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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present today, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, in relation to its study on the protection of privacy and reputation on platforms such as Pornhub.
I would like to thank the analysts and the clerk for their diligence and support to our committee during this horrific testimony and challenging report.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2019-20 progress report on Canada's national action plan for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution on women, peace and security.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(a), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 13 petitions. These returns will be tabled in an electronic format.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the following three reports of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts: the 20th report, entitled “Access to Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities”; the 21st report, entitled “Follow-up Audit on Rail Safety”; and the 22nd report, entitled “Investing in Canada Plan”.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to each of these three reports.
View James Maloney Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, entitled “From Mineral Exploration to Advanced Manufacturing: Developing Value Chains for Critical Minerals in Canada”.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
I want to take the opportunity, as this will be the last opportunity to do this in this session, to thank my fellow committee members for their spirit of co-operation on a regular basis. I am proud to say we have a very good working relationship in our committee.
I want to give particular thanks to the staff, who make the committee run so smoothly: the translators, our clerk, and in particular our analysts, who have the challenging task of distilling a whole lot of information on complicated issues from a variety of sources, MPs and witnesses alike. They do a remarkably great job, and I just want to acknowledge that.
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the following two reports of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
The 10th report is entitled “Eliminating Sexual Misconduct Within the Canadian Armed Forces”. Certainly, the disturbing testimony the committee heard from survivors shows that we have yet to hold people accountable at the highest levels. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to its 10th report.
The 11th report is on supplementary estimates (A), 2021-22. The committee has considered the estimates referred by the House and reports the same.
I want to thank our analysts, the clerk, all the translators and the committee members, who have worked so hard this session.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, entitled “Systemic Racism in Policing in Canada”.
Sometimes, committees actually do what they are uniquely able to do: receive evidence, hear witnesses, ask questions, minimize partisanship, work hard and produce a very useful report on one of Canada's premier institutions, the RCMP.
While I have the floor, I want to thank our clerk and our analysts for the professional way in which they have navigated the committee through a series of chaotic events. They have brought order out of chaos.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
CPC (AB)
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-06-17 10:10
Mr. Speaker, Canada is one the most tolerant and welcoming countries on earth. Canada is rightfully known as a place that accepts and affirms the equal rights, freedoms, opportunities, security, dignity and sanctity of all people of all ethnicities, faiths, sexual orientations, backgrounds and personal identities. These are the values and aspirations of the vast majority of Canadians.
Canada is not perfect. Racism and racists exist in Canada. Heinous crimes of murder and violent attacks involving race and religious-based hate have been carried out in Canada. Action must be taken to protect innocent, vulnerable Canadians and to enact consequences when racism has made it out in discrimination, violence, incitement of harm or criminal activity.
Racism exists in recent and long-standing systemic legacies like residential schools and forced relocations. Racism can be found in institutional structures that fail to root out racist elements within their ranks. It would be wrong to describe the RCMP or all its individual officers and staff as inherently racist or holding racist beliefs, or to blame all societal challenges on one institution. It is also true that various failures to respond effectively to the needs and realities of indigenous and racialized communities have led to a lack of trust and can be tied to biased outcomes.
These challenges must be met with practical policy changes that solve institutional problems. It is crucial that individuals face consequences for their actions. Defunding or arbitrarily dismantling institutions is not a solution, but is evidence of allowing frustration to triumph over real reform.
Conservatives of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security believe that some of the recommendations of the main report fall short of compelling meaningful action, go beyond the scope of the study or serve ideological objectives that we cannot endorse.
For those reasons, we are tabling a supplementary report that focuses on practical solutions.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to present a supplementary opinion to the report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security entitled “Systemic Racism in Policing in Canada”.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay. It is agreed.
The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.
Accordingly, the motion is carried.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are coming to a greater understanding of the role that the RCMP and policing in general have and continue to play in perpetuating systemic racism against indigenous and Black communities. It has become unmistakably clear that the RCMP needs transformational change. It needs to evolve from a paramilitary national police force with a colonial legacy into a modern, bias-free national police service with civilian oversight and accountability.
New Democrats fully support the recommendations laid out in the public safety committee's report on systemic racism in Canadian policing, but make the following additional recommendations.
First, the depot in Regina should be closed. For generations, it has indoctrinated new recruits into the paramilitary culture and structure. It needs to be replaced with a national police college built from the ground up that provides professional education and training in de-escalation, implicit bias, gender-based violence, cultural awareness and the history of colonialism.
Second, the government should consult with indigenous communities on whether they want a separate indigenous police college to provide training for indigenous police services rooted in cultural knowledge and history. The federal government should provide any required funding and resources for this.
Third, the government should introduce measures to immediately and automatically expunge all criminal records of convictions and findings of guilt for the simple possession of small amounts of cannabis, which we know disproportionately burdens Black, indigenous and other racialized Canadians.
Fourth, we should empower mental health professionals to be the first responders whenever possible, since for many the police embody the systemic racism that has permeated our system.
While we fully support the recommendations in this report, the transformation that is needed will simply not be possible unless the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety take full responsibility for making that change happen with a whole-of-government approach.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I also ask for unanimous consent to give a supplementary opinion to the report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security that was just tabled.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
Okay. The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.
I declare the motion carried.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois would like to thank all the witnesses and groups who participated in this important study on discrimination by police forces. It is important to us that significant action be taken so that everyone can live in a society where they feel safe.
We believe that Canada’s treatment of first nations and the Inuit is the epitome of a racist system that discriminates against first nations. Despite the progress society has made over time to address discrimination and racism, a number of recent tragedies remind us that we still have a long way to go before all people can live in a society free from discrimination based on race, gender, language or ethnicity. This report by the Standing Committee on Public Safety is one small step toward that goal.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2021-06-17 10:16
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled “Modernizing the Employment Insurance Program”.
I would like to sincerely thank all members of the committee for their excellent work on this report and also congratulate and thank the team from the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament for their professionalism and patience in supporting the committee.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent of the House to give a short speech about the report that was just introduced.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
Okay. The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-312, An Act relating to cash contributions by Canada and to criteria and conditions in respect of post-secondary education.
She said: Mr. Speaker, post-secondary education advances our social, cultural and economic well-being and determines our ability to innovate, respond to change and maintain a vibrant and stable democracy. Post-secondary educational excellence and accessibility are the single most important driver of a growing economy and a better Canada.
Access to and the quality of our post-secondary institutions are being eroded due to the ever-increasing cost of tuition, the increased commercialization of everything from food services to research, and cutbacks to programs and other care services. Currently, federal support for post-secondary education is rolled into the Canada social transfer. This bill separates post-secondary education funding to provinces from other social transfer funding, creates a framework for post-secondary education funding, and ties that funding to meeting quality and accessibility standards, including limiting short-term, casual and contract academic labour and ensuring reasonable access for qualified persons regardless of their ability to pay.
Since I was elected to represent Edmonton Strathcona, a riding with so many incredible post-secondary institutions, I have been fighting for students, professors, researchers and everyone who recognizes the incomparable value of quality, accessible post-secondary education in our country. This bill is the next step in that fight.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I just want to say that we have quite a number of private members' bills, and one of the key requests is that it be succinct. I just want to point that out before we continue.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-313, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (banning symbols of hate).
He said: Mr. Speaker, my thanks are to Nick Milanovic, Isabelle D’Souza and Mark Rowlinson for their expert help on this bill. My thoughts today are with the Afzaal family, victims of a hate killing last week in London, Ontario. I thank the member for London—Fanshawe for seconding this bill.
We have seen, tragically, a marked increase in hate in our society: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny. We see racism against Black and indigenous people and rising anti-Asian racism, yet the symbols of hate are freely displayed and freely sold across our country.
It is time to ban these symbols of hate by amending our Criminal Code. This is what this important bill does. It makes it a criminal offence to display or sell reprehensible hate symbols, like the Nazi flag, freely sold in Canada, which is a disgusting symbol of genocidal hatred, anti-Semitism and racism. There should be no place for such flags and emblems representing hate in Canada. They should not be sold. They should not be displayed.
It is time to stop being soft on hate. I hope all MPs will support the bill, the banning symbols of hate act, for speedy passage.
View Yvan Baker Profile
Lib. (ON)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-314, An Act respecting Ukrainian Heritage Month.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to introduce a bill entitled, an act respecting Ukrainian heritage month.
If passed, the bill would designate the month of September, every year, as Ukrainian heritage month across Canada. I would like to thank the MP for Etobicoke—Lakeshore for seconding the bill. I hope that all MPs in the House will support the bill.
The first Ukrainian immigrants, Vasyl Eleniak and Ivan Pylypiw, arrived in Canada on September 7, 1891, almost 130 years ago. Ukrainian immigrants began arriving in Canada in larger numbers in the years that followed.
Today, Canada is home to more than 1.3 million Ukrainian Canadians. Ukrainian Canadians have left and continue to leave a historic mark on our country. Their contributions span communities across Canada, and are reflected in our economic, political, social and cultural life. Canada has welcomed and supported the Ukrainian Canadian community in many ways. Canada was the first western nation to recognize Ukraine's independence in 1991. Canada has recognized that the Holodomor was a genocide. Canada has opposed and continues to oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and continues to support Ukraine in its fight for its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Ukrainian heritage month would provide a special opportunity to celebrate with Canadians of all backgrounds our Ukrainian heritage, the role that Canada has played in welcoming generations of Ukrainians and supporting Ukrainian Canadians, and the significant contributions of Ukrainian Canadians to our political, economic, social and cultural life across Canada.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-315, An Act respecting a framework to strengthen Canada-Taiwan relations.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to introduce the Canada-Taiwan relations framework act.
Canada does not have a formal relationship with Taiwan and that complicates our interactions. As such, the legislation seeks to establish an orderly mechanism by which to conduct relations by establishing a framework for strengthening Canada-Taiwan relations, including in respect of economic, cultural and legal affairs.
Taiwan is one of Canada's largest trading partners. We have strong people-to-people links and share common values. It is a vibrant democracy and one of the world's top 20 economies. It is time that Canada's relations with Taiwan reflect the reality that Taiwan is today. This legislation is an important step towards that.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
CPC (AB)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Prisons and Reformatories Act.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House and introduce my private member's bill, McCann's law. In 2010, Lyle and Marie McCann of St. Albert, Alberta, left their home on a trip to British Columbia. Shortly after their departure, they were murdered, although their remains have never been found. With a body of overwhelming evidence, their killer was found and convicted of manslaughter. He is eligible for parole this year, despite never having admitted to his crime, nor providing the family of the victims the closure of knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones. The fact that a killer can walk free on our streets while a family is denied the closure of a funeral is an injustice.
Bret McCann, the son of Lyle and Marie McCann had this to say: “By withholding where he left their bodies, [my parents' killer] is able to continuously revictimize our family. And without a proper funeral and memorial, our family is unable to fully grieve and reach a measure of closure”.
This legislation would correct that injustice by introducing new consequences at sentencing and parole hearings for refusing to provide material evidence on the location of victims' remains. This will give the authorities the tools and discretion to introduce justice for families of victims. It is time to put the rights of victims and their families, not criminals, first.
View Paul Manly Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, on Vancouver Island, people are very concerned about the loss of endangered, old-growth ecosystems. In British Columbia, we are down to the last 3% of these magnificent forests.
The petitioners call on the federal government to work with the province and first nations to immediately halt the logging of endangered old-growth ecosystems; fund the long-term protection of old-growth ecosystems as a priority for Canada's climate action plan and reconciliation with indigenous peoples; support value-added forestry initiatives in partnership with first nations to ensure Canada's forest industry is sustainable and based on the harvesting of second and third growth forests, something that many petitioners agree with; ban the export of raw logs and maximize resource use for local jobs; and ban the use of whole trees for wood pellet biofuel production.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Once again, I want to remind the hon. members to be as concise as possible.
Presenting petitions, the hon. member for Red Deer—Lacombe.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present three petitions to the House on behalf of more than 24,000 independent travel advisers, 12,000 of which are sole proprietors and the majority of which are women who were most impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions. They lost incomes that they earned the year prior to COVID. They have lost their incomes for the year during COVID, and they will likely lose numerous amounts of income as our economy slowly begins to reopen.
They ask for programs from the Government of Canada to recognize these realities and make sure that they are compensated fairly and adequately, unlike the programs that have been provided so far.
View Gerald Soroka Profile
CPC (AB)
View Gerald Soroka Profile
2021-06-17 10:30
Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition on behalf of my Yellowhead constituents who are concerned about fraudulent charges by cable companies. They are calling on the government to (a) form a government body separate from cable companies to investigate consumer complaints; (b) have a system in place for consumers to take their concerns to that is not affiliated with the cable companies; and (c) stop the cable companies' monopoly on charges and fees that they cannot prove the consumers ordered and have them accept responsibility for fraudulent charges on consumer accounts or billing errors by their own administration or a third party.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Ind. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition that calls upon the government to recognize the inadequacies of its response to the Government of Israel's multiple violations of international law and Palestinians' human rights, including forced evictions, settlement buildings, unequal treatment, a tax on journalists, bombing of humanitarian and medical facilities, and the killing of civilians.
The petitioners call on the government to demand that the Government of Israel end evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and West Bank, end apartheid on the Palestinian people, and implement a fair government and system for all people within its jurisdictions.
The petitioners also call on the government to apply to Israel the same diplomatic tools that Canada has used in condemning activities in the Xinjiang autonomous region and in sanctioning Russian officials involved in the annexation of Crimea.
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to table a petition on behalf of nearly 8,000 petitioners who are calling on the Government of Canada to immediately amend the Governor General’s Act so that only governors general who have held office for a minimum of five years are eligible for a pension and to withdraw the lifetime pension and hospitality budget of any former governor general who has not held office for at least five consecutive years.
This petition is tabled on behalf of all of the workers who leave their jobs and are not entitled to employment insurance.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to table a petition from small business owners from Vancouver Island. They cite that during the pandemic their revenues were catastrophically impacted as a result of closures, capacity limits and social restrictions. They cite the importance of the wage subsidy, the rent assistance program, the Canadian emergency business account and the highly affected sectors credit availability programs as critical to saving jobs, but many of these businesses have remained ineligible.
The petitioners are calling on the government to adjust eligibility for these programs to include owners of both new and newly expanded businesses who can demonstrate that their project was non-reversible at the outset of the pandemic, to implement an alternative method for determining the wage subsidy and rent program rates for these businesses, and to back pay them to March 15, 2020, for both the wage subsidy and rent program so that these businesses can survive.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
moved:
That, given that the Minister of National Defence has clearly lost the respect of members of the Canadian Armed Forces, including those at the highest ranks, for, amongst other things,
(i) misleading Canadians on the withdrawal of fighter jets in the fight against ISIS,
(ii) misleading Canadians about his service record,
(iii) presiding over the wrongful accusation and dismissal of Vice-Admiral Norman,
(iv) engaging in a cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces,
the House formally censure the Minister of National Defence to express the disappointment of the House of Commons in his conduct.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, 2021, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of supply bills. In view of recent practices, do the hon. members agree that the bill be distributed now?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I hope this is the final time I will have to address the House virtually. I look forward to being in Ottawa next week and hope very much that we will be back to normal sessions come the fall.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
I just have to say that this is a rare measure that we are requesting of all members of the House of Commons to censure the Minister of National Defence. The last time anyone was censured in the House was back in 2002, and it has come to this point, because the Minister of National Defence has refused to do the honourable thing and resign, and the Prime Minister has refused to do the right thing and fire the Minister of National Defence. Essentially, that leaves it up to us in the House of Commons to censure the minister going forward, until the voters of Vancouver South have an opportunity to express their displeasure in the upcoming federal election.
I also just want to say to the Speaker, who has stepped into the chair, knowing that he has announced that he will not be running in the next federal election, how much I have appreciated his strength in the chair and his friendship over the years as we served together. I wish him all the best in his future endeavours, enjoying more time with his family.
When we look at this motion, we have to look at the litany of misleading comments made by the Minister of National Defence over his tenure since 2015. I think all of us are all too familiar with the travesty of the wrongful accusations and the decision by the minister to go on a witch hunt to stop the procurement of the Asterix for the Royal Canadian Navy, and how he threw retired Vice-Admiral Mark Norman under the bus. We know that through 2017 and into 2018, this escalated to a ridiculous level and ended up in the courts. The case, of course, was thrown out by the judge, because there just was not any evidence for it. It was an unnecessary attack on the honourable service and great reputation of a strong military leader, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
However, we have to go back to the very beginning of the minister's tenure and look at what happened with his politically motivated withdrawal of our CF-18s from the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The minister was over there meeting with the Government of Iraq, as well as Kurdish officials in Erbil, and he told CBC on December 21, 2015, that he had not had one discussion about withdrawing our CF-18s from the fight. However, an access to information request on the record of a wire message in reference to the Minister of National Defence's meeting with the Iraqi minister of defence on December 20, 2015, just the day before he made that statement, says, “the Iraqi Minister of Defence was clearly focused on Canada's decision to withdraw its CF18 fighter jets from the coalition air strikes, asking [our Minister of National Defence] to reconsider this decision on numerous occasions”. That was the very first step in the minister's very misleading comments to the media and to Canadians.
We should not be surprised, because we also know that the minister, back in July 2015 when he was running to be a member of Parliament for the first time, claimed on a local B.C. program, Conversations That Matter, that he was the architect of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan. He reiterated that in April 2017, when he was at a conference in New Delhi on conflict prevention and peace keeping in a changing world. He again said that he was the architect of Operation Medusa.
Of course, he was a major back then and had numerous members in the command chain above him who were making the decisions, and there is no doubt that he provided great input and intelligence into how Operation Medusa was conducted, but to claim that he was more than the team is something that is not well regarded within the Canadian Armed Forces or by veterans across this country, and the minister had to apologize.
We also saw the minister take a shot at me back in 2017 over the cuts to tax-free allowances for forces members serving in Operation Impact while stationed in Kuwait at Camp Arifjan at that time. He claimed that it was the Conservative government that had taken away the tax-free allowance. I was able to get up on a question of privilege to point out that the initial assessments were made under the current Liberal government, and those cuts were made by this minister to hardship pay that was in effect back in 2014-15. Again, there was a finding that he misled the House.
Now, the most egregious of all of this, and the one that is really rocking our Canadian Armed Forces right now, is, of course, the crisis of sexual misconduct. I will point out and ask the question: What do the Somalia affair, the decade of darkness and the crisis of sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces today have in common? It all comes down to weak Liberal leadership.
We know that when the news broke that retired General Jonathan Vance, the former chief of the defence staff, had issues of sexual misconduct raised in March 2018, the Minister of National Defence said at committee on February 19 of this year that he was “as shocked as everyone else at the allegations that were made public two weeks ago”. He was surprised to learn about these allegations, but then at the defence committee on March 3, 2021, the former ombudsman for national defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, Gary Walbourne, said at committee that “I personally met with [the minister] to address an allegation of inappropriate sexual behaviour within the senior ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces, specifically, against the chief of the defence staff, and to discuss my concerns about this allegation. This meeting happened on March 1, 2018.” That was three years before the story became news, when the minister was briefed by Gary Walbourne.
Gary Walbourne went on to say at committee that:
I did tell the minister what the allegation was. I reached into my pocket to show him the evidence I was holding, and he pushed back from the table and said, “No.” I don't think we exchanged another word.
The minister refused the evidence, and we know that, at the defence committee on March 12, 2021, he then admitted that, “I did meet with Mr. Walbourne”. The ombudsman brought up the concerns, but “He did not give me any details”, is what the minister was claiming. Yet, if we look at all of the information that flowed between the minister's chief of staff, Zita Astravas at the time, up into the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office on March 2, 2018, it all talked about this being a matter of sexual misconduct, which they actually described as “sexual harassment”. Elder Marques, Michael Wernick and Katie Telford, the chief of staff to the Prime Minister, all knew that this was an issue of sexual misconduct.
Therefore, as the minister continues to dodge this and refuses to do the honourable thing and resign, and as long as the Prime Minister continues to back this inept behaviour by the Minister of National Defence and refuses to fire him, it falls upon us as the House of Commons to censure this minister since he has consistently and repeatedly misled the House.
I call upon all members of the House of Commons in all parties to censure this minister for his continued casual relationship with the truth.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, personally, I find it somewhat disgraceful that the opposition Conservative Party would bring a motion of character assassination against someone who I would suggest is a hero.
I will give a specific quote and ask the member to provide his thoughts. Brigadier-General David Fraser, who was in charge of NATO's regional command in south Afghanistan in 2006, said that—
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
I will just interrupt the hon. parliamentary secretary momentarily. I just wonder if he could move his microphone out slightly from his mouth. We are getting a lot of popping noise and so on, on the audio.
While I am at it, I will ask the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastmanm when he comes back for his response to the parliamentary secretary's question, to do the same, to just move the microphone. We will cover both of those off at this time.
Let us go back to the hon. parliamentary secretary to finish his question.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, my apologies to our interpreters.
I want to give a specific quote from Brigadier General David Fraser, who was in charge of NATO's regional command in south Afghanistan in 2006. He wrote:
I must say that Major Sajjan is one of the most remarkable people I have worked with, and his contribution to the success of the mission and the safety of Canadian soldiers was nothing short of remarkable.
Further, it goes on to say:
I rate him as one of the best intelligence officers I have ever worked with—fearless, smart, and personable, and I would not hesitate to have him on my staff at any time in the future.
This is an incredible individual. Why are the Conservatives continuing their attack on character assassination of such individuals who have a proven record, as this minister has?
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North knows that I am not attacking the minister's service in uniform. As I said in my speech, he had an incredible service, including in Operation Medusa and the intelligence that he collected.
What we are talking about is his lack of action and lack of leadership as the Minister of National Defence over the past six years while he has been in the job. Due to his lack of leadership, because he set such a low bar, leading by example, we have a crisis today with so many of our leaders in the Canadian Armed Forces. We are on our seventh vice-chief of defence staff because of the inept behaviour of the minister over the last six years, and two chiefs of the defence staff who are being investigated for sexual misconduct. This is a direct reflection of the leadership of this minister. That is why he has to go or we have to censure him.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to acknowledge the farewell speech you gave on Tuesday and to tell you that I hope I will still have the chance to work with you on the all-party caucus on the environment until 2023.
That being said, the minister is being criticized for a lot of things, but with regard to the allegations of sexual misconduct against General Vance, he said that the nature of the accusations was not really important and what mattered was the action that was being taken.
However, in 2015, the Deschamps report did recommend actions but when Ms. Deschamps testified in 2021, she said that very little had been done.
In my colleague's view, did the Liberals not deliberately turn a blind eye in this file on allegations of sexual misconduct?
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member wholeheartedly. The most egregious thing that has happened under the leadership of this Minister of National Defence is that he has failed to move to protect the women and men who serve in uniform. Therefore, we have this crisis of sexual misconduct. The minister sat for six years on Justice Deschamps' report on how to stomp out sexual misconduct. The minister continues to kick the can down the road. He dithers and delays in making any future decisions on how we are to go about stomping out sexual misconduct.
That is why we Conservatives have said that we need to have an independent investigation now. We need to freeze all promotions and salary increases until we figure out a way forward and ensure that there is more representation by women and under-represented minorities within the leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces.
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
Mr. Speaker, would the Conservatives agree with me that an intelligence officer who worked with local Afghan authorities in a leadership role, as was claimed by the Minister of National Defence during his tours in the field, should have known about the alleged torture of prisoners transferred to the Afghan authorities?
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Mr. Speaker, the minister has consistently denied having any knowledge of that. We are questioning whether he has been misleading Canadians on sexual misconduct and concerning fighter jets and procurement of supply ships, so I guess it is reasonable to also question whether he was aware of what was happening during the transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan.
It comes down to the nature and conduct of this minister, which is unbecoming of a parliamentarian, a veteran, as well as a Minister of National Defence. That is why we need to censure him.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I take no pleasure in rising in the House today. First, I must mention that the Minister of National Defence and I have something in common: We each served honourably in the Canadian Forces for over twenty years. We both rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and commanded infantry units. These are the things we have in common. The minister served our country particularly well in the various missions he participated in around the world. I thank him for his service.
However, on October 19, 2015, in the federal election, we chose two different paths. I chose to run as a Conservative Party candidate, while the Minister of National Defence chose to run for the Liberal Party.
Let me remind members what the Liberal Party represents for the Canadian Forces. Let us recall the 10 years of darkness of the Chrétien era, marked by the purchase of used submarines and the cancellation of helicopter contracts, a time when our soldiers did not even have combat boots. That is the path and the party that the minister chose.
From that day on, he and I were no longer soldiers. We were now former military members who had become members of Parliament in the House of Commons, a political office. That is when the minister's problems began.
The first step was in 2015. During the election campaign, a tragedy struck hearts around the world. The body of a little boy washed up on a beach in Italy. He was a Syrian refugee trying to flee Syria, which was under the grip of ISIS. Many refugees were seeking asylum. The Liberals opened up many new spots, and we were all for that. We needed to do something to help those refugees.
However, our country was also engaged in combat. Our armed forces and our air force were in Iraq and Syria fighting the enemy, ISIS. What did this government decide to do when it took office? It pulled our CF-18s out of the bombing campaign against ISIS. It stopped fighting the enemy, the enemy that caused the little boy to wash up on the beach and the Syrian refugees to flee in search of asylum. We could never understand that.
When we say that the minister is hiding the truth or misleading Canadians, we are talking about decisions. When we questioned him at length about the reasons behind the decision to pull our CF-18s out, the minister said that Iraq had agreed to it. Later, in an interview with an Iraqi minister, we learned that that was not true. Iraq was very disappointed with Canada's decision.
The next step was a pivotal point in the career of a very talented military member, Vice-Admiral Norman, who was commander of the Royal Canadian Navy at the time. When he heard that the incoming Liberal government wanted to cancel the Asterix contract that had been awarded by the Conservative government, that was the last straw. Vice-Admiral Norman, a man who worked for his troops, the men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy, knew full well that the Conservative government decision to award the Asterix contract to Davie shipyard was the best solution to fix the problems in the navy.
We knew that the first decision of the Prime Minister and cabinet was to do everything in their power to cancel that contract. Vice-Admiral Norman did everything he could to prevent that from happening, and he paid the political price with his career. All he wanted to do was give the Royal Canadian Navy the tools it needed to do its job properly.
What did the Minister of National Defence do to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces were operating effectively around the world? That is the duty of a defence minister. It is about ensuring that his troops have the necessary tools to do their job. Instead, the minister contributed to the problem. He helped ensure that Vice-Admiral Norman became persona non grata. He ended up facing serious charges and the RCMP landed on his doorstep. It is appalling.
This man was expected to be the next chief of the defence staff. He was going to be the commander of the Canadian Armed Forces. Instead, he was forced to retire. The government made sure of that by paying Vice-Admiral Norman's legal costs, which remain secret, so that he would just retire and stay quiet and so the whole thing would go away.
Is that the leadership we expect from a minister? Do we expect the minister to always say yes to the Prime Minister's nefarious decisions? A minister must be able to stand up and say that something will not work, that we cannot do that. However, the minister said nothing.
In 2018, the Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman went to the office of the Minister of National Defence to tell him that there was a problem with the chief of the defence staff, General Vance. What did the minister do? He told the ombudsman that he did not want to know about it. The ombudsman was completely taken aback.
The Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman told the minister that a victim had made allegations of sexual misconduct against the chief of the defence staff and that these allegations were not about 30-year-old incidents or incidents involving one too many beers, but were rather very serious allegations about recent incidents. What did the minister do? He did nothing. We learned about this three years later. We just learned about it.
In 2018, during his tenure, the minister chose to hide the information. It gets worse. When the Conservatives were in power, they commissioned a report from Justice Marie Deschamps. She presented her report in 2015, in which she described attitude problems and sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces. What did the Minister of National Defence do with that report? Absolutely nothing.
The full report contained 10 recommendations that the minister could have implemented. He had access to all of the resources and tools he needed to protect women in the Canadian Armed Forces. He could have instituted a process to streamline complaints. That was not done, and we do not know why. We are asking questions, but we will never know.
Why were Justice Deschamps' recommendations never implemented? Was it because, again, the report had been commissioned by the Conservatives? Was it because people did not want these recommendations to be implemented? Was it because people did not want anyone to know? We have no idea.
When all these problems are added together, the situation looks very serious. The Canadian Armed Forces are in turmoil. The head of the armed forces, the former chief of defence staff, is under investigation. The new chief of defence staff, who was in the position for one month, is under investigation. Generals are stepping down. Discipline and sound operations management within the Canadian Forces are evaporating. The soldiers and officers have no one to lead them. What is going on?
On top of that, there is the case of Major-General Dany Fortin, a man I have known for a long time, a great soldier. He was put in charge of Canada's vaccine rollout, and he did an outstanding job. However, a complaint was filed against him. We do not know when or where it came from. Major-General Fortin was not informed of it. The decision was made to push him aside. The story went public, and he ended up getting all sorts of negative attention from the media, the public and the government without knowing what was happening or why. Today, this man is being forced to take legal action against the government and the Prime Minister to defend his reputation. Is that any way to treat the best members of the Canadian Armed Forces?
Major-General Dany Fortin was brought in, in a public way, to help the country get out of the COVID-19 crisis, and how was he treated? He was not informed or even given a chance to explain a situation that may not even be true. We do not know. That is how the defence minister and this government operate, and that is why we can no longer trust the Minister of National Defence.
I would like to remind the House that this has nothing to do with the soldier that the minister used to be. He served his country with distinction. However, he became a member of Parliament and a minister on October 19, 2015, and it has been a catastrophe ever since.
View Michel Boudrias Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, having also served our country, I too want to thank my colleague for his service in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the minister. We are more or less on the same wavelength when it comes to understanding the issues raised in today's motion.
I would like to ask my colleague about Vice-Admiral Norman, who, as we all know, was tasked by the Conservative government, specifically Minister MacKay, at the time, to manage the Davie project. That matter was the subject of an investigation. The mandate was given in 2015, and the Norman affair blew up in 2017. It took the Conservatives about two years to react because they themselves knew that they had given him a legitimate mandate through Parliament, where we now sit. I would like to know the reason behind the two years of silence on the matter.
Regarding sexual misconduct, the Deschamps report was tabled in 2015, and various committees, including the Standing Committee on National Defence, studied it.
Why did the government not institute mechanisms to bring about positive change and transformation, instead of imputing motives?
That could have fixed the problem.
The other issue was the withdrawal of the CF-18s. The Canadian Armed Forced succeeded in liberating Mosul anyway. I knew that, and so did the Conservatives, so which is it? A success or a failure?
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all his questions. I will take the time to answer at least one or two of them.
With respect to Vice-Admiral Norman, it all started in 2014 and 2015, and we started debating it in 2017. Why was nothing done in the meantime? Because we only learned of the problem on the day the information got out. Ever since that time, we have been asking questions about this matter. We did not wait two years to do so, quite the contrary. As is the case with many files, we could not know everything there was to know. The Liberals have been in government since 2015. Therefore, we did not know any more about it than my colleague, since we did not have access to the documents and communications. As soon as we learned of the matter, we started asking questions.
Regarding the Deschamps report, we will never understand why the government did not implement Marie Deschamps' recommendations as soon as it took office. If it had, things might be different today.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, what I find a bit rich is the degree to which the Conservative opposition party is trying to make this issue about General Vance. In 2015, the current leader of the official opposition was made aware of the rumour. It was serious enough that he asked his staff to notify the Prime Minister's chief of staff, who then took the matter to the Privy Council Office for review.
Does the member not see any hypocrisy here? Why did the Conservative Party fail so many years ago on one of the same issues that it is trying to hold this government to account for? There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy there.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
The minister was appointed on November 4, 2015. He is the one who made all the wrong decisions or who covered up all the decisions that were made and that I mentioned in my speech. I think there are enough of them for members to understand that the minister no longer deserves to remain in cabinet. Had Vice-Admiral Norman not suffered the fate the government had in store for him, he might have taken over from General Vance in 2018, and there would not have been all these problems with sexual misconduct and all the other issues with this file, not to mention the lack of strength we are seeing in the Canadian Forces.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I have a very simple question for him.
The Liberals and the Liberal government are very good at accusing the opposition of delaying the proceedings and making Parliament dysfunctional. I would like him to comment on the Liberals' filibustering at the Standing Committee on National Defence to try to protect their defence minister, who no longer deserves to be in his position. Sometimes the Liberals are the ones filibustering.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
Yes, there was some filibustering at the Standing Committee on National Defence, in a bid to cover up what happened, once again. Who are the victims in all that? The victims are the women of the Canadian Armed Forces, who are once again looking at the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister and wondering whether these men deserve their loyalty. The main challenge facing the Canadian Armed Forces is trust in their leader. There is no trust at the moment, and that is the biggest problem.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the motion the Leader of the Opposition has put forward. He presents this motion in an attempt to wage personal and partisan attacks rather than focusing on our members who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. He is a veteran. I am a veteran, and I expect better.
I will not, and I repeat, will not gloss over the fact the defence team is going through a very difficult time right now, particularly those who are survivors of sexual harassment, assault and abuse of power. As the largest and most diverse employer in Canada, the defence team is a microcosm of our Canadian society. We see the same problems reflected in our organizations that we see play out in other areas of our society.
We have had to reckon with inequality, systemic racism, sexual misconduct and abuse of power. It is uncomfortable. It is painful, and it is inconsistent with our ideals as Canadians and as human beings.
The experiences we have heard over the past few months from those who have experienced sexual harassment and assault in the Canadian Armed Forces is appalling. To every member of the Canadian Armed Forces, and to every person in the Department of National Defence who has been affected by sexual harassment and violence, I am truly sorry. Whether it was recently, 10 years ago, 20 years ago or 30 years ago, we were not there to support them.
As somebody who has put on the uniform, I know the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence need to do better. We all need to do better. I know our current reporting systems are not enough. Too often, people do not feel able to report misconduct our of fear of reprisal and retribution. This has to change, and this will change.
It is why I asked Madam Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court justice, to lead an independent external comprehensive review of our institutional policies and culture. Over the coming months, we expect Madam Arbour to provide concrete recommendations on how the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence can set up an independent external reporting system for defence team members that meets the needs of those who have been impacted by sexual misconduct.
We know we have a lot more to do to regain our members' trust. We are committed to making a lasting change, one that sheds the toxic and outdated values, practices and policies that harmed our people.
This motion from the Leader of the Opposition is not about supporting our members. In fact, the opposition had the opportunity time and time again in this very Parliament to be part of the solution. Instead, opposition members have consistently chosen to obstruct the progress.
In the past weeks, the Leader of the Opposition and his party voted against almost a quarter of a billion dollars to help eliminate sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces in budget 2021. They voted against supporting peer-to-peer services. They voted against increasing access to the sexual misconduct response centre for members of the Canadian Armed Forces. In fact, the leader of the official opposition and his party voted against our commitment to implement new external oversight mechanisms to bring greater independence to the processes of reporting and adjudicating sexual misconduct within the military.
This is staggering hypocrisy from the Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party, which should not be unexpected from the Conservatives. They have done this at every turn. If the Conservatives want to talk about fighter jets, let us talk about the Conservative record on fighter jets.
After years of cuts from the Conservatives, our air force could not generate enough aircraft to answer our NATO and NORAD commitments at the same time. We are committed to procuring 88 advanced fighter jets to show our friends and allies we will be there for them when we are called upon, and we have stepped up. How they chose the number of 65, I do not know, but I am going to guess they needed to cut. They needed to balance their budget.
When it comes to our contribution in the fight against Daesh, our work alongside our coalition partners has reached success. I will not be apologetic for our government's stance and the operations we have conducted with our allies. By increasing our ground presence, along with that of our partners and allies, the coalitions worked to reduce Daesh's territorial control by over 98% on the ground.
When the Conservatives sat back, Liberals stepped forward. We worked with the U.S., NATO, regional partners and allies to increase peace and stability in the region. Just a few months ago, we announced that we would extend our work in the Middle East by deploying up to 850 Canadian Armed Forces personnel to support the global coalition, the NATO mission in Iraq and capacity-building activities in Jordan and Lebanon because we know this is a regional issue. Canada will remain a reliable partner in multinational operations around the world.
If the Leader of the Opposition wants to claim a cover-up, he should look no further than himself. We want to talk about preventing things from happening. We learned from media reports that the leader of the official opposition himself was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct regarding General Vance prior to his appointment as chief of the defence staff, an allegation from the general's time in Gagetown, as it was reported. It was an allegation that the leader of the official opposition said that he had investigated.
The former national security advisor, Richard Fadden, said to a parliamentary committee that this is not true. Let me quote Mr. Fadden. Speaking of when General Vance was stationed in Naples, he said, “I did a bit of an inquiry into what was happening with a lady who subsequently became his wife. That was the extent of the involvement.”
After this non-investigation, it seems that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service received political pressure to stop its investigation into Vance, an investigation that just happen to end right before his swearing in as chief of the defence staff under the Conservative government.
The Leader of the Opposition continues to say that he passed along sexual misconduct allegations by General Vance in July 15. He continues to claim that those were looked into, despite evidence to the contrary. I ask this House, how can the Leader of the Opposition's story be credible if General Vance was appointed after no investigation of the knowledge that the leader had? Almost immediately after the allegations were made, pressure was brought to bear and the investigation was suddenly dropped.
Unlike the Conservatives, I know how important our people in the Canadian Armed Forces are. That is why they are at the very centre of our defence policy. Chapter number one states that.
Women are working tirelessly to create a culture of dignity, respect and inclusion for all members, to ensure that the organization is truly as diverse as the Canada it serves, and to be the employer of choice for Canadians of every background, not just for the few that some members want. Our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, commits to promoting diversity and inclusion as core institutional values.
We have taken a number of steps to increase representation of women and other unrepresented populations at all levels of the organization. Right now, Lieutenant-General Carignan is the chief of professional conduct and culture at the organization. She and her team will unify and coordinate the ongoing and evolving efforts to create positive and lasting change across the defence team.
At NATO's Allied Joint Forces Command Naples, we have Lieutenant-General Joe Paul, a member of the Huron-Wendat First Nation as deputy command. While he is there, he will help to prepare, plan and conduct military operations in order to preserve the peace, security, and territorial integrity of all NATO alliance members. This sends a powerful message to the indigenous community of our alliance.
Over the coming weeks, Lieutenant-General Fran Allen will become Canada's first female vice-chief of the defence staff. All these members are deserving of these important roles, and they help build a senior leadership that is more representative of the Canadians they serve each and every day.
We have also integrated gender-based analysis plus across all our policies, programs and services to remove barriers to inclusion and better support our personnel. We are addressing all forms of hateful conduct in our organizations with anti-racism and anti-harassment efforts. This is why last year I created an advisory panel on systemic racism and discrimination with Captain Door Gibson, Sergeant Derek Montour, Major Sandra Perron and Major-General Ed Fitch, who are all retired.
They have lived experiences of facing discrimination, anti-Semitism and anti-indigenous prejudice, and they are working to help build a Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence that are more welcoming and inclusive for our members. Their recommendations will make sure that people within the military, including instructors, are better supported and free from discrimination, racism and harmful behaviour, whether they are women; Black, indigenous and people of colour; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, two-spirited, LGBTQ members of the community; or part of a religious minority.
Along with the anti-racism secretariat, this work will help the defence team eliminate all forms of racism, prejudice, bias, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy from within our organization.
Where the previous government did little to improve things for those who wear the uniform, and removed the training, the sharp training that was there, we have taken action. In 2019, we received royal assent for Bill C-77, historic legislation to evolve the military justice system by aligning it with the civilian justice system in important ways, while remaining responsive to the unique needs of our Canadian Armed Forces. The act enshrines victims' rights into the code of service discipline. We are working with our members so the regulations for that bill meet the needs of the survivors, rather than the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence.
Earlier this month, we tabled a third independent review of the National Defence Act by former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish. This is one of the most comprehensive independent reviews of the military justice system in a decade. Justice Fish's recommendations provide one of the largest overhauls of the National Defence Act and the Canadian military justice system in recent memory.
I have accepted the 107 recommendations in principle. As we speak, we have already begun to implement 36 of those recommendations to further improve the military justice system to bring greater confidence to our members, who wear the maple leaf on their shoulder.
All this work is in addition to the independent external comprehensive review that former Justice Louise Arbour is leading to help us build on and refine our efforts to address and prevent sexual misconduct in our organizations. Over the coming months, Madam Arbour will provide concrete recommendations for how the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence could set up an independent external reporting system for defence team members that meets the needs of those who have been impacted by sexual misconduct.
This system needs to be focused on those who have been impacted by misconduct, be responsive to their needs and be outside the chain of command and the Department of National Defence. Any less cannot be accepted, and any less will not be accepted.
Madam Arbour and her team will provide significant direction on how we must evolve to support affected people, and how we can ensure that every incident is handled appropriately. Part of this work also includes looking into the current structures in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence and the sexual misconduct response centre to see how we could strengthen them to provide greater confidence to those who need support.
We will also examine the performance evaluation promotion system in the Canadian Armed Forces with a focus on how leaders are selected and trained. This review will also look at the military justice system's policies, procedures and practices to see how we could make this system more responsive to the needs of those who have experienced misconduct while holding perpetrators accountable. As Madam Arbour does this important work, she will be able to provide interim recommendations to the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence, and we commit to acting upon it immediately.
As we continue our work with the defence team, we have created a new organization of professional conduct and culture under the leadership of its chief, General Carignan. This will be responsible for carrying out and creating the conditions for cultural transformation by unifying, integrating, and coordinating the ongoing efforts across the Department of National Defence.
Their goal is to ensure that our actions and behaviour reflect the very best parts of our organizations of Canadian society. Their efforts will closely align with the work being carried out by the external review and will be informed by best practices, as well as experts, advocates and those who have lived experiences, inside and outside our institutions, at all levels.
We are dedicated to creating lasting cultural change across the defence team, change that is enduring and that meets the needs of those who have experienced sexual harassment and violence. The motion that the Leader of the Opposition has put forward does nothing to help those in the Canadian Armed Forces. It is more focused on personal attacks and petty games, something that I have unfortunately been far too accustomed to. That is okay.
It is disappointing, though, but it comes as no surprise from a party that is focused more on fanning the flames of division, a party that refused to acknowledge structural racism, like the Leader of the Opposition did in September of last year, or in the midst of a pandemic when Dr. Theresa Tam, who is Canada's chief public health officer, had her loyalty to our country questioned, because of her name and the colour of her skin, by a Conservative MP. It is a party that voted against a motion to condemn Islamophobia.
The Leader of the Opposition based his entire leadership campaign around the slogan “Take Back Canada”. From whom?
This motion is below the dignity of the House, but it is clear that is exactly the type of divisive and dog-whistle politics on which the Conservative opposition depends.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like the minister to explain why he has always said that politicians should not get involved in the complaint against General Vance, when he personally handled Major-General Fortin's case.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I will be very clear on this. No politician should ever be involved in or interfere with any investigation. I know this as a former police officer. Never once did I interfere in an investigation. The decisions that are made when it comes to the personnel within the Canadian Armed Forces are made by the chief of the defence staff, and in this case the acting chief of the defence staff.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the minister, and I will get right to the point. I understand that he might be feeling bitter about being the subject of a Conservative motion, since the Conservatives are the ones who made all kinds of cuts to defence and veterans affairs.
However, the point of today's motion does not seem to be a partisan one. The point seems to be to restore trust in the institution. A minister's job is to lead an institution, and although I am well aware that it is a thankless job, that means the minister must be beyond reproach. This is not the first time that there have been doubts about the minister's actions and words.
I understand that the government is trying to remain in power and trigger an election to snuff out the scandal, just like it did last summer when it prorogued Parliament.
However, with all due respect, does the minister not think that the best solution right now would be to step down from his position to restore trust in the institution? When there are too many doubts, they start to get in the way.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to serving our Canadian Armed Forces members, the women and men who have served, I have always been there to support them. Through the lived experience, I will never cut and run; I will always be there to support them.
I was given the the tremendous privilege of becoming Minister of National Defence. I fought to become the member of Parliament for Vancouver South, but I was given this privilege. From the lived experience, from day one, my focus has always been to serve our members. Even though I served and have a microcosm of experience, it is my responsibility to serve them.
When it comes to the culture change, something that is very important, actions have been taken, whether by SMRC, or doing the gender-based analysis plus or putting support where it is needed to ensure our victims are supported through Bill C-77.
I admit that when it comes to doing more, we should do more, and we will.
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
Mr. Speaker, my question is this. In 2015, under Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney, the chief of the defence staff was put in place, so the Conservatives did not do what they needed to do to take care of women in the military.
We now have a government that has had six years to fix this problem, this broken system, and it has not not done that.
A survivor, who is not a constituent, called my office because she did not know where to go. What does the minister suggest I say to her when government after government has been failing the women in our military?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I would tell that survivor that she will be heard and she will be supported.
As I stated, we know we have a lot more work to do. The efforts that had been taken, where we thought we were moving in that direction, have not been enough. Based on the analysis originally, we needed to look deeper. We needed to make even greater changes. The external review that Justice Morris Fish was going to do was going to help us create a greater independence, which he now has recommended. We are going to be working toward that.
It is difficult, but we must keep working toward creating that culture change, even though it does not happen overnight, and to regain that trust. That work is ongoing. It started back in 2015, but we need to continue with it.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Mr. Speaker, the only one who is making this issue personal is the minister himself. He is putting his personal reputation, his pride and his desire to be right ahead certainly of Parliament, but, more important, ahead of the interests of our men and women in uniform. The fact is that because this has been mishandled so badly, the men and women in uniform do not trust the minister again.
If he were to put his name forward as a minister of defence to lead the men and women in the military and if the men and women in the military were casting a vote, does he think he would get even a slight majority of them wanting him to stay on? I do not think he would. They cannot trust him to clean up the military, to deal with the sexual misconduct and to lead them.
I would ask him to not make this personal, but to put our military before his own ego and his own desire to be right, and to double down, as he likes to say. Does he think he even has the support of the military?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I am not here to protect my pride; I am here to continually serve. That is what I have always done. When it comes to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, they will judge me for what has taken place.
One thing I will always do, and have always done, is keep fighting for our people. It is something I did when I served and it is something I have done even since I became the defence minister, and this is why.
When we put our defence policy together, it was not just about debating the number of dollars we were going to spend. The changes that we needed to make started from focusing on our people, not having to fight women in court when we settled with Heyder and Beattie. It was about ensuring we created the independence. This type of systemic change takes significant effort, but we will not stop.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. minister why he thinks that systemic cultural change is so important for the Canadian Armed Forces.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her tireless service in the Canadian Armed Forces and for her advocacy now.
Systemic changes are absolutely necessary. The Canadian Armed Forces and any security organization of our country need to reflect the population they serve. When people step up, they deserve to have an inclusive environment so they can reach their full potential.
When we tackle these problems, our Canadian Armed Forces will be a much greater organization, because we will have increased the pool of talent, with more women and greater diversity. We have seen the impact that this has on operations. Therefore, it makes us better and it creates greater trust. That is why it is so important to ensure we take on these challenges.
View Mel Arnold Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister's speech. He went on at length about what the Liberals had spent on the defence department and how they had acquired planes, jets and so on. With the morale that has been developing because of his actions and inaction in his role, how can he expect to have personnel to man this equipment and fly these planes when the minister has failed to maintain the trust of our men and women in uniform?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, ensuring that we have the trust of our personnel, that they and that their families are valued is the focus of our defence policy. We are changing policies so when our members deploy, they are given tax-free status and do not have to fight for this ever again. We are ensuring that we work toward a harassment-free workplace, and picking the right leadership.
When I first became defence minister, though I hate using these types of numbers, we had six female general officers. We now have 15. Creating a pipeline for more gender equality and more diversity is important. Ensuring that when women put the uniform on, they have the pride and the trust of their government and country is important. That is exactly what our government has delivered. However, we know we have a lot more work to do to deal with misconduct and to regain that trust.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Pierre‑Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères.
It is with great frustration that I rise today to speak to the motion that was introduced on this Conservative Party opposition day:
That, given that the Minister of National Defence has clearly lost the respect of members of the Canadian Armed Forces, including those at the highest ranks, for, amongst other things, (i) misleading Canadians on the withdrawal of fighter jets in the fight against ISIS, (ii) misleading Canadians about his service record, (iii) presiding over the wrongful accusation and dismissal of Vice-Admiral Norman, (iv) engaging in a cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces, the House formally censure the Minister of National Defence to express the disappointment of the House of Commons in his conduct.
It is no secret that the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the motion. The Bloc Québécois has already asked for the resignation of the Minister of National Defence because of his ongoing failure to address sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. I was with our leader, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, and my colleague from Rivière‑du‑Nord at the press conference where we asked for his resignation.
The censure proposed by the motion does not get rid of this minister, who did not take sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces seriously. As set out in the motion, the minister committed a number of mistakes, although the most serious is protecting General Vance and attempting to cover up his bungling, including failing to implement the recommendations of the 2015 Deschamps report.
As the critic for status of women and gender equality, I will start by addressing these issues in my speech. I am very sensitive to these issues, and I will speak with due respect for the victims who testified at the Standing Committee on National Defence and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. I will then address a few other scandals that have rocked the Canadian Armed Forces. I will close with some suggestions to help improve trust in the armed forces.
First, while the Minister of National Defence was supposed to implement the 2015 Deschamps report, it appears that he has done nothing and that he even tried to bury General Vance’s file. I cannot believe that I am still here going over the entire unfortunate story.
Former justice Marie Deschamps released a scathing report on March 27, 2015, concerning what she considered widespread sexual misconduct in the armed forces and the sexist culture that turned a blind eye to such misconduct. The report had been commissioned in the wake of accusations against Warrant Officer André Gagnon, who sexually assaulted a subordinate, Corporal Stéphanie Raymond, in December 2011. Corporal Raymond appeared before the committee, testifying to the harm she has suffered.
Corporal Raymond filed a complaint against Warrant Officer Gagnon in 2012, but her chain of command turned against her, and she was eventually dismissed for misconduct in 2013. Warrant Officer Gagnon was acquitted in 2014, but, in 2021, after Corporal Raymond appealed the ruling, he finally pleaded guilty.
Corporal Raymond’s situation, and the accusations she brought against the armed forces, led to former justice Marie Deschamps’ report. The report contained 10 recommendations, the most important of which was to make the complaint reporting system independent of the armed forces and of the Department of National Defence. That was in 2015, and, although we are now in 2021, nothing has been done.
When she testified before the Standing Committee on National Defence in February 2021, Marie Deschamps said that very little had been done since the release of her report in 2015 and that little had really changed. She repeated these statements before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women last March.
I will nevertheless take the time to point out that these allegations are not new, and that they began under the Conservative government, since it was in April 2015 that Jonathan Vance was named as the future chief of the defence staff. Allegations of sexual misconduct had been raised against him shortly before his appointment. A few months later, in July 2015, the former minister of veterans affairs and current leader of the opposition asked his chief of staff to talk to Ray Novak about another allegation against General Vance. This allegation involved an inappropriate relationship.
General Vance denied all misconduct, and the investigations went nowhere, since there was no evidence. The military police apparently also investigated the case. On July 17, 2015, General Vance was appointed chief of the defence staff, and one of his first policies was to roll out Operation Honour, which sought to put an end to sexual misconduct. That takes guts.
How is it possible that General Vance, who was the subject of very serious allegations, was appointed, given his role and his mandate as chief of the defence staff, as the person in charge of doing something against sexual misconduct?
In fact, the very same day that General Vance become chief of the defence staff, the military police decided to drop the investigation against the man who had now become their boss. That is quite the coincidence.
The operation, which was abandoned by the current chief of defence staff, had moderate impact, but it obviously had no effect on the senior officers who were above all that. In short, the Conservatives decided to appoint someone against whom accusations had been made when he was the boss of the Canadian Armed Forces, when they knew that his mandate would be to address sexual misconduct in the forces.
Now let us look at some of the allegations under the Liberal government.
On March 1, 2018, then ombudsman Gary Walbourne met privately with the Minister of National Defence. Walbourne attempted to discuss a case of sexual misconduct involving Vance. The victim did not want to go any further in the process because she was afraid of reprisals, preventing the ombudsman from going forward. However, the ombudsman, who had credible evidence against Vance, wanted to show it to the minister, who categorically refused to even look at it.
The ombudsman wanted the minister to intervene to protect the victim, since she was Vance's subordinate and he could wipe out her career with the snap of a finger. The minister was unreceptive and hostile. Apparently, he categorically refused to look at Walbourne's evidence and left the meeting abruptly. The minister then referred the case to the Privy Council Office. After that, Walbourne tried to talk to the minister 12 times, but the minister refused to meet with him, and Walbourne retired a few months later.
The Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office exchanged emails about the situation. After that, the situation deteriorated and other facts came to light. The scandal was made public in February 2021, when Global News reported accusations of misconduct against Vance, including his relationship with a subordinate and obscene emails exchanged in 2012 with a much younger servicewoman. The woman who had been in a relationship with Vance publicly stated that she had been threatened by Vance on several occasions. Vance believed himself to be untouchable. He said that he controlled the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.
The standing committee on national defence decided to investigate the allegations against Vance. The Minister of Defence appeared before the committee a few times and contradicted himself. Moreover, the Liberals did not hesitate to obstruct the investigation to prevent Liberal employees Zita Astravas and Elder Marques from being called to testify. I was personally there when I was a substitute member of the committee. It was a sad time.
From Elder Marques' testimony, we know that everyone around the Prime Minister was aware of the situation, but the Prime Minister himself continues to deny any knowledge of it. When other employees were called by the House, the Liberals sent the Minister of Defence instead. They said that they did not want their employees to testify.
The Liberals willingly turned a blind eye to the allegations. The Liberals decided to ignore the issue, while the minister flatly refused to meet with the former ombudsman 12 times and would not even look at the evidence, claiming he did not want to interfere in the investigation.
The Prime Minister's entourage knew that there had been allegations against Vance, even if the Prime Minister himself did not have all the details. Everyone around him suspected that these allegations involved sexual misconduct. There were actually emails that mentioned sexual misconduct directly. The Minister of Defence even said that the nature of the accusations against Vance did not matter and what mattered was to take action. Well, the Liberals did absolutely nothing. They did not even implement Justice Deschamps’s main recommendation, namely to make the complaint process completely independent of the military to receive all complaints of sexual misconduct.
The facts speak for themselves. As of today, four generals have had complaints of misconduct brought against them. In 2021, six years after Justice Deschamps’s report was released, the Liberals decided to appoint former justice Louise Arbour to conduct another investigation into how to improve the system. That should have been done in 2015, not in 2021. The minister never took the situation seriously. Only when he had his back to the wall did he decide to do something, but only to save his own skin, after pressure from the opposition parties in the House and the committee investigations.
To add insult to injury, the second-in-command of the Canadian Armed Forces, Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, decided to play golf with former general Vance, despite the fact that Vance is under investigation by the military police and the military police is under Lieutenant-General Rouleau’s command. This incident led to Rouleau’s resignation and brought to light the federal government’s failure to implement an independent system to handle cases of sexual misconduct. The Liberals have done nothing since 2015 and that inaction has consequences, as this incident shows.
Since my time is running out, I will not have time to talk about everything I would have liked to address in my speech. I have been studying this case in the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the Standing Committee on National Defence for months now. There is so much going on.
In closing, the Liberals claim that they are unaware of the nature of the allegations against Vance, with the Minister of Defence even saying that the nature of the allegations does not matter. All these events have further eroded the public’s and women’s confidence and harmed diversity, in particular. We must consider the victims. The Liberals and their Minister of Defence failed to act to restore confidence in the armed forces.
One last thing: We may think none of this really touches us, but the father of a former military member recently admitted to me that his daughter had to resign when she became pregnant. Her superior officer, with whom she had had a relationship, asked her to have an abortion to keep the matter quiet. She refused, and was asked to resign. This is still happening in 2021. We must act for the sake of the victims.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2021-06-17 11:45
Mr. Speaker, the member did a pretty good job of showing that the far more serious allegations related to General Vance were from his appointment, and that there were rumours at the time among the Conservatives.
As to the present Minister of National Defence, there was an email, and for privacy reasons no one was allowed to know what was in it. It was dealt with within 24 hours, which was very fast action by the minister. It was investigated as far as it could go at that time, because for privacy the person did not want the information to get out.
I am glad the member mentioned that we should be concentrating on the victims. That is what the Liberals have done 90% of the time at committee. Because the member is on the status of women committee, which had good witnesses, I would like her to suggest what needs to be done to change the culture. At committee, we found that was probably the biggest problem facing the military.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am shocked to hear that 90% of the time the Liberals acted out of respect for the victims in committee. Where have they been over the past six years? We are being asked to take action. We are being schooled in confidentiality.
If the Liberals had simply reread Justice Deschamps’s report, we would not be where we are today, and we would not be discussing something that was debated yet again in the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the Standing Committee on National Defence in 2021.
I invite my colleague to reread the report, since it contains concrete suggestions.
View Monique Pauzé Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Shefford for her excellent speech. I always learn something when she speaks in the House.
Does she not get the feeling that the Liberals and the Conservatives are very alike in that they do not care about what happens to the victims? The Conservatives did the same thing in the case of General Vance: They denied that there had been any allegations of a sexual nature.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Repentigny for her comments.
That is what we heard from the victims. I am thinking in particular about Ms. Raymond, who testified before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. She still does not understand why she had to fight to have her case dealt with outside the Canadian Armed Forces. She managed to win because she was heard before an external tribunal.
The recommendation was made in 2015. Ms. Raymond is well aware that the Deschamps report led to the story covered by L'actualité and various Quebec journalists.
The victims are asking for concrete measures, and they are well aware of what was in the Deschamps report.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Shefford on her speech.
I would like her to tell me what she thinks about the fact that the minister is holding on to his position. What message does that send to women who want to pursue a career in the Canadian Armed Forces?
Personally, I feel that the message being sent is that women who want to pursue a military career must be willing to take risks with their safety, given all the incidents of sexual misconduct. It makes no sense. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about this.
View Andréanne Larouche Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for his question.
I cannot for the life of me understand why the Minister of National Defence still has his job. I did not even have enough time in my speech to talk about all the other reasons nobody can possibly have confidence in him anymore.
During my studies, I had a chance to interview military personnel. I went to Jonquière and I talked to people at CFB Bagotville, which is an important institution. If we want to see more women and more diversity in the armed forces, we absolutely have to send a strong message.
The government calls itself feminist. How can it possibly allow a defence minister who tolerated such allegations to keep his job? That is unacceptable, there is no excuse for it, and it is high time the minister resigned. That is what my colleagues on the Standing Committee on National Defence and I demanded a few weeks ago.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague from Shefford for her excellent speech and for agreeing to split her time with me.
Today, we are discussing a motion moved by the Conservative Party, which reads as follows:
That, given that the Minister of National Defence has clearly lost the respect of members of the Canadian Armed Forces, including those at the highest ranks, for, amongst other things,
(i) misleading Canadians on the withdrawal of fighter jets in the fight against ISIS,
(ii) misleading Canadians about his service record,
(iii) presiding over the wrongful accusation and dismissal of Vice-Admiral Norman,
(iv) engaging in a cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces,
the House formally censure the Minister of National Defence to express the disappointment of the House of Commons in his conduct.
I do not think anyone in the House will be surprised to learn that we will vote in favour of this motion, in light of its troubling elements. The facts have accumulated over time, which has led to a loss of confidence. That is why the Bloc Québécois is calling for the resignation of the Minister of National Defence.
We look at all these things that have happened, but the last straw was the whole issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. The situation has completely deteriorated and the minister has mismanaged it from the start.
As we know, General Vance was forced to retire and it was not until after he retired that we finally learned about the allegations of sexual misconduct that were made against him, which triggered an investigation by the Standing Committee on National Defence, as well as a study by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. When two committees look into an issue at the same time, it is obviously a big deal.
Shortly thereafter we also learned that General Vance's replacement, Admiral McDonald, also had to step down, also because of allegations of sexual misconduct.
This has been going on at the upper echelons of the military for some time and it is troubling since the current Minister of National Defence was notified of the problem by Gary Walbourne, who was national defence and armed forces ombudsman at the time, but has since retired. He went to the minister to advise him of a major complaint against the chief of the defence staff, General Vance. It was serious.
The minister told him he did not want to know about it, that he did not want anyone to talk to him about it, that he did not want to see the evidence and that the ombudsman should instead go talk to the appropriate authorities. In fact, the minister refused to look at what the ombudsman wanted to show him and then refused to meet with him again thereafter. The minister adopted this culture of wilful ignorance, choosing to turn a blind eye and act like nothing happened.
Unfortunately, even though some people on his staff appear to have passed the information along, it is hard to know who was aware of what and when. There are different, contradictory versions of events. When asked, the minister initially said that he was not aware. That is completely untrue, however, because we have now learned that he was aware. He met with the ombudsman, who wanted to talk to him about the situation.
Then, the minister started saying that he was not aware of the nature of the complaint in question. However, once again, Mr. Walbourne said that he very clearly told the minister about the nature of the complaint. Furthermore, media reports revealed that the public servants had emailed each other, proving that the minister was aware of the nature of the complaint, in spite of what he had been claiming. Worse yet, the minister then claimed that the nature of the complaint was not ultimately an important factor.
That is how he chose to handle it. Rather than apologizing and telling us that he did not give us the right information and that he tried to hide the fact that he did not take the action he should have, he decided to minimize the situation and tried to convince us that, ultimately, it was not that important.
It is especially disappointing to see a minister behave like that, particularly because of the message that it sends to the Canadian Armed Forces. The message is that this is not serious, not important. The government is going to close its eyes to complaints. The government is going to say that it does not want anything to do with this sort of thing and that it does not want to get involved because politicians should not interfere with investigations. That is the minister's position.
Nevertheless, we asked the former ombudsman if it would have constituted interference to meet with him to look at the evidence. At that time, there was not even an investigation under way. He said that it would not. The ombudsman that replaced him and who is in office today told us that it would not be interfering at all and that is exactly what he would have done.
We asked the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service or CFNIS if it would have constituted interference for the minister to do his job by simply looking at the evidence and agreeing to meet with the ombudsman. He said no, not at all. We also asked the CFNIS whether it would have constituted interference for the minister to request an investigation. Once again, the CFNIS said no and added that that would only be the case if the minister sought to undermine the investigation. However, it must be said that the minister did basically undermine the investigation by not asking the CFNIS to investigate and by refusing to obtain the information. However, there was no investigation. It was easier that way.
We then learned that the information did make the rounds. The Privy Council Office was informed of the situation. One of the Prime Minister's advisers, Elder Marques, was apparently informed of the situation and was asked to investigate, at least to some extent. The Prime Minister's chief of staff was also informed of the situation. However, one after the other, they all claimed at the beginning, when speaking with the Prime Minister, that they did not know and his staff did not know. We were getting different versions all the time, and information was coming out in dribs and drabs. Unfortunately, we are up against a government and a party that are trying to undermine the work of the Standing Committee on National Defence.
I have been a member of that committee for months, and our work has been stalled for months now. Every time a witness is called or a witness expresses a desire to appear, the government and Liberal members filibuster. As a result, nothing is moving forward and nothing is getting done. The filibustering is only getting worse. It has been about three or four weeks since we have been able to have a single meeting where we have intelligent discussions and actually do any work. We are just wasting time. This is especially frustrating because this government prides itself on being a democratic government when, really, it is just undermining the committee's work.
Why did he decide to hinder the work of the committee? That is the question. Why does he absolutely not want us to know what happened? Since the witnesses kept contradicting each other, after we heard the last one, we decided to invite more. We asked for the Minister of National Defence's chief of staff so that he could give us his version of the facts, but that was blocked. We cannot speak to him. On one occasion, the minister even showed up in place of his chief of staff to tell us what he would have said. That is something. He knew what the other guy was going to say. Why are the Liberals so scared of what he might tell us?
For now, what we have observed is that the Minister of National Defence was not up to the task. He did not do his job, and, because of that, to protect itself and to prevent things from going smoothly, the Liberal Party has been systematically obstructing the investigation. The Liberal members of the committee are preventing us from doing our job. If I were a citizen and I saw that, I would be really angry and frustrated. In addition, what message does this send to people who work in the Canadian Armed Forces?
What message does this send to women? The message is that, when things like this happen, when a minister is not up to the task and when there are unacceptable situations in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Standing Committee on National Defence will be prevented from doing its job because the government wants to protect its friends, and because it wants to protect those who did not do what they should have done. That is what is really going on.
We have a minister who is not up to the task. Rather than do his job, when he could have implemented the recommendations of the 2015 Deschamps report, the minister decided to go back to square one instead. I do not even know if he read the Deschamps report, which contained good recommendations and indicated that the situation in the armed forces was hard to believe. He decided to go back to square one and commission another report that they also may not look at in order to stall.
For example, he allowed Mr. Vance to take charge of Operation Honour, when, in the end, he was setting the wolf loose on the sheep. He gave him a raise. Worse than that, we found out that, in the meantime, the second in command of the armed forces, Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, who is also vice chief of the defence staff and head of the military police, went to play golf with the retired General Vance.
All this shows just how much the minister's inaction created a climate of impunity in the armed forces, and that is totally unacceptable.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Madam Speaker, I am disappointed the Bloc members have decided to support the Conservative Party on the motion. Would the Bloc members apply the same principles to the behaviour of the leader of the official opposition, given that he had the opportunity to deal with this matter when he was part of the Stephen Harper cabinet? That government's failure is what ultimately advanced General Vance. Does he believe there should be any consequences today because of the inaction of the leader of the official opposition or does he believe he did the right thing back then?
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I think my colleague has asked a very good question. As he pointed out, the Conservatives initially appointed General Vance. However, the Liberals are the ones who failed to act when allegations about him surfaced.
Nevertheless, if there was a need to delve further, if the Conservatives failed to act, I think that the same steps should be taken, that is, that their conduct should be investigated as long as there would not be filibustering at committee to prevent light being shed on these matters.
However, at this time, we are dealing with the current government. Who is in power now? Who has the means to change things at this time? It is the Liberals, and they are the ones preventing change from happening.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his intervention today. I appreciate the work he has done at the national defence committee and having to sit through the ongoing, needless filibustering and obstruction by the Liberals. They continue their cheap political grandstanding. It has been very disheartening. It very much undermines the trust of the women and men who serve in uniform in our parliamentary institutions to watch the Liberals keep a minister in place who continues to lose their respect and now see parliamentarians from the Liberal side trying to hide that and being complicit in the cover-up of the minister failing to act upon the sexual misconduct allegations against General Vance three years ago.
We have a parliamentary democracy that hinges upon ministerial accountability. In light of the fact the minister has not done the honourable thing and resigned, does the member believe the Prime Minister should fire the Minister of National Defence?
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I think it is a good question.
In my opinion, in the circumstances, there comes a point where the minister should realize that he is not up to the task. He should realize that he is not fit for the office he holds. He should realize that, ultimately, his very presence undermines public confidence in the institution.
In my opinion, if he does not have the good judgment to resign, the Prime Minister should help him step aside.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. All of this business with the Minister of National Defence seems like one big cover-up operation.
Unfortunately, we are not talking about a military operation on the ground. We are talking about an operation to save the minister's skin and his ministerial position.
I think the member said it well. The trust has been broken, and the victims of this cover-up operation are the people who serve in our armed forces, and in particular women.
What does my colleague think about that?
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
We saw a prime example of that late last week when the military's second-in-command, who also oversees the military police, played golf with the man who is currently under investigation. That right there is telling. There is a culture of impunity in the armed forces, at least among senior officers, who think that they are above the law.
Because a minister did not do his job and is not up to the task, the members of the armed forces feel like nothing will change. The minister must be replaced.
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
I am honoured today to speak to this motion. I am the granddaughter of Bert McCoy. He was a gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force who always lived a very large life, including being shot down over Belgium during the Second World War. He spent two years in the underground trying to fight his way back to my grandmother and my mother in Canada. An interesting part about this story is that he had to escape from some German soldiers, and speaking French saved his life. I sometimes think that the reason I fight so hard for Franco-Albertans is that French saved the life of my grandfather.
He was a magnificent man, and I am proud to stand today in his honour, but I have to say that how we protect and stand up for the women and men who defend this country defines us as parliamentarians. It is one of our most fundamental duties.
We ask members of the armed forces to risk their lives, to be away from loved ones, and to defend all of us and others around the world. There can be no more important thing than those women and men knowing that we have their backs. Women and men have lost confidence that this minister has their backs. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces have heard the minister mislead them. They have heard the minister mislead parliamentarians, the media and Canadians.
I do not want to be harsh on any member of the House. I understand that we all have very difficult jobs, and I honestly believe that almost all members want to do what is best for Canadians, but the minister has acted in a way that requires a response.
In 2016, the minister quashed an inquiry into Canadian transfers of detainees to local custody in Afghanistan, where they faced torture. An inquiry would have revealed why the transfers were not stopped and why these war crimes were never reported. In making this decision, the minister was in an apparent conflict of interest. He served as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan at the time of the transfers and would have had knowledge of the torture of detainees. No public inquiry was ever conducted into Canada's role and responsibility with regard to the transfer of Afghan detainees. More recently, the minister turned a blind eye to evidence of war crimes committed by Iraqi troops being trained by Canadians as part of Operation Impact.
In 2017, the minister claimed to be the architect of Operation Medusa. This was not true. He exaggerated his role, which of course is an affront to those members who fought in Afghanistan. Honour means telling the truth. Honour means not taking credit for the work done by others. The minister stole honour that was not his.
Despite the minister's poor record, this is not just an issue with the Minister of National Defence. The focus on the Minister of National Defence is necessary, and I will support this motion, but I want to outline why I believe the inexcusable actions by the government, in relation to its support for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, are not the issue of just one minister. In fact, this is not the issue of just one party. There is an insidious and dangerous reality that goes farther than one minister.
The Prime Minister has failed the women and men in uniform. The Liberal government has failed the women and men in uniform. There is a pattern of looking the other way. There is a pattern of not doing the work that needs to be done to meet our international obligations to report war crimes and torture. As always, the failures of many do not affect the government. They affect our brave servicewomen and men in this country, and they affect those who need our help around the world.
One of the most shocking failures was the inability to protect women in the military from sexual harassment and violence.
The government has been in power for six years, and in those six years there have been 581 sexual assaults in the military, with 221 incidents of sexual harassment logged. This abject failure to protect women is a stain on our country.
Women are tired of being told to be patient. They are tired of being told their concerns have been heard and then nothing changes. As important as the Liberals say the issue is, the Prime Minister did not even include an explicit mention of dealing with sexual misconduct in the 2015, 2019 or 2021 mandate letters to the minister.
The Prime Minister did not care.
I spoke earlier today about a survivor who called my office because she did not trust her member of Parliament. She did not know where to turn, so she phoned my office. I spoke to her for over an hour about her concerns that her anonymity and safety would be compromised, and that for her having a career in the Canadian Armed Forces was now impossible.
This is a woman who has served our country, and she does not even feel safe telling the government about the concerns she has as a survivor of sexual harassment within the military. I did not know what to say to her. I did not know how to help her. I did not know how to relieve her concerns. I did not know what to do, because I do not have confidence that the government cares about sexual harassment survivors. I do not have confidence that the Conservative government, when it was in power, had the best interests of women in our military at heart.
Can members imagine being a survivor, and being brave and strong enough to come forward with that story of survival, and then finding out that General Vance was golfing with the people who were investigating him? The old boys' club nonsense that she is trying to stop and prevent, because she wants to make our military better, results in them going for a golf game. How old boys' club is that? How inexcusable.
These women do not get action. They get another inquiry. The minister must answer for this, but more importantly the Prime Minister must answer for this.
As I said, my confidence in the government has failed, but I do not believe the Conservative government acted better. I am sad to say the Conservative government under Stephen Harper, with Jason Kenney as the minister of defence, bears the same guilt. Jason Kenney knew General Vance was accused of sexual harassment, and unbelievably he appointed the general to lead Operation Honour. In what world is it reasonable to have somebody accused or suspected of sexual harassment be in charge of the investigation into sexual harassment? The absurdity is shocking to me.
While I am disappointed in the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence and the Liberal government, I find it incredibly rich that the Conservatives have the gall to stand in this place and not acknowledge the role their government has played in harming the women of our Canadian Armed Forces.
There is enough blame to go around. Government after government has failed women in this country. They have created a toxic work environment where women cannot work safely in our military. Is anyone surprised that enrolment is low? Can anyone be surprised that women do not flock to participate in our military?
In conclusion, I will support this motion because the minister needs to answer for his actions, but I want to reiterate that the Prime Minister, the minister, the government and the opposition bear the burden of knowing they have not protected women in this country.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I agree with a lot of what the member had to say today, in particular when she said there is a lot of blame to go around. We are dealing with systemic issues within the military, especially given the actions we have seen lately, and these are things that need to be dealt with. We need to get to the bottom of these things. We need to start change within the culture of the military.
Is today a productive day to do that? Would it not have been a more productive day to have a motion that challenged the government to develop policy to deal with these issues, as opposed to spending another day on personal attacks on one particular individual? Would she not have rather had a meaningful, serious debate about policy that could shape and change the culture of the military?
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
Madam Speaker, I have a few problems with this. First of all, all attempts to get the government to take meaningful action have been stalled, whether it is at committee or in the House. It has had six years and has chosen not to take the necessary steps that would protect women in the military.
Do I think the Conservative opposition is acting in a partisan manner today with this opposition day motion? Absolutely. This is not going to help women in the Canadian military. That said, the minister does need to answer for his actions. The government has had a long time to fix this and has chosen not to do so.
The member can talk about what we could have done, but he is in government. I can tell him an awful lot of things that he and his party could have done.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, the Minister of National Defence, since day one of the last Parliament, has had a rocky road, with a lot of scandals, issues and problems, and they seem to be piling up. So far, neither he nor the Prime Minister has done anything about it. I would ask the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona to comment on that.
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
Madam Speaker, I wish I did not have to say this, but very often we hear the right words from the Liberals and we do not see action. They are incredibly good at saying words that Canadians and I want to hear. They say they are going to take action and do what needs to be done, but then we do not get that. We get study after study. There are so many times I have stood in the House over the last year and a half and wondered whether the government knows it is the government. Does it not know that it has the ability to do these things? Does it not know the tools that it has at its disposal?
I agree with the member that if the Liberals really want to make changes for women in the military, they have all the tools they need to make them happen.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her insightful speech.
We have a number of urgent and important matters to take care of right now, so I want to ask my colleague how she feels about the fact that we are still debating something that seems obvious to everyone. Everyone has read and heard all the arguments.
What does my colleague think about the government's slow pace and indifference to this matter, which needs to be dealt with once and for all so that we can move on?
View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
Madam Speaker, I will reiterate that we have a report that outlines what needs to be done to protect women in the military. We know the next steps to be taken. We know exactly what could be done right now, this moment, to protect women in the military, and none of it is being done.
We are standing in this place with an urgency to pass legislation on climate change, broadcasting and so many other things, as if there are not two years left in the mandate of the government. I believe we still have two years left to do this work. I feel that the constant failure to plan and do the work puts so much of the important work of the House at risk. We are very quickly getting to the summer, and we are having a debate that we should have talked about six years ago, to be perfectly honest.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona for her interventions, which are always extremely relevant, heartfelt and full of humanity.
To quote Shakespeare's Hamlet, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I get the impression that something is rotten in the office of the Minister of National Defence. He has abandoned the men and women of the armed forces time and again. He has engaged in cover-ups, tried to ignore the facts, and tried to sweep things under the rug, and he misled the parliamentary committee when he was answering questions. The members of the armed forces deserve much better than that. They are courageous men and women. They take risks. They are prepared to make sacrifices, and they keep us and our country safe.
In my opinion, the men and women who serve in the armed forces must be respected. They deserve better. The Minister of National Defence abandoned them and chose to turn a blind eye to serious allegations, including allegations of sexual misconduct, and other problems, such as the things that happened in Iraq. He always tried to cover up instead. It seems that the minister's modus operandi is to avoid fixing the problem, look away or sweep problems under the rug. For him, it is out of sight, out of mind. However, that is not how it works.
The Minister of National Defence, protected by the Prime Minister and by the entire Liberal government, let down all the women who serve in the armed forces, first and foremost. That is unfortunate, because it blatantly contradicts the Liberal rhetoric about how they are a feminist government that cares deeply about the plight of women and their advancement to achieve real equality.
On several occasions, the minister, protected by the Prime Minister, failed the test. The people who work in the armed forces have a unique calling. We should be grateful to them. Personally, I am grateful for my grandfather, Urgel Boulerice, who served in the armed forces in World War II. It makes me think about my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona, who spoke of her grandfather. Her story was very interesting. These people have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. The Liberal government failed to meet its obligations.
We are dealing with a deleterious climate, a culture of impunity and a toxic culture. Despite all the reports and recommendations, the Liberal government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence were unable to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. All workers in Canada have the right to a safe and healthy work environment, including those who serve in our armed forces.
I have not met many military personnel, since there is no military base in my region. In my riding, Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie, there is a legion, and I have met with its members a few times. I am not as close to the issue as some of my colleagues. However, I spent three days on a frigate between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John's, Newfoundland. For three days, I lived with sailors on the HMCS Ville de Québec, which, I must say, is a very nice name. I met extremely dedicated professional men and women who want to do their job well and who have absolutely unbelievable stories to tell, including about counter-piracy operations off the cost of East Africa. I salute their work and their bravery. If I mention this, it is because I am trying to address this situation as a matter of women's and workers' rights.
I want to take a step back and ask everyone here a question. For us, as members of Parliament, what does it mean to engage in politics? We must listen to people. We must connect with people. We must listen to their problems and try to find solutions. When Yann Martel spoke at an NDP convention, he said that politics requires empathy, the ability to stand in someone else's shoes to better understand their life.
I must admit that I have had a privileged life and that there are some hardships that I cannot understand. I am not a part of a minority, I have not been excluded, I have not faced discrimination, and I have not been the victim of racism or sexism. I think it is essential to be able to stand in someone else's shoes and demonstrate humanity, solidarity and friendship.
I want to take some time to read a poem from Jacques Prévert that puts us in that frame of mind. I think this kind of point of view is worthwhile and plainly relevant to this discussion. It will take two minutes, and then I will get back to the topic at hand. Here it is:
The sun shines for all mankind, except of course for prisoners and miners, and also forthose who scale the fishthose who eat the spoiled meatthose who turn out hairpin after hairpinthose who blow the glass bottles that others will drink fromthose who slice their bread with pocketknivesthose who vacation at their workbenches or their desksthose who never quite know what to say...those you won't find anesthetized at the dentist'sthose who cough out their lungs in the subway those who down in various holes turn out the pens with which others in the open air will write something to the effect that everything turns out for the bestthose who have too much to even begin to put into words those whose labours are never over those who haven't labours those who look for labours those who aren't looking for laboursthose who water your horses those who watch their own dogs dyingthose who daily bread is available on a more or less weekly schedule those who go to church to keep warm in their winter those whom Swiss Guards send outdoors to keep warm those who simply rotthose who enjoy the luxury of eating those who travel beneath your wheels those who stare at the Seine flowing bythose whom you hire, to whom you express your deepest thanks, whom you are charitable toward, whom you deprive, whom you manipulate, whom you step on, whom you crushthose from whom even fingerprints are taken those whom you order to break ranks at random and shoot down quite methodically those who go on forced marches beneath the Arch of Triumph those who don't know how to fall in with the custom of the country any place on earththose who never ever see the sea those who always smell of fresh linen because they weave the sheets you lie on those without running water those whose goal is eternally the blue horizon those who scatter salt on the snow in all directions in order to collect a ridiculous salary those whose life expectancy is a lot shorter than yours is those who've never yet knelt down to pick up a dropped hairpin those who die of boredom on a Sunday afternoon because they see Monday morning coming and also Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday too and the next Sunday afternoon as well.
I think this tells us that we must be able to see those with different lives and different challenges who are suffering. Right now, in the Canadian Armed Forces, there are people who are struggling and who are suffering. That is why there have been allegations of misconduct and investigations. Unfortunately, the Minister of Defence, instead of trying to put himself in the shoes of those who are struggling and suffering, preferred to try to bury the situation time and again.
He did that in the case of the investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct, but that was not the first time. There are things that trouble me immensely about the current Minister of Defence's instincts. Remember that, before this whole unbelievable story, there were videos of Iraqi military personnel committing crimes against Iraqi women, including sexual assault, rape and maybe even murder. What was the Minister of Defence's response? He told us not to watch the videos.
In 2016, after becoming Minister of Defence, he decided to set aside an investigation into the transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan when they were handed over to local authorities who were known to routinely practise torture. This is a complete violation of all of our international commitments and the Geneva Conventions. We should not be transferring prisoners if we think they are going to be mistreated or tortured.
There is overwhelming proof that the minister is incompetent, and that he is not deserving of our confidence or of that of the House. For these reasons, the NDP is asking for his resignation.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie for his speech and his reference to philosophical texts that help us reflect on Parliament's ultimate goal, which is to serve our population and our citizens, as well as the members of our armed forces, who are crucial to Canada's safety and peace.
Does my colleague have a quick solution to suggest to the current government, other than the resignation of the Minister of National Defence, which we all want? We need a quick solution to reassure women who want to make a career in the armed forces. What would my colleague suggest?
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Unfortunately, I think we have had the answers for a long time, and that is the problem. I think the solutions are there. During the five years of Operation Honour, which was supposed to change the culture within the Canadian Armed Forces, 581 sexual assaults and 220 incidents of sexual harassment were reported in the military.
The Deschamps report was tabled and made public on April 30, 2015. A few months later, the Liberals won a majority government. We already knew what Justice Deschamps' recommendations were at that time. She had reached her conclusions and proposed practical solutions. However, six years later, nothing has been done and the same culture still exists. However, the answers to the problem are set out in Justice Deschamps' report.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Madam Speaker, again, I am disappointed that we seem to see the alliance of the opposition parties taking this approach.
Given that the current leader of the Conservative Party was very much aware of allegations and completely failed to do his job back then, I am wondering if the member would say that it is his position or his party's position that there should be a consequence for the current leader of the official opposition for not acting when he should have acted. Does he believe that to be the case, or should the leader of the official opposition be given a pass?
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Speaker, I am always really pleased to disappoint a Liberal. It makes my day. Honestly, I have seen better attacks. We could talk about many Conservatives, including Jason Kenney, who are responsible for a whole bunch of bad decisions.
I would just like to tell the parliamentary secretary that he often accuses the opposition of slowing down the work, filibustering and making Parliament dysfunctional. That is the Liberals' rhetoric right now. However, I would like to remind him that the Liberals are the ones obstructing the work of the Standing Committee on National Defence to hide the truth, prevent witnesses from appearing and prevent us from getting to the bottom of what happened in the defence minister's office. They are trying to protect their friends. That is the good old Liberal culture. Sometimes those who delay the work are those who have things to hide.
View Taylor Bachrach Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, for his wonderful remarks and very powerful speech.
In listening to the member's speech and others, I am trying to imagine how it must feel to be a member of the armed forces who has been a victim of sexual assault or harassment and to see the Liberals filibustering the defence committee when the committee members are trying to get answers. Could the member reflect on what message he feels these actions send to people who have been victimized by these kinds of offences?
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
Madam Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for his excellent question. Again, let us put ourselves in the shoes of people who are suffering and who were victims of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault, people who are now watching the Liberals and the defence minister attempt to cover it all up. Those people must feel frustrated and abandoned. Unfortunately, the Liberals have abandoned the men and especially the women of the Canadian Armed Forces.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill. As the strong, proud and ready member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I am honoured to represent Garrison Petawawa.
Today's motion is about the legacy of the Canadian Armed Forces during the current defence minister's tenure. He needs to step aside, since he is not prepared to admit each time he failed to uphold his oath of office to the Canadian people. He was under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister. There is no room in the Prime Minister's Office or the Department of National Defence for sexism, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, discrimination, harassment or any other conduct that prevents the institution and the whole of government from being a truly welcoming and inclusive organization.
Canadians understand that a culture change, starting with the Prime Minister, is required to remove his culture of toxic masculinity behaviour to create an environment where everyone is respected, valued and can feel safe to contribute to the best of their abilities. As the member of Parliament for Garrison Petawawa, I know that respect is precious. If the Minister of National Defence has any respect for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, he would have resigned a long time ago.
I have worked very hard to earn the respect of our women and men in uniform. They are heroes. This was in the 2018 briefing note to the chain of command, up to the Minister of National Defence, the individual at the top who claims ignorance of war crimes:
We remain uncertain whether appropriate action was effectively taken...I am an ethical man and I believe in our moral doctrine and the LOAC (Law of Armed Conflict). I am bothered by the fact that my assigned duties allowed me to train and enable people who in my mind were criminals.
These soldiers are also my constituents. I have a direct responsibility in calling out this dereliction of duty on the part of the Prime Minister. I acknowledge the trust they placed in me when they acted with a conscience. I will always have the backs of the women and men in uniform.
On behalf of the people of Canada and on behalf of our Conservative government-in-waiting, I thank the soldiers who first raised the issue of war crimes, and then continue to raise these concerns. They have the gratitude and full support of the Conservatives, even if the Liberal Party continues to slough them off and act vindictively towards the soldiers who reported what they saw.
It is obvious to those who care about things like international treaties and the law of armed conflict that the Minister of National Defence has many lessons to learn. He needs to take lessons from the official opposition when it comes to serving his country. The minister claims no politician should ever start investigations. How quickly he forgot his own advice when it came to an hon. naval officer, like Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. What the Prime Minister ordered, however, was not an investigation against Mark Norman, it was a witch hunt that ended badly for the Prime Minister and his minister.
While I am proud and ready to defend the honour and reputations of the women and men who serve as the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, I cannot say the same about the current Minister of National Defence. The reputation has been maligned by the government of our country. The lack of leadership and direction from the Prime Minister has created many casualties.
First is the Minister of National Defence. The motion put forward by the leader of my party says it all. Seeing the Minister of National Defence reduced to repeating mindless talking points is sad, when he had a strong role model sitting next to him, the former minister of justice, the MP for Vancouver Granville. As a principled woman, she knew when it was time to stand up and act honourably.
The next casualties of the Prime Minister's lack of leadership are the women in uniform who have been victims of sexual misconduct under his watch, and the double standard on the way women and men are treated by the so-called, let me grope for his self-label, “feminist Prime Minister”.
Let us talk about the female officer who was charged, convicted, fined and removed from her post. Her treatment was in direct contrast to the treatment afforded to Lieutenant-General Christopher Coates who, while serving as deputy commander of NORAD, had a consensual relationship with a civilian woman serving with the U.S. military in Colorado Springs.
He was allowed to continue his post before being transferred home last summer to take over the military's joint operations command. Coates was due to be transferred to the senior NATO post in Naples, Italy, until news of the affair became public. Now, ignoring the family relationship between Coates and DND deputy minister Jody Thomas, this example of the double standard women in uniform face every day from the government is appalling. We can add that to the casualty list on sexual misconduct.
The Prime Minister's own chief of staff, Katie Telford, did nothing to rein in the problem of the Prime Minister's toxic masculinity and seriously address the problem of the sexual misconduct crisis in the military. That makes her part of the problem and she should have resigned her position when her complicity was exposed.
The next casualties of the lack of leadership and direction by the Prime Minister and his Minister of National Defence are all the serving women in the Canadian Armed Forces. From the highest-ranking general to those who are still around, to the newly enlisted, who should be eager to serve their country, but who are now demoralized by the actions of the Prime Minister.
There are also fine individuals like Mark Norman and former armed forces ombudsman, Gary Walbourne. I am a member of the Standing Committee on National Defence. We invited Gary to come to our committee. He stated for the record he met the defence minister in 2018 to discuss an allegation of sexual misconduct against former chief of the defence staff, Jonathan Vance.
When he offered to show the minister proof of the allegation, former armed forces ombudsman Walbourne stated the government pushed him away and refused to review the evidence. “The only thing I ever wanted the minister to do was his job,” he is quoted as saying at the time that this happened. He then observed that “doing nothing wasn't the response I was looking for”. Doing nothing is the legacy of the defence minister and the government. This is now a government-wide scandal.
The next casualties in the DND scandal are the MP for Kanata—Carleton and the MP for Ottawa West—Nepean. The endless filibustering of the Standing Committee on National Defence will not go unnoticed by voters. They also had a role model like the member who had also left the Liberal caucus who used to sit beside them in the government caucus. To retired general Andrew Leslie, the former member of Parliament for Orléans, who resigned rather than being reduced to a mindless government cheerleader, I thank him for his service to this country.
The last point I will now deal with is the myth that some elements of the bought media repeat is that the military fared okay while the member for Vancouver South has been sitting in the defence minister's chair. Under the defence minister's time, though the government may have committed spending more money on the military in real dollars, it is all promised spending. The devil is always in the details. My constituents clearly remember the decade of darkness when Liberals slashed budgets, starting with disbanding the Canadian Airborne Regiment.
For spending to actually happen, soldiers have to rely on a future elected Conservative government. Of the purchases that have actually been delivered so far, they are mired in controversy. Who is Adam Coates again? By all tests, the Minister of National Defence has failed Canadians.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2021-06-17 12:46
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her service and for representing the brave men and women in uniform in her community.
The question I have for her is about the culture of cover-up and why it is so important that the minister does resign. We have seen it with the SNC-Lavalin case. We have seen it with the WE scandal. Even before the last election, with CUSMA, we knew it was going to be a $1.5-billion hit to the auto industry, but the Liberals kept that away from Canadians before the election. They knew about this sexual scandal in the military before the election and now we are seeing it repeated with the Winnipeg lab cover-up.
Could she explain to Canadians that it is absolutely necessary that the Liberal minister resign, not only for his behaviour, but for keeping this information away from Canadians before the last election?
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, definitely the culture of cover-up is something that has to be dealt with, together with corruption overall.
It started from the very beginning, with the purchase and procurement of the Asterix. There was government intervention trying to stop what was going forward. It was not stopped in its tracks at that time. Then there was the sexual misconduct and Operation Honour. They took the “honour” out of Operation Honour by allowing sexual misconduct to go unchecked for years, and now we have many women and men who are broken by what happened to them.
This goes all the way to the cover-up on the vaccines, and now the Winnipeg lab. Heaven only knows what occurred as a consequence of their covering up what happened at the lab, with the scientists who were fired.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Madam Speaker, I am wondering if the member could reflect on the fact that the current Leader of the Opposition, her leader, was made aware of misconduct rumours back in 2015. The Conservative government was very much aware, yet it went ahead and posted General Vance to a higher position. I am wondering if the member would say that the leader of the official opposition should also have to pay some consequence for his lack of action, or does she believe that he should be given a pass?
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, as soon as our current leader learned about allegations against the former chief of the defence staff, he reported it and it was investigated, unlike what happened with the current government.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, many of my colleagues have spoken to this issue so far, and the Bloc Québécois will definitely be voting in favour of this motion.
However, instead of censuring the Minister of National Defence, why not demand his resignation?
Does my colleague think the Minister of National Defence should resign immediately?
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, that is a very good question that my colleague asked. We are hoping that the minister will finally conduct an act of honour and do so on his own. However, right now, it is the Prime Minister who is ultimately responsible, and he has presided over this culture of cover-up and corruption.
View Taylor Bachrach Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's remarks. I have a similar question to the last one, and perhaps it is rhetorical, but does she feel that there is any way the Prime Minister can continue to have confidence in his defence minister, when it seems that his defence minister has lost the confidence of the men and women in the armed forces?
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Speaker, all we have to do is look at the Prime Minister's own past misconduct. He dismissed an allegation of his groping with “she experienced it differently”. Then there was the bullying on the floor here during a vote, hitting an opposition member in the chest.
Where the honour and dismissing have to come from is from the top, and that begins with the Prime Minister, who has dishonoured our entire country.
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