Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Robert Nault Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Nault Profile
2018-02-15 10:02 [p.17277]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development entitled “A Global Fight: Supporting Efforts to Address Sex Trafficking in South Asia”.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2018-02-15 10:03 [p.17277]
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-398, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (medical inadmissibility—excessive demand).
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is with a sense of duty and urgency that I rise in the House to table my bill which would repeal paragraph 38(1)(c) of the IRPA.
Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Paragraph 38(1)(c) directly contravenes this convention, allowing Canada's immigration system to discriminate against individuals with disabilities on the mere assumption an individual could pose an excessive burden on Canada's health or social services.
Following national media attention, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration studied this provision. It was made clear by witnesses, government members, and even the minister himself that this policy is out of step with Canadian values.
For two years, the minister has been consulting on this policy and has failed to act. Meanwhile, families like those of Monica Mateo and Marilyn Cruzet continue to suffer and wonder if their families will ever be reunited despite their contributions to this country by caring for our seniors and children. It is simply unacceptable. Full repeal is the only option to go forward.
I call on the government to adopt my bill as its own and take immediate action on this urgent issue.
View Mark Warawa Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Warawa Profile
2018-02-15 10:05 [p.17277]
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present three petitions to the House today, the first being on palliative care.
The petitioners acknowledge that 70% of Canadian residents that need end-of-life palliative care do not have access to it. They are calling on Parliament to support Bill C-277 to ensure that every Canadian that needs palliative care has access to it, and that palliative and hospice care do not hasten nor postpone death.
View Mark Warawa Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Warawa Profile
2018-02-15 10:07 [p.17277]
Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with respect to sex selection. It highlights the importance of Parliament condemning the practice of sex selection.
The petitioners point out that all forms of gender-based violence should be condemned, including sex selection.
View Mark Warawa Profile
CPC (BC)
View Mark Warawa Profile
2018-02-15 10:07 [p.17277]
Mr. Speaker, the last petition I wish to present is in regard to impaired driving.
Families for Justice is a group of Canadians who have lost a loved one killed by an impaired driver. The petitioners believe that Canada's impaired driving laws are much too lenient. They want the Prime Minister to keep his promise of introducing legislation that would make our roads safer.
The petitioners point out that 1,200 Canadians are killed every year by an impaired driver.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
View Rachel Blaney Profile
2018-02-15 10:07 [p.17277]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to table two petitions.
The first is e-petition e-1269, which has over 1,000 signatures.
I would like to acknowledge Laurie Gourlay, the originator of this petition, who sadly passed away last fall.
This petition acknowledges the Salish Sea as an ecologically, economically, and culturally rich area which provides critical marine habitat biodiversity and essential ecosystems that have as much importance to nature as the peoples, regions, and nations which reside along this unique ocean environment.
Canada has promised to meet its international commitment to honour the United Nations sustainable development goals by protecting 10% of our coastline by 2020 and there is growing momentum.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
View Rachel Blaney Profile
2018-02-15 10:08 [p.17278]
Mr. Speaker, the second petition I wish to table today is from many people in my riding who support Bill C-262, which happily has passed the House. It it is important to the people in my riding that the bill be fully implemented.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-02-15 10:08 [p.17278]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to present a petition from residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands who are concerned with the crisis of climate change. They are looking at the tremendous potential of energy efficiency within our homes, reducing waste from inefficient appliances, home design, and insulation. They urge the Government of Canada to work with the provinces to develop a new national building code with the goal of reducing overall energy demand to 15% of what our current built stock consumes.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-02-15 10:08 [p.17278]
Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
The Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
View Phil McColeman Profile
2018-02-15 10:09 [p.17278]
moved:
That the House call on the Prime Minister to apologize to veterans for his insensitive comments at a recent town hall in Edmonton and show veterans the respect that they deserve by fulfilling his campaign promise to them, when he said on August 24, 2015, that “If I earn the right to serve this country as your Prime Minister, no veteran will be forced to fight their own government for the support and compensation they have earned”.
He said: Mr. Speaker, we often find ourselves tasked with debating very complex and difficult subjects in this place. However, we should not complain. After all, what greater honour is there than to be sent here by our fellow citizens to speak on their behalf? We do not always rise to the occasion. We have all been guilty at some point of taking the easy road and reading talking points. We have all been guilty at some point of approaching an issue with partisan blinders on. We have all been guilty at some point of failing to acknowledge the value of an opposing view. As you have pointed out to me personally, Mr. Speaker, on more than one occasion, we have all been guilty of unnecessarily boisterous outbursts. I believe some call it heckling.
Today, we will be debating something far less complex and far more straightforward than what we often do. Today, we are debating whether the Prime Minister should do the honourable thing and apologize to veterans for breaking the promise he made to them.
The wording of the motion is unambiguous. It reads:
That the House call on the Prime Minister to apologize to veterans for his insensitive comments at a recent town hall in Edmonton and show veterans the respect that they deserve by fulfilling his campaign promise to them, when he said on August 24, 2015, that “If I earn the right to serve this country as your Prime Minister, no veteran will be forced to fight their own government for the support and compensation they have earned”.
The facts are clear. The Prime Minister's words were widely reported at the time. No one from the government side disputes that he said these words. In fact, they were repeated at rallies, on social media, and at doorsteps all over the land. It was an election, and promises had to be made. The Liberals might regret that the Prime Minister said these words. They might wish veterans would forget that the Prime Minister said these words. However, the Prime Minister did say these words, and veterans will not forget that he made that promise to them.
I have had the honour of giving voice to the aspirations of my riding of Brantford—Brant for nearly a decade now. Over the course of those years, if I have learned anything, it is that words matter. We should consider the oppressive regimes our valiant warriors have fought against. Nazis burned books, because words matter. The Taliban did the same. It closed schools and went about robbing young women of their ability to read, because words matter. North Korea continues to suppress free speech and the freedom of the press, because words matter.
Some may be thinking what I am doing. Surely I am not comparing the Liberals to Nazis. My hon. colleagues can rest assured that I am not. That might be how others prefer to slur their political opponents. However, that would be a gross injustice to those who suffered under that hideous regime, and I will not do that. I consider the members opposite to be honourable, and I know that they understand the importance of their own words. Canadians of all political persuasions have, for decades, willingly sacrificed everything to fight those oppressive regimes and defend the freedoms we enjoy.
Words matter. We call this place Parliament because it is where we gather as a nation to speak to one another. Canadians take people at their word because words matter. It is not just a quaint custom of a bygone era. Our word is our bond. “Honour” is a word, a word that those in uniform do not just throw around.
If the answers we have been getting during question period are any indication of what we will hear from MPs on the government side today, then, sadly, we can expect a failure to rise to this occasion. I predict that MPs on the government side will be tempted to rise and tell us that all is well. They will be tempted to tell us how grateful all veterans should be.
The Liberals will be tempted to inflate dollar figures and omit that those figures are costed but not funded. They will be tempted to use imaginary examples of veterans and boast about how much that avatar will receive. They will be tempted to rhyme off lists of benefits, some of which are just pre-existing benefits that have been repackaged and renamed. They will be tempted to tell us that the Prime Minister has kept his promise, despite veterans and veterans' advocates saying, very loudly, that they have been betrayed. They will be tempted to ignore the fact that access to benefits has almost ground to a halt. There are 29,000 disability claims in the current backlog.
Without question, the Liberals will be tempted to attack the Conservatives' record in government, and why not? It is easier than taking responsibility for the Prime Minister's words. I hope I am wrong. I hope my hon. colleagues will resist the temptation to shift debate away from the subject at hand. I hope the first speaker on the government side simply rises in his or her place and states that the government supports the motion. I hope that the Prime Minister does not force government MPs to circle the wagons around him and just owns up to his words. We will see.
Again, the question today is a simple one. The question today is whether or not the Prime Minister should do the honourable thing and apologize to veterans for breaking his promise to them.
How did we get here? On August 24, 2015, at a campaign rally in Belleville, Ontario, the Prime Minister, flanked by smiling Liberal candidates, some of them veterans, some of them current government MPs, stated:
If I earn the right to serve this country as your prime minister, no veteran will be forced to fight their own government for the support and compensation that they have earned....
There were no caveats, no wiggle words, just a clear promise to veterans. The Liberal candidates who stood behind him that day clapped and smiled. Those in the audience also clapped. Some were heard cheering loudly. Why would they not? They, along with veterans across the country, were taking the Prime Minister at his word. The Prime Minister for his part paused with a smile and a twinkle of satisfaction in his eye, and basked in the glow of this adulation. It is clear from the videos online that he was quite pleased with himself, and it was clear which veterans he was referencing.
The Equitas Society had taken the previous government to court. That is a fact. There is no sense in pretending otherwise. What is also a fact is that the case was in abeyance when the Prime Minister spoke those words. The plaintiffs and the Conservative government were at the negotiating table and not fighting things out in court. It is also a fact that on May 16, 2016, the abeyance period expired without resolution when the justice minister wrote the B.C. Court of Appeal and stated that, in her view, and we can presume that this was the view of the government and the Prime Minister, the court was now free to deliver judgment.
In other words, the government decided that it would force these veterans to fight their own government. Clearly, this is a promise broken. It is quite simple really. What else could anyone conclude? The Liberals took this decision less than nine months after the Prime Minister made his promise to veterans and, I would add, only six months after being sworn in, making it one of the very first decision the Liberals made.
How sincere was the Prime Minister that day in Belleville? Only he knows. They were his words. It was his bond. All we know for certain is that he has broken his promise. However, here is something else we know. In late 2016, while this group of veterans was being forced to fight the government in court, another group of veterans was bringing forward its case. This new class action case was being brought forward by female veterans who were fighting the government for a safe environment, free from sexual harassment.
Let me repeat that. The Liberal government is currently fighting women who have unselfishly heeded their country's call to service, because these women had the audacity to claim that they deserved to serve their country in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment. To be fair, it was not the government that launched the case, but how did it respond? Did it tell these veterans that their arguments are concerning and invite them to discuss a solution? No. Government lawyers argued that the government is not obligated and does not owe these women, these veterans, a duty of care to provide them with a safe and harassment-free environment.
When this came to light, the Prime Minister was quick to say that he had put justice department lawyers on notice, stating that the argument was of concern to him. He also asked the justice minister, the same justice minister who killed the negotiations with the Equitas Society veterans, to follow up with those lawyers to make sure that they argued things that are consistent with the government's philosophy. Again, these veterans are not being offered an abeyance or negotiations. The Prime Minister is going to keep the case going. He intends to defeat them in court, forcing them to fight their own government. This is a broken promise.
What is the government's philosophy vis-à-vis veterans? Perhaps the Prime Minister's comments to one of our disabled veterans at a recent town hall in Edmonton can shed some light on this.
Why is the government still fighting certain veterans' groups in court? According to the Prime Minister, they are asking for more than we can afford. However, it goes even deeper than that. Yesterday the Prime Minister voted against a private member's bill, sponsored by our colleague, the member for Barrie—Innisfil. The bill sought to ensure that veterans, their families, and survivors would be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness. Is that really more than we can afford?
Veterans and their duties are unique among Canadians. We have an obligation to care for veterans because of the sacrifices made by them. That obligation extends to the experiences of their families. The care, treatment, and transition of Canadian Armed Forces to civil life should be dealt with in a timely manner. Is that really more than we can afford?
The former minister of veterans affairs, the Hon. George Hees, a decorated Second World War veteran himself, was once quoted as saying, “When I was appointed Minister, I told all employees to remember three words: speed, generosity, and courtesy.” That is not a complicated formula: speed, generosity, courtesy. To that list I would add honesty. I think if you ask most veterans they'll tell you that speed, generosity, courtesy, and honesty add up to respect.
Recently in Victoria, I was privileged to join my caucus colleagues and veterans at a veterans round table. These were people who had served and who now advocate for other veterans and assist them in their dealings with Veterans Affairs Canada. We had a fairly lengthy discussion about the issues that they were facing, but the word “respect” was repeated over and over again. At the very end when we were wrapping up, one of the veterans' wives reminded us of that word one more time when she said to us, “If you have heard anything, please remember one word, and that is respect.”
Perhaps it is time to start listening closer to the words of veterans and veterans' advocates. Their words matter.
Don Sorochan, lead counsel for the Equitas Society said, “The position taken by the government was astonishing. For them to stand up and say we don't have any special obligation to veterans was completely contrary to everything they had been saying in Parliament, on the election campaign”.
Mark Campbell, a veteran, a double amputee who lost his legs from the knee down in Afghanistan, and a member of the Minister of Veterans Affairs' very own policy advisory group, said, “The new pension for life is nothing more than a shell game.” Sean Bruyea, another veteran and veterans advocate, said that “the government merely resurrected ghosts of Christmases past with a hodgepodge of benefits that amount to recycled, remodelled and repackaged programs that already exist.”
Another said, “It's fair to say the disappointment (with the new plan) has been immense because it just didn't do the trick.... If you're going to make a promise to provide lifetime pensions, then do it.” Those words were spoken by Brian Forbes, the executive director of War Amps Canada and chairman of the National Council of Veterans Associations of Canada.
For four days now, Colin Saunders, a veteran, has been camped just outside this building to raise awareness for homeless veterans. Today, he has been joined by other veterans as they protest their treatment by Veterans Affairs. He describes his dealings with the current government as “combat”. Let that sink in. He says it is “combat” with a government led by a Prime Minister who promised them they would not have to fight their own government. These are not the words of partisans. These are not the government's political opponents. These are the words of veterans, veterans' spouses, and veterans' advocates. Their only purpose is to ensure veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they have earned.
Let us try to remember that today this is not about comparing records. I ask the government to avoid the temptation to rise and tell us all is well. It is not. Prove me wrong. Resist the temptation to shift debate away from the subject at hand.
Today is about answering a simple question, and that is whether the Prime Minister should do the honourable thing and apologize to veterans for breaking the promise he made to them. On this side, we say he cannot afford not to do so.
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
2018-02-15 10:27 [p.17280]
Madam Speaker, as I stand to ask a question of the member, I would like to give a shout-out to my local Canadian legions, Branch 112 and Branch 152 in Brooklin and Whitby.
I will agree that we can do better, but when I was canvassing, the veterans in my riding of Whitby asked the government to change the lump sum into a pension for life, which we did. The member opposite said that words matter, but we believe that actions matter even more. When we made the investments in our veterans, when we opened offices, when we decided that we were going to hire new staff in order to expedite, to honour the speed the member opposite talked about, and to make the investments in terms of generosity, we have done that with our actions. We spoke to veterans around the country and honoured the speed, generosity, and respect that he is referring to.
I would ask the hon. member how the previous Harper government honoured speed, generosity, and respect when it made cuts, closed offices, and let the veterans charter wither.
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
View Phil McColeman Profile
2018-02-15 10:29 [p.17280]
Madam Speaker, the first question in this debate leads to exactly what I had hoped would not happen, which is the loss of focus on the fact of what the Prime Minister did to veterans, particularly Brock Blaszczyk, an amputee in Edmonton who, at a town hall, asked the Prime Minister why he had broken his promise. The Prime Minister looked back at him and said the government is fighting veterans in court because it does not have the money, that there is not enough.
There is enough for the government to do other things, which I am sure will come out in this debate today, but if what we are going to do here today is to honour the dignity and respect that the member says they are showing through their actions, then show it. Why are the veterans not cheering because the government has kept its promise? They are not doing that. They are on the front steps of Parliament today. There will be hundreds of them out there, saying they are having to fight the government for the benefits that they earned—
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
I am sorry. I have to allow for other questions.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2018-02-15 10:30 [p.17281]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Brantford—Brant for tabling this motion today. It is very important that we talk about our failure to deliver services to vets. When I say “our”, I mean as a nation, because everyone has a responsibility to look after our veterans.
We are hearing the Conservatives blaming the Liberals for not fulfilling their promises, and Liberals pointing to the Conservatives' track record of not delivering to veterans. We all have to agree here that we have not done enough. Right now, we have veterans on the steps of Parliament who are suffering. They are falling through the cracks. They are waiting for their claims to be opened. That is not good enough. These are the people and their families who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of everyday Canadians.
The motion talks about the Prime Minister's promise. He said, “If I earn the right to serve this country as your Prime Minister, no veteran will be forced to fight their own government for the support and compensation they have earned”. The Prime Minister has not honoured this promise.
Perhaps the member could talk about Mr. Blaszczyk, in Edmonton, and the court case Equitas has launched. It started with the Conservative government, so there has to be an answer from the Conservatives as to why it started there and why they tabled this motion today. There is some responsibility there.
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
View Phil McColeman Profile
2018-02-15 10:32 [p.17281]
Madam Speaker, as I referred to in my speech, we worked with Equitas to negotiate a settlement to put the lawsuit in abeyance. That was the status at the time of the election campaign.
It was in abeyance for the first six months of this government's regime. It consciously decided, the Minister of Justice decided, to go back to court and not to the negotiating table with the Equitas people. Those are the true facts. No one can dispute them.
On the issue of what really matters here today, what really matters are veterans and their families, who, through the words of the Prime Minister during the campaign and his words in the town hall, have been disrespected. He should do the honourable thing and apologize to veterans.
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