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Results: 181 - 240 of 248
View Romeo Saganash Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to speak in the House to discuss and debate the issues of the day. I enjoying listening to the opinions of the members opposite, even though I do not always agree with them.
Every time I rise, I get a sense of déjà vu. Here we are, for the umpteenth time, debating an omnibus bill filled with measures that are in no way related to the government's fiscal policy. As with the other bills, our debate is subject to time allocation that was imposed by the government, of course.
The government likes to brag about its accomplishments and achievements, but it does not like to talk too much about its record-setting use of time allocation. Yes, these former Reformers who swept in from the west promising clean, open government and respect for the taxpayer have instead become what they professed to hate the most.
The scandals of the past month have proved this, complete with senators entitled to their entitlements, $90,000 worth of hush money and the Prime Minister doing his best to avoid answering the real questions.
Limiting debate and trying to run away from transparency is disturbing enough when it is done by trustworthy, competent managers, but it is much worse when it is done by a government that has proved itself to be as ethically lacking as this government has.
Once we wade through this massive document, we can see why the Conservatives would try to keep people from knowing what is in the budget. The bill contains many measures that concern many Canadians and have no place in a budget bill. A government that was confident in its ideas would simply introduce these measures as its own stand-alone pieces of legislation, instead of hiding them away in an omnibus bill.
Given that they have a majority in both chambers, we would think the Conservatives would have the confidence already, but a bill like the budget puts even that into question.
What are the Conservatives hiding in these bills?
Let us start with taxes. This budget contains hundreds of tax hikes on everything and anything, including hospital parking, bicycles, baby strollers, credit unions, safety deposit boxes and labour-sponsored investment funds. These increases will cost Canadians almost $8 billion over the next five years. That is a lot of money for Canadians who are having trouble making ends meet. What is even worse is that the Conservatives are trying to hide these tax hikes in a huge bill.
Like many Quebeckers, I am a member of my local credit union. Credit unions provide important services and are active in our communities. Thus, I am personally affected by the changes that the Conservatives are proposing in this budget, which will increase taxes on these organizations and hinder their ability to compete with major banks.
The Conservatives and the Liberals have done enough to help major banks over the years. Every day in the business section of the newspapers, we read that banks are doing well and do not need the Conservatives to prevent credit unions from competing with them.
What else would Bill C-60 do? The bill would introduce changes that would allow the government to require a crown corporation to have its negotiating mandate approved by Treasury Board when entering a collective agreement with a union.
The Treasury Board could impose any requirement on a crown corporation respecting the terms and conditions of employment on its employees. No crown corporation that is subject to such a government order would be allowed to enter into a collective agreement without Treasury Board's approval, and the bill would also give power to the Treasury Board, on orders from the government, to fix the terms and conditions of employment for non-unionized employees.
The bill is a direct attack on the right to free collective bargaining, while also infringing on the independent arm's-length operation of these crown corporations.
Crown corporations have this independence for good reason, and the Conservatives know this, but in this case they have decided to simply ignore those reasons. This is a dangerous precedent that should concern Canadians of all walks of life.
In this bill, we also see that the government is continuing to take steps to create a securities commission without the consent of the provinces. Although the provinces of Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick have all said that they do not want the commission, the government plans to continue to fund an office whose sole objective is to try to make this happen.
NDP members urged the government to co-operate and to work more closely with the provinces on all types of issues. However, the Conservatives have systematically ignored their suggestion. Instead, they continue to use the “take it or leave it” approach, which has only led to failure in the past. The government must work with the provinces instead of burying such measures in an omnibus budget bill.
Speaking of lack of consultations, let us talk about how the bill would affect aboriginal peoples. We in the NDP have been calling on the Conservatives to make aboriginal issues a priority in this budget. Unfortunately, the budget fails to address the major challenges facing aboriginal peoples in Canada or help move Canadians toward a new relationship with aboriginal peoples.
We have a couple of stark examples of how the budget fails. The budget would provide, for instance, Indspire with $5 million in funding post-secondary scholarships and bursaries. On the surface, that sounds nice, but when we read the fine print of this initiative we see where the other shoe drops. In the budget it states that this money would be for students who are registered as Indians under the Indian Act and for Inuit students.
Indspire offers all aboriginal students funding, yet the government has deliberately left Metis and non-status students out in the cold. This was one of the few places were Metis and non-status students could get some federal government support for their post-secondary education, but the government would take that away.
To its credit, Indspire has stated that it will continue to offer funding to Metis and non-status students out of the money it raises itself, but the fact remains that the Conservative government would put Metis and non-status students at a further disadvantage than they already face.
In this budget, the Conservatives have also allocated funds to build 250 housing units in Nunavut over the next two years. That is a good thing for the people of Nunavut, and I have nothing against that, but there is a problem with this part of the budget.
According to Statistics Canada, overpopulation plagues my Nunavik constituents more than any other group of Canadians. Right now, they need 1,000 housing units. In 2012, over 90 cases of tuberculosis were reported in the region, and the epidemic has not let up. We know that tuberculosis develops in overcrowded dwellings.
Unfortunately, this budget does nothing to help the people of Nunavik. Worse still, when the president of the Makivik Corporation asked for a meeting with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to discuss the situation, his request was denied. The minister's chief of staff sent him a two-line note saying that the minister was very busy and would not be able to meet with him, as though the problem could wait.
Although the people of Nunavut are getting a little of the help they need, I want to emphasize that the people of Nunavik cannot even get a meeting with the minister, let alone any money to address this very serious crisis. This is unacceptable, and it is yet another example of how the government is shying away from the need to create a new relationship with Canada's aboriginals.
I could go on at length about this budget's shortcomings, but I know that my time is almost up. I will therefore conclude by saying that Canadians need to hear that their government is practising good governance. We are part of the G8, and we are a strong democracy that expects a lot from its elected representatives. When the Conservative government passes bad bills, like this omnibus bill, by using time allocation, it insults this country's democratic principles.
It is clear from the people's reactions to scandals associated with this government that these expectations have not gone away. People will not let their government try to hide all of this. These insults to democracy have prompted my colleagues and me to reject this bill because of its contents and the process used to pass it.
View Romeo Saganash Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member opposite for his important question.
We could list a host of things that could be cut. I could spend all evening doing that, but that is not the purpose of our debate right now. We are debating the bill before us.
My colleague from Burnaby said that we would abolish the Senate. We might also mention that we would stop fighting against the fundamental rights of aboriginal peoples, a fight that costs us roughly $300 million a year. That is another example. There are many similar things that we could point to. However, that is not the purpose of this debate, which is on the budget before us and the changes that this omnibus bill makes to many laws.
View David Wilks Profile
CPC (BC)
View David Wilks Profile
2013-06-03 21:18 [p.17580]
Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here tonight to speak on Bill C-60.
Throughout the past several weeks I have been able to travel throughout my riding of Kootenay—Columbia and discuss economic action plan 2013. Municipal and regional governments have endorsed this budget because it identifies their needs, which are to ensure that ongoing funding is provided for infrastructure that is very important to every community from coast to coast to coast.
The community improvement fund would provide funding in the amount of $32.2 billion over the next 10 years through the new building Canada plan and, most importantly, it would give greater flexibility to a broad range of infrastructure priorities, which would include highways, local and regional airports, short line rail, short sea shipping, disaster mitigation, broadband and connectivity, brownfield redevelopment, culture, tourism, sport and recreation. Coupled with the new building Canada fund and P3 Canada, this funding would represent the largest and longest federal investment in job creation infrastructure in Canadian history.
Having been the mayor of Sparwood, British Columbia, for six years, I appreciate the input that the federal government can provide, but I also understand that the municipalities must do their part to ensure their communities remain vibrant.
I listened with interest this weekend to some of the comments from FCM, where some mayors said that money was not enough. Some called for national strategies. Politicians from all levels of government are great at studying things, but it is at the municipal level where the rubber hits the road. Therefore, I would suggest that communities across Canada have shovel-ready projects in which they will have full participation and quit speculating on what we can do for them.
Kootenay—Columbia is a rural riding that has some of the highest tourism visits in all of Canada due to the splendour of the Rocky Mountains, national parks, skiing and golf opportunities. I am proud of all the amenities that provide for a great visitor experience, but with that there is a great strain on affordable housing. With $1.9 billion over five years to create affordable housing, this is great news for towns like Fernie, Kimberley, Golden, Invermere and Revelstoke. Those who work in the service industry have historically been at the lower end of the pay scale and depend on housing that is reasonably priced. Through this funding, our government will assist the communities that need to sustain housing that is affordable.
The Canada job grant would provide $15,000 or more per person in combined federal, provincial and employer funding. It is something that would benefit any person who is considering a career in the trades. This must be a combined effort by everyone affected by this shortage. A number of companies in the riding of Kootenay—Columbia, including Teck Resources, Canfor and Louisiana-Pacific, welcome this news. Companies from across Canada are in dire need of skilled workers due to an aging workforce and an increased natural resource extraction sector. Our government is doing our part to help in this regard. The provinces recognize their role and, most importantly, industry members knows that they must come to the table. Otherwise, it will deter their ability to grow.
One of the biggest challenges that companies have is the shortage in tradespeople. A significant number of people are pulled away from one company to another via signing bonuses and other financial incentives. The only way for this to stop is by training as many people as we can to ensure companies can keep up with the demand.
In budget 2013, our Conservative government said that we would fix the temporary foreign worker program. Just over one month after release of that budget, our government introduced legislative, regulatory and administrative changes that would, effective immediately, require employers to pay temporary foreign workers at the prevailing wage by removing the existing wage flexibility, temporarily suspend the accelerated labour market opinion process, and increase the government's authority to suspend and revoke work permits and labour market opinions if the program were being misused.
It would add questions to employer LMO applications to ensure that the temporary foreign worker program is not used to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs. It would ensure employers who rely upon temporary foreign workers have a firm plan in place to transition to a Canadian worker. It would introduce fees from employers for the processing of labour market opinions and increase the fees for work permits so that taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the costs. It would restrict English and French as the only languages that could be identified as a job requirement.
The results of these changes would strengthen and improve the foreign worker program, support our economic recovery and growth, and ensure that employers make greater efforts to hire Canadians before hiring temporary foreign workers. These reforms would ensure that the temporary foreign worker program, which is an important program to deal with acute skills shortages on a temporary basis, is used only as a last resort.
I am very pleased to see that $9 million is proposed for the first nations land management regime to provide additional first nations with the opportunity to enact their own laws for development, conservation, use and possession of reserve lands. This would add 33 first nations to the regime, including the 8 announced earlier this year. Two of those first nations are in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia. The St. Mary's Band and the Akisqnuk Band were recent uptakes to FNLM. Both of these bands are very progressive and are moving forward with great initiatives.
Further, enhanced health services within first nations are also a top priority.
Just this past weekend, I attended the grand opening of the Three Voices of Healing treatment centre at the Shuswap First Nation. This centre offers 12 beds for 41-day alcohol and drug addiction adult residential treatment programs and 30 beds for 91-day aftercare treatment programs. This aftercare program is the first of its kind in the country and is funded from grants received from various organizations and foundations.
Three Voices of Healing Society has been in operation since 1997. In September 2012, it was able to purchase this new facility in order to offer the new aftercare program. The need for aftercare has been identified through regional and national needs assessments and research in alignment with the objectives of the program renewal initiative of the national native alcohol and drug abuse program.
The aftercare program would address a critical gap in service within the B.C. first nations' continuum of care for addictions. It must be noted that within minutes, and I literally mean minutes, of mass emailing and faxing of the announcement of this new programming to all the bands and the front-line workers in British Columbia and Alberta, the phones lit up continuously and have not slowed down. I have seen first-hand the importance of these facilities. What is so impressive with this aftercare program is the ability for clients to find a skill that they can take with them after treatment.
Our government provides $100 million annually for aboriginal mental health programs and services.
I am honoured to work with the Ktunaxa and Shuswap First Nations in the Kootenay—Columbia, which are both progressive and visionary for their future.
I have given a few examples of how economic action plan 2013 would benefit, not only my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, but all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. I look forward to working with my constituents to ensure that we continue to live in the greatest place on Earth.
View Kelly Block Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kelly Block Profile
2013-06-03 21:46 [p.17584]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be able to speak today on Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act.
I would like to begin by thanking the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State for Finance for their hard work on behalf of all Canadians.
I have been engaging my constituents in Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar on what course of action our government needs to take to promote long-term prosperity for all Canadians. Their message is consistent and clear. Canadians are reasonable people; they expect a pragmatic government that is a cautious steward of our economy, a careful caretaker of our natural resources and one that focuses on job creation to ensure that every Canadian can have a job and succeed. They want low taxes and quality services.
As a parent and a grandparent, I want Canada to be the best place to live, work, raise a family and retire. I want every Canadian to be able to take advantage of all our great country has to offer.
Budget 2013 is good news for Saskatchewan and for Canada. The budget would invest in the success of Canadians. It would invest in our infrastructure and it would invest in our strong and resilient communities. It is a plan for a successful and prosperous future. The budget focuses on the priorities of Canadian families, Canada's young people, Canadian students, Canada's job creators and Canada's job seekers.
I would like to highlight how the budget would help Saskatchewan's families, our businesses and our communities. Allow me to state the obvious. Our most valuable asset as a country is our people. As a government, we have a responsibility to make sure every person has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Right now in Canada, there is a clear mismatch between the jobs available and the skills held by job seekers in Canada.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified the current skills shortage as the number one obstacle to success for its members. There are too many jobs that go unfilled in Canada because employers cannot find workers with the right skills. If unaddressed, this labour mismatch has the potential to disrupt our economy and our prosperity. In fact, Saskatchewan's economy has been on such a positive expansionary phase that we are now facing labour shortages in many sectors.
I would like to talk about four areas of focus in the budget that would help Saskatchewan get the skilled workers it needs and allow us to fulfill the very potential that our first settlers saw when they came to the Prairies.
The centrepiece of economic action plan 2013 is the Canada job grant. The job grant would transform the way Canadians receive training by providing up to $15,000 per person to help ensure Canadians are able to access the training they need to get jobs in high-demand fields. The Canada job grant would take skills training choices out of the hands of government and put them where they belong, in the hands of employers with unfilled jobs and Canadians who want to work.
Second, economic action plan 2013 would follow through on budget 2012's commitment to increase women's participation in non-traditional occupations. Women now represent close to half of Canada's workforce, yet as a group they continue to be under-represented in areas of science, mathematics, engineering and technology, the very same fields in which we are experiencing labour shortages.
Our government, and especially my colleague, the Minister for the Status of Women, has taken a keen interest in this matter as it makes strong economic and business sense to have both men and women equally active in the workforce. It goes without saying that countries with strong labour force participation from both men and women typically have stronger and more durable economies. I am pleased that our government is delivering on our commitment to increase opportunities for women's participation in non-traditional occupations and keep our economy strong.
Third, Canada's young aboriginal population has tremendous potential for long-term success and prosperity, but remains under-represented in both the labour market and in post-secondary institutions. Since 2006, our government has made innovative investments to address these challenges, including efforts to strengthen on-reserve elementary and secondary education and skills training programming for aboriginal people.
Building on these actions, economic action plan 2013 would introduce a number of practical steps. The skills and partnership fund would provide project-specific funding to aboriginal organizations in an effort to improve labour market outcomes for aboriginal people.
The first nations job fund, totalling $109 million over five years, would fund the provision of personalized job training on reserves. Budget 2013 would also invest $10 million over two years for post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for more than 2,000 first nations and Inuit students annually. This would be delivered by Indspire, Canada's largest indigenous-led charity, which has a stellar track record of success.
Fourth, this government, under the tireless leadership of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, has made significant progress implementing long-overdue reforms to Canada's immigration system, with the focus on attracting talented newcomers with the skills and experience our economy requires. Earlier this year, our government opened up a new skilled trades immigration stream that will facilitate the entry of immigrants who have the skills needed to immediately find a job and begin contributing to our economy.
What I have outlined are just some of the many new steps our government is taking to address the labour mismatch that exists in Canada.
Our government knows that low taxes and a skilled workforce keep our economy growing, but as an exporter nation, we need to continue to work to open up new markets for Canadian companies to sell their goods. For the first time in our history, we are aggressively diversifying our markets and making it easier for business to trade with emerging markets.
Since coming into office, we have signed nine free trade agreements with countries like Colombia, Panama, Korea and Jordan, and we are currently working on free trade agreements with the European Union, Japan and China, just to name a few.
This pro-trade agenda is working for Saskatchewan. Earlier this year Statistics Canada announced that Saskatchewan had become Canada's fourth largest exporter of goods. Saskatchewan exports grew by over 10% last year, to reach $32.6 billion, and have more than tripled over the past decade. My home province's exports were also quite diversified. One-third of exports were agricultural products, one-third were energy products and the remaining were manufacturing and services.
This government is also putting in place the infrastructure Canada needs. For years, provincial and municipal governments, who are responsible for the majority of infrastructure in Canada, have been asking the federal government for a long-term plan to address these needs. This budget would invest over $70 billion in new infrastructure funding over 10 years in support of local and economic infrastructure projects.
This is the longest and largest federal infrastructure plan in Canadian history and is something I know every municipality in my riding, from Saskatoon to Sunningdale, would benefit from.
However, this budget is not just about the present. It is also about the future. Budget 2013 would keep Canada on track to return to balanced budgets in 2015. In fact, the deficit has been cut in half over the past two years, and Canada has the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G7.
We have done so well maintaining and building on critical services. We are also keeping taxes low for Canadians and for Canadian businesses. Canada's federal corporate tax right now sits at 15%, down from 21%, and the federal sales tax now sits at 5%, down from 7% when our government took office.
An average family now pays $3,100 less in taxes than when we took office in 2006, and Canadians now have the lowest tax burden in more than 50 years. That is something that everyone in the riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar appreciates.
Our government's plan is working, not only for Saskatchewan but for all of Canada. Our government's goal is to make Canada the best place in the world to live, raise a family, work or start a business.
Bill C-60 would keep Canada on track for long-term prosperity, and I would encourage all members of this House to support it.
View Judy Foote Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-45, which as anyone who is watching knows, is the Conservative government's second omnibus budget implementation bill. Judging by the bill's 414 pages and 516 clauses amending over 60 different pieces of legislation, it is clear that the Conservatives just do not get it and, I fear, never will.
Despite the recent Liberal motion condemning omnibus legislation and Canadians' overwhelming opposition to Bill C-38, the government's last omnibus budget implementation bill, the Conservative government introduced yet another undemocratic omnibus bill.
When Canadians worry about the way the government is writing legislation, ministers throw their hands up in the air and tell Canadians not to concern themselves with process. However, Canadians are concerned about process. They understand that the process of elections, the process of debate, the process of accountability, the process of parliamentary study and consultation are the roots of Canadian democracy and go hand in hand with the success and stability of our economy. When the Conservative government tells worried Canadians not to concern themselves with process, Canadians sit up and take note.
In the face of unyielding abuses of power by the Conservative government, Liberals continue to fight for democracy and our economy and, in doing so, for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. For example, Liberals introduced a successful motion to separate the changes to MPs' pensions from the budget implementation bill so that these important changes could be fast-tracked through Parliament. We were pleased that the government worked with us on this particular issue.
In an attempt to ensure proper debate and consultation on Bill C-45, we requested that many unrelated measures be presented in separate stand-alone legislation. While the Prime Minister rejected Liberal calls for a more democratic approach, we were nevertheless encouraged that at least he agreed to allow Bill C-45 to be studied by 11 separate standing committees. Unfortunately, it became clear that the government's permission for the bill to be studied by committees was nothing more than a public relations ploy.
Tragically the government's refusal to split this enormous bill meant that only the finance committee had the order of reference from the House, meaning that only that committee could amend this legislation. For instance, had the fisheries committee discovered an error in division 4, which amends consequential provisions relating to the destruction of fish habitat under the Fisheries Act, the fisheries committee would have been unable to correct the legislation.
Bill C-45 is flawed and that is why Liberals introduced over 3,000 amendments at committee. It was our hope that some of these amendments would find bipartisan support so that we could have the best legislation possible. Unfortunately, the Conservatives proved yet again that when it comes to working together, they have no interest in doing so.
Many Canadian families are still feeling the harsh effects of the economic downturn and are struggling to make ends meet. I know that in my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's people were hoping that the Conservative government would surprise them and show leadership for a change by introducing a budget implementation bill that would help to create jobs. Unfortunately, Bill C-45 does very little to help create jobs and does even less to help struggling families feeling the burden of the growing gap between the rich and low and middle income Canadians.
Under the Conservative government, the Canadian economy is struggling. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is predicting a slower rate of growth that will cost the Canadian economy $22 billion every year. Even the Minister of Finance is predicting a slower growth rate and has stopped being so bullish about his deficit targets, embarrassingly conceding yet again that he will not meet his own deficit targets.
While the bill is known as an implementation bill, it may be more accurately described as a budget correction bill. Bill C-45 is tasked with cleaning up Conservative legislative mistakes in Bill C-38. For example, some of the measures that it seeks to correct include errors in the amended Fisheries Act regarding the travel of fish species in or through bodies of water, as well as fixing poor drafting of the new environmental assessment law's transition provisions and the unclear ministerial approval process for specific investments by public investment pools.
Part of the problem with omnibus legislation is that its sheer size and scope prevents Parliament from properly scrutinizing it and making sure that it actually achieves the desired outcomes. That is what we have been asking for, an opportunity to work with the government and all parties in the House to make sure that we have the best piece of legislation we can possibly have for Canadians who elect us to do just that.
When we combine the more than 400 pages of Bill C-38 with the Conservatives' penchant for limiting debate and ignoring facts that do not fit their ideology, it is not hard to understand why Bill C-38 had so many mistakes. These mistakes now have to be corrected.
Instead of the government presenting Canadians with legislation focused on jobs and the economy, it is attempting to correct mistakes that it should not have made in the first place, mistakes that are now taking up the time of the House of Commons when we should be debating other important pieces of legislation. This should have been dealt with and not have come back here so that members of Parliament again have to stand and point out the errors of the Conservative government. Had the government split the bill, as the Liberals requested, the government would not have had so many sloppy mistakes.
Furthermore, many of the measures introduced in the most recent omnibus bill, Bill C-45, do not belong in a budget implementation bill because they have nothing to do with the process of implementing a budget. The Minister of Finance's claim that all measures introduced in Bill C-45 were in the budget is simply not the case. For example, changes to the definition of aboriginal fishery were not in the budget and do not impact acts under the finance department. Changes to land designations in the Indian Act were not in the budget. I note that both of these changes to legislation affecting first nations peoples were done unilaterally, without consultation, and in fact violate the constitutional responsibility to consult aboriginal peoples. That is a blatant failure of the government, the failure to consult with Canadians from coast to coast to coast on issues that impact every facet of their lives on a daily basis. Still, the government just goes straight ahead and does what it wants to do without consulting those who will be most directly impacted.
Another interesting example of a measure that was not in the budget but appears in the budget implementation bill is the suspension of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board. Not only is the elimination of that board not in the budget, the budget actually promised the exact opposite. Page 146 of the budget states that “Over the next few years, the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB) will continue to set the rate...”. Bill C-45 eliminates this board and centralizes the rate setting responsibility in the hands of cabinet.
In addition, the board set the employment insurance rate and was supposed to invest employment insurance surpluses, but under the Conservative government, so many people had been without work that the board has never had a surplus to invest.
Instead of addressing the harsh fiscal realities of many Canadians, Bill C-45 continues the Conservatives' reckless abuse of power. Cutting important job creation tax credits, like the scientific research and experimental development tax credit, the Atlantic investment tax credit and the corporate mineral exploration and development tax credit will not help our economy thrive.
I cannot support a piece of legislation that does more to harm jobs than to create them.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2012-11-29 11:16 [p.12617]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to yet another budget omnibus bill. I suppose I should not use the word “pleased”.
I want to first make a few comments on the subject of omnibus bills and what we have seen in this one year. We essentially have seen budget 2012 used as an excuse for the tabling of 900 pages of legislation largely unrelated to the budget itself. This exercise is both illegitimate and undemocratic in combining 70 different bills in Bill C-38, allegedly related to budget 2012, and now 60 different bills in Bill C-45.
I have fewer amendments today than I had tabled for Bill C-38 and Canadians might want to know the difference. Bill C-38, while a couple of pages shorter, did far more damage to the fabric of environmental laws in Canada. Bill C-38 took an axe to our Fisheries Act, destroying habitat protections; , repealed the Environmental Assessment Act; and put in place a substitute piece of legislation that would be an embarrassment to a developing country. It was absolutely abominable.
In Bill C-38, we also saw the explicit removal of pipelines as a category of obstruction under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. I would have thought that the Conservative agenda toward pipelines was satisfied with Bill C-38, but we go on to Bill C-45 and see that the attack on environmental laws includes the evisceration of the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
In Bill C-38, I made the case, as members may recall, to ask the Speaker for a ruling that the bill was out of order and not properly put together. I think we need to revisit the rules and to create some rules t around omnibus bills because this is clearly illegitimate.
In Bill C-45, we have proof of how appalling the process was in Bill C-38 in that some of what we are voting on this week are remedies for errors made in the drafting of Bill C-38. These were obvious errors that could have been caught if the normal legislative process had taken place.
Now we are asked, in Bill C-45, to correct drafting errors made in Bill C-38 where the English does not accord with the French, or where, under the Fisheries Act, they forgot to protect certain aspects of navigation through the fisheries corridors where there are weirs and other fishing apparatus. We also have changes to the Environmental Assessment Act because of poor drafting the last time around. Why was the drafting poor? It was because 70 different laws were put together in one piece of legislation and forced through the House without a willingness to accept, in 425 pages of legislation, a single amendment.
This is not proper parliamentary process. No previous Privy Council in the history of this country has ever equated an amendment to a bill between first reading and royal assent as some sort of political defeat that must be avoided at all costs. This is a level of parliamentary partisanship that takes leave of its senses. It is essentially a form of parliamentary insanity for the government to decide that it cannot possibly accept an amendment from first reading to royal assent and then to come back and give us this which finally provides some of the corrections.
I will speak to my amendments relatively quickly. I want to stress that neither Bill C-38 nor Bill C-45 are really about jobs, r growth or the budget. I will highlight the things in Bill C-45 that I hope to amend because they will hurt jobs.
Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill, would hurt jobs in tourism through this quite extraordinary proposal, which is not a proposal but will be passed into law unless we are able to persuade Conservative members of Parliament that they should vote for what they think is right and not how they are told, ordered and instructed to vote.
When tourism in this country is such an important part of our economy, it makes no sense to pass into law a requirement that tourists from around the world, from countries that do not currently require a visa to come to Canada, regardless of whether they have any aspersions on their character, whether they are considered to be a risk, every tourist to Canada, except those from the United States because of our agreements over a shared border security process, would need to fill out a form to find out if they are allowed to come here for a vacation. This is a terrible change and it would significantly hurt tourism.
Another terrible change is reducing the tax credit, the SR and ED, the scientific research and experimental development tax credit. This is where Canada lags. If we listen to the economists, there is tremendous concern about our competitiveness and productivity, which is directly related to research and development, and to why we need to have the scientific research and experimental development tax credit available to Canadians. We think it would be a big mistake to reduce that.
I will now talk about what I like in Bill C-45. The assumption is that every opposition member hates everything in Bill C-45. That is one of the reasons I object to omnibus bills. There are measures here that I would vote for were they not coupled together with so much destruction. I would vote for the actual budgetary measures that one finds at the beginning of Bill C-45, the tax credits to encourage investment in clean energy and energy efficiency. They are too small but I am certainly not against them. Rather, I am for them.
I would vote for the closing of some of the tax credits to encourage oil and gas development, such as the Atlantic investment tax credit for oil, gas and mining, and for the corporate mineral exploration and development tax credit. I would also vote for the closing of the loopholes in transfer pricing and foreign affiliate dumping that have been used by corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Those are the measures I would vote for.
What deeply disturbs me in this bill, in addition to the measure that I had mentioned to create a new requirement for filling out a form to come to Canada under immigration, is the elimination of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. My amendments would keep that commission in place.
As well, we could do more with the hiring credit for small business.
The changes to the Fisheries Act are largely to repair mistakes made by the Conservatives to the Fisheries Act that had weakened it. They are now fixing some of what they did not need to weaken so desperately. However, we have suggested an amendment to allow for the definition of “aboriginal fisheries”, on the basis of first nations advice, to ensure that the definition is fully respected and takes into account the constitutional and treaty rights of first nations in any definition of “aboriginal fisheries”.
Before moving on to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, I wish to speak to the Canada Grain Act. My amendments oppose a move to take away the independent bond actors in terms of looking at Canadian grains. The third party inspection that is now being proposed would create a conflict of interest between the private sector and the grain companies. We think that would be a mistake. We have certainly learned from the XL Foods beef scandal that it is important to ensure that inspections are truly independent.
The bulk of my amendments deal with the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The Conservatives have taken three runs at it through three different omnibus bills, the first being in 2009. The objective definition of what is “navigable” was changed to a discretionary definition wherein “navigable” would mean whatever the Minister of Transport says that it means.
In Bill C-38, just this past spring, the Conservatives took another run at the Navigable Waters Protection Act with the specific exclusion of pipelines as works or undertakings. Pipelines are no longer in the Navigable Waters Protection Act. These new amendments are certainly not about pipelines because the Conservatives took care of that in Bill C-38.
What this does is it takes an act that we have had since 1882 that directly comes from the Constitution of this country, that being the federal responsibility for navigation. The Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was brought in by Sir John A. Macdonald, has protected the rights of Canadians to put a canoe or kayak in any body of water and paddle from there to wherever they want to go. As Canadians, we have a right to navigation. This is now being superseded with the false story that there is somehow a burdensome regulatory amount of red tape that offends people in municipalities. Therefore, we need to blow apart the Navigable Waters Protection Act to say that a body of water is only navigable if it can be found in the schedule at the back of the act. Ironically, the 99.5% of Canadian waters that are not listed there are not ones near municipalities, cottages and people who want to build wharfs, but are in our wilderness areas where, without the Navigable Waters Protection Act, nothing stands in the way of obstructions to navigations for Canadians.
The government will tell us that is all right because Canadians have a common law right. If people have a couple of hundred thousand dollars and are prepared to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to defend their right to use a waterway that is not listed, they can do that. However, this is an egregious abdication of responsibility for a federal head of power that no other level of government has the right to step up and fill the void.
I urge my colleagues on all sides of the House to give due consideration to these serious and important amendments.
View Kyle Seeback Profile
CPC (ON)
View Kyle Seeback Profile
2012-11-29 12:17 [p.12626]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this important piece of legislation.
I first want to talk about a couple of things that build on the accomplishments that we have made as a government with our economic agenda.
First, I will mention the 820,000 net new jobs created since 2009. There is strong jobs growth in this country. Also, Canada's economy has expanded for nine of the ten past quarters. This is a great track record, one of the best in the G7. Indeed, Canada's unemployment rate is well below that of the United States. I cannot stress enough how significant that is. This is the first time this has happened in more than three decades, and we continue to see a lower unemployment rate here in Canada than the United States. That is absolutely a direct benefit of the policies of this government and, of course, the economic action plan.
The list goes on and on. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada and the number one place in the world for businesses to grow and create jobs. What will that do? Getting an award like that will lead to more direct investment in Canada, leading to a stronger economy and more jobs for Canadians.
Canada has one of the strongest fiscal positions in the G7. Fitch Ratings, Moody's and Standard and Poor's have all renewed Canada's rock-solid AAA credit rating. Again, this is a direct result of Canada's economic action plan. Furthermore, Canada has taken its place among the top five countries with the most economic freedom, according to a new Fraser Institute report. We are now leaps and bounds ahead of the United States.
These things all clearly show that our government is on the right track with our economic policies. We will continue to expand the economy and grow jobs. The amazing thing is that all of these accomplishments have been achieved without a carbon tax, and we will make sure there is not a $21 billion carbon tax to derail our progress.
I want to talk about some of the highlights, some of the important things that would be implemented. We are talking about extending the hiring credit for small business up to $1,000 to encourage additional hiring. That will also lower business payroll taxes by an amazing $205 million. The amazing thing about that is that it has helped 536,000 employers across Canada. We should think about that, because it benefits a huge number of small businesses, which we all know, especially on the Conservative side of the House, are the ones that drive the economy and are benefiting from this policy.
There is $110 million for the National Research Council to increase support through the industrial research assistance program and industrial technology advisers. Investing in technology will move our economy forward.
There is also $95 million over three years and $40 million per year in ongoing funding to make the Canada innovation commercialization project permanent. This is a very important initiative. We have to move these technological advancements to commercialization so we can continue to be successful, not only here in Canada but of course also in the ever competitive global economic market.
There is also $14 million to expand the industrial research and development internship program, which will place more Ph.D. students in practical business internships. That will benefit our businesses.
Talking about another wonderful program, we have extended the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturers to purchase processing machinery and equipment. I have heard directly from businesses in my riding how important that is. It allows them to invest in new machinery and equipment and quickly write off the cost of purchasing it, thereby improving productivity and making our businesses more productive. Enhancing the productivity of our businesses is very important and will spur economic growth.
We have also increased the lifetime capital gains exemption, which allows capital gains on qualifying small business shares to be realized tax free. We have increased that from $500,000 to $750,000. This is the first increase since 1988. We think that overtaxing capital gains is not a good idea.
I want to talk about clean energy and the economy, because that is important as well. We are investing $97 million to develop and promote clean energy technologies. There is $1 billion for priorities such as green energy generation, transmission infrastructure, carbon transmission and storage infrastructure. We also have $1 billion allocated to support pulp and paper mills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, there is $1 billion in support of clean energy research and development demonstration projects, and $252 million in support of regulatory activities to address climate change and air quality. The list goes on and on. In short, our government has made significant investments in the clean energy economy.
I also want to talk about the amendments to land designation. This a very important piece of the legislation. We on the Conservative side of the House believe that we have to allow our first nation communities to move at the speed of business. They have to be able to engage in land transactions to be able to spur their economies.
One of the most powerful things that we have in Canada is an ability to leverage our land and to be able to use that for financing and development. We want to help first nations do that.
We are doing a couple of things here. First of all, we are going to reduce the voting threshold to a simple majority vote when dealing with land designations, as opposed to the majority of the majority. Why is that important? It is going to speed up the process of approving land designations on reserve. The current process can take one to two years, with two votes spanning four to six months. It is going to reduce the cost of doing business with first nations, as well as reduce the expenses in the designation process.
Some may criticize this, but a majority vote is currently sufficient to elect the chief and council of a first nation, to accept multi-million dollar out-of-court settlements and accept a settlement of a specific claim with a value of between $3 million and $7 million. If a majority vote is good enough for those kinds of things, a majority vote is good enough for a land designation.
The second aspect of that is the removal of the Governor in Council requirement for approval. Section 39 of the Indian Act requires that the Governor in Council approve land designations. Given that lands do not lose their reserve status, this level of authorization, we believe, is counterproductive to Canada's efforts to support economic development on reserve.
By allowing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to authorize the land designation, this will reduce the time required for land designations, thereby reducing costs for economic development on reserve and spurring the development of these local economies.
We are also amending the Navigable Waters Protection Act. It is one of the oldest pieces of legislation, dating back to 1882, a time when our waterways were the primary transportation routes. This act's main purpose was to facilitate trade and commerce by balancing the efficient movement of maritime traffic with the need to construct works, bridges, et cetera. Over time, the scope of this act has increased significantly as a result of many factors. The act now applies to all waters in Canada. Imagine that. It even applies to a temporary creek from a spring runoff but that then dries up within a month or two. It triggers a review under the act. That is not the purpose of this act. It is a hindrance to economic development.
The vast majority of our waterways will still continue to be protected by Transport Canada's marine safety laws, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and various provincial statutes. We are going to continue to protect our waterways but also make amendments to allow business to move faster and things to move more quickly.
This is a great piece of legislation, and I am hopeful that the members on that side of the House will see the light and not continue to propose amendments, like changing the implementation date 365 times, which has no purpose. They should vote for this bill and vote for the economy, and let us move forward.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2012-06-11 20:55 [p.9198]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-38, the 425-page omnibus budget implementation act. It would, among other things, gut Canada's environmental laws; break the Conservatives' election promise by raising the age of eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67; create uncertainty for businesses, workers and seasonal industries with changes to EI that attack rural Canada, Atlantic Canada and the provinces; and that would hurt Canada's international brand by tearing up 100,000 immigration applications.
Bill C-38 imposes the Conservatives' unilateral decision to reduce health transfers to the provinces and territories. It allows the Conservatives to target charitable organizations they disagree with.
It would wipe out groups such as the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, Rights and Democracy and the National Council on Welfare. All of these groups have one thing in common: over the last 30 years, and in some cases more, these groups were independent. They were funded through the government, but they took independent positions based on evidence that was sometimes contrary to the governing party, which was, in some cases, Liberal governments, in other cases, Progressive Conservative governments. However, the current Conservative government is the first government that actually de-funded these groups simply because they disagreed with the governing party.
Bill C-38 would reduce the Auditor General's oversight on a number of government agencies, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Northern Pipeline Agency. It would reduce oversight on Canada's spy agency by abolishing the office of the Inspector General. It would repeal the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. It would eliminate a number of the government's reporting requirements on climate change and public service jobs. It would make changes that experts warn are unconstitutional to parole hearings.
The finance committee spent a few days studying the legislation since the House last debated the bill. A finance subcommittee was struck to examine part 3 of the bill, which was focused on environmental measures. However, this study took place while the environment committee was travelling to Alberta and Nova Scotia, which limited the ability of key MPs with expertise on the environment to participate in the Bill C-38 study.
The subcommittee's report on Bill C-38 was a disgraceful whitewash. The main report did not include any reference to public opposition to the bill, with the exception of a single reference that completely misrepresented the testimony of former Progressive Conservative fisheries minister, Tom Siddon. Mr. Siddon, who was the fisheries minister from 1985 to 1990 in the Mulroney government, said:
They are totally watering down and emasculating the Fisheries Act.
They are really taking the guts out of the Fisheries Act and it’s in devious little ways if you read all the fine print...they are making a Swiss cheese out of [it].
That was said by a former minister of fisheries, a Progressive Conservative activist and minister.
Mr. Siddon was part of a group of four former fisheries ministers, two Liberal and two Progressive Conservatives, who wrote a letter warning the government of the disastrous effect the bill would have on our fisheries.
The subcommittee's report endorsed the changes made to the National Energy Board despite having heard from witnesses who were overwhelmingly opposed to these changes.
Today, Barrie McKenna's article in the The Globe and Mail argues that Bill C-38 undermines:
...the NEB’s authority and independence [and] turns back the clock on five decades of credible resource regulation.... The omnibus bill gives Ottawa carte blanche over as many as 750 decisions a year. That is a lot of authority for Canadians with their X mark in the voting booth to grant a cabinet dominated by one man. It delegitimizes the NEB and injects needless uncertainty into the process.
Furthermore, industry was not calling for a lot of these changes. In fact, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, CAPP, stated that the NEB plays “a very important role in ensuring that we’ve got [a] secure, reliable, affordable energy supply for Canadians, and sustainably develop our abundant energy resources”.
The main finance committee studied parts 1, 2 and 4 of the bill. We heard from officials and a total of 57 witnesses on the 636 clauses contained in parts 1, 2 and 4. To be blunt, the study was a farce. The committee's timeline was rushed, leaving us unable to examine many aspects of the legislation.
We were not given the chance to hear from a single witness outside of the government on a large number of the issues. For instance, we did not hear from any municipal leaders, despite the impact of Bill C-38 on communities.
The main finance committee did not hear from any witnesses from aboriginal groups, even though this bill proposes a number of changes that will impact them directly, such as changes to the First Nations Land Management Act. Parliament has a responsibility to consult with Canada's aboriginal peoples before making these changes.
National Chief Shawn Atleo did appear before the subcommittee. He said:
To date, first nations have not been engaged or consulted on any of the changes to the environmental and resource development regime proposed within Bill C-38....In its current form, part 3 of C-38 clearly represents a derogation of established and asserted first nations rights. If enacted, it will increase the time, costs, and effort for all parties and governments, as first nations will take every opportunity to challenge these provisions.
That testimony, by the way, before the subcommittee was expunged from the subcommittee's report, which the government of course controlled and basically wrote at the committee level.
We did not hear from any railway companies, even though Bill C-38 would increase their share of costs for railway crossings by 500%. The government did not allow us enough time to conduct a proper study of this bill.
The finance committee heard from only one witness on the issue of the changes to the oversight of Canada's spy agency, outside of government officials. That was Paul Kennedy, a former senior assistant deputy minister at public safety, responsible for national security activities and former chief counsel to CSIS, who called these changes to CSIS “sheer insanity”.
The finance committee only heard from one witness on the changes to parole hearings who described the changes as unconstitutional. The Canadian Bar Association also wrote to the finance committee to warn us that these changes in Bill C-38 were unconstitutional.
Many of the witnesses we did hear from were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the changes in the bill. Tyler Sommers of Democracy Watch told the committee:
I don't think that anyone, to the best of their abilities, could represent their constituents when there's a 500-page bill that affects virtually every aspect of Canadian society.
The issue here is not just the length of the bill; it is the breadth of the bill and the number of sweeping changes that are totally unrelated. The reality is we have an environment committee with members of Parliament, with expertise in the environment. We have an aboriginal northern affairs committee with members of Parliament, with an expertise in that area.
If we broke down this bill and not only enabled individual legislators at the committee to study the changes and the legislation in separate bills, but ultimately to vote on them, we would actually be respecting democracy and we would be respecting Parliament. However, the Prime Minister is not interested in that.
In terms of some of the changes on old age security and EI, the government is targeting some of the most vulnerable Canadians. Old age security changes are being rushed through. The Conservatives are saying that we should not to worry, that they will not take effect for 11 years and that if people are 53 years old, they can start saving more money. For goodness sake, 40% of Canadians make less than $20,000 per year. How are they supposed to save money on that? Who gets OAS? The reality is that 40% of the people getting OAS make $20,000 a year or less and 53% make less than $25,000 a year.
This is targeting Canada's most vulnerable. It is an affront to democracy and it is an affront to Canada's most vulnerable who will pay a price for this neo-conservative agenda, which is not well thought out and is an attack on some of Canada's lowest-income people, an attack on rural Canada and an attack on Atlantic Canada.
View Robert Chisholm Profile
NDP (NS)
View Robert Chisholm Profile
2012-06-11 23:25 [p.9219]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to get up and speak for a few moments this evening about this important piece of legislation.
I am somewhat confused by the responses of the members opposite when they say a couple of things. They say that this is common sense way to deal with a number of problems, by introducing an omnibus bill that changes 70 important pieces of legislation; it is a common sense approach to dealing with important matters; it is simply a way of growing the economy, creating jobs and moving the country forward; and that a lot of the changes they have introduced in the legislation are important changes that will benefit the country, and that they are very proud of them.
What I cannot get over is, if that in fact is the case, then why do they not take some time to consider each one of those changes? For example, when we look at the changes to the employment insurance system contained in the bill, none other than the four Atlantic premiers have come out in the last few days and said they have very serious concerns about the proposed changes. They have not been consulted and would like to examine those changes.
We have talked a lot in the House over the past number of weeks about the changes to the Fisheries Act. Contrary to what one member opposite said, many of us have looked at the bill, examined the changes that have been made and have listened to a number of experts who have considered what the impact will be. As recently as this afternoon, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission came before our fisheries committee to talk about invasive species. They spoke to a resolution that had been passed and forwarded to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans by the advisory committee to that commission, asking that the government engage in further consultation on the changes to the Fisheries Act, and failing that, that the government recognizes that the definition of fisheries habitat it has used is completely and utterly inadequate. They suggested different language in order to do that.
That does not sound to me as if the people who are affected by the legislation are understanding or being supportive of these changes. Therefore, what is confusing me and confusing many Canadians who are being directly affected by the legislation is that if government members are as proud as they say they are about the changes they are trying to implement, why do they not take time to talk with Canadians about what they are proposing to do and make sure that everyone is on board?
Unfortunately, what we have seen over the past number of weeks is the government hell bent on getting the legislation through. It is trying to prevent Canadians actually seeing what is in the bill and understanding what is here.
The member before me spoke glowingly about the changes to EI, the changes to the temporary foreign workers program, and the changes to the Fair Wages and Hours Act and how this was going to help employees. What they are doing with those three changes alone is driving down the wages of working people in our country so they will not be able to afford to purchase goods and services in our communities. How in the name of heaven is that supporting the economy in Atlantic Canada or in the member's own constituency? I would like him to give that some consideration.
I was on the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance that considered Bill C-38, the 70 pieces of legislation that were being affected, and we had only 14 hours to do that.
We had 14 hours to consider the employment insurance changes and the Fisheries Act changes. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would be completely repealed and replaced in Bill C-38. We had 14 hours to examine and to listen to representations by Canadian experts, by people who would be directly affected by this legislation. These people came before us and told us what they thought about it. They told us how the bill would affect them and the issues that they are interested in. They brought their expertise before us. It was revealing. I learned a great deal from both those who supported the legislation and those who were opposed to the legislation.
However, what concerned me the most, as a parliamentarian and as someone who has some experience in legislation, in dealing with these matters, was the dismissive way that many of these witnesses were dealt with. I was disgusted, frankly. Members opposite, members of the government side, challenged anyone who raised any questions. They treated them poorly. In fact, if we look at the subcommittee's report that was tabled in this House when the finance committee reported back to this House, we will see a report that is nowhere near reflective of the testimony that we heard in those 14 hours.
Let me give an example. The Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Chief Atleo, came before our committee. He told us in no uncertain terms how upset he and his people were. They had not been consulted, the government had completely ignored the duty to accommodate and the duty to consult that has been reaffirmed in Supreme Court decisions over the past 20 years. The changes being proposed in a number of pieces of legislation do not consider the role that the first nations play in this country. It would create extraordinary hardship and extraordinary damage to many of the things that the first nations people in this country hold dear.
Do members see that sentiment reflected in the subcommittee's report? Not a word. Grand Chief Atleo's testimony is not even referred to once in the subcommittee's report. How can that be? We are talking about the Assembly of First Nations that represents over 600 first nations communities in this country, first nations that have rights, treaty rights, constitutional rights that have been defined by and confirmed by the Supreme Court. His testimony and the concerns of the first nations people in this country are not even reflected once in that report.
Members opposite are laughing. They think this is a great joke. But let me say that as a member of this chamber, I am thoroughly embarrassed and disgusted with the way that this matter has been handled. It is so disrespectful of the people who have taken their time to come before us to provide testimony. It is as though, if anyone disagrees with the current government, whether it is a member of the National Round Table on the Environment and on the Economy, or Grand Chief Shawn Atleo or members who came before us today of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, or anyone who has any objection with the government, the members will shout them down, they will rule them out, they will not include them in their reports. It is shameful behaviour. I am telling members that Canadians are paying attention and they are not going to stand for this. They are not going to stand being railroaded by the government.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ted Hsu Profile
2011-11-30 17:04 [p.3799]
Madam Speaker, I have another example of how every time we try to increase punishments we end up disproportionately punishing disadvantaged groups in society.
For example, if we look at what has happened in the last couple of years when we got rid of the two for one credit for time spent in remand, this disproportionately affected aboriginal people. If we look at the last couple of years, the average sentence lengths for aboriginal people have increased from about 1,200 to 1,280, whereas the average sentence lengths for everyone else have not changed much at all.
That is an example of where a change in the law to increase the length of prison sentences has tended to disproportionately affect disadvantage groups. Aboriginal prisoners get longer sentences now compared to a couple of years ago. That is not true of everybody else. Therefore, they are being discriminated against.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
View Jack Harris Profile
2011-11-29 11:12 [p.3706]
Madam Speaker, succinctly, greater effort on prevention and rehabilitation and more contribution to police services and enforcement is important.
There is a rate of 6% or 7% more aboriginal people in our prisons. Clearly there is something wrong with that. Significant efforts have to be made to work on prevention in aboriginal communities and fix our justice system.
View John McCallum Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John McCallum Profile
2011-11-29 13:37 [p.3727]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the rising opposition to Bill C-10, which is perhaps best characterized as the Conservatives' most recent piece of dumb on crime legislation.
Our understanding of crime and the appropriate way to handle those who transgress the rules of our society has evolved over the past 400 years. We have moved from a time when criminality was commonly associated with witchcraft to a society that far better understands the root causes of crime and better ways to handle criminals.
I am truly dismayed to see the government completely ignore the work being done on these important topics. It seems to be taking us back to the middle ages. That is not just empty rhetoric. Why do I say that they are taking us back to the middle ages?
First, it is obvious that the government cares not a whit about policies to fight the ultimate cause of crime. Second, it does not care about deterrence. If it did, it would have paid attention to a recent study by its own Department of Justice that was released a week or so ago, which provided evidence that longer sentences are not an effective deterrent to crime. Indeed, the results from that study are consistent with international evidence on the topic.
If the government does not care about fighting the ultimate cause of crime, if it does not care about deterrence, what is left? The only thing the government cares about is the principle of retribution or vengeance, and that is why I make the statement that it is taking us back to the middle ages.
The notion of fighting the underlying causes of crime is not at all important to the Conservatives. At the same time, for the reasons I just explained, the principle of deterrence also appears irrelevant to the Conservatives. All that matters to them is the principle of retribution or revenge. In that sense, this bill takes us back to the Middle Ages.
Nobody in the House would deny that protecting the citizens of Canada from harm is the most important objective of government. In fact, the government is granted a monopoly on the use of force for just that purpose, but with that power comes the responsibility to act in an appropriate manner that benefits society.
Our country was founded on the principles of peace, order and good government, and good government means examining all the facts and opinions. It means talking to experts and making public policy decisions that are based on evidence, not knee-jerk ideological desires. Good government also means respecting Parliament's role in public policy debates.
My opposition to this bill stems from its ineffective and ideological nature, and from the government's inability or unwillingness to work with Parliament on this major issue of public policy. I can already hear that familiar refrain from the other side, soft on crime, soft on victims' rights.
Victims' rights and crime are very important and I find the constant use of victims as a shield for this ideologically-driven agenda to be offensive. I believe nobody in the House is opposed to supporting victims of crime. To suggest otherwise is simply insulting to the intelligence of Canadians.
Indeed, I might mention the case earlier today regarding my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, when he presented amendments that would strengthen the provisions in this bill to support victims of terrorism and add to the remedies against those who commit terrorist acts. It seems the government is not going to accept that amendment, but that is a concrete example of Liberals supporting remedies for those who are victims of crime or terrorism.
What does it mean to support victims of crime? It must certainly mean doing our best to ensure that crime does not happen in the first place or that those who break our laws should be treated in a way that will minimize recidivism. That is how we stand up for victims, by working to ensure that we reduce crime as much as possible and also through measures such as proposed by my colleague from Mount Royal.
I have spoken about the Conservatives' crime agenda in general, but I also want to spend some time on this bill in particular. My primary concern with this bill is that it is fundamentally ineffective. According to Statistics Canada, crime is going down both in volume and severity. This should be trumpeted as a success. Crime is going down. Is that not our objective? When the government should be saying the evidence is saying its policies work, it instead says it does not believe the statistics. It claims the numbers do not matter, but they do matter. For the benefit of my colleagues on the other side of this place, I will go over a few of the facts that they choose to ignore.
As I said before, crime is down. Locking people up for longer does not necessarily make them less likely to reoffend, as I said just a few minutes ago. That is confirmed by a very recent study by the Department of Justice that was acquired through access to information. When we are dealing with young offenders, the negative effects of prison are only multiplied.
What the government needs to understand is that this is not just Liberal nonsense or lefty soft on crime rhetoric. Look at our neighbours to the south. The U.S. incarceration rate is 700% higher than ours. It has very nearly reached a point where fully 1% of the U.S. population is in prison. What does that mean for the U.S.? It means it continues to have higher crime rates than we do. It continues to spend billions more on prisons that we do. Some states, such as California, actually spend more on prisons than they spend on schools. Prisons are not the perfect solution to crime. That is simply outdated 18th century thought and nothing more.
For many criminals, prisons have not proven the palaces of reform that the Conservatives promise they will be. For many, it is simply a school for crime. Our prison system is already at its limit. This plan to dump thousands of new offenders into the system will simply break it. Low level offenders will enter the system after convictions for petty crimes and will leave having made new criminal connections and having learned the skills of the trade. That should never be the outcome of our justice system.
Despite all of this tough talk, one of the things we will not hear the Conservatives talking about during this debate is the mental health of our prisoners. It is widely understood by those who study crime that mental health issues are one of the biggest driving factors of criminal behaviour. Taking care of the mentally ill among us has been a failure of all levels of government for decades now.
As of 2007, 12% of the federal male prison population had a diagnosed mental illness. That is a 71% increase over 1997 and those figures are even worse for female inmates. Our prisons are not supposed to be substitute mental hospitals. In fact, I struggle to find a worse place for a mentally ill person.
Currently, aboriginals are incarcerated at a rate nine times that of non-aboriginal people. I believe that is simply unacceptable. Like most prisoners, they are in prison for non-violent property or drug offences. Time and time again we have seen that the solution to this vicious cycle is not more prisons.
I have covered some of the negative social costs of this dumb on crime agenda, but it is also important to talk about the fiscal costs.
The opposition has been asking the government for detailed cost estimates for its crime agenda. We have received nothing from the government except empty rhetoric. This is unacceptable. Parliamentarians are both policy-makers and the ultimate keepers of the public purse. We have a right to know the costs of the legislation that we are asked to support.
There is another consideration, and I will borrow a term from American politics: unfunded mandate. Yes, there will be significant federal costs, but we cannot ignore the impact these changes will have on provincial governments. These legislative changes, taken in concert with previous changes, will lead to many new provincial inmates at costs borne solely by the provinces.
The government has shown little respect for Parliament and its role, and it is also showing very little respect for provincial governments and their budgets.
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2011-11-29 15:50 [p.3749]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-10, which is described as the safe streets and communities bill. I am rising today in my role as the critic for aboriginal affairs and northern development.
A number of members speaking to this bill have raised concerns that this approach does not fully respond to the concerns that have been raised over the decades by the courts, corrections officers, legal experts, corrections experts, and by the aboriginal community itself.
The aboriginal community in Canada is less than 3% to 4% of the total population, yet tenfold more aboriginal Canadians are incarcerated. As National Chief Shawn Atleo has pointed out, aboriginal youth are more likely to be incarcerated than to graduate from high school.
The number of aboriginal women prisoners is growing and is more than the number of other Canadian women prisoners. Of the women in maximum security, 46% are aboriginal. There has been a 20% increase in the incarceration of aboriginal women just in the last five years.
I will give examples at the provincial level. In Saskatchewan provincial jails, 87% are aboriginal. In Manitoba, 83% are aboriginal. In Alberta, 54% are aboriginal. This is absolutely reprehensible. Surely this should have raised a red flag with the government. In coming forward with these proposals to address crime, to reduce crime and consider victims, surely the government should have considered this. However, that is not apparent on the face of the bill or in the debate.
Why is there a higher rate of aboriginals incarcerated? The reasons I mentioned have been reiterated in countless studies, court decisions, determinations by coroners, and so forth. The Auditor General has raised concerns about this and about the discriminatory treatment of aboriginals in more than 30 reports over a decade.
The coroner's report on the sad rate of suicide at Pikangikum raised the broader issues of concern as to why there are suicides and why there is a high rate of crime within the aboriginal communities.
The reasons have been stated decade after decade as discrimination against aboriginals in education, housing, sanitation, poverty, opportunities to engage in the economy. This has resulted in despair, gang membership, domestic disputes and intoxication-related crimes.
The cost of Bill C-10 for Canadian aboriginal communities will be far greater than just the price of expanding jails. The price to the aboriginal community will be an increasing loss of opportunity for aboriginal youth to have community supports, to continue their education, to participate in the economy, and to have the support of their families to become contributing members of society.
A good number of the witnesses on this bill raised the particular concern of the blanket policy of minimum sentences. Many legal experts testified on the government bill in the last Parliament and the current bill. They stated that the threat of minimum sentences will have a negligible deterrent effect for the majority of aboriginal offenders. Why? Because the majority of offences are related to: addictions; violence associated with intoxication; interpersonal violence; a sense of hopelessness; the legacy and impacts of residential schools; and adoptions away from their community. They also have been the unwitting victims of committing the crime or victims of the crime related to street life.
The experts are telling us that minimum sentences will do nothing to address the root causes of aboriginal offences. If the very purpose of the bill, as the government professes, is to deter further crime and to avoid further victimization, then clearly if the majority of people in our prisons are aboriginals, there is a problem. Where is the analysis of whether or not these measures will genuinely deter aboriginal criminals and reduce their crime rate?
The only predictable result of these measures would be the increased percentage of aboriginals in our jails, the increased probability of denied pardons, as they are currently called, and the increased number of aboriginals outside the economy. The government speaks all the time of the need to get our aboriginals engaged in the economy; this would have the opposite effect.
The Supreme Court of Canada has made very strong observations through its decades of experience in hearing cases involving aboriginal offenders. It raised very serious concerns about the overrepresentation of aboriginals in Canadian courts and the inability of the current court system to address the question of aboriginal offenders.
As legal and correctional experts have testified, aboriginal overrepresentation speaks to the failure of the Canadian criminal justice system to address the root causes of aboriginal offending. The point they make is not that no aboriginal should ever be jailed, but rather that due consideration should be made to any evidence of an inequitable effect of any laws or policies on aboriginal Canadians, and that when such an effect is found, those policies should be adjusted.
A year ago, the government finally signed on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and thereby committed to removing any discriminatory policies and practices and laws that would discriminate against aboriginal Canadians. There is no evidence of that kind of due consideration in the bill that the government has brought forward. There is no evidence that it has given consideration to experts' testimony and submissions made on this aspect of their bill. Study after study, including royal commission reports, judicial inquiries, reports by Correctional Services, coroners' reports, Auditor General reports and recommendations in decisions at all levels of court have urged action on overrepresentation of aboriginals in Canadian prisons.
More aboriginals would be removed from the influence and support of their families and communities. We only need to look at the effect of these measures on the community of Nunavut. Those who are automatically incarcerated under the minimum sentence would be moved a long distance from their community. There has been evidence brought forward that the prisons are already overcrowded, but they would be moved to communities far from their community, thus removing any potential for family or community support or rehabilitation.
In the last Parliament and in this Parliament, we have heard about the cuts over time to community support programs. There have been cuts to the healing centres and to rehabilitation, and closure of the prison farms.
Nowhere is this mistaken path more evident than in the case of the Samson band in Alberta. The Samson band had come to the federal government begging for support to build a centre for its youth so that the youth would be diverted away from increasing engagement in gang violence. There have been sad cases over the last several years of children and community members being killed. The band undertook the effort to do a major review with the RCMP, community leaders and leaders outside the community. The top recommendation was to build a centre and put the programs in place to get the kids off the street and divert them from crime. Instead, very close to them is a prison; that is simply where the youth will continue to be diverted, and crime will continue in their community.
We even had the United Church of Canada calling for greater attention to the discriminatory effect of this law on aboriginal Canadians.
Therefore I call upon the government to rethink and to give consideration. The federal government has unilateral responsibility for first nations Canadians, and I believe it is incumbent upon the government to give closer consideration the discriminatory effect its measures will have on aboriginal Canadians.
View Bruce Hyer Profile
GP (ON)
View Bruce Hyer Profile
2011-11-29 15:59 [p.3751]
Mr. Speaker, I have been reviewing some of the costs that we are coming to now. A single new low-security cell will cost a quarter of a million dollars, a single new medium-security cell almost half a million dollars and a high-security cell $600,000. The total annual cost per woman inmate is $343,000, and for a male it almost $225,000. This is at a time when we could be investing in children.
As you may know, Mr. Speaker, and as I know the hon. member from Edmonton knows, we are spending less than half on each aboriginal student in Canada. Certainly that is true in Ontario.
Does this make any sense when, for a small investment in education and a small investment in feeding programs in the schools, we could be preventing future costs of such magnitude?
View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2011-11-29 16:00 [p.3751]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his astute question.
We heard only today in the House, during question period, the reply by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development when concerns were raised about the slow pace of response to the crisis in Attawapiskat. His response was that he is concerned that despite the spending a lot of money in this community, the problems have not been solved.
The amount of money that the minister raised pales in comparison to the money being spent on the imprisonment of our aboriginal population. It pales in comparison to the moneys we are spending on the education of our aboriginal youth.
As the national leader of the Assembly of First Nations has pointed out, if we do not turn the corner, we are still going to be incarcerating more youth and we are going to be graduating them from high school.
I will share the quote from the Supreme Court of Canada in the Gladue case:
These findings cry out for recognition of the magnitude and gravity of the problem, and for responses to alleviate it. The figures are stark and reflect what may fairly be termed a crisis in the Canadian criminal justice system. The drastic overrepresentation of aboriginal peoples within both the Canadian prison population and the criminal justice system reveals a sad and pressing social problem.
View Yvon Lévesque Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs).
The Bloc Québécois had indicated its support for studying Bill C-3 in committee. Since the bill would allow people who suffered discrimination because of Bill C-31 passed in 1985 to reconnect with their origins, we felt it deserved further study. As I just mentioned, Bill C-3 would repair the injustices created by Bill C-31 some 25 years ago. In other words, the federal government waited a quarter of a century to repair the injustices it had created itself. Even then, it had to be forced by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia ruling in the McIvor case. Thus we cannot talk about Bill C-3 without recalling how this aboriginal mother had to fight to have her rights and those of her children recognized. Sharon McIvor kept up her fight for many long years. Without her and her struggle, we would not be discussing this bill here today in the House.
To understand the implications of Bill C-3, we need to turn back the clock just a bit. Injustices against aboriginal women are nothing new. In 1876, the Indian Act stipulated that an aboriginal woman lost her rights and stopped being an Indian under the act if she married a non-aboriginal man. Obviously, an aboriginal man who married a non-aboriginal woman did not lose his Indian status. Aboriginal women have experienced a great deal of discrimination with regard to their race, gender and marital status. The Indian Act has contributed to marginalizing women and diminishing their social and political role in the communities. Since this legislation has a direct impact on lineage, the children of these women have also been discriminated against.
In 1951, the Indian Act was amended, but again, a woman who married a non-Indian could not be registered in the new federal register of status Indians and therefore could not enjoy the rights that such status entailed. In 1985, following changes to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Bill C-31 was introduced to close the loophole in the Indian Act, but women's children still did not have the same rights as men's children.
Those who are paying close attention will have noticed that more than 100 years after the Indian Act was created, the rights of aboriginal women's children were still not guaranteed. It would take another 25 years for the federal government to introduce a bill to recognize the Indian status of people who had been discriminated against in the past. Were it not for Ms. McIvor's legal journey, the government might never have introduced Bill C-3, which we are discussing today, as a response to this discrimination. Many will say that this bill does not go far enough.
One such person is Michèle Taina Audette, another mother and a representative of the AMUN March, whose battle continues. I will read an excerpt from her testimony at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development:
In my opinion, Bill C-3...merely complies with the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision in McIvor v. Canada...[and] the department is using this bill to do as little as possible about the problem...there may be serious problems as a result in the short, medium and long terms...Let us put an end, once and for all, to the discrimination that has existed for too long a time already...Aboriginal women continue to be victims of discrimination based on gender....
Bill C-3 would recognize the Indian status of people who have so far not been recognized as Indian and could therefore not benefit from the rights enjoyed by status Indians, such as the right to live on a reserve and to vote in band council elections.
Bill C-3, which was introduced thanks to Sharon McIvor's efforts, corrects these injustices, but it does not go far enough, because it allows certain other injustices to persist. That is why the Bloc Québécois proposed several amendments, all of which were deemed inadmissible.
People will have no trouble understanding that the Bloc Québécois believes strongly in nation-to-nation negotiation. That is why we have always consulted with our aboriginal partners in Quebec when preparing to vote on bills that affect them.
This time is no exception. The Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Quebec Native Women were among those who felt that Bill C-3 failed to correct certain injustices, so that is why we initially decided to vote against the bill.
Sleeping on issues like this helps, and so does thinking about it over the summer. This summer, members of various Quebec aboriginal groups and associations discussed this matter at length. They decided that it would be better to accept the federal government's offer, so they asked us to apply a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” philosophy. The Bloc Québécois will therefore vote in favour of Bill C-3. I think this is a good time to share the words of Ellen Gabriel. Here is what she told the committee:
...for membership, you have to be a status Indian. That doesn't necessarily mean that if you have status, you have membership. That's been the problem for a lot of indigenous women who regained their status in 1985 but who are not allowed to live in their communities, to be buried in their communities, or to own land that their parents give to them... If this bill is going to be passed...then we need some guarantees that band councils will also respect it.
Ellen Gabriel is the president of Quebec Native Women.
I must stress that the federal government promised to establish an exploratory process. It committed to working with aboriginal organizations to establish an “inclusive process for the purpose of information gathering and the identification of the broader issues for discussion surrounding Indian registration, band membership and First Nations citizenship.” The government's intention is not very clear, and neither are the objectives of this exercise. Will it be a proper consultation, for the purpose of amending the Indian Act to bring it into line with the expectations of aboriginals? Will the issue of registration, band membership and citizenship be resolved? This exploratory process will take place before the implementation of Bill C-21, which would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and which would apply to reserves as of June 2011. So it is important to use these consultations to identify the problems with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with respect to the Indian register.
Another problem with the enforcement of Bill C-3 is that the federal government did not do its homework and has not estimated the cost of adding people to the Indian register. The Bloc Québécois does think that we should register new Indians, but not at the expense of those who are already registered. In other words, the federal government will have to increase funding for first nations to ensure that the needs of new registered Indians are met, while still meeting the needs of those who are already registered.
In conclusion, I want to remind all members in this House that they have a duty to ensure justice and fairness for aboriginal women and their children, and I urge members to support Bill C-3. I would also like to remind the federal government that, although it stated its intention in the latest throne speech, it has still not endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That is shameful.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2010-10-26 12:31 [p.5336]
Mr. Speaker, as my colleague suggested, a number of women are still disenfranchised by the bill. Perhaps there will be 45,000 extra people who have status and, as he rightfully said, they will have to be funded either through the department's programs or those programs devolved to aboriginal governments or organizations. But why does he think the government introduced a bill in which only 45,000 were included, of perhaps the 200,000 people who are still discriminated against by the Indian Act? Why are so many people left out and only a small portion of the people included in this bill when it could have fixed the entire problem?
View Yvon Lévesque Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. He is very knowledgeable about first nations issues because he lives in a region where there are very many first nations people.
Following the McIvor decision, the government realized the scope of the task ahead of it and the first nations' lack of funds to implement this decision. The fewer people the government needs to include, the more likely it will be to succeed. That is not really fair. As my colleague heard in committee, Ms. Palmater said:
One of the main issues here is that prior to 1985, bands did not have control over their membership. That was a determination made by Canada for all bands. So when we're talking about reinstating the descendants of Indian women who married out to status, that should also include band membership, because it was at a time when bands didn't have control over their membership.
...There should be no question whatsoever that the descendants of these Indian women who married out should be added to band membership because that was Canada's responsibility at the time. How can we add them to status only and not membership? And if you're asking for suggestions or if I will submit something further, for sure.
In following through with its commitment, the government needs to consult with the bands and come to an agreement with them. I hope that this will happen.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2010-10-26 12:34 [p.5336]
Mr. Speaker, I hope the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General take note of the problem the member has just pointed out. Nobody wants people to be discriminated against, but the first nations and other aboriginal governments that are responsible for delivering services will now have 45,000 new members, if this passes.
First, there have to be audits to make sure the Department of Indian Affairs provides all the services to those 45,000 people, whether it delivers them directly or whether they have been devolved to the first nation, and transfer agreements would be passed on. However, those first nations, as the member has pointed out, also deliver a number of other services to people they determine to be members. How will they fund those? They will require extra funding.
Is the member, during committee hearings, aware of any study that was done by the government or statistics that were put forward to outline—
View Yvon Lévesque Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague's comments. Obviously, the federal government has its work cut out for it. We have already identified 45,000 people and, as my colleague said earlier, there may be 200,000. It is time for Canada to integrate these first nations and stop treating them like cattle. That is how they are treated. We make decisions for them and do not allow them to participate in the development of this country and enjoy the benefits of that development. We must begin today to make that vision reality.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2010-10-26 12:37 [p.5337]
Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Deputy Speaker: The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: On division.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2010-10-26 12:38 [p.5337]
The next question is on Motion No. 2. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: On division.
View Rob Nicholson Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rob Nicholson Profile
2010-10-26 12:38 [p.5337]
moved that bill, as amended, be concurred in.
The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: On division.
View Scott Brison Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Scott Brison Profile
2010-06-07 12:44 [p.3453]
Mr. Speaker, I have been disturbed by the amount of misinformation that has permeated and dominated the important and legitimate debate on this issue. I have repeatedly corrected the NDP member of the trade committee when he has made incorrect and false testimony.
At the time of the murder of 12 members of the Awa nation, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster actually accused the Uribe government of conducting the murders. Then, because the murders occurred when the hon. member for Toronto Centre and I were in Colombia, we were accused of condoning murder. That was the deeply personal and grossly biased and inaccurate type of argument made.
As it turns out, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported that the murders of the 12 members of the Awa nation were committed by FARC, because they were living on grounds contiguous with a FARC drug operation. It was not the Uribe government, so I think that the hon. member from the New Democrats should apologize to me and to the Uribe government.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
View Peter Julian Profile
2010-06-07 12:46 [p.3453]
Mr. Speaker, I am appalled at the ignorance of the members who are not aware that there have been systematic massacres not only of members of the Awa nation in Colombia but of other aboriginal nations. Indeed, the government and paramilitary and military forces have been involved. It is a matter of public record.
I will turn to other issues, because it is obvious that there is not a very high level of understanding of the human rights situation in Colombia. How could there be? Liberals and Conservatives shut off debate on Bill C-2. They refused to hear from human rights organizations in Colombia who asked to come forward. They refused to hear from the Canadian Labour Congress, which asked to come forward. They refused to hear from some of the largest labour activist unions in Canada, which asked to come forward. They refused to hear from the free and democratic labour movement, which is over 90% of the labour movement in Colombia. The Liberals and Conservatives said that they did not want to hear from those organizations. If they had heard from those organizations rather than having cut off debate, their level of ignorance would have been improved.
View Bruce Hyer Profile
NDP (ON)
View Bruce Hyer Profile
2010-06-03 12:58 [p.3366]
Madam Speaker, I wish I could say that it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-9, the government's bloated budget implementation bill, but it is of great concern to me. We in the NDP are speaking out regarding Bill C-9. The Liberals are notable in their silence; they are missing in inaction.
This bill is the culmination of a really disturbing trend. It is a trend that previous Liberal governments started and the Conservative government is taking to dizzying new heights. All thoughtful Canadians and all thoughtful parliamentarians should be disturbed by Bill C-9 and the process that surrounds it.
That trend is to American-style junk legislation. Everything including the kitchen sink is stuffed into an omnibus budget bill and then it is rammed through without giving members a chance to deliberate and decide on crucial issues independently and without giving Canadians a chance to see what the government is doing.
There is an entire year's legislative agenda in one massive 902 page omnibus monster. Everything unrelated to the budget is in the bill. Let me go through a list of just a few.
For example, the government is granting itself new powers to gut environmental assessments. Let us be clear on what this is about. It is about granting the Minister of the Environment the unilateral authority to be the judge, jury and executioner of entire ecosystems, to tear down the checks built into our system and scrap assessments so it can steamroll ahead with unscrutinized controversial mines and tar sands expansion projects.
We know this is the plot the Conservatives have cooked up because, to quote from the March 14, 2009 issue of the Globe and Mail:
A leaked government document outlining the proposed changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act indicates [the] Environment Minister...has asked for a bill “overhauling” the legislation as soon as possible.
Under the new system, the government should “expect to capture perhaps 200-300 projects per year,” the document states. That would represent a more than 95 per cent drop from the roughly 6,000 federal environmental assessments that currently take place each year.
We have seen this before with the gutting of the Navigable Waters Protection Act last year in Bill C-10. Then the official opposition rolled over on changes that gave the transport minister unprecedented powers to define entire classes of development projects on heritage waterways so they no longer need environmental assessments. These powers are not balanced by any public consultation or by transparent disclosure or by parliamentary review.
We saw this in 2008, when regressive immigration reforms were hidden in the budget, and in the 2009 budget which included provisions that denied women in the public service the right to go to the Human Rights Commission to fight for the pay equity they deserve.
Here we are a year later with another bill that goes much, much further in this wrong-headed direction. This bill also introduces an air travel tax as I am sure the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona is aware. It is not surprising that the government would be hiding the security tax hike any way that it can, including inside this bloated bill. This tax is the highest in the world. It wants to be seen as the government that does not tax people. Is that ever a myth. The truth is it does.
Far beyond this tax on air travel, the government has introduced the hated sales tax this year. The finance minister signed the provinces up for it, buried the legislation for it in the budget, and rammed it through this House in an incredible 48 hours.
Earlier this week I was with first nations constituents in Red Rock, Ontario in my riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North. They are very angry about the HST and the violation of their treaty rights. They were not consulted before it was imposed on everybody, including them. We know that often our first nations communities are among the most disadvantaged in our society, and they are worried about the impact the HST is going to have on them.
I have heard no end about this hated sales tax from many of my constituents, many of whom have lost their jobs and are struggling with the cost of living as it is. Then Conservatives and Liberals team up to hit them with the HST, one of the largest sales tax hikes in Canadian history and debate is shut down in the House to get it through.
Let us not forget something else that is in Bill C-9, and that is a huge payroll tax increase. Starting at the end of this year, Conservatives are going to hit workers and employers alike with the maximum EI premium hike allowed under the law, and the maximum payroll tax hike the year after that, and again the year after that, and repeated every year for the foreseeable future.
This tax on work is ridiculous when we consider that there was lots of money in the employment insurance fund, over $57 billion in surplus, way more than enough. But the government raided that money, happily spent it on tax breaks for big oil and big banks and decided to raise payroll taxes to make up for the shortfall. This would cause quite an uproar on its own, but the government is trying to bury it deep inside this huge bill.
Today we are dealing with a motion that would rescind clauses in Bill C-9 dealing with the sale of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and the privatization of Canada Post mail delivery services. Neither of these things has much to do with actual budgetary measures or a budget. They can and must be debated and decisions made on their own merit.
However, the Prime Minister does not believe in debate. He does not believe in discussion. He does not believe in accountability and he does not seem to believe in democracy.
I would like to talk a bit about Canada Post and the provisions concealed in Bill C-9 that continue the deregulation of our national letter carrier. The government knows it would never be able to pass a bill in the House to do that, so it is taking bites out of Canada Post operations using budgetary bills instead.
What the provisions in Bill C-9 do is to remove the exclusive legal privilege of Canada Post to deliver international mail and to allow foreign national postal services and private companies to take over one of the few profitable revenue streams that Canada Post has, a stream on which the company depends to help offset the costs of our local and rural mail delivery.
Canada Post has been fighting this battle for the last 10 years or more. Several companies, many of which are surrogates of national post administrations, have been collecting letter mail in Canada and bringing it to their countries where it is processed and remailed abroad, creating jobs there and not here in Canada.
Canada Post has tried to resolve this issue diplomatically through the Universal Postal Union and by negotiating directly with the violating remailers. When they still would not respect the law, Canada Post took them to court and it won every time.
Our own member for Ottawa Centre, when he was critic for this file in 2006, wrote to the government expressing concern about changes to Canada Post's exclusive privilege without public consultation and asking for a full debate and a real vote in Parliament. Instead of giving us that debate, that discussion and the vote that New Democrats asked for, the government four years later is doing exactly the opposite.
Instead of backing up our national postal service and supporting it, the government has chosen to help foreign remail raiders poach Canadian letter mail instead. Bill C-9 would make that poaching legal forever.
This threatens the long-term viability of Canada Post itself as a universal service to Canadians. By crippling Canada Post's revenue, the government is attempting to achieve through the back door what it knows it cannot achieve through open and transparent debate on the issue.
What do we have here? We have a massive omnibus bill that needs to be split up so that we can have proper debates and allow democracy to function. As it is, parliamentarians are expected to carefully pore through 2,200 legal clauses and debate the ramifications at only seven debate sessions in the House and even fewer in committee. The House finance committee passed all 2,200 clauses without amendment in just one day. Maybe that is just the point: we are not supposed to carefully study Bill C-9's 23 sections and debate over 2,000 clauses.
If the mission of Parliament is to scrutinize the government, doing legislation this way is nothing but a way to avoid scrutiny. It is the so-called accountability government using yet another gimmick to once again avoid accountability.
View Marc Lemay Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marc Lemay Profile
2009-06-02 13:00 [p.4054]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from New Brunswick because I will start exactly where he left off.
The fight against drugs, like all battles, must continue on several fronts. That is the problem with the Conservatives and unfortunately it is the trap into which the Liberals have fallen in supporting Bill C-15.
I will say from the outset that we will not support the NDP amendments. We too find that 200, 250 or 300 plants is a fair bit of trafficking. However, we at least were able to ensure that it does not apply to just one plant. They relented somewhat.
That is not the problem. The problem is that we are dealing with minimum prison sentences. The Conservatives have really understood absolutely nothing and will never understand until they are defeated. Perhaps then they will ask us questions in an attempt to understand. They will never understand that minimum sentences do not solve the problem of crime. I hope that I have said it clearly enough and without shouting. I know that they will not get it. I even spoke to the minister about it when he appeared before us. It does not solve the problem. He answered that there would be fewer criminals at large, but that is not true. Minimum prison sentences, and especially Bill C-15, will create many more problems.
This begins with a minimum six months jail sentence. I agree with this, and I will revisit this when we get to the in-depth debate. It is, however, important to stress that minimum prison terms do not solve problems, and never will. The proof of this is that the Conservatives have never been able to table a single study. I can table at least a dozen that demonstrate the opposite, and not from just anywhere either: from the United States, for example. The Conservatives take their cues from the U.S., so let them go and see what is happening there. There are also studies from Australia and New Zealand. They can speak and read English, so they should understand. In the U.S and in Australia, in northern Australia in particular, studies have been carried out since 1992 on legislation that imposes minimum prison terms. That is not just last week. The studies are clear, and I will read slowly to be sure they get it.
Evidence shows that long prison terms increase the probability of recidivism...
I think I will repeat it. These are not my words, they all come from studies.
Evidence shows that long prison terms increase the probability of recidivism... In the end, public safety is more compromised than protected if the courts lock people up and throw away the key.
That is exactly what they are doing. Getting rid of them, locking them up for as long as possible, thanking heavens that they are not getting back out too frequently. Unfortunately, that is not the way things work. I have a little news bulletin for them. They have not been inside a penitentiary for a long time. I do not want to hear that this one was a police officer for 15 years, others Crown prosecutors. They need to have been inside a prison. I can organize a guided tour if they like. We will show them how things work. Not the way they would like them to.
Unfortunately for them, inmates eventually come out. That is where the problem lies. Mandatory minimum sentencing solves nothing. The problem is not when they go to jail—I repeat, not when they are going in—but when they come out.
In other words, they get out too fast. The men—since 90% of the time it is men who serve prison sentences, and the majority of my clients were men—get out too fast. When a judge carefully studies a case, pronounces a sentence and tells the individual before him that he deserves three years in prison, and then eight months later meets that man on the street, we have a problem.
The problem that the Conservatives have yet to understand is that, even if they impose a minimum prison sentence, these men and women will be entitled to parole. Even if an individual is given a three-year sentence, it is not certain that he will serve a minimum of three years. No. The suggestion is for a three-year sentence. What will happen in prison if this is the individual’s first conviction? Suppose he is a good sort who causes no problems? Right: he will be released after serving one third of his sentence.
Those in this chamber who know how to count know that 36 months divided by three gives 12 months. There is no program. Those who know and are following this, apart from the Conservatives who know nothing, should realize that less than 12 months in a penitentiary is not enough time to work with the individual. Why? Because the individual is sentenced to 36 months, but he does not go straight to prison. He goes to a federal reception centre, where he spends three to four months having his case analyzed to see what can be done with him.
The Conservatives do not understand that the problem is not with the highly criminalized individuals. That is not just my opinion. Studies say that the problem is that this does not target the most notorious and most dangerous offenders, who are already subject to very strict sentences, precisely because of the nature of their crimes.
This means that someone who goes around with a gun selling drugs has to serve, from the outset, a sentence of three years. He is sentenced to three years. On top of that is the sentence for trafficking narcotics. Those who tell me they want to get traffickers off the street are correct on this point, perfectly correct. Everyone wants to get traffickers away from schools. However, we can look at the definition in the bill with respect to an individual trafficking near schools. I can guarantee—and I say this honestly—that bad laws make good lawyers rich. Some will become rich thanks to the laws that the Conservative Party wants passed, particularly this Bill C-15. I will give another example. This bill will have a disproportionate impact on minority groups in Canada that are already suffering poverty and privation.
The aboriginal peoples are a good example. Look at the west. There must be a few Conservatives who come from the west. They should go see what is happening in the western prisons, how many aboriginal people are there compared with the rest of the population. They might realize that there may be a problem somewhere. This is what they do not understand.
I have only a minute left, so I will speak quickly. Being tough on crime has never solved anything. Yes, sentences are necessary and criminals have to be taken off the street. However, I repeat: the problem is not when they go into prison, it is when they get out. Let them serve their sentences. The Minister of Public Safety should explain why he is not proposing a bill to amend the Conditional Release Act. That is where the problem is. The judges who pass sentences have taken the trouble to analyze their cases. I tell you that criminal activity is not going to be resolved with this bill. In fact this bill is going to increase it.
View Jean Crowder Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jean Crowder Profile
2009-06-02 13:54 [p.4061]
Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Burnaby—Douglas is very familiar with the circumstances of the bill.
Many of the young people in some of the aboriginal communities who leave their reserves to go to the big cities like Vancouver often drift into an unhealthy and unsafe lifestyle due to the lack of support when they are in those cities. Since we do not have programs in place to support these young people, some of them end up contracting HIV/AIDS as a result of drug use or other lifestyle issues and then go back to their home communities.
I wonder if the member could comment on what he sees as being important in terms of treatment for young people who get involved in the drug trade and then end up having to go back to their communities.
View Jean Crowder Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jean Crowder Profile
2009-03-03 12:40 [p.1208]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the amendments that have been proposed for the budget implementation act. I am going to be dealing specifically with clause 362, which has to do with the student loan amendments, and clause 394, which has to do with pay equity.
With regard to student loans, I want to talk specifically about the requirements for additional documentation. This section of the bill deals with the fact that anybody who receives Canada student loans will be required to provide additional documents to the minister upon request. It creates a host of new penalities for false statements or omissions and also appears to permit the minister to retroactively punish students for making a false statement or omission in their application for Canada student loans.
In this day and age, we want to make post-secondary education as accessible as possible to students. We know that in times of economic downturn, it is very important for people to be able to upgrade their skills and education, so that when the economy turns around they have an opportunity to take advantage of the economy as it moves up.
This clause is particularly troubling because it is going to put additional barriers in front of getting education. Currently, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is conducting a post-secondary education review. It is reviewing a program called PSSSP, the post-secondary student support program. One of the options being floated is that some first nations students will be channelled into applying for Canada student loans.
We already know that when it comes to post-secondary education, first nations students have less access, more barriers, and a lower graduation rate. Yet, we also know that in many provinces the first nations and Métis are a significant part of the student population. It is of concern that we are revamping a program that will affect students broadly in terms of access with the potential to impact first nations students more directly.
At a February 23 gathering of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, National Chief Phil Fontaine spoke about the importance of education. He was speaking about kindergarten to grade 12, but I think this also applies to post-secondary. He talked about the fact that the cost of doing nothing is astronomical. He went on to say:
I recently read an editorial in the Star Phoenix which projected that the First Nation and Métis population in Saskatchewan could account for approximately 23% of the labor force by 2016. The implications of this are huge, and not just here but across the country. Nationally, more than 600,000 Aboriginal youth will be entering the labour market by 2026, with the potential to make a major contribution to the Canadian economy estimated at $71 billion. The social and economic costs will be financially crippling to the provincial and federal governments if we don’t make the right decisions today.
I would argue that there is a serious omission in a budget implementation that does not consider the impacts on both Canadian students and first nations, Métis and Inuit students.
Many people have talked eloquently in the House about pay equity. It is actually called the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. Since 2006, we have seen a continuous erosion of women's equality in this country, whether it is the removal of the court challenges program, the removal of the word equality from the Status of Women website, or the underfunding of women's organizations that can provide a perspective that is lacking in the House. Only 20% of the members of the House are women. It is very important to fund those women's organizations to make sure that that representation in economic and social policy is heard by the government when it is developing legislation. In the budget implementation act and the budget itself, we saw the virtual absence of women.
I want to touch briefly on first nations. The Québec Native Women's Association issued a press release when it examined what was in the budget. It talked about the fact that the investment plans in infrastructure and industries tend to benefit the sectors of activities that are predominantly comprised of a male workforce. The double discrimination faced by aboriginal women has already led to a feminization of poverty and the economic struggle will no doubt exacerbate their marginalization. The press release goes on to talk about the fact that the United Nations has provided numerous recommendations on key areas of concerns in regard to its human rights obligations. Sadly these recommendations were blatantly ignored by this present budget.
The Native Women's Association of Canada talked about the need to have aboriginal women specifically mentioned as part of the stimulus plan. Instead, we heard only a general comment about aboriginal issues such as social housing on reserves, aboriginal skills and training, child and family services. It went on to talk about the fact that women are not specifically mentioned. When we know that there are no programs, services and infrastructure specifically geared toward women and women's issues, they simply get left off the table.
I bring this up in the context of pay equity because one of the comments made in the House was that we need to ensure that families in this country have access to reasonable compensation. The former pay equity task force from 2004 which did hundreds of hours of consultation from coast to coast to coast, talked to business, trade unions, individual stakeholders and came out with a very substantial set of recommendations which have been ignored since 2004. So it is not just the current government that ignored it, it was ignored in the past as well. That pay equity task force would have put in place some very real measures to tackle equal pay for work of equal value, and let us be clear, that is what we are talking about. We are talking about equal pay for work of equal value, and that gets lost in the noise and the rhetoric in the House.
The current piece of legislation effectively rolls back the clock. We know that women in Canada, on average, make somewhere around seventy-some odd cents to the dollar for every dollar that a man makes. What we really needed was some teeth around the pay equity legislation. Furthermore, it should never have been included in a budget implementation bill. It should have been a stand-alone piece of legislation, so that the Status of Women committee would have had the opportunity to call witnesses, to fully examine the piece of legislation to make sure that it reflected what was in the pay equity task force.
Instead, we have an attempt to bury a piece of legislation in an omnibus bill without adequate oversight. That applies to any number of other aspects that are buried in the bill including navigable waters.
I want to quote from a couple of press releases. The Public Service Alliance of Canada issued a press release on February 23 that said:
PSAC slams Budget Implementation Act for undermining collective bargaining and threatening women's right to pay equity.
It went on to say:
The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act would make it virtually impossible for women in the federal public sector to be paid equal pay for work of equal value. It uses pay equity as a bargaining chip during negotiations where the employer historically holds the balance of power. It bars unions from supporting members who want to make pay equity claims. Bill C-10 would do nothing to narrow the income gap between women and men in the federal public service.
In a detailed briefing note, prepared by the women's and human rights officer at the Public Service Alliance Canada, entitled “The end of pay equity for women in the federal public service”, it talks about restricting access. I am going to read a couple of sections. It says:
The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act will restrict the substance and the application of pay equity in the public sector. This bill would remove the right of public sector workers to file complaints for pay equity with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The bill would make it more difficult to claim pay equity, by redefining the notion of “female predominant” job group to require that women make up 70% of workers in the position. It also redefines the criteria used to evaluate whether jobs are of “equal” value.
It goes on to talk about the $50,000 fine on any union that would encourage or assist its members in filing a pay equity complaint and it talks about the fact that pay equity is a fundamental human right that has been protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act since 1977.
We know this is a signature attempt by the government to continue to undermine women's equality in this country. It is rolling back the clock on women's rights and it signals the government's overall approach to women's issues. I would urge members of the House to support the amendment to strip this out of the budget implementation bill and put it back where it rightly belongs, in front of the Status of Women committee, so it can have some fulsome discussion on this and appropriate oversight.
View Jean Crowder Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jean Crowder Profile
2008-06-02 13:26 [p.6397]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Ottawa Centre for touching on that particular issue.
In Canada, we know that in some provinces, such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan, first nations and Métis are going to be a large part of the workforce in the next 20 years. In Canada, first nations, Métis and Inuit have had significant population growth over the last 15 years.
It could be a very viable part of the future workforce, but what that requires is an investment right from early learning and child care, right from birth, all the way through a person's working career. It is called life long learning.
What we know is that for every dollar that we invest under the age of six, we save $7 in the long-run, whether it is in education, justice, welfare or health care.
Then from K to 12 we know that what we need is culturally appropriate education. We need education that is safe, clean and affordable for families. We need to make sure that there is access to computers, libraries, technical supports, speech therapy and special needs, and in that K to 12 system we know that will set the groundwork for young first nations, Métis and Inuit students to go on and take part in vocational training, apprenticeship training and university with a human resource plan.
I was at a conference last week that talked about a human resource strategy for the future, things such as the AHRDA agreements where first nations do have control over educational dollars and they are investing in human resources strategies that will help meet the labour shortage gaps.
This again is an opportunity for Canada, for the federal government, to take a look at making sure first nations, Métis and Inuit are well positioned to take part in the jobs that are emerging and will continue to emerge over the next 10 or 15 years.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
View Charlie Angus Profile
2008-05-30 12:33 [p.6365]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate you recognizing that the issue of how we allocate funding is what we are talking about. This is an amendment to a larger budget bill that is dramatically wrong for Canadians.
In response to my colleague, when it comes to misrepresentations, let us talk about misrepresentations. We have documents that were given to the communities of northern Ontario, which were signed under the office of the previous Indian affairs minister who said that the plans to build a school in Attawapiskat would go ahead. These were documents signed by the Conservative government, yet the present Indian affairs minister said that the government never made any promises, that it did not have any money. Not only that, it does not plan on having any money nor having a timeline.
Any government that has that much systemic disregard for children is a government does not deserve to have the confidence of the Canadian people. Therefore, we do not have confidence in the government. We do not have confidence in its underhanded attempts to rewrite the immigration act through threat and bluster.
We, as New Democrats, will vote against the bill and we will vote against it very proudly.
View Anita Neville Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Anita Neville Profile
2008-05-28 15:46 [p.6172]
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak in support of the amended Bill C-21.
Members will recall that the bill was first introduced into the House in the 39th session of Parliament as Bill C-44. It has been re-introduced into the House as Bill C-21 and has gone through a very lengthy committee process. It has now come back to the House in its amended form for final conclusion.
To recap, members will remember that the act would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which excludes Indians who live or work on reserve from filing human rights complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in respect of any alleged human rights violations that relate to any action arising from or pursuant to the Indian Act.
I want to make it very clear from the outset that this party, this official opposition, has supported the intent of the bill. The repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act has been a long time in coming and it is something that we support very much.
What we did not support was the manner in which the bill was brought forward, both in its initial introduction and in its subsequent introduction as Bill C-21. It was brought forward without any consultation with first nations communities. We heard that there were significant concerns about the legislation, but there seemed to be absolutely no will, commitment, effort or respect on the part of the government to address some of those concerns.
I am repeating myself, but I want to make it very clear. I said, at least 18 times, in the House or in committee, as did my colleagues, that we supported the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act. We did not support the process in which the government chose, as one of the chiefs from Alberta said, to ram it down their throats.
We are proud to support the amended legislation. We are proud of the process that went on in committee. We heard from a host of witnesses who came before the committee. I emphasize that this is not a substitute for consultation; it was about hearing witnesses and their concerns. Out of the 21 or 22 witnesses we heard, only 1 witness supported the legislation in its original form. We heard learned presentations from academics. We heard from leaders in the aboriginal community. We heard from individuals in the aboriginal community. We heard concerns from the men and women who the bill would affect.
We were concerned that there was no interpretive clause. We were concerned that there was no non-derogation clause. We were concerned that there was no attention given to the fiscal capacity. We were most concerned that the transition period was very short. We were also concerned that no study or analysis had been done on the impact the legislation would have on first nations communities. We know an analysis was done on what the impact would be on INAC, but no study was done to determine what the impact would be on first nations communities.
The amended legislation was a model of cooperation by the opposition parties, listening to the representations we heard from individuals, working together to amend the bill to make it a stronger, fairer bill for aboriginal people in our country.
Many times we heard in the House that we had gutted the bill. Far from it. Misrepresentations were mailed out to every household in my riding, misrepresenting my position and the position of my party as it related to the bill.
We proposed a number of important amendments to the bill. We proposed and passed through committee, a non-derogation clause, an interpretative clause, an extension of the time for implementation for three years. This is important. The government originally proposed six months. It was willing to extend it to 18 months, but not beyond that. I am pleased to see the government has allowed it to go in at three years now.
The implementation period of three years will allow first nations to determine their capacity and to look at the implications. It will allow them to prepare their communities for the actual final implementation of the bill.
As the House may recall, the government tried at one point, through a point of order, to remove the non-derogation clause and the interpretative clause. We are pleased that it has come back with amendments. Although they are not what we would have preferred, we will accept the amended non-derogation and interpretative clauses in the bill. They deal with the intent and the protection of the collective rights of first nations communities. We do, however, prefer the amendments put forward in committee, but as an expression of good faith and a desire to get the bill passed, we will support the amendments put forward by the government.
With the amendments, we would be able to grant human rights to first nations people in a way that balances their collective rights with individual rights as well as maintaining all existing aboriginal and treaty rights, as recognized under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
With respect to the transition period, first nations will now have an adequate amount of time to prepare for the legislation. In doing so, the government will have a chance to properly consult with all affected first nations peoples. I sincerely hope the government will take advantage of the opportunity to do this. I hope it will not just tell them but engage them in a meaningful consultation process whereby it will listen to them and work with them to implement the bill.
Once the bill comes into effect, first nations will work with the government to undertake the extensive preparation, the capacity, fiscal and human resources required.
The important part of this is the amended legislation, and it was amended not without acrimony or without challenge, is an example of parliamentarians working together to fix flawed legislation and amend it to reflect the best interests of first nations people.
As I said at the beginning, the Liberals have always maintained our support for the repeal of this section. It was not done in a way which we supported. Since the bill is now in front of us, we are proud to say that we improved flawed legislation to reflect the views of first nations communities throughout the country. They will be able to work with this legislation, and we are proud to support it.
View Jean Crowder Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jean Crowder Profile
2008-05-28 15:56 [p.6173]
Mr. Speaker, this is an important day in the House as we bring back the amended Bill C-21. Specifically, we are dealing with a couple of amendments.
Unfortunately, this bill has been decades in coming. I will share just a bit of history around this bill. Originally in 1977 an exception was provided that first nations living on reserve could not file complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act against anything in the Indian Act. Part of the history around that so-called temporary exemption from 1977 being put in place was of course that there were discriminatory provisions in existence in the Indian Act.
One of those discriminatory provisions was around the fact that first nations women who married non-aboriginal men were actually excluded from living on reserve or maintaining their status. The report that came out in 2005 from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, “A Matter of Rights”, talked about the impacts on the community. I have a quote from that report about what happens to families:
The effect of this discriminatory provision was the effective banishment of over one hundred thousand women, their spouses, and their children from their communities and traditional homelands. This caused great psychological, emotional and economic suffering. This was especially true in cases where marriages broke down and First Nation women were not allowed to return home.
What we had in place was a system that disenfranchised thousands and thousands of women and their families. Because the department of the day knew this discriminatory provision was in place and was not at that time prepared to deal with that discriminatory provision, it asked for this exemption and it was put in place.
Subsequent to that, this particular part of the Indian Act was repealed and women were granted their status. I am going to come back to that in a minute, because that was Bill C-31 from 1985, which was one of the reasons that so many people who came before committee were so vocal about wanting some of the amendments that were put in place.
I am not going to read all the recommendations from “A Matter of Rights”, but there were five key recommendations. Part of what the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended in 2005, before legislation was developed, was that consultation take place with first nations and that “an interpretive provision”, which would take into consideration the rights and interests of first nations, be put in place, and that there would be a transitional period of at least 18 to 30 months, and so on. There were a number of other recommendations.
However, part of the challenge that this House and the committee faced was that when the piece of legislation came before the committee, it was of course a very simple piece of legislation and did not include any of those elements. The bill was developed without consultation with first nations communities.
Therefore, to the Conservative government's surprise, there were a number of concerns raised by witness after witness who came before the committee. People were saying that in the past governments have passed bills in the House that have had some unintended consequences, and they did not want to see that happen.
The committee listened quite respectfully to the witnesses and subsequently proposed a number of amendments, which included an extended transitional period for 36 months. They included an interpretive clause and a non-derogation clause. The amendments we are dealing with today have done some refinement on the non-derogation clause and on some additional wording around gender principles.
I want to come back for a moment to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and why the committee faced some challenges around needing to hear so much more information, because the report of the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel, “Promoting Equality: A New Vision”, made a number of specific recommendations with regard to the repeal of section 67.
The panel said specifically,“Any effort to deal with the section 67 issue must ensure adequate input from Aboriginal people themselves”. We saw what happened when that did not happen: it took months for us to get to the place where there was some agreement in getting the bill back in the House.
The panel talked about resources. To go back to Bill C-31, one thing was very clear in Bill C-31, and in a minute I will quote the Native Women's Association of Canada. What was very clear under Bill C-31 was that there were inadequate resources once women regained their status in their communities. There was not enough housing. There were not enough other support services for women who could have returned to their community.
Therefore, one of the things that the Human Rights Commission recommended was that these resources be put in place. It said that resources must be put in place so that people actually have access to any redress mechanisms that might be deemed suitable once a complaint was filed.
It talked about the fact that there should be cultural recognition and said:
At the same time, the Act should permit a balancing of the values of the Aboriginal people and the need to preserve Aboriginal culture...These points raise huge questions about the social and economic structure of Aboriginal life and its legal underpinnings. Such matters deserve far more study than we have been able to give them. So again, there is a need for adequate consultations.
It talked about the balancing provision and stated:
The Panel believes it is highly important to balance the interests of Aboriginal individuals seeking equality without discrimination with important Aboriginal community interests. A balancing provision means that a Tribunal would actually hear evidence and representations on the issue of whether the interests of the individual and the community are properly balanced.
It talked about self-government and said:
The Panel believes something more should be done in order to ensure greater say in the human rights roles that apply to Aboriginal governments. This would be consistent with the principle of self-government.
Thus, the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself acknowledged the fact that there needed to be a number of other mechanisms put in place in order to make sure that this piece of legislation did not have the same kind of impact that Bill C-31 has had. Bill C-31 has had some difficulties in terms of the fact that when women were reinstated there were not the resources that I referred to, but there is also a second generation cut-off.
The second generation cut-off means that people whose parents were not both first nations could end up losing their status by the time the second generation is born. That is an unintended consequence. A report did some analysis on key reserves across the country and did some estimates on when the last status person would be born on those reserves. Some would say that quite cynically the government is not dealing with that provision because then first nations people would come under the guidance of the provinces rather than the federal government.
Bev Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said in a press release:
Twenty-five years after having the Charter, NWAC is well aware that having rights on paper does not guarantee the ability of all individuals to exercise those rights. NWAC believes that consultation with Aboriginal peoples and specifically, Aboriginal women, is necessary to ensuring the rights are meaningful and exercisable. We are also well aware that membership provisions under Bill C-31, off-reserve rights, health, housing and education policies as well as the continuing lack of a matrimonial real property law regime that applies on reserve are issues that the federal crown will most likely see complaints filed about.
She goes on further in that press release to say:
--It is important for both the CHRC and First Nations communities to have the resources to build a relationship that acknowledges and respects human rights.” This is the only way equal rights for all can be promised.
We know that this very important piece of legislation, the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which does provide the right for first nations people on reserve to file complaints under discriminatory provisions under the Indian Act, in itself will not guarantee human rights unless there are resources in place.
The Native Women's Association of Canada talked about resources around education and housing. We know, of course, that the children from Attawapiskat are here on the Hill today, talking about how their human rights are being violated by the fact that they do not have access to a school. They do not have access to the education that every other Canadian child off reserve expects as a fundamental human right. When Ms. Jacobs from the Native Women's Association of Canada talks about this, she knows full well that many communities simply do not have those resources that would make sure that their human rights were not violated.
In a brief that the Native Women's Association put forward to the committee on the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, it talked about the fact that governments, both the current Conservative government and previous Liberal government, should not have waited so long, and again quotes the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which said:
However, the Commission would prefer that the Government take a proactive approach to preventing potential discrimination and not wait for complaints to be filed and potentially lengthy proceedings to take place. The Commission, therefore, urges the Government, in consultation with First Nations, the Commission and other relevant bodies, to review provisions of the Indian Act and relevant policies and programs to ensure that they do not conflict with the Canadian Human Rights Act and other relevant provisions of domestic and international human rights law. Such a review should focus in particular on the impact of Bill C-31....
In conclusion, I am very pleased that the House has decided that it would support Bill C-21, the repeal of section 67, and I urge the government to ensure that the resources are put in place to deal with potential human rights complaints and also to ensure that the resources are available to the Canadian Human Rights Commission so it can go out and work with first nations governments to ensure this understanding is in place.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2008-05-28 16:07 [p.6175]
Pursuant to order made earlier today, Motions Nos. 1 and 2 are deemed adopted, Bill C-21, an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, as amended, is deemed concurred in at report stage with further amendments, and deemed read a third time and passed.
View Royal Galipeau Profile
CPC (ON)
View Royal Galipeau Profile
2008-05-16 12:51 [p.5981]
There are two motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-21. Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.
I will now put Motions Nos. 1 and 2 to the House.
View Lawrence Cannon Profile
CPC (QC)
View Lawrence Cannon Profile
2008-05-16 12:53 [p.5981]
moved:
Motion No. 1
That Bill C-21, in Clause 1.1, be amended by replacing lines 6 to 20 on page 1 with the following:
“1.1 For greater certainty, the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.”
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-21, in Clause 1.2, be amended by replacing line 3 on page 2 with the following:
“ests against collective rights and interests, to the extent that they are consistent with the principle of gender equality.”
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2008-05-16 12:53 [p.5982]
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the government's motion to amend clause 1.1 of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, standing in the name of the member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians.
As hon. members will know, Bill C-21 proposes to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and in the process, eliminate a source of injustice that has existed for more than three decades.
The repeal of section 67 has been a cornerstone of this government's aboriginal agenda throughout its mandate. Our government first committed to the repeal of section 67 as part of our electoral platform. In December 2006, Bill C-44, the precursor to Bill C-21, was introduced. Although Bill C-44 died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued in September 14, 2007, our government committed to its reintroduction in the Speech from the Throne delivered on October 16, 2007.
In November 2007, Bill C-21, identical to former Bill C-44, was reinstated. There is ample evidence of strong support among key stakeholders for the repeal of section 67. In the 17 committee hearings devoted to Bill C-44 of the previous session, testimony came from dozens of witnesses, chiefs, members of band councils, representatives of national and regional aboriginal groups, legal specialists and public servants. Although these men and women came from remarkably diverse backgrounds and represented a broad variety of interests, the support for the repeal of section 67 was virtually unanimous.
While this government took a clear and unambiguous approach to the repeal of section 67, on February 4, 2008 the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development reported Bill C-21 to the House of Commons with several amendments. They included the addition of a broad non-derogation clause, clause 1.1, and an interpretive clause, clause 1.2.
Other proposed amendments included: a new requirement for the Government of Canada to undertake with organizations representing first nations a study to address the fiscal capacity and resource requirements of first nations associated with the repeal of section 67; a change to the review of the effects of the repeal within five years so it could be conducted by the Government of Canada working with organizations representing first nations rather than a parliamentary committee; and finally, an extension of the transition period for the application of the repeal to first nations to 36 months, rather than the 6 months originally proposed by government. These amendments do not affect the immediate application of the repeal of section 67 to the federal government upon royal assent.
This government's preference remains a clear approach to the repeal of section 67. However, in light of committee testimony in which most, if not all, groups expressed concern about how the repeal will be implemented and called and for a further extension of the transition period, the government will support all of the committee's amendments, with the exception of clauses 1.1 and 1.2, the subject matter of today's debate.
Clause 1.1 is a very broad non-derogation clause. As hon. members will know, a non-derogation clause is a statutory provision that indicates the statute is not to derogate or abrogate from the aboriginal and treaty rights as protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. In our view, such a clause is unnecessary given that the Constitution takes precedence over all other federal laws. Previous governments have supported the inclusion of a non-derogation clause which clauses are currently found in several federal statutes. Clause 1.1, however, is much broader than any of those existing clauses.
Given the broad and unprecedented nature of clause 1.1, our view is that it has the potential to reintroduce some of the sheltering of discrimination provided by section 67.
In fact, in its most recent report entitled “Still a Matter of Rights”, in which the Canadian Human Rights Commission reiterated its call for the repeal of section 67, the commission indicated concern that clause 1.1 could “have the unintended consequence of shielding first nations, in whole or in part, from legitimate equality claims, thus reinstituting section 67 in another form”.
It would be illogical for the opposition, who, on principle, favour repeal of section 67, to intentionally support the inclusion of a provision that would have the unintended effect of sheltering discrimination. As a result, we cannot support clause 1.1, as adopted by the standing committee.
Therefore, notwithstanding our concern for non-derogation clauses, generally, we propose to replace clause 1.1 with the non-derogation language most recently used in existing statutes, namely, the same that was added to the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act.
Regarding Motion No. 2, clause 1.2, our government shares the view that the Canadian Human Rights Act should be applied in a manner that is sensitive to particular circumstances of first nations communities. However, the fact is that it is difficult to find fail-proof language that would address all of the competing considerations for handling a Canadian Human Rights Act complaint in such a context.
This was the basis for our decision not to include an interpretive provision in Bill C-21. We have always maintained that the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is the expert in administrating the Canadian Human Rights Act, is best placed to develop an interpretive provision jointly with first nations outside of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This could be done by way of guidelines, a directive, or regulations, which would be binding on the commission.
In spite of these concerns, the committee chose to insert an interpretive clause in the bill. We recognize that many witnesses called for such a clause, so we are willing to accept this provision.
However, as with clause 1.1., we have concerns with the broad language of the interpretive clause adopted by the committee and the potential for discrimination to be sheltered. We are particularly concerned that women might inadvertently be discriminated against as a result of this clause.
Therefore, we are proposing to include a provision to ensure the principle of gender equality applies to this clause. Such an amendment would be in keeping with the 2000 Canadian Human Rights Act review panel report, which noted, specifically, that an interpretive provision should not justify discrimination on the basis of sex or condone other forms of discrimination.
As well, the previous government's last attempt to repeal section 67 included an interpretive clause with a similar provision related to gender equality.
The government is committed to improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians and to the repeal of section 67. We are committed to creating, for the first time since the Canadian Human Rights Act was enacted 30 years ago, a right of complaint for first nations in relation to the Indian Act.
Therefore, I urge members to vote in favour of these necessary motions.
View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2008-05-16 13:01 [p.5983]
Mr. Speaker, my question for my colleague is about the difference between the non-derogation clause that is recommended by his government and the one put forward by the standing committee. It must have contemplated other boilerplate versions of non-derogation clauses that exist in many pieces of legislation pertaining to first nations. I did not understand, in his speech, the difference between the language put forward by the committee and the language that his government would prefer to see. Perhaps he could explain it in a little more detail.
If a non-derogation clause is to ensure that nothing in the bill abrogates from or derogates from aboriginal treaty rights under section 35, why is this additional nuance important to the government he represents?
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2008-05-16 13:02 [p.5983]
Mr. Speaker, first, it is important to recognize that at the heart of the bill is a desire to see the lives of aboriginal Canadians improved.
As I pointed out in my statement, section 67 has been with us for over 30 years. It was introduced, at that time, to be a temporary measure so it would not conflict with the Indian Act. Over the course of this government's time in government, we have taken a number of steps to improve that.
The basic answer to the question is the way it currently exists in clause 1.1, it is a very broad description of the kinds of things that could lead to dispute. For example, in clause 1.1, as it is currently written, before the amendment, it talks about other rights and freedoms, including any rights or freedoms recognized under customary laws or traditions of first nations people of Canada. Right now, parliamentarians, courts, the Human Rights Tribunal itself would be unable speculate as to what those other rights might be. Therefore, it is important that we tighten that up to define what those other rights are.
View Ed Fast Profile
CPC (BC)
View Ed Fast Profile
2008-05-16 13:04 [p.5983]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my Conservative colleague for his support of extending human rights legislation to our first nations, ensuring we have equality across the country.
It is really a sad comment on our country that we have delayed so long in extending human rights legislation to the first nations of our country.
I am glad he raised the issue of the non-derogation clause. The one included in the amendment is much broader, as he has already mentioned, than the “standard” non-derogation clause normally used in legislation of this kind.
Would he expand a little on that? Could he also explain how, in some practical ways, the legislation would enhance human rights on our first nations reserves?
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2008-05-16 13:05 [p.5983]
Mr. Speaker, it has been clear, through my time in Parliament and my time serving on the committee for aboriginal affairs and northern development, that all members of our committee share the same commitment to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians.
We may differ, as my hon. colleague commented in her former speech regarding the Tsawwassen claims. We may differ in our approaches as to how to achieve that, but there is no question in my mind that all members on all sides of the House are committed to bringing this improvement to the lives of aboriginal people.
It is important that we, as the government, take leadership of this so people are not discriminated against unfairly, for example, if a person is discriminated against on the basis of gender, or race or any of the other 10 or 12 things that are included as the basis for complaint against human rights enactment. It is important we have the tools in place so people in first nations communities have the same rights that other Canadians have enjoyed ever since the act was implemented.
View Nancy Karetak-Lindell Profile
Lib. (NU)
View Nancy Karetak-Lindell Profile
2008-05-16 13:06 [p.5983]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-21. This has been very contentious legislation, as short as it is.
We have said many times that the Liberal Party supports the repeal of section 67. It is how the bill was drafted, how it was put forward without including the amendments that were proposed by the many witnesses who came before our committee. We have a great deal of trouble with that.
We have made many attempts in the years that I have been here to try to repeal section 67 of the Human Rights Act. Maybe part of the difficulty was that it was put in with other items, for example, in Bill C-6, with which the communities had great trouble. I want it to be on record that we were never against the repeal of section 67, as some of the press coverage has made us out to be.
The two pieces of legislation we are dealing with in the House today brings to light again the very statements of many aboriginal members. We tend to forget there are basic rights that we take for granted in our country, to which people in aboriginal communities do not have access. However, our party will support the two motions that have been put forth.
The point I want to make is there should have been a non-derogation clause in the legislation in the first place. If the Conservative government had put forth this legislation in the same way it did with the specific claims, with cooperation from the Assembly of First Nations, the bill would have been passed in the House by now and would have been put into practice already.
When the minister introduced Bill C-30, he talked about the great cooperation between the Assembly of First Nations and the government to put forth that bill. Again, if the Conservatives had that same kind of consultation and reaching out, the bill probably would have been in better form. As I said, our party will support both Motion No. 1 and Motion No. 2.
Judging by the questions I heard in our committee from some of the government members, they seemed to have great difficulty with understanding collective rights versus individual rights. We asked opposition members that there be some consideration of collective rights. Some people have interpreted that to mean we are giving the bands and, in some cases, the chiefs an out from what repealing section 67 would do.
I beg to differ. As I said in committee and in an earlier speech today, we are quick at looking at the negative of these initiatives, instead of looking at the positives. There could be different considerations that would actually be more beneficial and more appropriate to the people whom this legislation will serve.
One example I used was how we treated our elders. Because I come from a different community, I am not first nations but one of the Inuit from the first peoples of our country, we have very stated understandings in our culture. We respect the elders and we do certain things that cater to elders, which might not be considered in other cultures.
I remember giving one example at committee. When we check in at the airport we see all these different aisles for business class, for people with no baggage and for the regular lineup. I could see in one of our communities that we would have a lineup specifically for elders so they do not have to wait for 20 people ahead of them when they are trying to check in at the airport.
I give that example to show that when we look at different cultures and different ways of doing things it does not always have to be in a negative light. We do have some practices that I think would bring about better communities across this country if they were practised.
We have not survived as a people in some of the harshest climates in this country by not working together. We do many things that are good for the whole community. I know that is a very different understanding from that of a municipality divided into lots where everyone individually owns the lot their house is on. That is not always the case in our communities.
We have to understand that in many ways we think of ourselves as one group of people, not as individuals. Of course, we have come to appreciate the individual rights that we are learning along the way, but again I am stressing that when we look at situations that concern individual rights versus collective rights, all we are asking for is a certain understanding.
We are not saying that we should always rule in favour of collective rights. What we are trying to point out is that there should be some consideration when people come before the tribunal such that the tribunal tries to fully understand the makeup of the community, the customs of the people and the way things have been done traditionally.
I have stated before, and I will state it again, that just because we extend certain rights to people it does not mean they will all exercise them. There needs to be a transition phase that is respectful. In this case, I am very pleased that we were able to see the 36 months. The transition phase needs to educate people on what this means for them.
I live in a community where we can put cases before the tribunal, but we do not always see people taking advantage of that because we have not fully educated the people to let them know what their rights are. That is an ongoing process.
I am very supportive of people being given that opportunity in the first nations communities, just as we are trying to do with other pieces of legislation we are putting forth in the House to improve lives on reserves and in other aboriginal communities to get them to a level playing field.
In the other debate that I was talking in, I could not stress enough that in most cases we are looking for basic needs. We are looking for very basic things that other people take for granted. We want to make sure that first nations are able to participate in those same democratic processes that we have in this country.
I would very much like to see this legislation pass. I know that our party will be supporting it.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2008-05-16 13:15 [p.5984]
Mr. Speaker, I want to go on record as saying that I have the honour of working with this member on the aboriginal affairs committee. I applaud her efforts to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians. I know that she herself has a very incredible story of perseverance and of dedication, not only to her people but to the country of Canada.
I want to thank her as well for clarifying her understanding of the tension between collective rights and individual rights. I think we probably will never totally and completely have exactly the same basis of understanding. I appreciate her attempts to clarify that.
I am wondering if she could expand a little on her support for the clause 1.2 amendment, which adds the words “to the extent that they are consistent with the principle of gender equality”. I think this possibly gets to the heart of some of our concerns in terms of collective versus individual rights.
View Nancy Karetak-Lindell Profile
Lib. (NU)
View Nancy Karetak-Lindell Profile
2008-05-16 13:17 [p.5984]
Mr. Speaker, I have no difficulty with the amendment that has been added to clause 1.2. I believe the line was “with the principle of gender equality”. Of all people, I will not have any difficulty with gender equality. I think this may alleviate some of the difficulties that some people were having with the amendment that we put forth in our committee.
As I said, we will be supporting these motions. I look forward to seeing how this plays out in the communities.
Unfortunately, I probably will not be in this House to see how that actually is implemented in the communities, but I will certainly be keeping an eye on it. I think that once we pass legislation in the House we should always take a look at some of the agreements that we have done and the legislation that we have passed. We should take the time to take a snapshot picture or see how it has affected the lives of the people in the communities affected by the legislation and policies that we pass.
View Pat Martin Profile
NDP (MB)
View Pat Martin Profile
2008-05-16 13:18 [p.5985]
Very quickly, Mr. Speaker, I can illustrate the problem between the non-derogation clause put forward by the committee and the non-derogation clause contemplated by the government and put forward here today.
In regard to when any reference to customary laws and traditions is eliminated, I will give one example. I was part of the 1992 Charlottetown accord aboriginal rounds. We met with some aboriginal elder women. They did not want us to support the Charlottetown accord. One elder gave us an example. She said, “In my community, the women are not even allowed to run as chief”. We all shook our heads and said that sounded terrible. Then she said, “But the men aren't allowed to vote”.
I am trying to illustrate the Eurocentricity of some of what we do here. In their way, they had found a way to make sure there was gender balance. Yes, the women could not be chief, but the men were not allowed to vote. That would not pass the human rights commission today.
If we go for strict gender equality we are ignoring the customs and traditions of at least that first nation and maybe others. There are going to be these inherent conflicts between our Eurocentric view of human rights and equality and the culture, tradition, heritage and traditional customs of many first nations. That is the problem with the non-derogation clause being proposed here today as opposed to the one that was carefully crafted in a very sensitive way by the committee.
View Nancy Karetak-Lindell Profile
Lib. (NU)
View Nancy Karetak-Lindell Profile
2008-05-16 13:20 [p.5985]
Mr. Speaker, I do not think this will ever cease to be a topic of discussion. One of the difficulties people might have is with the definition of customary laws or traditions. When we make laws in this country, they apply to everyone in the country. What we understand in one area might be different in other parts. For the sake of getting this legislation through the House, I think we are going to have to agree with the new non-derogation clause that has been put forth.
As I tell students when I speak with them, sometimes we have to pick and choose what fights we want to fight and what we want to die on. I have to say that we will agree with this new non-derogation clause for the sake of getting the legislation through.
View Mario Laframboise Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-21, which seeks to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
First, I would like to thank my colleagues who sit on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue and the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who have worked very hard and provided some background on all the various stages Bill C-21 has gone through before reaching this House today.
After first reading in this House, Bill C-21 was referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on November 13, 2007. It is identical to Bill C-44, which died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued on September 14, 2007.
Bill C-44 was referred to the committee after second reading in February 2007. From March to June 2007, the committee met 16 times to review Bill C-44 and hear witnesses. My colleagues from Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou worked very hard on this.
The witnesses the committee heard almost unanimously supported the repeal of section 67, but nearly all the witnesses except those from the government, including national, regional and local first nations organizations and communities, the provincial bar associations and other legal experts, also expressed various reservations about one or more aspects of the implementation process and the substance of the bill.
The main sources of concern were the shortcomings in the consultation process preceding the drafting of the bill, the lack of an interpretative clause, the short transition period preceding implementation of the bill and uncertainty over the resources that would be assigned to implementing the bill.
On June 19, 2007, the committee adopted a Bloc Québécois motion proposed by the members I mentioned earlier, recommending that the debate on repealing section 67 be suspended for up to 10 months to allow the government to hold extensive consultations on the matter and that the debate then resume, but that first nations representatives be allowed to testify on the results of the consultations.
On July 26, a majority of the members attending the special midsummer meeting for a clause by clause study of the bill voted to have the committee suspend the study until the government held the consultations called for in the June 19 motion.
The motion was overridden by the committee's November 20 decision to begin a clause by clause study of the new Bill C-21 on December 4, 2007.
Despite the concerns expressed by the witnesses during the study of Bill C-44, the government reintroduced the very same bill, which is now known as Bill C-21. In December 2007 and January 2008, the committee completed its clause by clause study of Bill C-21 and the opposition made five significant amendments to it in response to first nations' demands.
Once again, aboriginals can be proud of the work of Bloc Québécois and other opposition members because the government had reintroduced the bill despite the generalized protest, criticism and scathing comments of witnesses appearing before the committee.
The government insisted on reintroducing the same bill with no amendments. Opposition members worked hard. My colleagues from Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou worked very hard, along with other opposition members, to propose five significant amendments.
The Bloc Québécois supports each of the amendments agreed to in committee because they are in line with specific demands of the first nations and of most of the witnesses who appeared before the committee.
In principle, repealing section 67 would give aboriginal people access to all of the rights guaranteed under the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, merely repealing the section could result in the loss of first nations' traditional rights and could be onerous for the Canadian Human Rights Commission because of the anticipated high volume of complaints against band councils and the federal government, which have not previously been allowed.
That would be a good thing when it comes to access to clean drinking water, for example. That is very hard to understand. I hope that all members of this House realize that, as we speak, some aboriginals still do not have access to potable water. That is astonishing.
We hope that once all these amendments have been adopted, these citizens protected by the charter of rights will have access to safe drinking water and will be able to ensure their quality of life.
To guarantee this, the committee suggested other amendments to Bill C-21. That was the Bloc's objective. With the help of the other opposition parties, we managed to introduce amendments that, once the bill is passed, will ensure that aboriginal men and women and people who live on aboriginal territories have direct access to safe drinking water.
It is important to note that the government proposed two amendments, which are now before the House. Many representatives from first nations and other groups who appeared before the House committee said that, despite the two amendments, Bill C-21 needed to be changed to take into account the real situation of first nations.
The Bloc Québécois, along with the other opposition parties, helped improve Bill C-21. The amendments proposed by the government today will also receive the support of the Bloc Québécois. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that we must pass a comprehensive bill, including the amendments adopted in committee, proposed by the Bloc Québécois and the other opposition parties, to ensure that aboriginal men and women will be entitled to the same protection as provided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We specifically suggested adding an interpretive clause that would balance individual and collective rights and interests in cases where a complaint was filed against a government or first nations authority under the Canadian Human Rights Act. A number of witnesses also wanted to add a non-derogation clause to Bill C-21, so that the repeal of section 67 would not end up abrogating and violating the ancestral and treaty rights of aboriginal peoples protected under the Constitution.
Consequently, the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of the following amendments. The first is:
1.1 The repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the First Nations peoples of Canada, including
(a) any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763;
(b) any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired; and
(c) any rights or freedoms recognized under the customary laws or traditions of the First Nations peoples of Canada.
The second amendment we are supporting is:
1.1 In relation to a complaint made under the Canadian Human Rights Act against a First Nation government, including a band council, tribal council or governing authority operating or administering programs and services under the Indian Act, this act shall be interpreted and applied in a manner that gives due regard to First Nations legal traditions and customary laws, particularly the balancing of individual rights and interests against collective rights and interests.
As everyone knows, Bill C-21, introduced by the government, is identical to Bill C-44, parts of which were criticized by the aboriginal peoples themselves. That bill, whose text was very limited, was eventually improved, specifically by the two paragraphs I just quoted.
The work done by the Bloc Québécois, with the help of the other opposition parties, definitely added some scope to this bill. The bill seeks to protect aboriginal rights, while guaranteeing all aboriginal men and women individual protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, in order to improve their lives.
View Peter Stoffer Profile
NDP (NS)
View Peter Stoffer Profile
2007-12-10 15:19 [p.1947]
Mr. Speaker, again I am going back to the issue of the day, which is the big difference between those of us in the NDP and those in the Conservative and Liberal Parties.
We in the NDP believe in the collective. We believe that the government can be a source of good for Canadians across this country from coast to coast to coast. We also believe that the resources of this country should benefit Canadians. As well, we should be able to share our expertise and wealth with those around the world who are struggling for human rights and human dignity and also on the environment, education, health, et cetera.
However, also within our own country there are many who are veterans and widows of veterans, who have been promised certain things by the government and have been denied. As my colleagues used to say, there is no greater fraud than a promise that has been broken.
On June 28, 2005, when the current Prime Minister was then opposition leader, he promised Joyce Carter of Cape Breton that if the Conservatives formed the government they would immediately extend the VIP services for all widows and veterans of World War II and Korea. Twenty-two months later, there is still nothing.
Also, when the Prime Minister and the member for New Brunswick Southwest, who is now the Minister of Veterans Affairs, were in opposition, they said publicly in Gagetown and during the campaign in 2005 that they would look after and compensate all those victims of defoliant spraying in Gagetown from 1956 to 1984. “All” of them is what they said. They recently came out with a package that covers only those in 1966 and 1967, which is exactly what the Liberals had proposed beforehand.
The Conservatives in New Brunswick were elected on that promise and they broke that promise. It is unconscionable that a government that is like Scrooge McDuck, sitting on a pile of coins, loonies, toonies and cash, is not able to help those who served their country with such distinction and honour.
I recently toured the north. One of the most outrageous conditions people there are living with is extremely crowded housing. They simply do not have enough housing to go around. We talk about Arctic sovereignty, first nations rights and helping aboriginal people and improving their health, yet the government does very little, if anything, to solve the housing crisis of the far north.
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand this. After travelling to Resolute, Grise Fiord, Arctic Bay or Iqaluit and the other communities of the great territory of Nunavut, one understands that there is a terrific housing shortage going on. If the government is not going to help when it has billions and billions of dollars of surplus, when is it going to do so?
As I said earlier, a colleague of mine who just got back from Afghanistan said the mission in Afghanistan will not end until the final soldier who serves in that country passes away. What he meant by that was quite clear. A lot of the individuals coming back from Afghanistan are going to suffer from mental and physical disabilities. A lot of them are going to require long term care. They and their families are going to need that care for the rest of their lives. That is what he was referring to: the mission will continue in their lives. It is the same for people who lose loved ones in Afghanistan. For them, Remembrance Day is every day.
The government has billions of dollars for the mission in Afghanistan. We argued that point the other day. The reality is that it is not hesitant to spend money on the actual mission itself, but when the government is asked what contingency funds are put aside to help with the mental and physical disabilities the soldiers and their families may have down the road, the answer is zero.
I reiterate to the government: if it cannot do this now, when it has surpluses, when is it going to do it? I advise the government to make sure there is enough money put aside to ensure the proper care and treatment down the road of those brave men and women who serve their country.
Also, one of the greatest opportunities we have for economic development in this country is shipbuilding. The industry committee unanimously adopted a resolution that the accelerated capital allowance, or ACA, proposal should go from two years to five years, yet the government still has not done that. Those in the shipbuilding industry would like the same considerations that the government has been giving to the aerospace industry in Quebec for a long time.
We have approximately $20 billion worth of construction to do on naval replacement vessels, Coast Guard replacement vessels, ferries, the laker fleet, tugs, et cetera. We have five remaining shipyards in this country that could do that type of work.
I would encourage the government to ensure that the domestic procurement process enables those workers and those industries in those yards across the country, in Victoria, Vancouver, Port Welland, Lévis, Halifax, and Marystown in Newfoundland and Labrador,to have the opportunity for long term sustainable growth. That way, especially in Atlantic Canada, people would not have to go down the road to find work.
Those are some of the things the budget should be addressing.
Other issues, of course, are seniors and student debt.
We in Halifax have the privilege of being one of the education breadbaskets of Canada, but so many students who come to our schools get their education and leave with a massive debt. That cripples them in their opportunities down the road and they make choices that they normally would not like to make, such as having to move to the United States or other parts of Canada. We would like them to be able to work and find their livelihood right in Atlantic Canada, but saddling them with a massive debt is unconscionable.
We in the NDP were very proud to rewrite the last budget of the Liberals when they turned around, drafted Bill C-48, took away the corporate tax cuts and reinvested that in housing, public transit and student education. I was very pleased to see that the Premier of Nova Scotia just recently authorized a $400 rebate for students in our province.
These are some of the things the budget should be doing. I would be happy to answer any questions that members of the House of Commons may have.
View Jean Crowder Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jean Crowder Profile
2007-12-07 12:22 [p.1893]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the amendment proposed by the member for Ottawa Centre to delete a portion of part 17 specifically dealing with corporate taxes.
In the recent economic statement and the throne speech, and in view of the substantial surpluses it has, the Conservative government had an opportunity to correct the direction it has been taking. Instead, it has continued in the wrong direction. It has continued to ignore the very serious prosperity gap that is growing in Canada for many of our working and middle class families. The government has failed to target tax relief to people that it would help the most.
The Canadian Labour Congress made a submission to the House of Commons finance committee during its prebudget consultations. The paper is dated August 2007 and contains an analysis on corporate income tax. It talks about the fact that despite increasing cuts to corporate income tax, what we have seen is an unprecedented lack of investment in companies, in the bricks and mortar, in training and re-education within companies, things that would actually make a difference to working and middle class families. The following is a quote from that paper:
Pre-tax profits have soared to record heights and after-tax profits have grown even faster. There has been no comparable increase in corporate investment. Simply adding $15 billion to the 2000 investment level would have increased total investment to nearly 13% of GDP in 2006.
Further on it states:
Business leaders are using this huge surplus to become net lenders to households, stockpile liquid assets, acquire other enterprises, and buy back stock. While these actions may be viable business strategies, it is not clear why the public should subsidize them through further corporate-tax cuts.
That is a very good analysis in terms of why we would support business decisions on where they are going to put their profits.
I mentioned in a question to a Liberal member that in the economic statement the Conservative government acknowledged the difficult times that manufacturing and forestry are in for a number of reasons, yet it simply failed to follow up on what it acknowledged is a very serious problem.
In the riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, sawmills are laying off shifts of workers. A pulp and paper mill has filed for bankruptcy protection. There simply is not the national leadership around the forestry sector.
I have argued in this House previously and I will reiterate that forestry in British Columbia is not a sunset industry. It is a viable part of who we are as a province. We have the resources. We need to demonstrate national leadership around reinvestment in the industry, retooling where necessary and providing education and training for workers who need to transition into other jobs within the forestry sector.
The government had an opportunity in the economic statement and Bill C-28 to demonstrate that, but the government failed to do it.
There is a crisis in British Columbia caused by pine beetles. Although some money has been allocated, where is the long term, strategic planning for what will happen to those communities in five to ten years when all of the dead wood has been cut? Those communities are facing serious transitions and yet the government is failing to demonstrate the leadership that is required to make sure that those communities maintain their viability.
In addition to the challenges in our forestry and manufacturing sectors, we also are seeing the growing prosperity gap. Working and middle class families continue to struggle to make ends meet.
Many of us have been activists in our communities for a number of years. When food banks opened well over 20 years ago, many of us thought they were a temporary measure and that as our economy recovered, the food banks would close because they would no longer be needed. It is a very sad fact that there are more food banks rather than fewer.
In “HungerCount 2007” put out by the Canadian Association of Food Banks, there are a couple of startling figures. It says that the number of people assisted by a food bank in March 2007 was 720,231. There have been changes in food bank use. There is 91% more usage of food banks since 1989. There are 673 food banks in Canada with 2,867 affiliated agencies. The number of provinces and territories without a food bank is zero. It has been 26 years since Canada's first food bank opened in Edmonton. Seventy-three per cent of Canadians believe that hunger is a problem in Canada. Fifty-seven per cent believe that the government should take responsibility for solving the problems.
There are some very stark figures in that report which speak to the fact that there are men, women and children in this country who simply do not have enough to eat. I want to end the part on the food banks by saying that of the food bank clients, 38.7% are children. The percentage of households containing at least one child was 50.6% . It has been 18 years since the federal government promised to eliminate child poverty.
That leads me to the Campaign 2000 report that just came out entitled, “It Takes a Nation to Raise a Generation: Time for a National Poverty Reduction Strategy”. In 1989 the House unanimously passed Ed Broadbent's motion to end child poverty by the year 2000. Here we are in 2007 and it has not happened. Still there are children and their families, because of course there are no poor children without poor families, who continue to be the poorest of the poor in this country. The child poverty rate of 11.7% is exactly the same as it was in 1989. Forty-one per cent of children living in poverty live in families with at least one income earner working full time all year.
In my own province, despite a growing economy, British Columbia continues to report the highest provincial child poverty rate, which is 15.2%. In aboriginal and immigrant communities, the story is even worse. In aboriginal communities one in four children is poor, which means their families are poor. Aboriginal children and their families are living in substandard housing unable to access adequate drinking water, unable to access adequate medical care.
I recently put forward a private member's bill called Jordan's principle which talks about putting children first. It is a very good example that children on reserve often do not have access to adequate medical care. In Jordan's case his family had to surrender him to the province, put him in foster care in order for him to get the care he needed. Consequently, the federal and provincial governments fought over which one should pay for his care. The child ended up in hospital for four years. In the last two years of his life he could have been in a special foster home, but neither the federal government nor the provincial government would step up to the plate and pay for his care. He died in hospital instead of going to a foster home. That is a stain on Canada's reputation as being a caring and compassionate country.
Lest we only talk about problems, I want to talk about solutions because there are solutions. The winter 2007 report of the National Council of Welfare states that there are some real things that can be done. The report talks about childhood development care, access to education and training for adults so that they can better participate in the labour market, better jobs, income, social security for people who are not in the labour force, access to health care and other services, and affordable housing. The report states that in the absence of any leadership from the Conservative government on a national anti-poverty strategy, some of the provinces are taking some leadership around that, notably Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec. Those provinces are developing action plans. In Newfoundland and Labrador there is a cross-ministry initiative to develop an action plan with some real meaningful targets.
In this wealthy country of ours, the surplus was an opportunity to invest in Canadians. People talk about the rising tide lifting all boats, but it is not happening. We should have taken this opportunity to invest in child education, housing and other initiatives that would make a difference to families and which would close the very serious prosperity gap.
View Brian Murphy Profile
Lib. (NB)
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, at report stage of Bill C-2, to deliver some comments to the omnibus crime bill.
I have had the experience of serving on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and also the legislative committees that were involved with the former Bills C-10, C-22, C-27, C-32, C-35 and C-23, which is not part of the omnibus bill.
I speak with experience at least with respect to the bills and I understand how we came to be here today to speak about what the bill contains. A lot of discussion took place in the debates of the House and in committee with respect to the direction we should take with respect to our criminal justice.
It is important for us, as parliamentarians, to consider what we do when we amend the Criminal Code and its corollary acts. We are dealing with the Criminal Code. It is an organic document. It changes with the times. It is copied and exemplified by one of Canada's justice ministers and prime ministers, Sir John Thompson, from eastern Canada. It has certainly changed with the times as has our society.
In the 1890s the crimes that were top priority might have been things like cattle and horse theft, murder and some common ones. However, with the changing times, we have seen a proliferation of gang related violence, e-crimes, things that would not have existed at the turn of the century.
The point of raising that is as our society changes and the code changes, we owe it to this place, to the committees, to the law enforcement official, which include prosecutors, policemen, probation workers, corrections officers, people in the correction system and judges, quite a fraternity of people involved in the criminal justice system, to say that we looked at these various laws. We looked at how Canada was changing and at the end, we did the very best we could to keep track of what tools would be best to tackle the new problems that exist in society. It is not as if we are inventing new aspects of law. Many of these bills represent an evolution or a progression of laws that already exist.
Just briefly on the guts of the bill, if you like, Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10, which is now part of C-2, was of course dealing with the mandatory minimum provisions which were increased by the introduction of this bill, but they were not increased as much as the government had wanted them to be originally.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the opposition Bloc Québécois critic on the committee as well as the Liberal members on the committee who fought very hard to have some sense reign over the debate with respect to the evidence that was adduced at the committee hearings regarding the efficacy of mandatory minimums in general.
A review is in order. Mandatory minimums existed before the Conservative government was elected. Mandatory minimums were in place for serious crimes with the known aspect of repeat offenders and with some hope, which studies will show one way or the other, that there might be a deterrent and a safety to the public aspect of mandatory minimums.
At least on this side we joined with the Conservatives who, I would say, were very sparse in their acknowledgement that mandatory minimums existed before they came into office, but we joined with them and said that these are good tools for the law enforcement agencies and good tools in the realm of criminal justice.
It is a matter always of how far we go. How far do we go in disciplining our children? Do we take away their favourite toy? Do we ban them from seeing their friends for two weeks? Are we less severe or more severe? Many of us are parents and we deal with this every day. It is our form of the justice system that rules in our own house.
With respect to mandatory minimums, it is a question of calibrating to what extent the mandatory minimums are useful, to what extent do they work, and to what extend should they be increased, if at all.
During the debate process we were very successful in getting the government to get off its basic premise, which is if it is good for the six o'clock news and sounds robust, steady and law and orderish, then it has to be good in the Criminal Code. That is where the slip from the cup to the lip occurred, where it was obvious 90% of the witnesses were saying that the severe mandatory minimums that the government side were proposing would be inefficacious.
We can be as tough as we want, but if it does not work, if it does not make society safer, then we have not posited a good solution to the problems that face our community, and that was the case when we looked at mandatory minimums.
The happy medium that exists in Bill C-2 I think will be borne out, but it is very important to remember that this is an organic process and we could be back here some day soon, perhaps, looking at mandatory minimums in general.
How more timely could it be than in today's Ottawa Citizen, a report called “Unlocking America” is reviewed. In this report, it makes it very clear that the mandatory minimums, one of the many tools used by the American government from the 1970s on when it was felt that the rise in criminal activity was abhorrent, was not as effective as the Americans would have hope it would have been. It left the United States with 2.2 million people behind bars, more than China. The nine authors, leading U.S. criminologists, said that they were convinced that they needed a different strategy.
I am happy to report that as a result of the efforts of the NDP, Bloc and the Liberal Party in general at committee, we did not go as far as the Conservative government wanted to, which was close to where the United States had been which now New York State and New York City admits, is ineffective.
The three effects of imprisonment, and emphasis only on imprisonment, at the cost of crime prevention dollars, if you like, Mr. Speaker, is that the heavy, excessive incarceration hits minorities very hard. In the United States, 60% of the prison population is made up of Blacks and Latinos.
We heard evidence at our committee that there is a preponderance, an over-exaggerated percentage, of first nations and aboriginal people in our jail system, according to their population, which is deplorable. It is overwhelming and undisputed that the negative side effects of incarceration outweigh the potential. That is the two bits on Bill C-10,
On the other bill, Bill C-22, the close in age exemption, was never brought up. Despite all the rhetoric from the government, nothing would save Bill C-22. The issue of sexual consent being given by a person of tender years has never been put forward by any member of the opposition while the Liberal Party was in power.
The close in age exemption was never put in there, so for members of the opposite side to say that finally we dealt with the issue of sexual exploitation of 14 year olds is simply not accurate. The close in age exemption, five years between a person of the age specified, will save many relationships that should not be criminalized.
Lastly, I noted that Bill C-23 was not included in Bill C-2. I have to wonder why.
I live in Acadia. And Bill C-23 included many improvements with respect to choosing the first language of prosecutors during a trial. French is the language spoken by most people in my province. That element was very important to us in Acadia, but the government overlooked this fact.
Why did the government turn its back on the francophone people of New Brunswick in this country?
View Bill Siksay Profile
NDP (BC)
View Bill Siksay Profile
2007-11-26 12:30 [p.1326]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, also known as the tackling violent crime act.
I have significant problems with this bill and with the Conservative government's approach to crime in general. The Conservatives are adopting a U.S. style crime agenda that says they are tough on crime but begs the question of what measures are actually effective in reducing crime and making Canadians safer. There is a lot of sloganeering but very little that shows these measures would actually make Canadians safer and give us more effective crime legislation.
The measures in Bill C-2 focus on punishment and incarceration. We know this is the least effective part of an approach to reducing crime in our society. Incarceration does not work to reduce crime and more prisons do not reduce crime. The evidence shows that, at best, there is no relationship between increasing incarceration and reducing crime or, at worst, that these approaches increase crime and become counterproductive.
Many U.S. jurisdictions that went down this tough on crime incarceration road have recognized that these measures do not work and have begun to undo them. As has been mentioned already this morning in debate, a recent report titled “Unlocking America” exposes the fact that incarceration has not worked to reduce crime and, in many cases, has increased the violent crime rate.
What does work? We know that more enforcement, more police on the beat, increasing the possibility of being caught and increasing the possibilities for detection and apprehension do work. Unfortunately, this is one place where the Conservatives are breaking a promise to increase the number of police on the beat in our communities.
We know that community policing, increasing the opportunities for police to develop real relationships with members of the community, also reduces crime. We know that prevention measures work. Working to address issues like drug addiction, family dislocation, poverty and providing parenting support, all those measures go toward reducing crime in our society.
We know that parole and release programs work. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to sit in on a support group for sex offenders in the Vancouver area. I saw the kind of work that happens in that kind of setting. I was very impressed with the way that session proceeded and the kind of support that was being offered. I was also very concerned to hear from those folks that access to psychiatric and psychological support was very limited in the Vancouver area.
We also know that restorative justice programs work. Those programs seek to help offenders assume responsibility for their crime and restore the relationships that have been broken in the community because of that crime. We need more of those programs.
COSA, Circle of Support and Accountability, is a Canadian pioneered post-release program that matches community members with offenders. It is a support and accountability mechanism. Sadly, this program has not received the kind of support it deserves from the government, especially when other countries have adopted it.
Bill C-2 includes provisions in the old Bill C-10 on mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with a gun. We know that mandatory minimum sentences, of themselves, do not reduce crime. They do, however, reduce or eliminate judicial discretion, which is the ability of a judge, having reviewed all the evidence and knowing the person involved, to make a decision based on the facts of the case and of the individual involved. This is an important principle. I do not believe there is one judge sitting on the bench who wants to see serious crime go unpunished.
The cost of keeping someone in prison is $94,000 a year. Evidence shows that programs that support someone on parole or a drug treatment program for an addicted criminal are 15 times more effective than incarceration in ensuring he or she does not reoffend.
In testimony before the committee on Bill C-2, the president of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, said that the government must stop using prisons as a substitute for mental health services, public housing or shelters for women escaping violence.
Bill C-2 also includes a reverse onus on dangerous offenders designation, that it would kick in after a third offence and that there would be a presumption that the person was a dangerous offender. It would be up to the offender to prove he or she was not a dangerous offender. When we are talking about a dangerous offender designation, we are talking about life in prison.
Reverse onus has very serious implications for our criminal justice system. Having reviewed the testimony presented at the standing committee, I am convinced, as were many of the experts who testified, that this section of the bill would not survive a charter challenge.
When the state is seeking to jail someone for life, the burden should be on the state to prove the necessity of that imprisonment. That is the case with the current law. To put this burden on the person who has been convicted is unjust, to put it simply. It would only increase the inequity of our criminal justice system where wealthy people would be able to muster the resources to mount a case and everyone else would be more likely to fail because they would not have the money to do so. Legal aid costs would skyrocket given the huge costs associated with this type of process.
Why does the bill suggest measures of automatic designation of dangerous offenders only after a third conviction? Surely, if someone is a dangerous offender, we should be looking at dealing with them sooner and ensuring the system has the resources to do that sooner.
Reverse onus has other serious problems. Judicial discretion, which I have already spoken about, would be removed. It would eliminate the ability of the accused to remain silent and it would incarcerate people on the basis of what they might do rather than what they have done. Our ability to predict behaviour is notoriously poor. What it boils down to is essentially a measure of preventive detention.
I want to support very strongly the motion put forward by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh to delete the provisions of reverse onus that are included in Bill C-2.
I also want to point out that aboriginal people are already overrepresented among those who have been designated as dangerous offenders in Canada. Twenty per cent of the dangerous offenders are aboriginal and this would increase as a result of the bill. Something is seriously wrong with this measure when 20% of those subject to it represent a group that only represents 3% of the total population of Canada. This legislation would only make this problem worse and it would also increase the family dislocation and social costs that aboriginal communities already experience because of incarceration rates.
Bill C-2 also includes measures on the age of consent, and I have already spoken extensively about this. I believe the existing age of consent legislation is excellent and comprehensive legislation. This bill would criminalize sexual activity for young people, especially those 14 or 15 years of age. No matter what we think of young people being sexually active, I do not believe the criminal justice system is the place to deal with that issue when a consensual, non-exploitive relationship is involved.
We must be smart on crime. We know enforcement, parole, community programs, social programs, addressing inequality and a change in our approach to drugs do work. Drugs are a significant factor in both petty crime and serious violent crime. Alcohol prohibition did not work and it caused exactly the same problems that we now face due to drug prohibition. We need more treatment programs for addictions and more harm reduction measures, not more jail time. That does not work.
Bill C-2 goes in exactly the wrong direction. It buys into a model that has been proven to have failed in the United States where many jurisdictions are already seeking to undo the damage done by this exact approach. I have very serious reservations about this legislation.
View Joe Comartin Profile
NDP (ON)
View Joe Comartin Profile
2007-11-23 10:08 [p.1275]
moved:
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 42.
He said: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the ruling on this amendment indicating that it is within the proper scope of the rules and admissible.
The amendment deals with the specific section of a very large bill, an omnibus crime bill, and specifically with that part of the bill that deals with the dangerous offender designation in the Criminal Code.
Just quickly, the balance of Bill C-2 encompasses five separate pieces of legislation that were before this House in the previous parliamentary session. The dangerous offender section at that time was Bill C-27. It has now been incorporated into Bill C-2.
We had commenced work on that in a special legislative committee prior to prorogation. The prorogation by the government of course ended that bill, as it did the other four, three of which by the way were in the Senate, and the fourth one was out of committee at report stage in the House.
So now, because of what I think is a very foolish decision but a very political decision on the part of government, we are having to go back through all of those four bills and we have wasted a significant amount of time.
The government is historically very proud to stand in this House and accuse the opposition parties of delay. Of course, what has happened here has been entirely on its desk and it is something of which the Conservatives should be ashamed.
To come back to Bill C-27, as it was then and now that part of Bill C-2, the dangerous offender section of the Criminal Code has a history going back in this country to 1978 at which time it was incorporated.
I do not think there is any disagreement about this no matter which political party one belongs to, that there are individuals in our society that we are not able to cope with in terms of rehabilitating them. They commit serious, oftentimes heinous, violent crimes against other residents of Canada. When we use our traditional attempts to deal with them by way of prison terms, oftentimes psychiatric or psychological treatment programs, they are not successful.
Our psychiatrists, our psychologists and our best experts admit there is a very small number of individuals that we simply, as a society in terms of our psychological and psychiatric treatment modalities, are not able to treat and rehabilitate to the point where they are no longer a risk to society once released from our prisons. The dangerous offender section was introduced into the Criminal Code to deal specifically with those individuals.
Based on some very good research from the Library of Parliament, since 1978 we have had 384 individuals, up until the spring of 2005 so it is a bit more now, all male, designated as dangerous offenders. It is interesting to note that of those 384, 333 as of April 2005 were still in custody, still in prison. Only 18 had been released and were on parole. The balance of approximately 33 died in prison. I think this is the point that we need to recognize.
This designation, unlike a conviction for first degree murder and a life sentence, is in fact a life sentence in the 90 percentile of the cases. These individuals never get out. It is a recognition that we are not capable of dealing with them. They stay in custody, in prisons, for the balance of their lives and literally, as I have said, die in prison. That is what we are dealing with when we are dealing with a dangerous offender designation.
As I indicated earlier, there are no women who have been designated, up until April 2005. There are a couple of applications outstanding against women currently.
One of the other points that I would make that comes out of the research done by the library is that a full one-fifth, 20%, of all the individual criminals who have been designated are from the aboriginal population, from our first nations.
There is no question, and we see this more when we look at statistics in the United States, that subgroups within our society often times are individuals who are more targeted and receive greater punishment.
I am not going to suggest for a minute that the designations in those cases were inappropriate; they may or may not have been. However, that is the reality, given that our aboriginal population in this country is roughly 3% of the population but slightly over 20% are designated as dangerous offenders.
We know that this is a section of the Criminal Code that we would use, obviously, very sparingly. The issue of the constitutionality of this section has been to the Supreme Court on a number of occasions and reviewed also by a number of our appeal courts at the provincial level.
The message that comes out very clearly is that it is to be used sparingly, that it is to be used with extreme caution, that the individuals who are confronted with this are to be given the greatest amount of doubt as to the usage against them because of the consequences.
I want to repeat that the consequences in more than 90% of the cases are that these individuals, once designated as dangerous offenders, will stay in prison for the balance of their life. They will never get out.
Faced with that, if we look now at the bill that is before us, Bill C-2, the government has introduced into clause 42 a provision for a reverse onus. For those in the public who do not have a law degree and do not fully appreciate this, that is saying, under these circumstances, to the individual criminals, “If you meet this criteria, you have to prove to the judge who is hearing the case for the designation of dangerous offender why you should not be held in custody in prison until the rest of your life”. That is really what they will have to do.
That flies in the face of the charter. This section will not survive a charter challenge. Under those circumstance, and Mr. Speaker, I see you signalling that I have only a minute left. I thought these were 20-minute sessions. No. That is unfortunate because I had a lot more that I wanted to say.
My amendment, pure and simple, would delete the reverse onus from this bill because it would not survive a charter challenge. We are going to have tremendous litigation on this and at the end of the day one of our superior courts, or even the Supreme Court of Canada, will strike this section down. The amendment would take care of that right now and we could save all that trouble.
View Gilles-A. Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague across the way. One thing he said really shocked me. What struck me is when he said that 3% of the population is aboriginal and 20% of them are designated as dangerous offenders.
Would it be right to conclude that the crime rate among aboriginal nations is higher than among other groups? If so, what are the causes of this high crime rate and what can we do about it?
View Joe Comartin Profile
NDP (ON)
View Joe Comartin Profile
2007-11-23 10:19 [p.1276]
Mr. Speaker, I am always proud to say that our criminal justice system is as good as any in the world and maybe the best in the world. However, from a number of studies, including a book that was published by one of the professors at the University of Windsor law school, the reality is that discrimination enters into our system. It is systemic. It is not overt. It is subtle but it creeps into the system.
I will not suggest, by any means, that all cases are like this, but what happens is that the police, prosecutors and, yes, the judiciary on some occasions come with a hidden bias and the process starts. Unfortunately, because of the general economic status in which our first nations find themselves, they end up being disproportionately found.
All of the experts, psychologists and psychiatrists with whom I have spoken have absolutely rejected the suggestion that the ratio of serious violent offenders is any greater within the aboriginal population than it is within the general population. We saw that in the Callow case in Toronto. The prosecutors for the province of Ontario in that case should have brought a dangerous offender application against him and they did not.
We can go through any number of cases and ask why they did not. That is really where the solution is to the use of this, not in trying to force individuals with the reverse onus to show why they should not be held. There is that subtle discrimination and so we end up with that kind of a statistic.
View Maria Minna Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Maria Minna Profile
2007-11-23 13:12 [p.1304]
Mr. Speaker, that is an indication of exactly what I was trying to say. We cannot deal with the amendment without dealing with all the other aspects I was discussing. With all due respect, what I was saying was very much appropriate. If we prevent crime in the first place, we do not have to get to the point of having to have reverse onus at all.
This is very important with respect to youth. Chile has an agreement with Quebec to take the Quebec model and to use it in Chile. Maybe the government might want to learn something from some of our own provinces and how they are applying prevention and rehabilitation so we do not get to the point of discussing the issue of reverse onus.
We must address the growing problem of domestic violence in the country as well. I know the hon. member does not want to hear about it, but the reality is that 53% of all women who are victims of a violent crime were victims of a common assault, 13% were victims of sexual assault and 11% were victims of assault with a weapon. Not all of these are preventable, necessarily, but most of them are if we were to spend some money in education with respect to problems with domestic violence. However, the government instead has chosen to cut and to change the mandate of the Status of Women Canada and eliminate not only the issue of equality, but the research and advocacy needed in this area and the kind of work that is required. The United Nations has pointed that out already.
Again, in order to change a social condition that exists in our country, we have to ensure that these kinds of crimes can be prevented. However, the government does not seem to be interested in these things.
We all know that women are considerably more likely than men to be victims of violent crimes, such as sexual assault and criminal harassment.
Women are also more often victimized in their homes, in communities and in prisons, as we have seen more recently. There were 224,000 women who said they feared for their lives as a result of a violent spouse. These are things that can be assisted. Rehabilitation will work in those areas in many cases. We should look at the conditions of poverty, mental health and other situations.
Furthermore, aboriginal women are more than three times likely to report being victims of spousal violence than their non-aboriginal counterparts, 24% of aboriginal women, or almost a quarter.
Due to the often cyclical nature of domestic violence, women involved in abusive relationships are often caught in a revolving door of abuse and refuge. The government is doing little to nothing in the way of prevention. In fact, it has gone the other way around. Portions of this omnibus bill attempt to do that, but I do not think it addresses it to the extent we need.
The government has proposed an American style “three strikes and you're out” law to jail certain offenders indefinitely. In fact, those particularly affected would include aboriginal women with addictions or histories of abuse who have acted out in violence and have inadequate access to healing. Again, these are areas of prevention; women who are incarcerated, larger numbers in the aboriginal communities. A great deal of issues are not being addressed by prevention.
In part, the government is criminalizing the poor and mentally ill as a result of this rather than ensuring access to affordable housing, incomes, training, support, mental health services and assistance. Mental health is one of the areas that receives the least attention and the least funds whenever it comes to health dollars. Yet more than 50% of all those incarcerated, as we know, have mental health issues. Again, this goes to prevention and it goes to the civility of the society.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians spending time behind bars increased in 2005-06 for the first time in more than a decade. This increase is due to the larger number of individuals in remand, serving time waiting their trials or sentencing. In fact, the number of adults in remand rose 12% in 2005-06. This means that for the first time, the number of Canadians awaiting their trial or sentencing outnumber those serving actual jail time.
The result is that offenders are spending less time in custody because courts are giving credit for time spent in remand when determining the length of a sentence and no rehabilitation is taking place while they are there.
If the Conservative government is so tough on crime, why is it that jail sentences for those found guilty of a crime is decreasing, while time spent in jail for those waiting to have a fair trial is increasing? Again, while they are waiting for justice, no rehabilitation is being offered at this time, which goes to the problem of recidivism.
It seems that the Conservatives' attempts to play partisan games with the Criminal Code is holding up more than legislation in this House. It is also holding up Canadians' rights to fair and speedy trials.
The number of women serving jail time is also on the rise. In fact, the fastest growing prison population worldwide is women. In particular, it is racialized. These are young, poor women and women with mental and cognitive disabilities. These escalating numbers are quite obviously linked to barriers in health care, education and social services. Again, these are areas that the government is ignoring, quite deliberately. Again it goes to the issue of rehabilitation, which means that we would not need to use the reverse onus or the draconian kinds of laws that we are so bound to use.
The number of Canadians incarcerated in 2005-06 was 110 per 100,000, which is a far cry from the United States where it is 738 per 100,000. The Americans have been going down the road of incarceration for many years and, in fact, they are beginning to look the other way because it has not worked. Increasing the jail population does not work. It does not prevent crime. It does not help to rehabilitate criminals. It does not reduce crime on our streets.
I would really like to challenge the government on this. Not only does the reverse onus not work and, as other members have mentioned, may not be constitutional, but, more important, it does not address the problem of the security of our communities, which is the main point.
View Thierry St-Cyr Profile
BQ (QC)
View Thierry St-Cyr Profile
2007-11-16 13:38 [p.1003]
Mr. Speaker, before discussing the content of the bill, I want to say how pleased I was when my Conservative Party colleague thanked us for doing our work in committee.
Members of the Bloc Québécois always take our work very seriously and do a thorough job. However, I would point out somewhat ironically that his colleagues from Quebec have not been saying the same thing when they express themselves in French. Our colleague just said that the Bloc was very helpful in amending the bill and ridding it of all substance. Yet his colleagues, when speaking in French, say that the Bloc Québécois is useless. The members of the Conservative Party should come to some agreement on that.
The truth is that the Bloc is constantly working to defend Quebec's interests. When the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats are right, we support them. However, when something is not in Quebec's best interest, we have no problem going it alone if we have to. Therefore I take that as a real compliment concerning the Bloc Québécois' usefulness.
The genesis of this bill is precisely an intrusion, once again, into the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. For the Bloc Québécois, the original grants program ensured the right to opt out with full financial compensation, for Quebec and any provinces that wanted to do so. We were prepared to examine the terms of this bill in committee, provided, of course, that we maintained this right to opt out will full compensation.
Now, the Liberals' schemes in committee and the amendments made to parliamentary procedure meant that, in the end, we were overburdened by the legislative provisions that would allow this opting out with full financial compensation for Quebec. Clearly, we could no longer support this bill as soon as it became a program imposed by the federal government, when the provinces could no longer withdraw that money and use it according to their own needs.
In Quebec, we have a grants and bursaries program that is quite different from programs found elsewhere. It is unique in Canada. Among other things, it is based on need and on a range of criteria. The program is very generous and produces good results. We therefore do not need another similar grants program, but rather more financial resources to improve the existing system.
In light of this, we could not support this bill and we, along with the Conservatives, tried to throw out the entire bill. The motion in amendment before us today is meant precisely to bring it all back to the House. It was not acceptable to the Bloc Québécois in committee and it is still unacceptable to us here in the House.
It is surprising to see yet again the Liberal obsession with interfering in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. Honestly, I have asked myself why, again today, are we debating this issue in the House of Commons, a federal chamber that does not have any constitutional jurisdiction over education? Why do the Liberals still think that “Ottawa knows best” and why do they want to establish a wall to wall Canada-wide program in education? This is unacceptable.
If the hon. member who tabled this bill thought there were improvements to be made to the student loan program in his province, I respectfully submit that he should have run in a provincial election, gotten elected and worked on passing such legislation in his province. Nonetheless, it is certainly not the role of the federal government to do so.
Moreover, even though our discussions in this House revolve more and more frequently around interference in provincial jurisdictions, yet the federal government is not even capable of handling all of its own constitutional duties and responsibilities. If everything were going well in the federal government's jurisdictions and it had nothing better to do, then perhaps it could take care of provincial matters, but that is not the case.
I would like to raise a few points that still have not been resolved and are the responsibility of this House. Earlier today I was talking about the issue of regulating train noise. CN is a federally-chartered company that historically has been a responsibility of the federal government. Furthermore, legislation on transportation is a federal jurisdiction.
Amendments were made in this House and in committee to give the Canada Transportation Act more teeth and to protect our communities from the excessive noise caused by transportation companies, including CN. I am talking about CN because it relates to my riding. This issue was sent to the Senate, which studied it and only called as witnesses people from railway companies who told us we did not need these changes. In the end, the Liberal and Conservative members pathetically caved in to the senators and passed the Senate amendments that consisted essentially in going back to the original version, destroying in a single stroke all our amendments and all the work we had done.
We now find ourselves in an odd situation. The Conservatives argued that they did not have the time to return the bill to the Senate, even though the latter was saying that, if we persisted, they would give in. It said in its own discussions that it did not have the time to look after that. Why do we always have the time, in this chamber, at least in the case of the federalist parties, to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction? But when the time comes to look at a real issue that truly has to do with federal jurisdiction, it is not important enough and there are other things going on? There is something wrong here and it is a real problem with Canadian federalism.
This could also apply to the situation of aboriginals in Canada. We frequently see in the news and media reports, or if we have the opportunity to visit Indian reserves, the difficult conditions in which these individuals live. We see that the federal government is moving at a snail's pace, that no progress is made, that it hesitates, doubles back and looks after a lot of other things whereas that is clearly a responsibility within its jurisdiction. If it would at least look after that issue first.
This is also the case for international trade. Companies are waiting for the federal government to intervene, to defend them, to stand up for them and to ensure that international agreements and the decisions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal are upheld. It does not have the time for that, it is not glamorous enough for federalist members. However, they always find the time to meddle in education when that is not at all their job.
I would like to conclude by giving another example of the fiscal imbalance, which still has not been corrected. Why has it not been corrected? What is the best proof that it still exists? The government is still able to spend money in provincial jurisdictions. Is the fact that the federal government has to spend money in the provinces' jurisdictions not the best illustration that it has too much money for its own jurisdictions and responsibilities?
If the government really wanted to correct the fiscal imbalance, it would transfer a portion of the tax base, such as the GST, from Ottawa to Quebec and the provinces. This would give Ottawa and the provinces the resources they need to look after their jurisdictions. We would have all the time we need to address the issues that come under our jurisdiction. Perhaps we would have a federation that worked better and there would be people in the provinces to look after health and education. We could look after aboriginal peoples, noise caused by trains, international trade and foreign affairs, as provided for in the Constitution.
It is slightly ironic that only the Bloc Québécois is calling for compliance with the Constitution.
View Ken Boshcoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ken Boshcoff Profile
2007-11-16 13:58 [p.1006]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the benefits of Bill C-284.
My mother was a janitoress and I was the first one in our family ever to go to university. I could not have done it without a student loan. Perhaps that is why I have spent so much time listening to student leaders about their concerns.
When I see so many earnest young Canadians working to convince the government that their concerns are valid, I am frustrated by the government's refusal to respond to such a legitimate and well-documented case.
In Thunder Bay, Confederation College student union president, Jon Hendel, has forwarded the document “Sleepwalking Towards the Precipice”, which was researched in partnership with many provincial and national student alliances.
One of their main concerns is the looming $350 million cut to financial aid. The mandate of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which distributes $350 million in student aid annually, is set to expire in 2009. The foundation was established in 1998 by the Liberal Government of Canada with the mandate of improving access to post-secondary education.
Eliminating $350 million from the Canadian financial aid system will have a disastrous impact on the accessibility and affordability of a post-secondary education. Currently, the foundation provides assistance to over 100,000 students annually, making it responsible for about 30% of all non-repayable grants awarded in Canada.
To avert disaster requires immediate action. The federal government must continue to provide a commitment equal to or greater than the foundation's original endowment in non-repayable student financial assistance. This would require the government to provide, at a minimum, a $2.5 billion base endowment to the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. The endowment must also be indexed annually, starting from 1999, to account for inflation and enrolment growth.
Andrew Kane, the manager of financial aid at Confederation College, tells me that over $5 million has been directed to the college since the program began. This is quite a significant amount. He is deeply saddened that this program will be cancelled since it is a direct investment in the students who need it most.
I have received a diploma myself from Confederation College, as well as a master's from York and a B.A. from Lakehead University, and I am proud to have those as my alma maters.
Thunder Bay's Lakehead University student union president, Richard Longtin, confirmed in a recent meeting some amazing statistics. Since 1999, 5,832 Lakehead University students have received $17,528,482 in scholarships and bursaries. In this past academic year alone, 926 students received $2.745 million. Those obviously are a significant set of numbers.
Lakehead University's financial aid administrator wrote to me and said:
It is easy to see that the impact of this program on students at Lakehead University is immense. I have no doubt that these programs have provided the opportunity for many students to attend Lakehead University who otherwise might not have been able to afford a post-secondary education.
The College Student Alliance adds strength to the debate for inclusion. It recommends investment in more non-repayable grants targeted at unrepresented students from low income families, aboriginal communities, first generation and persons with disabilities.
The Canadian Federation of Students met with me regarding the need for a national system of needs based grants. Just yesterday, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, CASA, articulated its issues in its education policy brief entitled, Strengthening Canada's Future: Real Solutions From Canada's Students.
It is very inspiring to meet with such intelligent and motivated young leaders, especially those who so thoughtfully propose reasonable and workable solutions. Of note, they advise that the government must ensure that post-secondary funding is truly dedicated funding. The government must work with the provinces to develop objectives for post-secondary education funding as well as mechanisms to ensure funding is directed toward meeting those goals.
Additional federal transfer funding for post-secondary education must not displace existing funding. Federal transfer funding for post-secondary education should be increased to a minimum level of $4 billion in annual cash transfers and increased annually according to inflation and demographic growth.
The Vancouver based Coalition for Student Loan Fairness has prepared a comprehensive report, entitled “An Eight-Point Plan for Reform”. This reform addresses all levels of concern that constituents have discussed with me.
Point one recommends that the federal government significantly reduce or eliminate the interest rate on student loans. With interest rates of 8.75% to 11.25%, borrowers end up paying interest of over 35% over the lifetime of the loan.
Point two calls for improved access to grants, interest relief and debt reduction. This would include promotion to ensure that all borrowers who need this are aware of it.
Point three calls for the creation of a student loan ombudsman's office which would have the power to prescribe resolutions to service providers, including banks and credit reporting offices.
Points four, five and six speak to creating efficiencies with the recording and payment of student loans. Graduates would be able to expect one integrated loan and one payment with real-time access to statements.
Often, bad things happen to good people through no fault of their own. Points seven and eight address some of those remedies, including the provision of hardship relief.
How serious is student debt? Currently, Canadian students owe the federal government about $800 million in defaulted student loans. The coalition says that nearly $98 million of that amount is interest.
Under an access to information request, the group has also determined that Ottawa is spending more money collecting defaulted loans than in ensuring its interest relief and debt reduction programs are accessible to students. Clearly, changes are needed.
The goal of Bill C-284 is to break down barriers to higher education.
The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation study on Canada's tuition and education tax credits is clear proof that providing an $80 tax break on books is bad policy. The incompetence that took us billions of dollars into debt in the early 1990s and late 1980s, and that the Liberal Party dug us out of, continues. As an example, the move last year to kill thousands of jobs created under the summer career placement program has ended up being nothing short of a disaster for students.
I strongly support CASA's support of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. We know that 95% of the money goes to targeted needs. All provinces and territories belong. It operates with a very efficient 4% overhead compared to 28% for the Canada student loans program.
Let us stand up for our students and tell the government that it should be listening to our student leaders and implementing these proposals immediately.
View Peter Milliken Profile
Lib. (ON)
Order. It appears we have a few moments and to save time later I will inform members of something they are just aching to hear about now.
As hon. members know, our Standing Orders provide for the continuance of private members' business from session to session within a Parliament.
The list for the consideration of private members' business established on April 7, 2006, continues from the last session to this session notwithstanding prorogation.
As such, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that were listed on the order paper during the previous session are reinstated to the order paper and shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation of the first session.
Generally speaking, in practical terms, this also means that those items on the Order of Precedence remain on the Order of Precedence or, as the case may be, are referred to committee or sent to the Senate.
However, there is one item that cannot be left on the Order of Precedence. Pursuant to Standing Order 87(1), Parliamentary secretaries who are ineligible by virtue of their office to be put on the Order of Precedence will be dropped to the bottom of the list for the consideration of private members' business, where they will remain as long as they hold those offices.
Consequently, the item in the name of the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Motion M-302, is withdrawn from the Order of Precedence.
With regard to the remaining items on the order of precedence let me remind the House of the specifics since the House is scheduled to resume its daily private members' business hour starting tomorrow.
At prorogation, there were seven private members' bills originating in the House of Commons adopted at second reading and referred to committee. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1:
Bill C-207, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance;
Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;
Bill C-305, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (exemption from taxation of 50% of United States social security payments to Canadian residents), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Finance;
Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage;
Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights;
Bill C-377, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development; and
Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine), is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Furthermore, four Private Members' bills originating in the House of Commons had been read the third time and passed. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, the following bills are deemed adopted at all stages and passed by the House:
Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171);
Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord;
Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad; and
Bill C-299, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identification information obtained by fraud or false pretence).
Accordingly, a message will be sent to inform the Senate that this House has adopted these four bills.
Hon. members will find at their desks an explanatory note recapitulating these remarks. The Table officers are available to answer any further questions that hon. members may have.
I trust that these measures will assist the House in understanding how private members' business will be conducted in this second session of the 39th Parliament.
Aboriginal peoplesAdoption at all stagesAllegations of fraud and fraudAuto theftBigras, BernardBouchard, RobertC-207, An Act to amend the Income Tax Ac ...C-265, An Act to amend the Employment In ...C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration a ...C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna AccordC-293, An Act respecting the provision o ...
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View Paul Martin Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Royal Galipeau Profile
CPC (ON)
View Royal Galipeau Profile
2007-02-15 17:17 [p.6915]
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau): In my opinion the yeas have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau): Pursuant to Standing Order 98, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 21, 2007, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
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