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Results: 1 - 15 of 39
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-06-10 23:19 [p.18042]
Mr. Speaker, I find the statements being made on this bill very sad.
Organization after organization, first nation government after first nation government, first nation national leaders and regional chiefs have all said they oppose this legislation.
Yes, the government, finally pressured after many iterations of the bill, did provide for some consultation. What it did not do is listen to what it was told.
The same issues have been raised time after time by the first nations. They would like to have the opportunity to develop their own legislation. Many of them have strong customary laws. They are saying this is all very fine and dandy; however, they are asking how they resolve this if there is no housing. In many cases, in isolated communities, the women do not even have access to a bus to meet with a lawyer, let alone to pay the retainer for the lawyer to go to court.
I wonder if the member would advise the House what the first nation organizations and governments told them and in what way the bill would respond to what they were told.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-06-10 23:49 [p.18046]
Mr. Speaker, the issue that has arisen over and over again in the consultations on this bill and has been raised by first nations governments, aboriginal women's organizations and, in many cases, aboriginal lawyers, is the problem that we are dealing with a matrimonial property regime that involves communal property. The solution put forward in this bill is that the provincial courts would be given responsibility to resolve these disputes, where it is not really clear. It is not as if the house is in the common-law husband's name only, or in the name of the two of them together. In most cases, the land is held communally.
That is one of the reasons why the majority of first nations, including first nations leaders, have been saying they need some other options. They need to have the government work with them so that they can develop the systems within their jurisdictions that fit within the legal regimes of their communities.
A number of amendments were proposed and all were rejected. When the government says it is open to additional solutions, could it respond to the issue of how we address the fact that we are talking about a completely different system of land regime on 99% of the reserves?
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-05-30 21:06 [p.17417]
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that is troubling to the official opposition is the fact that the government has not adopted the recommendations of the Air India commission, and I believe the member mentioned this.
The commission recommended the creation of a new position, the national security witness protection coordinator, to be independent of the police and prosecution and be a person who inspires public confidence and has experience in criminal justice, national security and witness protection matters.
I wonder if the member could speak to that and to why we support that recommendation.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-05-30 21:19 [p.17419]
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to hear my colleague across speak. I miss being at committee with him. He was a fabulous chair.
However, I noticed that my hon. friend did not fully quote the representative from the British Columbia ministry of justice, who also advised the committee that he would be watching carefully to ensure the program was appropriately funded and that they had a voice in the level of funding. He said that from this perspective, the program would not be effective and efficiently administered unless it was adequately funded and the costs were not downloaded to municipalities.
Could the member speak to that?
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-05-30 21:56 [p.17424]
Mr. Speaker, I heard the comments by the hon. member and his colleague from Okanagan—Shuswap and I have to say that both members actually made the case for the very recommendation by the commission that looked into the Air India incident.
My understanding is that there was only one recommendation for amendments to the federal witness protection program made by the commission: to create the national security witness protection coordinator. Why? It was because a number of witnesses in the Air India inquiry refused to testify because they did not feel they were going to be adequately protected. This protection coordinator's mandate would include providing confidential support, psychological and legal advice, independent confidential arbitration of disputes and acting as an advocate for witnesses.
The member said that the government has made comprehensive amendments and yet it chose not to implement the single amendment recommended by the commission. I wonder if he could speak to that.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-05-30 22:03 [p.17426]
Mr. Speaker, contrary to the apparent perspective of some in this place, I think it is actually worthwhile to debate these bills. Each one of us learns a lot more by hearing the perspectives of the other side. I am grateful for the opportunity, despite the late hour, to participate in this debate.
At the outset, I would like to say stricter sentencing provisions without effective investigative powers, resources and timely judicial processes are empty. I would bring attention to the failure of the government to take timely action in the appointment of judges, including in my jurisdiction, as raised by the Attorney General of Alberta, and the failure to fill that vacuum by providing sufficient aboriginal police, as first nations are calling for. That certainly would help with the situation of gang action and in helping to bring witnesses forward.
I am rising in support of Bill C-51, an act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act. There are many measures that are worthwhile. It is good that after many years the government is finally moving forward to improve and enhance the program, which, by the way, the Conservatives did not invent. It has been around for quite some time, but to their credit, finally, after seven years, they are coming forward to actually improve it.
We support the fact that it would expand the eligibility criteria in certain circumstances to expand access in the case of witnesses dealing with crimes related to street gangs and certainly for witnesses recommended by CSIS and National Defence. As I understand it and as outlined by the government members, there would be improved efficiency and coordination with provincial and municipal police forces to achieve more effective access to the program by those authorities. I am hoping that is the case, regardless of the fact that there is no additional funding.
These are important changes that the New Democrats have been calling for as improvements for quite some time, particularly to fight street gangs and organized crime. I bring to the attention of the Speaker that the New Democrat member for Trinity—Spadina called for this exact reform some time back, specifically in relation to the mass shootings in Toronto. I know that we and everyone certainly support her efforts to have some increased measures to deal with these kinds of activities and to respond to the increasing concern over terrorism. In that case, people may be even all the more nervous about stepping forward and serving as a witness or providing testimony or evidence to the authorities.
The bill would expand access to more individuals seeking to deal with gangs, although I would have to add that I wanted to put this question to a number of the members here who are participating in the special task force on missing and murdered aboriginal women. I am not convinced that the measures we are debating today are sufficient to address the complex issue in aboriginal communities of witnesses coming forward. That would be something that is probably worth pursuing.
The federal witness protection program has long been criticized for its narrow eligibility criteria, for its poor coordination with provincial programs and for the low numbers of witnesses admitted to the program. Apparently only 30 of the 108 applications that were considered were accepted in 2012. I am not sure that the committee heard all of the detail for why that was, but on the basis of some of the testimony from police authorities, certainly part of it is a lack of access to funding. I am surprised, given the government's enthusiasm for ensuring that these cases come to trial with solid evidence and testimony from witnesses, that it would not also want to address this funding shortage issue.
One of the things that particularly bewilders us is that the Prime Minister commended the report from the Air India commission. One of the strong recommendations from the Air India inquiry, and apparently the only one related to the federal witness protection program, was to appoint a national security witness protection coordinator.
The government has chosen to disregard that recommendation. There do not appear to be really clear arguments for why it would turn down that position.
My understanding of the recommendation is that the coordinator would not provide the actual physical protection. The national security witness protection coordinator's mandate would include such things as ensuring consistency in the handling of sources and resolving disputes between agencies that may arise in negotiation or implementation of a protection agreement. The coordinator would also provide confidential support for protectees, including psychological and legal advice so that they could decide whether they wanted to sign the protection agreement. The coordinator would also provide for independent and confidential arbitration of disputes and act as an advocate for witnesses.
That all seems very clear and obvious, because in many cases the very reason for the existence of this witness protection program is that witnesses are reluctant to come forward. There could be many reasons. They could be terrified. They might be nervous of police authorities. It seems perfectly logical that a non-police body would work with those individuals and would be less intimidating.
The government's decision remains a puzzle to us. It had the opportunity to also include that recommendation. Hopefully in future it will also bring that one forward.
One of the key problems that has been raised by my colleagues in this place is the refusal by the government to admit that the program is inadequately funded. As has been stated many times in the House, only 30 of 108 applications considered were accepted in 2012.
A great number of witnesses came before committee, many of whom spoke to exactly this issue. One was Commissioner Micki Ruth, a member of the policing and justice committee of the Canadian Association of Police Boards. Micki Ruth said:
Like many issues facing government today, funding is one of the biggest and toughest ones to find solutions for. The problems identified back in 2007 with the adequacy of funding for the current witness protection are not addressed in Bill C-51. Unfortunately, we see problems with the ability of municipality police services to adequately access witness protection because they lack the resources. ... CAPB has a duty to its members to ensure that legislation passed by the government does not result in a downloading of additional costs to the municipal police services....
This is the very concern. We have heard member after member defending the position that there is no need for further funding, but in most cases they are citing the RCMP. The problem is that the downloading occurs to the municipal or provincial police authorities.
That concern was also raised by the British Columbia Ministry of Justice through Clayton J.D. Pecknold, who is the assistant deputy minister and director of police services, policing and security programs branch, as well as Dr. Alok Mukherjee, the president of the Canadian Association of Police Boards. Those are citizen boards and commissions representing a broad spectrum of society.
Dr. Alok Mukherjee said:
Without the availability of sufficient funding, our ability to take advantage of the program will be limited. In places like Toronto, that's a big problem because, as you know, we're dealing with serious violent crimes and often rely on witnesses from the community, not informants....
Very serious concerns are being raised.
When we go to the very purpose of this legislation and program, which is to encourage witnesses who may otherwise feel intimidated to come forward, we have to scratch our heads and ask why the program would not be fully funded, particularly when we are dealing with incidents of terrorism.
We will remain puzzled. We support the initiatives that the government has brought forward in the bill, but we will continue to pursue, on behalf of those agencies and the public and those who might be compelled and approached to testify, the availability of funding to support them to testify.
As I mentioned at the outset, in the case of aboriginal or isolated communities there may have to be additional measures, because it may be a bit harder to address the fact that individuals will be picked up and relocated or that they may not even speak English or French and would be quite intimidated by being removed from their community.
I look forward to further discussions on this matter within Parliament.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-05-30 22:14 [p.17427]
Mr. Speaker, I enjoy serving on the OGGO committee with the hon. member. We are working on a very interesting report, which I hope comes forward before we adjourn for the summer.
I am not sure if the member caught what I said when I spoke about the recommendation from the Air India inquiry. I was very clear that the recommendation from that commission was that this body, this independent protection coordinator, would simply help with the handling and the processing and negotiation of the agreement. That person would not actually deliver the protection program. Program delivery would remain with the RCMP or the police authorities, so I do not see any way there could be interference. We could be assured that the office would include people who were fully qualified to deal with these kinds of activities. They could even be former police officers, who could be seconded into the program. However, it would be stand-alone.
In a lot of cases and a lot of communities, people do not trust the police. They may have had bad incidents and experiences and so forth. In this case, it might be really useful for the person to be seen clearly as not being an enforcement officer and to work with the witness and encourage him or her to come forward.
On the second point, about funding, I suggest that most police forces would say that they could always use additional funding.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-05-30 22:17 [p.17428]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member both for the fabulous speech he gave this evening and for his question. He sets the bar high in this place.
I too remain troubled. Very clearly, the government is saying that the intention is to expand the witness protection program and enable the various police forces to bring more witnesses into that program. I do not know how police forces are going to do that. I know that police forces are stretched in most jurisdictions. They are stretched even in my province, which is supposedly financially stable but is also suffering from a deficit.
The priority is that people are demanding more police boots on the ground. I do not see a lot of people coming forward and saying that the priority should be witness protection, yet the police forces themselves know that in order to win these cases, they need these kinds of programs and greater access.
We have $3.1 billion missing for the anti-terrorism program. Perhaps if we could find that, it could go into expanding the witness protection program.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify the record. I think there is quite a difference between the official opposition requesting to adjourn at 11:45 p.m. and the government trying to stop debate at four o'clock in the afternoon. I understand it is tea time in some parts of the world, but we are elected to debate and that is what the official opposition would like to do.
I would like to bring attention to the comments of Sheila Fraser, the former Auditor General of Canada, whom I think the whole House has a high degree of respect for. Her comment was, ”No income tax technical bill has been passed since 2001”.
One of my colleagues has quietly pointed something out, which is a bit surprising to us. Generally speaking, the Conservative government thumbs its nose at any bill passed by a previous government, particularly a Liberal previous government. Therefore, we are a little surprised that it is now enacting tax amendments that would have been brought forward by a previous Liberal government. So be it, but finally, to the Conservatives' credit, a non-partisan bill.
Sheila Fraser further said:
Although the government has said that an annual technical bill of routine housekeeping amendments to the Act is desirable, this has not happened. As a result, the Department of Finance Canada has a backlog of at least 400 technical amendments that have not been enacted, including 250 “comfort letters” dating back to 1998...
Why is that important? Because, with the comfort letters, until legislated, one must assume what the law is, which is fine if one has an accounting firm doing one's taxes. However, many small businesses, individuals and seniors do not have high-paid chartered accountants advising on what the law is, including new rules not even enacted yet.
The final comment I would like to make, and would appreciate a response to, is the minister said that there were many experts that came to committee who were in support of it. This is one amendment that the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada called for because it was clearly fed up waiting for more than 10 years to finally get these amendments. It called upon the government to implement a sunset provision to prevent future legislative backlogs.
Will the minister tell us today that this will not happen again? Can we anticipate that we will have annual updates to the tax code so all Canadians have equality when they fill out their tax returns to submit?
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I would like to state my objection to the suggestion by the member that anyone on this side was laughing about the program. I do not know where the idea came from. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since 2007, the New Democrats have been calling for the government to take action on the Air India justice's recommendations.
Yes, it should be expeditious. We have been waiting six years. The government has finally brought it forward. Our members have co-operated fully, made good suggestions and been supportive all along.
As I understand it, one of the issues with costing is that on some occasions, and maybe more occasions now that the ambit has been extended to gangs, the costs for the witness protection program can be downloaded to local enforcement agencies. It is fine for the RCMP to say that it does not need any more funding and does not expect more referrals, which seems a little odd, given the fact that the whole point of expanding the program is so that there can be more referrals. Even if the RCMP does not anticipate that, I have worked in enforcement agencies myself and know that it is something one cannot anticipate. I wonder if the member could speak to that. Could she also speak to the fact that the Air India justice also recommended an independent agency to review this because of issues that arose, including at Air India, and why the government is so adamant that it does not want an independent agency?
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-04-30 15:27 [p.16108]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his hard work on this bill and particularly for bringing forward very important amendments.
We have to credit the government for finally, actually, accepting some amendments.
One thing that concerns me is that apparently the government did take some action on Right Hon. Antonio Lamer's report of 2003, but has yet to take any action on the report, which it commissioned, I understand, by the Right Hon. Patrick LeSage. That report was brought to the government and tabled in 2012, in the process of the review of this bill.
How long do we have to wait in this country to bring forward a modernized system of trial of offences for our brave men and women who serve overseas? Why do they not merit a quicker response by the government to bring forward a more just system?
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-04-30 16:27 [p.16116]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech. He is highly respected for his work on foreign affairs, and I am glad he is honouring his father. I honour my father as well for serving in the air force in World War II.
I find it very puzzling that the third party would criticize New Democrats for tabling a series of amendments to a bill and then, having achieved what we consider to be some substantial amendments, say spitefully that we should oppose a bill that would include that amendment. Despite the fact that a good number of witnesses called for a bigger review, which we also called for and supported, and despite the fact that there could be further improvements to the bill even though the government keeps putting forward one-off amendments instead of bringing forward omnibus changes that would provide a better justice system, I wonder if the member would like to speak further on that. It is a rather bizarre position that the third party is taking.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-04-30 17:20 [p.16122]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her well-informed speech on the bill.
However, the third party kept raising a question to a number of her colleagues about provisions of the Criminal Code. Of course, I am sure she is quite aware that the bill would introduce a new provision, proposed section 249.27. The thing that is remarkable about this new provision, which the NDP proposed, is that it would have a retroactive effect in that there would be benefits for those who had been previously convicted, as some offences would no longer be a criminal offences.
I wonder if the member could speak to the fact that some of the recommended changes go as far back as the recommendations made in 2003 by Chief Justice Antonio Lamer, yet previous Liberal governments did not see fit to bring forward any of those recommendations and act on them.
Is it not important that by supporting these amendments today, we are trying to finally force the expediting of amendments so that we can move forward with additional ones sooner?
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-03-07 15:53 [p.14740]
Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a very important matter. What troubles me and is evident from what I am hearing in the House is that it was quite some years ago that Canada agreed. In fact, Canada joined on in 2005 to amend the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. In Canada the problem is that in order to ratify these international treaties we must pass legislation. This was very important legislation whereupon we agreed to amend our Criminal Code to criminalize these activities for the domestic use, transport and so on of nuclear material for purposes of harm.
Could the member speak to the fact that it is appalling that it has taken this long to come to the national elected assembly of Canada and why it first went to the Senate? Is it not supposed to be the house of sober second thought? Surely a matter of this severe importance belongs in this House first.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2013-03-07 16:18 [p.14743]
Mr. Speaker, I particularly noted the member's comment towards the end, when he said that he would support this bill but that there is much more we can do.
I have the privilege of representing the same riding that former ambassador Douglas Roche represented. He, of course, has shown leadership for many decades on nuclear disarmament. My former colleague Bill Siksay, of course, continuously tried to create the department of peace.
I am wondering if the member thinks that instead of just finally moving to bring forward this legislation to implement an agreement we agreed to quite some time ago, the government could, in fact, take additional measures.
I have a second question for him. I know that the penalty is a maximum of life imprisonment. Interestingly, there is no mandatory minimum for something as serious as this. It is very puzzling to me what the government is thinking.
It is fine to table a serious piece of legislation like this. However, Alberta is crying for more judges and more support for federal prosecutors. Does the member think it would be useful for the government to come forward and also tell us what additional resources and strategies are going to be in place so that we can actually detect these serious crimes and take action?
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