Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Let's hear your French, Ben.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, witnesses, for your presentations.
I can tell you that these statistics—80% more women die from lung cancer than from breast cancer and 200% more men die from lung cancer than from prostate cancer—were shocking to me. Those are shocking facts based on the publicity out there on breast and prostate cancers.
With regard to one of the key causes of lung cancer, smoking, how are we doing in Canada? I'm from Prince Edward Island and I see more young people smoking than I did a few years ago. I have no statistics or anything. I don't know. How are we actually doing especially in terms of young people smoking? One of the things I hear is that flavoured tobacco products are in fact potentially enticing youth to smoke. What's your view on that?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
I think the reality is that if you can target young people and prevent them from starting to smoke, that's where the efforts have to be made. I look back to my own time in school, in high school, when if you didn't smoke, you were on the wrong side of societal favour. That's changed immensely, but I still see too much of it.
You're basically suggesting that we ban menthol and flavoured tobacco products, and I know they've moved on that in my province.
On early detection, you mentioned that there is a screening program in place in the United States. What has the experience been under that program? Do you have any idea of the cost? We have a public health care system here, so you have to look at the cost as an investment more than just as a cost. Can you comment on that?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Coming back to the early detection, what can be done both federally and provincially to enhance early detection? I hear too many stories. In fact, I was talking to a husband this morning whose wife had died and who had waited for a year before she could get into our hospital system. Would it have made a difference? We don't know.
What can be done to enhance the early detection, and operations if needed, in these kinds of matters from a policy perspective at the governmental level?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses on this panel.
I'd like to start with you, Dr. Ricard. Thank you for the reality check. You make a potent point, I think, on the need for funding for research and early detection methods. I can't help but think that in your occupation you would likely be one who would be getting regular checks. That is so different from many in society, who don't get regular checks.
From your experience, or from having gone through what you've gone through, is there anything that you think governments can do, or the health system can do, that would make a difference in earlier detection?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you for that answer.
Dr. Pantarotto, you mentioned that in Ottawa, going from an abnormal CT scan to really getting into the system for treatment takes 117 days, I think. I can tell you that's far, far, far better than it is in a lot of regions in this country. I can name my own, Prince Edward Island, as one. We finally just put a second shift on CAT scans, and we've been fighting for that for years.
First, what has to be done and what can be done by governments to reduce those wait times much more?
Second to that, I said in an earlier question that I see it as an investment. I think if you get early detection and early treatment, your expenditures within a public health care system will be a heck of a lot less.
Perhaps you could respond to that.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and welcome to all the witnesses.
I'd love to put questions on internships, but this is not my regular committee. We have great concerns about the budget bill and the remarks made by an officer of Parliament, the Information Commissioner, on how it relates to what is basically a violation of the law from the destruction of records in this country.
We've tried at the public safety committee, Mr. Chair, to have the Information Commissioner come forward with the Commissioner of the RCMP and the Minister of Public Safety, and that motion was turned down. That's where this discussion should take place.
Let me continue on the line of questioning of Mr. Cullen.
You said in your remarks that this division 18 in the budget bill provides immunity for any administrative, civil, or criminal proceedings against the Crown in relation to the destruction of said documents.
That being a peerless precedent, does it mean that this really can go back in time, provide a cover-up, and really make illegal what was legal, or make null and void what was illegal at the time?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
I find that absolutely astounding. This is a government that claims to be for law and order and to uphold the law. When you're talking law and order, you can't just pick and choose what laws you want to uphold. That seems to me to be what is happening in this case.
This is an extremely serious charge. When an officer of Parliament is suggesting to the Attorney General that the RCMP, our national police force, actually violated the law and is asking for charges to be laid, that's an extremely serious matter. Then even worse is for the budget to nullify that whole procedure for those who have broken the law.
Do you have any idea who ordered this? Was it the political side that ordered that these record be destroyed? And do you have any idea who may have destroyed them? If we can't find that out now, then with the passage of this cover-up in the legislation, will we ever find out as Canadians?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
I think that's really important, Mr. Chair, because I've previously been a solicitor general, and there is supposed to be a firewall between the political establishment and the RCMP. If there was political influence with the RCMP to destroy these documents, that is an extremely serious issue, because political influence is not supposed to be there in the day-to-day operations of the Government of Canada.
Can you shed any light on that point?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Mr. Chair, I will move my motion. I think the clerk has copies. I was going to move it during the last three meetings, but I didn't want to take the time of the committee. It is an important motion.
My motion is as follows:
That the committee urgently invite Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada, Bob Paulson, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, to discuss the special report to Parliament by the Information Commissioner, tabled in Parliament on May 14, 2015, entitled An Investigation into an access to information request for the Long-gun Registry, and that the meeting be televised.
I move the motion, Mr. Chair. It would be really nice to have this motion on the table for our 75th meeting of this committee.
The reason for the motion is straightforward. The Information Commissioner has presented a case in which the government, through the Minister of Public Safety's office, and through the chain of command of the RCMP, committed a crime by way of destruction of government documents.
The key questions that have to be resolved are as follows. One, who within the Minister of Public Safety's office, Public Safety Canada, or the RCMP gave an—
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Who within the Minister of Public Safety's office, Public Safety Canada, or the RCMP gave and who received any instructions and orders to destroy the documents in question between May 2, 2012, the day the former Public Safety minister gave his assurance records would be retained, and October 25, 2012, the date the destruction of government documents commenced? It's clear, Mr. Chair, that this is a violation within the law.
The second question is, was the Office of the Commissioner of the RCMP aware of the commitment made by the previous minister of Public Safety in a letter to the Information Commissioner that “the RCMP will abide by the right of access described in section 4 of the Act and its obligations in that regard”? If so, if they were aware, why were the documents destroyed?
The other question would be—really, I think you could call it a “firewall”—was the firewall between political involvement and RCMP day-to-day operations broken?
The Information Commissioner stated the following, which I want to be placed on the record of this committee, in a letter submitted by the Information Commissioner to the Speakers of both chambers of Parliament on May 13, 2015. In a quote from that letter, her concerns were put directly:
On April 13, 2012, I wrote to the then Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honourable Vic Toews, to inform him that any records for which a request had been received under the Act were subject to the right of access and could not be destroyed until a response had been provided under the Act and any related investigation and court proceedings were concluded. Minister Toews responded on May 2, 2012 providing assurances that the RCMP would abide by the right of access described in section 4 of the Act. ...I also concluded that the RCMP destroyed records responsive to the request with the knowledge that these records were subject to the right of access guaranteed by subsection 4(1) of the Act. As a result, as well on March 26, 2015, I referred the matter to the Attorney General of Canada for possible obstruction of the right of access under section 67.1 of the Act. I have not received a response to this letter of referral. In order to preserve the rights of the complainant, pursuant to section 42 of the Act, I will also file a court application before the Federal Court.
She goes on to conclude by saying:
The proposed changes in Bill C-59 will deny the right of access of the complainant, it will deny the complainant's recourse in court and it will render null and void any potential liability against the Crown. Bill C-59 sets a perilous precedent against Canadians' quasi-constitutional right to know.
In the report itself, the Information Commissioner states the following, concluding with a specific course of action her office has taken:
The information and evidence obtained during the Information Commissioner's investigation has led her to conclude that the RCMP destroyed records responsive to the request with the knowledge that these records were subject to the right of access guaranteed by subsection 4(1) of the Act. In particular...that factual information relates to the elements of the offence set out in paragraph 67.1(1)(a)....
I'll not take the time to go through that, but to save time, Mr. Chair, I think that, simply put, the RCMP destroyed these records with the knowledge that they related to the outstanding access request as well as an ongoing investigation. The RCMP destroyed these records despite the Information Commissioner's letter dated April 13, 2012, to the Minister of Public Safety, copying the Commissioner of the RCMP, which clearly stated that these records are subject to the right of access guaranteed by the Access to Information Act and may not be destroyed until a response has been provided to the complainant and any related investigation and court proceedings are completed.
Based on the information that the Office of the Information Commissioner has gathered in the context of this investigation, the Information Commissioner is of the opinion that there is a possibility that an offence in contravention of section 67 of the act has been committed. As I said earlier, she has referred that matter to the Honourable Peter MacKay, Attorney General of Canada.
Mr. Chair, the government or law enforcement can't pick and choose the laws they want to enforce. The law is the law is the law, as people on this committee would know.
I will close, Mr. Chair, by adding the following from Ms. Legault's testimony before the access to information, privacy and ethics committee on May 25. In response to a question as to whether the retroactive application being used in the budget implementation act could be applied to make the $90,000 alleged bribe to Mike Duffy retroactively legal, the Information Commissioner stated the following:
I think that this retroactive application and the retroactive stripping of the application of the Access To Information Act is a perilous precedent. I think it could be used in any other file, of course.
There are two issues here, and we can't deal with one at this committee. One is the budget implementation act, in that it makes legal what was illegal at the time and takes that whole issue away by the retroactive amending of a law. As we are the public safety committee, I think it's important to us that the Information Commissioner, an officer of parliament, has alleged that the RCMP, our national police force, has violated the law.
Could there be political influence? I think possibly so. However, I would hope not, because there is supposed to be a firewall between day-to-day operations within the public safety minister's office and the RCMP.
However, Mr. Chair, the only way we can find that out is to invite the Information Commissioner of Canada, Suzanne Legault; Bob Paulson, the Commissioner of the RCMP; and Mr. Blaney, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to come before this committee and explain what happened. They're the ones who would be in the know. They're the ones between whom the conversations took place, if they did take place.
In any event, we do know that the information was destroyed. It's alleged to be a violation of the law, and I think we have a responsibility as the public safety committee to hear from those three folks and find out the facts.
I therefore move the motion.
Thank you very much.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
I am going to run over to the finance committee—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Hon. Wayne Easter:—because, obviously, the public safety committee doesn't want to deal with the issue, I'll have to go over there.
Seeing that we're not going to deal with this motion at the next meeting, which would be the 75th meeting, I do want want to say that there are going to be several members who will not back after the next election, and because those of us who are here don't know whether we'll be here or not, I do want to say that while it's not always a pleasure at this committee, it has been a good experience working with all the people on this committee, and I don't want to leave without saying that.
Thank you very much.
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