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View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity to stand in this House of Commons in the 44th Parliament to deliver my speech. To begin, I would really like to thank all of the constituents of Elgin—Middlesex—London who re-elected me to come and be their voice here in Ottawa.
I am going to switch right into the debate today because it is a very important debate that we are having. Bill C-3 has been introduced. It has a lot of merit when it comes to some of the important efforts that we are trying to make. I will start by reading a quote that I read on Facebook. This quote is from September 13 and was posted by the London Health Sciences Centre.
“We are the people who deliver your babies. We are the people who heal your injuries. We are the people who help you live with chronic diseases. We have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to keep you safe.
The vast majority of Londoners have shown appreciation for our work and respect for our people. But a small minority has taken its protests to our hospitals, putting our patients, staff and physicians at risk.
While everyone has the right to free speech, our patients, staff and physicians have an equal right to seek and provide health care without harassment. We have important work to do to care for our patients. We have therefore enhanced security and are working with London Police Service to keep patients, visitors and staff and physicians safe during today's planned protests. We are closely monitoring this situation to ensure the continuity of patient care.”
I bring this forward because occurred in my region back on September 13, just days before the federal election. As COVID continued to grow, we continued to see these types of things. In Ontario, there were protests at 10 different hospitals that day.
The post was brought to my attention by Jason DeSilva, a friend of my husband. He was diagnosed with cancer, and thought, “What am I going to do?” When we see places like this and we are in pain and suffering and in critical illness, it is important to know that there is access to those types of buildings.
It was brought to my attention, and all I could think of were the people being impacted. I continued to read through all of the different comments. There were something like 968 comments, and I cannot even imagine the number of retweets. People were talking about this. Following that, there was a comment made by one of the patients, who said:
“Never ever protest at a hospital.
I've lived out the worst days of my entire life inside of a hospital when I needed healthcare workers the most.
I've had my insides cut apart, ovarian cancer painstakingly scraped out of my abdomen, multiple organs cut apart and stitched back together, a crushed femoral nerve as I took each step in agony to make it into the car for my long ride home after cancer surgery, all while wearing a diaper as my insides continued to bleed and leak.
Never ever protest at a hospital no matter how you feel about things right now. People going through the hardest days of their lives, and the staff that care for them, shouldn't have to deal with you. (There are other places to go if you feel you need to do that.)”
With this, it had “#beatcancer” and “#beagoodhuman”.
Another message that came from the post was this:
“Thankfully, my husband's appointment at the London cancer clinic was the next day.... Please know that the majority of people were appalled that such a protest would be carried out at any hospital...and we all know that the very people that showed up at this protest would be welcomed and treated with compassionate care in their time of any medical need at the very place where they protested...that's what makes it even more sad.... I hope they realize that this was a mistake and will never do this again....hank you to all our London hospitals for being there for us all.”
This has been a very trying time. When we talk about things like protests at hospitals, we all can agree that when someone is going to the hospital, in many cases it is their family and the individual who are driving. There is a great concern as they are driving there. Who knows what type of treatment they are going for? Maybe they are going to speak to a doctor to get a treatment plan, looking forward. Maybe it is cancer. Maybe they are having a new baby. Who knows what it may be? We recognize that this time is extremely stressful. Not being able to get into that type of facility is extremely concerning for so many people.
We can thank our health care providers. Throughout this pandemic and the last 20 months, we have seen the finest of the finest really step up. I think of the health care workers at the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital; I think of the people at the London Health Sciences Centre and all across this great country, all of those people who stepped forward.
They heard there was a virus and a potential of being killed, and we saw health care workers put extra gear on and take extra caution. They served at the time when people needed them the most, when there was so much unknown and so much angst. Those people stepped up for us.
This is why I am so passionate in ensuring that those health care workers, who during the last 22 months have been there on the front line helping us, are not put in this situation. It is not fair to the health care workers, it is not fair to the staff who work there and it definitely is not fair to the patients and their families.
I also want to say it is not just those people who have helped us out. Across this country we have seen volunteers and organizations that have really stepped up. Because it is my first time being able to really talk about this, I want to thank my staff: Cathy, Jena, Scott, Jillian, Charli and Raghed. We really believe in service over self, and that is exactly what we see here. We see, in our Parliament, in our health care fields and in anybody who has stepped up during this pandemic, this service over self.
Returning to the debate on Bill C-3, I want to talk about a rational discussion, where we can recognize that we can have peaceful protests, but never lose critical services. The protests in London took place on September 13. I was going through the newspapers looking at those days and I was reminded of something. This is a quote from a London Free Press article on September 13, written by James Chaarani, “When asked why they chose to protest at a hospital,...the executive director of the London chapter of Vaccine Choice Canada, said it was a busy intersection and the group wanted to show support for health care workers. 'It's an opportunity for people of London to drive by this intersection and see that not everybody agrees with what the government is doing, and often our voice is not heard'”.
I am not here to try to debate whether they are right or wrong; that is not my choice for today. I recognize we have to look at the big picture. We have to look at what happens when this is critical infrastructure and what happens when this is going to have an impact on our people.
I would like to inform the House that I will be splitting with the member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.
These are ultimately critical times for families. I think about myself, because following this protest my mom fell ill. She fell ill two days before the election. It is very personal, because when I talk about the health of my mother, that is what always comes first to me. I apologize to my mom because I know she is watching today. When I went to see her that day, I thought she was dead. I walked in there and kept rubbing her to get her awake. When I finally got her awake, I called my sister who said to take her temperature. I called the MPP Jeff Yurek, who said to take her temperature. However, what I needed to do, ultimately, was get her to the hospital.
I wonder what it would have been like. I know what I am like. Anyone in this chamber, as well as anyone at home, knows the passion I have for my loved ones. I think about what would have happened to me personally and what would have happened to others, and I cannot even imagine being in that type of situation.
These are feelings that are very strong. I know that throughout Canada, protests continue to happen. It is important to have the right to protest, but there is a time and place, and when it comes to projects and people's health and safety, that is not the time to put people at risk.
I am going to quickly switch gears and talk about the other part of this, about extending health benefits for sick days to federally regulated employees. Here in Canada we have approximately 910,000 federally regulated employees, and the majority of them are here in our government. We know that there are 18,000 employers whose labour rights and responsibilities are defined by the Canada Labour Code, and these types of organizations include our Crown corporations, Canada Post operations, port service, marine shipping, ferries, tunnels, canals, bridges and pipelines.
I think it is very important, as we saw through this pandemic, that when we are sick we have the ability to take time off. It is very important that when we are looking at this we understand that, if somebody is sick, they do not go to work. We do need to have some sort of backup plan. I know in many of the federal government policies that there is time and space for that, but for others, not so much. I think it is a great opportunity to have this discussion.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-12-06 11:15
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Mr. Speaker, we owe a great deal of gratitude to our health care professionals. In fact, thousands of people from Saskatchewan and Manitoba came to Winnipeg yesterday to witness the Western Semi-Final where the Bombers were very successful and prevailed in beating the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It so encouraging to see my friend and colleague from across the way, the member for Regina—Lewvan, wearing a Bomber jersey, and if I could ask him a question I would.
However, to my colleague across the way, would she not recognize that this wonderful game took place yesterday because, in good part, of the health care professionals and the fine work that they did, and the fact that Canada is doing so well on full vaccination?
By the way, let us look forward to the Grey Cup next Sunday.
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View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, that is the nicest question I have ever had from this member, but he has to remember that I am from Ontario, so “go Ticats”.
However, it is absolutely the case that, because of our scientists, health care workers and all of those essential services, we are able to be here today and that so many of our children are able to go back to school. I would like to thank each and every health care worker and everyone on the front lines throughout this pandemic.
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View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2021-12-06 11:17
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Mr. Speaker, I think what is happening in Canada is deeply troubling.
We pride ourselves on our willingness to be good neighbours, that is who we are as Canadians, and yet we are seeing with the anti-vax protest a really disturbing rise in toxic behaviour. This past weekend in Edmonton, a mob attacked a children's store. What is with that? In my region, a small-town doc who was a hero to so many people shut her practice because of online harassment. We have had young mothers attacked at vaccine clinics in my region. I could never have imagined in a thousand years that a mother and her child would be attacked and shouted down by a mob for trying to keep her child safe.
We have legislation here for our frontline health workers, but I want to ask my hon. colleague about the larger level of toxicity and this kind of anti-science violence that we are seeing that is targeting families and people who are trying to get through a really difficult time.
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View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I believe all members probably went through the same thing throughout this election. In my riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, unfortunately, one of my constituents is being charged for throwing gravel at the Prime Minister, and I should not say “unfortunately”, because he needs to be charged. This is just not the behaviour that gets things done. This is toxic behaviour, and it needs to be dealt with. Those are things that I do not support. We saw that type of temperament throughout the entire campaign in Elgin—Middlesex—London, and we had to be aware of it.
Safety of Canadians has to be first, and if we could get back to less divisive discussions and more of a willingness to work together, we would have a better country once again.
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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, some areas in my riding, such as the Kelowna General Hospital and the Penticton Regional Hospital, have been built up to the footprint of the road, and there is not a lot of space. Again, I am very supportive, as is the member, of freedom of expression and the ability to share one's political views regardless of what they are. We are a free and open society, but let us bear in mind that these particular infrastructures are not built for those kinds of protests.
I would like to hear whether the member has other examples of infrastructure where it may not be appropriate for people to utilize those spaces.
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View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, any time we have critical projects that are going to be good for this country, we have to very cautious, and safety is one of those things.
It is interesting when we watch people who start to protest, because it can start off very soft and calm and then the next thing we know we have a person up in a tree throwing stones. This is about common decency. I wish people would recognize that when they want to have their voices heard they should do so, but just be respectful.
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View Doug Shipley Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise here today for my first speech in the 44th Parliament as the member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.
As this is my first time rising to speak during this new session of Parliament, I would like to use this opportunity to share my sincere thanks to my wife, Lisa, and my sons, Wyatt and Luke, for their unwavering support. I would also like to thank my campaign team and the many volunteers who selflessly gave countless hours of hard work, my dedicated EDA, and the residents of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte for once again placing their trust in me to represent them here in Ottawa. I am and will remain committed to working tirelessly on behalf of my community, both locally and in Parliament.
I am pleased to be speaking today to Bill C-3, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code.
Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte is home to the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, also known locally as RVH. RVH is known as a place for receiving safe, compassionate, advanced care. It is a place of exceptional health care, led by an unwavering commitment to safety and quality. RVH was awarded accreditation with exemplary standing in 2019 by Accreditation Canada. That is the highest level of recognition awarded, and it is achieved by only 20% of Canadian health care organizations.
Among many other local, provincial and national recognitions, RVH has also received a gold quality health care workplace award from the Ontario Hospital Association for its continued focus on fostering a healthy and safe workplace that promotes a positive work-life balance.
The current president and CEO of the Royal Victoria Health Centre, Janice Skot, has led the health centre for 17 years and has recently announced her much-deserved retirement. I personally want to wish her the very best in her future endeavours. Alongside Ms. Skot are a visionary board of directors, an exceptional senior team and leaders, skilled physicians and nurses, compassionate volunteers and a supportive community.
Hospitals across Canada, including RVH, are places of healing. They are places where we face difficult days, seek treatment, and say hello and goodbye to loved ones. They are places of solemn solace and of beautiful beginnings.
My wife, Lisa, and I were thankful to welcome our two sons in the birthing unit of RVH. When my youngest son required immediate neonatal care, it was the wonderful health care workers of RVH who supported and cared for our family. During my son's 17-day stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, it was imperative that we had unencumbered and free access to the hospital throughout the day to provide our son with much-needed nourishment. I am pleased to say that over 16 years later and completely healthy, he will be graduating high school next year.
Hospitals should remain peaceful places for staff, patients, visitors and volunteers alike. I truly believe that harassment of our frontline nurses, doctors and health care workers is completely unacceptable. We all owe a huge debt of thanks to these frontline workers, who have been health care heroes both before and throughout this pandemic. They deserve unending appreciation and respect.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said just last month that this past year, there has been an unfortunate escalation of hate directed towards the medical profession and all health care workers.
Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, said that before the pandemic, 90 percent of nurses reported being exposed to physical violence at work, and during the pandemic, 60 percent of nurses reported that the level of violence had increased.
Shamefully, as recently as September of this year, staff, patients, visitors and volunteers were faced with a rally against COVID-19 restrictions, which took place outside of the hospital's doors. Regrettably, RVH was among the hospitals that were targeted.
Janice Skot, president and CEO of RVH, said the following in a statement:
People have a right to peacefully express their opinions, but these rallies in front of hospitals are disheartening, frustrating and offensive to health-care workers who have worked tirelessly throughout this gruelling pandemic.
While protesters lined our sidewalk opposing the safety measures intended to keep our communities safe, exhausted staff and physicians inside RVH continue working long hours under extremely difficult conditions, caring for sick patients—including those with COVID-19.
Skot went on to say that a crowd of largely unmasked protesters is also extremely intimidating for the patients coming to RVH to seek care. Dedicated health care workers should not be the target of angry protests. A global pandemic is a time when Canadians should, said Skot, “stand with our health-care workers, not protest outside the building in which they are doing heroic work.”
Since the pandemic began, RVH has cared for over 600 COVID patients. Skot says many of them have been critically ill and some have spent months recovering in hospital. Sadly, 98 have died due to COVID-related complications. She says, “Our employees and physicians have seen first-hand the tragic and heartbreaking impacts of this virus, and RVH supports any effort to keep our patients, our team, and our community safe.”
Dr. Colin Ward, the chief of surgery at RVH, echoed Ms. Skot's concerns regarding Bill C-3. He said, “The last two years have been extremely challenging for the health care community as we have worked tirelessly to provide health care under difficult and sometimes heartbreaking conditions. We appreciate the efforts made by Bill C-3 to help protect both the patients and all of the workers who provide care for them.”
RVH was not the only hospital affected by these protests. Hospitals in Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury and London were also targeted by protesters.
Our health care centres are essential infrastructure. Access to them must not be blocked for any reason. The staff delivering critical care in these centres must be allowed to access the resources required to deliver necessary life-saving care, without threats, intimidation or harassment. Jaime Gallaher, a Canadian emergency room nurse, shared her experience working as a nurse while protests were taking place outside of hospital doors. She said, “One of our patients actually passed away in emerge, behind a curtain with his family, which was gut-wrenching because that should never, ever happen. They had no privacy to mourn.” Ms. Gallaher also explained that the protesters could be heard in the ER and called the disruption “a slap in the face” to grieving families and patients in need of emergency care.
Likewise, Dr. Rod Lim, a pediatric emergency room physician in London, Ontario, had this to say about protests outside of hospitals:
The protests are demoralizing. There’s a lack of common decency, to protest in front of a hospital, to delay people who are trying to get the care that they deserve. They have nothing to do with the protests, nothing to do with government policy, and they’re being adversely affected. This is absolutely maddening.
As a past member of the Barrie area physician recruitment task force, I am aware how difficult it is to recruit medical staff. With current labour shortages, human resources teams are currently facing a very competitive job market, which is a challenge for recruiting new frontline employees. Vicki McKenna, president of the Ontario Nurses' Association, said, “Prior to COVID, we had hundreds of RN vacancies. That hasn’t improved—it’s gotten worse. RVH is no different than any other hospital; they have vacancies. It’s tough out there.”
Having protesters outside of health care settings does not help this issue. I know freedom of speech is an important right for Canadians, but the foundational principles of Canada are peace, order and good government. When protests turn into blockades and threaten people's ability to access services critical to their lives, the government must appropriately step in, not to diminish or destroy our liberties, but to ensure that people are living to enjoy them.
The staff at RVH and at hospitals across Canada have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic to care for our communities. Staff from RVH and other healthcare settings across Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte spent their off hours during the pandemic staffing COVID-19 testing centres and vaccine clinics. They have risen to the challenge of supporting us through this pandemic, and they deserve our support, now and always.
Health care settings are not an appropriate place for protests that threaten patients' well-being, disrupt quiet recuperation or block access to much-needed medical services. Slowing down or not permitting health care professionals to gain access to their places of employment is completely unacceptable. We need to respect the health care heroes who have supported and cared for our communities before and throughout this pandemic and who will be there for us long after this pandemic.
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-12-06 11:29
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Mr. Speaker, since I have not yet had the opportunity to do so, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment. I am sure that you will be up to the task of ensuring that the debates run smoothly.
I would like to hear my colleague's comments on something that I have been thinking about.
Does he not believe that, had the government not taken so long to bring Parliament back after calling an election ostensibly because there were things that had to be taken care of right away, we would not be here two months later dealing with a bill that covers two completely different areas?
Is it because the government is determined to pass two bills in one?
If the government had brought the House back right away after the election, about two weeks after, for example, then we could have been debating two different bills. With regard to the Criminal Code, the bill is redundant because the offences already exist.
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View Doug Shipley Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I will go one step further: We do not feel there should have been an election called in the first place. We should have remained here working throughout all of that, so yes, we should have been here working over the summer and much earlier in the fall. I agree that we could have been here dealing with this over many weeks prior to this.
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2021-12-06 11:31
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Mr. Speaker, during the pandemic, medical health professionals were really clear that they wanted us to social distance and wash our hands, but they also wanted politicians to implement paid sick days and people to get vaccinated. Here we are, 20 months later, and finally we have Conservatives and Liberals implementing paid sick days.
I think about the other health crisis that was happening previous to COVID, which is the opioid overdose crisis that is taking place in our country. Health professionals have been saying they want to see decriminalization and a safe supply as immediate first steps, and we need to listen to the sound advice of these health professionals.
Does my colleague agree politicians have failed in listening to medical health professionals and that we have lost lives as a result, whether it be by not implementing paid sick days or not implementing policies to address this overdose crisis happening in our country? I would like to hear his perspective on this.
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View Doug Shipley Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, hindsight is 20/20 on a lot of issues. We can look back and say we failed on many things, but as long as we are trying to do our best, that is very important.
Speaking of the opioid pandemic, Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte has been devastated by this. Right now, the City of Barrie is looking at opening up a supervised consumption site. I will take all information into account regarding that and try to make a proper decision, while keeping good words like the ones my fellow colleague mentioned today. I always try to get all the information I can together for making valid, true and honest decisions, and I will go forward that way. That is the way I have always tried to conduct myself, and I will continue to do that going forward.
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View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, it is good to be able to enter into debate on this important subject today.
I have heard from a number of colleagues and a number of parties, who have raised concerns that this bill addresses two very different issues. Although both are very important to discuss and debate in this place, the fact is that they are quite different. One is related to protecting health care workers from being restricted from entering hospitals and whatnot, and then the other is regarding paid sick leave.
I am wondering if my colleague has any comments about whether these two distinct issues should be debated separately and if there is value in that to ensure it has the fulsome discussion required to make good policy that comes from this place.
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View Doug Shipley Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, we sometimes have to deal with what we have been given, and they are together in this one so we will do our best to come together and deal with them. Hopefully, if and when they go to committee, they will be able to be dealt with properly.
We do have to look at what we have been given, and I concentrated more on the health care portion today. I am looking forward to getting that implemented. Knowing there is such a large health institution in my area that was given a very rough ride in the summer with protests, I am looking forward to seeing that get passed as soon as possible.
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View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-12-06 11:34
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Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be speaking here in Ottawa from the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. My riding of Parkdale—High Park, which I am proud to represent in this chamber, rests on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat, the Métis, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit. Toronto is now home to many first nations, Inuit and Métis people.
These past 22 months, it goes without saying, have been defined by the global COVID-19 pandemic. These past 22 months have also been defined by exemplary work on the part of health care professionals working extremely hard to keep all of us safe. The first thing I want to say in addressing Bill C-3 is a very heartfelt and sincere thanks to all health care professionals who have been doing so much for all of us in our time of need.
I am speaking of doctors. I am speaking of nurses. I am speaking of auxiliary health staff. I am speaking of researchers who have brought us vaccines. I am speaking of the people in my riding of Parkdale—High Park at St. Joseph's hospital, at the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, at Four Villages and at Runnymede rehab. I am speaking of all of the countless nurses, practitioners, doctors and other health care professionals who call my riding home.
I am also speaking very personally about my wife and her team at the Public Health Agency of Canada. I have spoken about Suchita before. She has the distinct duty, during this pandemic, of being in charge of quarantine and border health controls for the Public Health Agency in all of Ontario and for the north. It is a critical job at the simplest of times, but during a pandemic it is a pivotal job for what we do and keeping all of us safe. I thank Suchita for what she has been doing consistently for the past 22 months.
All of these people deserve our appreciation, our gratitude and our respect, yet things have unfortunately been inverted in these last several months. Those who should have been receiving praise are receiving scorn. Those who should be empowered to keep us safe are being actively prevented from entering hospitals and clinics. They are sometimes being threatened, harassed or even assaulted.
It extends beyond just those who provide health care. It also applies to those who are seeking health care. Patients are being intimidated and prevented from entering some of these health care facilities. The impact is severe. Health care professionals feel they have gone from heroes to villains, and it is indeed demoralizing.
I will be sharing my time with the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook. We can tell it is a new Parliament because I am off my game.
I was talking about the impact. The impact is that health care professionals feel they have gone from being heroes to villains, and it is demoralizing. It is also an impact that has been borne by Canadians who are seeking to do the right thing in following public health guidelines, in accessing care to keep themselves and our communities safe. They are at the same time being vilified for daring to follow those public health imperatives.
How has it come to this? How have we gotten to this state of affairs in Canada in December 2021? There are those who have embraced the science behind COVID, the public health measures that are needed to help keep all of us safe, and the utility of vaccines in the fight against this virus. There are those who have not and those who challenge the utility of vaccines, science, scientists and all of the health care professionals who support these endeavours.
Let me be clear about one thing that is pivotal in this chamber of all places: the democratic right to disagree and to dissent. That is what freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression mean as protected under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which I had the privilege of defending for 15 years while I was a practising lawyer. That is the hallmark of any democracy, let alone this democracy.
There are and always have been limits to such expressive rights. There is an old legal adage that says a person has the right to swing their arm, but that right ends at my nose. The notion that it conjures up is that one's expressive rights end when they can cause harm to another individual. It encapsulates the idea that threats, harassment and physical assault have always been against the law and remain against the law in this country.
Through this important piece of legislation, Bill C-3, we are proposing to enhance these very protections, particularly in the case of health care workers and those who seek access to health care. With Bill C-3, we are proposing to take decisive action by amending the Criminal Code as well as the Labour Code. I am speaking today of the Criminal Code amendments.
The amendments to the Criminal Code would ensure significant consequences for those who use fear to prevent health care professionals from doing their jobs and for those who prevent patients from receiving such care. Bill C-3 would create a new, specific offence for intimidation of health care workers and those who seek health care, as well as an offence that would prohibit someone from obstructing a person from accessing health care facilities.
Individuals who intend to use fear to stop health care workers from performing their duties, or to prevent people from accessing health services, could be charged with this proposed new offence.
In the Criminal Code, aggravating factors are considered for sentencing. An aggravating factor would be added to require courts to consider more serious penalties for any offender who targets health care workers engaged in their duties or who impedes others from accessing health services.
A new sentencing provision would also be created that requires courts to consider more serious penalties. There would be up to a 10-year maximum, compared with the current five-year maximum in the Criminal Code, for offenders who target health care workers engaged in their duties or who impede people from obtaining health care services.
In precise terms, that is what Bill C-3 would capture. For those who are still skeptical, let me be crystal clear about what Bill C-3 would not capture. It would not capture peaceful demonstrations, or the right of health care professionals to protest to improve their own working conditions. Instead, it would protect such people from the unfortunate violence they are currently facing and would help to ensure safer workplaces than they have right now.
The freedom of Canadians to voice their concerns and protest in a safe and peaceful manner is critical, as is obviously the ability of health care workers to take labour action and organize themselves. That would be respected by these proposed changes in the criminal law, because a communication defence is being entrenched in Bill C-3. That would help ensure that there is a balance, as there has always been due to how the charter was designed in 1982. There would be a balance between the protections we need and the protection of the expressive rights of Canadian citizens, including the health care workers and those who would peacefully protest against them. That balance is the legislative change we need to see in this country, because what we are seeing unfortunately is an escalation of hate. Let us call it what it is. It is hatred directed toward these workers and those who would access their services.
The right to protest and to dissent is one thing, and as I have outlined it is critical. However, obstructing patients and health care personnel and trying to strike fear into their hearts and minds is something that cannot and should not be tolerated in this country in 2021. We have seen people getting in the faces of vulnerable patients who are trying to access care, yelling and spitting at them, or following health care professionals to their cars and vandalizing their vehicles. We have seen health care professionals targeted by death threats: those same health care professionals who are always working not only to keep us safe, but to keep us alive in this pandemic. These death threats, whether made in person or through social media campaigns, are designed to intimidate and frighten those people. It is an unacceptable state of affairs.
What I would inject in these final two minutes is that we are not just talking about COVID. When we talk about the health care apparatus, we have to think about all the health care services that are provided and not just those that address the pandemic. The impacts extend to all those who seek other medical treatments at hospitals and clinics across this country: those who rely on nurses, physicians and surgeons to perform things such as transplants, hip surgeries and knee replacements. The list goes on. Right now, those Canadians are being victimized by the type of escalating hatred we are witnessing around the country, because these surgeries are being delayed or cancelled outright because of the chaos being unleashed at health care facilities around the country. The result is that Canadians awaiting such surgeries are forced to wait that much longer, prolonging their pain and suffering. It is an untenable situation.
Health care workers have taken the Hippocratic oath. I am sure that 22 months ago, they thought they understood the contours of that oath to serve other people, to care for them and provide them assistance. That has been turned on its head over these past 22 months with COVID. I want to underscore this, and we have heard it from other speakers in this chamber: At this time in particular, these people deserve our gratitude, appreciation and respect. If I see somebody wearing scrubs in my riding, I have made it my personal mission to point them out, to stop them and ask them where they work and to thank them for what they are doing, because these people are always brave in the face of adversity. They are always selfless and devote extended hours to their craft. Now they need our support more than ever. That is what Bill C-3 would achieve, which is why I hope all members of the House can get behind this important bill.
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View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
2021-12-06 11:44
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Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me my first opportunity to speak in the House since the election.
I would like to take this opportunity to also thank the health care workers who serve us all the time, and especially during this difficult time with COVID.
The hon. member said that Bill C-3 would provide a balance between the rights of people and the protection of health care workers, the facilities and so forth. Where does he see the bill strike that balance? Could the hon. member advise us on that?
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View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-12-06 11:45
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Mr. Speaker, I welcome my friend opposite back to the House and congratulate him on his re-election.
The balance is both in the legislation and in the Constitution. That is the twofold answer. The legislation entrenches a defence of communication, and communication for the sole purpose of expressing dissent in a peaceful format is entirely protected within the contours of this bill. It is also subject to what is called the “saving clause” in the charter. The charter has section 2 expressive rights that are protected, and the saving clause in section 1 allows for reasonable limits on such expression. That is the balance carved in the Constitution as it has been interpreted by the jurisprudence of our Supreme Court.
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View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, obviously no one is against apple pie. We are legislating this morning to put an end to the intimidation and harassment being faced by health care workers outside of hospitals. I think everyone agrees on the principle.
However, I am wondering why the government chose to talk about this this morning. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Quebec's health care system, like those of the other provinces, has been gutted. There is not enough funding. We have been talking about the underfunding of the health care system for a long time.
The Bloc Québécois thinks it is time to reinvest massively in health to take care of people. Health care workers are leaving the health care system in droves because they are overworked. If we really want to take care of Quebec's health care workers, is it not time to do what the Bloc Québécois has been calling for and reinvest massively in health care?
The federal government is currently only paying 22% of costs. Should that not be raised to 35% to take care of health care workers?
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View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-12-06 11:47
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Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague opposite, and I congratulate him on being re-elected.
I would say it makes perfect sense to talk about this bill now. Earlier this fall, during the election campaign, we promised to start working on some of our priorities right away. One of those priorities was making sure we provide better protection to Canada's health care workers. We are keeping a promise we made.
I think my colleague's suggestion about health care system funding is a good one worth examining.
We support health care workers. We are always listening to them so we can help them and meet their needs.
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2021-12-06 11:48
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Mr. Speaker, throughout the health crisis we heard from health professionals who said two really critical things. The first was that people should get vaccinated. The second was that governments should bring in paid sick days, so that people were not making the difficult choice of not paying their bills or going to work sick and spreading sickness to their colleagues. As a result of this, people actually died.
I think about the parallel health crisis that is taking place: the overdose crisis due to fentanyl poisoning. Medical health professionals have made it very clear that the first steps are decriminalization and safe supply.
Would my colleague support moving forward with his own Health Canada expert task force on substance use and support decriminalization, or is the government going to wait for more people to die? The government needs to take action. It needs to listen to the health professionals giving it guidance on policy, and it needs to take action on the steps that are recommended.
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View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-12-06 11:49
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Mr. Speaker, in terms of paid sick days, obviously we legislate in areas of our jurisdiction.
Many of the responsibilities the member has identified relate to the provincial level of jurisdiction. What we are doing for the federally regulated sector is offering 10 paid sick days, as promised. We are committing to that promise.
With respect to opioids, our perspective has always been with respect to safe supply, safe injection sites and meeting people where they are with a harm reduction model. That is the policy I will continue to advocate for.
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your new role in the 44th Parliament. I know it will be an unforgettable experience. I wish you four good years of service, assuming that is how it plays out.
I am very happy to speak to this bill. I feel it is a very important bill about peace, order and good government.
I am very pleased with the comments and questions by the opposition, as it is clear that all members of the House are looking at the bill as being an extremely important bill to move forward. We will be making amendments to the Criminal Code to protect health care workers and those who are accessing their services. I will speak at length about that as well. The second piece is the change to sick leave with the Canada Labour Code amendments, which would allow us to implement sick leave.
However, before I go into the bill in depth, I want to share with the House some comments about the pandemic. As my colleague said earlier, 22 months of a global pandemic have been challenging on every country in the world and have been challenging on every Canadian. It has been difficult not just for those who have had bad luck, but also for all of the families, friends and colleagues around them.
When I think back, I remember my dad telling me many years ago about the Spanish flu that hit Canada and the world between 1918 and 1921. That was a really big challenge. What has come out of all the pandemics we will talk about is, of course, the heroes: the health care workers, the individuals who have done their part and more to support Canadians and their neighbours, families and friends. This was crucial, and I want to talk about it a bit.
I remember my dad telling me that in our community, if someone was exposed to the Spanish flu, they could die within days. However, there were people in the community putting their life and their families' lives at risk to try to help their neighbours and friends. That by itself is just unbelievable. I cannot say enough about those individuals and the health care workers.
I also want to talk about polio between the twenties and the fifties. Most Canadians would have heard about polio as well. This was a global pandemic. We have seen and heard all kinds of stories on it, but I have a personal one to share, because as my mom would tell me often, my grandfather was a doctor and some felt he should have been able to do more. I am sure he wanted to do more, and that is one of the challenges.
My mom's brother, whose name was Leo Patrick, contracted polio, and contamination exposure could lead to death. Two people eating from the same spoon was noted as a possible transmission process. I remember my mom telling me that when she would feed her little brother, once in a while, because he did not want to eat since he was not feeling well, she would have a bite to show him how to do it. Then he would laugh and take a bite as well. I lost my uncle, whom I have never seen of course, but I remember the story from my mom like it was yesterday. She said for some reason she never got polio even though she had done things like sharing a spoon.
I guess the family always tries to keep life going to some extent, so one of my brothers is named Leo Patrick. They wanted to continue it, I believe, and he is a very special person as well. There are heroes everywhere in our country and in the world.
I read an article on April 20, 2020, of a lady in Halifax, Gloria Stephens. She was a nurse in Halifax at the Victoria General Hospital. She talked about her experience as a nurse, a job she did for 46 years, if members can imagine. There were similarities between polio and the global pandemic, and she shared some of them. I was really touched by that. She would wear a mask, a gown and gloves, and she would work 12 hours a day and then remove all of that clothing. When polio took place, similar to the pandemic, in some pockets of the country schools and playgrounds were closed. It brings us back to those times and also reminds us of our health care workers and what they have been through.
In April, May, June, July, August and September 2020, people were scared to leave their homes. They did not know what they were risking. However, every day, doctors, nurses and frontline workers would leave their homes and do their jobs. That is special, and those are the individuals I want to thank personally. It is one thing for them to risk their lives, but it is another thing when it is at a job they are doing every day where exposure could lead to greater difficulties for themselves and their families. It is just unbelievable.
I think about the people protesting and stopping workers from going into hospitals to help others and offer services, and even the individuals wanting to access health care and being unable to do so. This is unacceptable, and the bill would allow us to move forward. Intimidating health care workers or individuals who are accessing care is unacceptable. Obstructing their access is unacceptable. This bill deals with that.
We have also increased the sentencing to up to 10 years rather than five years, which is extremely important. I know there are lots of questions around the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but again, there are places to protest, and doing it to health care workers and to people accessing health care is absolutely unacceptable.
In closing, on the 10 days of sick leave, people are asking if there is a link. There is absolutely a link between both parts of the bill, which touches on the Criminal Code and on the Canada Labour Code. The Canada Labour Code is about sickness during the pandemic, going to work and the possibility of bringing the illness to co-workers and colleagues in a department. That is not what we want. We want people to stay home if they are sick. By moving forward on this, we would ensure that the safety of Canadians is our top priority.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to put on the record how strongly I support this bill and the Greens support this bill.
The hon. member spoke so movingly of the Spanish flu. I am named, actually, after my great-grandmother, who died in the Spanish flu epidemic. I am really concerned in the here and now with our nurses. I am concerned with health care professionals, and particularly the nursing profession, which is feeling beleaguered and unappreciated. We are losing nurses because we have not done a good enough job as a society to thank them and support them. This bill may be even more important for what it says to nurses across Canada about our respect and gratitude.
Does the hon. member have any thoughts on the current situation of nursing in Canada?
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, exactly as my colleague said, this would be, in my opinion, one quick way of showing nurses and frontline workers that the role they play is important. We need to do this as a government to keep them safe and keep all Canadians safe. This is another indication of how we appreciate our health care workers.
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View Julie Vignola Profile
BQ (QC)
View Julie Vignola Profile
2021-12-06 12:01
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Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today is important because it will protect health care workers as well as patients. The scope of this bill extends well beyond vaccination. For example, it will also cover intimidation that takes place at family planning clinics.
Nevertheless, intimidation is still a crime regardless of a person's status or job.
Why the hurry to specify that this applies to health care services now, especially considering that it should apply to everyone, everywhere, period?
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her important question.
The bill we are introducing, Bill C‑3, is meant to protect all Canadians. Yes, it targets the health sector for the moment, but we are talking about a bill that will help all Canadians. We need to ensure that no Canadians are subjected to intimidation, and we need to be there to protect everyone.
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View Lisa Marie Barron Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, for almost two years workers have been forced to work sick. As is the case in many constituencies, in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith many constituents rely on their wages to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.
We have lost too many lives as a result of government inaction. Does my colleague find it acceptable to have forced workers for almost two years to report to work while unwell by refusing to provide them with the sick leave they need to keep everyone safe?
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I want to share with my colleague that in 2019 we moved forward on three-day sick leave and then we had the sick leave benefit. Here we are moving it to 10 days, so I believe we are doing exactly what she is proposing.
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View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if this legislation would help people who have contracts. Does it extend to people who have contracts with the Government of Canada, or would it be just the employees of the government?
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity to listen to my colleague's speech this morning, which I much appreciated. I know she does great work in the House, and I want to thank her for that.
My understanding is that federal employees are already getting these benefits. These would be for federally regulated employees, so this would be an extension. The objective of our government is to have discussions with the provinces and territories so that we can move forward with the private sector to find ways to support all Canadians so they have access to sick leave.
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View Chris Lewis Profile
CPC (ON)
View Chris Lewis Profile
2021-12-06 12:04
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Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the House allow me to share my time with the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable. I also congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. I think it is fantastic, and I think that you are doing a fantastic job.
We are here, and some of us have already spoken in the House, but some have not had the chance to yet. This is my maiden speech of the 44th Parliament, and it has been quite a journey over the past two years. It was also quite a journey just getting to this place last night. Many of us are probably going on two and a half or three hours of sleep, but we are here, regardless. We are tired, but we are here.
Before I get into Bill C-3, it is important that I thank a few people.
First and foremost, as I did in the 43rd Parliament, I thank my Lord and Saviour for the opportunity to serve Essex and for my health. Without my God, I would not be here.
I thank my family. Probably my greatest supporter is my mother, but she is also my biggest critic, and she is probably watching right now. I love my Mom and thank her for keeping tabs on me and for all that she does.
I also thank my wife. I am only afraid of three people in this world, and they are in this order: my Lord and Saviour, my wife and my mother. My wife, Allison, is probably not watching, as she is most likely taking care of Levi, our grandchild. However, I love Allison dearly, and I thank her for giving me the freedom and the opportunity to come here to represent Essex and do what I know in my heart of hearts is right. I thank her for the sacrifices she has made for this country along the way. I love her so dearly.
I thank my staff, who have been working tirelessly. They are tired, and have had two years of being tired, with hundreds of thousands of phone calls, emails and text messages. Each and every one of them is absolutely fantastic, and I thank them for serving our constituents so well.
I thank my colleagues, those I have grabbed dinner with in the House, and I do not necessarily mean just Conservative colleagues, but those across the aisle as well. They have made a difficult time a little easier and a bit more enjoyable, so I thank my colleagues. As well, I congratulate all those re-elected. I encourage those who have been elected for the first time to hang on because it is a lot of fun up here. They will be able to do some great things. I congratulate each and every member.
I thank our Hill staff. The onboarding during a pandemic, compared to the onboarding during normal times in Ottawa, was second to none. To our Hill support, for the onboarding process, I thank each one of them. I thank them for their sacrifice and for making our jobs a whole lot easier on the Hill.
Most important, besides my Lord, are my constituents in Essex for giving me the honour to serve them in their seat. It is not my seat. It is theirs, and I thank them for the honour. I thank them for sending me back to Ottawa, and I promise my devotion to each and every one of them.
Bill C-3 should also have a Bill C-3.1 because, in my opinion, it really should be two bills. The bill talks about harassment, which falls under the Criminal Code, and it also talks about labour, which falls under the Canada Labour Code. I will speak to harassment first, and then I will finish with the labour issue.
On the day of the election, I had an unfortunate accident when, just so the world knows, I fell off my horse. I was spending time with my wife, and I was a little more banged up than perhaps even she knew. Long story short, I went to the hospital in Leamington, the Erie Shores HealthCare. The doctors were second to none. The nursing staff was second to none. I have actually had meetings with the CEO of the hospital to try to advance this forward.
Then I went to the Windsor Regional Hospital. In a couple of months, I will go to get shoulder surgery. My orthopaedic surgeon is second to none.
I was a firefighter. I know what frontline service is all about. I am really blessed to say that my aunt Eva was nurse of the year on a couple of occasions. My mother was a nurse as well.
Before I jumped on the plane that finally got me here, after hours and hours, through no fault of Air Canada, I held onto my grandchild, Levi, for about an hour. As he slept there so peacefully and innocently, I thought about this debate today and the influence I could have to leave the world a better place than I found it. I thought about what I could do for Levi today to ensure that he comes into a world that has less hatred and less harassment, and that respects all genders and respects our frontline workers.
I am excited about the harassment side of Bill C-3. It is something that we, as a generation, have perhaps lost a little focus, or perhaps a lot of focus, on. I also think, to a greater extent, that we all, in this place, agree with. That is something very monumental.
I am also a freedom fighter. I believe in the freedoms of Canadians. I believe that Canadians have the right to voice their opinions. I believe they have the right to protest. I also know that with that freedom comes nothing less than responsibility. What is absolutely vital, right now, is that people are not shamed into doing something against our frontline workers who are ultimately taking care of our parents and grandparents and, in my case, me. We need to give them full access and full support. It is absolutely not acceptable for the folks in this profession to have anything less than this House's support.
With regard to the Labour Code, in my capacity as deputy shadow minister for labour, I very happy to be able to stand here and speak to this today. I started my speech saying that many of us are tired. I can only imagine how tired our frontline workers are, the ones who get us on the planes, our air service personnel and the ones who get us here on Via Rail. They are not only tired physically. They are also tired mentally. This is to ensure there is a floor of 10 days, but many of these companies already have more than 10 days, so quite frankly it would not affect them.
They also deserve nothing less than this House's support. We are all tired. I am not saying that from a function of, “Oh, boo hoo, Chris had to spend some time on a plane”. No, I am saying that as a country, as a world, we are tired. Now is the time to bring the support forward, whatever that support looks like, and ensure that it gets done.
Rest assured, Conservatives will certainly be here for labour. Conservatives will be here for physicians, nurses and support staff. I am very proud to be back in the House. I thank Essex for sending me back to this place.
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View Lori Idlout Profile
NDP (NU)
View Lori Idlout Profile
2021-12-06 12:14
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Uqaqtittiji, qujannamiik..
In Nunavut, we do not have much access to health care. We only have one hospital for all of the 25 communities, so the rest of the 25 communities have to get health care services through health centres. Not many of them have doctors. Most have health nurse practitioners.
A lot of the patients from Nunavut, when they are looking to access the same level of health care as everybody else in this room, just as the member spoke so eloquently about before, they have to go on medical travel and be sent to places like Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg or Yellowknife. When these strikes are happening in these other major centres, they are also impacting patients from my constituency, so this is an important issue for me.
Knowing health care professionals in the south are being impacted by protests and are not being able to take up to 10 days of paid sick leave is a great concern. Does the member agree it is time for a 10-day paid sick leave?
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View Chris Lewis Profile
CPC (ON)
View Chris Lewis Profile
2021-12-06 12:15
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Mr. Speaker, that is a dynamite question.
Just yesterday WECHU, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, and I believe this to be true, was the first in Canada to come down with more restrictions for Windsor and Essex, which is a very sad thing.
The Erie Shores HealthCare I was speaking of earlier is actually pleading with people to go to a different area to get care if they can do so. It is brimming and flowing over the top.
All of Canada, quite frankly, deserves to have proper health care and proper physicians. We need to ensure we put the proper guards in place to make sure everybody is dealt with equally. I really hope, for the member's sake, the situation in her riding gets better.
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View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
2021-12-06 12:17
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Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my friend from Essex on his re-election.
What I heard in his speech was a message of unity dealing with the challenges we are all facing together as a country. If he could somehow elaborate on that, it would be great.
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View Chris Lewis Profile
CPC (ON)
View Chris Lewis Profile
2021-12-06 12:17
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Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague nailed it. It is exactly what I am talking about.
I congratulate my colleague on the fantastic outreach he does, not only in Canada, but also across the world. I thank the member for that.
Absolutely, if there was ever a time for unity, a time to rally the troops, or a time to pull together and stop the divisiveness, now is the time. That is our responsibility. It is one of the things we can actually bring to our country through this House. With his help, we will all endeavour together to ensure that takes place moving forward.
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View Mario Beaulieu Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your re-election, as well as your appointment to the chair.
Bill C-3 does not really change much. The offences in question are already covered by the law. As stated earlier, intimidation is illegal everywhere, and this bill simply reiterates that. It seems that Bill C-3 is really more about creating the perception that the government is doing something on the health care file.
However, there is something far more important the government could do, namely, restoring health transfers and increasing them to 35% of total spending, as Quebec and all Canadian provinces are calling for. What are my colleague's thoughts on that?
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View Chris Lewis Profile
CPC (ON)
View Chris Lewis Profile
2021-12-06 12:19
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Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day, it kind of goes like this: If there had not been a $600-million election, which nobody wanted, we would be in committee discussing these things, and we would be moving this agenda forward. Unfortunately, that has not happened. I would strongly suggest we get back to committee, back to the business of the House. Then we could perhaps address many of the things my hon. colleague has brought up.
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View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Arif Virani Profile
2021-12-06 12:19
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Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, special order or usual practice of the House, at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, December the 14th, 2021, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings to permit the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to make a statement followed by a period of up to 10 minutes for questions and comments; after the statement, a member from each recognized opposition party may reply for a period approximately equivalent to the time taken by the minister's statement and each statement shall be followed by a period of 10 minutes for questions and comments; after each member has replied, or when no member rises to speak, whichever comes first, the House shall adjourn to the next sitting day.
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View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2021-12-06 12:20
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This being a hybrid session, all those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
Hearing no dissenting voice, it is agreed.
The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed will please say nay.
Hearing no dissenting voice, I declare the motion carried.
Resuming debate.
The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable.
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View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, this being December 6, I will take a few moments to acknowledge the anniversary of the awful tragedy at Polytechnique Montréal where 14 young women lost their lives.
It is important to always take a few minutes on this day to reflect on what happened at the time and what continues to happen in our society. Violence against women still exists, now more than ever. Taking the time to commemorate this horrible tragedy makes us look at the present to see what has been done and what we are doing at home, in our neighbourhoods and across the board to ensure that such things never happen again. This includes small gestures when a man or a woman is in an unacceptable domestic violence situation. Women tend to end up vulnerable, without resources and without help, because they simply do not have the means and the necessary resources at hand to report and flee domestic violence.
I want to give everyone, especially the women in my riding, the phone numbers they can use if they find themselves in a difficult situation. In the Appalaches RCM, the La Gîtée shelter can be reached at 418-335-5551. In the Granite RCM, people can contact La Bouée at 819-583-1233. I commend the women in the Granite RCM who are marching today to speak out against violence against women and to advance the cause. In central Quebec, the La Volte-Face women's shelter can be reached at 819-795-3444. Anyone in need anywhere in Quebec can contact the domestic violence service SOS Violence Conjugale at 1-800-363-9010.
Resources are available, and people are there to help. It is just a matter of getting to a phone to ask for help. This is something each and everyone one of us should be more conscious of.
I also want to address Canadians who are currently living with domestic violence. Far too often, these people are overlooked or ignored, and others act as though nothing is going on. There has been an unusually high number of femicides since the beginning of the pandemic, and this trend is continuing. If every one of us took the time to recognize what is going on, to do something and to try to help people who are dealing with violence against women, we could surely make a difference and potentially prevent someone from becoming a victim. Anyone could be a victim at any time, in any place, because others turn a blind eye and pretend as though nothing is going on.
I wanted to say a little something given that today is December 6. It is extremely important and is directly connected to the bill we are debating today. This bill would provide meaningful protections against intimidation and harassment of health care workers. This type of intimidation has no place in our society.
The Thetford police force has released its 2020 annual report, and I bring this up because we will be calling on police officers to enforce a law that would eliminate or reduce instances of harassment of health care workers, essential workers and our guardian angels who have been there for us since the beginning of the pandemic.
The police are very aware of the situation and the problems, and they too wish they had the means to intervene. For example, they intervened 315 times in situations involving people with mental health issues, which is an increase of 17% from 2019 to 2020. Even though the number of suicides and attempted suicides decreased by 3% in the region during the same period, police expect an increase in this type of intervention in the coming weeks and months, as indicated in the report.
These police officers have been there from the beginning. I think we should spare a thought for them, as they will have to enforce these laws and implement these measures, while respecting people's right to protest peacefully.
Looking at everything that has happened since the beginning of the pandemic, many of our health care workers, our guardian angels, shared with us that they were exhausted dealing with an illness that they knew practically nothing about. They were not sufficiently protected and feared for their family members and friends. They also had to work overtime, sometimes 16 hours straight. It was extremely exhausting for all health care workers.
As the situation evolved, we unfortunately saw more and more people protesting against these very workers who were putting their heart and soul into trying to save people, our neighbours, our uncles, our aunts, our grandmothers and grandfathers from this horrible virus, which has been gripping our society since March 2020. That is on top of the stress at work caused by this unknown virus and professional burnout. I think it is about time that the government intervened to protect and, above all, to recognize these workers.
I, too, want to recognize the entire profession. I am thinking of the nurses, who have done an extraordinary job and who are also stretched thin. It is not only them, however; I am also thinking of the orderlies and the support staff. I am thinking of those who disinfect our hospitals. We do not often talk about them, but they are directly on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. I am thinking of the administrative staff who are there to greet us in hospitals and who surely have also had to go through a very difficult time. I am thinking of the lab technicians who handle this virus to determine which of us have come into contact with it.
All these individuals deserve the respect and, most importantly, the protection of the government and fellow members of the public. They should not be harassed or threatened. I am thinking of the dedicated physicians and specialists. I am also thinking of the child care workers who, in taking care of our children, must also deal with the additional stress of the pandemic every day, because young children do not have access to vaccination and are a potential target of this accursed virus, even though its effects on them are not as serious.
I am thinking of teachers, of police officers, whom I mentioned earlier, and of paramedics and social workers, who also have to go out and see a lot of people because of mental health issues. At the very least, all of these workers should be protected by their government against harassment and intimidation.
For these reasons, I will certainly support this initiative, especially since it was included in the platform proposed by the member for Durham, the leader of the official opposition, during the last election campaign. He wanted to introduce a bill to protect critical infrastructure, including in health care.
I am also doing this for my daughter, who is currently studying to be a nurse. She has the calling and the drive, and she wants to help and to serve. I think that we should support and encourage her, not discourage her.
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View Julie Vignola Profile
BQ (QC)
View Julie Vignola Profile
2021-12-06 12:31
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Mr. Speaker, I think that we agree on how important it is to protect the full complement of health care workers, including orderlies and custodians, as my colleague was saying. These people are extremely important. It is unacceptable that these workers are being harassed when all they want is to do their job.
However, Bill C-3 has another part to it, namely 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated workers. My colleague has not said anything about this, and I would like to know what he thinks.
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View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that, for the benefit of all health care workers, this bill must be passed, yes.
The government also wanted to include in this bill 10 days of sick leave for federally regulated workers.
During a pandemic like the one we are going through, all workers, not just those under federal jurisdiction, should have access to sick leave and whatever else they need to help them continue working, take care of their families, and, most importantly, take care of themselves.
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View Dane Lloyd Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, my grandmother works at the hospital. We have seen the intimidation during these protests. Could the member speak to the importance of ensuring that we stand behind our health care workers during this very difficult time?
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View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question. They are counting on us to do the right thing, to protect them from the bad attitudes we see in public sometimes. If we are not there for them, how can we count on them to protect us and take care of us? I totally agree with my colleague that we need to do what we can to achieve the goal of protecting them from the bad behaviour that we see are seeing in our society.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague a larger and broader question. I think we can all agree that we need to ensure that our nurses, our health care professionals and all front-line workers know how grateful we are and how much we support them.
Does the member have any reflections on what it says about us as a society that anyone would attack nurses, or try to block them or ill patients in an ambulance from making it to a hospital? What on earth has happened to us? I cannot believe we need a bill like this, even though I recognize we do.
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View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. However, I would need more than 30 seconds to try and analyze our current society.
I will therefore go back to what I was talking about at the very beginning of my speech, namely, violence against women, which is still happening in our society today.
Despite tragedies like the one at the Polytechnique and the fact people are talking more and more about this type of violence in the media, it seems that some still suffer from this hard-to-treat disease.
Society needs to address this and find ways to protect victims. Most importantly, we also need to work to prevent this from happening, before women become victims.
There are groups that work to prevent violence, and some focus on abusive men. These men have access to certain resources, but they must first recognize that they need them.
It all comes back to what I said earlier. Each of us has a duty to go see our neighbours and let them know what resources are currently available. We must no longer turn a blind eye, but rather take action and direct these individuals to the appropriate resources.
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View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, this is my first time rising in the House since the election, so it is my turn to thank the voters of LaSalle—Émard—Verdun for placing their trust in me for the third time. I will do my best to represent them as their MP.
I would also like to draw everyone's attention to the fact that today is December 6. As a Montrealer, a Canadian and a Quebecker, the memory of what happened in Montreal on December 6 never fails to move me. Fourteen young female engineering students lost their lives. I will do my best to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.
I am pleased to speak at the second reading debate on Bill C-3, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code, which I introduced alongside the Minister of Labour last week. I will focus my remarks on the Criminal Code amendments contained in the bill.
I am proud of Bill C-3, but I will be honest. I am disappointed, as was the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands a moment ago, that we are having to propose criminal law reforms to explicitly protect health care workers and patients against intimidation and obstruction.
Since the start of the global pandemic 20 months ago, the health sector in Canada has faced unprecedented challenges. Health professionals have been working relentlessly and under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to save lives. A Statistics Canada survey revealed that seven in 10 health care workers reported worsening mental health due to the pandemic. However, that is only part of the story.
On top of the strain on mental health, our health professionals are also facing violence in the workplace.
Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told Canadians, during a news conference on this bill, that preliminary results from the 2021 National Physician Health Survey suggested that three out of four physicians had experienced intimidation, bullying and harassment in the workplace. She went further to say, “one in three say that this happens regularly. This number jumps to 80% of female physicians.” These numbers are telling me a deeply disturbing story, especially when we look at the impact on people who identify as female in the health profession.
Most Canadians have shown tremendous respect for our health care workers and have followed the guidance of public health authorities. Unfortunately, a small number of individuals refuse to believe the authorities or follow evidence-based public health measures. An even smaller group has even uttered threats, including death threats. These people have also committed acts of violence against health workers who were simply doing their jobs by providing essential care to Canadians.
Violence against health care workers is a long-standing problem. Ever since the pandemic hit, health care workers have expressed concern about their ability to keep doing their jobs. Some have even been forced to quit. Moreover, people who need health care services have expressed similar concern about their ability to keep accessing health care facilities safely.
I cannot stress enough how disappointed I was to learn of this behaviour. There is simply no place in Canada for such conduct, and we will not tolerate it. The ability to express ourselves and to protest what we do not believe is right is a cherished freedom in this country, but Canadians understand the difference between expressing our views and threatening those we disagree with.
We have seen the consequences of this abuse. For example, Dr. Gretchen Roedde of Latchford, Ontario has decided to retire early due to online abuse. This small town could lose a doctor because of this kind of behaviour.
Shockingly, this abuse and harassment even extends to children. Nolan Blaszczyk, a seven-year-old boy, faced a torrent of verbal abuse when he went with his mother to get his vaccine. Abby Blaszczyk was told that she was murdering her son and she was committing genocide. How is this acceptable?
As everyone knows, the Criminal Code includes a broad range of general offences to protect all Canadians. The Criminal Code already prohibits some of the despicable behaviour we have seen over the past year, including assault, criminal harassment, intimidation and threats. Today we see just how urgent it is to go even further.
Enhancing these existing measures by explicitly prohibiting this conduct in the health care sector has become necessary and urgent.
During the recent election campaign, as COVID‑19-related protests began to intensify around health facilities, the Prime Minister committed to protecting our health care workers and ensuring all Canadians had access to health care without fear of threat or intimidation. The measures introduced in Bill C-3 would fully address these commitments and ensure a broad range of responses to various forms of harmful conduct facing the health sector.
The bill would create two new offences specific to the health context.
First, a new intimidation offence would be enacted to protect both health workers and health seekers. Intimidation is already criminalized as a general offence, but these amendments would give police and prosecutors additional tools to specifically protect our health care workers and users. Furthermore, they would provide for a higher maximum sentence for intimidation of 10 years. The current intimidation offence carries a maximum sentence of five years.
This new offence would extend to health care workers similar protections to those justice system participants, people like judges, jurors, witnesses, as well as journalists who report on organized crime. Intimidation is treated as a more serious offence when committed to impede them in their important functions.
That specific intimidation offence was created in response to a series of incidents in which prosecutors, witnesses and others were intimidated by criminal organizations to destabilize the criminal justice system. Similar to what we are doing now, Parliament's response then was to enhance criminal law protections for such intimidation with a distinct offence and an enhanced penalty. It is important to protect those who are working to improve our country, whether through the health care system or legal system.
The new intimidation offence would prohibit any act intended to promote fear in health care professionals in order to stop them from performing their professional duties. As noted above, this includes health care professionals working at abortion clinics, other frequent target of threats and intimidation. Anyone who works to assist health professionals in the performance of their duties would also be protected by the intimidation offence. Depending on the circumstances, this could be a professional support worker or clinic staff working alongside a physician or nurse.
It takes a community of health workers to deliver health services in our country, so those who assist health care professionals in carrying out their duties are rightly covered by this offence.
The proposed offence would also protect anyone seeking or receiving health care services. Any behaviour intended to incite fear in individuals seeking health care services, for the purpose of dissuading those individuals from obtaining services, would be expressly prohibited.
Creating this new offence will also allow us to increase the maximum penalty for this behaviour. The new offence will be a hybrid offence and will carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, on indictment. This is a harsher penalty than the general offence of intimidation, which is five years.
Increasing the penalty in this way sends a very clear message that Parliament strongly condemns these forms of behaviour directed at the health sector.
There is another point that I want to be very clear about. The proposed intimidation offence can be committed in person or through electronic means, including social media and other online channels. Media outlets across the country are reporting that health care providers are being threatened and intimidated on social media. Medical associations, including the Canadian Medical Association and the Ontario Medical Association, have confirmed that threats and intimidation are occurring not only in person, but also online. The offence of intimidation would apply regardless of the means of communication.
In addition to protecting the heroes in the health care sector, the bill also creates a new offence that would prohibit intentionally obstructing or interfering with a person's ability to access a health facility. The offence would protect access to any and every place where health services are provided, including a hospital, a mobile clinic, an abortion clinic, a vaccine clinic, a doctor's office and even doctors' homes if that is where they provide their services. This new offence is hybrid and will carry a maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment.
I want to be very clear about one thing. Nothing in the proposed legislation would undermine workers' ability to strike or Canadians' ability to peacefully protest. Our government stands by the charter and the freedoms it guarantees, including freedom of speech and the right to strike. That is why this offence would expressly exclude communicative activity that remains peaceful and lawful, such as strike action or peaceful protest, even if it has a minor impact on access. Minor inconvenience for those seeking to get into buildings is a fair price to pay to protect our cherished liberties, but behaviour that is threatening or violent or that creates a major impediment to access is rightly criminalized. This is the current state of our criminal law and the bill would only enhance that.
The legislation provides for a definition of “health professional” to clarify the scope of the offences and how they are intended to be applied to police and prosecutors. A health professional would be defined as a person who is entitled, under the laws of a province or territory, to provide a health service, such as doctors or nurses. Given that the provinces and territories are responsible for the health sector and regulation of health professionals and services, the definition is intended to be broad and capable of being applied in accordance with each jurisdiction's health system.
I would now like to talk about the sentencing reforms in Bill  C‑3. These changes address the concerns that health professionals have had for a while now, and, in fact, parliamentarians from all sides have presented similar reforms in the past through private members' bills.
The bill would require that, in cases where there is evidence showing that the offence was committed against a health care provider who was carrying out their duties, sentencing courts treat this evidence as an aggravating factor. Aggravating factors will also apply if the offence involved impeding another person from obtaining health services. Individuals on both sides of our health care system must be protected, meaning health care providers and their patients.
Support workers, also referred to as orderlies, are also vulnerable to violence in the workplace. Even though they are not regulated in many regions across the country like health professionals are, they still provide care and essential support to many Canadians. Therefore, the aggravating factors proposed in this bill expressly include personal care services.
These sentencing reforms are based on long-standing calls from stakeholders. Indeed, during our news conference following the introduction of the bill, the presidents of the CMA and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions affirmed the importance of these measures to our health workers.
The aggravating factors also implement a recommendation of the 2019 report conducted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health entitled “Violence Facing Health Care Workers in Canada”. The report requested the Government of Canada 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. The same report documented that health care workers have four times the rate of workplace violence than any other profession, despite most of this violence being unreported due to a culture of acceptance.
While the pandemic has created new challenges for health care workers and exacerbated the violence they face, as I mentioned before, those who provide abortion services and the women who access them have also experienced unacceptable threats and violence. It was not so long ago, in the 1990s, that several physicians in Canada were shot because of their work providing abortion services. Abortion clinics have been attacked and blocked. Those seek abortion services have been harassed, threatened and intimidated by individuals opposed to abortion. The safety and security of abortion health care workers and patients continue to be a troubling issue. Our government will protect abortion service providers alongside other health professionals. We support the rights of women to control their bodies and have unimpeded access to abortion services along with other health services.
I hope—like all members here today, I am sure—that health care workers will one day be able to do their jobs free from violence and can feel safe and valued when they are caring for us. The pandemic is not over, as we know, and neither is the need to protect our health care workers.
These workers play a very important role in the lives of all Canadians. Thanks to them, we have been able to fend off this devastating pandemic and make recovery plans for our society and our country. The proposed reforms will enhance existing measures in the Criminal Code and they have broad support within the medical community. For these reasons, I urge all members to support Bill  C‑3, which is urgent, important and necessary.
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View John Barlow Profile
CPC (AB)
View John Barlow Profile
2021-12-06 12:52
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Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the minister was talking about the importance of these protests in that we need to protect the rights of Canadians. I could not agree more. My private member's bill, Bill C-205, went through the parliamentary process in the last Parliament, made it very close to the finish line and was about protecting the rights of farm families and ranch families from protests on farms and on their properties.
When we talk about the rights of Canadians, I think that goes both ways. I was honoured to have the support of the Liberal Party at committee as well as having the agriculture minister be in support of that initiative during the election.
I am wondering if the justice minister will also support Bill C-205, if I am able to bring it back this Parliament.
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View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it is always wonderful to field a few pucks from the hon. member's part of the House.
We were open as a party in the last Parliament, as the government in the last Parliament, to that bill. While I cannot commit as a minister of my cabinet to doing that right now, I can assure the hon. member that we will be open.
There is a general protection, as the hon. member knows, against intimidation and violence, which I mentioned in the course of my speech. It carries a five-year penalty. We have taken specific measures in the judicial sphere, we are now proposing to take specific measures in the health care sphere, and I would assure the hon. member that we would be open to considering this measure in other places and spaces.
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View Luc Thériault Profile
BQ (QC)
View Luc Thériault Profile
2021-12-06 12:54
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Mr. Speaker, the Quebec government did not wait for the Liberal government to pass a law to deal with these types of protests held near institutions. That said, I would be remiss if I did not remind my distinguished colleague of the reason why we find ourselves discussing Bill C-3 about two weeks before Christmas.
Earlier, the government referred to the 2019 report from the Standing Committee on Health on violence faced by health care workers. The report, issued two years ago, pointed out that seven out of 10 workers were experiencing deteriorating mental health. The fear and intimidation is only going to worsen their situation if they return to the system.
We are clearly in favour of the principle of such a bill. However, why do we find ourselves today with a government that called an election, dragged its feet on recalling Parliament after the election, and consequently delayed other very important bills, in particular the bill in memory of Émilie Sansfaçon, which sought to give people with cancer up to 50 weeks of EI sickness benefits?
This also had an impact on the work of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. It had one year to submit its report, but it will have barely four months to discuss such a critical issue. Does my colleague not find it hard to be part of a government that puts off critical and important problems like these?
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View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. It is always a pleasure to work with him on different projects, including on medical assistance in dying.
In a democracy, it is always important to canvass the people directly. That is what we do when we have an election. We have a Westminster parliamentary system, and it has been working well for Canada and the provinces for years. Elections are part of that system.
I can assure my colleague that we will work hard on Bill C-3 and on all of our common goals in other areas, such as medical assistance in dying, which we want to improve by taking another look at what we did in 2016 and 2020. I can assure my colleague that we are here to work together.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Justice knows, the NDP is supportive of the principle of protecting health care workers, and the member for Burnaby South, the NDP leader, and the NDP caucus have been the strongest advocates for the 10 days of paid sick leave in Parliament. We fought to have the temporary sick leave program brought in. The government implemented that badly, I think it is fair to say. In this bill, although we support it very much in principle, there are two weaknesses that need to be addressed.
First off, in terms of protecting health care workers, there is no amendment that has been accepted by the government that would explicitly protect legal union activities from the risk of prosecution under the new Criminal Code amendments. Then, in terms of paid sick leave, as members know, we actually would have a delay, even if the program in the bill is implemented, that would mean that the first day of paid sick leave would take over a month for a person to access, and it would take 11 months for a worker to access the 10 days of paid sick leave that are so important to protect the worker, the family and also to protect the public.
Will the government explicitly say that it will accept those amendments at committee stage?
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View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the question on sick leave, I will defer to my colleague, the Minister of Labour, who I believe spoke in this place on Friday, to work with members of the opposition, with respect to making sure the bill is in a satisfactory form to achieve the goals we have in common.
With respect to the Criminal Code amendments and the right of labour to organize, I would like to assure the hon. member that we actually crafted the bill with the language from the jurisprudence in the cases that explicitly protect a worker's right to picket, go on strike, organize and express their political and social views in that format.
Of course, I am open to working, if there is a way to make the language more precise, but we do feel we have taken the actual wording from the cases that enshrine this right.
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View Yasir Naqvi Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Yasir Naqvi Profile
2021-12-06 12:59
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Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Justice along with the Minister of Labour for bringing forward this very important piece of legislation.
I think a lot of us can recount horrible incidences that we saw during the peak period of vaccination, when our hospitals that are so critical for the health and well being of our communities were being picketed by individuals who were just trying to prevent people from getting access to medical care. In my riding of Ottawa Centre, where the Civic Hospital is located, we saw picketing taking place with the sole intention of preventing people from getting important health care. This type of legislation would ensure that members of our community can get health care, whether to get a vaccine or just to visit their loved ones.
My precise question to the minister is around protecting abortion services, as well, which I fully support. When I was the attorney general in Ontario, we brought a similar piece of legislation called the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act. I was wondering if the minister could elaborate as to how this particular piece of legislation, if passed, would interact with provincial legislation, such as in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, which are the provinces that have similar protections for women to access abortion services.
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View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for his recent appointment to the position of parliamentary secretary.
First off all, to repeat, abortion services are health care services and abortion clinics are health care clinics. Hence, they are protected. With respect to the larger interoperation between the federal use of the criminal law power and provincial use of property and civil rights protections and other heads of provincial power, the answer is that they interoperate very well. Provinces can enact measures to protect spaces. What we would be doing with the criminal law power is protecting the impeding of access, as well as the threat of intimidation. Each has its own standards, both in terms of the mental and actus reus elements of crime, and they fit very well with what provinces have done.
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View Lori Idlout Profile
NDP (NU)
View Lori Idlout Profile
2021-12-06 13:02
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Mr. Speaker, Qujannamiik, uqaqtittiji. This is a very important discussion, and I would like to ask the Minister of Justice about an issue that is very important to Nunavut.
How was Johannes Rivoire allowed to leave Canada? He is now protected in France. I would like to hear from the minister what the government plans to do about this criminal who is hiding in France at the moment.
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View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.
As I have stated a number of times publicly, and has been stated publicly, the specific proceedings against Johannes Rivoire were stayed by the Prosecution Service. I cannot resurrect the stay; however, there is always the possibility that further evidence might be brought forward by other complainants or other witnesses. It would at that point be something that the police, the Prosecution Service and ultimately the Justice Department and the International Assistance Group would have to look at.
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View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from Beauport—Limoilou.
Furthermore, as today is December 6, the 32nd anniversary of the tragic Polytechnique massacre, in which 14 women were killed just for being women, I would like to offer my support and solidarity and say that we remember.
Let us return now to Bill C‑3, which is currently under consideration. This is a two-pronged bill: it amends the Canada Labour Code, and it amends the Criminal Code. These two statutes do not address the same issues.
What we do know about this bill is that it stems from a commitment the government made during the last election campaign, the one that should not have happened. During that campaign, the government stated that it wanted to increase the number of sick days for workers who have none and strengthen the Criminal Code with more severe penalties for people who impede the provision of health care or intimidate health care workers.
Since we are talking about two jurisdictions here, and since this bill will definitely be worth studying in committee, I am wondering which would be the best committee to study it.
The government thought it would be a good idea to significantly strengthen the measures set out in the Criminal Code that penalize people who intimidate or harass patients and health care workers, but is that the right solution to this problem?
We will need to examine this bill to be able to answer that question properly. We understand the purpose of the measure, which is to make it clear to health care workers and those who need access to medical care that we will never allow them to be intimidated or afraid to get care. I think everyone understands the message, which may have been necessary.
However, as a health care worker myself, even though it has been some time since I worked in the field, what I am wondering is whether our labour laws, our workplace health and safety laws, also protect the workplace from acts of violence, intimidation and harassment.
Perhaps that should have been considered. Besides the incidents that we all witnessed in Quebec and the provinces, the major unions have been long calling for stronger measures against violence, intimidation and harassment to be included in our labour laws, because employers also have an obligation to provide a safe workplace.
In Quebec, anti-vaxxers have protested in front of primary schools. They have also protested to a lesser extent in front of hospitals and vaccination clinics. The Government of Quebec did not wait for the federal government before it significantly increased fines and public safety measures. That is why we wonder if strengthening the Criminal Code is the right solution.
The Canadian Labour Congress made it clear, and we agree, that we must avoid depriving individuals of the fundamental right to associate, to unionize, to strike, to picket and to mobilize. It is a major right guaranteed by the Constitution, and we must ensure that it is included in this bill.
As for the Canada Labour Code, the Minister of Labour stated in his speech on Friday that there are gaps in the social safety net. That is not news. Canada's antiquated labour laws are sorely in need of attention. Fifty-eight percent, or 580,000, of Canada's workers do not have paid leave, and it is time to give them 10 days of paid sick leave. We could also amend the Canada Labour Code to increase the minimum wage as the government promised in the last budget. That would send a clear message in the current circumstances that we are protecting workers, who should have good working conditions and good wages.
Speaking of gaps in the social safety net, the government has forgotten one important aspect, namely, the employment insurance system. I am thinking specifically of people who are sick. The government is failing thousands of people who have no paid sick leave, no wage loss program and only 15 weeks of sickness benefits. This really is a gap in the social safety net.
Why is the government introducing a bill that targets the Canada Labour Code and the Criminal Code, which are two different systems, rather than strengthening labour laws and the EI system to protect people who are sick and have nothing to fall back on when they become seriously ill?
Why did the government not ensure that the constitutional right to protest and to freedom of expression were properly protected in the Criminal Code, if that were its intention? It will be important to study those two matters in committee.
We support the bill in principle, with a bit of fine-tuning.
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2021-12-06 13:12
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Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for talking about the importance of protecting workers.
I have asked other parties this same question. Throughout the health crisis, medical health professionals said the top two things that could be done to stop the spread of COVID were for people to get vaccinated and for governments to implement paid sick days. The government chose to drag this legislation out. Here we are 20 months later, and it is finally implementing paid sick days. In the meantime, people have lost their lives.
A parallel crisis is happening in our country: the overdose crisis. Medical health professionals are saying that we need to decriminalize the personal possession of illicit drugs and to provide safe spaces, which are the first steps to end the stigma against people who are using illicit drugs.
Does my colleague agree that the government has failed to listen to health professionals' guidance on the overdose crisis because of the stigma? Does she also agree that they can end it, and that we need to listen to health professionals when it comes to guidance to respond to emergencies much faster? People are dying as a result of inaction.
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View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, a number of issues could have been raised, but the government determines the legislative agenda, so I will not comment on what could have been done. Many things could have been done, but they are well outside the scope of this bill.
Granting sick leave is the bare minimum. Quebec already does it. Other provinces do not. Granting sick leave will send a clear signal, but workers need more protection. Amending the Criminal Code is a start, but this issue is much bigger than that.
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