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View Sonia Sidhu Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Sonia Sidhu Profile
2019-06-04 13:08 [p.28485]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to the 2019 budget. This budget is called “Investing in the Middle Class”. Improving life for middle-class Canadians has been our number one priority since we were elected.
Four years ago, the people of Brampton South elected me to represent them. Since 2015, I have been working in Ottawa to deliver on the promises I made throughout my campaign. Everyone in this House has made a commitment to serve Canadians. This is partly done by investing in initiatives that will boost the quality of life for all Canadians. The budget this year is an example of the opportunities that Canada can provide to Canadians.
Our government's commitment to serve Canadians through investment can be seen in Brampton. In 2016-17, Brampton was given almost $60 million through the gas tax fund, and in 2017-18 we introduced a one-time top-up to the gas tax fund for infrastructure investments. For the 2018-19 fiscal year, Brampton was given over $33 million.
Since November 2015, we have had millions of dollars in federal funding for infrastructure projects that will benefit the city of Brampton. In addition, Brampton will benefit from a federal investment in the GO Transit Metrolinx regional express rail. From the $1.9-billion investment, over $750 million will be invested in the Kitchener corridor to improve commute times for residents of Brampton, Peel, Toronto and Wellington.
People in the middle class deserve a government that recognizes their potential and encourages their growth. I believe that the budget represents our belief in them as it looks toward our promising future. Canadians have put their faith in our government to present new ideas and deliver results. The 2019 budget reflects the needs of families, employees, students and seniors. It is a solid plan to give them a better future.
A better future starts with investing in young people and their education. Students are often kept from pursuing their education because of financial obstacles. The 2019 budget would lower interest rates for students and give them a six-month period to pursue their future plans before gathering interest on loans. The budget also seeks to support students who are parents or have disabilities. It also promotes programs that encourage the enrolment of indigenous students in post-secondary education.
These are just some of the ways in which we advocate for the success of the next generation. Budget 2018 strengthened our economy and ensured a low unemployment rate.
This is also the time to address the climate emergency. Budget 2019 has a strong plan to create eco-friendly solutions while maintaining an affordable lifestyle for Canadians. The budget intends to make zero-emission cars $5,000 cheaper, as well as encouraging their building. The creation of a home retrofit program will lower electricity and energy bills for Canadians.
We have been fighting climate impact since 2015. We have invested $1.5 million in Brampton under Public Safety Canada's national disaster mitigation program for the riverwalk study. We committed $175,000 for an environmental assessment strategic plan and sustainability framework for it as well. We have also committed $10 million for 10 water projects in Brampton and $22 million in funding for erosion protection initiatives in the Toronto, Peel and York regions.
Thinking of the future generations also includes supporting new families. An issue we see come up again and again is the struggle for young families to invest in long-term housing. The 2019 budget introduced the first-time homebuyer incentive, which would encourage home ownership by making housing cheaper. The incentive would help thousands of first-time homebuyers over the next three years. Budget 2019 also makes plans to build 42,000 new rental housing units, as well as to provide $300 million to begin the housing supply challenge. Through these changes, we are promoting happy homes without unnecessary costs.
Access to affordable housing is essential to promote the security and well-being of all Canadians. When Canadians are provided with a comfortable home life, it is easier for them to do well in the workplace. So far, we have been successful.
However, because our workforce and economy are continuously growing, employees can be left without access to training that improves their professional skills in their present and future jobs. The 2019 budget introduced the Canada training benefit program, which would give working Canadians better and more consistent skills training, financial aid to pay for the training, employment insurance support and job security. This is the next phase in our plan to strengthen the middle class.
While the middle class flourishes, there is still a percentage that has been left behind. Without quality health care, Canadians face some of the highest drug prices, leaving them unable to afford the prescriptions they need. No one should have to choose between buying the medicine they need or putting food on their table.
I am proud to be a member of the health committee, where I helped study the development of a national pharmacare program. We then made 18 recommendations to the government through the report “Pharmacare Now: Prescription Medicine Coverage for All Canadians”. I am proud to see the government acting on the report.
Budget 2019 aims to make prescriptions more affordable by announcing plans for the Canadian drug agency, which will work to lower prescription costs. The Canadian drug agency will connect all provinces and territories, giving them access to prescriptions. Through this plan, Canadians will save $3 billion each year.
With less time spent worrying about their health, housing and job security, Canadians will have more time to focus on the things they care about. For many, this involves becoming more involved in their communities.
Infrastructure funding is necessary to get ahead with local and municipal governments, which is why we are investing an additional $2.2 billion into infrastructure funding, especially under the circumstances where certain provincial governments have not been doing their part. Budget 2019 recognizes that advances in public transit, housing and community facilities make all the difference.
Local projects and community services are at the heart of Canadian society. Included in these services are locally based projects that encourage seniors to be active members of the community. Seniors have made significant contributions in these areas and are now more than ever capable and interested in participating.
Budget 2019 aims to maintain the guaranteed income supplement to ensure seniors get the most out of their retirement. It also takes direct action to protect their pensions by automatically registering seniors who are 70 or older but have not applied yet to receive their retirement benefits with the Canada pension plan. This will help tens of thousands of seniors across Canada.
Our budget also supports pay transparency, something our government has pushed for relentlessly. These measures will make it easier for our government to look at wage gaps and begin to solve them. This will help improve the status of women further. We know that when women make only 87¢ on the $1 compared to men, something is wrong.
Several countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany, have pay transparency measures. Canada needs to join these countries in making wages available for public view. When we can inspire employers to act on unfair wage gaps, we will improve the status of women all over Canada. This is not only the responsible thing to do, but it is morally right.
Budget 2019 is not just a list of numbers, names and affected demographics. It is a detailed plan of action, which can lead Canada into a better and brighter future. By investing in the middle class, we invest in all Canadians. This budget represents what our nation's focus should be. Informed, careful and planned budgeting is what will lead to Canada's prosperity.
I urge my fellow members to support the budget.
View Jonathan Wilkinson Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Jonathan Wilkinson Profile
2018-05-24 10:40 [p.19561]
Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to address my colleagues in the House and to reaffirm our government’s commitment to sustainable development and future generations of Canadians.
Through Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the government is working to ensure that decision-making related to sustainable development is more transparent, is subject to accountability, and promotes coordination across the Government of Canada.
Let me begin by thanking all members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for their excellent work.
The committee’s hard work has led us to a stronger and more transparent bill, which builds on the government’s commitment to promote consultation and public engagement.
It is this last point that I would like to speak to today.
Worldwide we are seeing a resurgence of interest and desire to promote sustainable development and take action on climate change. By adopting the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, Canada will contribute to a global framework of action that strives for global sustainable development and aims to eradicate poverty and to leave no one behind.
Through its participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the historic Paris Agreement, Canada is also signalling a renewed global commitment to address climate change.
It is in this global context that we find ourselves, resolutely committed to ensuring that Canada is a sustainable development leader.
That is why we are proposing amendments to the Federal Sustainable Development Act that would propel us along a path to a sustainable future and ensure that we have the interests of future generations in mind.
The current federal sustainable development strategy is the strongest to date. It was developed using an inclusive participatory approach aimed at engaging and involving all Canadians. We released the draft strategy in February 2016 and asked Canadians to share with us their vision for a sustainable Canada and to suggest how we could strengthen transparency and accountability. The response was unprecedented. Canadians provided more than 540 written comments, 12 times the response received to the previous strategy. On social media they contributed about 900 posts and replies on the draft strategy. Overall, the draft strategy had a reach of more than 400,000 people over the course of the public consultation period.
We heard from individual Canadians who are fully committed and indicated that they are interested, engaged, and passionate about sustainable development.
We also heard from provincial governments, indigenous organizations, industry and professional associations, academics, and environmental non-governmental organizations. The strategy also benefited from the standing committee's review of the act and its recommendations. Evidence from the review included insightful testimony from witnesses such as the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Hon. John Godfrey, the originator of the bill that became the act. We also spoke with the Sustainable Development Advisory Council, with representatives from each province and territory, as well as with members drawn from indigenous peoples, organizations representing business, organizations representing labour, and environmental non-governmental organizations.
In the public consultations, Canadians showed their support for the strategy, as well as for the 2030 agenda and other key sustainable development initiatives. They also appreciated the accessibility and transparency of the strategy, and the government's openness to receiving comments and input. However, Canadians also stressed that they are looking to the government for further progress and improvements, including greater inclusiveness to further guarantee the development of a strategy that engages all Canadians.
As a response, we felt we could go beyond improving the strategy, to improve the act itself. That is why, spurred by the standing committee's unanimous recommendations, our government introduced Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act already requires the government to engage Canadians through public consultations on the federal sustainable development strategy, including through the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. However, we wanted to further increase the effectiveness of our engagement activities, starting with improvements to the council itself.
Bill C-57 would position the council to be better able to advise the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on matters related to sustainable development referred to it by the minister. Expertise and advice from the council would be sought on the development of the draft federal sustainable development strategy before it goes to public consultation. The council could also be asked to review the draft FSDS progress report during its development and to provide suggestions on its form, content, and direction. Similar to the current practice of including a summary of the council's comments on the federal sustainable development strategy, a summary of advice could also be made public by including it either in the federal sustainable development strategy or in the progress report.
Our bill also proposes to double the number of indigenous representatives from three to six. The Minister of Environment would further reflect the diversity of Canadian society by taking into account demographic considerations such as age and gender when appointing representatives to the Sustainable Development Advisory Council.
In addition, we have removed previous restrictions that denied council members reimbursement for reasonable costs incurred by them in connection with the business of the council. The proposed amendment would remove the prohibition on reimbursement of Sustainable Development Advisory Council members, in order to enhance effective engagement and inclusiveness. This was framed and was a recommendation by the member for Abbotsford.
The current act does not allow council members to be remunerated or reimbursed for their expenses, because it was part of a private member's bill. What that has meant in practice is that the council has been convened only virtually and by teleconference to review draft federal sustainable development strategies, and that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has never met face to face with the council. Members are located in every province and territory from coast to coast to coast. Changing this would further help to minimize financial constraints on participants, particularly youth and members located in rural Canada. It would be unfortunate if individuals with a great deal to offer do not consider putting their name forward to be part of the council because they could not afford to participate.
Enabling the government to compensate or reimburse SDAC members would provide the ability for the council to play a more effective role in shaping the government's sustainable development approach. It would also enable the minister to engage with the council through in-person meetings or by bringing clusters of members together when appropriate.
We believe these changes would increase the ability of the council to guide and support our sustainable development agenda.
These proposed changes also reinforce the addition of numerous sustainable development principles. In addition to the basic principle and the precautionary principle, which are already included in the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the bill adds principles of intergenerational equity, openness and transparency, the importance of involving aboriginal peoples, collaboration, and results and delivery.
Let me say a few words about these principles, which will guide the government's plans and actions on sustainable development. The principles emphasize that sustainable development is a continually evolving concept and allow the government to address new and emerging issues within future strategies. They also highlight approaches that the government should consider when developing sustainable development strategies.
In particular, the principle of intergenerational equity is the essence of sustainable development. It is the recognition that the decisions we make are not just about today but about tomorrow and far off into the future.
The polluter pays principle and the internalization of costs are also integral to sustainable development: that we must go beyond thinking of economic growth in conventional terms and stop seeing environmental damages as externalities.
The principle of openness and transparency supports the Federal Sustainable Development Act's stated purpose to make decision-making related to sustainable development more transparent and subject to accountability to Parliament.
The Government of Canada is committed to advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples through a renewed nation-to-nation, Inuit-crown, and government-to-government relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. Our principle of involving indigenous peoples reflects this commitment, as well as their unique understanding of and connection to Canada's lands and waters, and the important role of traditional knowledge in supporting sustainable development.
Sustainable development requires contributions and actions from all parts of society: the public and private sectors and civil society. The principle of collaboration is about that joint pursuit of our common objectives.
The government has made it clear from its first day in office that we are committed to results and delivery.
Our principle on results and delivery emphasizes the importance of developing sound sustainable development objectives, associated strategies, indicators for measuring progress, and accountabilities. The Federal Sustainable Development Act must promote real change.
The proposed amendments to the principles are to be considered in the development of sustainable development strategies. Building more flexibility into the advisory council's role builds on these principles, particularly the principles of involving indigenous peoples, collaboration, and transparency and accountability, by providing an external perspective on sustainable development and ensuring that our federal sustainable development strategy reflects the diversity of Canada.
I hope that highlighting some of the major features of our bill would give members a better sense of how we can collectively move toward a more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. I am sure this is something all members of the House fully support.
View Jody Wilson-Raybould Profile
Ind. (BC)
Madam Speaker, we are committed to the passage of Bill C-45 in order to legalize cannabis in the country, to strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis in order to, as my friend articulated, keep it out of the hands of children and keep the proceeds out of the hands of criminal organizations. We are committed to doing it right, and we are working and will continue to work with all levels of government. We started that engagement and discussion and received substantive feedback through the efforts of the task force that was constituted by our government. We received 30,000 submissions, including from provinces and territories, municipalities, and law enforcement agencies. We are continuing to engage with them through my parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Health.
This is something we are committed to doing. We are injecting substantive monies into the provinces and territories, and into a substantive public education and communications campaign. We have engaged, and will continue to engage, in a substantive way with indigenous communities to recognize their specific interests and desires with respect to their communities. My colleagues and I are committed to engaging in that conversation on an ongoing basis in the lead-up to the legalization of cannabis and strict regulation.
View William Amos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View William Amos Profile
2017-11-21 17:31 [p.15399]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak on Bill C-45, because so many Canadians are talking about it right now. If one goes to a school in the Pontiac, and I have visited several, or to a municipal council to talk about what the federal government is doing that is new, much of the same thing is heard, which is that Canadians are interested and concerned. More than anything, they are open-minded about finding the right path on this issue of marijuana and cannabis legalization. Why? Simply put, it is because they know that what has been done in the past has not worked. At the end of the day, Canadians expect the government to not simply stick its head in the sand but to react to evidence and the problems of everyday communities, where we see rates of the consumption of cannabis by our youth that really concerns them.
It is very important that we are taking this opportunity today to debate this bill and to consider what our communities are saying. I would like to report a bit on what I have heard and speak about why I am hearing support from my constituents in the Pontiac for this bill.
Number one, there is an appreciation that a public health approach is being brought on this matter. At the end of the day, slapping criminal sanctions on individual Canadians for engaging in the consumption of cannabis is an approach that has not worked. It has landed a lot of people in jail, and in particular, it has landed a lot of indigenous Canadians in jail. That is a major concern for constituents in the riding of Pontiac.
It has allowed criminals, organized crime, to take advantage of a market and sell products in an uncontrolled fashion to the most vulnerable in our community. That is simply not acceptable. We need to do better.
I was playing ping pong the other day in a high school in Fort-Coulonge, and I was thinking about how great it was that we were able to play a sport in a school and have fun. I knew that just down hall, at some other point in the day, there would be an opportunity for a kid to buy marijuana. Why? It is because the market is uncontrolled. The market is unregulated, and it is being run by criminals. We can no longer hide, and we can no longer fail Canadians on this important issue.
Our youth deserve protection. It should not be easier to buy marijuana than it is to buy a pack of cigarettes or a six-pack of beer. It should not be that way.
I am proud of our government for acting and for all the consultation it has done. It has consulted with law enforcement, with health experts, and with safety experts, road safety experts in particular. There was a Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, and pursuant to its advice, this legislation was developed. This was not done in a hurry. It was done after careful consideration.
I am so pleased that caucus members, in particular the parliamentary secretary to the minister of health at the time, came to visit the Pontiac to discuss the concerns of our community. If we are going to get to a place where we legalize but strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis, we need to do so in a manner that has the full confidence of Canadians.
I appreciate that it is the opposition's job to oppose and to raise issues it is hearing from constituents as well, and that is a good thing. However, this issue of cannabis legalization and strict regulation and control has to be done with a view to the public interest.
I do believe there is a strong consensus emerging in Canada that we can get there by learning from the mistakes and successes internationally, and that we can create a new framework that will ultimately protect our kids, clean up our streets, and get us to a healthier country because, at the end of the day, that is what we all want. We want safer communities, healthier Canadians, and protected kids. It is comforting to many of my Pontiac constituents.
I will admit quite frankly that many seniors in my riding have expressed concerns about whether this will just open the floodgates. The response is no, not at all. In fact, this bill, complete with the investments our government is making, which I will speak to in a moment, is the single best way to tighten the societal measures that will restrict access. When I tell constituents that this bill would make it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and establish significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related activities, whether consumption or distribution, etc., they understand that this is not a free-for-all. It is absolutely not about that. It is about protecting our communities in a smarter and better way.
I would like to take a moment to talk about investments in public education and law enforcement. This is not just a law that our government is presenting; it is a whole investment program that will ensure that these protections and regulations are put in place. For example, our government promised to invest $46 million over five years in public education, awareness, and surveillance. These additional resources would allow the government to undertake a robust public awareness campaign so that Canadians, especially our children, are well informed about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis and other drugs.
The people in our ridings are well aware that, for a long time, young people across Canada have been making the poor decision to smoke, rather than drink, before getting behind the wheel because they think that it is somehow more acceptable or that they will not be caught. We all know that this is not true, but we need an awareness campaign, and our law enforcement officers need to be given the resources they need. We are making sure that happens. We have committed up to $161 million to train front-line officers to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired driving, build law enforcement capacity across the country, provide access to drug-screening devices, develop policy, bolster research, and raise public awareness of the dangers of drug-impaired driving.
This is a serious set of legislative measures and investments. What we are really doing is investing in the future of a smarter Canada, which does not stick its head in the sand, does not say there is no health issue, and does not ignore the fact that youth consumption of cannabis products is at unacceptable rates, but does accept that we can do better if we look at the evidence, go into it with our eyes open, and tell ourselves yes, we can do better.
View James Bezan Profile
View James Bezan Profile
2015-02-04 16:40 [p.10707]
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak at report stage today in support of Bill C-32, the victims bill of rights act. This bill would change how victims are to be treated by the criminal justice and correction systems in Canada. It acknowledges their suffering and recognizes that they too have rights that must be respected.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard testimony from numerous witnesses who described the importance of this legislation. Many shared their own difficult stories of victimization and expressed their appreciation for the changes that the Canadian victims bill of rights would bring to other victims who will follow.
The committee also heard from those who provide victims with much needed services. They too offered their support for the bill, explaining that the rights contained in the Canadian victims bill of rights and the accompanying amendments to the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act would improve the experiences of victims.
The victims bill of rights presents a completely new approach for victims of crime in Canada. There have been many questions about how the bill would actually work and how it would be implemented. This is understandable given its transformative nature.
I would like to take the opportunity today to address three issues that were the subject of discussions at the standing committee: the definition of victim, the steps that we will take to ensure awareness of the rights created in Bill C-32, and the enforceability of those rights.
Regarding the definition of a victim in Bill C-32, the committee heard from witnesses who felt that the definition was overly broad, as well as those who felt that it was not sufficiently inclusive. Concern has been expressed about how a definition of victim in federal legislation would co-exist with the definitions of victim found in provincial and territorial victim legislation. We also heard questions about why the bill contains more than one definition of victim and what each purports to do.
As members will know, Bill C-32 includes the new Canadian victims bill of rights and proposes amendments to four federal statutes. The Canadian victims bill of rights portion of Bill C-32 includes a broad definition of victim. This definition recognizes the various kinds of harm that an individual may suffer as a result of an offence, even if the offence were not committed against him or her personally. The definition acknowledges that individuals other than the direct victim can be victims of an offence. All the rights included in the Canadian victims bill of rights can be exercised by a direct victim, as well as others who have suffered harm, such as family members.
The bill would also amend the definition of victim in the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to ensure that those definitions align with the definition of victim in the Canadian victims bill of rights.
The first part of the proposed definition in the Criminal Code recognizes the same forms of harm that a victim of an offence may suffer as the Canadian victims bill of rights does. Under this part of the definition, only a person who has had an offence committed against him or her is a victim for the purposes of most Criminal Code provisions.
The second part of the Criminal Code definition includes individuals other than the direct victim for the purposes of certain Criminal Code provisions, including the victim impact statement provisions. This is consistent with established case law that recognizes secondary victims for the purpose of these provisions.
The Canadian victims bill of rights would not apply to Canadians who are victims of offences committed outside of Canada, over which Canada is not exerting extraterritorial jurisdiction. This is because the rights under the Canadian victims bill of rights all relate to the various stages of the Canadian criminal justice process, from the investigation and prosecution of an offence through to the conditional release process. For example, a victim's right to present a victim impact statement, to have a court consider making a restitution order against an offender, or to request information about an offender can only apply to offences processed through the Canadian criminal and corrections system. It is not possible for Canada to extend those rights to people or to criminal justice processes within another country's jurisdiction.
We have also heard concerns about differences between the definition of victim proposed in the Canadian victims bill of rights and those found in provincial and territorial legislation. Each province and territory has enacted its own victims of crime legislation with its own definition of victim. Some provinces and territories have multiple definitions for various purposes, such as eligibility for specific services or financial benefits programs. I note that this problem of various definitions of victim did not arise with Bill C-32 but is a result of the evolution of victims services in each jurisdiction.
It is simply not possible to have one definition of victim at the federal level that would incorporate absolutely all the different definitions of victim that exist at the provincial and territorial levels. Rather, the bill seeks to create a definition that is inclusive and that recognizes all the different forms of harm that victims may suffer as a result of an offence. These include physical or emotional harm, property damage, and economic loss. Most provincial and territorial definitions include similar elements in their definitions.
I will now turn to the issue of ensuring that victims are able to exercise their rights under the act.
The justice committee heard from witnesses who questioned how victims would be made aware of their new rights under the act. This is a very fair question. All the rights in the world will not benefit victims if they do not know about them.
A Government of Canada website will be developed making information on the Canadian victims bill of rights available to all Canadians. During last year's consultations, numerous stakeholders stressed the importance of a one-stop shop for victims to access information. The Government of Canada website will meet that need.
The committee also heard from several aboriginal groups that are concerned that aboriginal victims would not be able to exercise their rights in the same way as other victims. They noted the disproportionate impact of factors such as poverty, marginalization, and lack of safe housing for aboriginal victims and explained that they would therefore need extra support in order to fully exercise their rights in a Canadian victims bill of rights.
The government recognizes that every victim is different and has different needs. That is why budget 2014 committed to providing funding to the provinces and territories to assist with the implementation of the bill. The government recognizes that the provinces and territories will play a crucial role in the effective implementation of the bill and has been working with them through various fora—such as the meetings of the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety—to address the implementation issues
We need to continue to work with our provincial and territorial partners to ensure that the Canadian victims bill of rights brings about the changes in the criminal justice and corrections systems that we have promised victims.
I will turn now to the issue of enforceability.
Some have criticized Bill C-32 as nothing more than a statement of principle because they believe the enshrined rights to be unenforceable. This is simply not true.
The victims bill of rights includes a remedial scheme to address an infringement or denial of a victim's rights under the act. This is what distinguishes Bill C-32 from many provincial or territorial victims acts that have been found to be just statements of principle. Under Bill C-32, every federal department, agency, or body involved in the criminal justice system would be required to have a complaints mechanism in place that would review complaints and make recommendations to remedy any infringement or denial of a victim's rights under the act, and they would be required to inform victims of those recommendations. If victims were not satisfied with the recommendations made by the department, agency, or body, they could then raise the issue with an oversight agency where one exists, such as the RCMP public complaints commission. If no oversight body exists for a particular department, agency, or body, a victim could seek the assistance of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, whose mandate includes reviewing concerns regarding noncompliance with legislation or established policies.
Complaints regarding a provincial or territorial agency, including police, the crown, or victim services, would be addressed in accordance with the applicable provincial or territorial legislation. In order to improve the remedies available to victims, the government will provide a limited amount of funding through the victims fund for provinces and territories to enhance or establish complaint bodies for victims of crime.
I hope members of all parties will join me in supporting the victims bill of rights to ensure that victims of crime in Canada receive the recognition and protection that they deserve.
View Philip Toone Profile
Mr. Speaker, the bill before us is definitely a step in the right direction. It is a good starting point. However, it is by no means enough. We will support the bill at report stage because it is a starting point. However, it does not go far enough.
I would like to point out that the NDP has always stood up for the rights of victims. If I may, I would like to go back in time. Even in the 1800s, social democratic parties pushed for the rights of workers who were victims of violence and work accidents. The first protection plan for victims of workplace accidents was implemented in Germany, and it was the social democratic parties that worked very hard for that. That said, I will return to a more recent time.
In 1984, Parliament adopted and enacted the Workers Mourning Day Act. The idea was to commemorate the victims of accidents in the workplace. It was work that was done by the NDP at the time, with the collaboration of other members of the House. It was a great victory for the labour movement in this country.
A good friend of mine, Elizabeth Weir, the former leader of the New Democratic Party of New Brunswick, was able to enact very similar legislation in New Brunswick in the year 2000.
Workers' rights are at the heart of the NDP's mandate. For that reason, I certainly have a great interest in this bill, which will extend rights to victims generally.
I do worry about the bill actually bringing forward too few rights. It seems to be focused more on photo opportunities and the beginnings of a sentiment that victims should have more rights. Regrettably, the bill will actually not enact that many rights for our victims.
Ms. Lange, a victim's mother, has stated that “Beyond the sentencing stage of the process, the victims basically fall off the face of the earth” and that “Rights need to go beyond the criminal process for this bill to even be a bill of rights.”
We did not go far enough. It is just the beginning of a process. I think we need to really develop a true bill of rights and not just one that has the name “bill of rights” and is in fact simply raising awareness that victims should have rights. I think there should perhaps be a better title for this bill.
We need to concern ourselves with the fate of victims. This bill is a start but it is far from adequate. If I could be permitted to speak for a moment about one of the witnesses who testified, I will just say that Ms. Dawn Harvard, the vice-president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said it really well. I will cite her testimony at the justice committee:
Almost half of aboriginal women in Canada live in poverty. This poverty exacerbates the situations of violence, abuse, and addictions, and often, sadly, leads to incarceration. We have heard talk of the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada....
She went to say, very well I think, that:
Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices, it's a denial of opportunity, and it's a violation of our human dignity.
That speaks to the victims of this country. Regrettably, this bill does not address the daily expressions of being a victim that aboriginal women especially face in this country.
This bill will give victims an opportunity to address some concerns during some of the criminal proceedings, but even then the actual rights that we are affording them are far from adequate.
First nations are a very good example. Who are these first nations supposed to go to in first addressing their requirement to have rights expressed? Who does a victim of violence in a remote community go to? Perhaps it is the local police, but have the local police been sensitized to the plight of aboriginal women in this country? Will the victims feel confident enough to go to their local police officers to lodge their complaints? Will the police officers know enough to say, “Yes, you have a bill of rights. You have rights, and we will be here to defend them.”?
Nothing in the bill has given any of our provincial colleagues the capacity or ability to ensure that those rights are going to be made available. Once again, the current federal government is saying things that are very nice and look good on paper, but it has not put the resources forward to ensure that those rights would actually be expressed in a daily manner.
I, for one, do not believe that people who live in remote communities in this country will even know that the bill exists. I really wish that the government had taken a bit more time and effort to ensure that all the resources were in place to make sure that victims know that they have rights. They have rights today and through this bill they should have more rights in the future, but we need people to actually know that those rights are going to be there.
In poorer communities—and where I live, there are a number of poorer communities—people do not have the understanding that they can spend their hard-earned money to go and see a lawyer who will then inform them of all their rights. Often people simply cannot afford to take that route. Unfortunately, the bill seems not to make that any easier.
The Conservatives have been talking about this bill since 2006, when they came to power. They have been promising to enact a victims bill of rights since 2006. I will congratulate the government for finally, after eight years, putting it down on paper—not just using it as a photo op, but actually trying to have some real, concrete debate on this matter. Unfortunately, I do not think they went nearly as far as they had expected.
The Canadian victims bill of rights does not designate legal obligations for other stakeholders in the judicial system. It simply provides access to a vague mechanism to file complaints with various federal departments, agencies, and organizations that have a role to play in the justice system when victims have their rights infringed. As a result, when complaints are directed at provincial or territorial organizations, including police or the crown or even a victims rights organization, they will be processed directly under the laws of the appropriate province or territory. There are no specific funds, none, that have yet been attributed for the implementation of the mechanisms that the bill would provide.
I do not understand how the government expects that things are going to happen without resources being put in place. The Conservatives do this all the time. I have seen it over and over again in the bills that I have seen since 2011 in this place. I scratch my head as to what they think the provinces are going to do with these unfunded mandates that we keep sending to them.
I would like to point out that a lot of interesting testimony was brought to the justice committee. I had the opportunity to sit in on many of those sessions. It brings a tear to one's eye to hear the plight of many victims in this country, and they all had justifiable concerns to bring to the justice committee.
I will speak very briefly on some of the issues that were brought up by the Canadian Bar Association, and I will speak specifically to clause 21 in the bill.
Clause 21 would add a provision requiring prosecutors to take reasonable steps to notify victims of a guilty plea. In this clause, we see that the victims will have the right to be informed if the accused pleads guilty during a trial. The problem is that if there is bargaining and the accused pleads guilty during the plea bargaining or during a court appearance, must the trial be terminated? Is the trial suspended until the victims are notified that the accused will plead guilty? Normally this type of bargaining is done very quickly.
Unfortunately, the bill seems to put the brakes on a very efficient justice system. Once again, not only will the bill cost victims money because they will have to find out about this charter, which has value, but all provincial trials will be more expensive.
If anyone would like to ask a question about this during the time for questions, I would be very happy to answer.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2014-12-10 17:09 [p.10442]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-32, the bill on victims' rights. I am also pleased to indicate that the Liberal caucus will continue to support this legislation.
As the members opposite will fondly recall, supporting victims of crime has long been a Liberal priority. Specifically, I would point to the Liberal government's 2003 statement of basic principles for justice for victims of crime. This statement was collectively drafted by provincial and federal representatives to modernize basic principles of justice for victims.
As the Department of Justice states, those are the “basic principles continue to guide the development of policies, programs and legislation related to victims of crime. They also provide a foundation for the Policy Centre for Victim Issues' work.”
Further, in 2005, with the hon. member for Mount Royal serving as justice minister, the Liberal government announced new initiatives to support victims, including allowing them to apply for financial assistance to attend the National Parole Board hearings of the offender who harmed them.
I also want to acknowledge that victims' rights is an issue that has drawn multi-party support in the past. The Liberal government's progress built on earlier efforts from the 1988 Progressive Conservative federal government, which also worked together with the country's territorial and provincial justice ministers.
This is the sort of constructive engagement with the provinces and territories that many on this side fondly recall. This type of co-operation for the betterment of Canada has been eroded in recent years.
Bill C-32 contains a number of suggestions for helping Canadians who are victims of crime, violent crime in particular. This bill creates the Canadian victims bill of rights, which provides victims with a substantial number of legal rights.
Even though in many cases Bill C-32 simply codifies existing rights and practices, when it comes to helping victims, I am pleased to side with legal certainty.
What does Bill C-32 seek to accomplish? It seeks to create the rights to information and services that will give victims peace of mind during the criminal proceedings they will be involved in and thereafter. It will clarify the victims right to be protected, to submit a statement, and to obtain restitution from offenders. It will make it easier for vulnerable victims to testify, expand intimidation as a criminal offence, and amend an archaic statute in the Evidence Act in order to compel testimony from the spouse of an accused, a law that has already been subject to a number of exceptions.
However, though we generally agree with what the government seeks to accomplish, we wish the government would have followed the practices of former PC and Liberal governments by accepting advice on how Bill C-32 could have been improved for victims of crime. The committee process could best be described as a missed opportunity.
Bill C-32 is not a perfect bill. A significant problem is that it would increase the obligations on backlogged courts and the demands on prosecutors, without increasing the resources allocated to meet those obligations. In short, the bill would assign new work without providing new funds. Apparently, the government is operating on the assumption that our courts and prosecutors are underworked. Of course that is not the case, and the already overburdened provinces will have to pick up to the tab.
To the point on resources, I would like to share with members one example included in the Canadian Bar Association's recommendations, an example I shared with our Conservative-controlled committee in the hopes that it would seriously consider improving the bill. The example deals with the new requirement that prosecutors attempt to inform victims of plea deals.
I will read a quote from the Canadian Bar Association:
A typical experience for a front line Crown counsel dealing with the proposed legislative change might go like this:
A Crown counsel is dealing with 100 cases on a particular morning where the accused is scheduled to enter a plea. Lawyers for ten of the accused inform the Crown only that morning of a guilty plea.
The Crown has no time to contact victims of the ten accused to tell them of the proposed pleas. When the Court asks the Crown if victims have been informed, the Crown says no, in regard to the ten cases. The Court adjourns those cases, so the guilty pleas are not accepted. By the next appearance, four of the ten accused change their minds about pleading guilty and want a trial. Victims are then required to testify when they otherwise would have been spared the trauma of reliving their experience through vigorous cross-examination.
At committee I introduced an amendment to remedy this flaw in the bill, a flaw that without the provision of additional resources is likely to slow the administration of justice and traumatize a significant number of the victims we are all trying to help.
As the Canadian Bar Association recommended, I suggested that a victim only need be notified of a plea deal where there would be a joint submission on sentencing, that is, the deals that the prosecutors would more likely have made in advance. These are also the deals where the crown would be suggesting a particular sentence rather than a plea to a lesser offence.
What was the Conservative response? Before the Conservatives voted against this particular amendment of mine, the parliamentary secretary and the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe said the following:
We're concerned that this amendment would lead to delays, and would place an undue burden on the crown prosecutor. The system has to function, and for that reason, we can't support this amendment.
The purpose of my amendment was to reduce the wait times this bill will create, but the Conservatives decided to vote against that amendment. I would like them to explain the logic behind that, but then again contradictions are notoriously hard to explain. That is just one of the amendments that I proposed.
In committee, the Conservatives rejected 18—that is right, 18—Liberal amendments that could have improved this bill. They did not reject the amendments because they were bad. They rejected them simply because they were Liberal amendments.
Honourable colleagues, this kind of behaviour is Parliament at its worst. With that in mind, let us look at other amendments the Conservatives rejected.
As I indicated in an earlier question at committee, we heard from a witness named Maureen Basnicki. Ms. Basnicki is a Canadian whose husband was killed in the 9/11 attacks. At committee, she explained that she had experienced difficulty in accessing victims' services because her husband was murdered by terrorists outside the country. She urged us to extend any lawfully available domestic rights to Canadian victims of crime that occur outside of Canada.
I would like to share some of her testimony with the chamber. She said:
....perpetrators of crimes are still demanding their rights as Canadian citizens when they've been successfully prosecuted for crimes outside the country, and I want to bring balance to this. This is not a new step. It's new for Canadians, perhaps, but other countries do this, many other countries. Most other countries do.
After listening to Ms. Basnicki, I introduced an amendment to capture her unfairly overlooked constituency, to grant domestically available victims' benefits to Canadians who have experienced serious personal injury crimes outside the country, or whose family members have been murdered outside the country.
The Conservatives refused to include the victims of the 9/11 attacks in the legislation, and refused to amend it after hearing from Ms. Basnicki.
We also heard from a representative of the Chiefs of Ontario, who wanted to bring some balance to consider the unique circumstances of aboriginal victims in the justice system. All of the amendments proposed by the Chiefs of Ontario were similarly rejected.
Bill C-32 is not a perfect bill, but it is a good bill. It will do good work for Canadian victims of crime, so the Liberals will support Bill C-32 and endeavour to improve on these efforts when we form the next government.
View Blair Wilson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-31, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act.
Canada is a great democracy. We have a long tradition of being one of the most open, fair and inclusive democracies in the world. To honour that tradition, though, we must continually strive to improve both the integrity of our electoral process and its accessibility. By so doing, we allow ordinary Canadians the opportunity to exercise their right to vote easily and with confidence.
This bill, I believe, aims to further these goals. It is based on the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the report, “Improving the Integrity of the Electoral Process: Recommendations for Legislative Change”. This report, in turn, was based in part on recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer.
The bill would amend the Canada Elections Act to improve the integrity of the electoral process by reducing the opportunity for electoral fraud or for error. It would require that, before voting, electors must provide one piece of government issued photo identification that shows their name and address, or two pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer that shows their name and address , or they can also take an oath and they may be vouched for by one other elector who has photo identification from that riding.
These changes would do much to improve the consistency of our electoral process. Too often the identification rules have been applied in an inconsistent manner, unfairly placing demands on some citizens that others do not have to meet.
In the last election alone, I encountered several instances of inconsistent behaviour. For instance, anecdotal reports from scrutineers in my riding suggested that voters were rarely challenged for identification in one area of my riding but continually challenged in other areas. At least one voter in the latter area had to go home to get her identification.
This inconsistency is a product of our current rules which only require that identification be checked when an electoral officer, the candidate or a candidate's representative has reason to doubt the identity of an individual wanting to vote. It is regrettable when different citizens are held to different standards across our country, something that is all too possible under our current state of affairs.
I would also like to stress that the vouching procedure has been retained. Anyone who has no suitable identification can still be vouched for by another person with valid identification, ensuring that none of Canada's vulnerable population will be denied the right to vote.
The new rules, however, also introduced safeguards against serial vouching by allowing each elector to only vouch for one person and to not allow vouching by electors who have been vouched for before. This would stop an abuse that has been experienced around Canada.
One instance I know of, on which I have heard consistent complaints, is in the riding of Trinity—Spadina where over 10,000 new voters were registered on election day. It is almost inconceivable that 10,000 people in one riding would be vouched for on a serial basis. These are the types of potential abuses that this legislation is aiming to stop.
The bill would also amend the Canadian Elections Act to make operational changes to improve the accuracy of the National Register of Electors. It would facilitate voting and enhance communications with the electorate. It would amend the Public Service Employment Act to permit the Public Service Commission to make regulations that would now extend to the maximum term of employment of casual workers. These changes are all welcome.
It is also pleasing to see a practical approach to interprovincial cooperation in these changes. Currently, the act permits the sharing of information between provincial governments and Elections Canada. However, the Chief Electoral Officer can only share data in the registry. He cannot share source or preliminary data or other data that is not incorporated in the registry itself. Both the Chief Electoral Officer and the committee have recommended that he should be able to share all data and, accordingly, the bill would expand the scope of data that is permitted to be exchanged.
The bill also would allow a common sense improvement to the information collected by the Canada Revenue Agency. It would create a citizenship box on the tax returns so that taxpaying residents who are citizens of other countries do not end up on our electoral rolls as they still do today.
Bill C-31 would also allow the Canada Revenue Agency to share information about deceased electors, ensuring that the deceased do not end up on our voters list.
While the government did not incorporate all of the committee's recommendations into the bill, it stated that when it did not accept these recommendations it had a fundamental disagreement with principle, items required further study or that we had received inadequate testimony that had been unable to reach a definitive decision during the committee proceedings.
A major concern of the Liberal members of the committee is to ensure that the bill allows aboriginal status identification to be deemed acceptable proof for voting purposes. Government officials have clarified that the text of the bill requires government issued photo ID with an address or government issued photo ID without an address. This would include band status cards but they would need to be accompanied by a letter from the band council or something, such as a phone bill, that would have the person's number, name and address to corroborate the claim that he or she was indeed eligible to vote in a specific riding.
My riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country is home to a large aboriginal population. It is unfortunate that the turnout in polls in the first nations community in my riding is well below the average for the riding as a whole. As parliamentarians, we must work to improve their participation and it would be irresponsible to put an unjustified obstacle in their way. First nations members should be able to use their aboriginal identification to vote, full stop.
On this side of the House, the Liberal Party supports changes to the Canada Elections Act to protect against the likelihood of voter fraud and misrepresentation. We need to ensure that aboriginal photo identification is an acceptable form of voter identification. We also support strengthening the enumeration process, particularly on reserve communities and other areas of low voter enumeration.
A photo identification is essential because on election day it would allow the volunteers and the workers at Election Canada to facilitate Canadians who have the right to vote and ensure no mistakes or voter fraud are involved in what we know is an outstanding electoral system. We need adequate safeguards to ensure that eligible Canadians are able to vote, to prevent fraud and to ensure that no one is impeded in his or her ability to vote.
The bill achieves these aims and ensures the integrity of the Canadian electoral process.
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