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41st PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 173

CONTENTS

Tuesday, February 17, 2015




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 147 
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NUMBER 173 
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2nd SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Chief Electoral Officer of Canada

    I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Chief Electoral Officer on alternative signatures.

[Translation]

    This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

[English]

Committees of the House

Procedure and House Affairs 

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 32nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding membership of the committee, and if the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 32nd report later today.
    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-China Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the co-chairs' annual visit to China of the Canada-China Legislative Association held in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuxi, and Nanjing, the People's Republic of China, August 30 to September 6, 2014.
    I believe that report should have been tabled in the reports of interparliamentary delegations. Does the House give its consent to allow it to be tabled at this time?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 32nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier today, be concurred in.
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Petitions

International Trade  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present three petitions today; two petitions are on the same subject.
    We continue to receive petitions calling on the government to refuse to ratify the Canada-China investment treaty. We know that it was in fact ratified in September 2014, but the concerns remain.
    For the interest of the House, I feel it is important to table the petitions of concern about the way this treaty undermines our sovereignty.

Justice  

    Mr. Speaker, this petition signed by residents of my riding throughout the Saanich Peninsula calls on Parliament to review legislation that includes mandatory minimums, to assess whether these mandatory minimums will result in the construction of additional prisons and will offend the charter.

[Translation]

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present on behalf of people from my riding who are defending the common good.
    This first petition is in support of Canada Post's postal service. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to reject Canada Post's plan to reduce service by eliminating home mail delivery to five million households, and to explore other options for updating the crown corporation's business plan.

CBC/Radio-Canada  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is in support of the future of the CBC.
    The petitioners are calling on the Conservative government to guarantee stable, multi-year funding to ensure that our public broadcaster can continue providing services and fulfilling its mandate across the country.

[English]

Student Loans  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from Canadians from B.C. and from coast to coast concerned about student loan fairness. They want to see us create a federal need-based grant system for Canada's student loans that reduces the federal student loan interest rate, creates the federal student loan ombudsperson, and helps defer payments for those who have massive student loans through their undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral work.

Citizenship and Immigration  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.
    The first petition is signed by people all across the country calling on the Canadian government to negotiate with the Chinese government 10-year multiple-entry tourist and business visas for Canadians visiting China, and five-year multiple-entry visas for students entering China.
    They point out that the U.S. and China have negotiated a reciprocal agreement benefiting the citizens of both of those countries, and they would like Canada to have a level playing field with their American and Chinese citizens.

International Trade  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is to the House of Commons. It has been discovered in the last several months that Canada is being used as a conduit to ship endangered whale meat across Canada from Halifax to Vancouver.
    Canada is signatory to an international convention banning the trade in whale meat, and this is a loophole that is being exploited, which Canadians would like to see closed, because Canadians do not want to see endangered species being traded.

The Environment  

    Finally, Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by people across the country to support the climate change accountability act. This is very important to people in Vancouver Kingsway. They would like to see the government deal with climate change and Canada to take a leading role on the world stage as we deal with this very pressing, important, and vital issue.

Dementia  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table a petition calling for a national dementia strategy. The petitioners are asking the government to call on the Minister of Health and the House of Commons to pass Bill C-356, an act respecting a national strategy for dementia, which was introduced by the member of Parliament for Nickel Belt.
    The bill calls on the minister to initiate discussions with provincial and territorial ministers to develop a comprehensive national plan to address all aspects of Alzheimer's disease and related dementia, and to provide an annual report based on an annual assessment of Canada's progress to meeting the various objectives that this calls for.

  (1010)  

Anaphylaxis  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition whereby the petitioners would like to draw the attention of the House of Commons to the fact that, in May 2013, members of Parliament voted unanimously in support of Motion No. 230, because anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians, and it is very often deadly.
    Those who are travelling, particularly by public transit, like airplanes, are at particular risk at 35,000 feet because medical care is not available. The petitioners request that Parliament enact a policy to reduce the risk of harm to anaphylactic passengers, applicable to all forms of passenger transportation falling within federal jurisdiction.

Questions on the Order Paper

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

[Translation]

Privilege

Questions on the Order Paper—Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on January 26, 2015, by the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard related to the government’s response to written question Q-393, which was given to the House on May 14, 2014.
    I would like to thank the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for having raised this matter, as well as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the hon. opposition House leader for their comments.
    In raising this matter, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard expressed concerns about the response she received to her question, Q-393. She argued that there was interference by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who, she claimed, ordered officials in the department to stop preparing a response and, instead, use the same answer that was given in response to written question Q-359 on May 12, 2014. She asserted that that answer constituted a non-answer to a question submitted by the member for Markham—Unionville. Having received the same non-answer, she contended that this impeded her in the performance of her parliamentary duties since she was not provided with a satisfactory response to her question. From this she argued that a breach of privilege had occurred.

[English]

    In response, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration explained that it was the length and breadth of the member's very extensive question that was preventing departmental officials from being able to comply with the 45-day response deadline. Once advised of this, he provided the response that the member received.
    Members will be familiar with the provisions of Standing Order 39(5)(a), which states:
     A Member may request that the Ministry respond to a specific question within forty-five days by so indicating when filing his or her question.
    In essence, the member is seeking redress with respect to perceived ministerial interference, which in her view, prevented departmental officials from responding to her question.

[Translation]

    On previous occasions, the Chair has been asked to rule on issues related to the government’s responses to written questions. In each instance, the Chair has sought to remind members of the clear limitations of the role of the Speaker in this regard.
    House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, states, at page 522:
    There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions.

[English]

    Speaker Milliken also noted on February 8, 2005, on page 3234 of Debates:
    Any dispute regarding the accuracy or appropriateness of this response is a matter of debate. It is not something upon which the Speaker is permitted to pass judgment.
    This applies as well when the government indicates that it is unable to provide an answer. O'Brien and Bosc confirms this approach at page 522, where it states:
    As with oral questions, it is acceptable for the government, in responding to a written question, to indicate to the House that it cannot supply an answer.

[Translation]

    How or why the government chooses to provide such a reply, or non-reply as some see it, is not something to be questioned by the Chair. Nor is it for the Chair to question the decision of members to ask for a response to a written question within a 45-day limit, as per Standing Order 39(5)(a), even when the question is lengthy and complex.
    Specifically, as Speaker, I must assess the role the government played in the preparation of responses within the limited scope that is granted to me by our practice and precedents. As I indicated in my ruling of April 3, 2014:

  (1015)  

[English]

    The Chair understands that the member is not asking for judgment on the accuracy of the answer provided. However, he is asking the Chair to judge the actions of the minister and the effect these have had on his ability to function as a member of Parliament. To do so would require the Chair to judge not only the content of answers provided, but also to delve into internal departmental processes past and present. Regardless of whether the department's internal processes on written questions have changed or not, it remains beyond the role of the Chair to undertake an investigation into any such matter or to render any judgment on it.

[Translation]

    In view of the particular jurisprudence cited by the Chair with regard to written questions, I cannot conclude that the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard has been impeded in the performance of her parliamentary duties. Therefore, I cannot find that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred.
    That being said, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard does have one other avenue she could pursue. She could consider resubmitting her question without requesting an answer within the forty-five day deadline, particularly in light of the Minister’s comments regarding the question's length and complexity.
    I thank honourable members for their attention.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric practices act. This is an important initiative for our government, one that links up with many other initiatives that we have taken over many years now.
    The bill has a simple set of principles. First, we are convinced that no young girl or no woman in this country should be subject to forced or early marriage, meaning marriage before the age of 18. Second, we believe that the practice of polygamy in this country on any scale as part of Canadian communities, as part of our immigration system, as part of our visitor streams into Canada, is unacceptable and should be stopped.
     We are taking action through this legislation to ensure that there is no place in Canada for so-called honour-based violence. Honour in any of its forms, whether it is widely seen to be in play in a given situation or subjectively seen to be in play by one single person, has no place in the defence of an individual charged with a violent act. Violence must be dealt with by our criminal justice system on its own terms, and an honour defence, in our view and under the terms of this act, would no longer be as readily available as it has been up until now.
    We will pursue these changes to our legislative framework through the proposed amendments in the bill to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code.
     I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues across the House who have shown an interest in these issues. I would also like to thank individuals in our ministry. This is a joint effort with the Minister of Status of Women, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Justice, and many others, such as the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was so active on these issues around the world. We are passionate about these issues, as are many members of our caucus, committee chairs, committee members, and individual members of Parliament.
    We are fulfilling a Speech from the Throne commitment with this legislation. That commitment recognizes that there are possibly tens of millions of young women and girls around the world who are still subject to forced and early marriage and the violence and the forms of compulsion that go with that. We see these practices as absolutely incompatible with Canadian values, and for that reason are proud to be putting forward concrete initiatives today to ensure that these barbaric practices that represent implicit support for the commission of violence in this country are eliminated from Canada, are discouraged and deterred, and that when they do take place, are punished.

  (1020)  

[Translation]

    All members will recall the events of April 17, 2009, when Zainab Shafia fled her home in Montreal at the age of 19 because her parents had forced her to marry a man she did not want to marry. Three months later, the bodies of Zainab, two of her sisters and the first wife of her father, who was in a polygamous marriage, were found in a canal in Kingston, Ontario.
    These young women wanted a better life for themselves and their family in Canada. They never should have been subjected to constant fear and threats of violence or death solely because they wanted a better life in Canada.

[English]

    The amendments in this bill would strengthen provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code to add further protection.
    The Shafia case reminds us of how catastrophic the consequences of inaction on this issue can be. This was a forced marriage, combined with a polygamous relationship and a so-called honour-based motive for murder. Thankfully, there was a conviction for murder in this case, but none of those elements should have been in place in the Shafia family's life as immigrants to this country. This bill will help to ensure that such a situation never arises again.
    These amendments would improve protection and support for vulnerable individuals in a number of different ways, especially for women and girls. This is the summary of the substance of this bill, which I will elaborate upon shortly in more detail.
    First, the bill would render permanent and temporary residents inadmissible if they practise polygamy in Canada. In other words, if immigrants and visitors to Canada practice polygamy in Canada with one wife or one spouse, they would now be inadmissible.
    Second, the provisions would strengthen Canadian marriage laws by establishing a new national minimum age for marriage of 16 years old, as well as by codifying both the existing legal requirements for a free and enlightened consent for marriage and by codifying the requirements for ending an existing marriage prior to entering another. It seems almost to go without saying to many of us in this place, but these measures have not been part of the Civil Marriage Act and have not been obligatory across Canada until this proposal that is being made under this legislation.
    The measures would also criminalize certain conduct related to underage and forced marriage ceremonies, including the act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such marriage ceremonies. In other words, anyone knowingly taking a substantive role in solemnizing or officiating at an early or forced marriage of a girl or a boy under the age of 16 years old would face consequences under the Criminal Code that have not previously been there.
    Fourth, these measures would help protect potential victims of underage or forced marriages by creating a new and specific preventive court-ordered peace bond when there are grounds to fear someone would commit an offence in this area.
    Finally, they would ensure that the defence of “provocation” would not apply in so-called honour killings and in many spousal homicides.
    Let me delve into each of these initiatives in some more detail and elaborate on some of the important measures Bill S-7 proposes.
    Polygamy is an affront to our values. As such, it has been illegal in Canada since 1890. While it is against the law in Canada to practice polygamy or to enter into a polygamous union, we know that is not the case in every country in the world. According to our most recent analysis, upwards of 60 countries allow polygamy and make it legal to some extent. The rate at which polygamy is practised in many of these countries is very low and may be only a couple of percent of the population, although in some cases it is much higher. However, we in Canada are adamant that this is not featured among our practices. It is antithetical to our values. While it has been on the books as a crime since 1890, it is only in more recent years that the first prosecutions have taken place under that law, so it is a current issue in the criminal justice system as well.

  (1025)  

[Translation]

    Thus, polygamy is already illegal in Canada. However, we must do more to ensure that this Canadian value is respected by everyone in the immigration system in order to strengthen our ability to prevent polygamy in Canada and to ensure that our immigration system does not in any way facilitate this practice.
    Bill S-7 will make polygamy grounds for inadmissibility under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[English]

    This would give, for the first time, immigration officers the tools they need to render temporary and permanent residents, visitors, and immigrants inadmissible when they are practising polygamy. The new inadmissibility would mean that those who are entering on a temporary basis and who are in polygamous marriages abroad can only enter on their own, not with their spouses. This is not presently the case. We do not have the ability to prevent those practising polygamy from coming into Canada, either as immigrants or visitors.
    Currently, visitors who practise polygamy in their countries of origin are generally allowed to enter with only one spouse at the time of seeking entry. It is unacceptable that our immigration system would allow this practice to continue. To ensure polygamy is not practised on Canadian soil, this bill proposes to ban foreign nationals who practise polygamy from entering Canada with any of their spouses, even on a temporary basis. It would also mean that permanent residents found to be in polygamous marriages would be removed on that basis alone.
    The anecdotal evidence is considerable. The number of immigrants who have come to this country in polygamous unions but disguised that fact and misrepresented themselves as either not being married or not being in a polygamous union is substantial. Under these provisions, we would, for the first time, no longer need a criminal conviction or a finding of misrepresentation in order to begin deportation proceedings. We would simply need the evidence of the practice of polygamy.
    Measures in Bill S-7 would also amend the Civil Marriage Act in order to address the problem of early and forced marriages. In Canada, as things stand now, there is no national minimum age for marriage. Specific federal laws that apply only in Quebec set the minimum age at 16 years old; in other parts of Canada, the common law applies.
    There is some uncertainty about common law minimum age, which is sometimes interpreted as setting a minimum of 12 for girls and 14 for boys, although in some instances the legal records, the precedents in the common law, set an age as low as seven years old. I think everyone in the House would agree that this is completely and unequivocally unacceptable. It hearkens back to the Middle Ages and to other periods when those traditions, if they were such, would certainly, from today's perspective, be considered barbaric. The medical evidence of harm to young people below mature ages is overwhelming, and setting a national minimum age of 16 years old would make it clear that underage marriage is unacceptable in Canada and will not be tolerated.

  (1030)  

[Translation]

    Other amendments to the Civil Marriage Act proposed in Bill S-7 will codify the requirement for free and enlightened consent of the parties who intend to marry and the requirement that any previous marriage be dissolved.
    This might seem quite obvious to us, but it is extremely important to those who, to date, have had no say in their own marriage. We must ensure that the voices of all those who embark on the joyful journey of marriage are heard and respected.

[English]

    On behalf of the voiceless, we are acting in many cases in these measures to codify a minimum age for marriage and to prevent forced marriage. For those who have been compelled into unhappy unions, unions that have resulted in violence or have subjected women to sexual assault on a repeated and continuing basis, we need to make sure that we can take action for their sake to prevent such violence against women, and violence generally.
    Building on the proposed amendments to the Civil Marriage Act, Bill S-7 also contains measures that would amend the Criminal Code to help prevent forced or underage marriages, including, henceforth, making it a criminal act to knowingly officiate at an underage or forced marriage; to knowingly and actively participate in a wedding ceremony in which one party is marrying another against his or her will or is under 16 years old; or to remove a minor from Canada for a forced or underage marriage.
    For example, if a parent, a mother or a father, who received payment from another family in this country or outside this country to marry off one of their children to a member of that other family, but who did not seek and certainly did not obtain the enlightened and free consent of the child involved, were there simply as the parent of the bride or the groom, even if they were not officiating at the marriage ceremony, would be committing a crime. The crime would be that they had brought forward a child, compelled a child, to be married without their consent, against their free will. This should be a crime, and I think we all agree on that in Canada today.
    There is a very clear distinction between this and an arranged marriage, where families introduce children, parents want the union to happen, and the parties to be married themselves consent and agree, where they have truly decided that this is the right choice for them. That type of marriage is not affected by this bill. However, a forced marriage, where the parents or anyone else who is involved in a transaction or in the compulsion agree, but the parties themselves do not agree, would henceforth place those responsible, those with a substantial role in arranging the marriage, in a position where they are committing a criminal act.
    Other proposed amendments would create a new peace bond that would give courts the power to impose conditions on an individual when there are reasonable grounds to fear that a forced marriage or marriage under the age of 16 would otherwise occur. This is particularly important in our efforts to prevent those who know that a forced marriage would not be tolerated in Canada from having an underage child, or any child, removed against their will so that the marriage could take place in another jurisdiction.
    We will have the tools under Bill S-7 to take action against those who would choose this unfortunate and, indeed, dangerous course of action as well. Such a peace bond could be used to prevent an underage or forced marriage by requiring, for example, the surrender of a passport, as well as preventing a child from being taken out of Canada. This is a very important option for a young girl, for example, who wants to stop her family from taking her out of the country for a forced marriage, but does not want to press charges against her family members, a situation that arises quite commonly. She would have that important option and would be able to save herself from an unwanted fate.
     Anyone who wonders whether this is widespread or necessary need only pick up the phone or come to speak to any of us at the citizenship and immigration committee, who will put them in touch with people in our global network, those retired or those still in service, who will tell them that this is happening. Forced and underage marriage is a reality in Canada, and the removal of young people to face these dreadful consequences abroad is also all too common.
    Measures in the bill would also amend the Criminal Code to address so-called honour killings. Unfortunately, we have seen these cases too often on our soil. In fact, while there is not a large number—several dozen in recent decades—there have more cases in the last 10 or 15 years than in the previous 20 years, according to the available studies. So called honour-based violence is usually perpetrated against family members, usually women and girls, who are perceived to have brought shame or dishonour to the family.

  (1035)  

[Translation]

    These honour killings are usually premeditated and committed with a certain level of approval from family members and the community, and sometimes with their participation.

[English]

    However, in some cases, they may also be alleged to be spontaneous killings in response to behaviour by the victim that is perceived to be disrespectful, insulting, or harmful to a family's reputation. Under the Criminal Code, anyone charged with and found to have committed murder can raise the defence of provocation in seeking a reduction to the lesser charge of manslaughter. Under Bill S-7, that option would no longer be available.
     We think, taken together, these measures represent important progress against barbaric practices that are all too common in the world today and still present in Canada. I appreciate the opportunity to present them to the House.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He explained some of the measures in Bill S-7.
    As a preface to my question, I must say that I agree with a number of the things he said. Naturally, I agree that no girl should be subject to violence and that there is no place in this country for forced marriage, honour crimes or any other type of violence against women. We agree with this principle and with the objective here.
    However, I must point out that today we are not debating whether someone who forces a child to marry should be sentenced, punished or criminally charged. Anyone who commits violence against children and women should be punished. We must all do everything we can to stop this kind of barbaric practice and this type of violence.
    That said, my question is about the bill itself. Will Bill S-7 really help us achieve this goal?
    The minister is certainly aware that the Senate conducted a study, that a number of experts and lawyers spoke out against the bill and that some serious concerns were expressed by witnesses. Bill S-7 could make victims more vulnerable. Instead of helping victims and bringing the guilty parties to justice, the bill could have the opposite effect. A number of victims' advocates and groups working directly with victims say that the provisions in the Citizenship Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, as well as the amendments to the Criminal Code, could make people less inclined to speak out for fear of reprisals from their family.
    Is the minister aware of these concerns and is he interested in improving the bill to ensure that it truly protects victims?

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her question and her general support for numerous measures found in the bill. Yes, we all have the shared goal of preventing violence against women, and, in fact, all violence, period. I also want to thank her for using the term “barbaric”, because these practices really are barbaric and should be called what they are.
    I am well aware of the testimony given in committee. When it comes to both immigration and the Criminal Code, we always see so-called specialized groups in one sector or another that say there is no need to legislate, that we should just let them take care of it and they will solve the problem, and no one from the legal system or the immigration system needs to get involved. We tried that method for decades. Early and forced marriages, polygamy and honour killings continue to be practised in many cases. It is time to provide women and girls who have been the victims of these crimes the same degree of protection as that provided to Canadians in all other areas and for all other crimes.
    We need the full force of the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to prevent these barbaric practices and crimes. There is no other way to ensure proper protection other than legislating as we are prepared to do.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we agree with the intention of the legislation before us. I think all here agree that violence against women and girls, forced marriage, polygamy, and the other issues the minister spoke of in his speech are all things to be abhorred. However, the difficulty I have and that I want the minister respond to is the inclusion of the word “cultural” in any of these things.
    All of these things are ethical questions, not cultural questions. I would suggest that it is inappropriate to tie any of these practices to a specific culture. Not only is it inappropriate, it is simply unnecessary. We can pass a law that bans these things, and we should, without tying them to culture. They should be tied to ethics. I would suggest that tying them to culture causes us to judge cultures by some of the worst practices within them. It is entirely unnecessary to approach this by including any cultural element.
    What is added to the bill by the inclusion of “culture” in the title? Would the minister consider removing it so that the perception that any particular culture is being criticized or judged can be expunged and we can move forward collaboratively with this effort, because we all agree on the principles?
    Mr. Speaker, no, we will not remove the word “cultural”, because it is deeply relevant to the objective we are trying to achieve here.
    No specific culture, either national, ethnic, or territorial, is being targeted by this bill. What is being targeted is a culture of tolerance and sometimes a culture of indifference to these issues that have found a place in Canada and in many other places around the world. I would challenge anyone in the House to deny that there is a certain cultural environment, yes, in some communities in Canada, but definitely in some countries around the world, that tolerates these barbaric practices.
    I am not surprised to hear this criticism from a member of the Liberal Party, because it was his leader who objected to the use of the term “barbaric” to describe any of these practices whatsoever. He was not willing to describe violence against women, whether female genital mutilation, forced marriage, or honour killings, by the name that Canadians, with our principled approach to these issues, insist on using.
    This violence, whether against aboriginal women and girls, immigrant women and girls, or women and girls in some other community in Canada, is unacceptable and barbaric. That culture has no place in Canada. It is incompatible with Canadian values.
    I will take the example of Lee Marsh, a Jehovah's witness who just turned 18. As reported in a recent issue of Maclean's, Lee Marsh's mother came into the room and told Lee that she would marry a 20-year-old man whom she had met only once before. She was quoted as saying that she was not allowed an opinion. She wanted to run, but she was not allowed to. She was compelled into this marriage.
     The culture surrounding that type of practice is unacceptable, and the consequences, the violence that can ensue, the repeated sexual assaults, are indeed barbaric.

  (1045)  

[Translation]

    First, as I mentioned in the question I asked the minister a little earlier today, I agree that no girl or woman in this country or in any country in the world should have to be subject to any kind of violence. I want to emphasize that. Today, we are talking particularly about violence against women in the form of forced marriage or honour killings, for example.
    Canadians are appalled by these practices, which are not acceptable in Canada and in most other countries. We need to fight against these practices. As a parliamentarian, I would be pleased to support any bill that would provide additional protection to victims and would represent a step in the right direction, even if it involved only a small contribution or a small amendment that could provide tools or help to prevent such crimes. I would be the first to support such a bill.
    The battle to combat violence against women is one that is primarily being fought on the ground. I tip my hat to the front-line workers, security personnel, border officers and, in short, everyone who works on the ground and witnesses this type of violence and crime. They have to intervene to prevent these crimes and help victims. It is an ongoing battle. I tip my hat to all of those who are directly or indirectly involved in fighting this type of violence against women.
    Nevertheless, this fight is not just being fought on the ground. People on the ground need decision makers and those with the power to change the laws to listen to what they are saying and partner with them so that they can get the tools and resources they need to move forward and combat violence against women.
    In short, as I said, I would be pleased to support any bill that represents progress in combatting this type of violence against women, such as forced marriages. However, I am not sure that Bill S-7 is such a bill, and I will explain why.
    First, little has been said about this inside the House, but a lot has been said about it outside the House, in the media. The public has talked about this a great deal and so have experts and workers in the field. I am referring to the title of this bill.
    I agree that forced marriage or any type of violence against women is barbaric and cruel and must be eliminated. However, I take issue with the word “cultural” in the title of the bill, and so do many Canadians. Is forced marriage really exclusive to a few cultural communities, or any culture? Of course not. Unfortunately, violence is committed against women in every country and in every culture. Anyone who thinks that the way to fight this practice is to engage in a witch hunt and identify certain cultures is mistaken. That is not the point and it is not the right approach.
    I said a little earlier that the fight against violence against women is taking place primarily on the ground. To effectively fight against this violence, we have to establish partnerships with all those who can help. That includes people from all cultures. We cannot alienate them or attack any culture. We have to bring people together and establish a partnership with all cultures.
    A bill title like this one only puts up obstacles to establishing the necessary partnerships for taking on this fight.

  (1050)  

    I would like to quote Ms. Miville-Dechêne, president of Quebec's Conseil du statut de la femme:
     Of course, punishment must be imposed, but prevention is also important, and using such a strong title and the word “barbaric” may inhibit community cooperation. However, community cooperation is a necessary part of prevention.
    Basically, putting the words “barbaric” and “cultural” together will not lead us to positive solutions and will not really help us fight violence against women.
    I recently met some people who need police protection to get to work. Kids now need police protection to get to school. Why? Because the social climate is so tense and some cultural communities are being targeted and experiencing tensions they definitely do not deserve.
    That is due in part to the language that leaders like us use publicly and misguidedly. When ministers tell people to go back to their own country if they are not happy, when they give their own definitions of a terrorist act and associate it with a particular culture, that does not make a positive contribution to solving problems. On the contrary, that kind of language ostracizes communities and cultures and endangers children and law-abiding people who deserve to have us do everything in our power to keep them safe too.
    In short, the title of this bill is completely inappropriate and could undermine our fight to protect women from abusive practices.
    Second, in addition to the title, parts of this bill lead us to believe that these measures could also jeopardize women's safety and undermine efforts to fight violence against women.
    Bill S-7 will amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, supposedly to help combat polygamy. We are concerned that these amendments will interfere with the protection of women. Women will be affected in one way or another by the fact that under Bill S-7, the mere suspicion of polygamy can result in inadmissibility to Canada or removal orders. This could have unintended negative consequences.
    I would like to once again quote Ms. Miville-Dechêne, a witness who appeared before the Senate committee. This is what she had to say about the measures on polygamy.  
    However, we want women, who are not themselves polygamists—and I want to stress this—to be protected and be able to stay in the country when a deportation takes place. What would be the point of deporting the polygamist man with his women, who are not polygamists, to their country of origin? We feel that care should be taken to protect women.
    That is just one of many quotes. I would also like to quote Ms. Siddiqui, the head of policy and research at Southall Black Sisters. She said:
    Anything that you introduce around immigration is not going to affect just the perpetrator but the whole family — the women and children in that polygamous relationship; and that can have a detrimental effect on them as well.
    Avvy Yao-Yao Go, director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, said:
    The bill seeks to deport people who are engaged in polygamy, and that would include the very women that the government claims it's trying to protect.
    Many witnesses testified about this. I quoted three. If our experts on the ground have these concerns, we need to listen to them. The minister clearly told us that these opinions did not hold much water and that we had to move forward in spite of them.
    I am concerned when I hear comments like that from a minister who is already telling us that he is not prepared to change the title or the content of the bill, claiming that this is what people on the ground are asking him to do. That is worrisome. I am not prepared to support a bill that could interfere with the protection of women and their children.
    It is also important to address the changes to the Criminal Code with regard to forced marriages.

  (1055)  

    The bill suggests, for example, prison sentences for family members who participate in the marriage. The minister talked about this earlier.
    This measure runs the risk of silencing the victims and preventing them from seeking the services and protections they need. Let me explain. Take for example the case of a forced marriage of a 16-year-old girl. The parents say that it is an arranged marriage, not a forced one. The girl has the choice to speak out or not. If she is given the choice between sending her parents to prison to be safe and keeping her mouth shut and figuring out a way to deal with this in order to keep people she has known her whole life, such as her parents, around her, then this 16-year-old girl might very well be too scared to say anything that could send her parents, brothers and sisters to prison.
    Clearly, these people have committed reprehensible acts, but if we show a bit of empathy and put ourselves in the place of the 16-year-old, are there no other measures we could put in place to ensure that she gets the protection she deserves without having to send her parents to prison for up to five years? Of course, these cases call for punishment or intervention, but we have to think about how to go about this and how to ensure that the maximum number of victims seek the help they need. That is the goal.
    How many forced marriages or child marriages are there in this country? We certainly have numbers and statistics. Nonetheless, we are unable to truly understand the extent of the problem because the biggest problem in all this is the secrecy surrounding these practices. That is the number one problem. The first thing we have to ask ourselves, as legislators, is how to address this problem, how to ensure that people are more inclined to report what they see and seek the help and security they need. Bill S-7 will not do that.
    I would again like to quote Ms. Siddiqui, the head of policy and research at Southall Black Sisters in the United Kingdom:
    The problem for us was that we worked directly with survivors and victims. A lot of them are girls and young women who say to us, “I do want protection from the police, but I don't want to prosecute my parents or my family. I don't want to see them go to jail.” They clearly said that if they went to the police and they were going to prosecute, then they would withdraw their charges; they would not cooperate or would not even go to the police in the first place.
    I could also quote Ms. Butt, executive director of the Social Services Network:
    Criminalization of forced marriage, without the much needed institutional support for victims, would only further alienate and harm those facing forced marriage and gender-based violence, with the added insult of being stigmatized that they come from barbaric cultures.
    In short, many people are opposed to the bill because of events that have taken place and what the experts are seeing in real life. We need to pay attention to what these people have to say. That is why I moved a motion in the House. I understand and agree with the minister's stated goal of fighting against forced marriages and violence against women and also helping victims. However I do not agree with the proposed approach, which could not only lead us in the wrong direction, but move us backwards, further ostracize victims and reduce the number of cases reported.
    I will read part of the motion that I moved in order to explain it. I recommend that all my colleagues on both sides of the House support it. It reads:
    That, in the opinion of the House, forced marriages are a crime that constitutes violence against women and consequently, the government should:
(a) strongly condemn the practice;
    I believe that with this bill the minister wants to condemn these practices. It is important to do so. These practices must be condemned, but we must ensure that by condemning them we do not harm those who suffer because of them.

  (1100)  

    Furthermore, a number of experts have said that this bill did not do much, since there are already Criminal Code provisions to convict those guilty of pushing someone into a forced marriage or a forced child marriage.
    For example, Mr. Spratt, a criminal lawyer and member of the Criminal Lawyers' Association and the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa, spoke about the section regarding a recognizance to keep the peace:
     I'm not saying that that's bad or that this section is bad. It's just not a cure to the ills that this bill aims to correct, and it's not going to be effective in limiting these types of situations. It seems to be nothing more than mere puffery because it's not going to play out in court how it's been billed.
    Not only are these measures dangerous, but they also do not seem relevant in terms of their application.
    Deepa Mattoo, a lawyer and the acting executive director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, said that in most cases, there is adequate recourse in the Criminal Code of Canada to deal with forced marriages before and after the marriage. For example, she mentioned sections 292 and 273.3 regarding procuring a feigned marriage:
    No person shall do anything for the purpose of removing from Canada a person [a child] who is ordinarily resident in Canada...(a)...with the intention that an act be committed outside Canada that if it were committed in Canada would be an offence...
    These are just examples to show that the Criminal Code already includes several provisions to convict people who do this. However, do we have the resources we need on the ground to ensure that we first get the reports that will then lead to prosecutions?
    My motion also asks the government to increase funding for organizations that work with potential or proven victims. As I said a bit earlier, the low reporting rate is another problem with respect to these practices. It is difficult to get witnesses and victims of these practices to report them. It is also difficult to have resources on the ground to help these people. My motion is therefore a step in the right direction. Punishment alone is not enough. We have to remember our primary objective, which is to protect victims and prevent these crimes.
     My motion also calls on the government to consult women, communities, organizations and experts so that we can get a more accurate picture of the situation and figure out the best ways to fix it. I get the feeling that Bill S-7 was concocted by departmental people who never consulted lawyers or people on the ground. These problems exist. That is what the minister said, and I agree with him.
    Whether these practices are widespread or not, if we can help even one victim, it is worth it. These practices exist, but we need to find out exactly what is going on. Then we have to identify the main obstacles and implement smart measures, not just measures that respond to an electoral base's fears.
    Other countries have studied this issue before our debate here in the House, and they have implemented measures. We can learn from their debates and from the outcome of their measures.
    The United Kingdom, for instance, has adopted a method that allows victims to choose between a civil process and a criminal process in the event of prosecution. Giving victims this power gives them the confidence they need to seek help and report someone, without necessarily sending a family member to prison, if that is something they are afraid of.
    In 2008, Denmark introduced criminal offences similar to those set out in Bill S-7, and not one guilty party has been brought to justice since that time, which reinforces what I was saying earlier. If we pass Bill S-7, will we not hurt victims and prevent them from reporting violence, rather than help victims and bring criminals to justice?
    I wish I could go on, but I will close by saying that the bill's title and the measures in it are hardly a step forward. That is why I recommend that the House not vote in favour of Bill S-7 at second reading, and instead vote in favour of my motion.
    We need to keep our primary objective in mind, which is to combat these practices and help victims, not harm them, and yet that is exactly what Bill S-7 could do.
    That is why the rhetoric has to stop. We need to completely change our perspective and our focus when it comes to issues like violence against women and adopt positive measures that really will help the people affected.

  (1105)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to listen to my colleague's speech, but I was disappointed by its content.
    She used the word “barbaric” in her first question, but she refuses to use that word in the title of the bill. This is a reflection of the NDP's approach to everything, when it comes to criminal justice and this bill. The NDP denounces forced marriage, honour crimes and violence against women, but it does not want to take any action. It advocates inaction. It wants young girls to report offenders and people who hurt them, but without making it clear that a crime was committed. Why?
    Does the hon. member not think that in the case of misrepresentation, someone living in a polygamous relationship should be deported like anyone else found guilty of misrepresentation? If we are talking about sexual assault, of course, there is recourse and the possibility of staying here. However, misrepresentation is unacceptable in the case of polygamy and in other cases.
    Let us talk about provocation. Should a person be able to use honour as a reason for pleading provocation as a defence for a crime like murder? If a young girl does not want to go through the criminal process, is the hon. member aware of peace bonds? Using—
    Order. I ask all hon. members to keep their questions to under a minute.
    The hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard.

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, I cannot respond to everything my colleague said, but I will try to cover as much as possible.
    I think my colleague misunderstood what I said about the title. I do not oppose using “barbaric“ in the title. I am opposed to associating the term “barbaric” with “cultural”. Do we need to say that these are cultures with barbaric practices?
    I mentioned it in my speech and I will not repeat it, but that will alienate some cultural communities, rather than building bridges and ensuring that we can work with them to eliminate these practices. They are essential partners, and solutions will be found only by forging partnerships with people from all cultures. Thus, I am not against the use of the term “barbaric”.
    I completely agree that forced marriages and violence against women are completely unacceptable, even barbaric. However, I am against calling them cultural practices because we have seen in several cases that, in fact, we find these practices in any culture.
    I would like to continue but I have run out of time. I hope I can talk more about this when I answer the next question.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague may have answered the question I was going to ask. I would just like to be sure.
    I believe that the NDP and the Liberals agree that we accept the term “barbaric”, but not the term “cultural”. It seems to me that if we use the term “cultural”, some communities will believe that they may be the problem, which is not the case. We believe that these practices are barbaric, but found in all cultures. It seems to me that the term “cultural” adds nothing to this bill.
    I would just like to check whether my colleague agrees with that.
     Mr. Speaker, I agree, and that is more or less what I was just saying.
    I would like to take this opportunity to also speak about the purpose of this bill, because we have not really addressed that. This is a classic example of the Conservatives claiming to want to combat some type of wrongdoing or crime and then proposing a bill that is completely off the mark.
    In 2012, the Conservatives introduced the conditional permanent residence status in order to combat fraudulent marriages. Everyone on the ground agrees that rather than helping to do away with such marriages this measure makes women more vulnerable. What is more, many experts are calling on the government to reconsider this measure and do away with the conditional permanent residence status. The Conservatives are turning a deaf ear.
    More recently, Motion No. 505 was implemented in 2014. The purpose of that motion is also to combat fraudulent marriages; however, it actually attacks proxy marriages. Since refugee claimants are often married by proxy, this motion does more to interfere with family reunification than it does to combat fraudulent marriage. This is a classic example of the Conservatives saying that they want to combat x, y or z but then implementing measures that are harmful to victims and that make certain groups more vulnerable.
    That is unacceptable, and Bill S-7 is yet another example.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. We have had two very high profile cases that have shown the power of our courts to go after groups that abuse young women.
    The case involving the Mormon fundamentalists in Bountiful was brought all the way to the Supreme Court. Some said that they were fighting for religious freedoms, but clearly this was an abuse of young women and girls, and the courts upheld the anti-polygamy laws.
     It is the same with Lev Tahor, the fundamentalist orthodox cult. The Quebec and Ontario police moved against it because they recognized that within the so-called claim of religion there was an ongoing attack against young women and girls, and there was a need to protect them.
    What is in this bill that would give the police and the authorities any new powers that they do not already have in going after anyone who uses religion, or culture or whatever to abuse young women and girls in forced marriages? If the laws already exist, if they have been upheld at the Supreme Court level, what possible additions have been added to this at which Parliament needs to look?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I would also like to thank him for making those important points.
    Many also believe that this bill will not only harm victims but it will also fail to provide the additional necessary tools. I can mention others. The minister spoke earlier about honour killings. The government is saying that Bill S-7 will ensure that the provocation defence will not apply to honour killings. Meanwhile, a number of rulings have shown that cultural grounds cannot be used to justify an honour killing. On the contrary, the court interpreted such arguments as a reason for the crime, rather than mitigating grounds. The court saw these arguments as proof that the unacceptable crime was planned. If we look at the decisions rendered in the past, we see that the courts are able to deal with such grievances under the Criminal Code.

  (1115)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's intervention on this bill. I take exception to and would like clarification on something she said. She takes exception to the term “barbaric culture”. She has no problem with the word “barbaric”, but takes issue with the word “culture”, thinking that somehow that speaks to a specific cultural group, which the bill does not.
    Within some families in specific groups, if a 15-year-old girl is forced into a marriage against her will and if she rebels against it and says that it is not consensual, that she does not want that, she is stoned, or killed, or defamed in some way because she somehow has brought disrespect to the family. Is that not a barbaric culture? This is a cultural tool that is used in some groups to resolve an issue they think has brought disrespect to the family.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am not the only one to say so. A number of people on the ground are saying that we need to be careful because this title will hurt us and prevent us from achieving the objective of the bill.
    Earlier, my colleague mentioned Bountiful. Could the parliamentary secretary tell me what culture is in Bountiful?
    This is not what we are debating, and it does no good to point fingers at certain cultures that are already ostracized as a result of debates being held at different levels in this country. I can name a number of people who say that the very title of Bill S-7 and the various legislative amendments it would bring about are based on racist stereotypes and contribute to xenophobia against certain radicalized communities.
    This title encourages xenophobia and racism, and it further ostracizes communities. These are major problems that we need to look at. What good does that do for this bill?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to share my time with my colleague, the member for Charlottetown.
    Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Mr. Speaker, it means that members only have to listen to me for half the time. They might approve of that proposition.
    I am pleased to say that the Liberals will support this legislation, but as I will indicate in a few minutes, we have problems with the title. We also, in particular, want to remove the word “cultural”.
    We are, of course, opposed to these barbaric practices, including forced marriages, underage marriages, polygamy, honour killings, and domestic violence. We would argue that on the whole, this legislation would do little to advance the fact that these practices are already illegal. Maybe around the edges some improvement would be achieved, but my main point is that this legislation misses a golden opportunity to do something real on the subject of domestic violence and in particular on the abuse of women.
    This issue came up very strongly in the hearings at the immigration committee over the past months on the subject of the treatment of women by the immigration system and measures to reduce violence against women.
    One of the issues that got a lot of attention was the provision for a two-year conditional state for people who bring in spouses from overseas. In the old days, the spouse from overseas would immediately become a permanent resident, but now that person has to live with his or her spouse for a period of two years before achieving landed permanent resident status. Witness after witness testified that this system led to the potential for abuse and actual abuse, and it is not difficult to understand why. It is an extremely unequal relationship. If one is a woman who is married to a man, and the woman has just come from overseas, and if that woman is subject to abuse of any kind and moves away from the marriage, she has no status in Canada anymore and is liable to be deported back to her own country. That forces the woman to stay within the marriage, even if it is abusive.
    I remember counting the expert witnesses who testified to this effect and argued that this provision should be terminated. I do not remember the exact number, but it was perhaps six out of eight witnesses or something to that effect. All of these expert witnesses, who ran organizations, who sought to help women who had been subject to abuse, believed that this provision was aiding and abetting the abuse of women.
     If the government wanted to do something concrete in this area, it has missed a golden opportunity to simply repeal this two-year provision. I understand that marriages of convenience are a challenge that have to be dealt with in many ways, and I do not minimize the importance of the issue. However, my point would be that the fight against marriages of convenience should not be fought on the backs of women who are subject to abuse because of this two-year rule. More important than all of the other parts of the bill, which are largely covered by existing law in any case, would have been action on this front, which would have a real impact on the barbaric practices and domestic violence that we all decry.
    In that respect, I agree with my colleague in the NDP that this legislation largely addresses issues that are already covered by existing law and leaves a big hole on issues it chooses not to cover. As a consequence, at the end of the day it would not do a great deal to advance the cause.
    The other point I would like to focus on is the use of the word “cultural”. That word is both offensive and unnecessary. We on this side of the House agree that these practices are barbaric, so we do not object at all to the use of that word.

  (1120)  

    When one inserts the word “cultural”, it carries the implication that there are certain cultures, certain communities, that are being targeted. Whether that is in the minds of the Conservatives is something we can debate, but it certainly carries that implication across the country. There is no reason to force that implication to be carried, because as has been pointed out, in terms of polygamy and other barbaric practices, they are certainly not limited to any one community. We had the example of the Bountiful group, which is Christian. We had the Jewish group that was mentioned. Across all religions and all cultures we see, in some cases, the practice of these barbaric acts.
     I do not think the word “cultural” adds anything. It certainly does not add anything to the content of this bill, and it is misleading in that it carries the implication in the minds of some Canadians that this bill is targeting their particular culture or community.
    I know that the Conservatives are not always quick to accept suggested changes to their wonderful legislation, but I would say to them that this word adds nothing to the content of the bill and nothing to the agreement we have on all sides of the House that these practices are indeed barbaric. All it does is lead certain communities to believe that they are being targeted or insulted, and there is no reason whatsoever to carry that implication. I would once again urge the Conservatives to drop that word.
    With regard to the elements in the bill, we certainly agree that underage marriage is and should be illegal. We agree with the age of 16 that is in the bill. We obviously are opposed to forced marriages, to polygamy, and to honour killings. It is almost unnecessary to make these statements, because the vast majority of Canadians are opposed to these practices. The existing law already makes these practices illegal. The bill would add a few details to make them even more illegal. Therefore, we will support it. However, I do not think that, at the end of the day, this bill would do very much more than is already in the existing law.
    I also think that with the use of the word “cultural” the Conservatives are unnecessarily insulting segments of Canadian society.
     Last but not least, by ignoring important practices and allowing them to continue, such as these two-year conditional marriages, they are wasting an opportunity to do something real to improve the situation for immigrants, and particularly for women, in this country.

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I am delighted to hear that the Liberal Party will be supporting this piece of legislation, although I have some concerns regarding some of the content of the member's speech this morning.
     I see quite a significant flip-flop in the Liberals' position on the name “barbaric”, as the Liberal leader took exception to the word “barbaric”. However, I am happy to see that the Liberals have now seen the light that these practices are indeed barbaric and are not taking exception to that word.
    I want to talk about the tie the member tried to make between the phrases “barbaric cultural practices” and “cultural communities”. They are two completely different things. A cultural practice that would impose violence and possibly death on a young lady because she does not concede to what the family decided the day she was born is indeed a barbaric cultural practice. Does the member not see that there is no correlation between that and specific communities? This fearmongering and trying to point to specific cultural communities is way off base.
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I thank the member for thanking us for our support, so I will be pleasant in my comments. However, I think he is tying himself in knots in terms of the definition of the word “cultural” in the English language.
    Of course, a culture of honour killings is something we oppose, but there is no need to use the word “culture”. As I said, the word “culture” adds nothing to the content of the bill and nothing to the message being sent. However, it sends a negative message to many individuals within this country. It is unnecessary. It adds nothing. It is offensive to some.
    If the government had an element of consideration for Canadians across this land, it would remove that word.

  (1130)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk to my colleague about the content of the bill.
    He knows that a number of witnesses spoke to the bill. For example, Ms. Yao-Yao Go of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic said:
     The bill seeks to deport people who are engaged in polygamy, and that would include the very women that the government claims it's trying to protect.
    Ms. Mattoo of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario said:
     We stand for victims and survivors of gender-based violence, whose voices have told us, time and time again, that they would not come forward if it meant criminal sanctions or deportation of their families.
    The bill could hurt and further ostracize women and victims of forced or polygamous marriages. What does my colleague have to say about such statements? Does he not worry that by supporting Bill S-7, he is promoting the victimization of women?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague just quoted some of the witnesses I mentioned, who oppose the notion of having to be married for two years before permanent residence is granted. Those quotations support our proposal concerning that provision.
    I am not sure whether the bill's provisions make things any worse, but I do not think they improve things, either. The government could have taken other measures, but it chose not to.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. This bill targets several practices that the Liberals fundamentally disagree with, including early or forced marriage, polygamy, and domestic violence. Although we have been accused otherwise, we agree that these practices are barbaric and will be supporting the bill for further study at committee.
    I want to state off the top that we do not agree with linking violence against women to culture, as the Conservatives have tried to do. Violence against women is a phenomenon that exists in every culture, and we are saddened that the government is trying to score cheap political points with respect to this serious matter. Violence against women is not an issue of culture; it is an issue of ethics. It is not an issue tied to place of origin, language, wealth, or ethnic nationality. Wherever we find it, violence against women is an issue of right and wrong.
    Equality and justice are universal values. Kindness and respect are universal values. They are not linked to any particular culture any more than misogyny is linked to a particular culture. Barbarism is barbarism wherever we find it, and we should not judge any cultural group by the worst practices of some of its members.
    My point is that for the Conservatives to look outwardly and point out how other cultures treat women is to ignore the misogyny that transcends culture. As great philosophers and religious intellectuals have demonstrated, ethics are rational, and people everywhere can reason about right and wrong, so I say again that misogyny is not a cultural problem; rather, it is an ethical one. I would say the same of discrimination or violence based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability.
    Let us not denigrate entire cultures. Instead, when talking about barbaric practices, let us talk about ethics. Let us talk about universal values instead of suggesting that entire cultures are somehow in conflict.
    Canada's multicultural success story insists the exact opposite. Many cultures have come together and flourished here on the basis of universal values, the values enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our charter is an ethical document, not a cultural one. It gives legal force to rational, moral principles based on the best arguments, not cultural principles based on history or tradition. Therefore, let us agree to language that unites, not language that divides. Let us build consensus on what is right and wrong rather than drawing lines between cultures and shouting back and forth. For that reason, I repeat that barbaric practices are unethical actions, not cultural actions.
    That is how this conversation should be framed, and language makes a huge difference. People are more likely to accept a valid moral argument if we do not make it while insulting their entire culture. For that reason, the Liberals will move an amendment to remove the word “cultural” from the short title of this bill and change it to “zero tolerance for barbaric practices”. After all, if we listen to how it sounds, it has a nice ring to it. It is something everyone in the House can get behind.
    Therefore, why not cut one word from this bill? Heaven knows that the current government has cut everything else. In Prince Edward Island, we know that better than most.
    With respect to the content of this bill, I say at the outset that there are some good ideas here. What would the bill do? On early and forced marriages, Bill S-7 would establish a national minimum age for marriage of 16 years of age. Previously, only Quebec has had a legislated minimum age, while other provinces relied on common law definitions. The bill also proposed to codify the requirement for free and enlightened consent for marriage or divorce.
    Bill S-7 also creates a new Criminal Code offence for knowingly officiating at a forced or early marriage, for knowingly and actively participating in a forced or early marriage, or for removing a child from Canada for the purpose of an early or forced marriage. These measures are similar to current laws in the Criminal Code that relate to bigamy.

  (1135)  

    In addition, Bill S-7 would create a peace bond regime with regard to early or forced marriages that would allow a person to petition a court for a peace bond to prevent an early or forced marriage. Violating the requirements of this peace bond would be an offence. The peace bond provision would create an opportunity for someone from outside the affected family, such as a community member or a teacher, to petition the court if they became aware of an issue.
    As to polygamy, that practice is already illegal in Canada. The B.C. Supreme Court has upheld that limit on freedom of religion because of the harm the practice causes to women, children, and the institution of monogamous marriage. Bill S-7 further addresses polygamy by amending Canada's immigration rule to make those planning to practice polygamy in Canada inadmissible to the country. It also clarifies that those seeking permanent residence in Canada must stop practising polygamy and will be permitted to immigrate with only one monogamous spouse.
    Colleagues, though I agree that we do not want to see polygamy coming into Canada, I would flag to the committee that there could be some practical legal problems flowing from this chain. For example, what happens to additional spouses that an immigrant to Canada leaves behind? Would their property claims against their absconding husband be enforceable in Canada if we do not recognize the marriage? If somehow an additional spouse also gets into Canada—independently, for example—could they obtain a divorce from their husband? Also, what happens to the children of additional spouses? Could they come to Canada, but only if they leave their mother behind?
    I do not know the answers to these practical legal problems, but I expect the committee to take a good, hard look at them before changing the law. The last thing we want to do is exacerbate the harms of polygamy and hurt vulnerable women and children who have done nothing wrong.
    Finally, we come to the issue of domestic violence, and in particular crimes that are often called honour killings. Stories of such atrocities have shocked Canadians, particularly the Shafia family quadruple murder in Kingston in 2009. In an attempt to address this issue, Bill S-7 would place restrictions on the long-standing provocation defence, which can reduce culpable homicide from murder to manslaughter.
     As it currently stands, provocation reduces murder to manslaughter if the accused acted in the heat of passion and immediately following a sudden provocation. The provocation must be an act or insult by the victim that would be sufficient to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control. Further, that act or insult cannot be something that the victim was incited to do by the accused to gain an excuse.
    First, it is worth noting that this defence has never succeeded in an honour killing. Second, the proposed change would require the victim to have committed a criminal act against the accused for the defence to be available. Notably, this amendment would mean that insults are no longer provocation, including insults using racial epithets and so forth.
    I am not sure this change is a good one, since some insults are actually more provocative than some assaults or threats. I trust the committee will look closely at this issue.
    I will leave my concerns at that for the time being. I will say that when this bill goes to committee, Liberals will expect the government to act responsibly, to consider legal expertise, and to maintain the coherence and logic of Canada's Criminal Code.
    In conclusion, this bill targets several practices with which Liberals fundamentally disagree. However, at this stage we have three concerns with Bill S-7. The first is the use of the term “cultural” in the title. The second concern relates to practical legal problems arising from immigration changes around polygamy. The third has to do with meddling with the provocation defence in a way that may go against common sense.
    Of course, more concerns may arise on closer review, and I hope the committee will be open to constructive amendments. Our goal, as always, should be making good public policy.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague.
     Bountiful, the fundamentalist Mormon cult, escaped from Utah to escape prosecution and set itself up in British Columbia. There was a huge challenge that went all the way to the Supreme Court around whether Canada's polygamy laws would stand. There was a bogus argument that this was somehow a religious right, a religious freedom argument. However, the courts disagreed and upheld the anti-polygamy laws, because in these kinds of patriarchal cults, the issue of abuse is clearly paramount.
    We can look at the issue of Bountiful and other fundamentalist cults. Lev Tahor is another one. It has been called the Jewish Taliban. The Quebec police moved against them, and the Ontario courts moved against them as well, so laws are already in place against these kinds of actions.
    Could my hon. colleague explain whether he thinks this bill is redundant and whether it adds new powers currently unavailable to police in protecting young girls and women against this kind of abuse?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Timmins—James Bay raises a very valid point in that virtually all of the practices that are the subject of the bill are already illegal in Canada. This is true.
    A constant question we have when we see these types of bills come before Parliament is whether the efforts of government would be better spent on resources than in tinkering with the provisions of the Criminal Code or, in this case, the Immigration and Refugee Act.
    I will point to one specific measure in the bill that appears to provide new provisions as a new tool that would be available to law enforcement. The peace bond provisions proposed in the bill do not presently exist. They represent an expansion of those powers and will have some value in the issues the bill seeks to address.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I was actually wondering how my Liberal colleague could even think of supporting this bill when we know that the title reeks of sensationalism and xenophobia, and furthermore, it does not in any way address the source of the problem. We are talking about criminalizing these things, although community groups, specialists and victims are saying that that will not work.
    Instead, we need to provide support and funding to organizations that help victims. They can then provide information on Canada's immigration system, which is complex, and give them a plan with basic information on how to get out of these kinds of situations. We must give them the tools needed to seek help, but that aspect does not appear in Bill S-7 as it stands.
    I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comment is quite right. It is true that we almost always find, in the debates of the House, that the best way to address a problem is through bills or fiscal measures. She made a very good point regarding the fact that fiscal measures would probably be more effective.
    It is important to point out that that is not the question that was asked. The question is whether we support this bill. The bill clearly speaks out against forced marriage and polygamy, for example. I think it is important to send the message that we are against those practices. It is important to show this through our votes.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, reflects the high priority that our government places on supporting women and girls to live their lives free of violence.
    As Minister of Status of Women, I am proud of the many actions our government has taken to address violence against women and girls, and Bill S-7 is yet another example of these efforts. This bill would ensure that no young girl or woman in Canada becomes a victim of early or forced marriage, polygamy, or violence committed in the name of so-called honour, in addition to other forms of barbaric cultural practices. I can say that this is something about which I feel very strongly. Let me be clear. Our government is taking a very strong stance against these abhorrent practices and all forms of gender-based violence.
    In the most recent Speech from the Throne, we highlighted the fact that millions of women and girls worldwide continue to be brutalized by violence, including those inhumane practices of early and forced marriages. That is why Canada is leading an international effort to address these cultural practices as violations of basic human rights.
    In fact, the elimination of child marriage, early marriage, and forced marriage was a key priority for me when I led Canada's delegation to the 58th meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York last year, and it will be a focal point for me and the Government of Canada yet again this year at the UN commission.
    Canada was proud to be a leader in having the United Nations declare October 11 of each year to be International Day of the Girl. This important day ensures that girls' rights get the attention they deserve around the world. I was delighted when I visited India just a month ago that the Indian government is starting to take action and heed our direction in leading the way and is following our lead of dealing with this issue of early and forced child marriages.
    We are also committed to ensuring that these cultural practices do not take place here on Canadian soil, and that is the reason I am here today, to speak to the measures in Bill S-7 to bring about real action. This bill would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code to provide protection and support for vulnerable individuals, primarily women and girls. Let me list a number of the protections and supports.
    I noted earlier that the member opposite commented on how there is only one change. I disagree. There are some fundamental changes here that would make a tangible difference for women and girls across the country.
    The changes would render permanent and temporary residents inadmissible if they practise polygamy in Canada. They would strengthen Canadian marriage laws by establishing a new national minimum age of marriage at 16 years of age and by codifying the existing legal requirements for free and enlightened consent for marriage and for ending an existing marriage prior to entering another.
    They would criminalize certain conduct in underage and forced marriage ceremonies, including the act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such marriage ceremonies. This is fundamental. Children should not be put in harm's way, and we would put an end to this practice.
    They would help protect potential victims of underage or forced marriages by creating a new and specific preventive court-ordered peace bond where there are grounds to fear someone would commit an offence in this area.
    Finally, they would ensure that the defence of provocation would not apply to so-called honour killings and many spousal homicides.
    Bill S-7 sends a clear message to anyone coming to Canada and to those who are already part of Canadian society that these practices are incompatible with Canadian values. Like all forms of violence against women and girls, they will simply not be tolerated here. The legislation before the House today is part of a multifaceted approach our government is taking to help make sure women and girls can live free of violence.
    Among other important actions that have been taken has been the funding of Status of Women Canada that is at a record high, funding more than 720 projects through the women's program since 2007. This includes funding for violence against women and girls in rural and remote areas, post-secondary campus communities, and high-risk neighbourhoods. Additional projects are working to prevent the trafficking of women and girls through community planning. We are helping communities engage youth in preventing and eliminating cyber violence and sexual violence against young women and girls, and we are engaging men and boys in their efforts to end gender-based violence.

  (1150)  

    Just last week I spent a significant amount of time in Vancouver. One of the announcements I made was with the BC Lions, men who are taking responsibility to end violence against women and girls by making sure that other young men are well educated and treat women appropriately. This social behaviour change is essential in making sure that we end violence against women and girls, which is something our department of Status of Women Canada is focused on, as I hope all Canadians are.
    Status of Women Canada is also focused on the elimination of harmful cultural practices through community-based approaches. In Montreal, we are supporting a project in partnership with the Shield of Athena family services to address family violence and violence against women and girls committed in the name of so-called honour.
    In announcing this project, the Prime Minister said:
    Our government is committed to protecting women, girls and other vulnerable persons from all forms of violence, and to hold offenders accountable for their acts. Honour crimes are intolerable and barbaric, and violate Canadian laws and values.
    This funding will help train community liaison officers to promote awareness in their communities, identify at-risk situations, and refer potential victims to assistance.
    What could be more important than making sure victims of these horrific crimes actually receive the support they deserve?
    Status of Women Canada is also partnered with the Indo-Canadian Women's Association in Edmonton, on a project to find ways to end violence committed in the name of so-called honour. This project mobilizes local southeast Asian and Middle Eastern communities, service providers, faith organizations, teachers, academics, advocates, and students to find ways to end forms of gender-based violence. It included a two-day conference entitled “In the Name of Honour: Cultural Practices that Hurt Women”.
    From that conference came Daughters Day, a significant initiative that now takes place every September in Edmonton to make sure that individuals understand what changes have to be made and, quite frankly, what is unacceptable behaviour.
    All of these projects demonstrate our government's strong commitment to giving communities the tools they need to end gender-based violence.
    Our government is also taking action and dealing with the issue of violence against aboriginal and girls. This is something I take very seriously. More than talk, we believe in strong actions that reflect our society's desire to reduce and prevent violence against these aboriginal women.
    We demonstrated this commitment in taking action when I announced the Government of Canada's action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women last September. This action plan takes immediate and concrete action to prevent violence, support victims, and protect aboriginal women and girls through new and ongoing commitments over the next five years. Also, there is new funding of $25 million over five years, as well as renewed and ongoing supports, and in practical terms, nearly $200 million over the five-year period.
    The action plan includes measures that prevent violence, support aboriginal victims, and protect aboriginal women and girls from violence. This plan will support community safety plans across Canada, focus on projects that break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse by raising awareness and building healthy relationships, support projects that engage men and boys such as I was just talking about, with our support for the BC Lions, to denounce and prevent violence, as well as provide support for aboriginal victims and their families.
    In addition, Status of Women Canada will share information and resources with communities and organizations and report regularly on this progress under the action plan. We are also supporting the creation of a DNA-based missing persons index through Public Safety Canada.
    I should add that these Government of Canada efforts to address violence against aboriginal women and girls also complement important work being done in the provinces and territories, the police and justice systems, aboriginal families and communities, and organizations across the country.
    Status of Women Canada is very focused on this, as I said. Our dedication of an additional internal $5 million over five years will be accessible as of April 1 to really focus on improving the economic security of aboriginal women and girls and promote their participation in leadership and decision-making roles.
    It is important to note that all of these measures outlined in the action plan represent a substantive investment of close $200 million, with some of the investments beginning as early as month and a half from now.

  (1155)  

    These complement a number of additional actions that our government has taken to make sure the communities are safer; quite frankly, to make sure the most vulnerable in these communities, women and girls, are safer, whether or not that be the introduction of the victims bill of rights to create clear statutory rights at the federal level for victims of crime, the first time in Canadian history this has been created.
    We launched a national plan on anti-cyberbullying. I would encourage many people to look at the stop hating online initiative. Again, particularly young women are the targets of these cyberbullies.
    We introduced legislation to give police and prosecutors new tools to address cyberbullying, and we launched an action plan to combat human trafficking.
    We did all of this, as well as pass the Safe Streets and Communities Act to improve the safety of all Canadians.
    However, one government, one person, or single organizations simply cannot do this alone. All Canadians need to be part of this solution. We must rededicate ourselves as a society to changing attitudes by underlining the fact that violence is never acceptable or normal behaviour. We need to continue to empower girls and women to speak out. We cannot continue to sweep these issues under the carpet.
    We must keep working together to increase the responsiveness of our systems to meet the needs of these victims and other survivors. We must keep taking actions like those outlined in Bill S-7. This legislation sends a strong message to those already in Canada and to those who wish to come to our country that we will not tolerate cultural practices that deprive individuals of their basic human rights. We will not tolerate those who would use their cultural practices as an excuse for committing violence against women and girls. As I said earlier, these practices simply will not be tolerated on Canadian soil.
    Bill S-7 is another important step we are taking as a country to help women and girls live free of violence. Creating a society in which violence against women is no longer tolerated will take a long-term commitment and continuous action, but it actually is possible. There must be a zero tolerance policy on the issues. Canadian women and girls deserve this, and I personally and our government are committed to making sure this is achieved.
    Let us all pass this legislation, and let us all support this legislation and send a strong message to those who want to perpetuate these heinous crimes, these barbaric acts against women, that they simply will not be tolerated here in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her remarks on the bill. Clearly everyone in Canada is opposed to polygamy and abuse of young people who are being forced to marry against their will. However, I was speaking just last night to a young Muslim woman in Edmonton, who reviewed the bill and gave me her feedback. Her concern is that proposed section 293.1 of the Criminal Code would make anybody guilty of an indictable offence if they celebrate, aid, or participate in a marriage rite knowing one of the persons may be marrying against their will.
    What is not clear from this, as she pointed out, is whether that would apply to a marriage only in Canada. It does not say so. She is deeply concerned, and I notice today that the minister misconstrued what the provisions said. When he testified at the Senate, when the same concern was raised, he said people would have to be active participants and undertaking a substantial role.
    I wonder if the minister can speak to that, whether she can defend section 293.1, and whether she agrees with this young Muslim woman that she may be subject to an indictable offence if she attends a marriage where somebody is unwilling to be married, whether here or in another country.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear that early and forced marriages are simply unacceptable. I have been very clear on this. Our government has been very clear. These barbaric practices will not be practised in Canada.
     Young women and girls need to be protected. We know that, when young women are married under the age of 16, there are huge ramifications for their education and huge ramifications for their health. These are basic human rights that need to be protected, and we as Canadians have a responsibility to protect these young women.
    I am happy to chat about the details involved here, but the principle is what is important. The principle is that we make sure these early marriages, child marriages, and forced marriages simply do not happen to Canadian children.
    Mr. Speaker, I have three short questions for the minister. First, does the minister agree that forced marriage, early marriage, and polygamy are wrong and should be condemned, regardless of the culture? Second, if she agrees with that, does she agree that the world “culture” adds nothing to the bill? Third, if she thinks the word “culture” adds something to the bill, which cultures should be condemned?
    Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear: early and forced child marriages should be condemned. They are a breach of basic human rights.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her very eloquent, but also very passionate, speech. I know how important this issue is to her, not only as a parliamentarian but also as part of her lifelong work to assist women and girls who have unfortunately found themselves in these very difficult situations.
    The minister spoke about the importance of not allowing these barbaric cultural practices to happen in our country. I wonder if she could elaborate a little on the importance and significance of educating and empowering these young girls and women so they know what avenues they have—and the bill provides many of those—and can seek some assistance when they find themselves in very difficult situations. These are often very personal family situations where, indeed, it is a cultural practice to force violence on a young girl because she did not heed what the parents promised the day she was born. I wonder if she could elaborate a little on the education and empowerment aspect of the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, what occurs many times, as I have personally seen when standing in an emergency department, is that the young girl is scared. These young girls do not necessarily know where to go and do not know what their basic rights are. They do not know that these violent acts being committed against them are things they can simply say “no” to and that here on Canadian soil they will be protected.
    Status of Women Canada has been working with a number of community based organizations across the country to make sure that the individuals who would be available to help these young victims can have access to the supports they require. These individuals would both educate them, to make sure they understand what their rights are, and let them know where they can go to seek support and be supported within their own local communities and within their families, so they can achieve a healthy outcome for themselves in the future.

  (1205)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Status of Women in Canada if she thinks we need a national action strategy to prevent and end violence against women.
    The issue we are talking about today is really violence against women. Why does the government want to isolate one community by saying that it is different and it is cultural? We are talking in general about violence against women. This is a problem that we have to consider in its entirety, not in a piecemeal way depending on culture and different groups, such as aboriginal women and newcomers. We need to approach this problem the same way for everyone, not propose an essentially racist bill.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the government has taken action in a number of areas dealing with eliminating violence against women and girls. I guess what I find most concerning is that when we put forward initiatives, the opposition simply says “no”, whether in response to our action plan to support aboriginal women and girls, the victims of crime, or to our national action plan against human trafficking, which obviously substantially impacts women. We have put forward initiatives to decrease and eliminate cyber violence and cyberbullying. We know that this disproportionately impacts young women. However, the opposition has voted against all of these things.
    We are moving forward and acting to make sure that these victims of crime are supported, that we prevent crime, and that those who conduct these heinous acts are put behind bars. I wonder why the members opposite never seem to understand that they should support these initiatives to protect women from these violent offenders.
    Mr. Speaker, I would follow up by asking the minister whether she realizes that this bill would further marginalize women whose family members have put them in this situation of violence and who are, therefore, not able to bring forward criminal charges. They often do not want to.
    They need resources and tools available to them, rather than our simply changing the law and saying that we are going after this problem in isolation, when we are just going to drive these women further underground.
    Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I am surprised by this comment.
    Women and girls deserve to be protected. As I mentioned in my speech, if the member had been listening, there have been 726 projects since 2007 that focus particularly on eliminating violence against women and girls. Our government is focused on action to support these victims of crime and the individuals who have experienced these horrendous acts.
    I do not know if the member opposite has met any of these women. I have met them in the emergency department after they have been beaten and harmed. I would encourage her to step up and support these women and to support what our government is doing, because we are going to protect these victims. We are going to support them and their families.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate.
    This issue is very important to me. I am very concerned about violence against all women in Canada. This is my first speech as the NDP critic for status of women, and this is a very relevant issue that is all about violence against women.
    This is now the most important issue facing women in Canada and around the world. There is still so much work to do to achieve equality, and one of the first things we have to do is end this violence for the sake of all women. It is very important to take a holistic approach and to recognize that social inequality, which affects all women, is the cause of this violence.

  (1210)  

[English]

    Let us start, though, by speaking about and understanding what forced marriage is in Canada. I will read some of the great work that has been done on the issue of violence against women in the form of forced or non-consensual marriage, because I think it will give us a good idea of what it is to live in a forced marriage.
    This is from the report entitled, “Report on the Practice of Forced Marriage in Canada: Interviews with Front Line Workers”, prepared by Nai'ma Bendriss, presented to the Department of Justice in November 2008:
    Although contrary to the law and an infringement of human rights under international law, forced marriage is most often the repetition of a cultural practice and a significant part of matrimonial traditions in families which practice it.
    It continues:
    A marriage is regarded as forced when the people who bring it about are not concerned about the consent of the individuals involved and put pressure on them in order to achieve their goal. Violence is always present, whether verbal, psychological or physical, and mainly targets young women. Because it is a taboo, this practice is still greatly underestimated if not completely ignored in Canadian society, and victims keep it a secret so as not to bring public disgrace to their families. The secrecy is heightened by the fact that the situation occurs in private.
    It further states:
...women who are in a position of dependency and a relationship of subordination with their husbands because they have been sponsored by them. This situation can hinder women’s independence and strengthen the spouse’s hold over them and thereby create an unequal relationship. This is the case with many women who met our respondents, who were married against their will and sponsored by their spouse and who, in addition, are victims of conjugal violence, making their lives a series of painful events [that] can leave them increasingly vulnerable.
    It goes on to state:
    Because...they are vulnerable because they are in a dependent situation precisely as a result of their status as a sponsored family member, which ties them to their husbands and can be used by the husbands for all sorts of blackmail, threats and humiliation.
    Bill S-7 would further chip away at these women's opportunities. This legislation would greatly exacerbate the problem, in other words, and I want to talk about why and why the government needs to understand the issue better.
    It happens far too often now that we throw legislation at a problem and say, “We've changed the rules. This is now in the Criminal Code, this is now illegal and, therefore, the problem is solved”.
    In this particular case, there are already Criminal Code routes to address this. It is not as though one cannot be prosecuted for beating one's wife just because it happens to be an honour killing or because it a case of a forced marriage. Those are still prosecutable crimes. They are not changed based upon where one comes from. That is something to keep in mind.
    However, I wonder if this is really what this is about, because we recently heard comments by the Prime Minister singling out niqab-wearing women and antagonizing them, which is simply a way of dividing and singling people out and creating a national debate about something that really should not be happening, when we really should be working on empowering people rather than antagonizing them and creating and “us and them” narrative. This “us and them” mentality, this idea that violence against women is barbaric in some cultures, is simply unfortunate, because it seems to imply that if it is not part of a cultural community or something done by new immigrants, then it is simply some bad choice or not something systemic or societal. That is something I cannot support. I think it is incredibly important to ensure that we look at all forms of violence against women, no matter which community someone comes from.

  (1215)  

[Translation]

    Experts who came before the Senate committee and studied Bill S-7 told us that criminalization is not enough to solve the problem and that it will have the opposite effect and exacerbate the problem. While survivors and victims rarely choose to take legal action in cases of forced marriage, a number of provisions in the Criminal Code already provide legal recourse with regard to the offences named in this bill.
    Instead of politicizing the issue of gender-based violence, the government could and should strengthen the legislative measures already in place and invest in the organizations that provide services on the ground, where the real work is done. I sincerely believe that we need to have a national action plan to end violence against women, because violence exists in every community.
    The short title of this bill, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, is truly xenophobic. It isolates a community, calling it barbaric for its violence against women. This is a problem that exists everywhere. It does not make sense to target one community in particular. It is an extremely serious problem that we all experience, and we should do everything we can to stop it. However, it is racist to isolate a community in this way. This title reinforces the prejudices against certain cultural groups by targeting them. We have to address the problem as a whole instead of marginalizing these women.

[English]

    As I said, current legislation sufficiently addresses the issue. Civil and common provincial laws require marriage to be entered into with free and enlightened legal consent. Canadian criminal law provides recourse relevant in most cases involving force, minors, threats, abduction, confinement, sexual offences, et cetera. Further, Canada is a signatory to multiple international treaties, including CEDAW, which is the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. These are already things that we are doing.
    Of course we need to reinforce these things. That means we need to help shelters and organizations that work with communities and women on the ground. That is how we do that. We give tools to law enforcement. We give tools like legal aid, and we give mental health and health services as well. Simply going about it in having a law that specifically targets one community is a one-track way of doing it and it is not looking at the whole problem in totality.
    Further, criminalization would prevent individuals from seeking help. It would marginalize the women. Over and over, we have heard front-line workers and women and girls saying that they do not want protection from police, that they do not want to prosecute their parents and family, and that they do not want to see them go to jail.
     We need to keep what they are asking of us in mind. We need to listen to these women. They will often withdraw charges rather than see someone in their family prosecuted. I completely acknowledge that it is a difficult situation, but we do need to work with them. We need to recognize that where there is the desire to prosecute, those laws are there and if there is no desire, then we still need to find a way to intervene. That is why a national strategy is important.
    They may often also be financially or otherwise dependent on the person who is violent toward them. They may be afraid of the repercussions of revenge by other family members, or something like that, or other people in the community.
    Victims have reported that being forced to break up family ties forever can lead to rejection, stigma, ostracization, a sense of shame and dishonour, and depression. We need to keep all these things in mind.
    I want to quote from the testimony given by Hannana Siddiqui, head of policy and research in the United Kingdom, during the Senate hearings. A women's minority organization called Southall Black Sisters works on the needs specifically of black and minority women who face gender-based violence in the UK. Dr. Siddiqui said:
    We obviously wanted to condemn forced marriage as a practice within communities, but we disagreed on the need to criminalize it. The problem for us was that we worked directly with survivors and victims. A lot of them are girls and young women who say to us, “I do want protection from the police, but I don't want to prosecute my parents or my family. I don't want to see them go to jail.” They clearly said that if they went to the police and they were going to prosecute, then they would withdraw their charges...I think the concern was that the whole problem of forced marriage would be driven underground, particularly at a time when we were trying to encourage victims to come forward. The other thing victims said was that if you criminalize it, then it may mean that they have to break up family ties...
    That is important to keep in mind. This is from someone who has been through the legislative process in the United Kingdom saying that this is exactly what is happening in this debate.
    Furthermore, this legislation is inherently racist, as I said. Treating violence toward immigration women specifically as somehow being more barbaric than any other kind of gender-based violence is simply ridiculous because all violence should be considered unacceptable. Therefore, specifying “particularly” is really just adding a racist dimension to it. This makes it a cultural problem rather than a gender one, which is what it really is, therefore making us forget that we need to tackle it in all communities.
    It is also important that I quote from the status of women committee. Just two weeks ago Dr. Deepa Mattoo appeared before us. She said:
—it's not only marginalizing women, it's also marginalizing the communities they come from and targeting certain communities more so. I think it takes us away from the discourse and the reality that violence against women happens across cultures and across people's historical backgrounds, and more so when there has been a history of colonization and there has been a history of marginalization of other kinds.
     Not considering violence against women a holistic issue and coming up with the discourse that there is some kind of barbaric culture in certain communities and new immigrants are necessarily more violent than people living here in Canada I think is very problematic.
    As I mentioned as well, it also drives people further underground because they do not know what to do. They cannot come forward and prosecute because they do not have the resources in the community and the services to help them. The only option they have is to send a family member to jail, which would result in a very difficult situation for the individual in the community.
    This bill would also politicize the issue. That is what we would be doing. Like I said, it is this us and them mentality. This is a cultural problem. It is not a gender problem. It is not something we all need to be addressing. It is specific to this community. That is very problematic as well.

  (1220)  

    It is also important to mention the lack of work or consultation with stakeholders. It does not listen to women, to survivors. It does not listen to their story, and that is also incredibly important to point out.
    While the bill purports to protect and support vulnerable individuals, arguing that these practices exist as a result of immigration and that the government is committed to ending it, it is really a problem that is gendered.
    In the time I have left, I want to talk about violence against women.
     Violence against women happens all across Canada and around the world. The United Nations defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. That can include, and this is very serious stuff we are talking about, physical abuse such as slapping, choking, punching, using hands or objects as weapons, threatening with a gun, a knife and committing murder. That is physical abuse.
    Sexual abuse is using threats, intimidation or physical force to force women into unwanted sexual acts.
    Emotional or verbal abuse is threatening to kill, whether it be the woman, her children, her loved ones, or pets: threatening to commit suicide; making humiliating or degrading comments about her body or behaviour; forcing her to commit degrading acts; isolating her from friends or family; confining her to the house; destroying her possessions; and other actions designed to demean or restrict her freedom and independence.
    There is financial abuse such as stealing or controlling her money or valuables. This is particularly a problem with regard to older women. Forcing her to work or denying her the right to work is also including in this.
    There is also spiritual abuse such as using religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate, dominate or control.
     Criminal harassment and stalking is considered violence against women, following, watching in a persistent, malicious and unwanted manner, which is important to underline, and invading privacy in a way that threatens personal safety.
    There are so many ways in which violence against women exists in our society, and who is affected? All women are affected, young women, elderly women, working women, mothers, teachers, sex workers, CEOs, members of Parliament, indigenous women particularly and immigrant women as well because they face these double whammies of racism and sexism. That is why, when we look at intersecting a violent problem, we need to do it in a lens that is all-encompassing toward ending violence against women. It happens as much to women in Toronto as it does in rural Saskatchewan, so we really need to look at it holistically.
    This is what we need to do, and I want to cite Deepa Mattoo one more time. When they started to work on the issue, she said:
—one thing that we have been clear about is that it is part of the continuum of violence against women and nothing else. It should be dealt with within that same framework. We were never wanting it to be dealt with any differently....we wanted the systems to be sensitive and alive to the issue of the distinct experiences of the women who faced this form of violence, but we wanted it to be included in the violence against women framework. But unfortunately it has been somehow discussed in a way...and we know there's Bill S-7 that is on the table at this point as well.
    There is an assumption that is coming that somehow the current legal system does not have enough in it to address this issue, whereas our education from our clients, the survivors, and our education from the communities, very much tells us that the existing systems and the structures are enough to serve the needs of the population if they want to access the law and justice in that way. Unfortunately, I think we haven't learned enough from what we see, that women don't necessarily want to report.
    We need to support those communities. We need legal aid. We need to listen to the women who come forward. We need to consult our stakeholders that are able to list recommendations of specifically what needs to be done, and that includes supporting women when they do immigrate to Canada. This means really ensuring that economically, socially, physically and politically, women are equal, all of us, and that means structurally, helping out the organizations on the ground and really listening to women.

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to that very confusing speech. Clearly, the member is confused about the legislation. It is doubtful that she read the legislation, and if she did, whether she understood the purpose of the legislation. For her to suggest there is a correlation between a barbaric cultural practice and a targeted cultural community is bizarre and absurd. To also suggest in this House, in this sacred place, that a piece of legislation that two of the parties are supporting, the government and the third party, is racist is way beyond the pale and crosses the line.
    The member also said that we should be listening to people across the country. Well, we are.
    My question to her is simply this. What does she have to say to Aruna Papp from the National Post, who stated on November 3, 2014:
    Forced into an abusive marriage at 17 and unable to leave it for 18 years, I can attest to the fact that a forced marriage is effectively a life of slavery. I congratulate the Canadian government for taking a bold step on behalf of women who have nowhere to turn for help.
    I would hope that the member would retract some of the shameful words she used in her dissertation earlier.

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am offended by the fact the member suggested that I had not read the legislation and that I did not know what I was talking about.
    I would point to a continued sexism that exists in this House. I really think he misunderstands. Perhaps he was not listening to my speech. I did go into French at some point, so I am not sure if he followed me the entire way.
    I am saying that the way he has brought forward this issue is creating an us-and-them mentality, which is evidenced as well by the comment he just made. This is a cultural issue. It is a problem that exists here, and that approach is racist, because we know that violence against women exists everywhere. That does not mean that just because people belong to a community, they are violent toward women, and that is why what the Conservatives are doing right now is problematic.
     It is important that we listen to what women want us to do. Currently, there are criminal ways of prosecuting when these things happen, but we need to figure out how not to marginalize. One thing we could be doing is to have better protection for permanent residents and persons without status. That is a concrete action. It is something we could be doing that we are not. Instead, we are trying to marginalize these women by saying that the only option for them is to prosecute.
    I am not saying that the way they are living is not horrifying. All violence against women is horrifying, and we need to address all of it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, does my colleague think it is responsible to criminalize all these acts without any concern for the potential consequences to the lives of these women and without any plan to minimize these consequences or to help the women get through these trials and integrate into the community?
    Should we be more concerned about what happens after these acts are criminalized? Should the government have presented a plan to address the potential consequences along with the provisions that further criminalize these acts?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I have said several times, there needs to be a national action plan to address violence against all women. We need that.
    That would include actually consulting with women, all women, to understand what the problem is. Part of understanding what the problem is means having accurate data and doing accurate research. That is a really important thing that is currently missing with the present government, because it does not fund that kind of research.
    Also very important is safe and affordable housing. We need to be helping out the shelters that are doing the work on the ground. We can cite specific funds sent to certain specific shelters, and it is good that we are helping, but we are nowhere near to helping as much as we should be. We need to make addressing this problem part of a national strategy. Shelters are where women go to get services and to get help to get out of a situation. That is the front line. That is where we need to be putting our effort.
    As I was saying, it is really important to remember that it is not just by doing such things as changing the criminal law that we should be addressing this issue. We need to be giving women a way out.
    Very quickly, I am going to quote Deepa Mattoo, who said that women:
....are threatened with deportation by the abusers. Also, the system is built in such a way that they can actually face, as a consequence of that violence, being deported. Irrespective of whether or not they reported it, they can face the consequences of being deported because they were violated or because they chose to report abuse.
    Maybe we need to be addressing this issue rather than simply criminalizing it further.

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, the audacity of a member of Parliament to stand in this House and suggest that a question arising from her presentation is somehow sexism in the House is unbelievable, truly unbelievable.

[Translation]

    I am going to quote Julie Miville-Dechêne, president of Quebec's Conseil du statut de la femme, in an article in the November 6, 2014, edition of Le Journal de Montréal: “This will allow us to address the phenomenon of young girls forced to marry when they are sent abroad during their vacation.”
     I would like to know what the member would say to Julie Miville-Dechêne.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not think the member is understanding me. It breaks my heart1 to understand that women across this country and around the world face incredible violence. I cannot believe that the member does not see that I feel that way about it.
    What I am saying is that when women are faced with this situation, they can prosecute. Those laws are there. Would it not be ridiculous if in Canada a woman could not prosecute because she was living in a situation of violence? However, we know that very few women report any kind of violence, let alone make it through the complicated and cumbersome legal system to actual see a conviction. What we need are services and supports. That is what we need to be doing.
    I do not understand why the member is accusing me of not understanding that. I do see these things myself. I know women who have been beaten, who have been murdered. It is very important that we address that for all women. We need specific, culturally appropriate services that are helpful, including housing and shelters, across Canada.
     This is something that all of us are facing as women. To isolate it as the member is doing is, as I said earlier, simply racist.
    Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak to this very important piece of legislation.
    Canada is a free and open society built upon the premise of the equality of all of our citizens. While it is clear to most Canadians that violence against women and girls is unacceptable, unfortunately, violence against women and girls can and does still occur anywhere, including at home, in our workplaces, and on our streets.
    In the 2013 Speech from the Throne, our government committed to taking further action that would help to prevent barbaric practices involving violence against women on Canadian soil. This bill would meet that commitment.
     Unfortunately, harmful cultural practices continue to brutalize millions of women and girls worldwide. Among those affected are some individuals and families within Canada's diverse cultural communities. We know that some immigrant women in Canada are more vulnerable to such forms of violence. They may not be familiar with our laws. They may not know that certain practices are a crime or unacceptable, or that they interfere with their basic human rights. Such practices include early and forced marriage, polygamy, and so-called honour-based violence. These practices are the subject of the bill before us today.
    Tolerance of any individual's or family's view that cultural traditions can somehow justify depriving other individuals of their basic human rights goes against the very essence of our great country's values. It is imperative that we prevent such barbaric practices from occurring on Canadian soil.
    This Conservative government firmly believes that any practice that involves violence directed at women is barbaric. The opposition refuses to condemn these practices as barbaric. In fact, the leader of the Liberal Party thought that the word “barbaric” was too harsh to use when referring to these practices. We believe that this is an insult to all women facing violence from their own family members.
    All Canadians know that a free and democratic society requires the full participation of women and that any practice that constitutes violence against women and girls negatively affects our democracy and our society. It goes against the very fabric of what it is to be Canadian. It must be condemned as a barbaric cultural practice.
    Any practice that involves violence is abuse that must be stopped, particularly when meted out behind closed doors and within families, where women and girls are especially defenceless, or when whole families conspire to ensure that underage women lie about their age or take part in a forced marriage. No one in Canada should have to face violence and abuse, especially from their own family. This is barbaric, and I emphasize that.
    That is why I am pleased to speak in the House about our government's zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. It contains very concrete steps that would help to further prevent and address certain forms of violence against women and girls in all of our diverse communities.
    I gained a greater understanding about the nature and extent of this problem over the past year when the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration conducted a study on strengthening the protection of women in our immigration system. We heard from victims of abuse and from representatives who provide services to immigrant women from right across the country. These important discussions focused on domestic violence, forced marriage, the immigration process, and how we could strengthen the protection of vulnerable women and girls.
     They also revealed many ways in which our government could help address the problems stemming from harmful cultural practices. If implemented, the measures in this bill would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, and the Criminal Code.

  (1240)  

    Let me first address the practice of polygamy, which is already illegal in Canada and is an affront to Canadian values. While it is against the law in Canada to practise polygamy or to enter into a polygamous union, and that ban has been upheld as constitutional, that is not the case in every country of the world.
    To complement the existing criminal law and to prevent polygamy on Canadian soil within the immigration context, Bill S-7 would create a new inadmissibility provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for anyone practising polygamy. This would enhance existing immigration tools to render both temporary and permanent residents inadmissible for practising polygamy in Canada, where there is a criminal conviction or misrepresentation. This new inadmissibility would strengthen officers' ability to refuse visa applications and would also allow removal orders to be made where there is clear evidence that the person is or will be practising polygamy in Canada.
    However, polygamy is not the only barbaric cultural practice contradicting Canadian values. Additional measures in Bill S-7 would also amend the Civil Marriage Act to address the problem of early and forced marriage.
     In Canada there is no national minimum age for marriage. While provincial and territorial laws have added requirements for minor children, such as parental consent or court approval, they do not have the authority under the Constitution to set the minimum age below which a child may never marry. Only in Quebec is the minimum age set at 16 under a federal statute. In other parts of Canada, the common law still applies, which sets the minimum age at 14 for boys and 12 for girls, although historically it went as low as age seven. Yes, age seven.
    In contrast, Austria, Australia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom all have a minimum age below which no one can marry, even with parental consent. Thankfully, very few marriages in Canada now involve people under the age of 16, but setting a national minimum age of 16 for marriage would make it clear that early marriage is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our country.
    Other amendments to the Civil Marriage Act proposed in Bill S-7 would codify the requirement that those getting married must give their free and enlightened consent to the marriage and would codify the requirement for the dissolution of any previous marriage. This is very important. A marriage should be a union between two consenting people. It should not be forced on them.
    Building on the proposed amendments to the Civil Marriage Act, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act also contains measures that would amend the Criminal Code to help prevent forced or underage marriage. These measures would criminalize knowingly officiating at an underage or forced marriage, actively participating in a wedding ceremony knowing that one party was marrying another against his or her will or was under the age of 16, and removing a minor from Canada for a forced or underage marriage.
    Let us think about that for a moment. A student in grade 10, born and raised in Canada, can conceivably be put on a plane to go on vacation to another country only to find out when he or she arrives that a forced marriage has been arranged. There is a big difference between an arranged and a forced marriage. Young people can find themselves coming back or staying there, married, when they are just out of grade 10. It is unbelievable.
    Building on these proposed new offences, a related amendment would create a specific new peace bond that would give courts the power to impose conditions on an individual. Such a peace bond could be used to require the surrender of a passport and to prevent the child from being taken out of Canada.

  (1245)  

    Such conditions would apply when there were reasonable grounds to fear that a forced marriage or a marriage under the age of 16 would otherwise occur, whether in Canada or abroad.
     Finally, there is a measure in the bill that would also amend the Criminal Code in relation to honour killings and many other spousal homicides. So-called honour violence is perpetrated against family members, usually women and girls, who are perceived to have brought shame or dishonour to the family, usually by not respecting what the family has chosen for them, quite often at birth or at a very young age. It is usually premeditated and committed with some degree of approval from family, or in many cases, community members.
    Generally speaking, violence committed for a motive related to a family's honour can take many forms and be of varying degrees of seriousness, all of which are fully prohibited in Canada under our criminal law. So-called honour killings are murder, just like any other intentional killing. However, under the Criminal Code, someone charged with murder can use the defence of provocation in seeking a reduction to a lesser charge of manslaughter. In other words, a person found to have committed murder can argue that the victim's conduct in some way provoked his or her own killing, twisted as that might sound. This defence has been raised in several honour killing cases in Canada. Accused murderers have claimed that lawful conduct by the victim, such as real or perceived marital infidelity, disrespect, defiance, or insulting behaviour on the part of the victim toward a spouse, sibling, or parent, provoked the killing.
    On the facts and evidence presented, the provocation defence has been rejected in so-called honour killing cases. However, our government is mindful of the fact that the provocation defence has been and continues to be successful in spousal killings, where men have killed their partners in circumstances that are very similar to those in honour killing cases. In fact, for many decades, both in Canada and abroad, one of the most serious concerns expressed about the defence of provocation has been that it excuses male homicidal rage against women who exercise their right to make personal choices for themselves.
    Canadian women from immigrant and non-immigrant communities deserve the full protection of the law. Therefore, the proposed change in the bill would apply in both situations. Measures in Bill S-7 would amend the Criminal Code so that legal conduct by the victim could no longer be legally considered as provocation. This would not only prevent the defence from being raised but would also bring our criminal law in line with Canadian values with respect to other spousal killings, holding people responsible for their murderous rage and actions, even when they were verbally insulted before the killing. Similar changes to the defence of provocation have already been made in most like-minded countries.
    In summary, these amendments would improve protection and support for women and girls in Canada, including the particularly vulnerable from immigrant communities, in a number of different ways. They would render permanent and temporary residents inadmissible if they practiced polygamy in Canada. They would strengthen Canadian marriage laws by establishing a new national minimum age for marriage of 16 and by codifying the existing legal requirements for free and enlightened consent for marriage and for ending an existing marriage prior to entering another, which is a key point.

  (1250)  

    They would criminalize certain conduct related to underage and forced marriage ceremonies, including the act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such a marriage. They would help protect potential victims of underage or forced marriages by creating a new specific court ordered peace bond where there were grounds to fear that someone would commit an offence in this area. They would also ensure that the defence of provocation would not apply in so-called honour killings and many spousal homicides.
    Five years ago, our government introduced a new citizenship guide called Discover Canada, which is used by prospective new Canadians to learn about Canadian citizenship and to prepare them for their mandatory citizenship test, and ultimately their integration into our country. Since its introduction, the guide has proven to be popular not only with newcomers to Canada but with many Canadians interested in learning about the rights and responsibilities that come with being a citizen of our great country. One of the most important points made explicit to all readers of Discover Canada is that men and women are equal under Canadian law. In fact, the guide states:
    Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, “honour killings,” female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.
    Although the equality of men and women under the law is a fundamental Canadian value, unfortunately violence against women and girls continues to affect tens of thousands of Canadians each year, and barbaric cultural practices still exist as a reality for some Canadian women and girls. Our government is determined to address gender-based violence so that all women and girls in Canada can be empowered and protected from harm and can feel safe at all times.
    Our Conservative government has already taken a number of actions to help end violence against women and girls in all its forms and in all communities across the country. We have strengthened criminal justice measures and provided greater support for victims of crime. For example, we recently introduced the action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls. These build on the recommendations of the House of Commons Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women and on earlier concrete action taken to address the devastating and truly barbaric cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls.
    We also introduced a national action plan to combat human trafficking to address a heinous and barbaric form of violence against women and girls. Imagine those who are so sick as to profit by trafficking women, bringing them to Canada just so they can make money in illicit fields.
    With the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act we are strengthening our laws to protect Canadians and newcomers from barbaric cultural practices. We are also sending a strong message to those in Canada and those who wish to come to Canada that we will not tolerate cultural traditions that deprive individuals of their human rights.
    Our Conservative government is committed to taking concrete steps to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in Canada. We will continue to stand up for all victims of violence and abuse.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague. I am interested in the issue and what we saw with the cult of Bountiful that came across the border into Canada to escape prosecution in Utah. They set themselves up in Canada. There were all manner of allegations of abuse and of young girls as young as 12 being forced into marriage. This had gone to the courts in B.C. in 2007, I believe it was. It did not believe it had the power to go through with it, but it was tested at the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 2011, which upheld Canada's polygamy laws.
    We have the tools necessary to go against these cults.
    We saw the same thing with Lev Tahor, where there was all manner of allegations of abuse and forced marriages of children. The Quebec police and the Ontario courts moved against them.
     I would like to ask my hon. colleague about the one provision that concerns me, which would apply to participants in a wedding. I am concerned about this, because there may be people who are brought to a wedding who would now be complicit. If we attempt to draw the circle too wide, we are actually not going to be able to target who we need to target, which are the people running these cults. The courts have already given us the tools in Canada. The police have the tools to go after them for forced marriages, child abuse, and polygamy. Would not the criminalization of the overall community actually drive people underground?
    Mr. Speaker, clearly polygamy, as the member knows, is not legal in our country. The Supreme Court of Canada has, as he stated, upheld the polygamy laws of the land. If anything, Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, clearly indicates that those who are in a polygamous relationship would not be welcome to come to Canada. In fact, as the minister said earlier, they can come here as individuals but cannot bring their spouses here with them.
    We have also introduced the peace bond, as the member would note, upon review of the legislation. This bond would assist us in many respects in stopping that activity from happening in our country, and stopping those who want to come to Canada and unfortunately want to partake in polygamous relationships.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three short questions that I posed to a couple of the members of the cabinet, who did not answer them. Perhaps I could try with the parliamentary secretary.
    First, does the parliamentary secretary agree that violence against women, forced and early marriage, polygamy, and genital mutilation are wrong in any culture? Second, if the parliamentary secretary agrees with that, does he agree that there is no need to reference the word “culture” in the title? Third, if he does not agree, which cultures would he seek to condemn?
    Mr. Speaker, I did not hear the member ask that question earlier, but did hear succinct and clear responses. Perhaps I can assist him by providing the following.
    Of course, violence against women and girls of any kind is clearly wrong, clearly a crime in Canada, and clearly we as parliamentarians should all be on board in doing everything we can to ensure that it does not happen in our communities.
    The phrase “cultural practices” does not refer to a specific cultural community. It is a cultural practice in some families to tell their children when they are five, six, seven, or eight that when they are 14, 15, or 16, they will have chosen for them the person they will marry and that if they do not marry that person, they will bring shame to the family. When the children bring shame to the family, the members of the family threaten them with violence. It is a cultural practice. There is a huge difference between the words “barbaric cultural practices” and “a cultural community”. There is no relationship between the two phrases. That kind of practice is barbaric, cultural or not, anywhere.
    Mr. Speaker, the government is deeply concerned about the treatment that women and girls in Canada have suffered because of some cultural practices that Canadian society and the Supreme Court of Canada reject. These include genital mutilation, and being forced into polygamous marriages and marriage at a very young age.
    I would think that any reasonable, concerned, and decent Canadian would also want to protect women and girls in this country from those terrible fates. Yet, unbelievably, we see the opposition members, including young women over there, doing everything they can to attack this legislation, to disagree with it, to find reasons not to support it. I cannot believe this.
    Could the parliamentary secretary explain why the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party in the House would not want to protect Canadian women in this way?
     Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her passion and commitment because I know that over the course of her life, she has been a very strong voice for women's rights and, certainly, a strong advocate for putting in place crime legislation to ensure that women and girls are protected in our country no matter where they live.
    The problem I have with the opposition, particularly the New Democratic Party, and with some of the wording from the Liberal party, even though they are supporting the bill, is that this is one of those pieces of legislation that should transcend political parties and alliances. This is not a piece of legislation to hang one's hat on. I say to my friends in the NDP who oppose this that it is impossible to justify to Canadians our not putting into place legislation that would educate and empower women and protect them in their communities, particularly within the walls of their own homes.
    I implore the member to speak to her leader—

  (1305)  

    Order, please.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I find it insulting to be told by members on the other side that I am not opposed to violence. The young female members on this side of the House are opposed to all forms of sexual violence, whether it is polygamy, forced marriage or early marriage. That has been clear from the start.
    What we are saying is that a number of women's advocacy groups are opposed to this bill because it criminalizes the victims. The victims do not want their family members to face criminal charges. There are several shortcomings. This bill has a number of serious consequences, including the potential deportation of children and victims.
    I want to know whether the government will undertake to broadly consult experts and groups and whether it will undertake to eliminate the bill's unintended consequences, such as the deportation of the victims' children and families.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question I would like to ask the NDP member. In the November 6, 2014, edition of Le Journal de Montréal, Julie Miville-Dechêne, president of Quebec's Conseil du statut de la femme, said, “This will allow us to address the phenomenon of young girls forced to marry when they are sent abroad during their vacation.”
    Does the NDP member have something to say to Julie Miville-Dechêne today?

[English]

    Before resuming debate, I would like to remind all hon. members that we are now moving into mostly 10-minute speeches, with only five minutes for questions and comments. I have allowed the questions and answers to become rather lengthy, but the harness will be tightened when we move to questions for the hon. member for Surrey North, who now has the floor.
    The hon. member for Surrey North.
    Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure and an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents of Surrey North.
    I have some grave concerns regarding Bill S-7, a bill that has made its way to this House from the other side, the Senate side, which is the unelected, unethical, and unaccountable place. I will not talk about that because we have talked about it at other times.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague, the very hard-working member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
    First, the bill is an example of Conservative rhetoric, of doing something yet achieving nothing. It is a waste of taxpayers' time and money and a cruel joke on our democratic system, as most of these measures would not actually achieve anything. Basically, it would duplicate existing laws that are in place. Additionally, a couple of the legislative amendments in Bill S-7 would invoke racist stereotypes and fuel xenophobia toward minority groups, rather than achieving anything positive.
    The bill would seek to deport people engaged in polygamy or forced marriages, including the very women the government claims it is trying to protect.
    We on this side, the NDP, the official opposition, recognize that violence against women remains a systematic and widespread issue in Canada, and we have shown to Canadians that we are committed to ending violence against women and to protecting them within our immigration system, and system at large. However, Bill S-7 does not intend to protect women; instead, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act intends to further marginalize racial minorities as part of the Conservative agenda.
    What is “barbaric” to me is the very title of the bill, which is simply racist. It actually suggests that all cultural practices are somehow barbaric. The title of the bill alone reinforces prejudice against certain cultural groups by targeting racial minorities for practices that are in fact found in Canadian society at large, not only in these communities. The Conservatives are once again politicizing a very serious issue. They are targeting racial minorities with offensive stereotypes, meanwhile claiming that these measures somehow address the issue of gender-based violence when, in fact, they do not.
    We have heard from many experts who expressed concern about the purpose of the bill and have stated that the bill would in fact worsen problems of violence against women.
    Lawyer Deepa Mattoo from the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario stated that:
    Bill S-7 lacks the understanding of the complex issues of violence faced by women and children and does not achieve the goal that the government desires to achieve with this ^[bill].
    Another witness, Dr. Naila Butt from the Social Services Network, also stated that:
     Criminalization of forced marriages, without the much needed institutional support for victims, would only further alienate and harm those facing forced marriages and gender-based violence, with the added insult of being stigmatized that they come from barbaric cultures.
    Canadians are clear that the current government does not actually care about women's rights.

  (1310)  

    This is the same government that, time after time, has neglected the very issues facing women in Canada, across our country. If the Conservatives really wanted to tackle the issue of violence against women, they would finally launch an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women.
    Over the Valentine's Day weekend, we saw protests across this country. Women, men, children, boys, and girls were out in full force across this country demanding that the Conservative government hold an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
    We have heard, over and over, that there are more than 1,200 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in this country. The stats are absolutely shocking. Yet the Prime Minister stated this issue “isn't really high on our radar”. This is coming from our Prime Minister.
     It is very concerning to me that we have violence that has happened across this country, that 1,200 women are missing or murdered, and the government is not looking into it or calling for an inquiry, yet it claims that it is somehow protecting the women of this country. I find that very appalling. A lot of Canadians find this appalling. I have heard it from constituents in my community. I have heard it from people across this country. They want to know why the government is not calling an inquiry into the murdered and missing indigenous women.
    This kind of attitude, the Conservative government's attitude towards issues of violence against women, is simply a lack of respect toward all Canadians.
    This bill also has many unintended negative consequence. The bill follows a pattern of the Conservative government of sensationalizing measures that do not actually achieve their stated goals and instead have unintended negative consequences for many Canadians.
    Many witnesses who testified before the Senate committee on human rights stated that Bill S-7 is likely to have many unintended consequences. UNICEF expressed concerns that the bill would impose criminal sanctions against minors who attend, celebrate, or help organize a forced marriage, effectively impacting their future with a criminal record. These are minors I am talking about.
    Essentially, this bill re-victimizes women and children who are at risk of violence by imposing criminal sanctions on them rather than protecting them from predators.
    Additionally, the Senate committee heard that because the penalties include criminalization and deportation, some women and children will not want to come forward to report forced marriages.
    There are many other negative consequences for Bill S-7 and its impact on family reunification. We heard in the immigration committee that, when families are not able to reunite with their family members, it has consequences on women and children.
    No woman, regardless of race, citizenship status, or religion, should be subject to gender-based violence, including the practice of forced or underage marriages. Women at risk of violence need adequate support and programs.
    However, this bill makes no reference to support services. That is what is needed at the ground level, support services that provide education and additional help for these women. The Conservative government has been cutting the very programs that actually provide these services to women in these situations.
    This bill's intentions are only political and are not actually meant to protect women. If the Conservatives were actually concerned about preventing violence against women, they would make a serious investment in services that support vulnerable women.
    In conclusion, this bill is yet another example of the government's abuse of power in making useless pieces of legislation that only sensationalize a very serious issue and that discriminate against a part of the population in order to further the Conservative agenda.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague's speech, and I have two questions.
    First, the indication from the speaker opposite is that they are not supporting the bill because they do not like the words “cultural” and “barbaric” together. I looked up the definition of culture. Merriam-Webster's definition of culture is:
the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.
a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)
    Where in the bill does the NDP find a specific cultural group identified? It is about barbaric activity that individuals believe is the right thing to do to their wives, children, and other women. We do not agree with it. It is not the Canadian way.
    Where in the bill does it mention any particular cultural group?
    Mr. Speaker, a question has been asked of the Conservatives, and they have been dodging and ducking it. Why have “culture” in the title of the bill? They are saying it is not culture based, so why do the Conservatives have “culture” in the title of the bill?
    On this side of the House, we believe that violence against women is gender-based, and we should be looking at ways to protect our women across the country. However, the Conservatives are somehow linking it to a particular cultural group, as if it has been imported here by a different culture.
    The very problem we need to address is violence against women. That runs across cultures. It is a part of Canadian society, and we need to take steps to protect women.

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, I somewhat appreciate the comments from the member. I do not necessarily agree with everything he said, but there is a lot of validity in some of his comments.
    The issue of zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices, the name of the act, is something that could be held into question. The Liberal Party has strongly suggested that the word “culture” should be dropped from the title at the very least, and we hope to see that.
    Having said that, going through the legislation, it seems to me that there are some positive attributes to it that somewhat obligate us to seriously look at voting in favour of the legislation. An example is the minimum age being set at 16 for marriage here in Canada.
    I wonder if the member sees any benefits inside the current legislation? I will be voting in favour of it. I would like to see it amended to take out “culture”, but does the member see any benefit?
    Mr. Speaker, we are always open to new legislation and having proper scrutiny of the legislation that is brought to the House.
     What we have seen from the Conservatives is that any sort of positive addition, whether it is in witness testimony or amendments from the official opposition to prop up the bill and ensure that its intention is kept, is turned down. Experts say that we need the amendments that we have introduced. What we have seen time after time is those amendments being turned down by the Conservatives.
    I know that the Conservatives do not believe in facts. They do not believe in expert testimony. They do not believe in consulting the very stakeholders who are going to be affected by this.
    I will support this bill if the Conservatives take into consideration the number of amendments that we will introduce and the amendments that experts will bring to committee.
    Mr. Speaker, I prefer throughout my speech to refer to this as Bill S-7, and it will become apparent why that is the case when I speak. It is an act that would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act, the Criminal Code, and a number of other ancillary criminal-related bills.
    I would like to make the comment right at the outset that what has coloured this legislation, based on the testimony given in the Senate, is that it is the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who has chosen to speak to the bill. Normally it would be the Minister of Justice tabling a government bill to amend the Criminal Code. That probably explains why people are reacting and why they are concerned about targeting certain cultures and certainly targeting immigrants.
    I feel obliged to make reference to the offensive title of the bill, which I choose not to repeat, and which others have expressed as grossly offensive and an unnecessary descriptor. As pointed out by many others, it harkens back to the reprehensible historic descriptions of aboriginal Canadians.
    As the bill is by and large focused on immigrants, many view it as discriminatory. It is as if the government has alleged the bill does not target immigrant communities and yet it is tabled by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. This is clearly a confused message.
    As testified by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women:
    The title is racist, discriminatory and further exacerbates the racism and stereotyping of some of us in Canadian society.... We should all remind ourselves of the treatment meted out to our First Nations, who were seen as barbaric, primitive and uncivilized....
    The overt message of this act is that these barbaric practices will be brought into a pristine Canada where there is no violence, where women and girls are not subjected to these horrible practices of forced or early marriages, where polygamy is abhorred, and where there is no femicide — that is, no killings of women and girls. Our organization objects...to the label of honour-based violence....
    I remind the government that is coming from the Canadian Council of Muslim Women. This association and a number of others, while testifying before the Senate, referenced the instance of polygamy in British Columbia since the 1950s, which was yet to be effectively addressed by Canadian authorities.
    In speaking to the bill before the Senate committee, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration shared that, in his view, the intent of the bill is to:
...help to ensure that no young girl or woman in Canada becomes a victim of early or forced marriage, polygamy, so-called honour-based violence or any other form of barbaric cultural practice.
    Those are the very words of the minister.
    He further went on to claim the measures “would improve protection and support for vulnerable individuals, especially women and girls”. The question then before us is this. Would Bill S-7 actually deliver on that intent? I wish to make it clear that in my opinion no woman, or frankly any man, girl, or boy regardless of their race, citizenship, or religion, should be made a victim of gender-based violence, including forced or underage marriage.
    As a co-founder of a sexual assault centre in Edmonton, I am well apprised of the dangers and risks far too many girls and women face. I am also aware of the many factors that prevent girls or women from revealing the abuse to authorities. This is a significant factor raised by many who have concerns with the effectiveness of the bill to genuinely address or prevent abuses, particularly by criminalizing the actions.
    It should also be kept in mind that polygamy is already prohibited in Canada.
    My comments will by and large reflect the views of the bill and the issues involved held by a number of communities of women, as well as legal experts and associations that address trafficking and abuse, as to whether Bill S-7 would actually deliver the remedies and protections alleged to be contained in the bill by the minister.
    A common concern has been raised about the inadequate consultation with the potentially impacted communities and the many organizations and experts involved in the matter of forced or underage marriage. I have spoken with the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and the Edmonton-based Indo-Canadian Women's Association and many of its members, as well as organizations addressing trafficking.
    Some time ago, I met with a group of Canadian women who were concerned about the failure of the Government of Canada to take enforcement action against the situation in Bountiful. This is despite the direction of the courts that enforcement action is possible under the Criminal Code, reportedly, to protect young girls brought into Canada from the United States for the purpose of polygamous unions.

  (1325)  

    According to the Indo-Canadian Women's Association:
     Given the widespread occurrence of this practice and its harmful effects, many countries have undertaken a number of initiatives to counter it....
     In Canada, there are a number of grassroots initiatives launched by community organizations such as the Indo Canadian Women's Association that seek to educate the community and provide links to social and medical resources for those seeking assistance in the community. Through education and continuing efforts of the community, we can begin to leave our mark in ending this harmful practice.
    I would like to add that just a few minutes ago I spoke to a very respected member of the Edmonton Muslim community, Soraya Hafez, who is concerned about the bill, in particular because she is seeing a refocusing away from prevention and support to the community organizations, such as her own, and toward the criminalization of this kind of behaviour.
    That view has also been endorsed by Preet Atwal, a young Sikh woman in Edmonton. She writes:
    The statements presented do not seem to be supported by real statistical or realistic data, spreading myths about arranged marriages. It is making it seem as if violence against women is a cultural issue only taking place in certain communities. Criminalization will only further marginalize radicalized communities and will not do anything to actually prevent forced marriages and violence against women. If we truly wish to combat that issue we should use education, community awareness, and law enforcement....
    Those are profound viewpoints.
    I noticed that the Minister of Status of Women had previously said that she had also spoken to this Edmonton community. They are deeply disturbed that she had suggested that their conference on honouring young women was about honour killings. In fact, it was actually about honouring young women in the Asian community, and I was delighted to participate in that conference.
    I would also like to share briefly the words of Avvy Yao-Yao Go, who is the director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. She also testified before the Senate on Bill S-7. She stated:
    From the very naming of this bill to the various legislative amendments it seeks to amend, Bill S-7 invokes racist stereotypes and fuels xenophobia towards certain racialized communities. It exudes hypocrisy disguised as morality. It mocks the practice of polygamy elsewhere as a sign of cultural inferiority while ignoring the fact that polygamy, both formal and informal, is being practised in Canada by some Canadians and that all too often marriages break down in Canada due to infidelity and/or abuse.
     Alia Hogben, the executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, testified at the Senate that she thinks it is important to consider the views based on the direct experiences working with women who are at risk of forced marriages or abuse in their marriages.
    She said:
    First let me acknowledge how pleased we are that the government is paying attention to the issues within violence against women and girls. There is definitely a kernel of genuine concern being expressed by this act, and we support the intent of addressing the issues of forced or early marriages, polygamy and other forms of gender-based violence.
     She says the council is less convinced that these proposed measures are necessary or appropriate. They are also disappointed they were not accorded the courtesy of being consulted in the initial stages of drafting the bill.
    They identified that the current Criminal Code and Civil Marriage Act already criminalize polygamy and bigamy. In their view, what is sorely missing is the attention to actually enforcing these laws and the assignment of resources to address problems faced by immigrants and other victims. This appears to be a common view of those actually working with trafficked women or women attempting to escape forced or abusive marriages.
    They are equally concerned at the focused attention on certain backgrounds, given the high level of violence against all Canadian women and girls. Some have mentioned, as have some of my colleagues, the fact that there is still a refusal by the government—and, sadly, by the Premier of Alberta—to call an inquiry into the over 1,800 missing aboriginal women and girls.
    They have noted the failure to prosecute polygamy over the past six decades. They remind us that as recently as 2011, the courts have clarified that charges can go forward under existing laws.
     What they recommend instead is to engage and educate the community on the law and their rights and to build the capacity for community-based responses to human trafficking. They also emphasize the need to eliminate the vulnerabilities that lead to trafficking.
    Those I have talked to say that they think there should be more support to settlement services and that we need to consider the particular vulnerability of poor or abused women. We need organizations to be onside with the law, as they are the very mechanisms who help those who are being abused.
    Finally, I would like to add in closing that they are puzzled that the government is not also including civil proceedings, as many of women would be frightened to be engaged in criminal proceedings.

  (1330)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, does my colleague think it would have been good for the government to take a look at our country's history? Our grandmothers were subject to an enormous amount of violence and they did not speak up. For example, if a woman went into town wearing a skirt that was too short, her husband could beat her. There are many examples of fathers beating their daughters. This was not too long ago.
    I think that the focus on autonomy and education for these women and the institution of many social measures really helped put an end to these barbaric practices—not a focus on criminalization.
    Does my colleague think that social measures like the ones taken here in the past could apply in some cases in order to help these women combat the barbaric practices we are discussing today?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if I understand my colleague's question, I think she is asking if we can look at how we have addressed and reduced abusive marriages in the history of Canada and apply that to situations we are running into now. I can only attest to the fact that many women's organizations deal with the trafficking of women and girls or with women in forced marriages, as opposed to arranged marriages, and they are deeply concerned that there may be a misunderstanding between the two.
    There certainly seems to be strong, profound evidence across Canada from the very organizations that are working with vulnerable women in these situations that what they need are more resources, both to prevent these kinds of activities and to help remove women from that kind of situation. They are deeply concerned that criminalizing is only going to ostracize these women from the very communities and families they need to turn to for support.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member spoke quite eloquently in her speech, but she referred to women somehow having difficulty in their own communities arising from this particular piece of legislation. I wonder if the member could elaborate a bit.
    Does she not see that there are hundreds of cases annually in this country of women being forced into marriages and being threatened with physical violence if they refuse those unions? It may be here or abroad, since sometimes they are forcibly taken out of the country. It actually happens. It is a cultural practice in some families, and it is barbaric.
    To establish a law that would help prevent and hopefully eliminate that from happening in our country seems to be widely supported by Canadians. Certainly that is what the citizenship and immigration committee heard from a wide variety of witnesses who testified before it.
    Mr. Speaker, I am grateful that the parliamentary secretary has asked a question, because I want to put a question to him.
    I mentioned the testimony that was presented in the other place, and hopefully the committee will hear similar testimony if the bill goes to committee. We heard from rape crisis centres, organizations dealing with the trafficking of women and girls, Indo-Canadian organizations, and the Muslim association for women. These organizations are telling us, based on their experience, that in the case of forced marriages, merely relying on criminal law would make it highly unlikely that any of these women would lay a complaint.
    I would put to the member a situation in which a young, vulnerable woman is up against her parents, aunts and uncles, grandmother and grandfather, the head of the community, and so forth. She may well be a woman located in another country, so she will not be able to bring the charge here anyway.
    There is good intent here. There are a lot of good provisions in the law, but what we are being told is a reality fix.
    What I would ask the government is why it did not adopt the British law that allows for the laying of charges either criminally or civilly. Apparently in the United Kingdom the majority of women are choosing the civil proceeding route.
    Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the chance to speak about Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act.
    I will be sharing my time with the member for Burlington.
    In the most recent Speech from the Throne, our government recognized that millions of women and girls around the world continue to suffer from violence, including the appalling practices of early and forced marriage. That speech emphasized the government's commitment to ensuring that such barbaric cultural practices do not occur in our country.
    In his appearance before the Senate human rights committee on this bill, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration made it clear that any practice that involves violence directed at women is barbaric. Our government firmly believes that women should never be subjugated to violence or even death for any reason, especially the reasons used in honour-based violence.
    The measures in Bill S-7 are the culmination of that commitment to improve protection and support for vulnerable individuals, primarily women and children, and would do so in a number of ways.
    They would render permanent and temporary residents inadmissible if they practised polygamy in Canada. They would strengthen Canadian marriage laws by establishing a new national minimum age for marriage of 16 years old and by codifying the existing legal requirements for free and enlightened consent for marriage and for ending an existing marriage prior to entering another.
    They would criminalize certain conduct related to underage and forced marriage ceremonies, including the act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such marriage ceremonies.
    These measures would help protect potential victims of underage or forced marriages by creating a new and specific preventative court order peace bond when there were grounds to fear someone would commit an offence in that area, and they would ensure that the defence of provocation would not apply in so-called honour killings and many spousal homicides.
    I would like to take the opportunity to focus on those measures in Bill S-7 that address what I have already described as appalling practices involving violence directed against women and girls, namely early and forced marriage. These are practices that contradict Canadian values and cause great harm to victims.
    In Canada, there is no national minimum age for marriage. Provincial and territorial legislation set out certain ages for additional requirements, such as parental consent for those under the age of majority or court approval for even younger children. However, they lack the Constitutional jurisdiction to set the absolute minimum age below which no child can marry.
    Federal law currently sets the absolute minimum age at 16 years old, but in Quebec only. In other parts of Canada, the common law applies because there is no federal legislation. However, there is some uncertainty about the common law minimum age, which is usually interpreted as setting a minimum of 12 for girls and 14 for boys, although historically it has been as low as seven years old.
    While very few marriages in Canada now involve people under the age of 16, amending the Civil Marriage Act in order to set a national minimum age of 16 years old for marriage would make it clear that underage marriage is unacceptable in Canada and will not be tolerated. In contrast, Austria, Australia, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom all have a minimum age below which no one can marry, even with parental consent.
    Other amendments to the Civil Marriage Act proposed in Bill S-7 would codify the requirement that those getting married must give their free and enlightened consent to marry each other and would codify the requirement for the dissolution of any previous marriage.
    Building on the proposed amendments to the Civil Marriage Act, Bill S-7 also contains measures that would amend the Criminal Code to help prevent forced and underage marriage. These measures would criminalize knowingly officiating at an underage or forced marriage, actively participating in a wedding ceremony knowing that one party is marrying the other against his or her will or is under the age of 16 years old, and removing a minor from Canada for a forced or underage marriage.
    Other proposed amendments would create a new peace bond that would give courts the power to impose conditions on an individual when there were reasonable grounds to fear that a forced marriage or a marriage under the age 16 would otherwise occur.
    Such a peace bond could be used to prevent an underage or forced marriage by, for example, requiring the surrender of a passport as well as preventing a child from being taken out of Canada. This is an important option for a young woman, for example, who wants to stop her family from taking her out of the country for a forced marriage but does not want to press charges against her family members.

  (1340)  

    At the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, members had the opportunity to listen to Kamal Dhillon who was forced into a marriage at a young age and repeatedly abused for the 12 years of her marriage. She told the committee that she was constantly subjected to emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse, and even attempted murder several times. The bill seeks to prevent situations such as Ms. Dhillon's. I am glad to say that she escaped her marriage and is now an advocate for women who have been the target of barbaric practices.
    The provisions in Bill S-7, including those that address underage and forced marriage, will help ensure that immigrant women and girls are protected from isolation and violence. The full participation of women and girls is essential in our democracy. Women seeking a better life for themselves and their families in Canada should never be subject to constant fear and threat of violence or death simply for living their lives and seeking out better opportunities for themselves.
    We know that immigrant and newcomer women and girls face additional barriers in protecting themselves and seeking assistance compared to women born in Canada. These practices also have a very negative impact on families and society in general, as does all violence directed against women and girls. They also seriously affect all those involved from influencing immigration outcomes to breaking down opportunities for integration and success.
    Bill S-7 would strengthen our laws to protect Canadians and newcomers to Canada from barbaric cultural practices that direct violence against women and girls. Through the enactment of Bill S-7, Parliament will send a strong message to those in Canada and those who wish to come to Canada that we will not tolerate activities that deprive individuals of their human rights.
    I am sure we would all agree that we must stand up for all victims of violence and abuse, and take necessary action to prevent these practices from happening on Canadian soil. That is exactly what we will be doing by ensuring the bill's passage into law. That is why I urge my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting the passage of the bill.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, the members in the Liberal Party have indicated that, in principle, we support the legislation going to second reading and quite possibly beyond. One of issues our critic has asked today is in regard to having the reference to “culture” in the title of the legislation.
    Could the member explain why she believes it is important for the word “culture” to be incorporated into the title of the bill? It seems it is just not necessary. Could she expand on why she believes it is absolutely critical for the legislation?
    Mr. Speaker, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act would send out a clear message to those coming to Canada that forced marriage, honour-based violence or any other form of harmful cultural practices would unacceptable and would not be tolerated in Canadian society. That is why I like the word “cultural” in there, because we are talking about harmful cultural practices.
    Our government will continue to ensure that Canada is protected from harmful barbaric cultural practices and continue to protect Canadians vulnerable to these abuses.
     We will continue to take action by increasing the support for victims of crime, including through the victims bill of rights. We also passed the Safe Streets and Communities Act. Since 2007, over $2.8 million has been approved through Status of Women Canada for community-based projects that address harmful cultural practices such as honour-based violence and forced marriages, and 720 projects were funded that support women and girls.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, many people who immigrate to Canada are not familiar with Canadian laws, and many women who immigrate to Canada are not aware of their rights.
    If the Canadian government wants to provide real assistance to these women by taking positive action, could it not provide or help to provide prevention and support services to victims, instead of potentially criminalizing these women?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree that many women who come to Canada do not know their rights and we have taken steps to ensure they do. Victims advocates have said that they needed resources and we gave them those resources.
    Our government has taken action to protect vulnerable Canadians, particularly women and girls, from early and forced marriage and other harmful cultural practices through, for example, special language programs for immigrant and refugee women. We are able to address issues such as family violence, spousal abuse, women's rights, legal rights, responsibilities and health care, and include bridging or referral to other available services in the community. This is very important for them.
    Also publications such as Discover Canada and Welcome to Canada are guides that clearly communicate that Canada's openness and generosity do not extend to harmful cultural practices such as forced marriage or other forms of gender-based violence. This is for everyone, not specific to a particular culture or community. These are some examples of what we are doing to ensure women are aware of their rights when they get to Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women for her great work on the committee and for her dedication to this very important cause.
    Could the parliamentary secretary tell us how important this legislation is in giving additional powers to both educate and empower women so they know their rights when they are in Canada and find themselves in abusive situations such as these?
    Mr. Speaker, it is very important that the bill get passed so women and girls will be safe in Canada. This bill is all about that. Every time we put through measures to strengthen laws or bills that would help women and girls, the opposition members always vote against them.
     It is time we help women and girls. This is a problem in Canada and we need to support it. Everyone should remember too that part of the bill would commit to an age of 16. Right now, as I said in my speech, someone could force a young girl to get married as young as age seven.
     We need to pass the bill so all women and girls in Canada safe.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill S-7. I have listened to the speeches all morning. I have been on duty here and have been able to take in the speeches from all sides.
    In particular, as a father of two daughters, it is important for me to express my feelings on Bill S-7 and what it means to me as a father. My two girls do not listen to their father that much to start with, so I cannot imagine me forcing them into doing anything. However, it boggles my mind that there are cultural beliefs from a variety of different organizations.
    I received a tweet a few minutes ago from someone who asked me which cultural group the Government of Canada was targeting with Bill S-7. The Liberal Party agrees to have the bill go to committee, which is excellent. The official opposition says that it disagrees with some of the wording. It does not like the word “cultural”. I think what is happening is the message is getting out that the bill is targeting different cultures. That is absolutely inaccurate. I read the definition of “cultural”. It is about a set of beliefs and values. People can look it up in Webster's Dictionary.
     However, this is about barbaric cultural practices. It does not say it is X culture that does this. It could be any group or organization. The laws of our land have opposed polygamy since the 1800s. When the government of the day made the decision that polygamy was the wrong, it did not target a specific culture. The opposition has tried to portray cultures through the bill, which are not mentioned anywhere in the legislation. There is no specific culture identified. Those cultures the opposition have tried to identify did not exist in Canada, unless we consider Scottish culture or English culture as groups.
     It is a cultural practice, a belief system, that an individual or organization has. Wherever the origin, if families have grown up believing that their fathers have the absolute right to force their daughters to marry someone against their will at the age of 15, regardless of where they are from, that is not tolerable in Canada. This legislation would put an end to that barbaric activity.
    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration indicated that the official opposition members should take this back to their leadership and ensure they understood what they opposed. They do not like the title of the bill because of the use of the word “cultural”. It does not say X cultural activity. They really should reconsider their position on this.
    Of course everyone cannot withstand “barbaric” activity. Some people in the House may think that word a bit strong, but that is exactly what it is. Why would we not call it what it is? Who in the House, who in the country, believes in violence against their sons or daughters because they disagree with them on who, when and at what age they should marry? How is that not barbaric? The legislation would deal with that.

  (1355)  

    I have heard some other comments that we are ending people's ability to have an arranged marriage. That is not the case. Arranged marriages, the ones I am familiar with, have two consulting individuals, two people who decide. An arranged marriage would not work in my family, but it may work in others, and that is fair. The man and the women, based on an arrangement made by their parents, consent to the marriage. They say it is a relationship, a marriage, they would both like to enter into. There is nothing wrong with an arranged marriage of two consenting adults.
    The difference between an arranged and a forced marriage is that in the latter, one of those individuals, either the male or the female, does not agree, has had no say in it, and is not consenting to the marriage. That is what the bill is aiming at addressing.
    There is a discussion about how many people this would affect and whether or not we have good statistics. In my personal view, if we have legislation that protects one young woman, one victim, from this happening to her, we have done our job as parliamentarians to pass laws protecting individuals. We cannot decide whether or not this is a barbaric activity based on whether or not it only affects one person that we know of. It is barbaric in itself as an action, and not barbaric based on its numbers.
    We on this side understand that the Liberal Party will be supporting the bill at second reading. There may be some amendments. The Liberals are supporting the concept that there cannot be one more victim.
    I was at an event this past weekend in my riding. I think it was called “one billion awareness”. An organization was bringing awareness across the globe to the fact that one billion women in this world have faced some sort of aggression from a male, whether physical or not. In this country, we need to take every opportunity to make sure that barbaric activity, that aggression against women, comes to an end here and around the world.
    Unfortunately, we cannot make it happen in other countries, but we do have a responsibility. I have a responsibility to my children, to my daughters. I have a responsibility to my wife to make sure that we take every opportunity we have to protect women and young boys in this case, young men and young women, from barbaric activities not of their choice but a result of a cultural norm some of their family members believe in. We need to be able to protect them from that. We cannot and should not tolerate that here in Canada.
    This piece of legislation, in my view, should be supported by all parties. We should be able to deal with this at second reading, quickly get it to committee, quickly get it back to the House and pass it. We should have done it long ago. It is long overdue, and I appreciate the support of all members of Parliament for Bill S-7.

  (1400)  

    Seeing that the time for government orders has expired, the five minutes of questions and comments for the hon. member for Burlington will take place when this matter returns before the House.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Seniors

    Mr. Speaker, seniors play an important role in our families and communities. They helped build Canada and continue to contribute to its success.
    That is why I always make a point of regularly visiting many of the wonderful seniors homes and organizations in York Centre. As I do every year to mark Valentine's Day, this past week I visited the Sunshine Centre for Seniors, Earl Bales Park Senior Centre, Downsview Retirement Community, and St. Bernard's Residence to distribute roses to all the residents.
    As always, the smiles on their faces touched my heart. I want to thank them all for welcoming me so warmly. I also want to acknowledge and thank the directors, caregivers, and volunteers at these homes and organizations for all the hard work they do to care for their seniors.
    We can best show our respect and gratitude to seniors by working hard to make sure that our communities are places where older people can participate, and find encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services to continue to lead their lives with dignity.
    For all they have achieved throughout life and all they will accomplish, we owe them our deepest gratitude. To quote poet Robert Browning:
    Grow old along with me!
     The best is yet to be.

Arts and Culture

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to our nation's artists and cultural workers, many of whom call my riding of Parkdale—High Park home.
     The arts and culture sector contributes $47.8 billion to the Canadian economy annually and strengthens communities by allowing us to share our stories and find new ways of understanding the world we live in.
     Sadly, under the government, artists are struggling to have their contributions respected. Conservative cuts to Canadian Heritage, the CBC, Telefilm, the National Film Board, and Library and Archives Canada will have a negative and lasting impact.
    Without a strategy for ensuring that Canadian content is present in the digital realm, producers are missing key opportunities, and Canadian stories and voices are being drowned out.
     New Democrats respect our artists and are committed to supporting them with stable funding for our national institutions, reversing the cuts to the CBC, and fostering continued growth in the cultural sector.

Assisted Suicide

    Mr. Speaker, this month, the Supreme Court made a historic decision in Carter v. Canada. The unanimous ruling to strike down the prohibition on physician-assisted death is a decision that the vast majority of Canadians support.
     I wish to congratulate organizations such as Dying With Dignity Canada and the many other individuals, such as the Carter family, who brought this issue back to the Supreme Court.
     The Supreme Court has said that a competent adult should have more options at the end of life. Those options should be based on their own life experience, ethics, morals, and religion.
     The Supreme Court ruling mirrors the spirit and the letter of my private member's bill on this issue. This Parliament and Canadians must respond to this new empowerment of the individual. This is not a partisan issue. We can discuss it with dignity, mutual respect, empathy, love, hope, and mercy.

Education

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to offer my congratulations to the Canadian-based charity, Educating Girls of Rural China; their founder, Tien Ching; and her board; and to wish them all the best as they celebrate their 10th anniversary.
    Educating Girls of Rural China is dedicated to sponsoring the secondary and post-secondary education of financially challenged young women from rural western China who would otherwise miss out.
     Since its establishment in 2005, EGRC has awarded hundreds of high school and university sponsorships to deserving young women. Through the help of its Canadian donors, EGRC has successfully sponsored 247 young women through to graduation, and presently supports 265 women students enrolled in secondary or post-secondary institutions.
    As an enthusiastic supporter of the education of girls, of women's economic and social equality, and EGRC, I am delighted to see the continued success of this incredible organization. I believe I speak on behalf of all parliamentarians when I wish them the very best in their work to empower young women in rural China for many decades to come.

  (1405)  

Michael Green

    Mr. Speaker, today I am wearing yellow to honour a creative genius, the co-founder of Calgary's celebrated One Yellow Rabbit Theatre Company, Michael Green.
     Tragically, last week Michael Green died in a car crash, along with two other respected members of the artistic community, just outside Regina. It is a tremendous loss not only for Calgary but also for the nation.
     Michael Green curated and produced Calgary's 2012 Cultural Capital of Canada extravaganza. He was the fuse that lit an explosion of artistic creation.
    Over 1,200 people packed the Jack Singer Concert Hall to the rafters yesterday to praise Michael. I remember just a couple of weeks ago, when I joined Michael's parade, along with a bagpiper, clowns on stilts, and dancers wearing horses heads, as we paraded through Calgary's downtown, much to the surprise and delight of lunch-goers.
     He was absolutely fearless and fun. He showed us the transformative power of art. We are heartbroken over what we have lost, but we are grateful for what we have gained.

Education

    Mr. Speaker, on February 6, I was delighted to welcome over a hundred students and teachers from St. Maria Goretti Catholic School during their visit to Parliament Hill. I had the distinct privilege of bringing them into this chamber, the very heart of our democracy and their Parliament. I hope they found the visit inspiring.
    Their organizing teacher, Mr. Rawle Biran, who has organized trips to Ottawa with his students for the past decade, will be retiring at the end of this year. Mr. Biran is a teacher who strives to enshrine in his young students a sense of their civic duties, their rights, and their responsibilities.
    I believe it is important to recognize the contributions of Mr. Biran and teachers like him, in the education and development of our young citizens. They often work long hours, with little recognition, to ensure that future generations are well-equipped to succeed in our evolving world.
    I call upon all to applaud Mr. Rawle Biran and teachers like him for their years of service and to express our best wishes to them when they take their well-deserved retirements at the end of the school year.

Civic Achievement

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to share with the members of this House the accomplishments of an outstanding constituent in my riding.
    Larry Noonan is a retired school principal, a volunteer, a historian, a steward of the Altona Forest in Pickering, and a proponent of the Rouge national urban park.
    Larry Noonan has contributed to the City of Pickering and the City of Toronto environmental initiatives, has served on park committees, and has been active in leading adult and youth groups and school classes into the Rouge Valley, for both leisure and study activities.
    In celebration of the 50th anniversary of our national flag, our government decided to award this proud symbol to fifty Canadians and organizations who have contributed significantly to the well-being of our citizens, and Larry Noonan was one of them.
    I would like the members of this House to join me in congratulating Larry Noonan for his achievements and successes and wish him all the best for his future endeavours.

2015 Canada Winter Games

    Mr. Speaker, it was my honour to attend the opening ceremony of the 2015 Canada Winter Games last Friday and to pay tribute to the athletes competing in my home riding of Prince George—Peace River.
    2015 has been proclaimed as the Year of Sport in Canada and the Prince George 2015 Canada Winter Games is one of this year's signature events.
    We can all be proud of each of the participants and of Canada's largest domestic multi-sport event, which brings together athletes from 19 sports over a two-week period and is a true testament to the dedication and hard work of Canadian youth.
    We know that when we embrace the power of sport and lead more active lives, we build healthier and stronger communities.
    I would also like to extend my gratitude to the coaches, mission support staff, officials, game organizers and, of course, thousands of volunteers and parents who have supported these athletes through the years, with a special thanks to Bryan, Peter, and André of Pioneer Log Homes for their donation of the beautiful Canada Winter Games log cauldron.
    Please join me in congratulating all of those who are making the Prince George 2015 Canada Winter Games a huge success.

[Translation]

“Passe Rondelle” Hockey Tournaments

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House on this Mardi Gras.
    The Tournois “Passe Rondelle” are back in Quebec City, and atom, novice and pre-novice players will compete in a unique atmosphere for more than six weeks. There will be 2,800 young hockey players and their families at the Gaétan-Duchesne arena in the wonderful Les Saules neighbourhood. For Quebec City, the tournaments also generate almost half a million dollars in economic benefits for the region.
    I would like to acknowledge the outstanding work done by president Paul-André Rousseau, who was awarded the Prix Méritas by the Revue Sportive 2015. My thanks go to the passionate young players, their dedicated coaches, their parents who support them, the spectators who cheer them on and, finally, all the organizers and volunteers who make this possible.
    Come one, come all to Quebec City to encourage the next generation and enable our young players to live out their passion.

  (1410)  

[English]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians support the tax relief our government has brought forward to date. Bringing in higher taxes and higher debt is not the path we believe Canadians want to be on. A carbon tax is not a way to deal with economic issues in our country. Canadians cannot afford more of the NDP and Liberal risky tax-hike schemes. Luckily for Yukoners, the premier has come out condemning a carbon tax, saying it would hike taxes on northerners and raise costs. A job-killing carbon tax is reckless.
    Our Conservative government is lowering taxes for families and putting more money back into their pockets. Keeping taxes low and creating jobs are essential to keeping this economy on the right track.
    We will never punish Canadians with a job-killing carbon tax.

[Translation]

CBC/Radio-Canada

    Mr. Speaker, while the Prime Minister is accusing CBC employees of stirring up all kinds of plots, the government continues to axe funding for our public radio and television broadcaster. The Conservatives are carrying on with the destruction that the Liberals started in the 1990s, and they are jeopardizing the regional news that would sometimes be non-existent were it not for the CBC.
    For 15 years now, residents of Abitibi—Témiscamingue have been able to stay on top of what is going on in our vast region—in Ville-Marie, Amos, La Sarre, Barraute, Rouyn-Noranda, Val d'Or and our small towns—because of two daily programs and a team of experienced reporters.
    The NDP is the only party that has promised to restore appropriate, predictable funding for the CBC. I am also proud to say that hundreds of residents of Abitibi—Témiscamingue will gather this Saturday evening in Rouyn-Noranda to stand up for our public broadcaster, which we sorely need in the regions.
    Many artists and artisans will declare their affection for the CBC loud and clear. I will be by their side to make the voice of Abitibi—Témiscamingue heard.

[English]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, thanks to our new family tax cut and enhanced child care benefit, 100% of families with children in Westman will be better off. Due to these measures, every parent in Canada will now receive just under $2,000 per child.
    There is a stark difference between our plan and the Liberal and New Democratic plans. While we are directly supporting hard-working families, the opposition would take money away from families. While we are cutting taxes, the Liberal leader would raise taxes. While our plan helps 100% of families with kids, the NDP plan would help only 10% of families.
    Our tax cut plan will benefit every family with children in Canada. That is more than 4 million families.
    I am proud to be part of a government that is reducing taxes and putting more money back into the pockets of each and every Canadian family with children.

Mark Goldblatt

    Mr. Speaker, since becoming the Liberal advocate for co-operatives, I have had the privilege of meeting many community leaders dedicated to the co-operative cause. One of the most dynamic of them was Mark Goldblatt, former executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and founder and chair of the Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa.
    Mr. Goldblatt suddenly passed away on Wednesday, February 4. Many will miss his sage advice, me included.
    A positive force for change in the co-op world, he also served as president of the Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation for 14 years. For the last 10 years of his life, he remained very active and developed 3 new housing co-operatives and 2 non-profit housing projects.
    The recipient of several awards, Mr. Goldblatt was an iconic figure of Canada's thriving co-operative community. His actions paved the way for future generations of co-op entrepreneurs.
    The memory of Mark Goldblatt and the impact he had lives on and will continue to do so for a long time yet. I want to thank his family for sharing him with us for so many years, and I want to thank Mark for his selfless dedication.

  (1415)  

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, Statistics Canada has confirmed that middle-class families are better off under our Prime Minister than under the previous Liberal government.
     The Liberal leader has no idea what it is like to be middle class. He has promised to reverse tax benefits for middle-class families, but under our family tax cut and enhanced child care benefit, 100% of families with children will receive an average of over $1,100 a year. A single mother with two children earning $30,000 would benefit from an additional $1,500 a year.
    We know that, for the important decisions that affect the lives of children, the decision-making power should be with moms and dads, not with government and certainly not with the Liberal leader.

[Translation]

CBC/Radio-Canada

     Mr. Speaker, in an interview yesterday, the Prime Minister said that Radio-Canada employees “hate” conservative values.
    The Prime Minister is mistaken. It is not the majority of Radio-Canada journalists who dislike his party's policies, it is the majority of the population.
    When he said that Quebeckers support his party's values, he did not point out that Quebeckers cast 10 times more votes for New Democrats than for Conservatives in the last election.
     I must also point out that last Sunday, the member for Calgary Centre shocked everyone by saying that the closure of the Sun News Network was worse than the death of three journalists.
    Everything is black and white for the Conservatives. There are no 50 shades of grey.
    There are the good conservative media and the bad media that are too critical of the government.
    We know that the Prime Minister would like the CBC to become the Conservative Party's news agency. It can take control of the board of directors and cut the CBC's budget, but this year, when the NDP replaces this government, it will restore the CBC's budget and ensure its independence.

Taxation

    During the week of constituency work, I had the pleasure of hearing from many families in my riding of Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, who are thrilled with our new tax cuts and other benefits for families.
    Every family in Quebec and Canada will benefit by an average of $1,100 per year. Thanks to us, from now on, parents will receive approximately $2,000 for every child under the age of six. However, the Liberals and the NDP intend to take that money away and put it back into the bureaucracy. Our plan helps every single family with children. The NDP's plan will not put money back in the pockets of families. The Liberal leader, in turn, plans to increase taxes for ordinary Canadians. We will never let that happen.
    The Conservative government believes that Canadians should be able to keep more of their hard-earned money. With our tax cuts and other benefits for families, we are proud to help them do exactly that.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, from the outset, the Prime Minister has been refusing to tell Canadians the truth about our role in Iraq. Our troops were not supposed to be on the front line and they were not supposed to be involved in combat, but of course we now know that they are. Now the Parliamentary Budget Officer says that the Conservatives “appear to breach [National Defence]'s legal obligations under the Parliament of Canada Act”.
    In clear terms, they have broken the law, and it is because the Conservatives are refusing to tell the truth about the cost of the war in Iraq. Why does the Prime Minister keep hiding from Canadians the truth about his war in Iraq?
    Mr. Speaker, of course the government has released the costs of the mission exactly as it said it would, an additional $122 million in incremental costs to this point in time. That is very clear. I do not know how much clearer it could be.
    The reality is that the New Democrats will hate even a cent spent on the Canadian military. However, I can assure the House that, for this mission, we are ensuring not only that our personnel are well paid but that they are well equipped and have the ordnance necessary to do their job. All Canadians are very proud of the job they are doing fighting ISIL.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the Prime Minister keeps changing his story.
    He did not tell the truth about sending our troops into the line of fire. He did not tell the truth about the cost of the war in Iraq. Once again, he is not telling the truth. However, today, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is telling us the truth.
    If the Prime Minister is so convinced that his war in Iraq is a good idea, why on earth is he refusing to tell Canadians the truth about the cost of his war?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, the government is clearly telling the truth about the cost of our mission with our international allies in Iraq. We have told the truth about the air combat mission and the mission to assist and advise the Peshmerga forces. I am very pleased to see that Canadians support this truth. Only the NDP hates the truth.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the minister of public peril said that he was not going to get caught up in definitions. That is not reassuring for anyone, especially since the Conservatives are unable to explain how peaceful dissent would still be protected under Bill C-51.
    The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness refused to give any examples of activities that CSIS might now undertake to “disrupt threats”.
    Can the Prime Minister tell us how far CSIS will be able to go under Bill C-51?
    Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of measures in this bill, including making it a crime to promote terrorism. I think that is what the public expects because we must protect our country.
    Mr. Speaker, let us look at what else will be considered a crime in Canada.

[English]

    Bill C-51 would expand CSIS's mandate to spying on “interference with...infrastructure” and “interference with...economic or financial stability”. The language is so broad that it would allow CSIS to investigate anyone who challenges the government's social, economic, or environmental policies. What is to stop this bill from being used to spy on the government's political enemy?
    Mr. Speaker, we knew that, with the NDP, it would be only a matter of a couple of weeks before we got into this kind of conspiracy theory. That is what we have come to expect from the black helicopter fleet over there.
    Of course the reality is that, under the legislation, based on information about imminent terrorist activity in Canada, should CSIS find it necessary to disrupt that, of course it would have to go to a court to get court sanction for those actions.

CBC/Radio-Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I am sure the Prime Minister will show us where the word “imminent” appears in that law.

[Translation]

    The problem is that the Prime Minister sees enemies everywhere. Right now, he has CBC employees in his sights.
    Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that CBC reporters “detest” Conservative values, and that the majority of CBC reporters, no less, want to get rid of his government.
    Is it possible that the Prime Minister is mistaken and what he actually meant to say is that he has finally realized that the vast majority of Canadians want to get rid of his government?
    Mr. Speaker, we believe that a large percentage of Quebeckers agree with our government on tax breaks, tax cuts, direct benefits to families and the fight against crime and terrorism, rather than with a party that wants to increase taxes, provides benefits to bureaucrats and unions, and does not take the fight against terrorists, jihadists and criminals seriously.
    The orange wave in Quebec has become orange construction cones, and Quebeckers will get rid of them.
    Mr. Speaker, I was astonished and disappointed yesterday to hear the Prime Minister attack the ethics and professionalism of CBC/Radio-Canada reporters.
    Canadians are proud of their public broadcaster and its mandate to connect Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
    Is the Prime Minister going to apologize to CBC/Radio-Canada employees and the Canadians who support them?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, I know very well that the Liberals, the New Democrats and the sovereignists would rather increase taxes, give the benefits of our programs to unions and bureaucrats and not take the fight against terrorism and crime seriously.
    In our opinion, these are not the values of Canadians. These are not the values of Quebeckers. However, these are Conservative values, and we will continue to do our job.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, I think there was a translation problem with the question.

[English]

    There are five new measles cases in Ontario. The Prime Minister has run no ads promoting the life-saving benefits of vaccinations. He has in fact cut public health's immunization budget by 23%.
    Will the Prime Minister stop his self-promoting, partisan government ads and invest instead now in a campaign that encourages parents to vaccinate their kids?
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and other members of the government have been very clear on the fact that Canadians should seek proper vaccines against measles and against a range of other illnesses. These vaccines have historically proven extremely effective in reducing and in some cases even eliminating certain types of previously debilitating ailments.
    We will continue to make sure, when we are responsible, that Canadians are aware of these options, not just in the health area but across all areas of government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, last week we learned that there were 10 measles cases in Lanaudière. The government has failed to inform parents of the importance of vaccinating their children.
    Furthermore, Mr. Harper cut the budget by 23%—
    Order. The hon. member for Papineau knows that he must use titles or riding names and not proper names.
    The hon. member for Papineau.
    Mr. Speaker, I apologize.
    Furthermore, the Prime Minister cut the Public Health Agency of Canada's immunization budget by 23%.
    Will the Prime Minister stop his useless partisan ads and immediately start promoting vaccinations for our children?
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health always advocates the use of vaccines. Vaccines have historically proven effective in improving the health of our children and families. We encourage this all the time.
    As for the ads, we have a responsibility to make Canadians aware of all government measures, and we will continue to do so.

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, in its report, the RCMP says that the anti-petroleum movement—the RCMP's word, not mine—is a threat to Canada. No one here encourages or tolerates violence. However, this report clearly targets environmental organizations. In light of Bill C-51, that is very strong language.
    Does the minister think that environmentalists really pose a risk to the stability of the Canadian economy?
    Mr. Speaker, our bill is clear. It targets people who commit acts of terrorism. Now, the RCMP also wants to monitor people who commit such acts.
     The member should read clause 2 of the bill, which clearly states that peaceful demonstrations, protests, and dissent are not covered by the bill. That should reassure her.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are right to be concerned that the Conservatives are going too far with this bill. Yesterday the minister failed to explain how the bill would impact legitimate dissent, and so today let us talk about another section.
    Bill C-51 proposes a new criminal offence: to advocate or promote terrorism in general.
    Canada already has strong laws that make it an offence to incite a terrorist act. Can the minister provide a single example showing that such a new offence is necessary?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, we saw this weekend that Copenhagen and the world are at war with the jihadist international movement.
    Our anti-terrorism bill is clear. Our security agencies can only target those who pose a risk to Canada and not legitimate dissent. The member should read clause 2 of the bill, which clearly states that an activity that undermines the security of Canada “does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression”. Please read the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, the word “lawful” is a new insertion there, which seems to say that most dissent is something other than lawful.
    Today the government failed to give us a single example of the new activities CSIS would be allowed to engage in to disrupt under Bill C-51. The minister still cannot clearly explain the provisions of the bill that experts think will impact legitimate dissent and free speech.
    How can Canadians trust the current government if members will not answer basic questions about what is in the bill with anything except talking points?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, last week, we saw the NDP oppose a bill to fight terrorism. Yesterday, we saw them oppose measures to improve parliamentary security on the Hill. They are even incapable of saying that the attacks on October 22, here in Ottawa, were terrorist attacks.
    Canadians can count on our government to put effective measures in place to protect Canada from terrorism.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to employment insurance, it looks like the arrival of a new minister does not herald a new approach. First the Conservatives imposed harsh restrictions on employment insurance, and now they are telling departmental officials to make it harder for unemployed workers to get the benefits they are entitled to. Officials who are a little too helpful are getting slapped on the wrist. That makes no sense.
    Instead of attacking unemployed workers and public servants, why do the Conservatives not attack unemployment by creating jobs?
    Mr. Speaker, my predecessor worked to eliminate wait times for benefits. He succeeded. Currently, over half of the people receive their benefits in less than 28 days.
    We are also working to create more jobs by lowering taxes. We are trying to put more money in the pockets of businesses and individuals to promote economic activity and create opportunities for people to work.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in December 2004, the member for Nepean—Carleton told the House that it was “...not politicians, who create jobs”. It is an odd statement, given he is now the jobs minister.
    Fewer than four in 10 unemployed Canadians are now getting benefits, and now he has been given this new responsibility. What will the minister do to fix EI so that it actually works for unemployed Canadians, or is that somebody else's job?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member illustrates the distinction between the two sides of the House. On that side, they believe in increasing taxes, increasing the burden on families and employers so that politicians and bureaucrats can hoard all the money for themselves.
    On this side of the House, we believe in reducing taxes, which has created 1.2 million net new jobs. We have lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, including during the recession, and Canadians are better off. Our job record is the best out of all the G7 countries. Low taxes work.

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, what nonsense. From job losses to EI to their failure to create child care spaces—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe has the floor. Members need to come to order.
    Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am glad you reminded them of their manners.
    From job losses to EI to their failure to create child care spaces, Conservative economic mismanagement is hurting ordinary Canadians. Labour force participation is at a 15-year low, and people like Jillanne Mignon, who wants to work but cannot afford the high cost of child care, are out of luck.
    Why will the Conservatives not adopt the NDP leader's plan for affordable child care and ensure that all parents who want to work are given the opportunity to work?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, here is the difference between their plan and our plan. Our plan gives power to parents: rural parents, parents who are not working nine to five, parents who may be using another family member to help look after their children, or parents who make a decision themselves to stay home and look after their children. Our plan puts money into the pockets of every single Canadian family with children. Their plan would help less than 10% of all Canadian families.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, one thing is for sure: the Conservatives are unable to create good jobs.
    The country's participation rate is at its lowest even though Canadians want to work. For parents with children, one salary is not enough to pay for day care. The NDP has a plan to help families and create affordable day care across the country.
    Why is the minister refusing to help Canadian families that want to work and raise their children?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP has failed to talk to parents from different areas in this country, rural Canadian families, families that are not working nine to five jobs, and families that have decided that one parent will stay home to look after the children. New Democrats are not considering any of those families when they talk about their child care plan.
    Their plan would only help less than 10% of all Canadian families. Our plan helps every single Canadian family with children. It puts money directly into their pockets and—
    The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Taxation

    What is clear, Mr. Speaker, is that the Conservatives cannot be bothered to help ordinary Canadians, but they will bend over backwards to help the well off, even if it means turning a blind eye to tax evasion. Leaked documents show that more than 1,800 Canadians are holding secret Swiss bank accounts with HSBC, but there have been no charges of tax fraud or tax evasion.
    Why are the Conservatives using kid gloves on wealthy tax cheats while ordering public servants to deny EI benefits to the unemployed?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has a very strong record dealing with tax evasion. Since 2006 the CRA has audited over 8,600 international tax cases, identifying over $5.6 billion in additional taxes that are being collected.
    Regarding the HSBC accounts, where non-compliance was expected the CRA conducted hundreds of audits, which have led to over $21 million in taxes and penalties being reassessed. Furthermore, the CRA has received more than 250 voluntary disclosures. That is $123 million in previously undisclosed accounts.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the scandal involving HSBC's Swiss subsidiary is rocking the whole world, but here in Canada, the Conservatives are asleep at the switch.
    We know that over 1,800 of the richest Canadian businesses and individuals have secret bank accounts in Geneva, mainly to avoid paying taxes here in Canada. Several well-known names were made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, but no charges have yet been laid.
    When will the minister bring down the hammer on these white collar criminals?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has a strong record when it comes to fighting international tax fraud.

[English]

    We are doing something about it, as I have just said. I will give the numbers again, because, frankly, they are quite impressive.
    With respect to the HSBC accounts where non-compliance was expected, the CRA conducted hundreds of audits. That has led to over $21 million in taxes and penalties being reassessed. The CRA has received more than 250 voluntary disclosures about HSBC accounts. That is $123 million in previously undisclosed documents.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, a recent Conference Board study shows that Canada's younger generations are earning less and receiving fewer pension benefits than their parents. It states, “young Canadians may have a lower lifetime earning potential than any generation before”.
    There is no more dire indictment of a country's economic performance than the prospect that our future may be poorer than our past.
    Stale and misleading talking points, like the ones we have heard already today, will not deliver prosperity for this generation. When will the government finally table a budget with a real plan for jobs and growth?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians know they are much better off with our Conservative government. Our government is focused on what matters most to Canadians, and that is jobs and the economy. Over 1.2 million net new jobs have been created since the recession. These jobs are overwhelmingly full time and in the private sector.
    Both the IMF and the OECD forecast Canada to have one of the strongest growing G7 economies in the years ahead. The future looks bright. I know that for young Canadians who are involved in skill development, the future looks bright.

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, the only thing that is more snarled than GTA traffic is the government's jumbled priorities when it comes to municipal infrastructure. Roads, sewers and bridges are vital job creation tools, but Conservatives have flushed over $750 million of infrastructure money into taxpayer funded partisan ads. Roads are cracking, bridges are rusting and the Conservatives are using infrastructure money to buy votes, not infrastructure, not steel and not concrete.
    Does the minister agree that the only thing growing faster than GTA potholes is the Conservative addiction to lavish partisan ads?
    Mr. Speaker, the new building Canada plan is the longest and biggest ever in the country. We have done that with respect for jurisdictions. That is very important.
    We have invested more in the infrastructure of the country than the former government, and we will continue to do so.
    Since our government took office, Canada has consistently led G7 countries in total investment in infrastructure as a percentage of GDP. It is quite a contrast to the Liberals.
    Mr. Speaker, it is all about priorities. Imagine over $2 million for ministers to take pictures.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The irony is that all those members yelling “louder” makes it impossible for the Speaker to hear the member. Perhaps if they stop shouting that, the member would not have to speak so loudly.
    The hon. member for Winnipeg North has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, over $2 million tax dollars have been spent for pictures when ministers have their special events. They really need to learn how to take selfies. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been spent on political advertising. It is about priorities. At the same time, there was a cutback from spending over $2 billion on infrastructure to $210 million last year.
    My question is for the Prime Minister. Why has he given up on valuable infrastructure expenditures? He should think of the Prairies. He should think of the needs of Calgary, Winnipeg and other municipalities.
    Mr. Speaker, when we talk about selfies, the member just has to look in front of him to find the king of that. He is talking about $2 million. I remember the $40 million from the sponsorship scandal that are still missing.
    We are investing in infrastructure in the country like never before.

[Translation]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, while the Conservatives are also spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the war in Iraq, they are making our reservists wait nearly two years for their severance pay. It is completely unacceptable that 2,754 soldiers are waiting for that pay.
    When will the government get its priorities straight and put its resources in the right place in order to resolve these outstanding files as soon as possible?
    Mr. Speaker, this backlog is unacceptable. That is why, as of the beginning of this month, the Department of National Defence has asked its staff to process the back payment for reservists, and I have been assured that it will be done as soon as possible.

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, our soldiers and veterans deserve better.
    While the Conservatives are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their war in Iraq, soldiers and veterans do not have access to their pension benefits and proper health care. The government clearly does not have its priorities straight.
    When will the minister finally improve services for our soldiers and veterans?
    Mr. Speaker, we are proud of our record. We have increased investments in the Canadian Armed Forces by 27%. Modern tools to help them do their job are important. We are taking care of our men and women in uniform.
    However, the reality is that the NDP wants to drastically reduce the Department of National Defence budget and it does not support our soldiers' mission in Iraq, all against the wishes of Canadians. We are there to help and work with our men and women of the Canadian Forces.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the sad fact is that the Conservatives spend hundreds of millions of dollars on war and yet fail to provide basic services for our soldiers when they come home injured.
     Reservists, like those in Thunder Bay and right across the country, are now waiting two years or more for severance pay, and there is a backlog of over 2,700 and growing. It is simply unacceptable.
    We welcome the new minister, but when will the Minister of National Defence fix this mess and finally give the Canadian Forces and reservists the support they need and deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, I gather the member did not hear my first answer, which is that from the beginning of this month, my department directed people to process the back payment for reservists. I agree that backlog is unacceptable and must be dealt with expeditiously.
    When the member says that this government spends money on war, in fact what we spend money on, through the Canadian Armed Forces, is protecting the security and interests of our country. We are doing exactly that in Iraq. That is why the men and women in uniform sign up to fight for our country to defend its interests and its security.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister stated in the House of Commons that when it came to cuts to the DVA, only backroom jobs would be cut.
     Just recently 44 front-line jobs have been cut in order to transfer that work over to backroom private service insurance companies to deal with insurance benefit claims for veterans. Now we find out that Medavie Blue Cross will cut off the benefits of veterans if it cannot reach them by phone.
    My question for the minister is very clear. This ideology that the government has regarding cutting public service jobs and transferring that work over to the private sector will not improve benefits for veterans. In fact, it will frustrate them even more. Will the minister reverse his decision and bring those jobs back to the public service?
    Mr. Speaker, as that member well knows, those jobs do not need to be brought back because there were no cuts. The employees at issue were reassigned to front-line jobs at Veterans Affairs Canada. Their salaries were maintained and there were no moves involved.
     In fact, the changes to the treatment authorization centre recognize the increased number of service providers across the country and these changes should bring processing times down. That is something I think the member would agree is a priority for our veterans.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, pro-Russian forces have blatantly violated the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. Could the Minister of Foreign Affairs please update the House on the government's response to this ongoing Russian military aggression against sovereign Ukrainian territory? Canadians need to know this.
    Mr. Speaker, the violation of the agreed upon ceasefire is completely unacceptable. For that reason, today I am prepared to announce that we will increase the number of sanctions against prominent Russian individuals and entities. Details will be released in the coming days, but Canada has already sanctioned over 210 individuals and entities. I am proud to say that we have the toughest sanction regime in the world in Canada.
     This conflict will only end when Russia halts its invasion. We will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine, as we always have.

  (1450)  

Forestry Industry

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's forestry industry provides good middle-class jobs in communities across the country, but the Conservatives have failed it. Dozens of sawmills have closed, throwing thousands out of work. Now the Conservatives are embroiled in another trade dispute, this time with China, over pulp that will further damage this important sector.
    Government should resolve issues with major trade partners before they erupt into disputes that hurt businesses and throw workers out of their jobs. Why did the minister fail to sort this issue out before it became a full-blown trade dispute?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, this government has taken this issue to the World Trade Organization, where we will be pursuing Canadian interests standing up for our industry. However, there is no government that has done more for the forestry industry than this Conservative government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Fortress Cellulose is the victim of predatory and discriminatory tariffs imposed by China on its dissolving pulp.
    Despite the company's investments, there have been more layoffs in Thurso. The Conservatives did bring this before the WTO, but it has been dragging on for years and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
    What will the minister do to quickly address the situation and reassure our workers?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I already mentioned, this government took the step of taking this dispute to the World Trade Organization, where we believe we will prevail.
     This government stands up for the dissolving pulp industry as it does for the forestry industry more broadly. I will repeat again that there is no government that has done more for the forestry industry than this Conservative government.

CBC/Radio-Canada

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister told a private radio station that “a lot” of Radio-Canada employees ”hate” Conservative values”. Recently, his spokesman also wrote that it was difficult for him not to conclude that his “worst suspicions about Radio-Canada held true”.
    We have seen in the past what happens to those who do not agree with Conservative politics. Why does the Prime Minister believe that CBC employees have to stick to Conservative values?

[Translation]

    I travel around Quebec regularly and I can say that what Quebeckers want is more money in their pockets so they can take care of their families, sound and careful management of public money and a balanced budget, the end of sentencing discounts for criminals who abuse victims, and the safety of our communities and our homes.
    That is what Quebeckers want.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister dared to say yesterday that CBC employees detest the Conservatives.
    We know very well that he clearly would prefer that our public broadcaster become his personal propaganda tool. However, his pathetic statement reminds me of those made by the Minister of National Defence, who previously accused our public broadcaster of lying all the time, and the Prime Minister's press secretary, who said that he had suspicions about the CBC.
    Now that their contempt is on public display, will the minister finally confess that she and her government take malicious pleasure in sucking the life out of the CBC?
    That said, the Prime Minister gave Quebeckers what they wanted: tax relief, direct benefits to families through tax cuts, action to combat jihadists, solid foreign policy and measures placing the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals.
    They will continue to oppose; we will defend Quebeckers.

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives refused for four months to provide Canadians with any information at all about the cost of the Iraq mission, so I asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer for help. According to the PBO, they then illegally “refused all PBO requests for specific data” on this mission.
    Yesterday, the minister added insult to this secrecy and deception by slapping down a single cost number—no detail, no analysis, just an end run of the PBO's report released today.
    Does the minister not believe Canadians have the right to be respected and to have real cost information on this important mission?

  (1455)  

    It is an important mission that the Liberal Party opposes, Mr. Speaker.
    This government committed from the beginning that we would release the costs in the appropriate and normal parliamentary method, which we have done. It will be tabled this week as part of the supplementary estimates C: $122 million is incremental cost associated with Operation Impact.
    The real issue is why the Liberal Party has turned its back on decades of responsible internationals, and why a party that used to stand for national security is now standing against our efforts to protect Canadians in opposing the genocidal terrorist organization ISIL.
    We are proud of what our men and women in uniform are doing to combat that organization.

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for official languages, if there is one in this government. Will this minister ensure that his or her colleagues set an example and comply with the requirement to communicate with the public in both official languages, including electronically?
    Order.
    The hon. Minister of Official Languages.
    Mr. Speaker, what the opposition member just said is ridiculous. The government routinely communicates in both official languages.
    The member is talking about Twitter accounts. However, those are the members' personal accounts.
    We take our country's two official languages very seriously.

Seniors

    Mr. Speaker, following the Delâge report on the tragic fire in L'Isle-Verte, the Quebec government announced that the installation of sprinklers would be mandatory in almost all seniors' residences.
    Since the CMHC was involved in building and renovating assisted-living housing for frail senior citizens, could the Minister of Employment and Social Development tell us whether he has read the report and what measures will be taken to help the owners of seniors' residences cover the costs related to sprinkler installation?
    These are seniors we are talking about, the most vulnerable members of our society. I would greatly appreciate a relevant answer to my question.
    Mr. Speaker, the provinces and territories have the option of adopting a model code or creating their own code. Ultimately, they are responsible for regulating the construction and fire safety standards under their respective code.

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives voted to support an NDP motion to compensate thalidomide victims, they promised swift action. Now, months later, as deadlines pass, survivors fear the Conservatives will break their promise. Recently, the spokesperson for the Thalidomide Victims Association said, “Members are starting to fear it was all a façade”.
    Thalidomide survivors have waited long enough. Will the minister today set a concrete date for delivering financial relief?
    Mr. Speaker, I met with Mercedes, the head of the thalidomide survivors association just last week again. I reassured her and confirmed to her that there will be compensation for the survivors and we are working very hard to deliver that soon.
    She knows very clearly that she has my commitment and that we will be there to support them in the long term.

Canada Revenue Agency

    Mr. Speaker, before Bill C-31, CRA officials were inexplicably prohibited from passing along evidence of serious criminal activity, uncovered on the job, to relevant law enforcement agencies. Clearly, this was and is unacceptable.
    Can the Minister of National Revenue today please explain to this House why this change was necessary and how it is consistent with our government's commitment to protecting Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, there have been occasions when CRA officials, in the course of their ordinary duties, have uncovered evidence of drug trafficking, terrorism, child pornography, and even contracts for the commission of murder and have been restricted from conveying this information to law enforcement.
    When CRA officials uncover such evidence of serious criminal activity, they should be able to share it with law enforcement. I think that is what everyone expects, and certainly thanks to our government, that will now be the case.
    I find it shocking that both the Liberals and NDP voted against this.

  (1500)  

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, despite the superhuman efforts made by the Acadian community of Nova Scotia, it is no longer able to do more with less. It has reached a tipping point.
    Why is the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages abandoning this community? The minister herself has acknowledged that the Acadian federation has done an exemplary job managing its resources. Can the minister at least commit to finding additional funding to better support Nova Scotia's Acadian community?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, we take official languages and official language minority communities very seriously. That is why we have a roadmap with $1.1 billion in funding. This is a record investment made by our government.
    We will continue to build on these efforts and to support our friends in Canada's francophone communities.
    Mr. Speaker, the National Energy Board's failure to respect the French language regarding the energy east project is unacceptable. Last November, the NDP even filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages about this.
    It seems that a significant part of the 30,000 pages that TransCanada submitted to the board are still not available in French, even though a large part of the route would go through Quebec. People who own farmland, as well as municipalities in Quebec, feel cheated.
    Does the minister find the National Energy Board's contempt for Canada's francophones to be acceptable?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the National Energy Board has fulfilled its requirements under the Official Languages Act.
    Any documents produced by the National Energy Board must be published in both official languages. Questions related to documents filed by the applicant should be directed toward the project proponent.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, our government understands that Canadian families know best how to spend their money.
    This is a fundamental difference between our party and the Liberals and NDP. That is why our government has taken real action to reduce taxes on Canadian families, including family tax cuts and the enhanced universal child care benefit.
    Can the Minister of State for Social Development please update this House on our government's initiatives to put more money in the pockets of Canadian families?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Don Valley East for the good work he is doing to support families in his riding.
    Our government is in position for fulfilling our promise to balance the federal budget. We are in a position to now help families balance their own budgets. They are getting ready to file their taxes, and almost two million families will benefit, as they file their income taxes for 2014, from our family tax cut. They are also going to benefit from our expansion to the universal child care benefit.
    We are making sure more money is in the pockets of Canadian families. The Liberals and the NDP would reverse that tax cut.

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, unlike the NDP, the Bloc Québécois is not ambivalent about the TransCanada pipeline project. Again, the National Assembly of Quebec already voted unanimously on a motion with regard to its environmental jurisdiction over this project.
    The environmental aspect of the pipeline is very important to us. All the federalist parties in Ottawa need to understand that Quebec has to be able to decide what goes on in its province. It is Quebec's territory and Quebec assumes all the risks. It is up to Quebec and its regions to decide.
    Will the government commit to respecting Quebec's environmental process and the choices of Quebeckers?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have been clear. We do not take positions on specific applications for energy infrastructure until an independent review is complete.
    Our government relies on the independent National Energy Board for decisions related to proposals of energy infrastructure, including TransCanada's energy east proposal.
    We look forward to receiving the result of the rigorous, thorough, and independent review. Our government has been clear: proposals will only be approved if they are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.

  (1505)  

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, I have asked the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness this question. I have asked the Minister of Justice. I would like the Prime Minister to perhaps give me an actual answer.
    Under Bill C-51, the new secret police powers are broad and extensive but have been said to limit those areas of lawful protest and advocacy. My question is about those activities that are by definition not lawful but that are peaceful, such as when Conservative MPs refused to fill out the long gun registry or when Green Party members blockade Kinder Morgan pipelines.
    Will non-violent, peaceful activities be exempted from this act?
    Mr. Speaker, I think it is very well known that the anti-terrorism act, 2015, is designed to deal with the promotion and actual execution of terrorist activities, and not other lawful activities.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Drug-Free Prisons Act

    The House proceeded to consideration of Bill C-12, the Drug-Free Prisons Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.
    There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-12.

[English]

    The sponsor has indicated that she will not be proceeding with her motion. Consequently, there will be no motions at report stage. The House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question to concur in the bill at report stage.
     moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.

    (Motion agreed to)

    When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now?

[Translation]

     moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak this afternoon to Bill C-12, which seeks to eradicate drugs from our federal penitentiaries.
    From the outset, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for studying and adopting this legislative measure. It is an important measure for fighting the use and presence of illicit drugs in our federal penitentiaries and holding offenders responsible for their actions. I am pleased to see that the committee recognized the importance of moving forward with this legislative measure.

[English]

    Drug use and abuse in our federal prisons is a serious and pervasive problem, one that cannot be solved overnight. It may seem logical that prisons ought to be free from drugs, but unfortunately this is not the case. The reality is that 75% of offenders are entering Canadian federal prisons with a substance abuse problem. Moreover, almost half of all federal offenders are serving sentences for crimes that are directly related to their substance abuse, so the reality is that when offenders enter our federal penitentiaries, they have a serious drug addiction problem. Rehabilitation helps those offenders to get rid of their drug addictions. That is why Correctional Service of Canada launched a program to eliminate and eradicate drugs in prisons. It has been in place since in 2008.

[Translation]

    When Correctional Service Canada launched its transformation program in 2008, one of its priorities was to eliminate drugs in its institutions.
    The goal is simple: put an end to drug smuggling in federal penitentiaries. There are two benefits to getting drugs out of our federal penitentiaries: It will make penitentiaries safer for the staff and, of course, it will help our inmates in their rehabilitation.

  (1510)  

[English]

    Drugs and other contraband in our federal prisons cause a serious security problem for our correctional officers. Offenders who are often under the influence of drugs are more erratic, unpredictable, and often violent toward correctional officers, themselves, and other inmates. This destabilizes the institutions and puts the men and women on the front lines at risk.
    Drug paraphernalia causes another layer of risk. Needles in the hands of prisoners simply give another weapon to prisoners seeking to harm our front-line personnel. If I may digress for a moment, this shows just how foolhardy an approach the NDP has taken by seeking to establish a needle exchange in prisons. Is it naïveté or hubris that the NDP believes these easily concealed needles would not cause a risk to front-line staff?

[Translation]

    Our correctional officers play a key role in the correctional system. They maintain the safety of our federal penitentiaries while monitoring the offenders, supervising them and interacting with them. Regardless of the nature of their clients, the inmates, and their place of work, correctional officers deserve to work in a safe place where their integrity will not be not adversely affected and where they will feel safe.
    Removing drugs from our federal prisons contributes to that goal and by so doing, we are also helping offenders successfully reintegrate into society. Some of them have to take a drug treatment program as part of their correctional plan. If they do not have access to drugs when they are incarcerated, their chances of success are greatly increased. This helps reduce the demand for drugs and ensures that these offenders are making progress toward a successful rehabilitation.
    As in a legitimate economy, when demand drops, so does supply. Supply adapts to demand. This formula also works in our federal prisons. By putting an end to drug smuggling in these institutions, we can ensure that offenders are successful in their drug treatment program. Success in these programs will result in a lower demand for drugs and, therefore, a drop in supply.

[English]

    Ultimately, removing drugs from our federal prisons will help keep Canadians safe. With this goal in mind, our Conservative government has implemented a number of measures to directly target drugs inside our prison walls. We have seen great progress on a number of fronts, progress that has been recognized by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in its report following its 2012 study on drugs in federal prisons.

[Translation]

    For example, Correctional Service Canada adopted a consistent approach to manage all of the main entrances and vehicle service entrances, which provide access to penitentiaries.
    Correctional Service Canada has increased the number of teams of sniffer dogs. We have also brought in new equipment to improve scanning for visitors and other people who go in and out of federal prisons every day.
    Correctional Service Canada has also developed a national database for monitoring and tracking visitors. These are practical tools to control the movement of people and goods entering penitentiaries to keep drugs out.

  (1515)  

[English]

    Correctional Service of Canada has also expanded its random urinalysis testing of offenders to reduce the availability and consumption of drugs inside institutions. In fact, since 2013 CSC has been carrying out random urinalysis testing on 10% of offenders every month, increasing the chances that all offenders will be subject to a random test each year.

[Translation]

    All of these measures directly support the efforts made to make prisons a secure environment in which corrections staff are safer and in which offenders can focus on rehabilitation. The Drug-Free Prisons Act is another step towards achieving that objective.
    Earlier I mentioned that Correctional Service Canada was increasingly using random urine sample screenings to effectively target offenders over the course of a year. The measure we are implementing is based on that work. It will amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to give Correctional Service Canada and the Parole Board of Canada new powers so that they can use data taken from the urine sample screenings to hold offenders responsible for their actions.
    Essentially, if an inmate's urine sample tests positive for the presence of drugs, there will be consequences with both Correctional Service Canada and the parole process, since this inmate is clearly not ready to reintegrate into society.

[English]

    Under the legislation, the Parole Board would have the explicit authority to cancel an offender's parole if the offender fails a urine test between the time at which he or she is granted parole and the time he or she physically leaves the penitentiary.
    It is important to note that any offender who refuses to take a urine test during this time is considered to have failed the test. In this way, there is no loophole that an offender could slip through. The onus falls fully on the shoulders of the offender to ensure that he or she stays clear of drugs in order to be released on parole.
    The bill would also stipulate the Parole Board's authority to set specific conditions for an offender as part of his or her parole in relation to an offender's use of drugs or alcohol. In other words, it could impose a condition that the offender must completely abstain from all drug or alcohol use while on parole.

[Translation]

    These two amendments will strongly encourage inmates and former inmates to make better decisions and to abstain from drugs over the course of their incarceration and parole. This is all part of the objective of making Canadians safer.

[English]

    Ultimately, the concept of the bill is simple. By providing drug-free prisons, we would be helping offenders work toward successful paroles and reducing recidivism, and ultimately there would be fewer drugs on our streets.
    I appeared in front of the committee on public safety and was pleased to see the bill receive positive support, so I hope the bill can proceed quickly at report stage and pass without further amendment so that we can take another step towards freeing our penitentiaries of drugs by providing tools to the Correctional Service of Canada so that it can move in that direction.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his remarks. It is true that the NDP has supported the bill.
    I want to ask the minister if he will admit that the only thing the bill would really do is put into law the practices of the Parole Board of removing parole from those who fail drug tests and of applying conditions about drug use to parole. In other words, there would be no real change here. In fact, the discretion would remain with the Parole Board.
    In addition to the fact that there would be no real change, although it is positive to make things explicit, what else is there in this bill about drug-free prisons? It is actually a false title on the bill. It is really a bill about entrenching Parole Board practices for dealing with failed drug tests and setting parole conditions. It really has nothing to do with drug-free prisons.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, there is one fundamental principle underlying the bill, which is that we want to empower offenders to take responsibility for their behaviour both in prison and during their statutory release.
    One has to note that almost 95% of offenders who are seeking rehabilitation in our facilities are being provided with services. Correctional Service of Canada has also implemented an early detection system, so that whenever an offender is entering a facility, CSC is able to evaluate if there is a need to provide some support resources.
    In that sense, the bill would provide more tools for offenders to be responsible for their behaviour so that they can free themselves of their addiction. The tools are provided within the facilities and are part of a successful rehabilitation.
    One thing the bill would help prevent is offenders continuing to have a drug addiction while serving a sentence. We believe this is not the ideal condition for these individuals, and it also represents a threat to society, since these drug addictions may encourage criminal behaviour.
    We are proud to bring forward a bill that would impose consequences on offenders who are not drug-free and who are still using drugs, whether in prison or during their statutory release.
    Mr. Speaker, like the critic from the NDP, I too wondered if the minister was really talking about a different bill than Bill C-12, in the way he basically painted it all out of proportion. The bill's title shows the kind of deception that comes forth from the government. The drug-free prisons bill is not going to make prisons drug free.
    The minister, in answer to a question, said that the bill was to empower the offender to get free of drugs. The Correctional Investigator, in his 2011-12 annual report, said the following, which I think is the way one empowers an offender:
...a comprehensive and integrated drug strategy should include a balance of measures— prevention, treatment, harm reduction and interdiction.
    Will the minister come forward with a program in this area? Does the minister not agree that to really make prisons drug free, these are the kinds of programs that we need, rather than just more punishment, that we really need a drug strategy in prisons to assist people to get off drugs, rather than just penalties?
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member that the bill is part of an ongoing strategy brought forward by our government over the course of the last year, in which we have invested more than $100 million. We have invested in stopping the revolving door of drugs into our prisons. This is an issue that all modern countries are facing, but we are dealing with the issue by including drug detector dogs, security intelligence capacity, and perimeter security.
    We have to go to great lengths to prevent drugs from entering our facilities, but at the same time, I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellent programming for substance abuse offered to offenders in our penitentiaries. Correctional Service Canada provides a range of internationally accredited substance abuse programs to offenders whose substance dependence is related to their criminal behaviour. If the member may recall, in my opening remarks I noted that there are many offenders who enter our penitentiaries with drug addiction related problems. They have an opportunity to take advantage of the great program offered by Correctional Service Canada to get rid of their drug addiction.
    In the meantime, we will not tolerate the use of drugs in our facilities. That is why we need to be efficient in the measures we are putting forward to make sure that those who are found using drugs in our facilities will have to face the consequences.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, when we studied Bill C-12 in committee, witnesses noted that many individuals who find themselves incarcerated have committed serious crimes, in many cases connected to serious drug addiction and other types of illicit drug abuse. The minister mentioned this at the start of his speech.
    In committee, we also heard that it was important that the bill would put the onus back on the offender to really take advantage of some of those programs available, and to ensure that when they are eligible for parole, they leave prison and go back into the community drug free. I think most Canadians would agree that someone who finds himself in jail as a result of crimes or drug addictions should leave the penitentiary, or that system, drug free.
    Therefore, my question for the minister is two-fold. The bill would ensure that offenders know that these tests are being done. First, does he feel that informing inmates of the ramifications of continuing use of illicit drugs would change their decisions so they would be eligible for parole and be able to be integrated into society?
    Second, if we did not pass legislation like this, if we did not have programs in place but simply turned a blind eye to this type of problem in our penitentiaries, what would be the success rate of offenders being reintegrated into society and capable of holding down jobs and contributing to the economic prosperity of the country?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for her excellent question. She has given me an opportunity to describe the three-tier approach we have taken in our drug-free prison strategy.
    The first tier is controlling and stopping the access to drugs in our facilities. We have invested massively in this area.
    In the second tier, we are sending strong signals of deterrence to increase offender accountability and penalties. We want to make sure that we put the onus on the offenders to quit their drug addiction if they want to get back into society more quickly.
    The third tier is prevention and treatment. I have interesting statistics here regarding the investment in treatment, which is massive. I also have some statistics here that show that our strategy is working.
     Let me just give an example. In 2013-14, 16,500 urine analysis tests were given in penitentiaries, of which 1,000 tested positive for intoxicants and 1,000 tests were refused. That amounts to 6% that tested positive and 7% that were refused. It means that more than 85% of inmates were drug-free.
    There is still room for improvement, but when we look at the statistics of those who went into our penitentiaries with a drug addiction, we can see that we are on the right path in helping inmates to get free of their drug addictions. By doing so, they are more successful in their correctional plan for rehabilitation.
    This is a demonstration of, and I would say reinforces, the fact that when they go back into society, they will contribute to society and not pose a threat. The increases the safety of Canadians. That is our first and most important objective.

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to start by saying that we are supporting this bill at third reading because of its narrowness.
    That is not something people would recognize from looking at the title. They would think this bill had sweeping and miraculous provisions allowing Correctional Service Canada to attain drug-free prisons, something that no corrections system anywhere in the world has ever been able to achieve.
    Instead, all it includes is a very narrow amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that makes it clear in law that the Parole Board may use the positive results from drug tests or refusals to take drug tests in making its decision on parole eligibility, something that is already the practice of the Parole Board. It also makes clear that the Parole Board can impose conditions about drug and alcohol use as a condition of parole, which of course the Parole Board already does.
    The discretion, when there is a failed drug test, or a failure when someone on parole gets involved with drugs, remains where it should be, with the Parole Board. For that reason, we support the provisions.
    However, what we have trouble with is the misleading title of this bill. I really think the government has engaged in a kind of propaganda exercise here where it wants to go to the public and say that it passed a drug-free prison bill, as if that had some impact on the real world.
    What we really need here is something more than the narrow scope of this bill, something that would actually attack the real problem, which is the addiction problem in society in general, particularly among those who end up in the corrections system.
    The independent Parole Board is still best placed to judge the individual cases and the consequences of failures of drug tests or failures to meet conditions of parole. Again, we do support this bill because it does not interfere with that.
    Let us talk about the Conservatives' real approach here. When they talk about drug-free prisons, we all know that like all zero tolerance policies, these are not policies at all but simply aspirations. A policy has actions that are taken to achieve an objective. The objective here might be drug-free prisons, but what is missing is a policy specifying how we would actually get there.
    As I said, no correctional system in the world has ever achieved a drug-free prison system. I heard an hon. parliamentary secretary on the Conservative side posing this as some kind of dichotomy, where we choose either to have drug-free prisons or to do nothing about drugs in prison. I submit, of course, that that is a completely false dichotomy. No one is suggesting that we do nothing to attack the problems of drugs in prisons.
    If we look to those who have some expertise in the area, the Correctional Investigator, the John Howard Society, and the Union of Correctional Officers, they all have said that aiming for drug-free prisons is not a realistic goal. In fact, let us have a look at some of the very specific things they have said. I will just quote from the annual report of the Correctional Investigator:
    A “zerotolerance” stance to drugs in prison, while perhaps serving as an effective deterrent posted at the entry point of a penitentiary, simply does not accord with the facts of crime and addiction in Canada or elsewhere in the world. Harm reduction measures within a public health and treatment orientation offer a far more promising, cost-effective and sustainable approach to reducing subsequent crime and victimization.
    Again, that is from the Correctional Investigator's 2011-12 report.
    The ministers' remark toward the end of his speech that drug offenders have to choose to end their addiction really sets this in a moralistic kind of vein, rather than a health vein. We all know that addiction is a health problem; it is not a choice problem. People may make bad choices in life that lead to addiction, but once they are an addict, it is a health problem. It is not a moral failing. I think the government quite often reverts to talking about addiction as if were somehow a matter of simple choice for those who have become addicts.
    The real problem that we have, of course, is that almost 80% of those who end up in the Canadian prison system come in with a substance abuse problem, either with drugs or alcohol. What is more interesting, again, as the Correctional Investigator has pointed out in numerous reports, is the fact that most of those who have committed crimes—close to two-thirds of offenders, according to his 2011-12 report—were under the influence of an intoxicant when they committed the offence leading to their incarceration. Four out of five offenders, as I mentioned, arrive at that federal institution with that same substance abuse problem.

  (1535)  

    Therefore, if we are tackling the problem as a drug problem in prison, our focus is far too narrow, because it skips over the reason that most of those people ended up prison and that their offences were committed while they were under the influence of their addiction.
    Unfortunately, the Conservatives' tough on crime approach has actually made this problem worse. By instituting a lot of mandatory minimum sentences, they have ensured that people whose basic problem is addiction and not violence or criminal intent would end up caught in the net that makes sure they are incarcerated. However, if discretion had been left to a judge, in an individual case, the judge might have been able to see that the addiction was the problem and get the individual into diversion programs, such as treatment, which are far more effective than incarceration and cost far less than putting people in prison.
    When we are spending more than $100,000 a year to keep a person in prison, and addiction treatment, yes, can sometimes be very expensive, costing up to $10,000, we are still talking about something that is 90% cheaper than putting people in jail. Again, this failure to think clearly about what the real problem is here in terms of addiction, and instead responding with punishment to those who have addictions, means that we end up dealing with that problem in our prisons instead of in the community where people can get better treatment programs and better support from their family and communities and where ultimately they would then end up posing much less of a threat to the community as a whole.
    As part of the current government's punishment approach and its zero tolerance approach, the government spent over $122 million on improving drug interdiction in prisons. I think this was over a period of three years, but the amount is significant.
    The minister liked to talk about numbers. He mentioned the number of people who failed the test, indicating that 85% of the prisoners were drug free. However, what he forgot to mention was that, before the interdiction program, he had the same numbers. Therefore, before we spent $122 million in our prisons trying to have better interdiction of drugs coming in, 85% of the prisoners were drug free, and at the end of that $122 million expenditure, 85% of the prisoners were drug free. That is a lot of money being spent for what I would call ideological reasons with very little to show for it in the end.
    As well, the minister likes to focus on the fear factor by always talking about injection drugs and by making up policies for the opposition as he goes along. However, in doing so, when he talks about injection drugs, what he fails to mention is that by far the vast majority of those failures of drug tests were for marijuana and not for injection drugs. The minister exaggerates the problem of injection drugs within our prisons to create a climate of fear. Now, I will not minimize at all the threat to the correctional staff of needles in prison, and I think we share on all sides of this House the desire for a safe work environment for correctional officers.
    However, this interdiction program had some unintended consequences. When one goes to interdiction, as a result of that, much tougher and stringent policies apply to family visits. We heard from witnesses in the public safety committee that families oftentimes have been intimidated into bringing drugs into prison and therefore chose not to make any prison visits to their family member rather than face the intimidation and the much higher search levels from the interdiction process. In fact, as an unintended consequence, this higher level of interdiction has actually interfered with family visits, which are extremely important in having people successfully kick addictions and successfully reintegrate into their communities.
    The other thing that has happened is that it has resulted in far more lockdowns within the prisons as searches are done for drugs and drug paraphernalia within the prison. Now, how could that be a bad thing? Well, lockdowns in a prison take a significant amount of time, and when they take place, rehabilitation programming is suspended for that day. Therefore, this higher level of interdiction, this higher level of searches through the prisons, actually interferes with the very rehabilitation programming that is central to reduce the demand for drugs in prisons.
    Again, looking at the real record of the Conservative government when it comes to corrections, what we see is a record of budget cuts. In 2012, the government announced that it intended to cut $295 million from the corrections budget by 2015, and it has done that. More than 10% of the whole budget of corrections has been cut at a time when the prison population has grown by more than 1,000; from 14,000 to 15,000.

  (1540)  

    Again, the minister likes to talk about the fact that the prison population did not grow to the extent people projected. That is true. Those projections were wrong. They were not my projections, but they were wrong. In fact, the prison population continued to grow at a time when the budget was shrinking.
    As a result of some new construction that had been started earlier, we have had a net addition of 1,600 beds to the prison system, barely enough to keep up with the growth in prison population after the closures of some facilities. When we barely keep pace with growth, it means that we have continued with this very negative situation of extensive double bunking in the prison system. I will come back to that in just a second.
    What we have is an increased number of people in the corrections system and less money for programming. I have the exact figures here, but I know that less than 3% of the total budget for Correctional Service Canada is actually spent on programming. Therefore, 97% is spent on warehousing—housing, food, and security of prisons—and less than 3% is spent on programming. What the cuts have meant, along with the increased prison population, is that there is less money per capita for each of those in our system, for things like addiction treatment and training.
    This has forced Correctional Service Canada to adopt some new strategies. It has abandoned the very long-standing and proven addiction treatment programs that were offered in Correctional Service Canada. These are programs that were considered models around the world. Members of the public safety committee in the previous Parliament told me many times that when they travelled internationally, particularly to Norway and Britain, people complimented Canada on the model and had adopted the model being used for addiction treatment in Canadian prisons. What the constraint on budgets has done is cause Correctional Service Canada to eliminate that programming and go to a program that offers general treatment for a number of problems in a single program. It has added addictions to things like anger management and life planning, all wrapped together in one course.
    I have to say that I sincerely hope this new combined course is as successful as the old addiction treatment program. We have no evidence yet and I have no reason to draw the conclusion it will not be, but I fear it will not be as successful. The reason it was brought about was the government's excessive focus on cutting expenditures in a corrections system that has been growing.
    I will now come back to the issue of double bunking that I mentioned a minute ago. We all know that one of the impacts of double bunking is that it increases what we call the temperature in correctional institutions. There have been many examples from across the country. It means there is more conflict within institutions, there is more violence within institutions, and they are less safe for corrections officers.
    Double bunking also means space has been lost for programming. Classrooms have been converted for other uses because of the extreme overcrowding in many prisons. Because of the increased temperature, there have been more lockdowns and, just as with the increased drug interdiction activity going on, more lockdowns that are a result of double bunking disrupt programming, including addiction treatment programming.
    What should we be doing instead? The bill is called the drug-free prisons bill. The first thing that was said in committee was that it should not really be called that. It should be called the failure of drug tests and Parole Board bill. That is what it is really about. Instead, it is still called the drug-free prisons bill. In a previous Parliament in 2010, the public safety committee, which I serve on in this Parliament, produced a report, which I have with me today. That report is called “Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the Federal Correctional System: Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security”. This was tabled in December of 2010.
    In this report, there are 71 recommendations on how to attack the problem of drugs in prison. What did the government do? It decided on an interdiction program instead of the 71 recommendations from the committee. Very few of these have been implemented. Why is that? I submit it is because the recommendations actually treat addiction as a health problem instead of a moral crisis or a moral failure of those who are addicts. Instead of promising more punishment for addicts, these 71 recommendations made practical suggestions on how the demand for drugs in prison could be reduced.

  (1545)  

    Human ingenuity being what it is, we probably can never eliminate drugs from prisons, no matter how much interdiction we do. However, if we applied the health model in which addictions are treated, we would reduce the demand for drugs in prisons. Of course, successful treatment means more successful rehabilitation and more success when people return to the community.
    I want to focus on one of these 71 recommendations, and that is recommendation 11. It says:
    That Correctional Services Canada (CSC) review its current mental health and addictions programming to ensure that it meets the cultural and religious needs of Aboriginal offenders, who make up a disproportionate percentage of the Canadian inmate population, and a disproportionate percentage of inmates facing mental health and addiction issues; that CSC implement, together with local Aboriginal communities, more mental health and addiction programs addressing the specific needs of Aboriginal offenders. In addition to contributing to the development of these programs, local Aboriginal communities should also contribute to the delivery of these programs [within prisons] to ensure maximum success.
    That is the end of that very long recommendation. Nothing has happened to it. We do not have more programs dealing with addiction from an aboriginal cultural perspective. We do not have more aboriginal communities involved in the prison system, offering culturally appropriate programming to meet the addiction problems. Instead what we have is more mandatory minimum sentences that result in more people with addictions, from aboriginal communities, ending up with longer prison sentences. The government has taken exactly the wrong approach. Even its own members on the public safety committee in the previous Parliament recommended a different approach to this addiction problem than the one adopted by the current government.
    I just want to go back and summarize where we are with the Conservatives on the corrections system. What we have, again, is a relentless emphasis on punishment as the solution to our crime and addiction problems in this country, when we all know that is not the approach that works.
     The NDP has long called for better addiction treatment programs, more money for programming, and in particular, again with the increase in the prison population, more worthwhile things for people to do in prison. The head of Correctional Service told us today in committee that CSC does not actually keep statistics on wait lists, that everybody is accommodated for programming. However, when we talked to people from the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society and to correctional officers, they all told us that is simply not true. They said that many people have significant delays in accessing the program they need, whether it is addiction programming, anger management, or life skills; and that many of those people get to the end of their sentences without completing the correction plan, through no fault of their own but through a lack of resources and opportunity within the corrections system.
    Do I say this because I think we are failing the inmates? Yes, I do. However, I also think we are failing Canadians in general, because all of these people will come out of the corrections system where they have failed to complete the corrections plan through no fault or personal decision of their own, and they then will have a much lower possibility of successfully reintegrating into society, getting a job, supporting their families, and being a success in the same manner that all Canadians would like to be. It is a fundamentally flawed approach again from the government.
    In this bill we have a propagandistic title, drug-free prisons, and the Conservatives will announce to Canadians after this bill passes that we now have drug-free prisons because they passed a law.
     In fact, going back to the reason we are supporting the bill, what we would have done is preserve the discretion of the Parole Board in dealing with those who fail drug tests in prison just before they are paroled or who fail conditions of parole. We are putting this into law. There is nothing wrong with that at all. That is why we are voting for this bill.
     We did make an attempt to get the title changed to something more appropriate, but as anyone who listened to the minister's speech can see, there was no interest in actually talking about what happens in the bill; there is an interest in saying that the Conservatives have done something to create drug-free prisons and have done that through tough laws, through interdiction, and through all the things that we know, if we actually look at the evidence, have not worked in our prison system and will not work in our prison system.
    What we need is an approach that recognizes addiction as a health problem and provides the addiction treatment that is needed within our prisons. That is the way we will get closer to drug-free prisons.

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for those remarks. However, there was a hodgepodge of comments not necessarily related to the bill at hand, a number of which I wrote down as not completely the truth. There were a couple I wrote down explicitly. One was the double-bunking issue—
    Order, please. The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe the rules of the House are clear with respect to not casting aspersions on whether other members are being truthful in their presentations to the House, and I would ask the parliamentary secretary to withdraw those remarks.
    Order, please. I thank the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for his intervention. Indeed, when we characterize other commentary in the House as being untruthful, or as I think the parliamentary secretary referenced, not completely the truth, it gets into an area of speech that is really considered unparliamentary. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary might wish to rephrase her comments in that respect.
    Mr. Speaker, I will retract that particular comment and rephrase it slightly differently.
    The member seemed to imply that double-bunking was somewhat responsible for violent acts occurring in prisons. That is absolutely not the case. Don Head, the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, has stated that. There was a thorough study on it. There is absolutely no correlation between double-bunking and violence in prisons. That just goes to speak to the fact that the NDP fails to recognize that federal penitentiaries do not make offenders violent, but certainly violent criminals do end up in them.
    The member opposite talked specifically about the question I asked the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. He seemed to imply that when I talked about turning a blind eye to drug problems within our prisons I was somehow inferring that the opposition does that, and that is not the case.
    It is interesting to note that the member opposite and the opposition parties voted against investments of over $100 million to beef up detection measures in our institutions. The member opposite said that those investments have done absolutely no good, or similar terms. Can I say that this is not the truth? In 2013 and 2014 we saw over 2,400 drug-related seizures in our federal prisons. That number has gone up and continues to grow under our Conservative government. We are stopping the illicit drugs from getting into our prisons.
     The member also mentioned that certain family members may choose not to visit their incarcerated family members for fear of being searched. I take the plane quite often to come to Ottawa. I have to put my bags through the scanner. Sometimes I have had to go into the X-ray machine. I do that, because I have nothing to hide. I am not quite sure why the member thinks we should simply turn a blind eye to family members who refuse to have that type of search done before entering the prison system.
    Mr. Speaker, with respect, I disagree with the hon. member on double-bunking. If she looked at any of the independent evidence, not the government's own evaluations of itself on double-bunking but those from experts in corrections, it will show that double-bunking has a negative impact on levels of violence and conflict in prisons. That is 100% without dispute, except for the government's own reports on itself. It is the same thing if one talks to corrections officers. If one actually talks to the people who work in the institutions, they will talk very clearly about the impact of double-bunking.
    When the member talks about families not wanting to come in because of the interdiction methods and being placed under severe pressure by those outside, she should talk to the families of inmates. They will tell her how they feel. It is not about how she feels about flying. It is about how they feel about the obstacles that are being set up and the pressure they are under that sometimes interferes with their family visits.
    I will tell members another story. I met with an aboriginal elder who travelled several hundred miles to appear at a federal prison and was turned away because of a lockdown over a prison search because of the interdiction measures that were going on. He was unable to provide the counselling he wished to provide because of the interdiction lockdown. He was not compensated in any way for the hundreds of miles he travelled or for his time. He was unable to make his positive contribution within the institution specifically because of the increased interdiction measures.
    The member talked about the great success and how many people they find and how many things they seize. What I was talking about, which she calls untrue, is the fact that the rate of positive tests and refusals has not changed since the beginning of the interdiction program.

  (1555)  

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca on his remarks. I think they were honest and to the point. One thing I have found about the member is that his research is good. It is evidence-based research, not the kind of lines we get from the government. There is good research there.
    There are many concerns. I hear them too. They are about double bunking and about families fearful of the kind of search they may have to go through when visiting prisons. There are lots of problems the government fails to recognize, so I appreciate it when the member puts those concerns forward. A government that was doing its job instead of attacking those with concerns would try to learn from them.
    The bill is called the drug-free prisons act. What would the member recommend we do to make prisons drug free? What needs to be done? We know this act will not do it. It is an act of deception. What really needs to happen to assist inmates to become more drug free?
    Mr. Speaker, I enjoy sitting parallel with the hon. member as the Liberal critic at the public safety committee. I think he is as committed as I am to looking at the actual evidence when it comes to the problem of drug addition within prisons.
    As I said in my remarks and will say again, the first thing that has to happen is that there has to be a recognition of addiction as a health problem and not a moral failing. Once we recognize addiction as a health problem, we have to provide people with the opportunities to get treatment for that addiction problem. What we have now is an increasing prison population, a shrinking budget, and extremely narrow opportunities being presented to people to actually deal with their addictions while they are in prison. Unfortunately, too many return to the community without adequate supports and end up in their old lifestyles, where addiction drove their criminal behaviour.
    How do we do it? It is a health problem. We provide adequate treatment and support when people return to the community so that they can once again become productive members of society.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is often said that prisons are like universities where you could go and get a master's degree or a doctorate in crime and where you become an even worse criminal. Why send people to prison if they are becoming even worse offenders?
    The goal is to reintegrate these people into society once they are released. However, achieving this requires certain conditions. It is not enough to lock people up and pay for guards or big machines to detect drugs. Are there really educators who will take charge of these people to help them enjoy life again and help them understand that they can become useful members of society? Will there be the resources required to allow social services to treat addiction as an illness and to help these people really get their lives in order and become productive members of society again?
    If the only thing we do is set up controls to see if drugs are being smuggled into prison, we are not really doing a proper job. In fact, on the inside, they are still going to use drugs; they are going to manage one way or another.
    What we are not doing here, but what is being done in Quebec, is reintegrating people and giving them a chance to return to the workforce after five or seven years in prison. They need to be able to say that they have a trade, that they are going to be able to work and that they can become good citizens.
    I do not know whether my colleague agrees with that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question reminds me of two things I need to say. One is that nothing in our remarks about family visits and the addiction problem was meant to imply that families are the main source of drugs in prison. They are not. The second is the question of mandatory minimum sentences, which the government has pursued with a vengeance.
    We on this side support mandatory minimums only for the most severe crimes. They are appropriate for those, but the result has been that many more people whose basic problem was addiction end up with a long prison sentence, and as the member said, they become perhaps better criminals as a result of that rather than having their addiction treated while they are in custody.

  (1600)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-12, the drug-free prisons act. The place to begin is to acknowledge a straightforward fact, which is that the bill will have hardly any consequence in ensuring that prisons are drug free. It is a much bigger issue than that. Even one of the members, one of the backbench Conservative members who was there for one meeting, in discussing the bill at committee, indicated as much himself. It is a name; it is not action in terms of this particular bill.
    I am always amazed, and I have said this before, at the deception of the government. They think that if it can name a bill a certain way, it will happen. It will leave the perception in the public that the Conservatives are actually doing something, but they are not. What is really required is action.
    The government somehow believes that if we can treat addictions by threatening those who suffer from addiction we are actually doing something. Research has shown that on the drug issue, threats alone are not enough.
    The previous member who spoke talked about drug addiction as being a health problem. Somewhere around 75% to 80% of the people who go into prison actually go in with either a drug or alcohol addiction, and many of them have mental issues as well, so there has to be treatment beyond the penalties the government is talking about imposing.
    The government somehow believes that it will achieve drug-free prisons if it coerces even further those offenders about to qualify for parole. There will be some people who do not achieve parole as a result of this decision. Is that the right thing to do? Is there a better way of handling that? Those are issues that need to be looked at.
    Somehow the public is to believe that this legislation will actually accomplish something new. It really will not, and that became clear from the evidence presented at committee.
    The title of the bill is misleading in the extreme, while the contents of the legislation actually add little, if anything, to the situation relative to those inmates on parole. I will come to that in a little bit.
    Bill C-12 is another in a long line of government legislation, some of it private members' bills from the Conservative side as well, that use victims and offenders for their ideological ends.
    The first point is this: Does the bill actually bring forward new policy related to the issue of drug use and those applying for parole? The answer is a simple no. Bill C-12 actually adds nothing to the parole process that does not already exist.
    In direct answer to a question I posed to the chair of the Parole Board with respect to the Parole Board being able to exercise its full discretion as it has so far, the chair responded, “That is right”. Let me rephrase that. What I was really asking the chair of the Parole Board was whether this bill would take discretion away from the chair, and it does not. The Parole Board would still have the discretion it has always had, although the bill tries to make it look otherwise.
    The Conservatives have said that there was a substantial change in that regard. The fact is, Bill C-12 does not alter the ability of the Parole Board to do the job it has been doing all along. The chair of the Parole Board actually went even further when asked whether any new requirements in this legislation will add anything to the current practices of the board.

  (1605)  

    I will quote his answer. He stated:
    The new information that will be provided with the legislation will trigger a review by the board, as is currently the case when any new information regarding an offender is provided to the Parole Board of Canada prior to an offender's release, which we obtain from CSC.
    Again, what is contained in Bill C-12 is already in practice. It has been the practice of the Parole Board.
     That is why the bill is more perception. In my view, it is not just perception, but the way the government named this bill, the drug-free prisons act, is deception to the very core when it has very little to do with that and does not deal with the real issue of drugs in prisons.
    If we are to stop drugs in prisons, we have to stop the market. If we are to get people off drugs, penalties are will not do it alone. It requires programming, treatment and constant follow up. That is the only way to get people off these addictions. There is no question that people face drug and alcohol addictions. Some people do small break and enters and some get into greater crimes as they get hooked on drugs. It is a serious problem and we have to reduce the market both in prisons and in Canadian society.
    I will tell a story about the correctional system. I will give the government some credit for maintaining some of the programs that were started years ago to get people off drugs.
     A constituent of mine had a son who was terribly addicted to drugs, got caught doing a small crime, and was going to be sentenced to two years less a day. That parent came to me to see if I could advise her in any way on how to get her son committed to a federal institution, which is a very tough place to spend time. Of course, there was nothing I could do.
    Her concern was that her son would go into a provincial institution for a small crime. Because he was so addicted to drugs, he would commit bigger crimes over time. She felt if she could get him committed to a federal institution for two years or more, maybe her son would be able to take part in the programming to get him off drugs and become a better contributor to Canadian society.
     I raise that point to indicate how serious the drug issue is and just imposing penalties, as this bill would try to do based on a urine sample, is certainly not in any way going to make prisons drug free.
    When the Correctional Investigator testified before the committee, he too expressed his observation that Bill C-12 added nothing to the process and procedures currently in use with respect to the parole of offenders. He stated:
    The window of opportunity targeted by this bill is very narrow....As members might be aware, the parole board already takes into consideration positive urinalysis results or refusal to provide a sample when making parole eligibility decisions. The board also frequently imposes a “do not consume” or “abstain from drugs and alcohol” prohibition on those on parole or statutory release and temporary absences. Bill C-12 would simply put these practices into legislation.
    The Office of the Correctional Investigator, whose specific role is the environment within which federal offenders are maintained and hopefully rehabilitated, has issued report after report with direct reference to the issue of drug use within our federal institutions.

  (1610)  

    Again, with respect to Bill C-12, the Correctional Investigator was clear about the obvious intent motivating the legislation. He said:
—Bill C-12 contemplates cancelling a parole grant on the basis of a positive drug test regardless of when the drug was ingested. Without condoning drug use, we should be clear-sighted about the consequences of proposed legal measures. This is not about making federal prisons drug-free or treating substance abuse. It is about punishing illicit drug use in prison.
    That is a pretty serious charge from the Correctional Investigator. It is about punishment; it is not about cure. We will not make prisons drug-free unless we find ways to establish a cure.
    I would remind the government that the objective of drug-free prisons is not something that the legislation before us would even faintly achieve.
    In its 2011-12 annual report, the Office of the Correctional Investigator made the following observation with respect to the prevalence of drugs within our federal prisons. It reads:
A “zerotolerance” stance to drugs in prison, while perhaps serving as an effective deterrent posted at the entry point of a penitentiary, simply does not accord with the facts of crime and addiction in Canada or elsewhere in the world.
    According to that same annual report of the Correctional Investigator, “Almost two-thirds of federal offenders report being under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants when they committed the offence that led to their incarceration”. The current population is about 15,000, so that would mean about 10,000 people. However, what is more disturbing is that a very high percentage of the offender population that abuses drugs is also concurrently struggling with mental illness.
    My point in raising these facts is that it is a much bigger issue than urine testing. As the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca said earlier, it is a health issue. It is a huge issue in our society and in our prisons. We have to use programming that actually deals with the addiction problem to get to the bottom of this issue.
     Yes, these people in prison have committed a crime, but in most cases, they will come out and be on our streets again. How do we give them the best opportunity to become good citizens and contribute to our economy, raise families and live in communities? That is what we should focus on here and not just the punishment aspect that the bill tries to portray.
    The Correctional Investigator in his 2013-14 annual report was critical of the government's continued refusal to develop a comprehensive program to respond to continued drug use in penitentiaries and to undermining a key program within Correctional Services Canada, CSC, to address the addiction program
    With respect to the former, the report found that:
    Interdiction and suppression in the absence of a more comprehensive range of treatment, prevention and harm reduction measures will not eliminate the demand (or supply) of contraband drugs or alcohol.
    According to the evidence provided to the public safety committee by the commissioner for CSC, upon admission, “about 80% of offenders arrive with a serious substance abuse problem”. He went on to inform the committee that anywhere up to 90% of a standing prison population would have a lifetime problem of substance misuse or dependence and that “this dependency does not magically disappear when they arrive at our gates”, meaning the prison gates.
    Members can see how big the issue really is.

  (1615)  

     The critical issue then is that of therapy for those incarcerated with substance abuse problems. On this point, the record is clear. Again, the Correctional Investigator confirmed in his testimony before the committee that “We've seen a decrease in the actual dollars being spent on substance abuse programming this year over last year”. I want to emphasize that quote because it is something the parliamentary secretary earlier indicated might have been untruthful.
    Let us call the bill for what it is. Unless the addiction issue is addressed, a problem acknowledged by public safety itself, titling a bill a drug-free prison act is really an act of fraud. It is deception, deception to the core. A drug-free prison act means nothing. The only way to get drug-free prisons is if we do the programming inside prisons. CSC admits 80% of the people have a drug or alcohol addiction before they come into the prison. That may have been part of the reason why they did the crime that put them there in the first place, or there may have been other background issues.
    Yes, they have to do their time and pay the penalty and pay the price to society for the crime that they undertook, but if we are to have a better society as a country, we have to make prisons places of rehabilitation, not universities for crime. Make them places of rehabilitation that these individuals can come out, be gainfully employed and contribute to our society.
    I am running out of time, but let me make one last point. I want to emphasize the fact that we will support the bill. The bill will not do any harm because the Parole Board still has discretion at the end of the day, although there will be some pressure on the Parole Board as a result of the legislation maybe to deny parole where it otherwise might not have. However, the bill will not do a whole lot of harm, but it sure as heck will not do a whole lot of good either.
    I would encourage the government to do this. Instead of giving bills fancy titles and taking up House and committee time with a bill that really would do very little, it would be better off to come in with rehabilitation programs for individuals, stronger programs, to get off drug and alcohol addiction so when they have done their time, they can contribute to society in a way that will help our economy and communities. The objective ought to be that.
    Mr. Speaker, through Corrections Canada, exactly $9 million were spent on addiction treatment programs in 2014 alone. When I hear the member opposite say that we have not spent money in this area, that is absolutely false.
    Also the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who delivered remarks earlier, talked about the government's three-tier approach that included: limiting access to drugs or stopping it from getting into prisons; deterrence for offenders and making them be accountable for their actions; and also prevention and treatment. I would like to have that figure on the record.
    At committee and in debate now, we have heard that the reasons why offenders were committing crimes may be related to serious drug addictions. It is the Conservative government that passed laws against selling marijuana near schools and moved to end grow ops in residential neighbourhoods. Yet the leader of the Liberal Party wants to make smoking marijuana a normal, everyday activity for Canadians.
    Does the Liberal member believe that only law-abiding Canadians outside of the penitentiary system should be able to smoke marijuana, or should we also give it to offenders?

  (1620)  

    Mr. Speaker, is the parliamentary secretary ever into deception today. We hear that all the time from government backbench members. I make the mistake of calling them “government backbenchers”; the government is really those members who sit in the front row. The others are members of the governing party, but they seem to take their direction from the front row, if we could say that, and their talking points from the PMO.
    In any event, the leader of the Liberal Party is not, absolutely not, promoting marijuana. He is not promoting that at all. That is the deception they try to go with over there.
    The fact of the matter is that our current drug laws is working in this country. Are marijuana laws is working in this country. Does it make sense to arrest somebody who smokes one toke and then cannot cross the border to the United States? Are police authorities today arresting people they find with marijuana? No, they are not, because they know the current law does not make any sense.
    In my view, we should legalize the product, as was done with alcohol; put in place programming to keep people from consuming too much alcohol, drugs, and marijuana; and establish a program whereby marijuana is sold legally and appropriately, rather than, as the current government is doing, ensuring that all the profits go to the criminal trade and not doing anything about addictions.
    Mr. Speaker, this last exchange really illustrates to me the problem with these wild titles that are assigned for essentially propagandistic purposes and lead us to debate a topic that is really irrelevant to what is before us in the House today instead of talking about what is actually in the bill.
    I was pleased to hear the member point out that while the government likes to cite large numbers like $9 million and get us to agree that it is a big number, in fact it does not tell us anything about what has happened with drug programming. The Correctional Investigator pointed out that because of the change in programming, it is very difficult to see whether there has been an increase or a decrease, but his conclusion was that there has been a decrease both in the amount being spent and in the availability of drug treatment programs.
    I would like to know if that is also the conclusion of the member for Malpeque.
    Mr. Speaker, the $9 million figure that the parliamentary secretary indicated they are spending on these issues is, I would expect, correct, but $9 million of what? How does it relate to the year before?
    We cannot get any real numbers from the government, no matter how hard we try. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer cannot get the numbers from the current government, because if there is anything it does not want to believe, whether it is about marijuana or prisons or anything else, it does not want to get into evidence-based research that might tell the real facts. I will re-quote what the Correctional Investigator said in his testimony:
     We've seen a decrease in the actual dollars being spent on substance abuse programming this year over last year.
    That is what is important. The Correctional Investigator is telling us that the Conservative government is not spending the dollars it ought to be in dealing with the drug addiction problems within our prison system.
    Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the core of all this is the refusal by the government to accept scientific evidence.
    We all witnessed, over the years, how the current government got rid of the long form census, despite the fact that hundreds of organizations have said this census provides useful scientific evidence upon which to base policy. We have seen how the current government muzzles scientists when they may say something the government does not want to listen to. We have seen the current government get rid of its responsibility with respect to the Experimental Lakes Area. We have seen the current government get rid of the PEARL facility in the high Arctic, which is responsible for doing research, among other things, on the depleting ozone layer above our country.
    In the case of this particular bill, we are talking about the fact that the current government, because of its ideology, does not want to recognize that treating the addiction while the person is serving his or her sentence is an essential element in trying to reduce the incidence of drug addiction.
    I would like to hear my colleague on that particular subject.

  (1625)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. He made the point himself that in so many areas that the government operates in, it really does not look at evidence-based research in its approach to policy. It has an ideology and goes with that. It will cost us substantially down the road.
    In fact, when we compare the Conservatives' tough-on-crime agenda with being smart on crime, we are seeing them going in the opposite direction from some of the states in the United States. They realized that punishment and penalties alone are not the answer and that they have to get offenders into rehabilitation.
    In direct answer to the member's question, the Correctional Investigator has said time and time again that there needs to be money for programming, but the money has been reduced. Research shows that it is programming, not penalties, that actually gets people off their addictions and makes the prison population safer as a result. It also gives those people a better opportunity to become contributors to Canadian society when they get out of prison.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. However, I clearly heard him state that the title of the bill had nothing to do with its content and that it was misleading Canadians.
    Everyone agrees that this bill is a step in the right direction. However, it has a fundamental flaw: it does not provide for care for people with mental health issues. This problem, which was brought to my attention in committee, also existed when the member was in government.
    Why is it so difficult to deal with this issue?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, prisons are certainly not the place to deal with serious mental illnesses or mental problems. There is always a cause and effect aspect to alcohol and drug addictions. They add to the problem. It is an issue that has come up increasingly in recent years, and that is a good thing. There has to be a really comprehensive strategy to deal with mental health issues across the country, a strategy that incorporates policy from the federal and provincial levels. It is a health care issue.
    There is no question that if people commit a crime, they have to pay a penalty for having committed that crime, but we have to recognize in all reality that there are mental health issues out there and that too many of these people end up in prison. We have to do a better job as a society of assisting those people with mental health issues of any kind. Number one, we need to prevent them from getting into prison in the first place. Number two, we need to assist them in becoming happy and productive citizens in our society.

  (1630)  

    Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, Intergovernmental Affairs.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to this bill. I have heard my hon. colleagues from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and Malpeque, and I agree with much of what they said. I will try to avoid repeating the good points that they made and focus in on why I agree that this bill is so very lacking.
    The essential difficulty goes beyond the fact that the bill does not address the serious problems within our prisons or the issue of drugs and addiction in any way that would make a meaningful difference. The essential difficulty—and this is something that bears repeating—is that as with so many bills in this place, the legislation coming at us has not been designed through the lens of someone who wants to improve public policy in an area for which the federal government has jurisdiction but rather through the lens of someone designing a brochure for the next election campaign. The titles are whiz-bang, the claims are extravagant, and the bills themselves are, in some cases, wide-ranging and disastrous, as in the case of the omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38.
    In the case of this bill, it has an overreaching title. Of course, who would not agree that it would be a good thing to have drug-free prisons? The title of the bill is the drug-free prisons act. In a grand total of five clauses, one of which is “This Act may be cited as the Drug-Free Prisons Act” , we have a regime that would require an offender who has already been granted parole to be subjected to a request for a urine analysis. If they refuse or test positive, the bill would then have this information referred to the Parole Board to determine whether the parole should still be granted.
    There are a lot of things wrong with this idea just as a practical matter. For one thing, the Parole Board already has the power to take into consideration whether an offender is currently drug-addicted or has substance abuse issues that would affect whether they will reoffend.
     The nature of urinalysis testing is that some drugs will be detected for quite a long time after the offender's use of that drug, whereas other drugs could be in and out of the offender's system rather quickly. For instance, we could have an offender in prison who was a cannabis user. That drug would still show up a long time after the last use. However, if the offender had been using cocaine, it would disappear within two days. The bill does not actually address the question of whether we are releasing someone who has a drug addiction onto the streets; rather, it answers the question of particular drugs.
     As it has been pointed out b