The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendments) from the committee.
Motion No. 17
(On the Order: Government Orders:)
No. 17 — June 9, 2023 — The Minister of Crown-Indigenous
Relations — Consideration of a ways and means motion to
introduce an Act to give effect to the self-government treaty
recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation / Wapaha Ska Dakota
Oyate and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Mr. Speaker, there have been discussion amongst the parties, and if you seek, I believe you will find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, special order or usual practice of the House, Ways and Means Motion No. 17, notice of which was laid upon the table on June 9, 2023, be deemed concurred in, that a bill passed thereon standing on the Order Paper in the name of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, entitled an Act to give effect to the self-government treaty recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation/Wapaha Ska Dakota Oyate and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be deemed to have been introduced and read a first time, deemed read a second time, and referred to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
All those opposed to the hon. member's moving the motion will please say nay. It is agreed.
The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion please say nay.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the first time, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order arising from question period.
During question period, the Liberal and several members of the Liberal Party claimed that the Conservatives were spreading misinformation about Bill . I have a document from the Library of Parliament, containing a description of Bill C-83, which says that under their amendments, the Correctional Service of Canada must provide the least restrictive conditions for offenders.
I seek leave to table this document in this House.
Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 1471, 1475 and 1481.
Question No. 1471—Ms. Leah Gazan
With regard to individuals that had their Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payments reduced in March 2023, broken down by province and territory: what is the total (i) number of families in receipt of CCB who had an overpayment for which recovery began in March 2023, (ii) number of families whose March 2023 CCB payments were reduced by more than 25 percent as a result of an overpayment recovery, (iii) amount recovered in March and April 2023?Hon. Diane Lebouthillier (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, “offsets” are a standard procedure that the CRA uses to collect overdue balances from taxpayers. Offsetting involves proactively applying tax refunds and benefit payments, such as the GST/HST credit, to tax and other government debts. However, in May 2020, the CRA temporarily paused benefit offsets in an effort to provide relief to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since October 2022, the CRA has resumed its activities aimed at offsetting taxpayers' debt. When an individual has a government debt, that debt will be identified for them directly on any notice of assessment, determination or redetermination they receive from the CRA. These notifications were issued throughout the pandemic and individuals were able to access their amounts owing even while certain collections activities were paused.
The CRA has also begun to recover overpayments for the Canada child benefit, CCB. The first CCB payment impacted was the March 2023 payment. Unlike other benefits, the CCB payment can only be used to pay a CCB debt. Other kinds of child benefit payments can only be used to pay a debt from the same benefit.
If a recalculation shows that an individual was overpaid CCB, the CRA sends a notice of redetermination that includes a remittance voucher to inform the individual of the balance owing. The CRA may keep all or a portion of future CCB payments, income tax refunds, or goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax, GST/HST, credits until the balancing owing is repaid. If an individual receives any kind of payment from the CRA, the notification they receive will include both the payment amount and how that payment was applied to outstanding government debt.
As is the case with any income-tested benefit program, CCB entitlement may fluctuate from year to year depending on the amount of income assessed in a given tax year. Income is often comprised of a variety of sources, e.g., employment income, dividends, pension income, rental income, capital gains, etc. In addition to a change in income, CCB entitlement may increase or decrease for other reasons such as the age and number of children. Factoring in all of the above, the CRA cannot attribute a change in CCB entitlement to one particular source. For these reasons, the CRA is unable to offer a detailed response, as the data is not captured in the manner requested. Question No. 1475—Mr. Frank Caputo
With regard to exemptions given by the government to certain ski resort areas related to the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act: (a) why was the area around Whistler Blackcomb allowed to be exempted from the act; (b) why was the area around Sun Peaks not exempted; and (c) which ski resorts or surrounding communities requested an exemption and (i) received it, (ii) did not receive it?Ms. Soraya Martinez Ferrada (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Housing), Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, in response to part (a), the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act and the accompanying regulations clarify that the prohibition applies to residential property located in a census metropolitan area, CMA, or a census agglomeration, CA. The definition of residential property is not specific to the intended use of the property or its municipal zoning. The regulations include an exception for any residential property found outside of a CMA or CA as identified in Statistics Canada’s Standard Geographical Classification 2021. The area around Whistler Blackcomb is outside the boundaries of a CMA or CA and exempted from the regulations.
In response to part (b), the area around Sun Peaks is within the boundaries of Kamloops CMA and is not exempted from the regulations.
In response to part (c), the regulations include an exception for any residential property found outside a CMA or CA as identified in Statistics Canada’s Standard Geographical Classification 2021. Both CMAs and CAs are formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centered on a population centre, or the core. A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of whom 50,000 or more must live in the core. A CA must have a core population of at least 10,000. An online tool is available on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s website to help determine if a property is situated in a CMA or CA.Question No. 1481—Mr. Tony Baldinelli
With regard to the Indigenous Tourism Fund announced in budget 2022, as of May 1, 2023: (a) how much money remains in the Fund; (b) how much money has been transferred to funding recipients; (c) what are the details of all funding recipients, including, for each, the (i) name, (ii) location, (iii) type of business; and (d) how much of the fund has been spent on administrative costs?Ms. Rachel Bendayan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, the development of this funding is still under way by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and, as such, funds have not yet been distributed to recipients.
The development of the fund is being informed by engagements, ongoing since April 2022, involving indigenous tourism partners. These engagements are providing information on key challenges and opportunities facing indigenous tourism businesses, and potential funding design parameters that may best help meet these needs.
Mr. Speaker, if the government's responses to Question Nos. 1470, 1472 to 1474, 1476 to 1480, 1482 and 1483 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Question No. 1470—Ms. Leah Gazan
With regard to government funding allocated within the constituency of Winnipeg Centre for fiscal year 2022-23: what is the total funding amount broken down by (i) department or agency, (ii) initiative, (iii) amount?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1472—Mr. Dan Albas
With regard to usage of the government's fleet of Challenger aircraft, since February 1, 2023: what are the details of the legs of each flight, including the (i) date, (ii) point of departure, (iii) destination, (iv) number of passengers, (v) names and titles of the passengers, excluding security or Canadian Armed Forces members, (vi) total catering bill related to the flight, (vii) volume of fuel used, or an estimate, (viii) amount spent on fuel?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1473—Mr. Dan Albas
With regard to the Prime Minister's trip to New York in April 2023 for the Global Citizen summit: (a) what hotel did the Prime Minister stay at; (b) what was the paid room rate for the Prime Minister’s hotel room; (c) between April 25 and 29, 2023, what was the total amount spent on accommodations in the New York City area for the Canadian delegation or any other Canadian government official, including diplomats; (d) what are the details of all hotel accommodations in or around New York City that were paid for by either Global Affairs Canada, the Privy Council Office, or the Office of the Prime Minister between April 25 and 29, 2023, including, for each location where expenditures were made, the (i) name of the hotel, (ii) number of rooms for each night, (iii) room rate, (iv) total amount paid by the government?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1474—Mr. Dan Albas
With regard to usage of the government's Airbus CC-150 Polaris aircraft, since February 1, 2023: what are the details of the legs of each flight, including the (i) date, (ii) point of departure, (iii) destination, (iv) number of passengers, (v) names and titles of the passengers, excluding security or Canadian Armed Forces members, (vi) total catering bill related to the flight, (vii) volume of fuel used, or estimate, (viii) amount spent on fuel?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1476—Mr. Ryan Williams
With regard to government grants and contributions since January 1, 2016, broken down by fiscal year: what is the total amount of government grants and program contributions given to any telecommunications company, broken down by (i) date, (ii) company, (iii) program, (iv) project description, (v) amount requested, (vi) amount received?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1477—Mr. Blake Richards
With regard to disability benefit applications received by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) since January 1, 2016: (a) how many applications were received, broken down by medical condition; (b) for each medical condition for which applications were received, how many were (i) received, (ii) accepted, (iii) denied; and (c) how many instances have occurred where veterans who were medically released from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), had their VAC disability benefit application denied for the same condition from which they were released from the CAF?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1478—Mr. Blake Richards
With regard to housing units owned by the Department of National Defence (DND): (a) how many housing units does DND own, broken down by location; and (b) how many and what percentage of the units in (a) are (i) occupied, (ii) vacant?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1479—Mr. Ryan Williams
With regard to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s auction of the 3,500 megahertz band of wireless spectrum, conducted on July 29, 2021: (a) for each of the wireless spectrum licences auctioned off, which entity (i) originally purchased the license at the auction, (ii) currently owns the licence; and (b) for each instance where the current owner is different than the original owner, what are the details of the transfer, including the (i) previous owner, (ii) new owner, (iii) license and description of what was transferred, (iv) date of the transaction, (v) date of the ministerial approval?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1480—Mr. Tony Baldinelli
With regard to the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, between January 1, 2020 and May 1, 2023: how much funding did Business Improvement Areas located within the City of Niagara Falls, the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the Town of Fort Erie receive each year, broken down by each individual Business Improvement Area?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1482—Mr. Colin Carrie
With regard to Health Canada’s website currently titled “Report a side effect to a vaccine: Consumers”: (a) why was the website changed in December 2020 to prevent consumers from reporting vaccine injuries directly to Health Canada; (b) why did the website change back on February 28, 2023 to allow consumers to resume reporting vaccine injuries to Health Canada; (c) who authorized the changes in (a) and (b); (d) how and on what dates were (i) health care providers, (ii) the general public, (iii) provincial and territorial health ministers, (iv) provincial and territorial immunization authorities, (v) regulatory bodies, (vi) local health authorities notified of each of these changes; (e) for each notification in (d) did it mention a legal obligation to report adverse reactions; (f) what efforts did Health Canada take to inform vaccine recipients of their ability to report adverse reactions through the website; and (g) what were the expenditures incurred by the government promoting the efforts in (f), broken down by type of expense?
(Return tabled)Question No. 1483—Ms. Michelle Rempel Garner
With regard to instances, since November 4, 2015, where the government awarded a grant or contribution to a for-profit corporation that has since went out of business or ceased operations: (a) how many such instances have occurred with respect to a grant or contribution valued over $10,000; and (b) what are the details of such instances, including, for each, the (i) recipient, (ii) date the grant or contribution was awarded, (iii) type of grant or contribution (grant, non-repayable loan, etc.), (iv) purpose of the grant or the contribution, (v) announced value, (vi) amount paid out, (vii) amount recovered by the government, if applicable, (viii) summary of what happened to the company, if known, (ix) date the company went out of business or ceased operations, (x) location of the company headquarters?
Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand at this time.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
(Division No. 383)
Collins (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek)
McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)
Sidhu (Brampton East)
Sidhu (Brampton South)
Total: -- 172
Duncan (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry)
May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
McCauley (Edmonton West)
Total: -- 135
I declare the motion carried.
The House resumed from May 2 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill introduced by my colleague from .
This bill seeks to ensure that for the purposes of sentencing, the court considers the fact that the victim of an assault is a health care professional or a first responder to be an aggravating circumstance.
Before I go on, I would like to thank the health care workers—
I will ask hon. members who are speaking in the chamber to please take it to the lobby so we can hear the hon. member for Manicouagan.
The hon. member for Manicouagan.
Madam Speaker, I was saying that I wanted to take a moment, before I began my speech, to thank all the health care workers and first responders who supported the people in my riding and, of course, across Quebec and Canada during COVID-19. They certainly experienced this crisis more intensely than many of us. In a crisis, people are justifiably afraid. Unfortunately, fear can make people behave differently than usual, no matter how stressed they are. Some went through very difficult times and were victims of aggression, or even violence.
The same is true of the wildfires that swept through my riding not too long ago. They are still going on, in fact. We always think the situation is under control, but no. However, the staff at the Côte-Nord integrated health and social services centre managed to maintain health and social services. For instance, they had to get people out of their homes very quickly and evacuate them. In short, these people are there every day, even if we do not see them. These people working behind the scenes deserve our utmost respect and obviously deserve to be able to work without endangering their physical and mental integrity.
Having said that, it will come as no surprise that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which responds to a recommendation in a 2019 committee report that called on the government to amend the Criminal Code to require a court “to consider the fact that the victim of an assault is a health care sector worker to be an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing”.
This measure had been called for by a number of groups representing health care workers. Whether it was the Canadian Medical Association, the Ontario Medical Association or the Canadian Nurses Association, they all supported such a measure. However, nothing was done to implement that recommendation because of the 2019 election. Bill C‑321, introduced by my colleague from , does just that.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill even though, in a way, it is already covered to some extent by section 718.2 of the Criminal Code, which states that committing a serious crime against a health worker constitutes an aggravating factor. That is already understood. I hope that the intent is to reinforce this principle. However, this has already been taken into consideration. Despite this point that I wanted to emphasize, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C‑321.
We want to point out that, although we agree, the fact that the Criminal Code makes it an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing is not a magic bullet. In fact, we must look after our health care workers on a day-to-day basis and we must also take preventive measures. That is also important. It is not one or the other, but both at the same time.
Of course, we believe that funding the health care system properly can help lower the risk of the kinds of aggressive or violent behaviour that we are discussing here. We saw this during the COVID-19 pandemic and in every circumstance. People need services, yet services are dwindling year by year. When I say “services”, I am including the work of nurses and all health care personnel. These people have their own concerns. They may have physical difficulties, plus mental or psychological health issues as well.
It is important to look at the whole picture. The issue of the drastically shrinking health transfers cannot be ignored. We need a health care system that can meet the needs of the people. There is nothing magical about that, either.
I am not saying that no one is being aggressive or violent towards health care workers and first responders. I think this is everybody's responsibility, in all cases. The bill introduced by my colleague from seeks precisely to protect health care workers so that they can do their work, what they were hired to do, what they want to do and what they are called to do. My mom was a nurse for 40 years, and I can say that it is definitely a calling.
That is the basis of the measure. They need free rein. Health transfers are one measure. The Bloc Québécois says it often here in the House, and I am going to remind the House again. It is not just because we believe it. It is not a belief. It is really an established fact. It is an option available to the federal government in light of the fiscal imbalance.
We are dealing with an area of Quebec jurisdiction. The federal government's coffers are overflowing, but year after year, the money given back to Quebec and the provinces for health care has diminished. It is a feasible option. When I talk about responsibility, from where I stand, the federal government also has a responsibility to contribute to health transfers.
I thank my colleague. This has been a recommendation for the government since 2019. The member seized the opportunity and decided to lead the charge for health care workers. I thank him for taking the initiative.
I also encourage everyone in the House and the government to reflect yet again on the issue of health transfers. It is not just through sentencing people who break the law that our health care workers will be protected. It is by giving our health care systems the means that we will be able to protect workers and the public who deserve to have good health care. To be able to live a healthy life, both physically and mentally, we need to have good health care. I really want to expand on that.
I will close by reiterating our responsibility. We need to go further than individual measures. We need to take a holistic approach to protect our health care workers and our first responders.
Madam Speaker, as always, it is an honour to rise in the House and speak on behalf of my community of Peterborough—Kawartha.
The helpers need help from Bill . That is why we are here today. I think it would be a real miss if I did not start this speech by addressing the horrible tragedy that happened yesterday in Manitoba, which involved first responders and health care providers. That is what we are here to talk about with this bill.
There was a horrific crash, and 15 people are gone. The first responders who answered that call are forever transformed because of what they saw. That is the work of a first responder or health care worker. Their eyes cannot unsee the tragedies that most of us will only ever see in movies. I thank everyone who arrived at the scene and served in such an unbelievable time of chaos and tragedy. The entire House is thinking of them, our thoughts are with them and with everyone impacted by that tragedy and in that community.
I worked in the media for almost 13 years, and I was often on the scene of horrific crashes first, with first responders. I can tell members that what they manage is very hard to describe. PTS, or post-traumatic stress, and PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, are very real consequences in this job.
Answering a call when the victim is the same age as one's partner or child causes extensive mental distress. Many would say that it is part of the job and that this is what one signs up for. The reality is that, as life has gotten harder for people, as addictions and mental disorders have increased and there are not as many facilities or treatment or recovery centres to go to, the incidence of violence against our protectors is increasing. This is another layer that is too much to handle.
Workplace violence is a rising problem in health care settings across Canada. Health care workers have a fourfold higher rate of workplace violence than any other profession. Because of a culture of acceptance, most workplace violence goes unreported. This was found in a report that was done in 2019 through the health committee, and recommendations have been put forth to the government, yet we have not seen any action. Today, we have something here on the floor of the House of Commons that will give action and help to our helpers.
It would be pretty difficult to debate the strong correlation between the increase in violence to first responders and health care workers and the decrease in recruitment and retention in these jobs. We have a shortage of health care workers at a time when we have a health care crisis. Recruitment and retention concerns are reported in all provinces. By approving and passing this bill, we will send a clear message that the government and Canadians value their work, and we need and want them. Their work saves lives, and their safety matters.
The member from , who put this bill forward, is a fierce advocate and fighter for mental health and equity, and this bill speaks to that from a Criminal Code perspective. Bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code by making assaults against health care professionals and first responders an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing.
I am going to read the specific wording into the record:
When a court imposes a sentence for an offence referred to in paragraph 264.1(1)(a) or any of sections 266 to 269, it shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim of the offence was, at the time of the commission of the offence, a health care professional or a first responder engaged in the performance of their duty.
I think most of us in the House, including me, have a personal connection to first responders and health care workers. Many in my family serve in this industry, and they have told me story after story of horrific incidents. There is also a video that I would strongly encourage people to watch online. I know the member, my colleague, has shared it, and the chief in my community, Randy Mellow, has shared it on Twitter. I strongly encourage people to watch this video and understand this.
Paul Hills is a paramedic who came to my office in Ottawa to talk to me about this bill. He has been a paramedic for 24 years, and he serves in Saskatoon. I think what left me most shocked was his telling me that he now has to wear a bulletproof vest to work.
These are the people who show up in the time of extreme chaos, the time when our lives are on the line, and now their lives are on the line. They are supposed to be the calm, but how are they supposed to self-regulate? How are they supposed to be calm when their own life is in danger? They do not know, when they show up, whether they are going to be stabbed, punched or kicked.
We have a duty and a responsibility in the House to pass legislation that not only says they matter, but that also actually puts the need to protect them into law.
Paul Hills is a fierce advocate, and his mental health has been transformed. He speaks really publicly about it, and I think that is really courageous of him. He was wearing certain socks when he came to my office. After we had our conversation, I asked him who was on his socks. He said it was Fred Rogers. I said, “Oh my gosh, Fred Rogers is my favourite.” He said, “My favourite saying is ‘Anything mentionable is manageable.’” That is my favourite saying too.
That is the reality of what we are dealing with: the most volatile culture and society we have ever had, probably in my history at least. We have nowhere for people with mental health problems and addictions to go. The people who have to deal with that, who are at the forefront, are our health care professionals, our paramedics, our firefighters, our police officers and our correctional officers. During my campaign when I ran to be a member of Parliament, I worked in an area of town where a lot of people who were struggling with homelessness were outside of my office. It was nothing out of the ordinary for first responders to be called five or six times in a day to a scene, after 911 had been called, and to be berated, yelled at, attacked and screamed at. Is that what they signed up for, to be abused, or was it to save lives?
This bill would do something we can be so proud of in the House, in a time when victims are being failed in this country and in a time when victims' families are being failed in this country. This is not just about the health care professionals and the first responders; it is also about their families. When health care professionals go home and are carrying this burden, their children are impacted; their wives, their partners, their spouses, their moms and their dads are impacted, and they are not the best partner and not the best parent. That is deeply impacting every interaction that happens. Our society is a spiderweb, and if the people who are here to protect us are not protected, what will happen to our society?
I want to read what Paul Hills, the paramedic from Saskatoon, wrote to me last night, when he knew I was speaking today: “It's proven that prosecutors and courts don't have a proper mechanism to hold assailants or perpetrators accountable because it's seen as part of our job to deal with or lessen the situation because of mental health, addictions, but what about the medics mental health. I have to take that black eye home, I may not be able to use my wrist or hand again after the tendon was torn from being kicked, I have to worry about the threats that gang member made to me and my family when I am not allowed anonymity and they can find out my name just by calling the office and look me up or follow me home in my small city. We have been told by prosecutors that they won't pursue charges because ‘they won't stick or it won't make a difference if you were a paramedic.’”
The reality is that this is a no-brainer bill. In a time when victims and victims' families are being failed in this country, the House could send a message today and follow up with concrete action that would protect our protectors. The helpers need help. Do members know how hard it is for them to ask for help? They did the hard part; now, let us do the rest of our part. This is our responsibility, so let us all vote in favour of Bill . Let us go. Let us get this bill passed.
Madam Speaker, like my colleague before me, I also want to pay my respects to all those who have been impacted by the terrible bus crash in the Prairies, and their family members. I thank all the first responders and everybody in our health care system especially. It is a traumatic experience for them and for everybody in those communities.
We are in the middle of a crisis in my riding. There are wildfires that have cut my riding right in half. Over 30,000 of my constituents are cut off from the rest of Canada. Many of them are struggling. I have to give a shout-out to all those people who are fighting the wildfires, all the first responders and the people in our community who are stepping up, like those who work at the food banks. We are looking out for each other. It is what we do in Canada and across this country, especially in rural Canada; we look out for each other.
It is a tremendous privilege to rise to speak to this bill. I have worked with my colleague from since we both got elected in 2015. He brought forward a bill for a PTSD strategy. He has experience in this area, or at least knowledge of it. He has been a strong advocate for first responders and people working in health care since I have gotten to know him, and I do appreciate his bringing forward this bill. We are both from rural B.C., and we understand the importance of looking out for our health care workers, especially in rural Canada.
We know this bill would amend the Criminal Code to require a court to consider the fact that the victim of an assault was, at the time of the commission of the offence, a health care professional or first responder engaged in the performance of their duties, and that that would be an aggravating circumstance.
The main thing that we, members of the NDP, want to say is that, clearly, no health care worker or first responder should ever be subjected to violence in the workplace. Bullying, abuse, racial or sexual harassment and physical assault should never be considered part of the job. Health care workers take care of us at our most vulnerable times; they look out for us. We rely on them. We have a responsibility to take care of them in return. That has not been happening. I am going to speak to that in depth.
Violence against health care workers is a pervasive and growing problem in the Canadian health care system. Both the number and the intensity of attacks are increasing at an alarming rate. Assaulting a health care worker not only harms the individual person but also puts our entire health care system at risk. I am going to speak to that in more depth. Workplace violence is a major factor driving Canada's dire health care staffing shortage. We know that workplace violence is a pervasive problem in health care settings across the country. However, prior to COVID-19, health care workers already had a fourfold higher rate of workplace violence than people in any other profession. We know it has gotten worse since then. Incidents of violence against health care workers have escalated dramatically during the pandemic and postpandemic.
We were already in a crisis, like I said, prepandemic. We have seen that there is a labour market shortage in the health care system. We have seen the increased demands on the health care system. In 2017, a survey cited that 68% of registered practical nurses and personal support workers experienced violence on the job at least once that year. Imagine someone going to work and that, at least once a year, there will be a violent attack committed against them. Who wants to work in that environment? It is just terrible to hear these stories. Nearly one in five of the RPNs and PSWs surveyed said they had been assaulted nine or more times in that year alone. We have heard, from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, that violence-related incidents and claims for frontline health care workers have increased by almost 66% over the past decade, which is three times the rate of the increase for police and correctional service officers combined, who are also facing an increase.
We really need to step back and look at how, over the last couple of decades, we have seen a huge erosion of our health care system. I am going to speak a bit more about that.
If we look at Canada's ratio of nurses to patients, we have one of the worst in the world. In universal health care, we are at the bottom. We are just above the U.S. That is just a terrible stat on its own. Nurses know this full well. Their patients see them running from patient to patient and the stress this creates.
Nurses are really the victims of the failure of consecutive federal and provincial governments to stabilize and strengthen our health care system. They have been dealing with the huge erosion of cuts. They are dealing with the people at the front line. When there is a wait at an ER or a wait to get the services people so desperately need in their vulnerable state, it is the frontline health care workers who are dealing with a political problem. The cuts from all levels of government are falling on the people on the front line, and that is creating a huge strain on the patients and on their families, as we know. It is slowly eroding staff levels as well because people are having to make difficult choices.
The long-term health care system is now over 50% privatized. Privatization has a huge impact on the health care system as well, as there is a lack of protection for workers, inadequate wages and staffing levels that are quite low. The health care system is in deep trouble, and staffing is a major issue. There is frustration in the lack of care, like I said earlier, and the burnout it is causing people on the front line. This is a crisis, and it is propelling these terrible statistics.
One thing I wanted to highlight is that we need to do a few things to help fix that. We need to invest in our health care system, stop for-profit health care and ensure that we are supporting the staff. The bill before us is a really important start to that, but there is also the burnout.
We are hearing from nurses, and they are saying they have three options. The first is to leave the field. The second is to get burnt out and make a mistake while practising their care. This is falling on them. The overburdening of our health care system is falling on them. Can members imagine going to work, worried they would make a mistake while trying to take care of somebody? The third option nurses have is to reduce to part-time hours, but that creates even further erosion of the health care system.
There is a lot of compassion fatigue happening as well. I really appreciate my colleague before me talking about the lack of mental health support. We now have a two-tiered health care system. Our mental health care system is a two-tiered health care system. There are people who need care. We are hearing from people who cannot get access to that care. They have to get arrested just to get the care they need. That is absolutely ridiculous. They have to get arrested. What kind of state are they in at that point?
When they go to the ER and they are in that kind of state, it is health care workers who are dealing with them. This is not acceptable. We need to ensure that we create parity with physical and mental health, and that we are not reactionary. Right now our health care system is reactionary instead of preventative, and we need to get to a preventative state.
It is an uphill battle, and it is exhausting everybody in this country.
I do want to highlight that our critic from tabled a very similar bill, Bill , to ensure that we are on this path, and I believe my friend from tabled a very similar bill.
We want to make sure that we get the definition of health care professional or first responder right, so we are supportive, obviously of this legislation, and we can work on that with our colleague at committee. I am sure we can find a pathway to doing that. This legislation is an important legislation that we have heard support for from the Paramedic Association of Canada, the Paramedic Chiefs of Canada and all important stakeholders.
I have to highlight something before I finish. The majority of health care workers who experience workplace violence are women, and this violence is often connected to gender-based discrimination and harassment. This needs to stop. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information's 2019 report on health workplace statistics, women account for approximately 82% of Canada's regulated health professionals, which includes nurses, midwives, physicians, dentists, pharmacists and other health professionals.
We have lots of work to do. We are very supportive and appreciative of this bill and legislation.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak to Bill , which was introduced by our hon. colleague from . Before I proceed further, I would like, on behalf of 838,000 Hindu Canadians, to again acknowledge and thank the hon. member for his support for my private member's motion, which enabled November every year to be recognized as Hindu Heritage Month across Canada.
Bill seeks to denounce and deter violence against nurses, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, including transit officers or special constables, and other frontline health care staff. It would amend the Criminal Code to require a court to consider as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes the fact that the victim is a health care professional or first responder who was acting in the performance of their duties.
As highlighted in the 2019 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, entitled “Violence Facing Health Care Workers in Canada”, health care workers have a four-times higher rate of workplace violence than any other profession, despite most of this violence being unreported. The report also noted that 61% of nurses who participated in a cross-country survey reported experiencing abuse, harassment or assault in the previous year, and 74% of the paramedics reported experiencing multiple forms of violence annually.
The men and women who serve as health care professionals and first responders play an invaluable role in our society. They are the heroes who rush toward danger while others flee, the ones who provide critical medical care in times of crisis and the ones who maintain law and order to keep our communities safe. They face countless challenges and risks, working tirelessly to protect and preserve life, often at the expense of their own well-being. It is deeply troubling to witness an alarming increase in assaults against these dedicated individuals. They are subjected to physical violence, verbal abuse and threats while carrying out their duties. These attacks not only pose a direct threat to their safety, but also undermine the integrity of our health care system and emergency services.
It is essential that we take a strong stand against such heinous acts and provide a higher level of protection for those who selflessly dedicated their lives to serving others. By amending the Criminal Code, we would send a resounding message that assaults on health care professionals and first responders will not be tolerated. We are acknowledging the unique challenges they face and recognizing the importance of their contributions to society. When passed, the bill would serve as a deterrent, discouraging potential perpetrators from engaging in acts of violence against these essential workers.
Furthermore, by considering assaults against health care professionals and first responders as an aggravating factor during sentencing, we would acknowledge the broader implications of such attacks. These assaults not only cause physical harm to individuals, but also have far-reaching consequences for public safety and the provision of essential services. By recognizing this as an aggravating factor, we would ensure that those who commit these crimes face more significant penalties, reflecting the gravity of their actions and the impact on society as a whole.
Some may suggest that existing laws already provide adequate protection for health care professionals and first responders. However, the stark reality is that assaults against these individuals are on the rise and we must respond with targeted measures that explicitly recognize the unique vulnerabilities they face. By enshrining their protection within the Criminal Code, we would send a clear and unequivocal message that their safety and well-being are of paramount importance.
Moreover, this bill reflects our commitment to creating a safe and supportive environment for health care professionals and first responders. It demonstrates that we value their selfless dedication and are committed to ensuring they can perform their duties without fear of violence or aggression. By enacting this bill, we are standing in solidarity with those who risk their lives to protect ours.
In addition to deterrence and enhanced protection, this bill has the potential to foster cultural change. It sends a powerful message to society, urging us to reflect on the value and respect we afford to those on the front lines of service. It encourages a broader shift in attitudes, promoting a collective sense of responsibility to safeguard those who dedicate their lives to safeguarding us.
The amendment proposed in Bill is similar to Bill , an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code, which included as an aggravating factor evidence that the offence was committed against a person who was providing health services. Bill C-3 received royal assent on December 17, 2021. Our government continues to show support to first responders, including with the recent passage of a private member's bill, Bill , the national framework on cancers linked to firefighting act, which passed on March 8, 2023, at third reading.
Bill applies to the performance of any duty by a first responder or health care worker, not just to cases where the victim was providing health services at the time of the offence. Amendments will make the legislation consistent with the terminology used elsewhere and will provide broad protection so that it does not apply only to health care professionals. As citizens, it is our duty to advocate for the safety and well-being of those who dedicate their lives to caring for us in times of need.
In conclusion, the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code represents a significant step forward in ensuring the safety and well-being of our health care professionals and first responders. By recognizing assaults against them as aggravated offences, we are reaffirming our commitment to protecting those who selflessly serve our communities.
Let us come together as a nation to support this legislation, sending a strong message that we stand united against violence and aggression toward those who sacrifice so much to protect us.
The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George has the floor for his right of reply.
Madam Speaker, before I get started with my speech on Bill , I hope you will indulge me for about 30 seconds. All colleagues know that we were supposed to have a late-night sitting tonight. I was supposed to travel home tonight to speak at my best friend's niece's wedding. I cancelled the flight and cannot get home, so I would love to say a few words. To Chunpreet and Jushin, there is only one happiness in life, and that is to love and to be loved. On my behalf and on behalf of my wife, Kelly, I say congratulations to them.
I thank my colleagues for all their heartfelt interventions in this debate. It is a pleasure to rise today on Bill . We have had an opportunity to hear from all sides of the House, and I thank each and every one for their thoughtful interactions. I thank my colleague from for the work that he has done on previous iterations of this bill.
I am glad there seems to be consensus that violence against those on the front lines should not go unchecked. It is imperative that we get the bill passed as soon as possible. If anyone here today needs an example of why it is so important that we get this bill passed, we need look no further than London, Ontario. Just a few short days ago, while responding to an apartment fire, a London Fire Department captain was brutally assaulted while trying to save someone.
The reality is that these incidents are taking place each and every day, whether in our health care facilities or on the front lines with paramedics, firefighters, police officers or correctional officers. We need to do more. We need to be better. By doing nothing, what message are we sending to those who serve our country and our communities?
This bill is supported by all associations and unions across this country that look after our health care workers, first responders and public safety personnel. Obviously, my bill is not perfect. In a perfect world, we would not need the Criminal Code. We would not need to deter acts of violence against a nurse or health care worker just simply trying to heal people. We would not need to amend the Criminal Code against acts of violence to help protect a paramedic or firefighter who is only trying to save people. However, we do not live in a perfect world, do we?
The drafting of this legislation came from my heart. I truly believe that we need to do more to help those who help us. In my seven-plus years as an MP, I have shied away from the angry partisan side of politics, or tried to. I have attempted to build consensus. I have worked hard to establish a reputation as someone who fights for the little guy, who fights for those who protect us. I have done everything in my power to break the stigma and fear of those who are suffering with mental illness or addiction.
This legislation is a tangible way that we, as parliamentarians, can show those on the front lines that we care, that we respect them and that we do not condone violence in their workplace. We need them to know that we have their backs. We need to let them know that we are listening, that bullying, abuse, racial or sexual harassment and physical assault should never and can never be considered just part of the job. These workers care for us at our most vulnerable times, and we have a responsibility to care for them in return. We need to send a message that violence is unacceptable.
I listened to the speech from the member for . In it, he rightly noted that Bill does not specifically define the term “health care professionals”. In his comments, he worried that some would be excluded. I agree, and that is why I suggested to the member that we change the term to “health care worker”. My intent was never to exclude anyone. I look forward to working with him on the committee.
I really hope we can get the bill passed as soon as possible. There does not need to be an extensive study at committee. In fact, if the member for or any of the members on the government side wanted to move a friendly amendment right now to open the definition, I would be happy to accept it and pass this bill at all stages today. We could even use the wording provided by my hon. colleague from , replacing the reference to “health care professional” with “a person who provides health services”.
This issue was studied extensively at the health committee in 2019, and Bill is a product of that study. Through its unanimous report, “Violence Facing Health Care Workers in Canada”, the committee suggested making the amendments to the Criminal Code. I know that this is not the be-all and end-all, but it is a start. It sends a message that we are listening. It sends a message to the judiciary that we take violence against first responders very seriously.
I am also worried about the rumours in this place. I am worried that if Parliament dissolves or prorogues, we will be back at square one with no protections for those who protect us. This bill is important because it would act as a deterrent. It is important because it would help protect those on the front lines. It is important because it provides hope. It is important because it would let those who protect us know that we want to protect them. I am tired of providing false hope.
I want to thank all the health care workers, public safety personnel and first responders for all that they do for us. I want to thank those in Manitoba, the emergency service providers and the first responders who responded to that horrific event. I want to thank everyone for listening in today.
Violence is not part of their job description. Three two one, let us get this done.
The question is on the motion.
If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.
Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.
Pursuant to an order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 21, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.
Government Business No. 22
The House resumed from June 13 consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of Motion No. 1.
Madam Speaker, I am so pleased to rise today to speak to Bill , which seeks to make amendments to consequential acts for the purpose of expanding the Minister of Public Safety's ability to declare people inadmissible to Canada, or to deport people from Canada from groups or countries that have been sanctioned.
I want to say that this is the kind of legislation that I think Canadians are increasingly wanting to see in this country. They want to see the government take strong actions against human rights violators and war criminals, as we are seeing with the illegal war in Ukraine started by the President of Russia. We want to see the government take strong action to hold these criminals accountable. I think, absolutely, that the spirit of the bill is something I would be pleased to support.
However, what I do find somewhat disturbing is that we can write the best legislation that we can in the House, but that the best legislation is nothing unless there is the enforcement behind it to ensure that it is achieving the outcomes it is intended to achieve. I think of the illegal foreign police stations that are currently operating in this country. Surely it is illegal for foreign governments to run police stations in our country for the purpose of coercing citizens, permanent residents or guests in our country. We need to ensure that the enforcement is taking place, in those cases and in the cases under this legislation, to protect Canadians' lives, to protect Canadians and permanent residents from intimidation, and also to send a strong message of Canadian values.
We have seen many reports on this. I think there are a lot of people who have been concerned over the years that Canada is becoming, or has become, somewhat of a haven for foreign criminals or foreign entities that are sanctioned to hide their money here or to come and live here to avoid the consequences of their actions at home. What we want to see is not only strong legislation that sends a message, but also strong enforcement by the government.
With that, I want to say that it is a Friday afternoon. As we go into the weekend, it will be Father's Day. I just want to wish a happy Father's Day to all Canadians and to all members of the House who are fathers. Our children are a blessing. Our thoughts are with those of us who may have lost a parent in the past year; that leaves a huge hole in people's lives. Let us always appreciate the people in our lives, particularly this weekend when we think of the fathers in all our lives.
Madam Speaker, I appreciated working with the member at the public safety committee.
I am a little confused by the Conservatives' position. Is the Conservatives' position that this bill needs to be adopted, or is the Conservatives' position that they would like to continue stalling on this bill? I would like some clarification from my hon. colleague.
Madam Speaker, I too have enjoyed my time at the public safety committee with the member.
What one member calls “stalling” is what I call “democracy”, because when the government is doing something that is so offside with what Canadians want, it is the duty of all parliamentarians to use whatever means necessary to ensure either that the legislation is defeated or that it is amended in such way as to remove the offending parts of that legislation. We saw that very clearly with the debate on Bill and how the strong opposition from Conservative members of Parliament did lead to some significant changes to the legislation by the government. That is democracy in action. What one member calls “stalling”, I would call “democracy in action”.
On this bill in particular, what we support is the spirit of the bill. What I want to make sure is that the government members actually enforce the provisions they are trying to give themselves the power on.
Madam Speaker, therein is the confusion. The Conservatives have been stalling on this. Now they are saying they want the government to actually put the provisions into effect. The problem is, of course, that as long as the bill is stalled, the provisions cannot come into effect. It is the same contradiction we saw with Conservatives yesterday, as 66% of the Conservative caucus used the hybrid voting provisions to vote against hybrid Parliament. We are not talking about one or two who did what is very clear that—
I have to give the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland an opportunity to answer.
Madam Speaker, we are going to look at all legislation—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Dane Lloyd: Madam Speaker, it seems there is a bit of a ruckus in the House.
As I said, I wish all members a very happy Father's Day. What we do here is about standing up for our constituents and standing up for Canadians. I will make no apology for doing what is necessary to stand up for the values and interests of the people who sent me here.
Madam Speaker, since we heard that complete non sequitur from the previous intervenor to the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland, I would give him the opportunity to also reflect upon how, in his previous answer, he did offer that Conservatives have used opportunities, as we have in this past session, to improve legislation and stand up for democracy.
We have seen the exact opposite from NDP members, who have sold out their constituents, sold out their voters and thrown their lot in with a government that has been found to be corrupt time and time again, especially by independent officers of Parliament who have seen the found guilty of breaking ethics laws.
Madam Speaker, it is disappointing. Time and time again, we have seen the NDP sell out its core values on a number of pieces of legislation in order to keep this coalition government going.
I can completely understand why the NDP does not want to face the voters at this time, but the fact is that eventually it is going to be held accountable and the people are going to have to decide whether or not this coalition that the NDP has formed with the Liberal government is something that they will support.
In my constituency, we have been getting calls because people cannot get through to the office of the NDP member for . The line has been down for over a month now, and they wanted to talk to him about Bill and about how upset they were about it. They actually had to come to my office to try to get any answers.
Clearly, what we need is a member in Edmonton Griesbach who is going to stand up for their constituents. I know my great friend Kerry Diotte would be a great person for that job.
Madam Speaker, I will just put aside the character assignation of the very hard-working member for , one of the best members in the House of Commons, and simply remark that there is not a single Conservative MLA in the entire metropolitan area of Edmonton now, as—
I will have to ask the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland to give a very brief answer.
Madam Speaker, as an MP who does represent the metropolitan area of Edmonton, I do not have a single NDP MLA in my constituency, so I would say that the member is wrong. We have very strong representation for our region in the legislature, and I look forward to working with Minister Turton; Minister Nally; the whip, Shane Getson; and Andrew Boitchenko to stand up and fulfill the mandate that the Albertan people gave to the UCP government.
Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès): The question is on Motion No. 1.
If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.
Madam Speaker, I request a recorded vote.
Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the recorded division stands deferred until June 19, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.
Madam Speaker, I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent among the parties to see the clock at midnight.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
It being midnight, pursuant to order made Tuesday, November 15, 2022, the House stands adjourned until Monday, June 19, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 2:49 p.m.)