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View Steven Blaney Profile
Thank you very much, Chair Kramp, and I also want to thank you for recognizing the members of the Canadian safety community who are accompanying me this morning.
Of course, there is one simple reason why I am here today. It's to seek your support for allowing the resources necessary for this safety community to pursue its mission throughout the year.
In a more administrative sense, I am here to seek your support in the context of your study of the main estimates 2015-16 and of the Public Safety portfolio, as well as to answer your questions in the first hour. Experts will answer your questions in the second half of this meeting.
View Steven Blaney Profile
First things first, Mr. Chair. I want to thank all the members of this important committee for their important work over the course of the last week and the last month in their study of three major and significant pieces of legislation, the first one being the protection from terrorists act. Next is the anti-terrorism act, and I am thankful for the support we got in the House of Commons yesterday. The common sense firearms licensing act should also be on the floor very soon.
The Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act received royal assent on April 23 and represents the first major changes in three decades to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. Basically, its purpose was to clarify the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence—
View Steven Blaney Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As I was saying, the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act aims to clarify the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in other words to confirm that CSIS has the capacity to act outside the country and to exchange information with our allies, which is especially important in the context of individuals who travel outside the country for terrorist purposes.
This first element provides legal clarification. It confirms the existing power of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to carry out activities abroad and to protect its informers and its employees.
This was the first significant law, but there were gaps to be filled, which is why our government introduced a second bill in 2015 dealing with our anti-terrorism measures, in order to provide tools to not only the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, but also the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other departments and federal organizations to break this silo culture that exists in federal agencies when it comes to sharing information on national security.
The measures that were passed yesterday in the House of Commons and that will soon go before the Senate will enable the government to reduce the threat specifically in the case of jihadist terrorist activities before they manifest themselves. We will be able to intervene at the start of the process, particularly in the context of radicalization, for instance, by criminalizing the promotion of terrorism in general and by being able to shut down websites containing terrorist propaganda. Obviously, we are going to prevent radicalized individuals from leaving Canada to take part in terrorist activities. We are well aware of the growing number of Canadians who may wish to leave the country to commit terrorist acts.
I also want to point out that in the 2015 budget, which was tabled just a few weeks ago, our government is committing to increasing national security resources by close to $300 million, especially for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as the Canada Border Services Agency.
Another important thing to note in the budget is that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service watchdog, the review committee, will see its budget doubled in order to enhance its surveillance of our security agency.
The third bill, the common sense firearms licensing act, as you know, will provide safe and sensible firearms policies for Canadians. You have reviewed this bill already.
The goal is simple. As you know, it's to remove red tape while keeping Canadians safe from gun crime. As Greg Farrant of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters said, this bill:
...proposes reasonable amendments to...the Criminal Code that make sense, that eliminate red tape, and introduce additional public safety measures. It does not make guns easier to get. It does not allow firearms owners to transport them at will wherever they want, and it does not put guns in the hands of the “wrong people”.
On the contrary, Mr. Chairman, as you know, anyone who is convicted of domestic violence will see their licence removed. We are also reinforcing the capability for the CBSA to exchange information with the RCMP so that we have better control and can restrict the importation, particularly in the case of illegal firearms. We are making mandatory training for anyone who is willing to possess or acquire a firearm.
There was a major development over the winter in our relationship with the Americans in terms of reinforcing our security measures and the fluidity at the border as part of the “Beyond the Border” agreement.
I had the privilege of signing a customs pre-clearance agreement with the U.S. Secretary of State, Jeh Johnson, in Washington. It was one of the pillars of the “Beyond the Border” agreement, and we have now accomplished this important step. I tabled the agreement before Parliament when I returned from Washington.
The agreement is based on the success of existing pre-clearance operations. It has been around for over 60 years in the airline industry. These operations paved the way for customs pre-clearance for land, rail and maritime transport. So it is an important step that will help us improve the fluidity of transportation and movement of goods and people at the border, while reinforcing security mechanisms.
As part of our efforts to protect Canadians from violent crime, we recently introduced the life means life act to ensure that a life sentence means life in prison.
As you can see, our government has one priority, which is to keep Canadians safe. This has been a consistent theme for our government since we were elected in 2006. This commitment to protecting Canadians is reflected in the main estimates for 2015-16.
The total amount that you are studying this morning is $8.5 billion for the fiscal year. This is an increase of about 1% in expenditures over last year. I would like to provide you with the key points.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is requesting $537 million for 2015-16 to ensure national security. The Canada Border Services Agency is seeking a total of approximately $1.8 billion, an increase of 2.2%. Mr. Portelance will be able to explain how he intends to invest those amounts. There are major capital projects to improve the physical facilities and to enable a faster flow of passengers through our border crossings.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is at the heart of our plan and plays an important role in managing border security. With the $2.6 billion requested for the fiscal year, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will continue to integrate its commitments when it comes to implementing legislation related to cross-border activity within the “Beyond the Border” agreement signed by President Obama and our Prime Minister Harper.
As you know, the Correctional Service of Canada contributes to public safety by making sure that the correctional system actually corrects criminal behaviour. To perform this vital function, the Correctional Service of Canada is seeking total funding of approximately $2.4 billion for the coming fiscal year. This represents an increase of approximately 1% over the last fiscal year.
My colleague who is with me today, Mr. Guimond, is the Deputy Minister of Public Safety. He coordinates all public safety operations with the agencies, but also those that relate to natural disasters. He is seeking funding of approximately $1.2 billion for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which is an increase of 2.5% over the previous fiscal year.
It is worth noting that this request from Public Safety Canada is an increase of $86.4 million, but that it affects the disaster financial assistance arrangements, so that in 2015-16 we expect to transfer $848 million to the provinces that were hit with natural disasters. These amounts will make it possible to meet existing and future obligations to communities seriously affected by flooding and other natural disasters.
Mr. Chair, you will probably remember that in January, our government announced a modernization of the disaster financial assistance agreement, which adjusts the eligibility threshold to take into account inflation and ensure the program's financial viability. This also includes additional measures for the national disaster mitigation program. The goal is to support the provinces in their projects to reduce the impact of natural disasters.
It is also important to keep in mind that the fixed maximum rate of 90% for large-scale disasters is maintained. Our government is there to help. In early April, I invited the provinces to submit projects to reduce natural disasters and their impact, especially with respect to flood risks. It may include measures and studies relating to flood areas.
To conclude, I am pleased to present to you today an impressive track record realized by our agencies. I will be pleased to answer your questions. Obviously, these are large amounts, but they are necessary to ensure the safety of Canadians. I would like to assure you that this money is being well used by the representatives of our agencies. I would like to congratulate them on the important work they have done over the year, during which they have been particularly called upon, and I'm thinking about what happened just a few metres from here.
Thank you.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Thank you, Mr. Norlock. As you are a former police officer, your support at this committee is appreciated.
We've seen over the last months an increased demand for tracking of individuals who would be willing to travel abroad to commit terrorist attacks or to do so on our soil. We've heard loud and clear from both Commissioner Paulson and the head of our intelligence agency that they have had to temporarily reallocate resources related to tackling that threat.
That's why in the budget we are providing additional resources to recognize the fact that while there is a terrorist threat in this country, there are other issues that need to be addressed. We are well aware of the role of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, our national police. They are dealing with organized crime, money laundering, and drugs. They have a large mandate. We have to make sure they are fulfilling their mandate in all their capacities as well our intelligence service. That's why there is a provision of $300 million in the budget.
You may also notice, as I've mentioned in my remarks, that we are increasing the funding of the watchdog for the intelligence agency, which will increase and expand their capability to monitor the work of our intelligence agency, as they've done over the last 30 years.
But there is also funding for increasing security for the parliamentary precinct. As you know, there has been a motion, voted on by both the House of Commons and the Senate, to invite the RCMP to coordinate the security activity here on the Hill. This again is a great outcome and will ensure there are no silos among different security agencies here on the Hill. That will be implemented in the coming year.
So there is funding for the RCMP, the CBSA, and the agency in terms of security, and there is additional funding for the parliamentary precinct.
Also, we don't want to neglect the increasing threat our country is facing in terms of cybersecurity. That's why in the budget there is additional funding for increasing the capability of the government to protect itself from cyber-attacks.
Also, to be able to keep on reaching out to industries, I am co-chairing with our deputy minister and with former minister John Manley in working with the executive officers of many major telecommunications companies and those in the banking industry. We need to make sure that Canadian industries are protected from cyber-attacks that would try to paralyze our systems or do espionage. That's why we are increasing funding in the cyber-strategy that we introduced already a few years ago: we feel there's a growing need to be filled.
In a nutshell, there's $300 million for increasing public funding for our security agencies and for increasing the security for the parliamentary precinct, and there's also additional funding for cybersecurity.
View Steven Blaney Profile
It's fairly simple. In 1970 the government introduced to the provinces a program to support local communities faced with flooding and natural disasters, whether they be in Alberta, the Atlantic provinces, or Quebec. This funding has some mechanisms that can provide, in the case of a large disaster, up to 90% of the cost of the natural disaster.
What happened, actually, is that the program had not been modified or updated since 1970. What we realized is that $1 in 1970 is now worth $6 today. There was a disproportionate contribution, I would say, from the federal government when compared to the original concept at the time the program was launched, so what we did is increase it. We actually took half of the indexation. We are now at $3 instead of being at the actual current value, which would be $6. We've gone halfway. We've put what was $1 in 1970 up to $3 now, which would in fact be $6, and from now on it will be indexed. This is to ensure the sustainability of the program.
Also, In the meantime, we've launched our mitigation program, which is providing funding for all provinces and territories up to $200 million. It is there to help build the intelligence and the knowledge in order to be better prepared for natural disasters. We are also reaching out to the private sector. We are seeing very nice initiatives now, such as in Alberta, where some private insurance companies are beginning to offer private flood insurance.
There are a lot of things happening in that field. We are willing to keep a leading role by providing funding and working with the provinces and territories to shift from fixing what is broken to preventing those natural disasters from having costly impacts on infrastructure by mitigating and preventing these impacts.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Thank you for your question, Mr. Garrison.
I was on the streets of Surrey last year. I did a tour with an RCMP officer in some troubling areas of Surrey. At the same time, I was impressed to see how the community is reacting to this important challenge of making their community safer.
As you know, since 2006 our government has been committed to tackling violent crimes and gang violence. You may be aware that more than 30 bills and measures have been undertaken, especially on drive-by shootings, which is a factor and is an important measure in terms of increased mandatory minimum sentences.
The first pillar of our approach is to strengthen the tools that our police officers have to tackle gang violence. Mr. Sandhu was given the opportunity to support those measures in the House and unfortunately we did not benefit from his support, but I'm glad that I was able to move forward—my predecessor was as well—on those important measures by the Conservatives.
That being said, it is the first pillar. We have also invested more than $3 million in the community of Surrey to prevent youth from being radicalized. We have put in place our national crime prevention strategy that has proven to be effective in its results. We are always looking at opportunities to work with the community and the provincial government to increase the measures that are taking place to reduce gang violence.
I've also met with member of Parliament Nina Grewal, who is the member from Surrey. I've met with community leaders. Once again, I cannot stress enough how this community is getting involved in making their community safer by supporting the efforts of the police.
Third and lastly, and as important as the two other pillars, we are also working with the Government of British Columbia and the City of Surrey to provide more boots on the ground. I've been working on this issue with the commissioner. He's been a great support.
These are the three measures we have taken. I would suggest to your colleague and you that one way to make sure that we are able to continue to support the community of Surrey is by supporting the budget, in which there is $300 million. This funding will be allocated to terrorism, will relieve the RCMP from the reallocation of resources, and will also make it easier to send more police officers into the streets of Surrey.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Once again, we've increased the budget of the RCMP seven times over the course of the last decade. Since we got into power, there was an increase of one third. That's the reality. There is an increase this year of $2.6 billion.
Once again, the best way for the New Democrats to support more resources is to support the current budget in which there is additional funding for the RCMP.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Mr. Garrison, I ask you to take a look at the 2006 budget compared to this one. There has been an increase of over 30%. That's the reality. The reality is that we have invested in improving security. I will also tell you frankly that we are not going to hide to carry out a rationalization exercise. Remember, Mr. Garrison, that we are here to manage taxpayers' money. It is important that they get something for their money, and the best way to do that is with rationalization. That's what the RCMP did but, at the same time, there is a budgetary increase.
When it comes time to vote, I encourage you to support the budget to provide more resources to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and to our security system.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Thank you very much, Ms. James. If I may, I will answer in my mother tongue.
I had the opportunity to meet the sister of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and all of his family members. Prime Minister Harper invited his mother and members of his family to Ottawa to present them with the flag that was flying atop the Peace Tower on October 20, the day Mr. Vincent was hit by a vehicle driven by an individual.
The members of the committee must remember this because they were there when Patrice Vincent's sister, Louise Vincent, came to testify. She told this same committee that she deeply believed that, with the measures adopted last night, the perpetrator of this horrible act, Martin Couture-Rouleau, would have been behind bars and her brother would still be alive. At that time, she encouraged committee members to support Bill C-51, which aims to provide additional tools to our police forces.
A few days after the attack, the President of France, Mr. Hollande, visited Ottawa. He clearly described both acts that took place in Canada as terrorist acts. We had a visit from the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who described with no hesitation the acts that took place here as terrorist acts.
As I often say, we have to call a spade a spade. What is a terrorist act? Under the Criminal Code, the definition of a terrorist act is, above all, a dramatic gesture that attacks the authorities. It is ideologically or politically motivated and is also a violent act. Those three elements describe the attack that took place in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the attack by the individual who roamed these halls on October 22, 2014.
I would appeal to the intellectual honesty of the individuals taking part in the debate. We need to rely on the facts and recognize the reality for what it is. In fact, there is a danger in not recognizing the reality for what it is. If we do not make the right diagnosis, we cannot provide the right solutions.
That is what our government, the Department of Justice, the Department of Public Safety and all the agencies have tried to do in preparing the anti-terrorist measures that were tabled in the House at the start of the year. If I may, I would like to quote an Ontario court judge who described the work that is being done. It is important to mention it because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service works in the shadows. We never have an opportunity to tell them that they are doing important work and that they are saving lives.
There is a lot of fuss, a lot of brouhaha. At some point, we need to take the time to thank the people who make sure that we can drive our children to daycare, do our grocery shopping in peace and do our jobs. That is what these people do. The judge was talking about a 34-year-old individual who was found guilty of a terrorist act.
Here's what she said about the terrorist:
You are now a convicted terrorist. ...You have betrayed the trust of your government and your fellow citizens. You have effectively been convicted of treason, an act that invites universal condemnation among sovereign states throughout the world.
But here's what she had to say about the work of our Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The evidence presented in court indicated that the men were seeking to establish a functional terrorist cell in Canada. They might have succeeded if not for—to quote the judge—“the vigilant and tireless” work of our national security agencies.
When do we take the time to thank those who are keeping us safe? The judge did it when she gave that sentence to that individual who was trying to harm other Canadians.
So to answer your question, the first duty of a government is to protect its citizens. This is what I would say we are able to achieve with your support, Madam James, for which I thank you, and with the support of your colleagues and the support of those who have supported this bill, including Mr. Easter here, who yesterday voted in favour of the bill.
I want to thank you because I believe that this is important legislation that will enable us to fill those gaps that were exploited by terrorists to harm other Canadians.
View Steven Blaney Profile
I thank you for your question, Mr. Easter. While I recognize your support yesterday of the important anti-terrorism measures, I strongly disagree with your view of the state of our intelligence community.
In terms of review and oversight, let me take this opportunity to clearly state the difference between oversight and review. On the side of oversight, Mr. Easter, you may be well aware that CSIS itself has an oversight mechanism of its activities that are monitored and supervised by Public Safety. They are to have an oversight of their activity, as I am.
That being said, as you know, there are already existing provisions, but there are also provisions in the bill you supported which provide that every time the intelligence agency infringes on the rights of Canadians, they have to seek consent from the Attorney General and the Department of Justice, and also seek a warrant from a judge. This is the robust mechanism we have in place for oversight. Let me remind you that, to my knowledge, we are the only country for which, in terms of disrupting threats, CSIS, our Canadian intelligence agency, will have to seek a warrant from a judge. This is not happening in other legislation. That is it for robust oversight.
In terms of review, you are right to say that the Security Intelligence Review Committee is doing its job. I would quote for you the director himself, who acknowledged that to have this distance from the ongoing activity gives them more latitude and enables them to do a better job of reviewing the activity of our intelligence agency. As you know, the Auditor General can do review activity at any time, as can the Privacy Commissioner. The Supreme Court itself—this is why I've been saying that SIRC is a Canadian model that is the envy of the world—is saying that SIRC is establishing this balance between procedural rights and privacy and also the national security issue.
Just to conclude, if I may, because this goes right to your question—
View Steven Blaney Profile
Thank you for your question, Ms. Doré Lefebvre.
I am pleased to tell you this morning that the backlog of summary convictions has been completely eliminated. It's important to note that our government has, in a sense, modernized the criminal records suspension process and that the user-pay principle has been introduced.
That said, I must remind you of one thing.
I'm going to turn to Mr. Cenaiko, our director, but I just wanted to mention this.
At one point, there was a backlog of over 30,000 applications, which has been reduced by close to 25,000. Therefore, as we speak, what is left to liquidate are the pardon applications for indictable offences, since they are under the former system. There are a little over 5,000 left. Mr. Cenaiko and his team confirmed that they had the financial resources needed to continue to process this backlog and that they truly intend to achieve that goal.
I will turn to Mr. Cenaiko for additional comments.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Thank you, Ms. Doré Lefebvre. I am always happy to answer your questions during committee meetings or during question period in the House.
Your questions have to do with agreements between the Correctional Service of Canada and non-profit organizations. The Correctional Service of Canada establishes a balance between the resources it already has internally to meet these needs and the services provided by the organizations. Given that I don't have much time, I will ask the commissioner to answer your question in the second hour of the meeting.
View Steven Blaney Profile
I thank you for your question, Ms. Ablonczy, and also for your keen interest in public safety.
Up front, I would like to reassure you. I've used the expression “so-called experts” when we've talked about our anti-terrorism measures. Why? Because anyone who dares to read the bill will see that there are many provisions where the bill is in full compliance with both the office and regulations regarding the privacy of Canadians, and with the Charter of Rights. There are a lot of checks and balances, as has been mentioned earlier, regarding seeking a warrant and the consent of the Attorney General. There also have been amendments to make it clear that in no possible or imaginary way could a protester be targeted by this bill.
There's one thing that we have to be reminded of. This year is the 30th anniversary of CSIS. The director can comment about it. One has to be well aware that intelligence officers are not law enforcement and don't have the capability of making arrests or detentions. It is in their genetic code. That being said, I want to highlight the fact that you have made me aware of those intricacies and links between organized crime, drug trafficking at the border, and terrorism. This, I would say, is certainly an explosive and dangerous cocktail. That is certainly a justification for ensuring that our police officers and the CBSA have the resources they need to keep our border safe and also to work with our partners.
As I've mentioned, there is a provision of $300 million in the budget. I feel that this is needed regarding the threat we are facing, and it's also making sure that we are not putting all our eggs in the same basket. I don't know if this is an English expression, but it certainly is one in French. That is why we need to keep an eye on all the public safety challenges, but once again, terrorism remains the national security priority.
View Steven Blaney Profile
I thank you for the question.
I can certainly reassure you. thanks to the excellent work of our negotiator. The principle of reciprocity is embedded in the agreement, which is in front of the House for in-depth examination. Whatever privilege or mechanism is put in place for U.S. border officers who would be in Canada is reciprocated for any Canadian border officer who would be operating in the United States.
We also built on the long experience we have with the preclearance mode at the airport, which I believe began in 1952. We updated it, built on it, and that's what is in front of us. It is a comprehensive agreement that includes rail, land, marine, and air modes and was received favourably on both sides of the border.
We are also going to work at making the border less of a barrier for trade, especially for what we call visas without.... We will allow Canadian truckers to go into the United States and get back into Canada to shorten their route without having to stop at the border. There is a pilot project. The truckers are really pleased with it. This is a demonstration of the CBSA working at making the border smoother and more fluid for people who legally are just doing trade and willing to increase our trade relationship with our U.S. partner.
View Manon Perreault Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Manon Perreault Profile
2015-05-05 15:29
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for having me here as a witness, ladies and gentlemen. I must say that I am very honoured to present my bill to you. It is called An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. I am happy to be back with you.
The bill has gone through its previous steps and has progressed expeditiously to this point. It is the result of collaborative work and I fondly hope that it will mark a turning point in the lives of those living with a spinal cord injury. I must also highlight the support of the partners who have supported us throughout this initiative and assisted us in one way or another as the bill has come to fruition. I am thinking about the Rick Hansen Institute, which provided us with data, Bobby White, the executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, and Walter Zelaya, of MEMO-Qc. That acronym stands for “moelle épinière et motricité Québec” (spinal cord and motor skills Quebec), the full name of the organization that lent its support without the slightest reservation.
With this bill, we wish to designate the third Friday in September as Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. After much discussion, we have come to the conclusion that this awareness day could prove very useful for employers and those involved in various areas, as well as for the general public.
There will most certainly be positive effects for those living with major spinal cord injuries. Colleagues, I am fully confident that I can prove to you that, with no associated costs, this bill, when in effect, can have a significant and genuine effect on those with spinal cord injuries and can demonstrate their interests and abilities in a much clearer way and on a greater scale.
This bill would designate the third Friday in September as Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. Why did we choose the third Friday in September? We considered a number of factors, but two realities became clear. The accidents that happen during the summer mean that the resource and assistance centres are full at that time and winter injuries from skiing or snowmobiling also cause many spinal cord injuries.
We also created a symbol. The third Friday in September is symbolic because a person with a recent spinal cord injury faces many dark days ahead, as that fall season also does. In the months that follow—since care and rehabilitation can last up to six months—the patient will have to go through a time as dark as a harsh and difficult winter.
The bill is simple and effective, and it costs nothing. It provides an additional tool for those assisting spinal cord injury patients and for the organizations working in prevention and public awareness. It also recognizes the harsh reality just outside the door of the rehabilitation centre. You have to understand that, in a rehabilitation centre, everything is beautifully set up and fully accessible. The people there can show us how to manage. But when we get home, reality hits us like a slap in the face.
That is exactly when spinal cord injury patients first feel that those around them really are looking at them differently, that each and every outing will require considerable effort and that their new limitations mean that they have to dig to the very depths of themselves as they try to improve their lives each day and start living anywhere close to the way they did previously. They have to have the courage to forgo some activities or to summon the perseverance they need to match their activities to their new reality.
If I may digress a little, I had a riding accident.
I often tell people that I rode horses, but I do not remember when I started to do so. Getting back on a horse took a huge amount of effort. As a paraplegic, I can no longer jump or compete, of course. I often tell cyclists that it is like getting back on a little bike with training wheels or on a kid’s scooter. For me, it is much the same thing.
We have to make a major decision. The bill has three parts. Naturally, raising awareness among our fellow Canadians is the first objective. We want spinal cord patients to feel more encouraged to take an active part in society without any prejudice towards them. If possible, they should be encouraged to develop a talent and, even better, to use it for the benefit of others. In my view, that should become one of the fundamentals of human activity. This day will allow spinal cord patients to communicate with each other, to gather information about the possibilities open to them, and to listen to people with experiences to share.
There are a lot of new technologies that not everyone is automatically aware of. Often, it is just by talking to people living with a spinal cord injury every day that we find out about new ways of adapting vehicles or new crutches. This day would also make spinal cord patients more aware of things like that.
We must also recognize the determination of these people in building a new life for themselves. For everyone with a spinal cord injury, one of the great successes is to realize that life will not be without hindrances or costs. The higher the lesion in the spinal column, the more severe the physiological consequences and the earlier aging makes itself felt. Even those whose work requires little effort experience difficulties, because of travel, transfers, personal care, housework, ice, clearing snow off the car in the winter, and so on.
A man once told me that each transfer he does was considered the equivalent of about seven push-ups. Before getting to Parliament each morning, I do about 20 transfers. We do a lot of transfers. You have to understand that our shoulders are not intended to substitute for our hips. That is why spinal cord patients will often have major shoulder problems at 45 or 50 years of age. That was just a digression.
We also want to recognize the devotion of those who help spinal cord patients on a daily basis and who let them resume an almost normal life. It goes a long way in reducing the anxiety, the difficulties of all kinds and, above all, the physical exhaustion. Most importantly, in my opinion, it gently requires them to be disciplined. Let me explain. It forces them to not give in to the little voice saying that they do not have the inclination, the energy or the need to get up in the morning. Believe me, sometimes, that little voice is really very persistent and having someone to count on at moments like that is a true blessing.
We do not need to have a spinal cord injury to hear the little voice in the morning that tells us that we are still tired and we do not want to get up. But I confess that, since I have been in a wheelchair, it happens more often than my fair share. I sometimes need a little prod in the back to get through an entire day.
I do not want to disregard the tenacity of the scientists who are improving the lives of thousands of spinal cord patients with their research. In recent years, there have been major advances in neurosciences such as in sensorimotor cortex mapping. Neurosciences deal with the nervous system and everything involved with it. The cortex is the outer grey matter of our cerebral hemispheres and the sensorimotor areas are involved in everyday sensation and movement.
I did not invent that, of course; it comes from—
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