committee was asked to table, did not come out until three months later. It was not until the CAW published its own studies on Korea free trade and how it would affect the industry that the government finally released the report that shows there will be major injurious effects from both files. This file right here shows it is not healthy and that it is not a good trade agreement for the Canadian government.
    What is the motivation? I think the motivation is simply politics. It is politics to appease the American side so that the government can claim that it is close to the United States and actually get results, despite what it sells off to them, but also on the Korea trade file, it is politics when it is showing that the government will get a trade agreement with Korea at the expense of Canadians.
    I know I am out of time but I do want to impress upon Canadians that this is a precedent setting thing. It is not just about softwood. Even if some communities do not have a softwood industry, they will be affected in the future because this gives a green light for the minister to sell out other industries. Whether it is auto, steel or farming communities, it allows the rules to be taken out of the equation, not just by those who are perpetrating against us but by our government that is supposed to be protecting us.

  (1045)  

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday I read in one of the papers that the EDC was asking the recipients of the duties that were held to have them signed over to the EDC as part of this deal. What does he make of this? Does he not feel, as do other Canadians, that there is something suspicious about this? The EDC wants the lumber people to sign over their receivables so that it can continue this process. Is there a hidden message there somewhere?
    Mr. Speaker, the government has asked the companies to put a gun to their head. Now it is asking them to load it. It is unacceptable.
    The EDC does not support what should happen, and that is the facilitation of our trade. It is just another good example of the fact that there is no support for the industry. The strong-arm tactics of the government have been reprehensible. We are talking about a government that is supposed to be business friendly. To use these tactics is deplorable. It is not acceptable and it sends a bad message for other industries.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Windsor West for his historical comments. It is worth remembering what happened around the auto pact. Canada played by the rules and lost the auto pact as a result of that, and we saw the impact.
    There are a lot of ironies in the softwood lumber agreement. Originally, the NDP did not support NAFTA, but we believe, since it is in place, that we should play by the rules. We would like to see that change, but those mechanisms exist for dispute resolution. Yet we have a softwood lumber agreement that is completely negating those rules.
    Could the member for Windsor West elaborate on the impact on the loss of jobs? I know he is experiencing that with the auto sector in his community. Now we have a whole new chapter, the lumber industry, which is about to stamped on. Thousands more workers stand to lose their jobs as a result of a very bad agreement and the fact that Canada capitulated and allowed the agreement to go ahead.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver East brings up a very important point. At the end of the day, this is about jobs and communities. These jobs and communities are often very much dependent upon each other for success. We have seen this all over the country, where we witness towns and communities in crisis.
    It is important to note that the government still has yet to come forward with a sectorial strategy on anything. The previous administration talked about it for the auto, aerospace and textiles industries, but never did anything. Now the current government, with this deal, is saying that if the U.S. does not want to play by the rules, Canada is going to agree. It is not going to play by the rules. By not doing so, there will be injurious effects to the industry and the communities. There is no sectorial strategy. Why is there no strategy for the communities that will be affected? Why is there no plan to help?
    The very least the government could do is set a sectorial strategy for the industry to help those who will be punished by its bad decision. Instead, the government is saying that this is the deal, live with it and it will move on. It may be good for the government, but it is bad for others. That is not acceptable.
    Mr. Speaker, there is some fine print with regard to the deal, particularly with regard to those softwood lumber producers who still wish to pursue their legal right, their recourse through the courts. It appears there is a possibility that they may in fact scuttle the deal. This is a question that has not been answered directly by the government.
     Why do we proceed to debate the ways and means motion, which may not be relevant if the reports are true? Maybe the government should be called upon to explain what the delay is in the payments and whether there is any basis to the allegations that producers, who wish to pursue their legal rights, may kill the deal.

  (1050)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has it exactly right. It is a significant problem and it perplexes me as to why the government would want to pursue it in such a hostile fashion.
    I think it is part of a larger agenda to get some political points, whether it this one, or dismantling the Wheat Board, or attacking the auto and shipbuilding industries by coming forward with a creative free trade deal. All those things are thrown up in the air to confuse the public and to move forward for the government's own political agenda. At the same time, it is not dealing with the outright facts. It is not even answering a simple question. Is this all for not because the courts are going to decide?
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak, as one of the NDP members, in opposition to Bill C-24.
     NDP members have been very active in this debate. A little earlier the government brought forward a motion to cut off debate on an amendment and the main bill. This is a further indication that it has complete contempt for this place. It is a important bill and an important agreement, which will affect every region of our country. It will affect individual workers, business interests and the economy of local communities. One would think that a bill of this magnitude would have a full and democratic debate in the House, yet the government House leader pulled a tactic today to basically censored and cut off further debate on the bill.
    I will about public hearings a bit later, but I feel ashamed that the government pulled this tactic today to prevent members of the House from speaking their minds, from communicating the real concerns of their constituents about this bill. As long as the debate on Bill C-24 lasts, we will use every minute to continue debate. We feel deeply and strongly that the bill, which embodies the softwood lumber agreement, is a bad deal for Canadians and the industry.
    I want to thank the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who is our trade critic and who has lead our debate on this, for his incredibly tireless work in committee, in the House and out in the community over the summer. Our trade critic was successful in getting the committee to meet over the summer to take up this important matter when the House was recessed. We want to thank him for his attention to the details in this massive agreement. He has brought forward to the public what this deal is all about, what is wrong with it and why it should be voted down. I will briefly go through some of those reasons.
    First is the falsehood that the softwood lumber agreement is based on the idea that Canadian softwood lumber industries are subsidized. The Americans have peddled this idea far and wide through every legal case they could and through every political means they had. It is even at the point where Canadians are beginning to believe that the Americans have a legitimate point.
    The falsehood of Canadian softwood lumber industries being subsidized has been exposed and rejected in every NAFTA and U.S. commercial court ruling. The courts have clearly sided with the Canadian industry. The myth about the subsidy has been used by the U.S. as a political weapon against Canada and to whip up its own industrialists south of the border. This myth is based on a completely false premise. Despite the unequivocal dispute settlement decisions and trade court rulings, the U.S. clearly does not want to play by the rules. What is really dismaying to us is that the Conservative government is allowing the U.S. to abandon the rules at the end of the game.
    Canada won those major legal battles under the North American Free Trade Agreement in U.S. commercial courts. In fact, by using the legitimate mechanisms available, Canada was just a few months away from winning the two final legal cases, which would have voided the dispute and refunded every cent of the $5.3 billion that had been collected in illegal levies. What did our government do? It wanted to make a deal, apparently at any cost. Now we are rushing the bill through the House.

  (1055)  

    Second, the deal gives away $500 million in funds owned by the Canadian softwood industry to subsidize the U.S. Coalition for Fair Trade Lumber Imports. It is unbelievable that, as part of the agreement, we would give money, which legitimately belongs to Canadian companies, back to a U.S. coalition, a coalition that will continue in developing its arguments, its campaign and its interest against the Canadian industry.
    Third, it will also provide $450 million in funds to the Bush administration, which it will use at its discretion, apparently without Congress approval or any accountability.
    Fourth, what is of concern to us is that we are being told this is a great deal, it is the best that can be done and it will provide peace in the woods, et cetera. The fact is this deal can be cancelled unilaterally at any time. It does not provide the stability and the predictability for which I think the Canadian softwood industry was looking. Those are obviously very key elements. We have had this ongoing dispute. It is important to have stability and predictability. While we are being told that it is contained in the agreement, when we read the fine print and the details, we can see that it is not the case.
    Further, the agreement constrains trade unreasonably by applying punitive tariffs and quotas that hinder the flexibility of a Canadian softwood agreement. This makes it difficult for the industry to plan its business and predict cash flow, for example.
    Many of the industry leaders across Canada expressed, at the trade committee hearings this summer, their concern that the softwood lumber agreement would destroy their industry and communities. This is coming from the industry itself. We should be very concerned about that.
    As we heard from the member for Windsor West, the agreement sets a very bad precedent, not only for softwood lumber, but for other industrial sectors in Canada. It opens the door for the U.S. to attack other Canadian interests and industries that it wants to target with illegal tariffs. Why? Because the U.S. knows it can get away with it. It knows it will not only get away with it, but it will be rewarded for it.
    The NDP sees this as the slippery slope, as a very bad precedent. So much has been vested politically in this agreement that it will now be harder and harder to fight against other campaigns that develop politically and are targeted at Canadian interests.
    We have heard quite a lot in the House about how it can trigger significant job losses. I have been asking questions of other members about this. One of the concerns I have is that the agreement is not based on any kind of industrial strategy, a strategy that we can look at and say, yes, that we understand it is about building productivity and the Canadian economy, that it is about creating good jobs, decent labour standards and sustainability. However, it is not based on any of those things. In fact, we seem to be wiggling away our strategy sector by sector.
     I remember the member for Western Arctic stood up last week and spoke about this. He used the example of the oil and gas sector, where again we have no industrial strategy. Nor do we have an industrial strategy in the manufacturing sector.
    The member for Windsor West talked a bit earlier about the auto industry. He said that there was no pan-Canadian auto industrial strategy.
    When all of that is put together and we add on this agreement, it leaves a really bad taste. It leaves a sense that the government is not interested in developing in producing that kind of comprehensive look. For that matter nor was the previous government because there is no industrial strategy.
    It is appalling that in the summer the trade committee, by a majority, agreed to hearings on this agreement in three communities, in Thunder Bay, Vancouver and the Saguenay.

  (1100)  

    Recently the committee completely flip-flopped on that. Unfortunately the Liberal members allowed the review of a motion to hold those hearings and then voted against having them. We were set to have hearings in those very seriously affected communities and all of a sudden, the hearings have been undone. I really wonder where the Liberal members are on this, because it seems to me that having hearings outside of Ottawa in communities that are affected is a very important aspect of this debate.
    I am in opposition to this agreement, as are other members of our caucus. We will debate it as long as we can to try to prevent it from going through.
    Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed very much listening to the comments from the member for Vancouver East. She was very eloquent in presenting the facts.
    Throughout the exchanges and agreements and potential signings, people keep sticking to the figure of $5 billion. We have been talking about this for eight or nine months. If an individual had $5 billion in the bank, would there not be interest accruing? It seems that the figure is stuck at $5 billion. As I understand it, it is $5 billion of Canadian money that is supposedly being held somewhere in trust. I do not think it is being held in a closet or in a drawer. It is somewhere accruing interest. Does the member have any knowledge on that?
    Next, it is my understanding that the companies in Canada that choose not to sign onto this deal will be penalized by the government with a levy of 19%. I would like her to comment on that.
    In closing, it is a bit unfair in terms of her comment about the Liberal side. I think the nation out there knows as people follow this debate that we have been fighting this deal vigorously because we believe it is unfair for Canadian industry, for Canadian products and for Canada as a country.
    Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing that the Liberals changed their minds in committee, especially after what has happened today in terms of the debate being cut off. I would hope that the Liberal members might reconsider their position about how important it is to have hearings in those three centres across the country. There are lots of people who need to be heard and want to be heard.
    In terms of his questions, the issue of the $5 billion has been raised time and time again. In any other business accounting practice, interest would be a part of the financial reconciliation at the end of the day, but somehow this has gotten lost in the shuffle. It is not just a question of $5 billion and the fact that $1 billion is being left in the U.S. It is also a matter of the interest not being calculated.
    In terms of the 19% levy, which is in effect a double taxation, a punitive taxation on those companies that do not sign on, this just seems to be the most alarming precedent, that the government produces an agreement and then basically aims a shotgun at companies and tells them that if they do not sign on they are going to face an extra levy. That is fundamentally undemocratic by any perspective and it is one more reason that we should not allow this deal to go ahead.

  (1105)  

    Mr. Speaker, the situation has changed quite remarkably with this deal over the last few days, in that the government has now postponed it again for 30 days.
    To my mind the postponement would give the government, which claims it has all kinds of support for this deal, a great opportunity to go out across the land and conduct public hearings in three locations to actually hear what Canadians think about it. We could hold off on this vote until the government went out there to prove its case and show the public across the country that the government has support for this deal, that the supporters are willing to stand up in public hearings and express their support and give parliamentarians direction.
    Does my hon. colleague feel that this would be a great opportunity for the government to prove its case?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is entirely right. It really begs the question of why the government is so intent on rushing this deal through by what it did today and in not allowing hearings. I think the Conservatives are in a bit of a spin. They are no doubt worried that the momentum they thought they had is not moving forward and is actually falling apart. Now we see a delay until, I believe it is November 1 and there may be further delays beyond that.
    It would be very good for the government to stand the test and hear from Canadians. What is it afraid of? Why is it not willing to hear from people in some of the key affected communities? If the government thinks this agreement is so good, it should listen to what people have to say. There is nothing that says time would not allow that to be done.
    We ask the government and other parties to reconsider this idea and support the need to have hearings in those affected communities.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has sold out the Canadian softwood industry with this deal. We are voting down the deal because it is a bad deal.
    From the start we said that free trade agreements would not work. I remember the long discussions in the mid-1980s. We said that NAFTA would be problematic. At that time we were told to have faith, the trade agreement would work and that Canadian companies would definitely benefit from the deal.
     What has happened subsequently is that in my area of Trinity—Spadina, a great number of garment factories have closed their doors. A large number of immigrant women lost their jobs and their livelihoods because of the free trade agreement. In the mid-1980s there was a lot of discussion. We put forward many arguments about what would happen to some of the industries. We were told that there would be some losers and some winners and that we would see the results.
    In Trinity—Spadina thousands and thousands of jobs were gone and a lot of factories and entire areas were emptied out. Fortunately, we were able to bring in other industries, software and many others, to help rebuild that whole area. Definitely, the garment industry in downtown Toronto has been almost entirely eliminated. I think the same is true in parts of Montreal. On top of that, right now in the garment industry there are home workers, people who take work into their homes and get very, very low pay. All of this is because of free trade.
    At that time we also said that the free trade agreement would not necessarily work because of chapter 11 as big companies could sue different levels of government.
    A few years ago the small town of Hudson, Quebec decided to ban pesticides. Some companies said that was not fair, and under the free trade agreement and under chapter 11, the town of Hudson was sued, but thanks to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and many others, the town won at the end of the day. As a result, different municipalities are now able to ban pesticides if they wish to do so.
    We were told that the industry would benefit, but look at what is happening. In the softwood deal the whole dispute settlement mechanism will be thrown out. We were told to rely on the courts, that the courts would protect us. Actually they will not any more. This agreement is destroying the NAFTA dispute settlement mechanism by agreeing to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the Bush administration and the U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports. The message is clear. We will pay the Americans to bully us. The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports is the main opponent of the Canadian softwood lumber industry. We are rewarding the coalition with hard-earned Canadian cash for harassing Canada, for harassing Canadian companies, for harassing Canadian workers.
    I want to quote what is being said about it. One of the columnists in the Toronto Star said that thanks to this deal, we can stop pretending we have a free trade agreement with the U.S. and move on. That is what this deal is all about.

  (1110)  

    In the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, which by the way is in an area where a large number of jobs are going to be gone or are gone already, it said:
    How much longer is Canada going to let itself be kicked around by a handful of powerful U.S. senators doing the bidding of their lumber baron constituents to ignore NAFTA's repeated rulings against them? How much longer is George W. Bush going to condone this betrayal of America's best friend? And how much longer is Stephen Harper going to stand for it?
    We found that the Prime Minister said not that long ago in 2005, I know I should not have read out his name. I apologize.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Reference was made to a member in the House, specifically the Prime Minister by his name. I believe that the rules state that members of the House should be referred to by either their title as ministers in the cabinet or by their riding names.
     I would ask the member for Trinity—Spadina to not refer to the Prime Minister by name in future.
     Mr. Speaker. Yes, I admit it. I read that quote and I realize that was the case. I extend my apology. It will not happen again.
    Let me read another quote of the Prime Minister from 2005. At that time we were told:
    If the U.S. industry is able to pressure the government not to return duties when it has lost its last NAFTA appeal, it will not matter if most other trade is dispute free. If the rules are simply ignored, then the very basis of a rules-based system is threatened and the future of all Canada-U.S. trading relations could be profoundly affected.
    We know that because of this deal, if it passes in the House, Canada's future U.S. trading relations will be affected negatively. We are looking at probably steel and wheat. All kinds of deals and trading relationships are going to be negatively impacted because of this deal.
    It is also a clear example of how the current government is foregoing the interests of Canadians to appease our big neighbour to the south. All Canadians and all Canadian companies want their interests to be championed by the Canadian government, a government that was elected to look out for the best interests of the people.
    Unfortunately, the softwood lumber industry has been given the short end of the stick by the government. The softwood lumber industry is not being subsidized by the Canadian government nor is it being protected from the onslaught of American companies in coalitions.
    We know this deal is going to be bad for jobs. In many ways it is going to be terrible. We at the the time said to thousands of workers who lost their livelihoods over the past five years that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel because we kept winning these various disputes. At the end of the day, when we win all of the various court cases and there is one last one, the $5 billion will be returned to the companies. The companies will then be able to invest in their industry. Then the Canadian workers would be able to benefit. We said to them, “Let's just keep going”.
    Unfortunately, this agreement is very unfair to individuals and their families who still work in the softwood lumber industry because there will be continuing instability and unpredictability within the Canadian softwood lumber industry. There will be less money to reinvest in the companies to upgrade and there is no money to streamline and no incentive to do so.
    It will probably also mean more sellouts to raw log exports and the industry will be harmed because of it. We will be noticing that there will be restructuring of the softwood lumber industry because there will be a lack of a competitive edge with American competitors and that is why there will be a problem of jobs lost. With limited flexibility in the softwood lumber industry through quotas and taxes, it will make it difficult for the industry to plan its business and be competitive.
    It is also going to be a problem for big cities because we will end up, especially Americans, having higher prices in terms of building homes.
     That is why we are going to be voting against this very bad deal. It is bad for workers and bad for the industry.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, my question for the member for Trinity—Spadina is, why can she and her party not support this agreement?
    This is an agreement that has the support of all major softwood lumber producing provinces. The province of British Columbia is lending its support to this agreement. The province of Ontario is lending its support to this agreement. The province of Quebec is lending its support to this agreement. In addition, this agreement has the support of a vast majority of companies in the industry. An overwhelming majority of companies in the industry support this agreement.
     How can she not support this agreement when the three major lumber producing provinces and the vast majority of companies in the industry support it? How on earth can she stand in her place in the House and not support an agreement that has the support, both from the provinces and the companies in the industry?
    Mr. Speaker, the answer is very simple. It is called $1 billion. It is called Canadian cash. It is Canadian sovereignty. If we were to support this deal, it would mean handing over Canadian cash of $1 billion to the U.S. The only people who are happy with this deal are the Americans who know they are walking away with this money after they have bullied us for many years. They will use this money to continue their attack on our industry.
    Since this agreement was first announced, 112 Canadian companies have filed lawsuits against the Canadian and U.S. governments in reference to preserving the integrity of chapter 19 and securing the refund of 100% of the duties illegally collected by the U.S. treasury. The fact that there are that many Canadian companies filing lawsuits tells me that many Canadian companies are not happy with this deal.
    The $1 billion being left behind is, in my mind, the result of trade crime and every penny of it should be returned to hard-working Canadian taxpayers.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the member for Trinity—Spadina said. She talked about a lot of things aside from the lumber trade deal but she also said that trade deals will not work. She generalized it and I think it was a bit of an unfair statement to make as we would not have had the prosperity we have enjoyed in the last 10 or 12 years, the longest uninterrupted economic growth in the history of our country.
    Is she suggesting that we do nothing? Today our trade surpluses have grown and, as a result, created over three million jobs. She talked about lost jobs in the last five years. Canada has been growing in terms of jobs.
    She talked about the garment and textile industry. As the former chair of the international trade committee, I remember people coming before the committee who knew that this industry was going through changes, for example, in supporting the LDCs that I know the member is not aware of. They learned to adapt and we learned to be more competitive and change our methods.
    I will close with this question. Is she simply saying that we should not have international trade agreements, that we become an esoteric country and not deal with anybody? What is she really saying?
    Mr. Speaker, what I am saying precisely is that the dispute settlement mechanism is gone. Under the agreement we have this mechanism and we keep winning it. We win it in the courts and yet this deal is going to set a precedent.
    Yes, we do need trade, but it has to be fair trade. It is not just about free trade. There is nothing free about this when we lose $1 billion. There is nothing free about it when Canadian companies are being harassed by American coalitions. What is so free about it when we have no rights left?
    The fact is that trade with the U.S. is not the only route. We should start focusing and spending a lot more energy and effort in looking at trade with China and India, which we are doing somewhat, but nowhere near enough in terms of encouraging small businesses, for example, to connect and find ways to trade with other countries.
    I was talking about the dispute settlement mechanism and the fact that we keep winning in the courts. Yet, we are signing a deal that will end up leaving $1 billion on the table.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order and draw to the attention of the Chair that earlier this day the government used Standing Order 56.1 to basically cut off the debate on amendments and subamendments on Bill C-24 which we are currently debating.
     I believe that the use of this Standing Order by the government was actually incorrect. I would draw to your attention debate that took place and a ruling from the Speaker in September 2001. In fact, the member for Winnipeg--Transcona was a part of that debate concerning the inappropriate use of Standing Order 56.1.
     In the comments made by the Speaker at the time in 2001, he advised hon. members to be very cautious in their reading of earlier rulings and drew a parallel between Standing Order 56.1, which requires a prior attempt to gain unanimous consent which we know did happen, and Standing Order 78, the time allocation rule which requires notice of prior consultation. The Speaker said:
    It seems doubtful to me, having read the ruling in its entirety, that Speaker Fraser really meant to suggest that Standing Order 56.1 was to be understood as another procedurally acceptable mechanism for limiting debate.
    He went on to say:
    The expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 since 1997 causes the Chair serious concern. The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate. Standing Order 56.1 should be used for motions of a routine nature, such as arranging the business of the House. It was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages, certainly not for bills that fall outside the range of those already contemplated in the Standing Order when “urgent or extraordinary occasions” arise.
    Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to consider this and to make a ruling that it was inappropriate for the government to use Standing Order 56.1. It is normally used for routine business in terms of whether the House will sit longer in the summer or whether it will adjourn earlier. The Conservatives have used it incorrectly to cut off debate on this bill when they had other opportunities using other Standing Orders that do require consultation with other parties to do that if they want to.
     Again, Conservatives are trying to use the back door to accomplish their own agenda. I believe it is incorrect and I would ask the Chair to consider this and to make a ruling.

  (1125)  

    Are there any other members who wish to be heard on this same point of order? The hon. member for Abbotsford.
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the House and the member that the motion has already been adopted, so she is trying to deal with something after the fact. She is not in a position to do so. I would refer her to Standing Order 56.1(b) which essentially says it should be used for the management of the House's business and the arrangements of its proceedings
    Those arguments were made in the House already and it is unfortunate that the member is bringing it up at this time. I would remind her that we have not cut off debate in any sense of the word. In fact, the member and each member of her party is entitled to continue to debate the full time that is allocated to them. So the suggestion that somehow we have cut off debate on this very important subject is not correct.
    Any further interventions on this same point of order?
    Hearing none, I would like to advise the House and particularly the hon. member for Vancouver East that the Chair will take this point of order under advisement. The Chair is already aware of previous controversies which have existed about the use of this particular procedure and at some point the Speaker will get back to the House on this point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to have a few moments to put my thoughts on the record on this important piece of business before the House.
    I represent a constituency in northern Ontario that is very dependent on forestry for its economy. It is important that all of us who represent ridings from this important part of our wonderful country speak clearly, concisely and passionately about subjects that have impacts on us. In northern Ontario, we have an economy that is very exposed and fragile. Government decisions such as this one throw an element of instability into a market that is already unstable because of the vagaries of that market to begin with.
    We in northern Ontario--and I use the word “we” in light of the fact that I have met on a number of occasions with representatives of the forestry coalition in northern Ontario and with members of municipal governments across northern Ontario--will feel the impacts of this agreement. These representatives speak to me and to our caucus and members of the Liberal and Conservative caucuses very clearly about the impact of this agreement on them. They speak about the reality as it exists right now in northern Ontario where forestry is concerned. It is “the perfect storm“, as they say, of which this agreement is an important part.
    In northern Ontario, we need government to be in partnership with us. As has been done over the years, we need government to work with communities in the north to bring some stability to that part of the country. Without that stability, without those communities and without those partnerships, a very important element of the Canadian economy, the resource sector, the forest industry, will be damaged. In my estimation, that damage will be irrevocable. That is what I have heard very eloquently from concerned community leaders and the industry itself in northern Ontario.
    They have said that we had come to terms with the free trade agreement. We were not crazy about it when it was first introduced and passed in the House, but in looking at it, and being as we are in that part of country, resilient people who come up against challenges every day because of the geography, the weather and sometimes the isolation that we experience, we came to terms with the agreement. We brought to the table the best minds we could find and were able to take advantage of it to develop a sector of the economy that was, for the most part, robust and exciting. It provided jobs and supported communities. It contributed to the overall good times that we have had over the last 10 to 15 years as far as the economy is concerned in this country.
    However, we have gone to court time and time again with the Americans because they kept fighting back and trying to take advantage of loopholes. They brought grievances to the table that were really non-existent according to the framework of the free trade agreement. The industry and communities and others spent hard-earned scarce dollars to carry out those legal proceedings. In each instance, Canada won the battles.
    Yet here we are now with the Conservative government of the day willing to roll over, play dead and be a patsy for the Americans. In a very real and important way, this will have negative implications for the forestry industry in northern Ontario. It sends the wrong message.

  (1130)  

     As members know, Canada relates with the American economy in some very direct and immediate ways on a daily basis. In almost every sector of our economy, the U.S. is our major trading partner. What if we find ourselves now and in the future having to roll over when any sector in American industry stands up and feels that it is being harmed in some way by our good work, our ingenuity and ability to create product, ship it across the border and sell it at a competitive rate to communities and individuals in that jurisdiction? What if the industry that we are competing with down there can simply stand up, take us to court and play us out over time so that we spend all our money trying to defend ourselves?
    Then, when the government of the day, the Canadian government elected by the people of Canada, in partnership with the American government and that industry, simply says it is wrong and it will fix it with a new agreement that does not reflect or respect the legality or even the spirit of the free trade agreement that was in place, or the vehicles that were in the agreement to resolve disputes, what trust do we have or can we have in any agreement that we will enter into with that country down the road?
    I can imagine all kinds of scenarios where that in fact will be the reality. More than anything else, we need stability in the economy of northern Ontario. We need to know what the rules are. We need to know, when we invest our money, work hard and do those things required of us to be competitive in the world we are moving into and the global economy in which we now operate, that we will be successful, that we will be able to provide jobs, sell our product and keep our communities not only viable but vital in the world that is ahead of us.
    The agreement that we are debating today and have debated over the last couple of weeks, this agreement that the government has capitulated on, that the Liberals have said that they will vote against but really did nothing with when they were in government for 13 years, will have a devastating effect in northern Ontario for that industry sector.
    Over the years government has understood that it needed to be at the table, that it needed to be a partner and that it needed to come with some real tools into areas like northern Ontario if we were going to stabilize our resource based economy.
    Mr. Speaker, you know, coming from Manitoba, and I know, coming from northern Ontario and having been a member at Queen's Park for 13 years, that the resource sector has been almost totally ignored for about 10 or 15 years. The capital barons of the world, particularly the U.S. capitalists with all the money, have been turning to the very new-fashioned and attractive high tech industry. They forgot about the backbone, the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes of the Canadian economy, which has been there since the beginning of time and will continue to be there and be our staple. They forgot about that and allowed the powers and the winds of the market to batter us to and fro to the point where now we are in difficulty and in some instances in desperate shape.
    Governments of different stripes over the years have known and understood that. In Ontario, we have had Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats. Manitoba has had New Democrats. Here in this place we have had Liberals and Conservatives. They knew they needed to be there in a more meaningful way, not just capitulating and turning over whenever the Americans got upset with us. They knew they needed to have vehicles like FedNor and the provincial ministry of northern development and mines. They knew they needed to be present in those communities and working with us.
    The bill we have before us today is a slap in the face. It turns its back on and walks away from that very important resource sector economy, the forestry sector, which is reeling in northern Ontario today. I dare say that if we go forward with this, we will, all of us, in one way or another, reap the negative consequence.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the last two New Democratic Party speakers on this issue. Their failure to be informed on the issue is quite astounding.
    The member who just spoke talked about the deal as though it is something that is not supported by the industry. That is false. In fact, it is supported by the industry wholeheartedly. It is a good deal for Canada. It is a good deal for the forestry industry. It is something that has been lacking in this country for a long time now. Instead of standing up and speaking against the deal, the NDP should be congratulating this government for arriving at a deal.
    The NDP members talked about a billion dollars going to the Americans to be used by their industry to fight the Canadian industry. I would like to correct them on that. The meritorious initiative is $450 million, almost half of that billion dollars, and that fund is being controlled by a non-profit organization to carry out acts that are going to help. When we look at who is involved in that organization, we see that in fact it will give opportunities to the Canadian lumber industry to sell lumber. There will be opportunity for Canadians to be involved in those initiatives in many ways. It is not money going to the American government at all. That has been mis-portrayed.
    In terms of the dispute settlement mechanism, which was mentioned by one of the previous members--

  (1140)  

    Order, please. There are only five minutes for questions and comments. There were a number of people rising. The member has used up almost two minutes, so I am going to have to recognize the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie.
    Mr. Speaker, I was hoping there might actually be a question in that diatribe we just heard.
    This is an important sector in northern Ontario. This is an important piece of business by this government that is going to very directly affect every last community in northern Ontario. For the member to stand up and simply make personal attacks on my ability to speak on behalf of those communities leaves me feeling somewhat disappointed about the seriousness with which this government takes this very important issue.
    There is one issue, though, that the member raised and that I would like to briefly respond to. The softwood industry was bullied into supporting the deal. The Canadian industry witnesses appearing at parliamentary hearings have confirmed that the Conservative government coerced the softwood industry into accepting a flawed deal. This bullying forced the cash-strapped softwood industry to capitulate just a few months away from winning the final legal battle against the American tariffs.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. During the last election, the leader of the NDP said to the nation, “Look what we got you. Lend us your votes”.
    As for the member who spoke so passionately about his riding of Sault Ste. Marie and northern Ontario, where the sector really has an impact, I want to ask this member something, because the member for Vancouver East said, “We were that close. We were that close”. If we were that close, I ask that member and the entire New Democratic Party, why did they then prematurely defeat the government of the day when we were that close to making a deal?
    Today I think that party has betrayed the nation as much as the government has.
    Mr. Speaker, yes, we were that close in a legal process that actually should not have involved politics and this government. If the government had left the industry alone to work out its concerns through the legal process that was available to them through NAFTA, yes, we would have had a different deal.
    Obviously, it sounds as though the Liberals still have not learned a lesson from that election. That election was about corruption and a culture of entitlement that the Liberal government seemed to have no difficulty with, and obviously it still has not backed away and turned its back on that.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be rising today on this bill because it speaks to the economic part of my region of northern Ontario. I will be glad to speak to the subamendment to a bill which in essence, and we need to really put this in context, is probably one of the most venal and pusillanimous pieces of legislation ever brought before the House of Commons because of what is at stake here. We are being asked in Parliament to put a gun to the head of our own industry to support this government's desire to act in a predatory fashion against not just the forestry industry which is a leading industry in this country, but against the communities of our area.
    I have spent much of the past few years meeting with the laid off forestry workers in Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls, Opasatika, Béarn, Timiskaming, people who have seen their livelihoods go down the drain because of an ongoing punitive disagreement with our number one trading partner.
    Throughout that period when the former Liberal government was in power, we were asking for a commitment that the federal government would be there alongside our industry. We were asking for loan guarantees. We were asking to see them through the final periods of legal decisions that were being brought down because we were in the final stages of those legal decisions. We did not get that support from the former Liberal government.
    In fact the message that was delivered was very clear to communities like Smooth Rock Falls, Red Rock and Ignace. The message was, “Your communities are being cut adrift from the social economy of this country. You are on your own. When it comes to standing up for the interests of the resource dependent communities of the north, you are on your own.”
    That message was amplified a thousand times when our friend the floor crosser brought with him a quick and dirty deal on softwood. Let us be really clear what is behind the push to get this deal signed now.
    We are looking at a government that is interested in a short shelf life so that it can return to the voters with a couple of photo ops and a few boxes ticked off on its list of deliverables. One of those deliverables will be the sellout of our forestry industry.
    During a radio debate I had with the health minister, he said, “We managed to get this deal signed in seven months. That is unprecedented”. Certainly, if they roll over and play dead they can sign anything in a short period of time. That is what has happened.
    Let us just talk about the overall deal before we get into some of the more disturbing aspects of it.
    We have $1 billion of our producers' money that is going to the United States. Of that, nearly half is going to our direct competitors to be used against us and to retool their communities, whereas our communities are being left with nothing. Our present government will give $1.5 billion a year in oil and gas subsidies to the tar sands in Alberta. It has given nothing to our forestry communities and yet we have $500 million being sent to our competitors.
    Ask the Canadian companies that are reinvesting where they are reinvesting. They are reinvesting south of the border. We are seeing that with companies from my own riding that were formed in northern Ontario, that received most of their support year after year from northern Ontario are now reinvesting south of the border because that is where the investments will be made.
     Parliament is being asked to deliver money to our competitors. What do we get from that? Do we get a seven year deal? No. Do we get a five year deal? No. Do we get a three year deal? No. We get a bare 18 months. And our competitors in the U.S. can take this money and come back after us at any point. They have already declared that they are going to do that. This past week the U.S. lumber lobby said that they are coming after us with all guns blazing. They made that clear.
    An hon. member: Without the deal.
    Mr. Charlie Angus: With the deal or without the deal.
    Instead, do we have a free trade agreement? No. Do we have a fair trade agreement? No. We have a very limited market in which we are now expected to compete. If the market in the U.S. drops to any degree, and with the present housing starts it looks like the market is going down, we will be facing even higher tariffs.
    What did we give up for that? We are being asked to give up the legal victories that we built up over the years. The present Prime Minister is not being honest with the Canadian public if he expects us to believe that we would have had seven more years of legal wrangling, that we had to get a deal in place in order to get some peace. The fact is we were within our final two appeals. Once we were at that point, there was no turning back.

  (1145)  

    Why has the forestry industry not capitulated at this point? The government has had a gun to their heads, yet some of them are still holding out because they know that if they give up on these legal rights that they won in court, then they have nothing.
    These are the overall facts of the case, but it is important now to really speak about the new level the government has gone to in terms of its puzzling attitude toward our forestry industry. It is not enough that the Conservatives sat down and signed over everything that we had on our side to get a quick deal. With Conservatives I guess we expect them to do that. We have a long history of Conservatives selling out the national interests, so that would not be a surprise. What is surprising here is that they are acting in a predatory fashion against our own companies. This is unprecedented. Let us look at some of the clauses.
     Instead of the 10% softwood duty, we are now being asked as Parliament to impose a 15% duty on our own companies. That is supposed to be a deal. On top of that, we are now looking at a government that is adding an extra punitive charge against companies that are still standing up for their own interests. We are being asked as parliamentarians to go after financially the companies that are not buckling under to the government's deal.
    That is an unprecedented situation. I do not think we could see in history any other example of a government coming before Parliament and saying that it wanted to punish, to financially attack, our own industry, and this is after a period of major economic crisis. That we are being asked as parliamentarians to target our own industry is a puzzling betrayal.
    Clause 10 imposes the 15% export duty as soon as the deal is signed. That is a double taxation above and beyond the existing anti-dumping countervailing duties.
    Clause 18 imposes a special punitive tax that is designed to go after the companies that are standing up. If this special tax is in place, companies will be paying 37%. That is not the U.S. fair lumber lobby wanting to bring this in, it is our own Conservative government to force compliance.
    Again we have to put this in perspective. We know of the financial drain that has been put on our industries because of the softwood crisis. What the government is saying is that if those companies stand up to the government, they will be facing financial ruin. Because of the limited margins that are left within our Canadian bank accounts for forestry, we are going to have our own government going after them.
    On top of that, clause 48 would require a six year burden of record keeping on these companies.
    Clause 77 states that the government does not even need a warrant to enter softwood businesses to ensure that our own companies are complying. We have our own government acting against the interests of our industry.
    Clause 89 gives the government the right to demand a blank cheque from any of these companies to pay up immediately. A Canadian forestry company that is trying to stand up for its best interests and has not knuckled under to the government's deal, what kind of success is it going to have when it is renegotiating its loans at the bank, when the banks know that their own Government of Canada can come in, check the books and go after them?
    The Conservatives pushed this deal. I can understand that. Some of the Liberal members from northern Ontario are supporting this deal. I cannot understand that, in particular in regions where our industry is facing such a severe crisis. What astounds me is that members of the Bloc Québécois are supporting this deal. That is the party that stood in this House and denied motions to get pesticide bans across Canada because it might interfere with Quebec. That is the party that has undermined child care plans for the rest of Canada because it somehow might interfere with the jurisdiction in Quebec. Yet when we look at a bill that would allow the United States government to set forestry policy within Quebec, that is okay. When we look at a bill that allows the federal government to target Quebec companies and go into their businesses and check on their compliance and charge them if they are not going along, that is perfectly fine for the Bloc.

  (1150)  

    This world seems as if it is turned upside down. We are being asked in Parliament to turn against our own industries and our own communities. This is an unacceptable situation. We need to have it on the record that this deal is one of the most venal and pusillanimous arrangements ever brought before Parliament. On behalf of the forestry, softwood, pulp workers in northern Ontario, I will never support a deal as craven as this one.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I heard the NDP member say that the Bloc Québécois is really in favour of this bill. I would like to say to the member opposite that he, himself, often whines and complains about pretty much anything, but when it comes time to vote, he votes in favour. So why does he say one thing and then do the opposite? I think that what someone says is one thing and what I understand is another.
    Quebeckers support the softwood lumber deal. Obviously, backs to the wall and a gun to their heads, they have no choice but to accept the agreement. And people wonder if we support it. They are asking us to vote to get them out of this mess, to give them some air so they can survive.
    That is what the Bloc Québécois is doing. If the members opposite fail to understand this, that is their problem, but they had better not expect us to go along on their bandwagon to places we do not want to go.
    I have a question for the member opposite. The president of the FTQ, Mr. Massé, is concerned that in the wake of this agreement, the Americans will take control of all forestry companies in Quebec and elsewhere.
    Does the member believe that acceptance of this agreement may lead the American forest industry to buy us out?

  (1155)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I live in the Timiskaming region on the Ontario side and I see the effects of forestry cutbacks, the same as I see in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. What I hear from our producers is that this is a bad deal. This is a deal that has been forced on us by government. If we allow this precedent to go ahead, our forestry industry will be in a much poorer situation two years, three years, five years down the road.
    The principle that our provincial forestry policies can be challenged by the United States government is an unacceptable intrusion into the sovereignty of our provinces. We as New Democrats will continue to stand against that.
    Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the member's comments and have found a lot of misinformation in what he has had to say.
    I would like to ask why he has chosen to recognize that this dispute really has gone on for the past 24 years. He has also chosen to ignore the testimony that has been placed in front of the committee throughout the summer. The committee sat all summer and heard from witnesses on softwood lumber. We were told clearly from the very beginning with respect to NAFTA that the United States did not want to include softwood lumber within NAFTA. In fact there was a memorandum of understanding where it was carved out. That is the reason we see the United States not accepting the results and why we are not able to reach a settlement.
    I will agree with him that the industry is in a really bad state of affairs. It is as a result of the neglect of the previous Liberal government. For 13 years it was not only unable to get a deal on the table, but it actually did nothing for the industry.
    My question for the hon. NDP member is, if he is so concerned about softwood lumber, when his party was negotiating the Liberal-NDP budget, why did it not say a word about softwood lumber then? The NDP could have asked for anything it wanted at that point and it never asked for anything for the softwood lumber industry.
    Mr. Speaker, I was waiting for a big wind-up and I am somewhat underwhelmed by the response.
    The question, I find, is absurd. We need to be focusing on the fact that the government came in with the express position of getting a quick and dirty deal that could be signed. When industry saw this deal, and I talked to people in the industry across this country, they said that this is a bad deal. The government said to them, “Well, too bad. We are not going to negotiate anything better”. That is unprecedented.
     If I were the assistant to the secretary, I would leave the room in shame as well. It is a shameful deal the Conservatives have pulled on us. It has to be articulated in the House that the Conservatives went back to our own industries and told them, “We will not stand up for you. We will not fight for you. Take this deal or leave it”. When industries still refused, they came back with the 19% tax on our own companies. That is predatory.
     Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Deputy Speaker: The question is on the subamendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the subamendment?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the subamendment 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 more than five members having risen:
    The Deputy Speaker: Call in the members.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the vote be deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow.
    The opposition whip has asked that the division be postponed until the end of government orders tomorrow and, accordingly, this is what will happen.

Criminal Code

    The House resumed from October 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday there was very good debate on the bill. It is a bill that seeks to create five new offences under the legislation with regard to street racing.
    If members perhaps did not have an opportunity to follow much of the debate because of other responsibilities, I commend to them a speech by the member for London West who did an extraordinary amount of work to highlight for the information of all hon. members some of the areas in which there are some concerns and in which more consideration should be given. I really thought those comments were very helpful.
    There is no question that the matter of street racing is an extremely serious issue. It is an issue which is important to Canadians and it is an issue which the House should give some careful consideration.
    In the Criminal Code right now there are four offences dealing with the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. They include dangerous operation causing bodily harm, dangerous operation causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and criminal negligence causing death.
    This bill would add another dimension to the consideration of a charge being laid, and that is whether or not there is the additional consideration and that is that the particular offence under the Criminal Code also was exacerbated by the incidence of street racing.
    If members have followed the debate they will know that even with regard to the definition of street racing it is not entirely black and white. It is basically any two cars. As was pointed out by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River and by the member for London West, even rally racing may inadvertently be covered under the definition. There are a couple of other examples. For instance, let us take two people at a traffic light who do not know each other and have nothing planned, but if they happen to look at each other through their windows and all of a sudden start pumping their gas pedal a bit, we have to wonder, when the light turns green and they take off, whether they are street racing or just getting up to speed. There is some discretion I suppose.
    The point is that a number of members raised concerns about whether or not the definition was clear enough and comprehensive enough to ensure legitimate sporting events, for instance, were excluded or exempted from the provisions of the proposed act.
    The member for Scarborough—Rouge River also raised the issue of whether or not there was a time trial type of situation where there were not two cars involved simultaneously but perhaps consecutively and they were trying to get from destination a to b within the shortest period of time. Effectively, it is a timed issue. In a sense, it is a race against the clock and I suppose there are some interesting possibilities. Therefore, the definition has to be clear.
    Probably one of the most salient points that was raised in the debate by the member for London West had to do with the fact that the courts now have a number of aspects to consider in terms of determining the penalties exigible to a particular circumstance. If we were to now add the circumstance of street racing, the problem would no longer be two dimensional but it could be three dimensional. We need to look at the experience of the courts as to whether or not, under the existing laws, there already is some strain on the courts and perhaps the latitude of the judges to be able to apply sentences.

  (1205)  

    The bill would increase sentences and, in some cases, increase maximums and progressive penalties with regard to incarceration and to the prohibition for driving. However, by adding these five new offences, it appears that the bill may add another element that may impact the latitude of the judiciary to determine appropriate proportional sentences.
    When I looked back at some of the debate on this, I noticed an interesting quote in the speech by the Minister of Justice. He said:
    The criminal law can be, and in this case should be, a tool for shifting public perception.
    I am not sure whether we should simply take that out of the context of everything else that the criminal law should be. By simply saying that we have street racing and that we have done the job because we now have harsher sentences in there, brings us to the same question about whether harsher and more convoluted sentences with some other things, such as the issue of deterrence, it is really a question that the House has wrestled with in many cases.
    Is dealing with criminal activity solely a matter of deterrence? In at least half a dozen speeches yesterday people made some very extraordinary pleas for looking at a more comprehensive approach to the problem of street racing. I understand that in the first six months of 2006 there were 10 deaths attributed to street racing incidents. There is no question that one death is too much, especially when such an irresponsible activity as street racing is going on, but demographic studies have shown who is involved.
    This is interesting and it comes from the Library of Parliament in the legislative summary. With regard to the demographics, it indicates that the participants can be classified, as a general rule, into one of three distinctive categories: first, young people aged 18-24 who usually live at home and, in most cases, have low incomes. I am not sure if it is the parents or the 18-24 year olds who have low incomes, but I would suspect we are probably talking about the individuals who have committed the offence.
    The second category are individuals aged 25-40 who generally modify and use muscle cars such as Cameros, Corvettes and Mustangs. The third category are individuals of varying ages who drive imported vehicles such as late model Acuras, Hondas, Mitsubishis or Nissans.
     I might add an additional item here. The study also shows that some participants use stolen vehicles, which is a whole other problem in terms of criminal activity within our society. However, there is a demographic, a prevalence in certain circumstances. In terms of amendments to the Criminal Code and in terms of doing as parliamentarians what we ask for in our prayer every morning, that we make good laws and wise decisions, is it a good law if it just simply says that we should keep ratcheting up sentences and keep throwing people into jail and that will take care of it?
    The question then becomes the deterrence issue. We have had the debate in the House many times before about whether or not stiffer sentences will be a deterrent to those who do it. I am not so sure that an 18-24 year old will be too concerned. I think the hormones are jumping, the friends are there and, in some cases, alcohol is probably involved. This is something that is done simply because it is cool.

  (1210)  

    Then there are others in the 25 to 40 range who probably have a little money to throw away and who probably can afford to buy some of these cars, soup them up, such as installing special nitrous oxide burners. Again, this is almost like a yuppie type of thing where people want to do certain things.
    A car cannot be modified without getting some very specialized equipment. We have to wonder whether there is any way in which we can communicate with those who are in the business of producing, marketing, retailing and modifying these parts to potential street racers. This has to do with a comprehensive and maybe a balanced approach toward the problem of street racing. I have often thought that, for every social problem we address in this place, public education is a big part of the solution. Prevention is a big part of the solution.
    When I became a member of Parliament in 1993, the very first meeting I was ever at was a health committee meeting. The officials told us at the time that 75% of the dollars were being spent on remedial care; that is after there is the problem the health care system, we will try to address the problem, and only 25% was spent on prevention. The conclusion was that the model of 75% on fixing problems and only 25% on prevention was unsustainable.
     Over the last decade, we have discovered very clearly that we cannot ignore the value of prevention. In fact, in the health model, it turned out that for every one dollar spent on prevention, we would save in the long term hundreds of dollars. It makes a great deal of sense. However, we do not apply those kinds of principles to the judiciary.
    If we provide very specific conditions, whether it be mandatory minimums or increased maximums, and work them into the Criminal Code, we tend to build up a system which has absolutely no flexibility nor latitude.
    I am aware of some work that has been done with regard to mitigating circumstances. This has to do with fetal alcohol syndrome or now called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have done some studies. About a couple of years ago, those provinces announced that half the people in provincial jails suffered from alcohol related birth defects. If those people get into situations where they have broken the law, where do the courts have the latitude to consider the penalties in that specific circumstance? Do we have sufficient breadth of factors, which should be properly taken into account, when sentencing is considered? Should people who have mental health problems be incarcerated in prisons that are dedicated toward rehabilitation when rehabilitation is not applicable to them? Those are some interesting questions.
    I wonder whether people with FAS, who for some odd reason finds themselves charged with street racing, may receive the same penalty as someone who had a cognizance or a criminal mind? I am sure the Minister of Justice would agree that in some cases they do not have criminal minds. Where do courts have latitude in this? I have some concern about that. I am sure there are a number of other cases.
     I am concerned about maybe tying the hands of the courts and the judicial system even further. As well, I wonder whether it is a dangerous route to go down to suggest that maybe the judges are not doing the job. It is a terrible thing when not only is there no respect for the laws by some people, but when the legislators lose respect of the court system as well. I wonder how much of the problem we have with the courts, whether it be that they are not handing out harsh enough sentences or putting enough people in jail, has to do with the fact that the Government of Canada is making changes to the Criminal Code and saying that these are the things that must happen, but it is the other jurisdictions, the provinces and the territories who have to enforce them. They need to have their jails. Where do they get the resources? If we do not have enough courts, if the courts are jammed up--

  (1215)  

    Hon. Vic Toews: What are you talking about? This is Bill C-19.
    Mr. Paul Szabo: I understand that. This is kind of an interesting dialogue with the Minister of Justice. I thank him for being here and paying attention to the debate. It is important and I know it is important to the minister as well.
    As we start dealing with the Criminal Code, adding more elements, eliminating or maybe handcuffing the judiciary even further to the point where it has no choice but to incarcerate more and more people, it means having to build more jails. I do not know who will pay for that, when it is not in the federal jurisdiction.
    How do we deal with it when the courts are clogged up? Even at the federal level, a very large number of judicial appointments have not been made. The court system is suffering because there are no judges. I do not know why the government is dragging its feet. These are all part of this.
    What is the scheme of things? Are we saying that the judiciary does not really matter, that we are going to ram them through? Is it simply a matter of this is the charge, we have to dispose of this case quickly and the judges have no choice? If so, then all of a sudden we are not dealing with a comprehensive approach to the problem of street racing.
    Where is the money for public education? Why is it not part of the bill? Where is the money for other preventive measures, such as resources to the policing authorities at any level of jurisdiction so they can integrate more fully into the communities to assist legislators in communicating to those who are of the demographic? It is not all around the country. There are some interesting studies that show where some of the problems are.
     I have asked similar questions with regard to other bills. It seems that the government's solution to all the problems is to build more jails and throw more people into jail. I guess the housing program for Canada is we will create more jails.
    There should be appropriate and proportionate penalties for people who commit serious crime. However, when we create five different offences and we have graduated or progressive penalties, all of a sudden it becomes very difficult to deal with the question of proportionality. I do not know how the judges will be able to deal with it.
    One of the Conservative members has raised the issue that the CPIC system does not keep track of information with regard to whether a particular incident involved street racing. It would simply record the Criminal Code offence. I had to think about that.
     I am not sure, but it would seem to me that if someone came up on a charge of breaking an existing law and the evidence was that it was part of an event qualifying as street racing, that information should be on the table with regard to the charge currently before the court. If this person had a record for speeding or negligence causing harm or death, or something like that, the question could also be posed about what the circumstances were, and the court records would show that. Therefore, even the CPIC issue probably is not a compelling enough matter to say that this is a deficiency and that is why we have to do this. I do not think it is a good enough reason.
    I have a lot of questions. The member for London West has raised some very important issues. Should the bill pass second reading and go to committee, which I think it should, many of these questions should be seriously considered by the committee before the bill would pass further.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for another thoughtful contribution to debate in this place. Could he comment on the influence our popular culture of speed has on the whole issue of street racing? Folks in debate over the last couple of days have raised issues of the movie culture, the car chases in movies, video games, extreme sports, which encourage risk-taking.
    Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. I heard that debate and those examples. I must admit it made me think about a car commercial for the Acura, I believe. The commercial states that it has great steering control on sharp turns and other things. It shows a car, the rocker panel folds out, it fires some kind of spike into a concrete pillar and the wire helps the car get around the corner. We tend to glamorize speed. Many of the automobile companies are guilty of this, but it does not help us promote the responsible use of an automobile. It really gets down to that.
     I agree with the member. This tends to support my representation that dealing with street racing is not just about how serious the penalty will be. What is the rest of the story? How do we deal with the influence of pop culture? How do we deal with other influences that particularly affect young people and allow them to get into situations that are harmful to all of us?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that my colleague supports the bill going to committee for further discussion.
    I was intrigued by his comments about tying the hands of the judiciary. As the member knows, the bill does not provide for mandatory minimum sentences. It provides for mandatory driving prohibitions and for higher maximum sentences. In my mind, higher maximum sentences provide more discretion for judges to sentence.
    I would encourage the member to look at this not as tying the judiciary's hands, but to providing more direction to the judiciary. I understand some members of the judiciary would desire the House of Commons, which is reflective of the mood of the country, to provide more direction so they could sentence properly. Those who deserved to be in jail would spend time in jail, but those who could serve time in the community, would do so.
    I invite the member's comments on whether he thinks the bill is more directed at providing direction to our judiciary.

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would commend the speech made by the member for London West to the member on this point.
    The judiciary already has the discretion to look at aggravating circumstances such as street racing. It is not necessary to put street racing in there. If we do, in terms of sentencing, we are making it more complicated and difficult to get convictions. The problem I see is the courts may have a greater difficulty getting convictions to prove that there was a criminal mind on all the elements necessary for conviction. I am not sure if the member understood that.
     I ask the member to have a look at it. It is not simply a matter of tying the hands of the judiciary by setting mandatory minimums or imposing absolute sentences. The proportionality of sentencing is being affected by the bill, and that may be a problem. People will say that there is an argument for conditional sentencing or whatever. Maybe more people will not go to jail simply because there is disproportionality within the sentencing.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-19, an act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
    We are discussing very important legislation. It is an issue that is of importance in many communities across the country. It is important to many people in my riding of Burnaby—Douglas who have had direct experience with street racing, and in some cases have had family members and relatives die in incidents involving street racing.
    There have been deaths in my riding on Barnett Highway and Hastings Street. They were directly linked to street racing. As I travel around my constituency I have all too often seen the roadside memorials that spring up after that kind of event. They remain on those two thoroughfares in my riding. These are reminders of the tragedies, losses and deaths of people who were loved in the community. The deaths have affected families, friends and co-workers.
    There have also been many serious injuries that have resulted from these incidents. Sometimes the folks involved have been innocent bystanders, drivers and passengers in other vehicles. It is a terrible circle of tragedy that stems from this irresponsible activity of street racing.
    There is no place for street racing in our communities. It endangers the participants in the activity and the public. We need to address it in all its forms. It is an important issue to address in order to make our communities safer and to help broaden the understanding of public responsibility, and the commitments and relationships that we have with each other that make our communities successful and safe places to live. Street racing is one of the violations of our agreements with each other about how we live in our communities.
    We need to address the question of street racing in all its forms. That is one area where this bill has received some criticism in the last day or two in the House during debate. There is some question about whether it deals with the breadth of activities that are known in street racing. I will read the definition that appears in Bill C-19. The definition of “street racing” as it appears in the bill states:
“street racing” means operating a motor vehicle in a race with at least one other motor vehicle on a street, road, highway or other public place;
    There have been questions raised about what that actually includes. Does it have to be a side by side race of two or more vehicles? What about the other kinds of street racing that take place in our communities? I wish I had the appropriate popular expressions to describe them because I am sure there are more common ways of describing these other activities.
    There are situations where people have timed races to see how long it takes to get to a certain location. There are other situations where people text message or email that they all converge to a certain place and the first to arrive is declared the winner. There are other variations as well. It is not just what we would all assume to be the side by side race of two or more vehicles.
    Does the definition that is included in this legislation cover all the other circumstances, which are equally as dangerous and cause just as many problems in our communities as the more traditional race? How broad is this bill? Would it complicate things, for instance, for people who organize car rallies? Does it penalize people who might engage in a jackrabbit start at a stop sign with someone who drives up alongside?
    Just what is the extent of the definition and how will it effect our understanding of this criminal activity? There are some problems with the definition that need to be addressed, worked on, and clarified before this is legislation that I could fully support.
    It is not just youth who engage in street racing. In the last day and a half while we have been discussing this we have been quick to perhaps accuse youth of being the main problem.

  (1230)  

    As the previous speaker mentioned, the demographics include a broad range of people who engage in various forms of street racing and who may participate in this dangerous activity. It is people who may alter their cars to increase the power beyond what was originally contemplated for the weight of the vehicle that they have. There are people who soup-up vehicles, who develop muscle cars and hot rods, and those kinds of things.
    There are people who drive very high powered vehicles for social status. We know that is often the case where some very expensive and high powered vehicles are seen as an indication that one is doing well in the community. Speed is sometimes associated with that status as well.
    I think it is not just young people. Clearly, young people are not out buying the most expensive and fastest vehicles on the market. Often they are the ones who cannot afford to do that, so it is not just a youth problem. It is a problem of all sectors in society.
    Sadly, it is not just a male problem either as some of the most recent incidents have shown. We need to be careful that we do not dismiss it as just the raging hormones of young men as we have often heard in this debate. It is a problem that crosses groups and demographics in our society.
    I also want to address the idea that perhaps street racing is not already covered in our Criminal Code. I think it is very clearly covered there. In fact, the minister in his speech yesterday, when he spoke at the beginning of the debate on the legislation, made that very clear, that the Criminal Code does have options for dealing with street racing behaviour, and that they are available now and they include very stiff penalties.
    I will list the charges the minister mentioned in his speech. The charges that are available in the Criminal Code now include criminal negligence causing death, which as the minister pointed out carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. That is no small charge. It is a very serious charge. It is a serious crime with a very serious possible penalty.
    There is also the charge of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, which currently carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. It is no small charge and no small penalty for someone convicted of that crime. There is also criminal negligence causing bodily harm. It has a very serious penalty of a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. There is also dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm with, again, a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Finally, there is dangerous operation of a motor vehicle which has a 5 year maximum imprisonment on indictment and which can be applied to cases where no one was injured or killed.
    These are all very serious options which contemplate a very serious crime. They are there already to be used in our Criminal Code. If there is a problem with enforcement, then we need to get the reasons as to why these options are not being fully utilized in our communities. Why do the police not use these charges?
    If they are using these charges and convictions are not happening, why is that the case? However, I do not think that there is any evidence that that is going on. Certainly, there is no evidence that I am aware of that these charges have not led to convictions in the very serious cases.
    There is also all of the sets of driving prohibitions in the current Criminal Code which are a part of the options that are available to the courts. Under the current Criminal Code, if one is convicted of any of the five offences I mentioned above, the court can order a period of driving prohibition of up to 3 years in the case of a dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, up to 10 years in the case of a dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm or death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. In the case of criminal negligence causing death, the court may order up to a lifetime driving prohibition. That is what the Minister of Justice said in his speech yesterday on the current provisions of the Criminal Code.
    Even in the case of driving prohibitions, the court has very serious options available to it when it comes to driving prohibitions. A 3 year prohibition, 10 year prohibition, and lifetime prohibition are no small penalties for people who have been found guilty on any of the five charges.
    I do not think that there is a problem currently with the Criminal Code. Clearly, the Criminal Code contemplates the dangerous operation of a vehicle and the dangerous operation of a vehicle that leads to death or injury as a very serious matter and worthy of a very serious punishment. I think that right now we have in the law good possibilities on that.

  (1235)  

    This brings me to wonder why we are considering these changes to the act. I think it is part of the Conservative Party's interest in mandatory minimum sentences and trying to tie the hands of the courts in very specific ways around very specific crimes. I know that mandatory minimum sentences do not work. They do not deter people from committing crime. They do not prevent crime in that sense. People often do not consider the consequences of criminal activity before they do it. It is just not in the works when that sort of thing is happening.
    All that it might do is add greater numbers of people who are being held in prisons in Canada. I am concerned about the government's plans in that area. We have already seen that the government plans to expand the number of places available in prisons in Canada. I do not know that this would serve our society well in the long run.
    We know that often putting people in prison does not in the long run solve the problems of crime faced by our society. It does not help them become rehabilitated and learn to take their place in a positive way in our communities. I am not sure that is a solution and that this bill is the solution in proposing tougher sentences around this crime.
    I should mention that tonight at St. Paul's University members of the religious community in Ottawa and others are gathering to talk about conditional and mandatory sentencing. That is at seven o'clock tonight at St. Paul's. I wish I could be there. I am going to be here for the debate on Darfur. I think they raise very important issues that need to be part of the debate we are having here on this legislation as well.
    I also have to say that I do not believe that judges do not take the crimes of dangerous driving and street racing seriously. I believe they take them very seriously. I do not think that there is a judge in this country who acts leniently when it comes to this kind of crime, especially in the case where it has led to injury or death. I just do not think that is the case.
    Sure judges make mistakes and sure the system is not perfect. I think to characterize the system as broken and to say that people are being dealt with leniently is completely wrong. I think the judges in Canada do an excellent job considering what they are up against and what they have to work with.
    I think we have to consider all the facts of the case. We have to consider circumstances and the penalties imposed have to be appropriate and proportional. Judges must have the ability to make those kinds of decisions and act in their best judgment in light of all the circumstances that have come to light during a trial. I do believe that judges do that.
    I do not want to do anything that would undermine the authority of judges in our system. They have a tough job and I believe they do it well. I think that right now judges do have the resources to do the job that we ask of them.
    There are other issues around how we actually prevent the crime of street racing. There are preventive measures that we should be taking. I think we heard yesterday and today about some of those measures.
    We have heard that police forces need more resources and more officers. They need more equipment to be able to put the effort that they want to put into dealing with this particular crime. We have certainly heard how the RCMP in the city of Richmond found a way of diverting resources into dealing with the issue of street crime which had been a particular issue in that community. The police had found a way to deal with crime. It was not without cost. It meant that the police had to make difficult decisions about where to divert other resources from, but they did find a way.
    We have to make that kind of decision making easier for our police forces and ensure they have the resources. Unfortunately, Bill C-19 does not address that issue.
    There are other examples from other jurisdictions as well. The state of Victoria in Australia has instituted a number of measures which address the whole question of the high death rate on its highways. It has reduced it by almost a third in the last 15 to 20 years, which is a significant reduction in the death rate on Australian highways in the state of Victoria.
    One of its measures is a three kilometres an hour guideline when it comes to the issuing of speeding tickets. Here in Canada we all assume that somehow the guideline we can get away with is about 10 kilometres over the speed limit before we are in danger of getting a ticket. In the state of Victoria in Australia the well-known edict is that it is three kilometres an hour. My experience there is that it has had an effect on the speed that people drive on the highways in the state of Victoria in Australia. That is another kind of measure that might be the kind of thing that we should be looking at and our provinces should be looking at.

  (1240)  

    On the whole question of photo radar, my experience in British Columbia was that when we were using photo radar in British Columbia people did slow down on highways. I often have the occasion to drive the Sea to Sky Highway in B.C., which is known as one of Canada's most dangerous highways. When photo radar was in operation, people did not drive as fast on that highway, plain and simple. When it was gone, they started speeding again. I think photo radar makes a significant contribution and I think it is one of the measures that we should be considering.
    Education of our drivers is another measure. Compulsory driver education may be something that we should be looking at in all of our jurisdictions so that drivers are apprised of issues like street racing as part of their basic education.
    I also think that we need to place some limits on vehicles that are altered for racing. We need to make sure they are not driven on roads and highways in our communities when they have been altered as vehicles for any kind of racing activity.
    Generally I think we need to address that whole issue of the culture of speed in our society. I think some of these ideas are ways of getting serious about speeding on our highways, in which we all can play a part.
    However, I think there are other issues that also need to be addressed in addressing the whole culture of speed. We have heard a number of times about advertisers and car manufacturers who sell cars by appealing to the fact that they go fast.
    We all know of one particular commercial in which a young boy says “zoom, zoom, zoom” as a car speeds by on a highway. That is an example of how we are characterizing the impression that vehicles are made to be driven fast and should be driven fast and also of how we are appealing to young people in that context. I think that is a very dangerous thing. Advertisers should have pressure put on them about that kind of advertising appeal.
    We have also seen advertisers' own concerns about legal liability when cars are driven very quickly in TV commercials. Flashed on the screen is the message that it is a closed circuit and there is liability. I think they have identified liability issues in that case. They are trying to say that this is something one can only do in a closed circuit, when we know that the general impression is something else.
    Too, I think we have to put pressure on our vehicle and auto manufacturers. Why are cars capable of travelling at speeds of 180 to 200 kilometres an hour or more? Do any of us ever have occasion to drive that fast? Perhaps there is a need for emergency vehicles to travel at those kinds of speeds, but generally those of us who use vehicles to go shopping, take kids to school or go to an appointment have absolutely no need of a vehicle that is capable of doing that kind of speed. If we altered the kinds of vehicles we drive, and I think manufacturers should be perfectly capable of that, maybe could make a contribution on this whole issue.
    There is also the question of popular culture. Car chases are a constant feature of movies. As well, video games show some very disturbing kinds of car chasing and street racing, where the whole object is to roll somebody off the road and put them in the ditch, for instance, or worse. I also think there is a whole culture of extreme sports now, which glorifies taking serious risks.
    We need to address a lot of things that are part of that culture.
    There is some thought that this might be a bill that helps educate the public, but I also think it does some other things that are less positive. I also think it is not my job to pretend that legislation will address this situation when I believe at some level that it will not. Since I think this is a very limited piece of legislation, I have a hard time seeing how it is really going to affect and prevent street racing in Canada.
    I think that should be our goal: to prevent street racing before it happens. I believe that we already have in place serious penalties for people who are convicted of the kinds of dangerous driving of which street racing is a part. The Criminal Code provisions are there. I am very skeptical of the educative possibilities of this legislation. As well, I think we are missing the boat completely when it comes to prevention.
    I am interested in this debate. I am glad to be able to participate in it. I have listened carefully to the submissions of others and look forward to continuing my participation as we continue our consideration of this legislation.

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two quick comments and then a question.
    First of all, it seems to me that the hon. member whose speech I enjoyed listening to is showing the same confusion about ownership of an object versus behaviour, much as people do with firearms. Simple ownership of a firearm does not make a person guilty. Simple ownership of an automobile of any kind does not make a person guilty. It is the behaviour that does. That is what we are trying to regulate.
    I also would suggest that we are not limiting the courts' ability to act at the lower end of the punishment scale, but we are expanding their options at the upper end, which I do not think is a bad thing.
    My question is on prevention. It goes back to what my hon. colleague mentioned in his remarks and in a question he had for a previous speaker. It is about the impact of culture and advertising and so on. I agree with him that it has a negative impact.
    What are his suggestions are in terms of regulation of culture, movies, advertising and the automobile manufacturers' ability to manufacture vehicles that they can sell, and does that extend to regulation or does it go beyond that to some form of censorship?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not a great advocate of censorship, but I do think there are many ways in which the public can bring pressure on advertisers, for instance, and on the people who produce movies and television and those kinds of things.
    I do not believe we should institute laws that say they cannot show a speeding car, for instance, but I think there have been instances where public campaigns have been held to draw advertisers' attention to the fact that the way they are portraying a certain product or a certain activity is not the way a society believes they should be, and I believe they can have a real effect. I think that kind of pressure is most important.
    I think we should be putting pressure on vehicle manufacturers to stop stressing speed when it comes to the advertising of vehicles. There are other reasons why we want to buy cars. Maybe we need to ask those questions when we go out to purchase a vehicle, questions about how it performs in terms of safety and so on. We should make those questions more of a priority.
    In terms of requiring manufacturers to make sure vehicles are not capable of those speeds, I actually would be interested in considering that. I think it is one that we might want to look into. Certainly the amount of research and development work that goes into speed on the part of the automotive industry is significant. We see it all over the place in high performance racing.
     Probably not enough goes into the other end of things, which are the kinds of vehicles most of use every single day. I would think that there might be some interesting possibilities for research about perfecting vehicles that do not need those speeds, research about how they can be manufactured and sold to the public in a way that makes them popular and also perhaps helpful to our environment. I do think these are possibilities that are worth considering.

  (1250)  

     Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    An hon. member: On division.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

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

An Act to amend Certain Acts in relation to DNA Identification

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification, and to recommend to the House that this bill be given second reading and referred to committee.
    This bill is highly technical. It is necessary, however, to make these technical changes so that we can proclaim former Bill C-13, which was passed in the last Parliament with all party support.
    Many members are familiar with the background of this bill because they were here when Bill C-13 was passed, but I will provide a brief background for the benefit of new members.
    The National DNA Data Bank, which is operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, began operating on June 30, 2000. Basically, it compares DNA profiles of convicted offenders with DNA profiles found at crime scenes. It now contains almost 100,000 profiles from convicted offenders and about 30,000 profiles from crime scenes. The data bank has assisted almost 6,500 police investigations.
    In 2001, federal and provincial prosecutors and officials identified a number of deficiencies in the legislation. The Uniform Law Conference, which includes representatives of the defence bar, passed resolutions calling for high priority to be given to remedying seven problems.
    The government launched public consultations in the fall of 2002. It was only in May 2004 that former Bill C-35 was introduced to correct the problems that had been identified. The bill died on the order paper when the election was called and was reintroduced as former Bill C-13 in October 2004.
    I believe it would be fair to say that while all parties supported the DNA data bank and the changes proposed in the former Bill C-13, many members wanted to make more extensive changes.
    There were negotiations among the parties to develop a package of changes that could secure unanimous support for the bill. In May 2005, three key amendments to the bill were adopted.
    First was extending the retroactive scheme to cover persons convicted of one murder, manslaughter or sexual assault. I recall that our party, in opposition, was particularly keen in bringing that issue forward.
    Second was creating a category of very violent offences where the court would have no discretion to refuse to make the DNA order. Again, this was another initiative of the party that I am in, which made that recommendation in the last Parliament.
    Third was extending the definition of secondary designated offences to cover all offences under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that are punishable on indictment by five years or more.
    The bill then moved with lightning speed and with all party support through the House and the Senate because of an impending confidence vote on the budget.
    The provisions of former Bill C-13 that came into force upon receiving royal assent were those dealing with the expansion of the retroactive scheme, which makes about 4,400 more offenders eligible to be sampled, the procedure for dealing with DNA orders that appear on their face to have been improperly made, and the procedures for dealing with moderate DNA matches.
    The major amendments that have not yet been brought into force are the following.
    First is allowing courts to make DNA data bank orders against a person who has been found “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder”.
    Second is adding Internet luring of a child, uttering threats, criminal harassment, and “criminal organization” offences to the list of designated offences.
    Third is moving “robbery” and “break and enter into a dwelling house” and child pornography related offences from the list of secondary designated offences to the list of primary designated offences.
    Fourth is creating a new sub-category of the primary designated offence list of 16 extremely violent offences for which the courts will have no discretion whatsoever and must make the order.
    Fifth is expanding the definition of secondary designated offences to include all offences that are punishable by imprisonment for five years or more.
    Most members will agree that these are significant changes that will enhance the ability of the police to use the data bank and to protect Canadians from criminals.

  (1255)  

    Why, then, are they not yet in force? Federal, provincial and territorial officials, who were preparing for the proclamation of the remaining provisions of Bill C-13, identified a number of serious technical problems that should be corrected prior to proclamation and certain procedures that should be modified to increase efficiency and reduce costs. The former government, therefore, introduced Bill C-72 in November 2005 to make the necessary changes. However, that bill died when the election was called.
    Officials have continued their work and they have identified more changes that would clarify Parliament's intent in passing former Bill C-13 and the procedures that should be modified to make the DNA legislation more effective.
    As a former provincial crown prosecutor, I know how important it is to have clear procedures set out in the Criminal Code if legislation is to be effective. I am pleased that my department took the initiative of holding a two day meeting with prosecutors, police, forensic scientists and correctional personnel to go over Bill C-13 with a fine tooth comb.
    Bill C-18, the present bill, proposes about a dozen changes that were not in the former Bill C-72, and those changes flowed directly from that meeting. Bill C-18 proposes no changes in the underlying policies or procedures already adopted by Parliament. It contains mainly drafting changes, such as the creation of 10 new forms. These changes are not dramatic and they will not grab the headlines, but they will be welcomed by the people in the field who need to make what Parliament passes work.
    Bill C-18 also contains some substantive changes that I believe will be supported by all members of the House. In particular, it would add attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions. These are very serious offences that indicate an elevated risk of reoffending and are punishable by life imprisonment, a higher punishment than for the sexual offences that are already included in the retroactive scheme.
    It would also permit the Crown to apply for retroactive DNA data bank order where the offender was convicted prior to June 30, 2000 of one of the listed offences and is still under sentence for that offence, rather than requiring that the person be serving a sentence of two years or more.
    There are a few cases of persons who, prior to June 30, 2000, received multiple consecutive sentences for various offences, including some of the offences that make an offender eligible for retroactive sampling and who are still under sentence. Although the court clearly considered them to be serious offenders, it did not impose a sentence of two years or more for any one of the relevant offences. It would also allow a DNA order to be made within 90 days after the sentence is pronounced.
    It is believed that the main reason orders are not being made in many cases where they are already authorized is that prosecutors are extremely busy and are forgetting to remind the court to consider the issue. This would give both the prosecutor and the judge the time to review the files and, if the matter was simply missed, to have a hearing where the prosecution and the offender can present their arguments to the judge, who will decide whether to make the order.
    It would also make it an offence to fail to appear for DNA sampling. It is expected that having a specific offence will better emphasize to the offender the necessity of appearing for sampling and so increase compliance with DNA data bank orders. It would authorize any police force that arrests the person for failing to appear for a DNA sample to take the sample.
    It would be very expensive if offenders arrested in one province had to be sent back to the province where the order was made to have the sample taken. It would permit a police agency that has been authorized to take a DNA sample to authorize another police agency to take the sample if that would be less expensive. The police have been hampered in their efforts to execute the orders where the offender has been incarcerated outside its jurisdiction or been conditionally released but resides outside its jurisdiction.
    The procedure to have the order transferred to a court having jurisdiction and obtaining another order are time consuming and use up resources unnecessarily.
    There are also some changes being made to ensure that the National DNA Data Bank can communicate with the forensic laboratories and with its international partners more effectively.

  (1300)  

    Parliament certainly wanted to encourage these exchanges, but the amendment, as passed in Bill C-13, is not as clear as it should be. As well, the National Defence Act is being amended so that the DNA regime applicable to the military continues to mirror the civilian regime.
    There are many other technical changes of this nature in the bill and I am sure that when the bill gets to committee for detailed consideration, officials will explain them all. I trust this is sufficient, however, for members to realize that the changes proposed by this bill will be very helpful to law enforcement, prosecutors and judges who have to use the legislation on a daily basis.
    Passage of this bill will allow for the proclamation of the rest of former Bill C-13 and should ensure that it is implemented smoothly.
     It is, of course, not the end of the changes to the DNA legislation. As members are aware, the five year parliamentary review of the DNA legislation should have begun by June 30, 2005. Officials of my department, the Department of Public Safety, the RCMP and the National DNA Data Bank are ready to assist the committee as soon as it is mandated to commence the review.
    The delay in beginning the review is not entirely unfortunate. The committee will be able to consider such issues as making the taking of a DNA sample automatic upon conviction, or even more variations in light of the strong endorsement of the existing legislation by the Supreme Court in R. v. Rogers, which was decided in April of this year.
    Rogers was primarily a case involving the ex parte nature of retroactive hearings, but Rogers also challenged the constitutionality of the scheme.
    It is useful to consider the Supreme Court's detailed reasons upholding the constitutionality of the legislation. I want to quote from this because it is important for our discussions. The Supreme Court stated:
    There is no question that DNA evidence has revolutionized the way many crimes are investigated and prosecuted. The use of this new technology has not only led to the successful identification and prosecution of many dangerous criminals, it has served to exonerate many persons who were wrongfully suspected or convicted. The importance of this forensic development to the administration of justice can hardly be overstated. At the same time, the profound implications of government seizure and use of DNA samples on the privacy and security of the person cannot be ignored. A proper balance between these competing interests must be achieved within our constitutional framework.
    The court continues to state:
    For reasons that follow, I have concluded that the collection of DNA samples for data bank purposes from designated classes of convicted offenders is reasonable within the meaning of s. 8 of the Charter.
    That is the section of the charter dealing with the protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
    The court continues to state:
     Society’s interest in using this powerful new technology to assist law enforcement agencies in the identification of offenders is beyond dispute. The resulting impact on the physical integrity of the targeted offenders is minimal. The potential invasive impact on the right to privacy has carefully been circumscribed by legislative safeguards that restrict the use of the DNA data bank as an identification tool only.
    The Supreme Court continues to state:
    Unlike the warrant provisions, the DNA data bank provisions do not target suspected offenders in respect of particular offences. Rather, they target offenders who have been convicted of different categories of offences. They do not provide for the gathering of evidence for use in a specific prosecution. Rather, they provide for the collection of samples solely for the purpose of creating DNA profiles for inclusion in the data bank. In any future investigation, a comparison between DNA evidence obtained at a crime scene and the data bank DNA profile will either serve to exonerate or identify a suspect. However, if a crime scene DNA profile matches an existing profile in the data bank, the sample is not released. Usual investigative methods, including DNA warrants, must be resorted to in order to gather evidence in pursuit of the investigation.

  (1305)  

    The court continues to state:
    In my view, in considering the purpose of the DNA data bank provisions, the appropriate analogy is to fingerprinting and other identification measures taken for law enforcement purposes. The purpose of the legislative scheme is expressly set out in s. 3 of the DNA Identification Act, “...to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences, including those committed before the coming into force of this Act.”
     The court continues to state:
    The DNA data bank provisions contained in the DNA Identification Act and the Criminal Code are intended to put modern DNA technology to use in the identification of potential and known offenders. The DNA Identification Act is a modern supplement to the Identification of Criminals Act.
    I am sure the committee will undertake a full review of the DNA legislation and it will want to consider carefully the implications of this judgment. I hope all parties on the committee will be able to come to an agreement as to the best way to proceed so as to protect Canadians while continuing to respect their charter and privacy rights.
    However, we do not know when the committee will be struck, start its hearings or make its recommendations. I am speaking of the committee that will do the entire review that Parliament mandated a committee to do. We should not wait for this longer and broader process to implement changes that are generally acknowledged to be needed right now.
    Therefore, I am pleased to recommend that Bill C-18 be given a second reading and sent to the standing committee for its review.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his speech. I can assure him that we will be very diligent when reviewing this bill. We are quite aware that this is an important tool for the police. The Bloc Québécois—and I am sure all members—has always been concerned with maintaining the balance between protecting privacy in certain circumstances and carrying out investigations with due diligence.
    I would like the minister to provide a bit more information about one aspect of this bill, that is the RCMP's prerogative to release information about criminal investigations in general. I thought it was possible for the RCMP to release information about offences subject to collection orders, thus the list of the 16 most serious offences, those we refer to as primary offences.
    To whom would this information be provided? Who would be the recipients? Should the bill not contain an additional guideline in this matter? Should we not be concerned about releasing this extremely intrusive, confidential and private DNA information too widely? To what extent is the scope of this section being broadened?

  (1310)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think we are getting into some of the more technical areas on which I am not qualified to answer appropriately. I can indicate that, as with the fingerprinting regime where individuals are required to provide fingerprints upon being charged with an indictable offence, the DNA situation is much more restrictive. It only applies to individuals who have been convicted.
    The Canadian scheme differs radically from the British scheme where individuals are required to give DNA sampling upon being charged. That has resulted in serious cold crimes being solved. In Great Britain, for example, suspects in so-called property offences, break and enters, are required to provide a DNA sample upon being charged. Many other so-called violent crimes have also been solved.
    The potential for DNA is immense. I note that the Canadian bill is very restrictive, not only in respect of the offences, but it only occurs in respect of conviction upon those offences and there is discretion on the part of the judges in some of these cases to even at that point refuse to order DNA. I also note that there are restrictions on how police can provide this information, but I think that is an idea that needs to be explored further in committee. I would suggest that the member take that to the officials at committee.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister would know that a lot of people in this country who have family members who are missing are very concerned about the identification of these persons. I know there are some challenges with respect to using the DNA identification process. In fact, there are current private members' bills that raise the situation. I would think that most of us are very empathetic to people whose relatives are missing.
    Would the Minister of Justice take this opportunity to go over some of the issues and challenges that would be addressed with a missing persons matching situation?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is right that it is a challenging issue.
    I know that the prior government identified certain concerns with respect to that type of a data bank of missing persons. There were some issues about whether or not that was properly within the constitutional jurisdiction of the federal government and the federal Parliament. I take the position that it is within the federal constitutional jurisdiction of Parliament. I am looking forward to having that discussion in the context of another bill.
    I know there are challenges. I can tell the member that I am quite sympathetic to that issue. Whether it is a private member's bill emanating from the opposition benches or government benches, my department is certainly prepared to look very seriously at that and assist in accommodating such a bill.
    In the context of this particular bill however, it would only complicate the issue and delay passage of what are essential amendments to the bill that was passed by Parliament prior to the last election. The government did not want to raise that particular issue that the member for London West has raised in the context of this bill. Whether it is raised in the context of a separate private member's bill or in the overall review, that is something Parliament should look at very seriously.
    Mr. Speaker, I will apologize in advance if the minister addressed this point in his opening comments, but I came in a few minutes late.
    Bill C-18 makes provision for retroactive gathering of DNA samples from individuals who have been accused and convicted and are currently serving sentences. They would be quite lengthy sentences because the individuals would still be in custody. For people who have been convicted of those offences the bill would allow for a sample to be taken from them now, when it would not have allowed it under the existing law.
    Does the minister know how many convicted individuals are still incarcerated who would be subject to the changes that he is proposing? Is it the intent of the government that samples would be taken from every single one of those individuals?

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is a very important point and a good point.
    We know that the bill back in May 2005 did extend the retroactive scheme to cover persons convicted of one murder, one manslaughter, or one sexual assault, which prior to that was not included. Those were included in that.
    I stand to be corrected here but it is my understanding that the only substantive amendment in respect of retroactive changes to allow the authorities to take DNA samples deals with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They are very serious offences.
    I am not certain of the number of persons presently incarcerated. I do not anticipate it being a very large number given, generally speaking, the murder rates in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the minister for participating in a round table in Oshawa in the summer. One of the comments I got back from the community leaders was about how well he listened and also his commitment to improving victims' rights.
    I wonder if he could expand on the bill and how it relates to victims' rights.
    Mr. Speaker, technically it does not address the issue of victims' rights, but indirectly every time a wrongdoer, an offender is prosecuted and has been brought to justice because of DNA, I think that supports victims' rights and it is important from that point of view.
    However, as was mentioned earlier by one of the opposition members, the whole issue of missing persons, for example, is an important element that we need to address. Also important is DNA being able to exonerate individuals who in fact are innocent. DNA assists in that exoneration process. If we can speak for a moment of people who are victims of a proceeding in that sense, who have been wrongfully convicted or wrongfully accused, DNA is one of the most effective ways of proving that the individual is not implicated in a particular crime.
     I appreciate the opportunity that I had to be in Oshawa to participate with my colleague's constituents in a very informative discussion.
    Generally speaking, I view the expansion of these DNA sampling authorizations to be important simply as one more tool by which the police can apprehend suspects and convict them. I believe though, at the same time, the bill is carefully balanced to ensure there is not a transgression of anyone's individual charter rights. Whether the bill goes far enough in that respect, again I would point the member to the Rodgers case that sets out certain guiding principles. I think I would also point to the experiences of other countries, primarily Great Britain, which has a much broader right to take DNA and at the same time has certain safeguards in place. It obviously does involve some balancing that needs to take place.
    I believe that these are very good initial steps, but I do not think that we should stop at this point.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification. Bill C-18 impacts the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act.
    I, along with many in this chamber, was a member of the House when the DNA Identification Act was created in 1998. The act came into force on June 30, 2000.
    Section 13 specifically provides that within five years of the coming into force of the act a review of the provisions and operations should be undertaken by a committee of the House, the Senate, or by both. This review has not yet taken place and the current Minister of Justice by letter earlier this year states that the review “should begin as soon as possible after this bill receives royal assent”.
    I believe for many reasons that the review should happen as soon as possible. I would like to know from the minister if his assurance for the mandated review really means only after more of his so-called law and order bills come before the House or if the review can take place within the next year in a reasonable amount of time. Where exactly is the review on the list of priorities of the minority government?
    In a letter which I believe was sent to all members of the justice committee, the minister identified various issues he wished to be discussed and they are important areas for discussion. Among them are: having only one list of designated offences; the scope of judicial discretion with respect to making an order; taking DNA under the Identification of Criminals Act; international sharing; the one I just mentioned moments ago, kinship analysis; volunteer samples; victim samples; and exoneration.
    The current Minister of Justice whom we have just heard from has urged that the amendments in Bill C-18 are needed to give the benefits of changes made under the former government's Bill C-13 passed recently. Former Bill C-13 was adopted on May 19, 2005 and only some parts of Bill C-13 are currently in force.
    For people who may have not been part of that legislative process, it may be useful to set out the purpose of the DNA Identification Act. Section 3 states:
     The purpose of this Act is to establish a national DNA data bank to help law enforcement agencies identify persons alleged to have committed designated offences, including those committed before the coming into force of this Act.
    The principles of the act are contained in section 4 and include:
(a) the protection of society and the administration of justice are well served by the early detection, arrest and conviction of offenders, which can be facilitated by the use of DNA profiles;
(b) the DNA profiles, as well as samples of bodily substances from which the profiles are derived, may be used only for law enforcement purposes in accordance with this Act, and not for any unauthorized purpose; and
(c) to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves, safeguards must be placed on
(i) the use and communication of, and access to, DNA profiles and other information contained in the national DNA data bank, and
(ii) the use of, and access to, bodily substances that are transmitted to the Commissioner for the purposes of this Act.
    The use of DNA analysis in solving crime has emerged as one of the most powerful tools that is currently available to law enforcement agencies for the administration of justice in our land. This has taken place in just over a decade. Actually it is remarkable. Its impact is akin to the introduction of fingerprint evidence in court over 100 years ago.
    In the science of police investigation, DNA evidence is a major enhancement for the safety of Canadians. What is the value of DNA to public investigations? We should know that biological samples collected from a crime scene can either link a suspect to the scene or rule the suspect out as a donor of the DNA. Evidence from different crime scenes can be compared to link the same perpetrator to multiple offences, whether they occurred next door, across the country, or halfway around the world. It can also identify a victim through DNA from close relatives.

  (1320)  

    DNA is referred to often as the blueprint of life. It is a fundamental building block of a person's complete and entire genetic makeup. DNA is found in virtually every tissue in the human body. Experts tell us that the DNA in a person's blood is the same in the skin cells, the saliva, the hair and other bodily parts. Highly discriminating other than with respect to identical twins, it is a powerful tool for identification. Every person's DNA is unique to them, again with the exception of identical twins.
    The DNA molecule itself can last significant environmental challenges. It is very stable. This enables the forensic experts to obtain new information from very old biological evidence, or establish important data from very badly degraded samples, which can occur when say a body is found or a crime scene is unearthed long after the fact of incidence.
    The stability of the molecule and the fact we have very discriminating features of individual DNA and the accuracy of the analysis techniques that the current DNA people use make this a very efficient and strong human identification technology. It is a most vital component of most of our police investigations today of a very serious nature.
    I should state that the national data bank respects the considerations, as it should, of the genetic privacy of individuals and follows strict guidelines as specified in the DNA Identification Act. The biological samples that are collected from convicted offenders and the resulting DNA profiles can only be used for law enforcement purposes. Thus, the National DNA Data Bank assists the law enforcement communities in solving crimes by linking crimes together where there are no suspects, by helping to identify suspects or conversely by eliminating suspects where there is no match between the crime scene DNA and the DNA profile in the national data bank. Further, it assists in determining whether a serial offender is involved.
    By statute, the national data bank, which is located here in Ottawa, is responsible for two principal indices. The first is a convicted offenders index, which is an electronic index that has been developed from DNA profiles, collected from offenders convicted by designated primary and secondary offences identified in section 487.04 of the Criminal Code. I believe, as of mid-May 2006, the convicted offender index had nearly 100,000 entries.
    The second is the crime scene index, which is a separate electronic index composed of DNA profiles obtained from crime scene investigations of the same designated offences addressed under the act. Thus we have several thousands, as the minister said, of the DNA samples from convicted offenders, which are included in the National DNA Data Bank along with the samples from various crime scenes across the country.
    Large numbers of police officers from every province and territory jurisdiction in Canada have been the recipients of specific and proper training on how to collect and forward the DNA samples, which are then sent to the data bank in Ottawa for the proper analysis.
    We know that the National DNA Data Bank has recorded over 5,200 crime scene to offender matches and more than 750 crime scene to crime scene matches. As everyone should appreciate, this developing science has to be managed very appropriately and properly to safeguard people's constitutional rights.
    We have had, though, over the last number of years continuous consultations with provinces and territories and the public at large. They all have been instrumental in developing the amending legislation over the last couple of bills. Again, under the former Liberal government in Bill C-13, changes were made to improve the public safety and the approach of the bill continued to respect the constitutionally protected rights of individuals and their privacy interests. This is the problematic challenge area of concern for many.

  (1325)  

    When the bill was before committee the last time, the Privacy Commissioner was there expressing some concerns. It is right that these types of debates happen. That is why it is totally necessary we have the overall review and, hopefully, that will not be delayed.
    Under the act, we currently have both primary and secondary designated offences. The primary designated offences are considered the most serious criminal offences. They are, for example, sexual offences, murder and manslaughter. The significant but relatively less serious offences would come under the threshold of secondary designated offences in the act. Two examples that have been shown would be assault and arson.
    For people to understand the practical difference, a judge who convicts a person of a primary designated offence is required to make an order for the collection of the DNA sample from the offender, unless the offender can convince the court otherwise, under a specific section, subsection 487.051(2) of the Criminal Code. It is usually mandatory unless there are strict criteria.
    With a secondary designated offence, and this is the difference, a DNA sample collection order may be granted if the court, upon application of the Crown, is satisfied that it is in the best interests of justice to do so. It should be noted that if a person was convicted or discharged of any designated offence after June 30 of the year 2000, but the act was committed before that date, then the same criteria for granting an order under the secondary designated offence would apply.
    Bill C-13 moved a number of previously listed secondary designated offences and the new offence of Internet luring of a child to the primary list. Also Bill C-13 proposed additions to the list of secondary designated offences. Examples of certain offences that moved to the primary list included child pornography and robbery.
    Bill C-13 also made changes to the National Defence Act to ensure that the military justice system would remain consistent with the civilian justice system.
     The former Liberal government also introduced Bill C-72 in November 2005, less than a year ago. That bill had a series of amendments to help implement the DNA data bank references that were endorsed by Parliament under Bill C-13, which I have just discussed. These technical amendments were to clarify definitions and procedures for obtaining a DNA data bank order and for sharing information. There was a provision to help DNA data bank orders to be carried out, even when, for logistical reasons, it may not have been possible to take the sample at the precise time as set out in the original order.
    Bill C-72, which also died when the government fell last year, would have also simplified the procedure to destroy samples taken from those convicted of an offence not intended to be included in the DNA data bank. This is a whole specialized area. There is a lot of concern about whether samples ever really get destroyed or whether we just do not do the matching any more and we lose the ability to match properly.
    Among other issues, Bill C-72 was to allow for hearings by video to reduce costs and security associated with two party and greater numbers of offenders eligible for a retroactive sampling as a result of Bill C-13. Therefore, Bill C-72 essentially picked up on some of the issues identified by the stakeholders during the consultations on the implementation of Bill C-13 and also from the committee debate. It was intended to have the technical amendment made under Bill C-72 come into force before the coming into force of the unproclaimed provision of Bill C-13 in order to increase the efficiency of the data bank system and reduce costs.
    This has been a somewhat dry and truncated history of the legislation, but it puts us where we are today with the sections.
    Bill C-18, introduced by the government based on the work of the former government, is supposed to represent a reincarnation of Bill C-72. Upon looking at the bill, amended forms, which were not ready for Bill C-72, have now been included in Bill C-18. As mentioned previously, we are now further behind the overall review of the legislation. We are again being asked by the Minister of Justice to do the technical amendments before the broader policy and review.

  (1330)  

    Bill C-18 has some substantive provisions also. I am not going to go through all of them today, that is what we have committee for, but I will give an example. It will make it an offence to fail to appear for DNA sampling. This is similar to the situation in the code where we have an offence for failing to show up for fingerprinting. This seems entirely logical to me. It also proposes to add attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder to the offences covered by the retroactive provisions.
    Also, there are simple, or not so simple, procedural changes in Bill C-18. Examples of these amendments include allowing a DNA order to be made within 90 days after the sentence is pronounced and allowing the law enforcement agency authorized to take a DNA sample to authorize another law enforcement agency to do it on its behalf when the offender has moved or been incarcerated outside of the jurisdiction. This would save time and money. As opposed to moving the offender back and forth, we would do the sampling in another jurisdiction, as long as all the orders had been properly made.
    These are practical amendments that would assist in an efficient process and rectify some of the on the ground problems that are being experienced by people who have to deal with the various systems, from the justice system courthouse, all the way to the analysis here at the data bank.
     For the most part, Bill C-18 is an enhanced version of previous government bills. Since we have last had the occasion to discuss DNA legislation, the Supreme Court of Canada, in R. v. Rogers, has held, among other things, that the collection of DNA samples for data bank purposes from designated class of offenders is reasonable, reasonable as an infringement in our constitutional sense of the word.
    In conclusion, I believe it is very appropriate to send the bill to committee for careful consideration. I will restate that I also think it is very appropriate that the House, our Parliament and some of the committees consider a full review so we can have a proper discussion about further emerging areas that need to be addressed, not only those outlined in the Minister of Justice's letters, but maybe some of the concerns of some of the other stakeholders. I think that would be a useful thing to do.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, as the former chair of the justice committee, I know the hon. member is very well versed in these issues, certainly more so than I.
    Seeing she has a lengthy background with the issue of the sensitive subject of collection of DNA, why does she think that nowhere in Bill C-18 does it raise the thorny issue of what we call Lindsey's law? I note the summary is long and comprehensive. It is one full page when usually summaries are one paragraph.
     I know many people throughout the recent years, from both sides of the House, have tried, through private members' business, to get the concept of Lindsey's law to the House for debate and, hopefully, for implementation. It seems like such an eminently reasonable thing to a layperson If people lose a loved one or a child is abducted, if parents want to voluntarily have their DNA listed and filed and it would be a great aid to the law enforcement offices that may need to compare DNA for identification for that lost loved one, why should there be obstacles?
    In a bill as comprehensive as this, that touches on virtually every aspect of the privacy associated with the collection of DNA, could she expand perhaps as to why the government was reluctant to include such a reasonable thing as Lindsey's law?
    Mr. Speaker, although I spent a few years as the vice-chair of the justice committee in 1993 and only chaired the committee in the absence of the existing chair at that time, I did so many times. Unfortunately, we were not dealing with DNA legislation, so I actually look forward as a member of the current committee that we will have a look at this and do the visits that some former members of the committee did at the DNA databank.
    When visiting the databank, what is very dry and more difficult to understand about the technical way in which this series of bills operates is that when hearing from the experts and those administering the system, they apparently will show all the technical reasons for privacy that surround the operation of the databank.
    This exact question is the one which I posed to the Minister of Justice a couple of minutes ago as the first question on this bill. I can tell the House that in his response he was not giving a lot of information out other than saying his department is currently looking at this.
    I know there is a private member's bill which was originally put forward by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who is now a minister of the current government, known as Lindsey's law. We hope that the current government will look at all of the concerns that will be raised around the technical reasons surrounding what the challenges are and whether these can be dealt with through protocols.
    I hope I am being clear enough for the member. For instance, if somebody gives a voluntary sample and it matches up with an existing crime scene, there is an incriminating situation that never was intended as it was supposed to be for a match for someone who was missing. There are privacy situations and protocol situations around this.
    I do not think any member of the House would be trying to block what is called Lindsey's law because we know the sorrow and non-closure of an issue when a child is missing. The current minister may find out through his technical discussions with the experts who have to deal with it that there may in fact be some challenges to be overcome. I personally hope that these challenges can be overcome because there needs to be some efforts made to assist people with their very real anguish in that situation.
    I know it is one of the listed items in the review. It is very important we have this review, but in the meantime the Minister of Justice should work inside his cabinet to push all of the appropriate departments in getting this done so people can have closure.

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, further on this subject of DNA, I am wondering if my colleague is aware that one of the most frequent times the subject of DNA comes up for most members of Parliament is in immigration case work. More and more frequently, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is requiring families to produce DNA evidence to allow families to sponsor, for instance, a child from overseas.
    In my own experience, I have found this to be an almost insurmountable barrier for the reunification of families associated with immigration cases, in that the fee is about $900 for DNA testing. Most of the recent immigrants to my riding in the inner city of Winnipeg are from East African countries where the average family income is $200 or $300 per year. Even if the applicant family is in Canada, wants to bring over a child, and has to prove with DNA evidence that it is in fact that family's child, the newcomers in Canada have a heck of a time coming up with this fee.
    In the context of talking about the DNA registry and Canada coming to terms with DNA as the single most important identifier that we can point to, is the member aware of this burgeoning problem associated with DNA identification, and is she finding in her own riding that more and more Canadians are being stymied and frustrated with reuniting families by virtue of this near impossible test?

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have encountered over a number of years situations where DNA testing has actually helped my constituents, people who have come often as refugees fleeing from other countries. I know east Africa was mentioned. I am thinking of one case where a family had a number of children, but because of the refugee situation and civilian strife in their country of origin, they left without any documentation that most people would have to identify their children such as passports and birth certificates.
    Some people leave under military situations where they are running away from guns and crossing borders with barely anything other than the clothes on their backs. DNA has been utilized successfully in cases in which I have been involved. Parents were able to identify children who somehow got separated from their families while fleeing. It was one way in which the former government did find a way of reuniting families.
    I do understand the point that it is expensive, but it does give certainty and actually helps solve the situation. It is a solution for those families. It brings them together and in a way has helped develop the family reunification objectives of our Immigration Act.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will support this bill in principle, that is, we want police forces to have the tools they need to solve investigations quickly. During investigations, the police may need to collect DNA samples. We also understand the need to have a DNA data bank managed by the RCMP. We will therefore vote in favour of sending this bill to committee after second reading, and we will raise a number of questions.
    We feel it is our duty to do so, especially since, in the very recent past—just now, actually—the RCMP's actions were not beyond reproach regarding the collection and sharing of information. In our opinion, there must be extremely firm guarantees that the appropriate recipients of such information will be correctly identified.
    Since 1998, the Bloc Québécois has supported these measures. In 1998, we began voting on the first measures concerning the collection of DNA samples. Furthermore, we supported Bill C-13. This is really a question of judges having the ability to impose an order that will be mandatory in some cases, but optional in other cases. This will allow something extremely intrusive in terms of human rights, that is, collecting DNA samples.
    We understand fully—and the minister was right to point it out—that when an individual is imprisoned and convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code, it is not unreasonable to ask for a DNA sample.
    I will close by sharing our questions on this matter. Bill C-13 deals with the primary designated offences that involve the most violence and relate to sexual assault, and I will name them. There are 16 cases where the courts must issue mandatory orders to take DNA samples. The DNA information is kept in a data bank that is managed by the largest police force, the RCMP. Sampling is mandatory in the following cases: prostitution, living on the avails of prostitution, murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, etc. This list of primary designated offences also includes offences such as breaking and entering a dwelling house and participation in the activities of a criminal organization.
    Section 467 of the Criminal Code was created in response to the conflicts between outlaw motorcycle gangs in major urban centres. A new offence was added to the Criminal Code: gangsterism, which consists in committing an offence for a criminal organization. Now, in cases of luring children using the Internet or procuring, the Crown must prove that the mandatory sampling order will better serve the interests of justice. In the case of secondary designated offences—all crimes punishable by more than five years in prison—the prosecution must request an order and demonstrate that it is in the interests of justice.
    The Bloc Québécois was in favour of all these provisions that would give the police additional resources, because we voted in favour of Bill C-13.
    One aspect of Bill C-18 that might warrant further discussion is the fact that, in addition to the existing provisions, the government wants everyone who has been convicted since 2000 of conspiracy and attempted murder to be included in the national DNA data bank.

  (1350)  

    Obviously there is some grey area. Conspiracy corresponds to a fairly broad provision in criminal law. There are situations where conspiracy leads to the commission of criminal acts, but conspiracy in and of itself is closer to plotting than actually committing the criminal act.
    I asked the minister a question earlier, but unfortunately he was unable to provide an answer. Our question is on a provision in the bill that will allow the RCMP—the entity in charge of administering this data bank—to use the information, and thus the DNA.
    This data bank has two major indices. The first index includes DNA samples of people who have indeed been convicted of one of the 16 designated offences I mentioned earlier. As far as the second index is concerned, it has to do with scenes of crimes, including unresolved crimes. I will give you an example. A murder occurs on a property and the guilty party is not identified, but there are traces of blood, bodily fluid and other substances. The RCMP collects samples and they become part of the crime scene index. Even when no suspect is identified, there is still anonymous information left by DNA, bodily fluids and blood.
    This information is found in two major indices. I was somewhat surprised to see that Bill C-18, if passed in its current form, would allow the Commissioner of the RCMP, Mr. Zaccardelli, to use DNA information for all criminal investigations and offences.
    I hope the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities shares my opinion, but, at the risk of repeating myself, I maintain that we must be extremely careful when it comes to distributing personal information. The RCMP is not above reproach. That is why we will leave the parliamentary committee to do its work.
    I have read the O'Connor report on the Arar case and it is clear that the RCMP was given a lot of power. It can even respond to requests from other countries and both parties may want to share information.
    In investigating an offence that is not necessarily on the list of 16 designated offences that I was talking about, if there is information to do with the DNA of bodily fluids and blood, in other words a genetic profile, the RCMP could distribute this genetic information, affecting potential suspects, to different police bodies and to independent investigators. Obviously we are concerned.
    Once again, I recognize the importance of Bill C-18 . In 1998, the Bloc Québécois agreed to the creation of a data bank. We even collaborated on Bill C-13, which was passed unanimously, but we have always expressed reservations concerning the extent to which the information may be shared. This is very important for genetic profile information, and it makes a significant contribution to resolving criminal investigations.
    In the absence of a perfect match, Bill C-18 would also enable the RCMP commissioner to communicate similar genetic profiles to foreign authorities.

  (1355)  

    This is extremely important. Since Bill C-13 was passed, the international communication of profiles has been limited to the validation of DNA samples found at crimes scenes outside of Canada. In such cases, the information in the profile is communicated to police authorities in countries that request it. If there is no match—if the DNA sample is not validated—all the RCMP is authorized to say, according to Bill C-13, is that the DNA profile requested for validation does not correspond to any information in the current data bank.
    Bill C-18 takes this a little farther. It would permit identification by DNA profile in the communication of possible matches. This may seem very technical, but it is not just technical. This is about the concerns and the balance we have to have. We accept that convicted individuals who have harmed a person or property and been imprisoned may be subject to an RCMP investigation. However, we are not prepared to say that all foreign police forces can have access to the information in the data bank, even if a suspect has not yet been identified.
    These are the issues the committee will discuss. I will take a break for member statements under Standing Order 31, and I will continue my speech after oral question period.
    The hon. member for Hochelaga will have eight minutes after oral question period to conclude his speech.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Conservative Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, democracy is alive and well in the Vegreville—Wainwright constituency and in the Conservative Party of Canada.
    Despite the fact that the last election was only eight months behind us, I was challenged for the nomination. No member of Parliament really likes a nomination challenge, but I fully support the right of party members to do just that.
    This commitment to the democratic process is something we simply do not see in the Liberal Party, where Liberal MPs are being protected from nomination challenges.
    I thank all 2,100 members who got involved in the process for caring enough to come out and vote. I also thank the members of the board of directors of our EDA, who worked hard to make the process work.
    Finally, I commend all Canadians who buy a membership in any political party and get involved in democracy at the grassroots level. To them I say that they are the true protectors of democracy in this country and I thank them for that.

  (1400)  

World Sight Day

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to host World Sight Day 2006 on Parliament Hill. World Sight Day is on October 12. We will mark the occasion tomorrow afternoon.
    My office has been working closely with Christian Blind Mission International, CBMI, whose office is located in my riding. It was after having spoken with its leadership that I decided to include Braille on my business cards.
    Vision 2020: the Right to Sight is a global initiative of the World Health Organization, along with national governments and organizations. This initiative aims to eliminate unnecessary blindness to give all people, including those in developing countries, the gift of sight.
    My office has issued the invitations. I hope that everyone will take the time to learn more about World Sight Day with CBMI, CNIB, Operation Eyesight, the World Blind Union and other members of the Canadian coalition.

[Translation]

Culture

    Mr. Speaker, culture is what enables humankind to create a framework for itself and for its development. It helps us to think for ourselves. Culture is key to having a sense of belonging to a community. It represents the essential fibre of Quebeckers, influencing our thoughts, words, actions and daily life, and enabling the development of individual members of the community.
    Given its ideology intended to smother and stifle our museums, theatre, cinema, and creators, the Conservative government is undermining Quebec's hopes for the survival of its culture, here and around the world.
    I would like to remind the House of a simple fact. Because it is culture that embodies the history and pulse of a society, soon, in a sovereign Quebec, culture will become both a major challenge and a collective priority.

[English]

Volunteerism

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians value the importance of the non-profit and voluntary sector in providing social, cultural and recreational benefits. The size of its contribution to Canada's economy and job market is enormous at 6.8% of the nation's GDP, more than the mining, oil and gas sectors combined.
    In Sault Ste. Marie, the non-profit sector is valued at $78 million and employs more than 1,400 people, but the Conservative government does not get it. It says volunteers are a “non-core priority”, with $200 million in cuts, including the national volunteer initiative serving 161,000 non-profit agencies.
    The Muttart Foundation from Alberta says that the cuts hurt the vulnerable and create social deficits that will cost more than $1 billion to repair.
    If the Conservatives keep this up, it will not be long before the Conservative government is deemed “non-core” by the people of Canada.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, our new Conservative government agrees with the environment commissioner's recent recommendations pertaining to the need for a coordinated and measurable approach to climate change. Our new Conservative government also looks favourably on her recommendations for accountability.
    The new Government of Canada will develop a comprehensive and inclusive approach that involves all sectors of industry. It will also work closely with the provinces and the territories as well as key stakeholders.
    Canada's new government has already taken a number of actions: a systematic categorization of chemical substances; a tax credit for public transit riders on the cost of their monthly passes; $1.3 billion in investments in public transit infrastructure; and a commitment to 5% average renewable content in Canadian motor fuels
    Our environmental agenda will include achievable, affordable and practical measures to clean up the environment and protect the health and well-being of all Canadians.

  (1405)  

Hungarian Canadians

    Mr. Speaker, October 2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution, after which upwards of 40,000 people fled to Canada for freedom and opportunity.
    Tomorrow the National Arts Centre will open a photo exhibit celebrating the contribution of 50 Canadians of Hungarian origin.
    Photographer V. Tony Hauser has captured the essence of these exemplary Canadians and their contribution to the arts, business, media, sports and politics, including two of our colleagues, the member for Scarborough Southwest and the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I would be remiss not to mention my much better half, Catherine, who is also included in the group.
    Also, tomorrow morning, with the help of the National Capital Commission, the Canadian Hungarian community will unveil a monument in honour of those who lost their lives for freedom and in gratitude to Canada and to the Canadian people.

Canadian Forces

    Mr. Speaker, on Saturday evening, September 30, Corporal Keith Mooney of St. Mary's, Newfoundland, received a hero's welcome in his hometown on his triumphant return from Afghanistan. A large motorcade, followed by a packed community hall, welcomed Corporal Mooney back to his roots in St. Mary's Bay.
    Recovering from severe shrapnel wounds, Corporal Mooney spoke to the people about his experience and about his comrades who had died in an effort to bring peace and democracy to that faraway land. He told us about the success of our Canadian soldiers and the all important difference they are making in that wartorn country, especially in the lives of the children.
    While he was delighted to be home again, Corporal Mooney said that if a request came for him to return to Afghanistan tomorrow, he would do so in a heartbeat.
    They are winning the fight and our continued support is needed.
    When given the opportunity to speak, I thanked Corporal Mooney and his comrades and assured him that the military has the government's 100% support for this mission.
    Corporal Keith Mooney's family and community are proud of him. His country and his government is proud of him. God bless him and we welcome him home.

[Translation]

Quebec Intercultural Week

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the fourth edition of the Semaine québécoise des rencontres interculturelles, which takes place from October 1-8, 2006, with the theme “A thousand faces, our future”.
    This week provides an opportunity to seriously reflect on our citizenship values, particularly in the context of Quebec, and on the invaluable contribution of immigration to Quebec society.
    This is also an opportunity for us to take a closer look at the situation of our fellow citizens who contribute to the vitality of our communities. We must acknowledge the difficulties associated with their full integration. We must applaud their success and recognize that we could make better use of their education, experience and their desire to succeed with us.
    We would like to work together on initiatives to make immigrants feel more welcome. I hope these intercultural meetings will be used to support and encourage activities in our communities that promote their development.

[English]

Peter Naglik

    Mr. Speaker, we all know that moments of sudden tragedy can arrive that seem to stop the world for a moment and which remind us starkly of what really matters in life: the eternal things like faith and friendship.
    Such a moment arrived for many members of this House last Friday when we learned that a dear friend and colleague, Peter Naglik, was tragically taken from us in a car accident.
    Peter was well-known to many of us through his lifetime of service to his province and country through the democratic process. He was a stalwart advisor and speech writer in both the Ontario provincial parliament and this House where he served many MPPs and MPs, including former Premier Harris and the current Minister of Public Safety.
    He brought his gentle spirit and special élan to dozens of campaigns as one of the leading conservative activists of his generation.
    There are members of this place whose election would have been impossible without Peter's dedication and professionalism.
    As all who knew him can attest, Peter was a man of deep conviction and enormous kindness. We are consoled only by the knowledge that he lived and died with a strong Catholic faith.
    We mourn his passing with his family, his beloved Rossana and her daughters, Rebecca and Leah.
    Requiescat in pace aeternam, Peter.

International Day of Older Persons

    Mr. Speaker, on October 1, the world celebrated International Day of Older Persons. This day is set aside to celebrate the wisdom and accomplishments of senior citizens around the world.
    Shamefully, the Conservative government commemorated this day by announcing $1 billion in cuts to social programs, key programs that directly touch the lives of Canada's seniors, such as affordable housing through the CMHC, the Canadian volunteerism initiative, Status of Women Canada and the literacy skills program.
    The seniors in my riding of Richmond are very concerned with these program cuts. Sadly, I was reminded just how the government is not standing up for Canadians.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

Abdou Diouf

    Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I congratulate, on behalf of the Government of Canada, His Excellency Abdou Diouf upon his re-election as Secretary General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. He was re-elected handily last week during the 11th summit of la Francophonie.
    Mr. Diouf is the former President of Senegal and has provided expert leadership to the international Francophonie these past few years.
    We are convinced that he will continue to do so over the next four years of his mandate.
    Once again, congratulations Mr. Diouf.

[English]

Jack Stagg

    Mr. Speaker, on August 9, Canada lost one of her greatest public servants.
    Mr. Jack Stagg's last posting was deputy minister of Veterans Affairs. Throughout his career he had many accomplishments which made Canada a better place to live: the political accord for the establishment of Nunavut, the settling of the Marshall decision and the creation of the Year of the Veteran, just to name a few.
    I had the good fortune to travel on several overseas veterans missions with Jack and his wife, Bonnie, where their love and respect for our veterans and their families created memories I will always cherish.
    Jack showed us all what dedication to family, service and duty to country was all about and he displayed tremendous courage with his battle with cancer.
    On behalf of my colleagues in the House of Commons, I extend my condolences to Jack's family and to the employees of Veterans Affairs on Jack's recent passing.
    I want to thank Bonnie, Amary and Wallis for sharing Jack with all of us.
    In the words of the solemn act of remembrance we say, “We will remember Jack Stagg”.

[Translation]

Veterans

    Mr. Speaker, on June 11 I had the privilege of attending the unveiling of the veterans' wall of remembrance, at the Rideau Memorial Gardens in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, on which are inscribed the names of 1,299 men and women who served our country.
    I wish to thank everyone who made this ceremony possible and to express my sincere gratitude to our veterans for the inspiration they provide to our present and future generations.
    This wall reminds us of the sacrifices made by our military in order for all of us to live in freedom and dignity. We should always remember that democracy and freedom cannot be taken for granted and that, on the contrary, they require the vigilance and commitment of each and every one of us.
    I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of our military who are presently on duty around the world. We are proud of you.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, Canada must vote in favour of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during the current session of the United Nations general assembly. The declaration offers a promising vision of a new relationship between countries and indigenous peoples, based on collaboration and respect for individual rights.
    To date, no universal instrument has protected the rights of indigenous peoples better than this declaration. Indigenous peoples continue to be among the poorest and most marginalized on the planet.
    Adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is consistent with international peacekeeping. These rights do not represent a threat to peace. They are an essential foundation for indigenous peoples.
    The Bloc Québécois has always supported the adoption of this declaration in order to recognize the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. That is why we are asking once again that Canada vote in favour of this declaration.

[English]

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, Saskatchewan has long been known as the breadbasket of the world, with hard-working farm families contributing greatly to the province's wealth.
    However, the farm income crisis has hurt many Saskatchewan farms and the collapse of the WTO talks has led to global uncertainty. A new road map is needed to plan a way forward to help and empower farmers.
    I applaud the member for Malpeque for making that road map, a new Liberal plan that puts priority on farm families. He consulted with many farmers and organizations across Canada, including co-hosting a meeting with me in Meadow Lake this summer.
    The new Liberal plan calls for: deep reforms to CAIS, not just a rubber stamp name change; a disaster relief plan that responds to major crop loss, avian flu, BSE and high foreign subsidies; a biofuels plan that puts the priority on producers; a strategy to seek and secure new markets and challenge unfair practices; and, most important, consulting with producers to respond to their needs, not simply serving ideology or bureaucracy.
    The new Liberal road map for agriculture points to a real commitment and partnership with Saskatchewan's farmers.

  (1415)  

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal culture of entitlement continues, only now it is about frugal Conservative cabinet ministers being admonished by the member for Wascana for not spending at the level of the former Liberal cabinet.
    I have seen opposition parties react to policy differences and I have seen oppositions upset over the spending priorities of the government, but a new first has happened. We have an opposition whining about government ministers who are not spending enough.
    I would like to tell the member for Wascana again that it is not his money. It comes from the taxpayer and, whenever possible, it goes back to the taxpayer.
    A new government is here now and, regardless of what the Liberals want, we cannot and we will not spend like they did. The days of entitlement are over for them and we will not do it.

[Translation]

International Day of Older Persons

    Mr. Speaker, the Conseil des aînés in Quebec invited the public to celebrate the International Day of Older Persons on October 1, setting as this year's theme “The generational rainbow...shining for all the world.”
    This theme underlines the importance of intergenerational ties. Seniors are a priceless resource. They share their knowledge, their life experience and their values with younger people. The colours of the rainbow represent seven important values: trust, love, comfort, listening, knowledge, solidarity and hope.
    These values truly characterize seniors. Think of all the volunteer work they do: providing child care, lending support in hospitals, helping with homework and mentoring. These activities are worth $60 billion annually.
    We can only hope that the Conservative government will give justice to many of the seniors who helped build Quebec and Canada by finally paying them the $3.2 billion in retroactive guaranteed income supplements.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, we learn of more Conservative appointments. The rights of minorities in Canada are fundamental to our common citizenship, yet the Prime Minister has named Darrel Reid as a key political operator in his administration.
    Mr. Reid, one of his Conservative candidates, said that it was about high time that Muslims showed the world that theirs was a religion of peace, rather than a religion based on threat, intimidation and terrorism.
    Canadian Muslims totally reject that categorization. Canadian Muslims are people of peace.
    Does the Prime Minister choose our Canadian Muslim voices or does he support his recent political appointment? That is a choice he has to make.
    Mr. Speaker, I would have to see the context of the remarks. I think all in this House agree that all religions in the world are full of people of good faith and goodwill who want to see a better world. That is why we are working with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to help clear that country of terrorist elements.
    Mr. Speaker, colleagues in the House might be interested to see the context of the remarks when the same person, Darrel Reid, compared members of this House, who voted in favour to protect Canadian citizens who happened to be gay or lesbian against hate crimes, as being similar to Adolf Hitler and his bunch.
    Colleagues, look around this House. Are there members in this House who are like colleagues of Adolf Hitler, who are Nazis? This is the type of person the Prime Minister is bringing to his high political office and into his house.
    This is an affront to our democracy. It is an affront to the House of Commons of Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said and this party has said in the past, we defend the equality rights of gay and lesbian Canadians. At the same time, we also defend the right of people of religious faith to practise their religion and to express their religious views.

  (1420)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it does not stop there, it is not about gays and lesbians; it is about Quebec society. I quote, “The rest of Canada, it appears, could be following Quebec’s lead. When it comes to marriage, sexual mores and abortion, that’s not reassuring”. We on this side of the House are completely reassured by Quebec's opinion.
    How can the Prime Minister name Darrel Reid as senior political adviser knowing that he made such comments? Perhaps it is only natural. His Minister of the Environment was quoted this morning as saying that Quebec was not really a concern to her.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment simply said that the policies of this government will be federal and national policies and not provincial policies.
    The Leader of the Opposition has just raised moral issues and we know that Quebeckers—like other Canadians—are divided on these issues.

Minister of the Environment

    Mr. Speaker, appointing Darrel Reid as chief of staff is like the Minister of the Environment hiring a pyromaniac to be fire chief.
    For six years Mr. Reid was the president of an organization that ridicules the science behind climate change.
    How can the Prime Minister tolerate that the chief advisor to the Minister of the Environment does not recognize the most significant environmental problem of our planet?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I know the Liberals would like to distract us from their record. Let us talk about that record on climate change and their priorities.
    The Liberals gave $2 million to the State Power Corporation of China to buy foreign credits. Last week I told the House about the $4.5 million the Liberals gave to Kazakhstan. Yesterday I told the House about the $5 million to the Asian Development Bank. Today I am telling the House about the $2 million to the State Power Corporation of China, all to buy foreign credits.
    That could have paid for anti-pollution technology and sewage treatment to protect the health of Canadians. That money should stay here at home.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we know that most Canadians want their government to respect the Kyoto protocol. That is true in Quebec and in the rest of the country.
    However, the minister working on replacing the Kyoto protocol with a so-called national plan said, after her meeting with energy sector leaders:

[English]

    “Quebec is not really a concern to me”.

[Translation]

    How dare the minister say that Quebec is not a concern to her?
    Why is the Prime Minister not denouncing these comments?
    Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that my comments were misinterpreted.
    I know that Quebeckers care about their environment and that is why they have to be part of our plan. We need a national plan that does not favour one province over another. Again, they have to wait until the plan is unveiled.

Softwood Lumber

    Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber industry is on its last gasp and the government is dragging its feet on implementing the agreement signed with the United States. The softwood industry in Quebec is waiting impatiently for reimbursement of the money that the agreement says will be paid. The agreement says that it is the government that must remit the money to the softwood lumber industry and then seek reimbursement from the United States.
     The agreement allows the government to reimburse the softwood industry immediately and then claim payment of the money owing from the United States, so why does it not do that?
    Mr. Speaker, this government is working to have the softwood lumber agreement adopted as quickly as possible.
     There is a process in the agreement. The Export Development Corporation has the job of encouraging payment of the funds to the companies, as soon as possible.
     I ask the Bloc Québécois to work with the government to have this agreement adopted as soon as possible, so that the companies can receive their funds.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, there is, strictly speaking, nothing to prevent the government from paying the money to the companies. The companies need it. It can do this right now and get reimbursed later.
     I do not understand the government of this Prime Minister, who, when he was in opposition, was calling for loan guarantees. Now that the agreement in principle has been signed, he is in a position to pay the money. The companies need it now. It was urgent in July; it is urgent now. What is he waiting for?
    Mr. Speaker, it is urgent, but it took six months for the leader of the Bloc Québécois to take a position on this agreement.
     It is essential to have this agreement adopted as quickly as possible. I ask the Bloc Québécois to work with us to pass Bill C-24, so that the companies can receive the funds provided by this government.
    Mr. Speaker, he has a very active imagination.
     In April, an agreement was supposedly signed. In June, it was not working. In July, it was rejected. It was signed around August 28. We responded within a few days, it did not take months. It had been urgent for a long time. Rather than rewriting history and trying to make people believe whatever he says, he should get some backbone. Jobs are at stake right now. Rather than engaging in blackmail, let him give the companies the money and get reimbursed later.
    Mr. Speaker, history is clear. This government and this Prime Minister took a position in April. It was September when the leader of the Bloc Québécois finally made a decision. This agreement has to be implemented as quickly as possible. I ask the Bloc Québécois to work with us so that this can finally happen.
    Mr. Speaker, the April agreement was rejected by the companies. The Prime Minister should know that. On August 21, the agreement was accepted. When the Prime Minister was in opposition, he was calling for loan guarantees. His agreement was signed on August 21. It has been delayed, mainly because of British Columbia. Now, in Quebec, the money is needed. This Prime Minister has the power, but he does not have the will.
    Mr. Speaker, the Quebec industry voted in favour of this agreement in April, when it was signed by this government.
     We are working as quickly as possible to get the funds to the companies, but we need this House and the support of the Bloc Québécois to do that.

Afghanistan

    Mr. Speaker, with regard to softwood lumber, it was a bad agreement in April, a bad agreement in September when the Bloc Québécois supported it, and it remains a bad agreement.

[English]

    More and more people are raising concerns and their voices about the war in Afghanistan because the strategy is not working. The most recent is a Republican senator, Mr. Bill Frist. He said that the Afghan war can never be won militarily and urged support to bring diplomacy to the forefront.
    Why will the Prime Minister not admit, as are Republicans admitting and even his own defence minister not too many weeks ago, that this war cannot be won militarily?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first of all I told the leader of the Bloc Québécois that we had his support for the softwood lumber agreement.

  (1430)  

[English]

    On the question of Afghanistan, the leader of the NDP knows well that the government has said that we will not win this simply militarily. Security and stability in Afghanistan are obviously part of a multi-faceted effort that the United Nations is engaged in.
    We are proud of the work that all of our public servants, but particularly our soldiers in uniform, are doing in Afghanistan. We support them and we are behind them.
    Mr. Speaker, this is the first time the Prime Minister has risen in the House and said that we need a multi-faceted and more balanced strategy in Afghanistan, and it is about time.

[Translation]

    The reality is that the current war strategy is not working. This is not only the NDP's position. Another Republican, Senator Martinez, also stated, “—a political solution is the way to settle all this”. That is what we said.
    Why is the Prime Minister so set on burying Canada in a mission that is not working?
    Mr. Speaker, it is the mission of all the members of the United Nations. I do not understand why the leader of the NDP is now quoting Republicans.

[English]

    But I can say this, and this is important. The government has been absolutely consistent. We are behind our troops in Afghanistan. They are doing great work. They are the good guys and all members of the House should be behind them.

[Translation]

Quebec

    Mr. Speaker, we thought we had heard it all from this far-right government, but it seems we have not. Now we know what the Minister of the Environment's chief of staff thinks of Quebec and Quebeckers. He criticized the Quiet Revolution and said he was afraid the rest of Canada might follow Quebec's bad example on marriage, sexual morality and abortion. Quebec has no reason to be ashamed of the society it has become.
    Does the Prime Minister endorse these defamatory and intolerant statements?

[English]

    Again, Mr. Speaker, this is just another distraction to ensure that Quebeckers do not see the record the Liberals actually had on the environment. I look forward to answering many more of these questions because I have enough of this material to keep me going for months.
    Last week I told the House about $4.5 million going to Kazakhstan, yesterday I mentioned the $5 million going to the Asian Development Bank and today I am telling members about $2 million going to the State Power Corporation of China, all to buy foreign credits. That was their priority on a Liberal file.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, recently, the Minister of the Environment said that she was not really that concerned about Quebec. In other words, she could care less. This is plain-spoken but it does not make up for her incompetence and intolerance with respect to Quebec. Furthermore, her chief of staff expressed fear that those evil Quebeckers might have a bad influence on the rest of the country. What a team—more Quebec bashing.
    The Prime Minister has only one option: stand up and apologize to all Quebeckers.
    Mr. Speaker, that is not true. Once again, I am sorry that my comments were misinterpreted.
    I know Quebeckers love their environment. That is why they should be part of our plan, but we do need a national plan for all Quebeckers and Canadians.

[English]

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, after promising Canadians they would be squeaky clean, the government has been anything but. Provincial Conservative operatives seem free to belly up to the patronage trough. The regional minister's office is rife with party insiders. However, the Prime Minister's partisan fingerprints are all over the appointment of the lieutenant governor, the wife of an influential party insider. The post represents the Queen, not a reward for political services.
    How can the Prime Minister explain this growing list of partisan political appointments?
    Mr. Speaker, Her Excellency Barbara Hagerman is a respected member of the Prince Edward Island arts and culture community and I am sure she will make an excellent choice as lieutenant governor of the province.
    Mr. Speaker, let us talk about the rest of the story. The husband of the new lieutenant governor admits he has close ties to the Conservatives and especially the Prime Minister. He worked on the Prime Minister's campaign for leader and was part of the first executive of the new party. In fact, they are so close that the Prime Minister spent last year's Canada Day on Mr. Hagerman's boat.
    Is this appointment a political reward? Will the Prime Minister curb his appetite for patronage pork? What about ethics? What about accountability?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, the lieutenant governor of Prince Edward Island is a prominent and excellently qualified lieutenant governor. This disgraceful attack on her by the member for Malpeque is nothing but cheap partisan politics.

[Translation]

Gun Control

    Mr. Speaker, a report released yesterday by a coalition of 600 NGOs brings to light major deficiencies in legislation on controlling arms shipments to countries that are under embargo or are responsible for massacres or human rights abuses. The report reveals that Canadian companies are circumventing the law by selling military equipment in its component parts.
    Is the Canadian government going to continue to close its eyes and stand by while parts sold to China are used to build weapons that are then resold to Sudan, or is it going to take steps to put an end to this trafficking?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Canada has an effective export control regime and is working in cooperation particularly with other states to see that non-proliferation regimes do not have arms going into these restricted areas like Sudan, and yet while we support in principle a comprehensive and legally binding conventional arms treaty that will prevent the illicit flow of arms into places like Sudan.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister is well aware that arms traffickers are getting around existing treaties by selling parts that are ultimately used to build weapons and military equipment.
    Does the government intend to cooperate on putting in place a treaty that covers such a use of parts?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have just said that we would support efforts to control the sale of illicit arms into restricted areas. Of course we want to see how that particular treaty would be drafted. We are certainly concerned that Sudan in particular would be a destination point for illegal arms. We know that in the past there have been arms used against the people of Sudan. To that extent, I am pleased to work with the member and all members to see that this does not happen in the future.

[Translation]

Maher Arar

    Mr. Speaker, despite the statements by the Minister of Public Safety, the letter he sent to the United States asking them to take Maher Arar's name off their list of suspects is in no way a letter of complaint. The recommendation in the O'Connor report demands more.
    Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs really think he can convince us that his colleague's letter is a formal complaint?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague the Minister of Public Safety has said as well, we are certainly going to look at all the recommendations of the report of Mr. Justice O'Connor. Those recommendations include, of course, speaking with the other two countries involved here, the United States as well as Syria. We intend to have those conversations. In fact, we do believe as well that those reports should also be in the hands of the two countries that participated in this travesty.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it seems clear to me that a letter is not a conversation, much less a formal complaint.
    Is the Minister of Public Safety claiming that in sending the letter, he formally complained to the United States, whereas he did not complain to Syria?
    Since the claims by the Minister of Public Safety do not hold up, I ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs what he is waiting for to immediately lodge a formal complaint with the United States and Syria, as the O'Connor report recommends?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are not waiting for anything. We are taking comprehensive action. We are not going to take a piecemeal approach to these recommendations. We are going to act responsibly. We are going to digest the full report and make sure that we make proper advances as far as the protection in the future of individuals like Mr. Arar who are treated so badly.
    I say to the hon. member, be patient. These things will certainly happen in the future. Canada will take proper steps to ensure that this does not happen again. Both the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister have taken decisive action on this file already.

  (1440)  

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday when I asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development why former Conservative cabinet minister Harvie Andre was awarded a sole source contract worth up to half a million dollars, he insulted the previous negotiator, a former Ontario premier, who actually has land claims experience.
    Will the minister explain why the government sidelined a person with experience in land claims, most recently in Caledonia, in favour of one of its cronies who has no land claims experience?
    I did confirm yesterday that when I became the minister I did dismiss Mr. Peterson as the northern devolution negotiator. Following a publicly advertised search, I hired a qualified person, a respected parliamentarian, business leader, community leader and academic. Not only is Mr. Andre more qualified and more able, his contract is for a mere $50,000 per year. The contract which I terminated paid $3.1 million over three years, a very Liberal contract.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, order. The hon. member for Churchill now has the floor for her supplementary question.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister has walked away from the Kelowna accord. He has reneged on the commitment to Kashechewan and abandoned the aboriginal procurement strategy. His government had a $13 billion surplus, and the minister could not even stand up for the first nations and Inuit tobacco control strategy, but somehow he could find up to half a million dollars for his Conservative buddy.
    Why is the minister awarding his friends and ignoring the needs of aboriginal people in Canada?
    How could the member possibly stand in this House? She should be embarrassed to get on her feet and call into question a contract that the Liberals awarded to a former Liberal premier, $3.1 million over three years, compared to a prudent contract with Mr. Andre, a respected Canadian, for $50,000. Accountability is what this government and this Prime Minister is about, not what we have seen from the Liberals.
    Mr. Speaker, there are more details about this contract, which actually ranged between $250,000 and $500,000, details the minister has not been offering to this House.
    Let us be clear. This sole source contract is not just another case of Mulroney-esque pork. This goes beyond the normal hypocrisy of the government and flagrant abuse of its own sanctimonious preaching.
    Through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, is it not true that the daughter and son-in-law of Mr. Andre, the beneficiary of this patronage pork, are none other than the president and director of the minister's own riding association?
    Mr. Speaker, if we are going to deal with the sort of malignant slander that comes from that side of the House, let us deal with the contract on the record, a $50,000 contract, not $500,000 as stated by the opposition. That compares to the $3.1 million contract, $1 million per year , for a Liberal, which is not accountable to the taxpayers of Canada. Moreover, the contract was such that we had to start from scratch with the table blank.

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, the party opposite promised to end patronage. It not only broke that promise, it became the king.
    Mr. Andre's son-in-law was not only the riding president, but he was also the co-chair of the minister's election campaign, and his daughter a director of the riding association. There is a direct conflict here involving the minister, riding officials and an abuse of taxpayers' dollars and trust.
    When is the Prime Minister going to end this embarrassment, finally demonstrate some accountability and tell his pork-barrelling apprentice, “You're fired”?
    Mr. Speaker, despite the slander that the Liberals may wish to throw, Mr. Andre is qualified. He is a respected Canadian. He is a respected parliamentarian. He is a former privy councillor. He is a respected business leader and community leader.
    The contract is defensible and it is a fraction of the cost of the contract that was awarded to the former Liberal premier of Ontario.

Government Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, in yet another Liberal scandal, the Public Service Commission today revealed that in the dying days of the corrupt Liberal regime, two senior ministerial staffers knowingly broke every rule in the book by trying to get gravy train appointments to the public service. These phantom positions were only created to defraud the Canadian taxpayer.
    What is Canada's new Conservative government doing to replace the Liberal culture of corruption with a culture of accountability?
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. President of the Treasury Board is rising to answer the question. Everyone is going to want to hear his answer.
    The President of the Treasury Board has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, we know that the Liberal culture of corruption did not end when Alfonso Gagliano left. It did not end when David Dingwall left. It did not end when André Ouellet left. It did not end with the Gomery report or the Auditor General's report. In the dying hours of the Liberal regime, instead of packing their bags, we learned in this report released today that the Liberals were once again breaking every rule in the book trying to get favoured Liberal patronage jobs for their friends. It is an absolute disgrace.
    The federal accountability act would put an end to this queue jumping by Liberal staffers and would clean up the Liberal--
    The hon. member for Trinity—Spadina.

Immigration and Refugee Board

    Mr. Speaker, speaking about patronage, as an immigrant woman, I was outraged by reports of sexual harassment by a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. This is not just about one Liberal crony, but is an indication of the breakdown of a sick system.
    Five years ago this House approved the refugee appeal division, but neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have acted. Will the minister finally take action and protect the most vulnerable from being abused?
    Mr. Speaker, I think we are all troubled by the allegations. This issue is under review by the RCMP, which is investigating. It is under review internally. If changes are necessary, we will work in concert with the IRB to make those changes. Our first priority is protecting the vulnerable.
    Mr. Speaker, no firm action is being announced. If there was ever a day to announce the reform of the immigration system process, today is it. This is about not just a personal scandal but a national disgrace. This will not be solved by replacing a Liberal crony with a Conservative crony. That will not work.
    Will the minister fix the system immediately and take away the absolute authority of these judges?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my friend that we take this matter very seriously. This is a tragedy for the people involved. Thankfully, the RCMP is investigating.
    I want to point out, though, that simply having another level of appeal does not resolve this situation. When bad people decide to do these things, it does not matter how many levels of appeal there are. It means that these people have tremendous power and we have to be very careful about whom we select to sit on these boards. We are going to take every step to make sure that people who sit on these boards are qualified and ethical.

  (1450)  

Government Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, the minority Conservative government is straining its credibility. It failed to report Conservative convention money. It violated the access to information rules. The Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary had to admit a deliberate disinformation campaign. Conservative insiders are using their privileged connections as stepping stones to private lobbying. Partisan patronage is exposed in virtually every ministry.
     Canadians are concerned by all these contradictions and double standards. When will the government walk its own talk?
    Mr. Speaker, that question is coming from a man who sat around the cabinet table with the likes of André Ouellet, David Dingwall and Alfonso Gagliano and said nothing during all those years of scandal.
    While he is on his feet in his supplementary, maybe he could tell Canadians how the income trust scandal investigation is going.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians will not be fooled by the minister's bluster. They recognize the Mike Harris style, the meanspirited right wing that left Ontario with massive legal problems like Ipperwash, with massive environmental problems like Walkerton, with massive economic problems like a $5 billion hidden public debt, and that minister with massive ethical problems like millions for partisan advertising and personal image consultants.
    Will the minister at least promise that he will not do to Canada what he did to Ontario?
    Mr. Speaker, what we on this side of the House and people in Ontario genuinely hope is that Bob Rae does not do to Canada what he did to Ontario.
    When the member for Wascana talks about thousands of dollars for an image makeover for this member, it never happened. If it had, I would be the first one to ask for a value for money audit.

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, the court challenges program allowed francophone and anglophone communities to assume their proper place, which is rightfully theirs, within Canada.
    How does the Prime Minister plan to implement Bill S-3, which obliges the federal government and its agencies to comply with the Official Languages Act and allow minority communities to bring legal action against the government when violations occur, to ensure that their rights are protected?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my colleague from Nova Scotia that, if the Liberals believe that any provincial or federal legislation fails to respect the Constitution, they should explicitly say so.

[English]

    Human rights are very important. Perhaps the member from Nova Scotia could stand in his place and explain the outrageous allegations levelled by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, who has charged that he has faced bigotry and discrimination because he is not Canadian enough. Maybe the member opposite could explain those comments.
    Mr. Speaker, the outgoing Commissioner of Official Languages, Dyane Adam, denounced the cuts to this fund. The chairman of the board of the fund indicated that more often than not the challenges were to provincial laws rather than federal laws. Such was the case that got us French language instruction in Nova Scotia. Such was the case that got us French language health services in Ontario.
    Perhaps this is retribution for Harper versus Canada, where the Prime Minister was embarrassed. Perhaps it is retribution for the Montcalm, where he and other provincial ministers were embarrassed. The minister still talks about federal laws. Will he apologize for misleading Canadians?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, all of us in the House want to ensure that human rights are respected. We want to ensure that the Constitution and the charter are respected. That is the job of Canada's government to defend.
    The previous government wanted a program to fund Liberal lawyers to challenge its own government. We on this side of the House accept our constitutional responsibilities.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, on September 21, 2006, my colleague from Compton—Stanstead asked the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development if she will extend the transitional measures intended to alleviate the adverse effects of the reorganization of the economic boundaries for EI in eastern Quebec. The minister dodged the question at the time and responded with her usual mantra, that is, that she would make informed decisions at the appropriate time regarding the boundaries. October 7 is not far off; the time has come.
    Can the minister tell us what decisions she has made regarding the reorganization and the extension of transitional measures? October 7 is only four days away.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are very aware of the deadlines of the transitional measures. That is why we have been working very hard to try to make sure that we have a program in place within the deadlines. We are still working toward that deadline.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we are running out of time. The deadline is October 7, which is in four days. The minister must act now.
    Does the government realize that the workers in those areas affected by the softwood lumber crisis are the same workers who are seriously penalized by the delays related to the economic boundaries reorganization and the delay in extending transitional measures?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are very aware of how important the transitional measures are. They have been extended several times over the last several years. We are also aware that over the long term we must have a complete review of all of the EI boundaries. This would be a first step in that process.

Maher Arar Inquiry

    Mr. Speaker, last week the RCMP commissioner testified to the public safety committee that the RCMP had only 24 hours to produce its report on Maher Arar for the government, inferring the short deadline led to inaccuracies and omissions.
    We know that Justice O'Connor states that the RCMP in fact had nine full days. Is the Minister of Public Safety concerned that the RCMP commissioner has either misled the committee or has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to the damaging and inaccurate report about Mr. Arar to the Government of Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, this entire affair, which took place under the former administration of the Liberal government, is of concern to us. That is why, right from the start, we have embraced all 23 recommendations of Justice O'Connor. We have also said, and we agree with Justice O'Connor, that inaccuracies have to be dealt with, and they will continue to be dealt with.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, in a speech given on May 4, 2006, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said, “I believe that the Prime Minister and his government are committed to closing the gaps identified in health, education, housing and economic opportunity”.
    My question is for the Minister of Indian Affairs. What is Canada's new government doing to address the education needs of our first nations?
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to address a question of substance. This government has been working very closely with the Government of British Columbia, with FNESS and with a first nation-driven education authority. We are exceeding educational outcomes, which will be commensurate with those of other Canadians.
    Education is key to eliminating the cycle of poverty that afflicts so many aboriginal Canadians. Premier Campbell has taken leadership on this.
     In budget 2006, the government put forward a total of $450 million, part of which will be put forward for educational outcomes. I encourage the members opposite to work at committee to see this project through.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, over the last number of months of watching the environment minister bungle the job like the last environment minister, one is reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
    There is no green auto strategy while thousands of Canadian auto workers have lost their jobs. How many more jobs have to go out the door before the minister even bothers to walk over and pinch the Minister of Industry awake so that he actually gets on the file? We have lost so many jobs while the minister refuses to pronounce on any kind of green auto strategy for this country.

  (1500)  

    In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Industry, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Transport and I are meeting with the auto manufacturers this evening to discuss our environment policy.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians can be forgiven for a certain amount of déjà vu, because not only just 18 months ago did the current environment minister, along with the former environment minister, vote against an NDP motion to cut greenhouse gas emissions, she still cannot get tough on the issues. She still will not show up and do her job.
    When is she going to deliver a climate change plan? When is she going to get out of her binder and actually bring something worthwhile to this Parliament?
    Mr. Speaker, let us talk about action on the environment instead of rhetoric, because that is what Canadians want to see.
     While the NDP was sending out press releases, it took only a few short months for our government to become the first country in the world to ban the use of PFCAs, a toxic chemical that causes cancer in Canadians. What did we get for that? Our action led to an endorsement by the Canadian Cancer Society, which said “we welcome this action”.
    This is the kind of action that Canadians want on the environment file and this is the kind of action that our government will continue to deliver.

Maher Arar Inquiry

    Mr. Speaker, let us go back to that question and the non-answer by the minister. Either the RCMP Commissioner has misled the committee or has not bothered, even to this day, to get to the bottom of what the RCMP did to cover up this shoddy investigation.
    The hon. member for Leeds—Grenville, the hon. member's colleague, said in committee that the RCMP's report was “riddled with inaccuracies and omissions” and is to him “the product of incompetence, negligence, or deliberate deception”.
    Very simply, does the hon. minister agree with the wisdom of his Conservative member?
    Mr. Speaker, it was Justice O'Connor who pointed out very clearly that there were many inaccuracies involved in this whole situation while it was under the auspices of the former federal Liberal government. Those inaccuracies are one of the reasons that the whole inquiry was put in place.
    We are even going to continue that. We are following one of the recommendations, which is that further inquiries should go into investigative processes, especially around the three other individuals who were named in that report. We are continuing this pursuit.

Canada-U.S. Border

    Mr. Speaker, the former Liberal government failed to address Canadians' concerns on the United States-led western hemisphere travel initiative.
    Could the Minister of Public Safety comment on the decision of the U.S. Congress to delay implementation of new identification measures at the Canada-U.S. land border until 2009?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right. This move by the U.S. to require a passport for everybody going into the United States was in play for almost two years. While the former Liberal administration was in government, it did nothing.
    Our Prime Minister made this a priority. So did the Minister of Foreign Affairs. So did MPs and elected people on both sides of the borders and so did business groups. What has been accomplished is something that the opposition said could not be done. An implementation date has been put back almost a year and a half.
    The issue is not over. We still have a way to go, but there is a great accomplishment so far because of the Prime Minister, this government and a lot of other people.

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Victor Alcides Bogado Gonzalez, President of the Chamber of Deputies of Paraguay.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Government Orders

[Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion--Status of Women  

    The House resumed from September 28 consideration of the motion.
    It being 3:04 p.m., pursuant to order made on Thursday, September 28, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the member for Beaches—East York relating to the business of supply.
    Call in the members.

  (1515)  

[Translation]

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

(Division No. 36)

YEAS

Members

Alghabra
André
Angus
Asselin
Atamanenko
Bachand
Bagnell
Bains
Barbot
Barnes
Beaumier
Bélanger
Bell (Vancouver Island North)
Bell (North Vancouver)
Bellavance
Bennett
Bevington
Bigras
Black
Blais
Bonin
Bonsant
Boshcoff
Bourgeois
Brison
Brown (Oakville)
Brunelle
Byrne
Cannis
Cardin
Carrier
Chan
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Coderre
Comartin
Cotler
Crête
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cuzner
Davies
DeBellefeuille
Demers
Deschamps
Dewar
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dosanjh
Duceppe
Easter
Eyking
Faille
Gagnon
Gaudet
Gauthier
Godfrey
Godin
Goodale
Graham
Guay
Guimond
Holland
Jennings
Julian
Kadis
Karetak-Lindell
Keeper
Kotto
Laforest
Laframboise
Lapierre
Lavallée
Layton
Lee
Lemay
Lessard
Lévesque
Loubier
Lussier
MacAulay
Malhi
Malo
Maloney
Marleau
Marston
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Mathyssen
Matthews
McDonough
McGuinty
McTeague
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Merasty
Minna
Mourani
Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Nadeau
Nash
Ouellet
Owen
Paquette
Patry
Perron
Peterson
Picard
Plamondon
Priddy
Proulx
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rota
Roy
Russell
Savoie
Scarpaleggia
Sgro
Siksay
Silva
Simard
St-Hilaire
St. Amand
St. Denis
Steckle
Stoffer
Stronach
Szabo
Telegdi
Temelkovski
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Thibault (West Nova)
Tonks
Valley
Vincent
Wilson
Wrzesnewskyj

Total: -- 145

NAYS

Members

Abbott
Albrecht
Allen
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Arthur
Baird
Batters
Benoit
Bernier
Bezan
Blackburn
Blaney
Boucher
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Calkins
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cannon (Pontiac)
Carrie
Casey
Casson
Chong
Clement
Cummins
Davidson
Day
Devolin
Doyle
Emerson
Epp
Fast
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Goldring
Goodyear
Gourde
Grewal
Guergis
Hanger
Harper
Harris
Harvey
Hawn
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Jaffer
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lemieux
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Manning
Mark
Mayes
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
Obhrai
Oda
Paradis
Petit
Poilievre
Prentice
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Richardson
Ritz
Scheer
Schellenberger
Shipley
Skelton
Smith
Solberg
Sorenson
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Toews
Trost
Turner
Tweed
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Williams
Yelich

Total: -- 118

PAIRED

Members

Bouchard
Freeman
Lalonde
O'Connor
St-Cyr
Tilson
Van Loan
Wallace

Total: -- 8

    I declare the motion carried.

[English]

    Order, please. I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded division, government orders will be extended by 12 minutes.

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a brief point of order arising from question period.
    During question period, the House leader of the official opposition, the member for Wascana, said that I had apologized for having deliberately misled the House, or words to that effect.
    I would like to put on the record that I said no such thing. I believe it is still unparliamentary to accuse a member of having deliberately misled the House. I did not do so and, therefore, did not apologize.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA Identification

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, I stand to speak to Bill C-18, which is a bit of an omnibus bill but a small omnibus bill, with regard to the use of DNA technology in our criminal justice system.
    As we heard earlier today from the minister, the bill is specifically designed to address a number of points that were missed when we initially set up the system back in 2000 and then again in the 2004-05 Parliament when we had some rather significant amendments to the bill that passed and became law. Even since then it has become clear that additional amendments need to be made.
    I must admit that I approach this bill with some trepidation in terms of expressing support for it. I believe the government is once again, when it comes to bills that are related to crime in this country, to the Criminal Code, to a criminal justice system, taking a piecemeal approach that is not justified by the reality of what we are confronted with in this House and, in particular, with what we are confronted with in the justice committee and the huge agenda because of the large number of individual bills that are coming from the government. Unfortunately, this bill is another example of this happening.
    It is particularly compounded in this case because we were mandated, under the legislation that was passed to set up the DNA registry, to do a parliamentary review of that at the five year mark. The five year mark expired in 2005. The previous Liberal government did not get to this review and the present government still has not announced when we are supposed to be doing that.
    Bill C-18 should be part of that overall review that we will be doing. We will end up duplicating significantly the amount of time that we spend on the issue of a DNA registry because of this.
    This is also a flagrant example of some hypocrisy on the part of the government, which, when in opposition, had a number of private members' bill, one of which was sponsored by a member of the current cabinet and would have set up additions to the registry. The bill was entitled Lindsey's Law and it would have set up a separate registry for samples of DNA found at crime scenes that had the potential to be samples of deceased individuals.
    We have the tragedy of family members, loved ones and close friends disappearing but we have no way of using the DNA technology that we have, which would be very useful in tracing these people.
    The concept of setting up this separate registry has all party support and yet the government did not see its way clear to include that provision in this bill so we could consider it at committee at this time. The government did not do the overall review. It is being done piecemeal again just on these limited number of sections and it ignores what has been a long-standing policy on its part to create this new registry. It completely ignores it.
    When we asked the minister about it earlier today, his response was “we'll get to that some other time”. That is simply not acceptable. It almost begs the question of where the government is going with regard to the criminal justice system. How is it dealing effectively with crime problems in this country? As I say, it begs the question, but the answer is fairly obvious. The government does not know where it is going and it is not doing it at all effectively or efficiently.

  (1520)  

    I will now speak specifically to the provisions of the bill. As I have said, we have no problem approving the bill in principle and then having it go over to the justice committee. The bill would fill in some problems with the existing infrastructure of the DNA system but we do have some concerns and we will be raising them in committee.
    The amendments we passed, which became law in 2005, had some retroactive provisions. The concern at committee at that time was that those retroactive provisions may contravene the charter. We do not know, and I am not sure the government knows, whether there have been any challenges to that section. However, if there have been it brings into question the retroactive provisions that are now in this bill that will cover a relatively small number of charges but where we will be getting samples from people who have already been convicted and are currently incarcerated. This is one of the issues we will need to raise.
    Several other provisions raise issues of privacy and our rights under the charter. With regard to one of the issues, which is only an example because there are several others, there are provisions within the bill that would allow the DNA data bank to release information where the sample that is being examined is not a match that needs the top standard. We have various standards in this regard. We obviously have provisions where there is no match at all. We have provisions where it is a match almost to a full 100% and then we have gradations in-between.
    What the bill proposes is that the data bank be allowed to communicate information on a sample where it has only been a moderate match. As that may raise a charter issue it will need to be explored at committee to see whether we can tighten up the language or perhaps not provide for it at all.
    The other provision I have spoken to in the House is the provision that would allow for facilitating of court orders that direct the destruction of DNA samples because they were taken improperly. Usually that occurs where the sample was taken relative to a crime that was not within the regime of the existing legislation. The difficulty we have is that when we took evidence in the 2004-05 Parliament, it was clear from the people at the data bank that it posed a significant problem, because in the destruction of certain samples others may be destroyed. We will need to explore that matter.
    However, if that does go through, there is an additional problem in that the bill would allow the prosecutor, the crown, to apply for the destruction of the sample taken improperly but it would not require the government to provide any notice to the individual whose sample was taken and whose sample is now being proposed to be destroyed. Out of fairness, if the sample was taken improperly, the individual should be notified that it will no longer be on the record. I think that is an issue around privacy and, quite frankly, just fairness that they be given that notice.
     One of the big issues that we will be debating when we get to the review of the existing legislation from 2000 will be the issue of whether we will be expanding the number of crimes for which people have been convicted for which samples can be taken. The system works right now on a two tiered basis but all of the crimes that are under the regime now are quite serious crimes: murder, attempted murder, serious sexual assault, serious physical assault and crimes of that nature.

  (1525)  

    We have seen other regimes, notably the U.K. but also a number of the states in the U.S., that have extensively expanded the use of taking samples for DNA. The committee was a bit shocked when we heard that in England the authorities can demand and obtain samples of DNA from an individual who has been charged with not a crime but a quasi-crime, which is a driving offence under the highway traffic act.
    We will get into debate on how far, if at all, we will be extending the list of crimes where samples can be ordered and taken.
    We are doing that, though, in the bill. It says to me that we should be doing the review at this time rather than waiting to do it some indefinite time in the future, because we are expanding the list of crimes. We are adding at least two more and potentially one or two that are subcrimes under that.
    It is a situation where the process we are going through is very inefficient. I believe it does not allow the House, the committee and, ultimately, the country the opportunity to do that review of the 2000 legislation, of the regime that we have now. I recognize, quite clearly, that a number of the reservations we had back in 2000 were constitutional and charter issues.
    We have had the decision in R. v. Rogers earlier in the spring this year when I believe we had a clear signal from the Supreme Court of Canada, where that decision ended up, that some of the reservations we had earlier are no longer applicable, but it is not a blank cheque. As opposed to what I heard from the minister this morning, I believe the Supreme Court still has some reservations about the use of DNA in certain charges, such as the lower end charges, around the issue of privacy and civil liberties.
    We should not be dealing with the bill in the absence of a full review because we need to strike a balance. I am concerned that we are going ahead with these amendments at this time without fully considering where we properly strike that balance. The Supreme Court has made it very clear, as it did in Rogers and other decisions, that there is a fundamental issue here of invasion of the person's privacy, particularly when we take blood samples to be used for DNA purposes, but even when we take a swab of saliva or other bodily substances.
    As we took evidence from other parts of the world, notably the U.K. and the United States, it was interesting to see how effective this can be as a tool for our police officers and our police agencies, both in terms of obtaining convictions and in terms of establishing innocence at early stages.
    In some of the wrongful conviction cases we have had in Canada, the primary ability that we had to overturn those wrongful convictions came from the use of the DNA data bank that we had at that time and the use of that technology. In Canada we know particularly well that it can be used not just for convictions, but for assisting in clearing people, oftentimes, at a very early stage.
    There is no question that we want to proceed with this. The real issue is the message that we need to send to the government that it has to stop doing the legislative process this way, that when we are looking at a problem that involves crime or the criminal justice system, we badly need to look at it in its full context. We need to use omnibus bills of legislation in this area much more often.
    Every time I get on my feet to speak to a new bill I have repeatedly said that we badly need to have a complete revamping of our Criminal Code and other bills, such as our drug legislation. We have needed that for probably 20 years. Some sections in the Criminal Code are completely contradictory and are, in a large number of cases, confusing. It is much too long and there is a great of duplication.

  (1530)  

    I cannot help but point out that one of the groups that could have assisted us with that was the Law Commission. It was one of the duties we could have assigned it in preparing what would have been a draft policy paper on how the code needed to be revamped.
     This allows me to get in a pitch for the need to have the government overturn that decision and reinstate the Law Commission so it can take this responsibility on. It is clear that the government does not have the ability or even the inclination to do it. Therefore, we can assign it to somebody else and the job, hopefully, will get done in a reasonable period of time.
    In summation, we, as a party, are supporting, in principle, the bill going to committee. I have certain reservations, both around the retroactivity and privacy and charter issues. I believe those can be resolved relatively easily at the committee. Hopefully, we can look forward to a time when the government gets its head wrapped around the reality of the need for omnibus legislation in our criminal justice system.

Points of Order

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006—Speaker's Ruling 

[Speaker's Ruling]
    Before I call for questions and comments on the hon. member's speech, I would like to deal with a point of order raised this morning by the hon. member for Vancouver East, relating to the motion adopted by the House under the provisions of Standing Order 56.1. The hon. member contended that the motion was inadmissible and that it was not being used as a routine business motion aimed at fixing the sitting or adjournment times of the House, or arranging its proceedings, but that it was tantamount to a motion for time allocation or closure. I believe the words she used were that the motion was designed to “cut off the debate”. In her argument, she quoted from a ruling I delivered in 2001, in which I expressed concern that Standing Order 56.1 was being used for purposes that had not been envisaged when the Standing Order was adopted.
    The House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 571, describes Standing Order 56.1 as follows:

[Translation]

    If, at any time during a sitting of the House, unanimous consent is denied for the presentation of a “routine motion”, a minister may request during Routine Proceedings that the Speaker put the motion. For that purpose, a “routine motion” refers to motions which may be required for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the management of its business, the arrangement of its proceedings, the establishment of the powers of its committees, the correctness of its records or the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment. The motion, which is neither debatable nor amendable, is immediately put to the House by the Speaker. If 25 members or more oppose the motion, it is deemed withdrawn; otherwise, it is adopted.

[English]

    In the case before the House, a motion has been adopted that the House “shall not be adjourned before such proceedings have been completed”. This is meant to apply to a motion for second reading of a bill, a motion, I might add, to which an amendment and a subamendment have been moved. As was seen earlier today, debate has ended on the subamendment and a vote is scheduled tomorrow at the conclusion of government orders. So the House is left with an amendment and the main motion. In fact, the effect of the motion is not unlike the effect of adopting a motion under Standing Order 26, which provides for the continuation of debate on a matter before the House, which is to say that it provides for an open-ended extension of the sitting for purposes of continuing debate on a particular matter. This, it can be argued, can be seen as the House managing its business and arranging its proceedings.
    As I read the motion moved by the hon. the government House leader and adopted by the House, every member wishing to speak to the amendment and the main motion, who has not already done so, will be able to participate. The motion does not set a deadline for completion of the proceedings, as would be the case under time allocation or closure. Instead it simply extends the sitting of the motion then before the House. That is a significant difference. The precedents available to me, including my own previous rulings, are therefore insufficient in my view for me to rule the motion out of order on this occasion.
    This does not, however, take away from the concerns raised by the member for Vancouver East about the nature of the motions moved pursuant to Standing Order 56.1. My predecessor and I have both encouraged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the appropriate use of the Standing Order. To date I am not aware of any report by that committee on this question.
    I thank the hon. member for Vancouver East for bringing this matter to the attention of the House, but I believe the motion, as adopted, is in order.

  (1535)  

An Act to Amend Certain Acts in Relation to DNA Identification

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, as the member pointed out in his comments, we have seen many justice bills, and I would like to thank him for his participation in them.
    This bill is a reintroduction of a bill from the last Parliament, Bill C-72, technical amendments to the DNA database. The member may want to refresh our memory about the general mood of the House with regard to the importance of the DNA database as a tool to assist authorities in the resolution of matters of a criminal or judicial nature.
    I would conclude that if they are technical amendments, the member has raised some interesting points and there may be a good basis for having the bill go to committee to complete the work that was started in the last Parliament.
    The member raised one question, and I ask him for some clarification. He shared some concern about the number of justice bills raised and whether there was some ulterior motive or some concern about the volume in that it was affecting the ability of Parliament to function.
    Mr. Speaker, in my speech yesterday I raised the point about the ulterior motives of the government.
    My colleague made the point that this bill was in draft form in the last Parliament. Therefore, it is not part of what I see as a clear intention on the part of the government to piecemeal hot button crime issues into the House one bill at a time, with no expectation that we will get through them before the next federal general election, which we all know will be upon us sooner rather than later. Matters already before the justice committee have been prioritized. They are so extensive that anything coming out now, including probably this bill, is not going to get back to the House before there is another federal election.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh raised a couple of points in his speech about the retroactive provisions, about the very real need for a review of the Criminal Code and about some of the constitutional and privacy issues. Toward the end of his speech he eluded specifically to the usefulness of the Law Commission and how it could have been used in these circumstances. Under the cuts announced by the Conservative government last week, the Law Commission is on the chopping block.
    Could the member talk about the specific role the Law Commission could have played in this issue as well as perhaps in the whole review of the Criminal Code?
    Mr. Speaker, a day or two after the Treasury Board announcement of these cuts, and specifically the killing of the Law Commission, one of the witnesses before the justice committee was from the National Chiefs of Police Association. He made the same point I just made with regard to the need for an omnibus review of the Criminal Code. The piecemeal approach being taken by the government is disliked by the police association because it is confusing for the association, its officers and the general administration of justice.
    I asked him if he knew of anybody in the country, other than the Law Commission, that would have the ability to prepare a model criminal code, a policy paper in effect, on how we would restructure the Criminal Code. He did not know of any other group that would be capable of doing that, and this is a very accurate answer.
     I am not aware of any other group, other than the Law Commission, that would have the ability to bring together the resources in our country to prepare an omnibus review, which we so badly need, of our criminal justice system and specifically of the Criminal Code.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we support this bill. However, I find it a bit worrisome to be expanding the powers of the RCMP with regard to managing the transmittal of genetic information in view of the O'Connor report tabled in this House
    This report revealed that serious errors were committed by the RCMP. Justice O'Connor discovered, in his inquiry, that false information about Maher Arar had been forwarded by the RCMP to the American authorities, leading to the deportation of Mr. Arar to Syria. As a result of this false information sent by the Canadian government to the American government, Mr. Arar was tortured.
    It is becoming extremely urgent for the RCMP to assume its responsibilities in this matter. This is not happening as no one has been accused. Thus, I am concerned because by supporting this bill we will also be sanctioning the transmittal of genetic information from Canada to other countries.
    How can we control the dissemination of this genetic information? My question is for the NDP member. How can we prevent other mistakes, such as those involving Maher Arar and others that have occurred in the past, from being made? How can we amend this bill to avoid these pitfalls?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc Québécois for his question.
    There is no system that can ensure that the RCMP or other police force operates without making mistakes. However, we can establish rules to control them.
    My colleague has raised a good point as one of the suggested amendments to this bill would allow police officers and the DNA bank to provide genetic information to foreign police. This would be a first and could give rise to a potential problem that we will be studying in committee.
    Once again, there is no system that is absolutely perfect. Yet, we will continue to try.

  (1545)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have the great pleasure today of speaking in favour of Bill C-18 and in favour of sending Bill C-18 to the committee for further study.
    The National DNA Data Bank is a great Canadian success story. It has assisted the police in their investigations of thousands of serious crimes. It is making an invaluable contribution to the safety of all Canadians. This bill can only increase that success.
    Much of what I will say will be familiar to those who were involved in the debate on former bill C-13 in the last Parliament, and in particular, to members who were on the standing committee during its hearings into the bill because, as the minister stated, this bill paves the way for the proclamation of former Bill C-13. Nevertheless, it is important to outline for all members the way the legislation and the DNA system work.
    The National DNA Data Bank carries out four principal functions and assists law enforcement agencies in solving crimes by one, linking crimes together where there are no suspects. The DNA data bank would advise the police forces involved so that they can compare notes on their respective investigations.
    Two, it helps to identify suspects. When the DNA data bank provides a match between a crime scene profile and a convicted offender profile, the police agency is advised and it can focus its investigations on that identified offender.
    Three, it assists by in fact eliminating suspects where there is no match between crime scene DNA and a profile in the data bank. This is often overlooked in debate about the DNA registry or amendments to the legislation impacting on the DNA registry, but a DNA registry has been used to eliminate suspects and in fact exonerate people. A lack of a match tells the police that none of the 100,000 convicted offenders whose DNA is in the data bank was involved.
    Last, the DNA data bank is used to determine whether a serial offender is involved. The DNA bank would advise the police force that several crimes appear to have been committed by the same person. This is a very important fact indeed when police are assessing a certain criminal act as it is certainly helpful in their investigation to know whether it is someone who is acting in a repetitive or serial way.
    As David Griffin, an executive officer of the Canadian Police Association, told the standing committee during hearings on former Bill C-13:
    DNA analysis has proven to be a breakthrough technology in policing and the administration of justice. It is a science that assists in detecting and convicting offenders and acquitting the innocent. In serious police investigations, the cost savings in reducing the time spent on investigations and in identifying and confirming or eliminating suspects can be extraordinary. This is particularly important in crimes such as child abductions by strangers, where precious hours can be critical to finding the victim alive.
    DNA orders can only be made against an offender for a limited number of offences. Judges retain a discretion to refuse to make an order in all but the most serious cases. The use of the information is strictly limited to the investigation of criminal offences. That again is an important fact that is often overlooked by those who would criticize the national DNA data bank, that it is only used for the investigation of criminal offences.
    Bill C-18 does not change the fundamentals of the Criminal Code DNA provisions and the DNA Identification Act. The five year parliamentary review that is yet to begin is the proper form for considering more far-reaching changes. This bill is limited to technical improvements to the existing system.
    The minister has already spoken of the ringing endorsement of the present legislation by the Supreme Court in the Rodgers case. Members can be assured that this bill is consistent with the charter. Moreover, the strong protections for privacy which are built into the scheme are also unchanged.

  (1550)  

    Canada has probably the strongest protections against the misuse of our DNA profiles, stronger in fact than any other country. In particular, the legislation provides that bodily samples collected pursuant to a DNA data bank authorization for inclusion in the National DNA Data Bank may only be used for forensic DNA analysis. Unused portions of bodily samples are required to be safely stored at the National DNA Data Bank.
    Further, it is a criminal offence to use bodily samples or results of forensic DNA analysis obtained under a DNA data bank authorization other than for the transmission to the National DNA Data Bank. A breach of that provision is a hybrid offence that is subject to a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment when prosecuted by indictment.
    Use of DNA profiles and bodily samples at the National DNA Data Bank is strictly limited to the narrow purposes of comparing offender profiles with crime scene profiles. Any use of stored information or bodily samples or communication of information that they may contain is strictly limited to the narrow identification purposes of the act. Again, this is something that is often lost on those who are critical of the data bank. In fact, any breach of those provisions is a criminal offence subject to a maximum of two years' imprisonment.
    Communication of information as to whether a person's DNA profile is contained in the offenders index may only be made to appropriate law enforcement agencies or laboratories for investigative purposes or to authorized users of the RCMP automated conviction records retrieval system.
     Although the seized bodily samples are retained for safekeeping in the DNA data bank after analysis, they may only be used for further forensic DNA analysis where significant technological advances have been made since the time the original DNA profile was derived. The results of such subsequent DNA analysis and any residue of the bodily sample are subject to the same rigid controls as the original profile and the original sample.
    The sharing of DNA profiles with foreign governments and international organizations is only allowed for legitimate law enforcement purposes and only pursuant to specific agreements that must include safeguards to protect the privacy of the personal information disclosed.
    I repeat that these legal protections are untouched by Bill C-18. All of those protections that protect the rights of Canadians against any possible misuse of the DNA data bank or any use outside of aiding our police in the protection of Canadians and society as a whole is unchanged and untouched by Bill C-18. In practice, they are buttressed by the procedural safeguards developed by the National DNA Data Bank.
    By international agreement the DNA analysis process used by the data bank and other data banks in the world examines only a small segment of the entire human DNA blueprint. Scientists internationally have chosen 13 loci to analyze because there is a wide variation in those among the world's population. The DNA that is analyzed is often called anonymous DNA because apart from the ability to identify gender, there is no link to physical or medical attributes. Therefore, the profile generated by the DNA data bank will not reveal a person's hair, skin or eye colour.
    The variations mean that except for identical twins, every person's DNA is unique. It is this power to identify a person beyond a shadow of a doubt that makes the DNA data bank and data collection such a valuable tool for law enforcement. It can identify an individual beyond a doubt.
    The RCMP has developed internal procedures to ensure that there is no manipulation of the data. Upon receipt of a kit, the data bank separates the genetic material from the personal data. The biological sample and the identifying information are given the same unique bar code. The data bank keeps the biological sample and analyzes it. The personal information and full set of fingerprints of convicted offenders are sent to the Canadian Criminal Records Information Services, which retains them under strict security provisions. Therefore, the data bank has no idea whose sample it is analyzing or, in the case of a match, which convicted offender is linked to the crime scene.

  (1555)  

     It is important to emphasize that we have gone to great lengths to separate the information contained in the DNA sample and the information attributed to the person to whom that DNA belongs. It simply advises Canadian Criminal Records Information Services of the bar code and the service retrieves the identifying information and sends it to the laboratory that uploaded the profile to the crime scene index. It is of course not possible for unauthorized persons to enter the data bank or the Criminal Records Information Services to view or retrieve data.
    The National DNA Data Bank's website has a wealth of information about how it actually operates and about the history and science behind it. I also hope that the members of the standing committee who have not had the opportunity to tour the National DNA Data Bank will arrange to do so. I know the staff would be most happy to show them how the system works and to answer all their questions. Certainly a tour of the data bank made it much easier for members who were considering former Bill C-13 to understand the submissions of the witnesses and to formulate their recommendations for amendments.
    Finally, I remind the House that a National DNA Data Bank Advisory Committee has been established by regulation. Its membership includes eminent scientists, specialists in privacy and human rights law, and a former justice of the Supreme Court. The committee's duties encompass any matter related to the establishment and operation of the DNA data bank.
    Members will find much wisdom in the reports that the advisory committee has made over the years. Members of the advisory committee will, I trust, be witnesses when the parliamentary review of the legislation gets under way.
    I now wish to turn to some of the specifics of Bill C-18. Fundamentally, the effectiveness of the National DNA Data Bank depends on three factors: one, the number of profiles from crime scenes; two, the number of profiles from convicted offenders; and three, the resources of the police to pursue leads generated by the data bank.
    Upon passage of Bill C-18 and the proclamation of former Bill C-13, there will be many more offenders eligible for a DNA data bank order and the police will be able to upload many more crime scene profiles to the National DNA Data Bank. This will undoubtedly lead to more matches between crime scene samples and the convicted offender samples and more matches between crime scenes. That is ultimately the goal of the DNA data bank, to provide those matches.
    As for the resources of the police, we earmarked $15 million over two years to increase the capacity of the National DNA Data Bank to process convicted offender samples and the capacity of the regional laboratories to process crime scene samples. Without these additional resources and without the changes proposed in Bill C-18, the proclamation of former Bill C-13 would be largely ineffective in achieving Parliament's purpose.
    Former Bill C-13, however, contained flaws that required correction. The previous government introduced former Bill C-72 to correct problems in Bill C-13. That bill would have one, re-enacted the definition so as to make the various amendments fit together in a logical order; two, changed the forms to reflect the changes made in the procedures for obtaining an order in retroactive proceedings; three, ensured that the commissioner provided further information regarding a possible match only at the request of the laboratory or police; and finally, corrected a difference in the French and English versions of the section authorized in the international sharing of DNA profiles.
    Former Bill C-72 contained many other changes to the drafting of Bill C-13 and two procedural changes requested by the provinces to reduce cost: a provision to permit retroactive hearings by video; and a simpler defective order procedure that would have eliminated the application to a court of appeal for the order to be quashed and substituted certification by the attorney general. These changes are reintroduced in Bill C-18 which is before us today. It contains, as the minister has said, many further clarifications and improvements that have been suggested by officials since former Bill C-72 was tabled.
    Members should be aware that it will take several months for the provinces to be ready. They have to train their prosecutors, police, court administrators and clerical staff in the new procedures. Understandably, they will not begin that process until the bill has received royal assent.

  (1600)  

    We believe the House should move swiftly to send Bill C-18 to committee and it is therefore with pleasure that I urge the House to give Bill C-18 second reading.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the hon. member on his comments in support of the bill.
    There is, as he will know as parliamentary secretary an as a member of the House, a private member's bill proposed by the member for Burlington who is proposing that the DNA registry or a form of the DNA registry be used with the hope that the families of the disappeared victims might be able to bring closure to their unhappy family circumstances.
    The parliamentary secretary will also know that the government of which he is a part has suggested in the House that a royal recommendation would be required for that bill. Therefore it might seem unlikely that the government is in support of helping victims' families bring closure or perhaps find persons who are missing.
    Does he see a way in committee or otherwise that this bill or a homologue might be the way to go. As parliamentary secretary for the department, I would suggest that much of what goes on in that department is under his able stewardship.
    Does he see a way that the two objectives of maintaining privacy and therefore the vent against self-incrimination possibilities on the one hand, and on the other hand attempting to have families bring closure to what must be very painful circumstances, the latter of which the government does not appear to be supporting?
    I would ask for his comments on those questions.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe for his question and for his work on the justice committee which will be considering Bill C-18 when we vote as a House to send it to committee.
    On this side of the House, we are certainly in favour of the goals of reuniting potentially lost children with their families. That is a laudable and commendable goal. It is I believe something that should be investigated.
    That said, Bill C-18 deals with streamlining the current DNA databank. It deals with addressing shortfalls that have been discovered in time as we work with this new technology, and as more information becomes available through working with the registry. That is what the bill does. It streamlines the process by which DNA orders are made. It streamlines and assists our police in obtaining orders and enforcing orders.
    There is going to be a wide ranging review of the DNA database and I would suggest at that time, that would be the more appropriate venue to discuss any further changes to the databank beyond what is contained in Bill C-18.

  (1605)  

    There are six minutes left in the question and answer period, and there are three questioners. To be fair, I would like the questions to be no more than a minute each, so that we can have answers of no more than a minute each. The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Conservative member. Hon. members know that the international sharing of similar profiles is an issue that concerns the Bloc Québécois.
    As hon. members also know, the bill would enable the RCMP commissioner to communicate similar genetic profiles internationally, in the absence of a perfect match. The previous bill on DNA identification also authorized the sharing of imperfect matches, but only between Canadian police forces.
    We feel that the risk of allowing even more genetic information to be shared internationally is the increased possibility of things getting out of hand and foreign police forces being put on the trail of individuals whose genetic profile does not match the DNA samples found on the scene of a crime.
    I would like the hon. member who just spoke to indicate what means, amendments, or strategies can be used, as far as the RCMP and an amendment to the bill are concerned, to prevent such situations when information from Canada is communicated internationally. I feel the margin of error is—

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I fairly succinctly set out in my speech some of the safeguards that are in place. In fact, contrary to what some might think about a DNA databank, there is no personal information attributable to the DNA sample actually held in the same place as the databank. The data, the DNA sample and the personal information are in fact kept separately.
    I would encourage the hon. member, if he gets the opportunity, to visit the DNA databank and see the great lengths that it goes to protect privacy. We value that protection of Canadians' legitimate rights.
     I should note that when it comes to international sharing, only the profile and not the stored bodily samples are ever shared with foreign governments, and specific agreements are in place that include safeguards to insure the privacy--
    The hon. member for Nanaimo--Cowichan.
    Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary referenced the review that is coming of the DNA databank, and I am wondering why the government has chosen not to go ahead with the review.
    The member for Windsor—Tecumseh also referenced the need for an overall reform of the Criminal Code, and I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could comment on that.
    Mr. Speaker, there is a review of the DNA databank system. We certainly have a system here that has been of great value to Canadians. It has been one that has been used not only to solve crime but also to exonerate individuals, and there is going to be a comprehensive review of the process. That should answer the hon. member's question.
    This bill, quite simply, is addressing shortfalls in the system. That is the goal of Bill C-18. It is a DNA registry corrective act and it is designed to address shortfalls, streamline it, and make it more effective, not to make some fundamental change to the system.
    Mr. Speaker, when the Canadian public watches the debate on CPAC throughout the country, a number of them do really get confused when we are talking about Bill C-18. We are referring to what is happening with Bill C-13 and how it relates to Bill C-72. It gets a little confusing and I would like specific direction on this issue.
    As the member knows, for the many years that I have been here, I have been fighting very hard to see tougher strategies to look after crimes against children, particularly for those who sexually assault children and pornographers.
    I wonder if the member could comment specifically how Bill C-18 will affect those particular crimes.

  (1610)  

    Mr. Speaker, the DNA databank is a complicated science. It is extremely complicated, but the end result is protection for Canadians and the ability for us to identify a sample and hopefully put someone behind bars who otherwise would not be, including those offenders who abuse children.
     I commend the member for Wild Rose for his efforts in that vein, in the protection of children, and the DNA databank does just that. The samples that we receive in the DNA databank can be used to prevent future crimes from taking place.
    Bill C-18 also provides for automatic DNA orders with no exceptions for a subcategory of what we consider the 16 most serious offences, so we are including more serious offences where there would be a mandatory DNA sample taken.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak about Bill C-18.

[English]

    I was just thinking two thoughts by way of introduction. The member for Wild Rose is right. The viewing public might think with the numbers C-18, C-72 and C-13 that this is just a well-dressed bingo game that we are playing, but it is actually very serious material.
    The combination of these bills will culminate in a better method and tool for police officers and the police forces to do their jobs both in inculpating, finding the people who have done crimes, but also as my speech will indicate, exculpating people when they are actually not guilty.
    I also might give my friend from Fundy Royal compliments on his good speech. I think that people in our community, he and I share an undefended border between Westmorland County and Albert County, share the same belief system and the same community values.
    The people in Albert and Westmorland counties might think that the member for Fundy Royal and I are dominating the debate. I think it is just because we are on the committee together and we work on these subjects, not always together but certainly with the same view. That view is to make the laws of Canada better and more effective.
    With that I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-18, a law designed to help implement the DNA databank legislative reforms. It does, however, and it must be said, build on the good Liberal Bill C-72. This was an excellent effort of the previous government to clean up some of these outdated and, frankly, awkward and lugubrious anomalies that exist in the current system.
    The success of the DNA databank is impressive. It has provided critical evidence leading to convictions in nearly 2,300 serious crimes. It has been crucial in helping police solve over 300 armed robberies, 1,200 break and enters, 200 murders, and the member for Wild Rose might want this statistic, and 400 sexual assault cases in Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast. These are impressive numbers.

[Translation]

    It is an extraordinary success. In addition, the national DNA data bank is one of the most powerful tools available to the country's police forces and courts. Even more importantly, the national DNA data bank makes it possible to exonerate innocent people and punish the real criminals.

[English]

    We forget too often in the law and order rhetoric of the other side that there are people who have been falsely accused and falsely convicted of crimes. One of those falsely accused and falsely convicted cases is one too many. Not only is the DNA databank a great success story, it is an amazing example of technological use in the betterment of our justice system by providing indisputable evidence.
    That is why I am pleased to see that the Conservative minority government introduced Bill C-18 and this is largely, as I indicated, based on former BillC-72 presented by the Liberal government.
    The new modifications proposed by Bill C-18, and as they were in Bill C-72, will enable a number of modifications and ameliorations to the DNA databank in accordance with the proposed Liberal reform of the DNA databank included in Bill C-13 which received royal assent in May 2005. These improvements are eagerly awaited for by the police departments, the provinces and territories, and they cannot come too soon.
    I must echo at this time two comments made by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh. One of them is that the Criminal Code of Canada, a large document that is roughly incoherent notwithstanding that it was created by a Conservative justice minister in the late 1800s, has been added to like a big overgrown shrub that needs pruning and frankly needs to be completely redone. Those sentiments are not just those of the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. The hon. members for Fundy Royal and for Wild Rose will know that the esteemed professor from the University of Ottawa, David Paciocco, suggested that to us just recently at the standing committee.

[Translation]

    In the beautiful province of Quebec, respected professor Daniel Grégoire has also called for these reforms.

  (1615)  

[English]

    The second point about the need to pass the bill, which is why we are in favour of it, is that the justice committee is bogged down with so many justice bills right now that we have to be sure the government is sincere. I have heard the expressions of sincerity from the hon. members of the committee, whom I know well. I take it that the committee is sincere in passing the bill, in getting it through committee and back to the House and into effect. Since we all agree on its raw and innate goodness, let us get it through the committee quickly and get it passed into law.
    Once again, the current minority government is trying to show, however, that its great legislative agenda is its own. In fact, any bill that comes before us that has more than three pages was probably one that was introduced by the Liberal government and died on the order paper, not one of the new bills produced by the Conservative department of haste in bills. I call it the hasty bill writing department that the government must have over there.
    For those keeping score, this is one of the good bills. This was a Liberal bill that a new number has been attached to. We will happily call it a Conservative bill for now, if we can just get it through committee. That being said, the DNA data bank, just as any other governmental program or legislative measure, raises concerns about privacy.
     As many examples have shown in the past, personal information can travel fast over the legal borders that exist and over all the limitations that we think exist as well. This is why I stress the need to strike a balance between all citizens' rights to privacy, including suspects, and the need to protect our society as a whole from crime and criminality.
    The respect of privacy has been so far protected in the DNA data bank by ensuring that the identity of all suspects is kept confidential to ensure fair treatment. We must ensure that the proposed changes do respect the boundaries of the current privacy provisions in the law of Canada.

[Translation]

    The technology used in DNA identification has proven itself on many occasions over the years. DNA identification can play a vital role in convicting or exonerating people suspected of major crimes including murder, as well as other crimes that caused the death of innocent victims.
    The changes currently proposed by Bill C-18 will allow even more law-abiding citizens to be exonerated of charges and will strengthen the current legislation on DNA