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View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 13:46 [p.18533]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege. It is indeed the same question of privilege my colleague from Avalon raised in the House on June 5 related to the rights of certain members to sit and vote in the House while in violation of certain provisions of the Canada Elections Act.
I would first state that I agree unequivocally with the arguments put forward by both my colleague from Avalon and my colleague the member for Winnipeg North.
Second, I understand that you, Mr. Speaker, have had a chance to consider all of the arguments with respect to this question of privilege and that you may be prepared to rule on that question of privilege.
I am rising is to tell you and my colleagues that I think it is important for the House to understand that our colleague from Avalon is not in Ottawa today, because he had the happy news this morning, at 9:55 a.m., of the birth of his second son Isaac Andrews.
I am glad that colleagues join me in congratulating our colleague from Avalon and his wife Susan on the birth of Isaac. Therefore, they will understand that he is in St. John's today and is not available to hear your ruling on this matter.
For this reason, I rise today, in essence, to resubmit the question of privilege raised by my colleague on June 5. I will spare you, Mr. Speaker, and the House the pleasure of hearing those arguments again. I would ask that you rule on the matter today if you are prepared to do so. If you are prepared to rule on the matter, Mr. Speaker, and you do find a prima facie breach of privilege, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 14:23 [p.18540]
Mr. Speaker, Saulie Zajdel, a former Conservative candidate and employee, has been arrested for corruption that was allegedly committed prior to the 2011 election.
A security check should have identified Mr. Zajdel as a potential risk. However, the Conservatives decided to give him a job paid by Canadian taxpayers.
Why did the minister hire someone with such a dubious past as that of Mr. Zajdel, at taxpayers' expense?
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 14:24 [p.18540]
Mr. Speaker, the culture of corruption is so deep in the Prime Minister's Office that now two of his ex-chiefs of staff are facing RCMP investigations with respect to potential criminal behaviour involving legislators and other government officials.
The question must be asked: What does the Prime Minister ask his chiefs of staff to do that ends them in a police investigation and facing possible jail time?
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 14:26 [p.18540]
Mr. Speaker, Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy, Saulie Zajdel, Bruce Carson, Arthur Porter: the Prime Minister clearly likes to surround himself with men of conviction. In Bruce Carson's case, I think he has five.
When did the Prime Minister decide that to work for him, one must either have a criminal record or be willing to obtain one?
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2013-06-18 14:47 [p.18544]
gmailMr. Speaker, the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner is probing the Conservatives' mismanagement of the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation.
Chief executive officer John Lynn is under investigation for hiring four employees with ties to the Minister of National Defence and the Conservative Party.
The bilingualism requirement was removed and the positions were not even posted. Why is the Minister of Defence using the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation to find jobs for his friends?
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 15:39 [p.18553]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking you for having studied this important issue. It is clear that you looked closely at any precedents as well as House procedure, and we thank you for your careful consideration of this question.
I think all members will acknowledge, and the Speaker's ruling makes it clear, that this is not an easy situation, and it is one for which not many precedents exist. I think a great deal of merit has been given to the question of privilege raised by my colleague, the member for Avalon.
Mr. Speaker, you have obviously given a great deal of attention to the interventions of other colleagues on this question of privilege, and for that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you profoundly.
The issue has been and continues to be, from our perspective, the issue of members of Parliament having earned the right to take their seats in this House. Those of us who are privileged enough to represent our constituents in this great democratic assembly also have the obligation to arrive in this place having followed every single section, every principle and every precedent of the Canada Elections Act and the various court cases over the years that have interpreted the application of Canada's electoral legislation.
This is a relatively simple concept. Every voter has the right to vote in a fair election. The person who wins the most votes wins the privilege of representing their constituents in the House of Commons.
However, the election itself still needs to be fair, fair to all of the parties and all of the candidates who are running. When a candidate chooses to flout election rules, the vote is, by definition, unfair. Democracy pays the price.
As I stated earlier, I think, and I agree with the Speaker, that the procedure and House affairs committee of the House of Commons is the place for members to properly understand the application of the Canada Elections Act and also the rights and privileges of members of this House to sit, debate and vote with colleagues who arrive here having followed all of the prescriptions of the Canada Elections Act.
I think it would be instructive, as we begin a debate on this very important matter, for my colleagues to be reminded of subsection 463(2) of the Canada Elections Act, which my colleague from Avalon raised, which says:
An elected candidate who fails to provide a document as required by section 451 or 455 or fails to make a correction as requested under subsection 457(2) or authorized by 458(1) shall not continue to sit or vote as a member until they are provided or made, as the case may be.
I would draw attention to the words “shall not”. The legislation, from our perspective, is unambiguous. It is prescriptive. It does not say “may not”. It does not say “might not”. It says “shall not”.
That is why, Mr. Speaker, you were in the difficult position of having to reconcile that section of our election legislation with other sections that provide, for other offences or other non-compliance measures, an opportunity to seek a judicial review before the appropriate court of competent jurisdiction.
That is why we will continue to ask—and we will repeat our demands—that any member who does not comply with the law be stripped of the right to vote and sit in the House.
If, after the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has looked into the matter, the House concludes that in a specific case the member should have the right to sit in the House, the House of Commons has that power and privilege.
However, for the moment, the House has not ruled on this matter. That is why we continue to have serious concerns about the member's right to sit and vote in the House after having received an official letter from the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the section cited.
The statute passed by the House, the Canada Elections Act, is very clear. It says that members who are not compliant with the act shall not sit and vote. This is the case, as we now know, with respect to at least one member of the Conservative Party, the member for Selkirk—Interlake.
If the House, in its wisdom, chooses to stay this proceeding, having been informed by the Speaker, as you have just done, of the receipt of this communication, and it allows colleagues to continue to sit and vote, that is properly a privilege and right of the House. However, as we stand here today, we are in the absence of that opinion from the House.
Whether the law was well drafted, desirable for some Conservative MPs, pleasant, agreeable or nice, it is very clear: those members for whom an official communication has been received by the Speaker shall not sit or vote.
Once the procedure and House affairs committee, I hope at an early opportunity, is seized of this matter following your ruling, and I hope, following a vote in the House, it is our intention to continue the argument that in the absence of a decision by the House to the contrary, the legitimacy of these members is unquestioned. That comes directly from statutory authority, in the Canada Elections Act.
To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for your ruling. I believe that you have taken the time to reflect. You spoke about the difficult situation that you find yourself in because this is setting a precedent.
I do not disagree. Obviously, I would not disagree with the Speaker. I do not disagree in terms of the procedure and House affairs committee's role in this. However, I would ask colleagues, and we will ask our colleagues on the committee, to reflect on this question: In the absence of a decision by the House, as you correctly noted in your ruling, Mr. Speaker, how legitimate is it for members to sit and vote in the House when they have been subject to a communication under that section of the Elections Act, which is prescriptive?
If the House wants to change the elections legislation and that section of the Canada Elections Act, there is a procedure to amend that statute. We are obviously waiting. The government has talked often about making amendments to the Canada Elections Act. It does not seem to be in a big hurry to do so, although it has perhaps briefed the Conservative caucus, in its horror, on allegedly toughening up the elections legislation. It has since run for cover.
If Parliament wants to amend the act, that is a separate issue from the application of the current legislation to members who were elected in the general election of 2011. That should properly be the subject of the discussion in the House this afternoon.
I hope that my colleagues on the procedure and House affairs committee will act forthwith to rectify what is an untenable situation for the members themselves, who are subject to this communication, for the Chair himself, who received this communication, and for members of the House, who we believe have not had their privileges respected because of the continued presence of members who have not complied with the Canada Elections Act.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 15:52 [p.18555]
Mr. Speaker, the question and comment of my colleague from Toronto—Danforth reminded me of his rather loquacious intervention that he made with respect to this question of privilege. He raises the nub of the issue from our perspective.
My colleague from Scarborough, in a conversation, said that perhaps we were looking for some sort of interim relief, some sort of temporary relief pending either, ultimately, the disposition by the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba or a decision of the House with respect to whether the member for Selkirk—Interlake should continue to sit and vote. From our perspective, the prudent thing would be for the member not to sit and vote, because as I said, the legislation is prescriptive. It does not say “may” or ”might”, it says “shall”. We think the legislation is very clear.
In the absence of either a court decision that the House chooses to enforce or a decision of the House itself, the member for Selkirk—Interlake should not be sitting or voting during proceedings of the House.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 15:54 [p.18555]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Ottawa—Vanier because he has asked the same question that gave us pause when my colleague from Avalon rose earlier. We are faced with an untenable situation. A number of members—or in this case, at least one member—is the subject of a letter that was sent to you, Mr. Speaker. We do not believe that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs should take the summer to reflect and make a decision regarding this issue, and then report to the House of Commons.
As far as the member for Selkirk-Interlake is concerned—and I can certainly put myself in his shoes—it is a displeasing and untenable situation for him to be in, too. I am sure that he hopes that the House will make a decision as quickly as possible in regards to this matter.
In your decision, you invited the committee to consider another procedure and clarify the rules of the House. Obviously, that is an important process, but perhaps it is not as important as immediately deciding the status of a member of Parliament who is the subject of a letter addressed to you.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-18 15:57 [p.18556]
Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, the House leader of the official opposition, on the two essential points he made.
This is a pattern of difficulty complying with elections legislation. We could go back to the in-and-out scandal where the Conservative Party ended up pleading guilty to a serious election offence. There is a long list, a direct line from these offences to the current situation in which some members find themselves. I share his view that it is a pattern of disrespect for election legislation.
I also share his view that the House should take the time to pronounce itself and to consider this matter thoroughly and completely. These issues have precedence over other matters before the House. I hope we can hear from colleagues on all sides of the House.
It would certainly be our intention to participate in what I hope is a full and substantive debate, starting this afternoon, on this matter. Once the House votes, ultimately, and once the debate is finished and no member rises to speak, then the procedure and House affairs committee can consider its work. However, until that time, we are looking forward to hearing interventions from many members.
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2013-06-18 16:49 [p.18558]
Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I remember Brian Mulroney not paying his taxes on $250,000, and he was the Prime Minister of this country.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, some of the comments that have been made would lead the public to believe the system has been radically changed because all of a sudden there has been a high-risk designation. The member previous asked a question about the timeliness of this and the failure to bring this through quickly resulting in greater victimization, greater harm to victims who had to go through a yearly process every year.
Could the minister comment on the fact that bringing this forth will somehow take away the victimization of victims having to go annually each year to hear the evidence again and relive the trauma of what has caused the death of loved ones. Would the minister agree with me that there is a compulsion to treat not only the victims by permitting them to heal by giving a longer period before the review of NCR individuals and also the treatment of the NCR period when it is found reasonably necessary to treat them for a longer period and lengthening the period of time before they are reviewed?
My point is that there is treatment not only for the victims who are permitted a cure and a longer period of time before the review and also a substantial period of treatment for a longer period of those who are found on the balance of probability need a longer period of treatment before they are reintegrated. The key is not being thrown away. We are giving them treatment. Would you agree with that, minister?
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of private member's Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons). I would like to thank the member for Ahuntsic for introducing this important piece of legislation.
The purpose of Bill C-452 is essentially to step up the criminal justice system's response to human trafficking, one of the most odious violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.
It is generally acknowledged that trafficking in persons occurs in three stages: the recruitment, transportation and accommodation of a person for a specific purpose; exploitation, usually sexual exploitation; and forced labour. The existence of one of these factors is enough for a person's conduct to constitute the crime of trafficking in persons. A person who recruits a victim for the purpose of exploiting that person is engaged in human trafficking to the same degree as someone who transports or houses a victim for that purpose.
Traffickers force victims to work or provide services in circumstances in which they believe that any refusal on their part would threaten their safety or that of a person they know. The expression “labour or a service” includes, for example, all types of sexual services, domestic services, agricultural work and factory work.
Victims suffer physical, sexual and psychological violence and face threats of violence against family members, including violence or threats of physical violence that may be carried out.
A crime this serious requires that more rigorous measures be taken in criminal law. My colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, has introduced two bills to combat these reprehensible crimes. We must all stand up and help the victims of human trafficking.
I see that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights made amendments to this bill. I believe my colleague who introduced the bill is of the view that those amendments contribute to the bill's main objectives, particularly those of making offenders accountable for their acts, providing for penalties that reflect the seriousness of the crime and ensuring that offenders do not reap the benefits of their unlawful acts.
Before commenting on the specific proposals contained in the bill and explaining why I believe they deserve to be supported, I would like to put them in context. This bill would make it possible to expand the exhaustive framework of statutory provisions against trafficking in persons.
In 2005, three specific human trafficking offences were added to the Criminal Code. In 2010, a new offence of trafficking in children was adopted when Bill C-268 sponsored by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul was enacted. An offender convicted of that offence is liable to mandatory minimum penalties when trafficking victims are under 18 years of age.
In 2012, another bill sponsored by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul granted extraterritorial jurisdiction over all Criminal Code trafficking offences and created a tool to assist the courts in interpreting the human trafficking provisions.
In addition, section 118 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prohibits transnational trafficking in persons, and many acts related to trafficking in persons, such as forcible confinement, kidnapping, sexual assault and uttering threats, to cite only a few examples, are offences under the Criminal Code.
However, it is possible to do more. Bill C-452 provides, first of all, for the creation of an evidentiary presumption that would help prosecutors establish that trafficking in persons has been committed. We know that victims are vulnerable and that they fear their traffickers. That means that they may well be reluctant to testify, and we understand that.
The presumption would allow prosecutors to establish the commission of the offence of trafficking in persons by submitting evidence that an accused lives with or is habitually in the company of a person who is exploited.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights amended this proposal to make it compatible with other similar presumptions currently set out in the Criminal Code, particularly subsection 212(3), which establishes a presumption for the purposes of procuring provisions, namely paragraph 212(1)(j), and subsections 212(2) and 212(2.1).
Prosecutors also find it difficult to establish that the offence was committed because victims in these situations are often too afraid of their pimps to testify against them.
In 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutional validity of this presumption in R. v. Downey. The final submissions of the majority are significant and directly relevant to trafficking in persons:
Prostitutes are a particularly vulnerable segment of society. The cruel abuse they suffer inflicted by their parasitic pimps has been well documented. The impugned section is aimed not only at remedying a social problem but also at providing some measure of protection for the prostitute by eliminating the necessity of testifying.
Surely the same considerations apply to the victims of human trafficking.
Bill C-452 also provides that a sentence handed down for an offence involving trafficking in persons shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for another offence arising out of the same event or series of events. Establishing mandatory consecutive sentencing sends a clear message: committing an offence leads to a long prison term. Is this not a message we want to send to the perpetrators of human trafficking offences? There are few crimes that deserve such lengthy sentences. I applaud this proposal.
Bill C-452 would also require an offender to prove that his property does not constitute proceeds of crime for the purposes of the Criminal Code forfeiture provisions. Trafficking in persons necessarily involves profiting from the suffering of others. In fact, global revenues generated by this crime are estimated at some $10 U.S. billion a year. That is unacceptable.
Trafficking in persons is thus one of the three most lucrative organized crime activities. We must ensure that traffickers are not allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains. It is essential that we strip them of the monetary benefits they derive from the exploitation of others so that the public can trust in the justice system's ability to hold offenders accountable for their actions and to bring them to justice. Justice is not served if an offender is allowed to profit from the suffering he inflicts on others.
The provisions of Bill C-452 contribute to the existing legislative framework to fight this crime, supplemented by a multi-pronged response to a complex problem.
I am particularly pleased to note that, on June 6, 2012, the government introduced the national action plan to combat human trafficking, which acknowledges that an exhaustive approach must be taken to consolidate efforts to fight this crime by emphasizing the four Ps: the protection of victims, the prosecution of offenders, partnerships with key stakeholders and, of course, the prevention of trafficking in persons.
All activities are coordinated by the working group on trafficking in persons, which is managed by Public Safety Canada. This shows that Canada is currently taking a strong approach to human trafficking. However, that does not mean that we cannot do more. We must be vigilant and do everything in our power to ensure that our approach is as rigorous as possible, which inevitably presupposes ongoing analysis to determine what else we can do.
Bill C-452 is precisely an example of what else we can do. We can support Bill C-452, which would assist in securing convictions, guaranteeing penalties that are proportionate to the severity of the crime and depriving offenders of their ill-gotten gains.
I believe that all members of the House should join me in supporting this bill.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate in support of Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act.
The bill would ensure the mental disorder regime under part XX.1 of the Criminal Code, which deals with persons found not criminally responsible, NCR, for their actions, would be mindful and responsive of the needs of victims. In my view, Bill C-54 would indeed reflect the voices of victims from across the country.
During the review of the bill, the Standing Committee for Justice and Human Rights received important submissions from several victims. In my remarks, I will be reviewing and reflecting on these submissions.
While the committee hearings demonstrated that victims had diverse perspectives about the NCR regime and even Bill C-54 itself, it was equally clear that the bill would address key concerns of victims and would include public safety, victim participation and the overall confidence and the administration of justice, while also respecting the rights of NCR accused.
On June 3, the justice committee heard from two victims who had lost loved ones due to tragic circumstances involving an NCR accused. These two brave women travelled to Ottawa to share their stories with the committee. They had experienced first hand the current way in which victims were dealt with following an NCR verdict and agreed that changes were necessary for the system.
One explained how members of the family had an encounter with the NRC accused who was involved in their case while out shopping in the community. She explained how this encounter had impacted her family and how the provisions of Bill C-54, with regard to the involvement and notification of victims, would go a long way in helping the victims.
Needless to say, she supported Bill C-54.
One of the core victim protections contained in the bill, the availability of no-contact orders, would help ensure that families like hers would have increased confidence in their safety as NCR accused were reintegrated into the community. No-contact orders, as proposed in clause 10 of the bill, can be imposed by either a court or a review board if it is desirable in the interests of security or safety of persons including victims.
These orders would prohibit an NCR accused from communicating directly, or indirectly, with victims or from going to specific places in the order, such as within the vicinity of the victim's residence. This is a targeted and important measure that should be supported.
The second victim who appeared at committee also expressed support for Bill C-54. She was very concerned that victims simply did not have enough information provided to them about the NCR accused, especially if the accused was released from secure custody.
In addition, she highlighted the importance of protecting the safety of the public through the NCR regime. She noted that while it was true that NCR accused were not criminals, in some cases, NCR accused did commit violent acts. There needs to be adequate safeguards in place to ensure that victims like her and her family, as well as the general public, are protected from such persons.
The availability of the “high-risk” designation in Bill C-54 would respond to this concern. Clause 12 of the bill proposes that where the court is satisfied there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will use violence that can endanger the life or safety of another person or where the court is of the opinion that the act constitutes the offence of such brutal nature as to indicate the risk of grave physical or psychological harm to another person, the court may designate an NCR accused as high risk.
The designation would increase the safeguards on that person to both ensure protection of the public safety and to ensure that the person would obtain the treatment that he or she would require to no longer present a threat to society. If treatment were successful and the risk was no longer present, Bill C-54 would require that designation be removed.
This provision is an appropriate response to address the concerns of these victims and will help ensure that the small number of NCR accused who pose such a high risk to the public safety will be subject to the appropriate and necessary restrictions on his or her liberty in order to protect the public.
I believe Bill C-54 maintains the crucial distinction between persons who are morally culpable for their conduct and found guilty and persons found NCR whose illness at the time of the offence rendered them incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of their actions or of knowing what they were doing was wrong.
The government also acknowledges that while providing mental health services generally falls within provincial and not federal jurisdiction, the government has taken concrete measures in this area. For example, it has increased transfer payments to these levels of government, through the Canada health and social transfer, and also has supported the creation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada to help combat the stigma of mental illness.
At its June 10 meeting, the justice committee had the opportunity to hear from more victims. One victim, speaking on behalf of her cousin, shared the heartbreaking story of her family's loss. No doubt, it was very difficult for her to make this presentation and one that was difficult for committee members to listen to.
But her insights were invaluable. She emphasized that the current process of annual review hearings of an NCR accused disposition has had the effect of re-victimizing her family. In particular, the annual review hearing process for assessing the disposition of an NCR accused, at least in serious cases such as her family's where the underlying act was the killing of three children, has made it more difficult to heal. Every time her cousin, the mother of those children, begins to make some progress a yearly review comes up. In her particular case, the month of review is also the anniversary of the tragedy. This particular example illustrates why Bill C-54's victim-related reforms to the NCR regime in the Criminal Code are necessary.
Clause 15 of Bill C-54 aims to address the concern raised by this victim by empowering review boards to extend the time for holding a hearing in respect of a high-risk NCR accused to up to 36 months if the review board is satisfied that the person's condition is not likely to improve and the detention remains necessary for that time period.
This longer review period may also be imposed with the consent of all parties, including the NCR accused. This measure respects the rights of the NCR accused as it would continue to be based on an individualized assessment of treatment, progress and circumstances. However, it would also allow, in appropriate cases, for review periods to better align with realistic medical expectations regarding a particular NCR accused and in so doing, reduces the burden on victims.
This proposal would also respond to the concerns of the final victim who appeared before justice committee on June 10. He described his frustrations with the NCR progress. Bill C-54 would increase the flexibility and discretion for review boards in determining the appropriate review period for high-risk accused. This should help put victims at greater ease that painful hearings would be held at sufficient intervals to ensure that they are meaningful and enough time has elapsed to ensure how a high-risk accused has responded to treatment received in forensic care.
Also on June 10 the committee was able to hear from a victim via teleconference. This victim explained how his brother and his brother's spouse were killed by a person who was later found to be NCR. The victim explained how after the incident he was not informed of key information about the process and the disposition of the NCR accused. This lack of information added to his feeling of powerlessness and victimization.
While every victim is different and not all want to be involved in subsequent proceedings, for this person it was very important to his healing that he be afforded the chance to learn about and participate in the process. He also expressed how not knowing when the NCR accused was released caused his family, and particularly his parents, to feel unsafe. As I mentioned earlier in my remarks, the no-contact provision proposed by Bill C-54 would help families such as these victims to feel safer.
More than that though, Bill C-54 would also enhance the quality of the information provided to victims and ensure that they would be able to properly observe and participate in proceedings following an NCR verdict. For example, Bill C-54 would make it mandatory for courts and review boards to inform victims of their right to make a victim impact statement before an initial disposition is made or if a high-risk NCR accused designation is referred to a court for review.
Bill C-54 would also require, at the victim's request, that victims receive a notice of discharge from the review board if the NCR accused receives an absolute or conditional discharge.
By strengthening the information and participation rights of victims, Bill C-54 would go a long way toward addressing the concerns that were raised at the justice and human rights committee.
Also on June 10, a further victim addressed justice committee and shared with members the devastation caused to her family by the death of her stepfather after he was killed by a person found NCR. She expressed unqualified support for Bill C-54. In her view, public safety has to be more clearly set out as a central value in the legislation that deals with NCR accused. She expressed concern and fear for her family and the families of others in the future, particularly if the NCR accused involved in her matter were allowed to be released on unescorted passes into the community. For this victim, public safety must be the paramount consideration in the mental disorder regime.
To respond to concerns of Canadians like the victims I just referred to, Bill C-54 would clarify that public safety is the paramount consideration in determining the appropriate disposition for an NCR accused.
In addition, Bill C-54 would help make the law more accessible and easier to apply. It would introduce the phrase “necessary and appropriate” to describe the permissible restrictions on an NCR accused that may be imposed in order to protect the public safety. This proposal would maintain the existing test provided by the Supreme Court of Canada, but would simplify its articulation and thereby more clearly signal to all Canadians, including victims, that in carrying out their work, review boards must give due consideration to public safety and security.
Also, Bill C-54 would explicitly specify that when review boards assess whether a given NCR accused is a significant threat to the safety of the public that they are to consider any risk posed by that person of serious physical or psychological harm to victims, witnesses and persons under the age of 18, as well as other members of the general public. This proposal speaks directly to the concern we have heard from several victims. Bill C-54 would thus increase confidence in the NCR regime and in the administration of justice more generally.
In addition to individual victims, on June 10, the committee also had the opportunity to hear from l’Association des Familles de Personnes Assassinées ou Disparues, which in English is the Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared. It is referred to as AFPAD. It is a victims organization that since 2004 has advocated for families who have survived horrible tragedies. AFPAD supports Bill C-54. It noted that while primary prevention is important in cases involving persons found NCR, secondary prevention must also be meaningfully addressed. Secondary prevention, in this context, means taking reasonable steps to ensure that a person who has been found NCR is not able to commit another serious crime. Bill C-54 would ensure that NCR accused receive the care they require so their illness no longer renders them a threat to society.
I have also addressed several aspects of the bill that would respond to AFPAD and to other concerned victims in this regard. Let me also point out that Bill C-54 maintains important judicial oversight. For example, the proposed high-risk designation can only be imposed by a court and can only be removed by a court acting on the recommendation of a review board. This is important because such judicial oversight would ensure that a high-risk designation is only used in appropriate circumstances, which makes it a proportional and reasonable measure. In addition, Bill C-54 would also empower judges who are experienced in assessing competing rights and interests to carefully balance the liberty of the high-risk NCR accused against the need for public safety. While the review board's recommendation would likely carry a lot of weight in hearings to change or remove a high-risk designation, Bill C-54's proposed scheme of allowing for additional judicial scrutiny of these designations would help preserve the public interest and confidence in the NCR regime overall. Victims and Canadians would demand no less of important decisions that can have severe impacts on public safety and the liberty of the NCR accused.
On June 12, the final day of the justice committee hearings on this bill, members had the opportunity to hear from more courageous victims who stepped forward to share their stories with us. One victim mentioned his experience with review board hearings. He noted that he has had no standing at all at these hearings and that the crown attorney has even been lectured to by the review board for raising the issue of victim safety. Bill C-54's proposed new guidance to review boards, which I referred to earlier in my remarks on the need to take victim safety into specific consideration, would arguably help change the culture of the review boards so they are more receptive to this evidence in future.
That individual also supported the high-risk designation in Bill C-54 overall, noting that each NCR case is unique and that the law must contain the necessary tools to allow review boards and courts to tailor their responses to meet the needs of diverse situations. By adding new tools like the high-risk designation into the mental disorder part of the Criminal Code, Bill C-54 would respond to these concerns.
On June 12, the committee also heard from another victim who raised the common concern that under existing law her participation rights were severely limited. The victim noted that, even though it is very painful reading and presenting victim impact statements, it is critical because it ensures that a victim's voice and perspective are not forgotten by review boards. Without these perspectives, review boards may not make the most appropriate decision in the circumstances, and public confidence in the whole NOR regime could suffer. I mentioned earlier that, if Bill C-54 is enacted, victims would have increased rights to give victim impact statements and to ensure that interests would be taken into account by review boards. This government is listening to victims.
In addition to hearing from victims, on June 12 the justice committee also heard from victims' advocates from such groups the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, which this government established in 2007 to ensure that victims of crime had a voice at the federal level. The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime was also represented. Both of these groups supported Bill C-54. The ombudsman's office representative acknowledged that Bill C-54 reflected victims' concerns regarding their safety as well as a desire for increased notification and participation. Bill C-54 would provide review boards and courts with new tools to make public safety the paramount consideration.
While no individual bill can completely solve all the challenges faced by the courts, review boards, experts and victims, it could make the needed improvements to properly balance public safety and the liberties of the NCR accused. In my view, Bill C-54 would do just that.
At the justice committee, we had the privilege of hearing diverse perspectives from victims and their advocates. These individuals did not come to Parliament to seek the spotlight, and even appearing before the committee in such a public forum would have necessarily involved a degree of hardship. Rather, the witnesses appeared to share their stories to help us as lawmakers to produce a better NCR system for Canadians. I cannot overemphasize how the experiences of these persons plays a valuable role in forming our debates and decisions of this House. By carefully listening to victims, the government has crafted a bill that would be constitutionally sound and would not detract from the rights of the NCR accused, and yet also would manage to improve victim notification, involvement and protection in the context of the NCR regime. This is a worthwhile initiative that deserves the support of this House.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the designation of “high risk” could impose a period where there would be no review for up to three years. Under the current system it is reviewed annually. However, when the “high risk” designation is put into place, first the Crown bears the burden of proving that such a designation should be put in place, in other words that the person is an additional risk to society, and we know that the number of people who would probably fit into this category is very few and far between.
However, what is assessed is also how much time it would take for the person to be treated. Medical and psychological evidence are considered in determining the length of time it would take to treat the person. If it is longer than one year, it could be up to three years. Forensic treatment is put into place to treat the person and reassessed if he or she can be reintegrated into society. It would be discretionary and based on hard evidence of experts.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and for his fine work on the justice and human rights committee.
It is perhaps no surprise that I do not find the argument holds weight. Let us face it. These are practising lawyers, usually with a degree of specialization when they take these cases on. I cannot see that ethically they would have a client who was suffering from a mental disorder that would qualify them as being not criminally responsible and they would try to put them into the regular criminal system where they would get less treatment.
I believe that the law society members are highly ethical and that this is a tactic that, quite frankly, would not be used. If so, it would definitely be reprehensible.
We cannot forget that whether the period is one year or three years, during that period before which we would review the reintegration, treatment is ongoing. These people are not thrown into a cell and the key is thrown away. Treatment is ongoing. It is a balance of treatment and reintegration versus the protection of the public.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the notion of brutality referred to by the member has been defined by the Supreme Court, and several cases have been interpreted based on that definition.
I would also like to point out that when a request is made to designate someone high risk, the decision-makers take more than just the brutal nature of the offence into consideration; they consider all relevant factors, including medical evidence and the circumstances surrounding the offence.
There is more than just a single, isolated factor at play, such as the fact that the individual committed a very brutal crime, as defined by the Supreme Court. All of the circumstances surrounding the individual and whether that individual can reintegrate into society without posing a risk to public safety must be taken into account.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, of course there is a balance when it comes to the treatment aspect.
When the period of time is determined for the review, whether it be one year, two years or three years, the main test is determining what length or period of time is going to be necessary for the treatment. If one year is sufficient, then that will suffice. However, to go beyond the two years, which is also provided for, and the three years in this case, there absolutely has to be evidence that the longer treatment will be needed.
When there is a need for longer treatment, there are provisions that these people cannot go into the community unescorted, and when they go into the community escorted, it will be for necessary and obligatory medical or mental health treatment so that they can be reintegrated.
Again, the key is not thrown away and these people locked up. They will not be able to go into the community unescorted because the paramount consideration is public safety. However, they will go, escorted, to necessary medical treatment.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-17 14:05 [p.18420]
Mr. Speaker, recently a very special event was held in my riding called the Turnaround achievement awards. Started a number of years ago, this event pays tribute to students at the elementary, middle and secondary school levels who have turned their educational experience and their lives around.
Listening to the individual stories as told by the teachers took the people in the attendance on a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from humour to tears.
A quote from Michael Jordan typifies what this event is all about: “If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it”.
In every case, these young people tackled their obstacles and turned their lives around. They took personal responsibility and learned valuable skills that will benefit them for years to come. The next time they face adversity, they will not sit on the sidelines. They will get back in the game.
Special thanks to John and Betty Lou Craig of Craig Manufacturing for taking on the sponsorship of this event. Thanks to the teachers who have made a difference in these young people's lives. Congratulations to all the students, including grade 12 students Brandon Sharpe and Dallas Greer, who will be graduating this week. I wish them the best of luck as they pursue their post-secondary education and careers in the workforce.
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2013-06-17 14:51 [p.18428]
Mr. Speaker, with Bill C-377, the Conservatives are going after unions the same way the IRS went after the Tea Party in the United States. The Canada Revenue Agency is trying to squeeze $72 million out of unions.
The Minister of National Revenue continues to claim that she has not put a figure to the penalties, but an internal document from her agency proves the opposite. Why?
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2013-06-13 10:51 [p.18273]
Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, why do we go through elections? Why do we have a Parliament, and why is it that the Conservatives decide how many members will speak on a bill? Why is it that the Conservatives get to decide that 10 is enough?
We belong to a party. The citizens know which party we belong to. They have sent us here to be able to debate and vote on bills.
Well, for the NDP, 10 is not enough. I am sorry, but it is none of his business. It is the business of the member who is elected by the citizens to speak here on their behalf. Who are they to take away my right to speak on a bill? That is the problem. They have used time allocation 48 times to take our democratic rights away to get up in the House and argue on a bill that we want and that we have been elected to speak on.
That is the problem with the Conservative government. They should be ashamed of themselves.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the hon. member should pay close attention to what is happening in his home. Northerners have asked for greater access to healthy foods at lower cost and we have responded to their request. The results are clear: the program is working. As a result of the nutrition north program, they now have access to high-quality nutritious foods at a lower cost. I saw the results of the advisory committee just last week. It was again reporting lower costs for northerners and—
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, what northerners are calling for is improved access to inexpensive, healthy foods. That is the point of the program.
Northerners have no appetite for the NDP's carbon tax, which will increase the cost of their food.
View Tilly O'Neill Gordon Profile
CPC (NB)
View Tilly O'Neill Gordon Profile
2013-06-12 15:59 [p.18187]
Mr. Speaker, I stand in the House to present these petitions from Canada Post workers in the Miramichi area concerning postal services.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-12 19:29 [p.18214]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Halifax West for his comments on the bill. It is a very important bill, and he brought up some of the very good things in it with respect to the trafficking of goods and the pirating of goods.
One of the things he commented on was the compensation for goods that have been seized, or the storage or destruction of those goods. In the context of the government being open to amendments, proposed section 44.07 of the bill does talk significantly about the cost. The licence holder is the person who is responsible for the costs, and they are able to be compensated, for example, if a court action deems they were not seized legitimately.
I am wondering what he sees might be missing in the compensation of costs that is not in proposed section 44.07 now?
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-12 21:55 [p.18233]
Mr. Speaker, one of the statistics that we have been talking about is the value of this globally. I have sometimes seen a figure of $250 billion for counterfeit goods. I have also seen estimates of somewhere between $300 billion to $400 billion a year of counterfeit goods and of that 10% to 20% relates to organized crime.
Could the member comment on how a bill like this helps us identify issues like that and get at some of the organized crime elements behind counterfeit goods?
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-12 22:29 [p.18237]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He brought out some very good points on the bill.
The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism recently commented that there has been a net increase in the border guards since 2006, and I have seen that. I have nine stations in my riding on the Maine border of New Brunswick, and I know the challenges. There has been a lot of hiring in the past number of years.
Would the member acknowledge that part of the existing role that these border officers have is to seize and hold goods? They do that from a commercial standpoint on most days as well.
Also, could he reflect on the new systems, like eManifest and others? With technology, we can use our resources more efficiently. However, just because this might be a new role, it does not necessarily translate that we would need new resources.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-12 23:02 [p.18242]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his comments. It was a very good discussion, and I value very much the experience he brought to the debate tonight.
There has been some discussion about the Canada Border Services Agency's ability to handle this type of thing. I wonder if he might comment. As he would know, in the bill the request for assistance by the copyright owner would be received by CBSA, which would then do a seizure, as it is used to doing today with any commercial good at the border, and then it would be the responsibility of the copyright owner to address the issue after samples were received from CBSA.
On that point, it is not quite like the U.S. regime, in which there is a lot of training, but could he comment about how that process mitigates a bit of the risk for CBSA?
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-13 0:00 [p.18249]
Mr. Speaker, it is great to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-56. I want to thank my colleagues from Durham, Vancouver South, York Centre, Kitchener—Waterloo and Don Valley West who also commented on the bill.
I will agree with my colleagues from the NDP that this has been a very good debate tonight. It is an interesting debate on an interesting bill. Even though I do not serve on the industry committee, it has been—
An hon. member: You want to now.
Mr. Mike Allen: Yes, I might want to go to the industry committee now.
However, it is really an interesting bill. Before I get into some of the details of the bill, when I was in my consulting realm, I always talked about the change imperative for companies and the reasons for bills and why they were so important.
We have had a bit of discussion about counterfeit products and foods. We have discussed a number of things in the House tonight. We have talked about the level of problems with counterfeit worldwide. Some have estimated it at $250 billion and some at $400 billion to $600 billion. A significant percentage, or at least a good percentage of that, is tied to organized crime, which has to be a concern to the House as well as to the citizens of Canada.
I represent one of the largest potato-growing areas in Canada, with two large McCain french fry plants. There is a significant amount of intellectual property that goes into the development of new potato breeds and those types of things. As well, there is a lot of research into foods. McCain Foods does a tremendous amount on its french fries worldwide. All of this is very important intellectual property for these industries.
Innovation is alive and well in many of our industries. Many of those who represent forestry and agricultural ridings know it is the same for them as well.
The proposed combating counterfeit products act is the latest in our government's ongoing efforts to strengthen and modernize Canada's intellectual property laws. It will help confront the realities and challenges presented by large-scale commercial shipments of counterfeit goods. It will also respond to concerns raised by Canadian consumers and job-creating innovators and will provide a made-in-Canada approach to fighting counterfeiting that is compatible with the approaches of our allies.
Counterfeit goods are more pervasive now than ever before. Seizures of counterfeit goods by the RCMP increased fivefold between 2005 and 2012. Not only is counterfeiting increasingly pervasive, it is increasingly dangerous to Canadian consumers and costly to our economy.
Anything can be the target of counterfeiters, from everyday consumer goods to car parts. We have heard about brake parts and hockey jerseys. Earlier today we heard about Canada Goose, face wash, shampoo, batteries for cars, golf clubs and even wine.
This disturbing trend affecting Canadians' health and safety needs to be addressed right away. Over 30% of counterfeiting now involves harmful products, compared to 11% in 2005. Without these robust measures, these products will make their way into our homes and our children's playgrounds.
As was said earlier tonight, a lot of these products are getting harder and harder to identify. Being an avid golfer, I can speak to the fact that somewhere in the area of two million counterfeit golf clubs enter the market every year, as well as wine. It gets harder and harder to pursue these types of things because it is hard to tell the difference between what is counterfeit and what is real.
The government takes counterfeiting very seriously, and this bill would give Canadian rights holders and law enforcement the tools they need to combat this growing problem that exists at the border and domestically and to target those who profit from the commercial trade of counterfeit goods.
Specifically, the bill would give the authority to the border services officers to detain suspected shipments. Border services officers would have the authority to detain suspected counterfeit goods that were imported into Canada or that were exported from Canada on their own initiative.
When I was talking before about some of the golf clubs and wine and how hard it was to even trace some of these things, I looked at the website of a company that now provided the scanning tools to try to identify some of these types of things. It is interesting that it was talking about the wine industry and how it was taking counterfeit product and putting it into original-type bottles to be sold. There were 17,000 bottles which were deemed to be counterfeit. It was estimated that it would take 7,000 hours and $1 million for this to all be assessed.
I know there are many people in the House of Commons who would love to be in on that project and on the committee responsible for assessing these 17,000 bottles of wine. I can think of all kinds of things at midnight that would be interesting to see.
When we talk about the golf club industry, counterfeiting is so pervasive that the industry is actually investing to help the border services officers in the U.S. get the training to identify counterfeit golf clubs. This is because they have a different regime from the one we have in terms of responsibility.
Once the suspected goods are detained, border services officers will have the authority to communicate with the copyright owner or the registered trademark owner to inform them that a suspected shipment has been encountered. This bill would also allow for the creation of a new process, called the “request for assistance”. It would allow the rights holders to seek assistance from border services officers by supplying information about their copyright and registered trademarks. The request for assistance would also facilitate communications between border services officers and rights holders.
The bill would provide rights holders with new tools to protect against counterfeiting and to take civil action against infringers. The new civil causes of action would target manufacturing, distribution and possession with the intent to sell counterfeit goods. Currently, counterfeit goods must be sold or offered for sale before a rights holder can initiate a civil action. With the combatting counterfeit products act, rights holders would be able to initiate a civil trial earlier in the supply chain, before these goods reached the market where they could deceive and harm Canadians' and steal Canadians jobs.
The bill would add new criminal offences to help combat counterfeiting for the purposes of trade. These target the sale of counterfeit goods, as well as manufacturing, importing, exporting and processing counterfeit goods, if they are intended to be sold or distributed on a commercial scale. The bill would also add new offences for exporting and possessing pirated copyright goods. These offences are meant to complement the existing criminal offences in the Copyright Act, such as the sale, rental and importation for sale or rental of copyright-infringing copies.
I really appreciated the comment that was made by my colleague from Durham with respect to his background and experience in this field. He gave us some real context for the House on this debate tonight.
The bill would recognize newer practices, such as applying counterfeit labels just before sale. Sophisticated counterfeiters want to ship goods separately from labels so as to avoid being caught. To deal with this, new offences would target the sale of counterfeit labels or the manufacture, importation, exportation or possession of counterfeit labels for the purposes of trade.
In addition, the bill would introduce minor amendments to the Trade-marks Act, which has not been modified since the 1950s. For example, the bill would remove unnecessary paperwork requirements for businesses during the trademark application process, would modernize the language found in the act and explicitly would allow the registration of non-traditional trademarks, including sounds, scents and holograms. Overall, the bill would improve the Trade-marks Act by aligning the legislation with modern business practices.
The problem of counterfeiting is not just a Canadian problem. It is a global problem in which Canada is one destination among the many for counterfeit goods. As I indicated earlier, there are estimates that the counterfeit market could be $250 billion, but that does not count some of the DVDs and similar items that are pirated as well. That could take it to well over $500 billion.
This bill would provide a domestic response to a global problem. It is a made-in-Canada solution that would ensure our intellectual property enforcement regime would be compatible with global standards. It is a domestic approach that draws on the best practices of peer countries.
Let us take a moment to look at border regimes in some of the other countries, because that is important.
In the EU model, customs authorities have ex officio authority to temporarily detain suspected infringing goods. They cannot take ownership and seize or destroy the goods.
In the EU, rights holders may apply to customs authorities for enforcement of their IP rights at the border. In these cases, it is the rights holders who assume all the costs of the border enforcement process, possible ensuing civil action and the storage and disposal of suspected IPR infringing goods. In return, they will be informed of any resulting border detention.
However, in the EU, when the action of IP rights infringement results in the violation of public laws—for example, criminal fraud or a threat to public safety—the state can also commence criminal investigations and prosecutions, the cost of which is assumed by the government.
In the U.S. model, it is the federal government that is primarily responsible for enforcing IP rights at the border. In particular, the U.S. customs and border protection is responsible for detecting, seizing and disposing of counterfeit and pirated goods found at the U.S. border. If an importer takes issue with the seizure, it is customs and border protection and not the courts that decide the issue, making administrative determinations on the existence and validity of IP rights. Customs and border protection has the authority to impose administrative fines for violations. It also absorbs all the costs of the IP rights enforcement process, ensuing litigation, storage and disposal of goods.
In terms of the overall approach to IPR enforcement, Bill C-56 proposes a made-in-Canada approach, an approach that is appropriate and well-suited to Canada's needs. The bill reflects the fact that the enforcement of intellectual property rights is primary the rights holders responsibility, while acknowledging some role for federal agencies.
For example, to temporarily detain suspected counterfeit goods and inform rights holders and in the area of criminal enforcement, which will be worked out between them and the RCMP, the determination of whether goods are counterfeit is ultimately left to the courts.
The new request for assistance process will allow border services officers to use information provided by rights holders in their request for assistance document in order to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the shipments contain counterfeit goods. If there is a suspicion, the border service officer can detain the shipment and notify the rights holder of a suspected shipment. The rights holder is then given a period of time to decide whether he or she will pursue the matter in civil court.
The RCMP and Health Canada will be given the chance to decide whether the shipment at issue may be a criminal or a health and safety matter respectively.
The detention of suspected goods allows the RCMP or Health Canada to pursue the matter criminally and the rights holder to pursue the matter civilly.
The border services officer does not make a final determination on whether the detained goods are counterfeit. Only a judge in a court has the power to do that. That is a departure from some of the questions that have been asked tonight, because that is the court process. I know I will get some questions on this with respect to the financial aspect of CBSA. That is important for us to know.
Since the tabling of the bill in March, many stakeholders have been in support of the bill. These include the Canadian Intellectual Property Council, the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Electro-Federation Canada, the Entertainment Software Association of Canada and Food & Consumer Products of Canada.
While the bill is supported by a majority of stakeholders, some misconceptions have been heard. I will take the opportunity to address these concerns.
Some have suggested that the bill grants border services officers more power without judicial oversight, in a sense expecting these officers to be copyright and trademark experts. This is simply not true. As I mentioned before, they would have the authority to detain goods based on a reasonable suspicion that the goods were counterfeit. The ultimate authority to determine whether goods are counterfeit can only come from a judge in a court.
Some members may have heard the misconception that the bill was the result of international pressures to change our laws. In fact, the bill was developed in response to repeated calls by Canadian stakeholders, including innovative businesses, which we have talked about tonight, that employ Canadians.
As early as 2006, the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network released a position paper on the need for legal reform in Canada to address intellectual property crime. In 2007, it released another report on counterfeiting and piracy in Canada. It was also in 2007 that two parliamentary committees, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, both heard several stakeholders on this issue.
Since 2009, the Canadian Intellectual Property Council has also released reports asking for legislative changes in the area. More recently, in 2012, the standing committee that this will be referred to also heard from many witnesses about the issue of counterfeiting. Many others have met with or written to government officials with their concerns. Canadian stakeholders have been clear about the economic and health and safety issues associated with counterfeiting. This bill shows that we have listened.
There should be no concerns that Canadians will have luggage and their personal music devices searched for counterfeit goods and pirated copies. I am glad we have consensus on that. With everybody who spoke to that, it is very clear in the bill that this is not an attack on individuals personally for bringing things across the border.
Personal baggage will not be searched for counterfeit or pirated goods upon entering Canada, nor will personal music devices be searched. In fact, Bill C-56 clearly identifies such goods for personal use to be outside the scope of the legislation. The bill would provide the tools to pursue those who aim to profit from commercial counterfeiting activities: those who manufacture, possess, import, export or attempt to export for the purpose of sale and distribution, as well as those who sell or distribute counterfeit on a commercial scale. We are going after the core of the problem, the criminals, often highly organized and sophisticated, who prey upon unsuspecting Canadian customers.
Intellectual property legislation is always about creating a balance between owners and users. Bill C-56 provides a carefully balanced approach to protecting Canadians against the effects of counterfeiters. A strong intellectual property rights regime is central for any knowledge-based economy such as Canada's in order to foster an environment that promotes innovation, attracts new investment and stimulates economic growth.
As the committee moves forward with the bill, our government remains committed to working with Canadian rights holders as well as our international partners in fighting against counterfeiting. The bill will send a clear message to those who aim to profit from counterfeit goods that what they are doing is against Canadian law.
In conclusion, counterfeiting hurts jobs, threatens growth, and it exposes Canadians to health and safety risks. With this bill, our government continues to stand up for the economy, the rights holders and for all Canadian consumers. I thank all my colleagues in the House and all my colleagues from the opposition parties for their willingness to support this at second reading to send it to committee.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-13 0:19 [p.18252]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. It is very complicated and I understand that very well.
I also would like to mention that the department is very committed to ensuring that the CBSA has the tools to ensure it can do this work. We have a bit of a difference of opinion on what it will take to do that.
As my colleagues who spoke before me said, there will be some new tools that this legislation will provide, which will be very important for the folks at the border.
The other thing we need to understand, in my view, is that our border officers, who do tremendous work at our borders, face a lot of challenges, depending upon the safety conditions. However, they also currently have the ability to seize commercials goods and those types of things, which they do every day, at least at the border crossings in my riding and I know in the other folks' ridings as well.
However, what I also think is important for us to really understand is that the department is going to complete the mandate and it is going to take the steps to expedite and improve efficiencies at the border, as well.
However, the copyright owner has a lot to do in this in framing the copyright and what it is. Appealing to the courts through civil action will determine that.
That is where I see the difference with the U.S. The U.S. would to need have significantly more tools because it has the responsibility to determine that copyright when it comes to the border, which is why I used the example of the golf clubs. The actual companies are providing money to the government to train its border services officers because it is important to the industry to do that.
Therefore, there are some things going forward that I think will be good for the committee to discuss. However, I have a difference of opinion as to whether it will take a lot more resources to do that.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-13 0:22 [p.18253]
Mr. Speaker, it is very important to look at these large multinational corporations, especially McCain Foods which has plants all over the world in many different countries and is able to shift production around. When they start shifting this production around, they start introducing new risks to the model of intellectual property as they are working in different countries and different people could get an opportunity to get their hands on their intellectual property.
Therefore, companies like McCain Foods are hugely grateful and that they will be beneficiaries of this. It will be very important for anybody is actually doing research, who holds these patents and copyrights. It will also be very important for business from the standpoint of not eroding its profits in the future, especially when it comes to the food industry.
Another concern I have, and it has not been discussed a lot here tonight, is pirated foods which come in without the safe qualities that we demand of our foods in Canada. In the absence of that, we are setting ourselves up for some very unsafe conditions, and that will be a huge issue.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-13 0:24 [p.18253]
Mr. Speaker, there will be details ironed out in this. However, with the new trademark process, it will make it much easier for companies. The bill would streamline the process for the application of these trademarks and patents, which would make it better for business as well.
The unknown question might be the level of counterfeit that will hit the borders. It is a good question. It is hard to tell what types of shipments and that type of thing will hit the border, what level of information that will be required and how much would CBSA have to do.
Relative to the U.S., Canada is a smaller market, so the U.S. obviously has bigger challenges. Those will be the things that we will have to ensure, that CBSA keeps its commitment that it will put the teeth into the bill and that it will be prepared to carry it through.
View Mike Allen Profile
CPC (NB)
View Mike Allen Profile
2013-06-13 0:26 [p.18253]
Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. As the member would know, and I would be the first to say, the committees are the masters of their own destiny. I can speak to the committees that I am on, and we work fairly well with the opposition in trying to get things done, most of the time.
From my standpoint, the desire for this bill has existed for quite some time. There have been a number of things embedded in it from previous reports and committee reports. They are now in this bill. We have achieved a lot of things. With regard to a number of the questions I have heard tonight from the member for Halifax West and others, questions with respect to the cost, it is already in the bill. Therefore, some of the things that individuals were talking about needing to be amended I do not think need to be amended.
As for the protracted discussion on the costing and the idea that we should put another $140 million back into CBSA, that is not the right answer. It is a matter that CBSA is committed to carrying this out within its existing mandate. I am not going to argue about the numbers, but net there are more border services officers than there were in 2006, and they have more tools. They are using tools like e-manifest and other things for bills of lading and those types of things that go through borders now, which make their process much more efficient. Simply because there are new processes does not mean there must be new money and new people.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2013-06-11 10:05 [p.18053]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in relation to Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendments.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, again, we are moving this motion to expedite a matter that is of great importance and that will bring transformative changes to the way certain first nations choose to carry out their elections.
We all know that the work on this bill started back in 2008 at the request and insistence of first nations. The first nations of the country that conduct elections of their chiefs and councils under the Indian Act have all been engaged and consulted in a major way. As a result, the department and previous ministers have been provided with recommendations, from first nations, upon which this bill has been drafted.
But for this motion, the bill would not be passed, and first nations would suffer the negative consequences of the colonial, paternalistic Indian Act they are under right now.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, it is strange to hear the hon. member compare Canada's parliamentary performance with that of other countries. I encourage the hon. member to think about how other majority governments throughout the world operate. I think she could learn something.
The fact that the government has had to move a 44th time allocation motion is not ridiculous. What is ridiculous is that this shows that, for the 44th time, the opposition party is unable to support a legislative measure proposed by the government. There is something wrong when we cannot rely on our parliamentary system or the discussions that take place in committee to improve bills.
Once the five hours of debate on the bill in question are complete, it will be sent to committee. There, MPs will have ample opportunity to propose amendments.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the bill was introduced in the Senate over 18 months ago. Many witnesses appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and representatives from the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs clearly indicated that they supported the bill in its current form.
The measure was not imposed on anyone. In fact, it is a concessive law that will empower first nations to choose a new election system, which would be developed by first nations.
If the Liberals and NDP want to oppose first nations' desire to update their election system, they are free to do so. However, we believe that it is time for action.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I will simply say that Bill S-6 is necessary so that Canada's first nations can have the option of conducting their elections within a legislated system, a system that is robust, modern and similar to electoral systems used by other levels of government in the country. That is what we will accomplish by passing this motion. A standing committee of the House will study the bill.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the simple fact of the matter is that the Indian Act is an antiquated, outdated, archaic, paternalistic piece of legislation that dates back to 1867, I believe. It must be replaced with modern legislation.
On this side of the House, we understand that it cannot be replaced overnight. That is why we are taking practical, incremental steps to do just that. Bill S-6, which we are dealing with today, would be just one of those practical solutions.
The bill would offer several key improvements over the current Indian Act election system, including four-year terms of office; the possibility that several first nations could hold their elections on a common day; defined offences and penalties that would allow questionable election activities to be prosecuted; and, finally, the removal of the role and decision-making power of the minister in election appeals.
I know that on that side of the House, the NDP and the Liberals would like to keep the minister intervening with this paternalistic approach to first nations, but we do not agree.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I hope that my hon. colleague finds solace in the fact that this act, indeed, would be of benefit to first nations.
I understand that many members on the opposite side of the House like to talk. However, on this side of the House, we like to act, and this is about acting. This piece of legislation has been in the works for over eight years. First nation communities under the Indian Act have been fully engaged throughout the country. It is simply time that we passed this bill so that those first nations can get the benefit of the bill.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, as the experienced member likes to talk about the Senate and democracy being turned on its head, maybe he could explain to Canadians why his party opposes all efforts made by this government to put democracy back on its head by electing senators at the provincial level.
The member complains about the Senate, yet at every step of the way, New Democrats do everything they can to prevent this government from transforming the Senate to an institution with elected members that has the respect of Canadians.
If the member is really concerned about democracy, he should put pressure on his leader, his colleagues and his party to change their position and support Senate reform.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for the member, he is talking about following the rules. Those rules allow the government to move a motion such as the one moved earlier by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.
If, despite its openness towards the opposition parties in trying to pass a bill, the government simply faces opposition, it is set out in the rules that the government may, at a given time, act in the best interests of Canadians and first nations. That is the goal of the motion currently before the House.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, this important piece of legislation will have serious and significant benefits for first nations whose election system is currently under the Indian Act.
Because of the work that has taken place since 2008, and the full engagement of first nations who have made all of the recommendations that have led to the drafting of the bill, we believe on this side of the House that it is time that first nations received the benefits of their bill.
That is why the motion is before the House, so we can finally pass this piece of legislation and make it law.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is absolutely right in terms of the current situation.
The Indian Act election system contains several weaknesses that contribute significantly to unstable first nations governments. Among these weaknesses is the two-year term of office. Therefore, a good chief with a good council have a mandate of two years. We know, as legislators, that we cannot engage and execute a program or an initiative within two years; we need more time to execute a plan. However, chiefs and council have difficulties because of that two-year term of office.
There is currently a very loose nomination system. Sometimes there can be as many as a hundred candidates for a post of councillor. The mail-in ballot system is open to abuse. I have received numerous complaints as the minister of the department on this. Additionally, the current Indian Act contains no defined offences and penalties to enforce a rigorous, fair and transparent system, which this bill would achieve.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned competence.
In this regard, I would remind him, along with all my colleagues in the House and all Canadians, that this government's legislative agenda and the actions it took helped the country come out of the recession that took such a devastating toll across the world.
Just last month, about 95,000 new jobs were created in the country. This is the result of the Conservative government's policies. In addition to successfully creating so many jobs for Canadians over this short term, the government has also lowered taxes to a level where a typical small Canadian family consisting of a father, a mother and two children is saving $3,200 per year.
Perhaps $3,200 a year does not seem like much to an opposition member, but to an individual or a small family...
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, he opens the door, but he does not want us to come in. He should just reword his questions.
The fact remains that it is important to pass Bill S-6 in order to give first nations living under the Indian Act the means to have transparent and open elections. These elections will in turn create a better climate in first nations for the economic, cultural and social development of their communities.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I am laughing because the member brought up parliamentary procedure. I was thinking about the period from 1984 to 1993, when I sat in the House of Commons on the government side.
I watched federal politics closely for more than 20 years before I returned in 2011. My experience in Parliament has taught me one thing: when the opposition systematically prevents Canadians—and in this case, first nations—from benefiting from a bill, the government should do everything it can to get the bill passed as quickly as possible, which is what we are doing.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the legacy of the Indian residential schools is still felt today by aboriginal people all across Canada. That is why we are placing such importance on reconciliation and the restoration of Canada's relationship with aboriginal people.
We must forge a new relationship based on an appreciation of our shared history, a respect for each other's cultures and traditions and an honest desire to move forward.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I could ask the hon. member why her party is voting against each and every step we take to try and improve the situation.
The fact of the matter is that today marks the fifth anniversary of the Prime Minister's historic apology to Indian residential school survivors, their families and communities.
The road to reconciliation is not an easy one, but we shall overcome the obstacles. We are determined to do so.
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
View John Williamson Profile
2013-06-11 15:20 [p.18094]
Mr. Speaker, you can obviously see the point I am trying to make here. In the past, when members voted on both sides of the question, I believe the Chair asked for clarification.
I am pressing this point because when members rise on a question in this House, I think it is important that the rules apply equally and that when members inadvertently vote one way or the other, they are asked to stand to correct the record.
For the record, I am glad you did not ask the whip for the NDP as to how I vote. I would like to affirm now that I vote with the government.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill S-16, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in contraband tobacco). The bill proposes amendments to the Criminal Code to create a new offence of trafficking in contraband tobacco and to provide minimum penalties for imprisonment for persons who are convicted for a second or subsequent time of this offence.
To help reduce the problem of trafficking in contraband tobacco, the government committed to establish mandatory jail time for repeat offenders of trafficking in contraband tobacco in its 2011 election platform. The bill would fulfill that commitment.
There are no offences in the Criminal Code dealing with contraband tobacco at the present time. While there exists an offence of selling contraband tobacco in the Excise Act, 2001, that offence exists in support of our fiscal policy in the area of tobacco. This government believes that something more is required to deal with the problem that has become trafficking in contraband tobacco.
The proposed bill prohibits the sale, offer for sale, transportation, delivery, distribution or possession for the purpose of sale of tobacco product or raw leaf tobacco that is not packaged, unless it is stamped. The terms “tobacco product”, “raw leaf product”, “packaged” and “stamped” have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Excise Act, 2001.
The penalty for a first offence is up to six months imprisonment on summary conviction and up to five years imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment. Repeat offenders convicted of this new offence and where 10,000 cigarettes or more, or 10 kilograms or more of any tobacco product, or 10 kilograms or more of raw leaf tobacco is involved would be sentenced to a minimum of 90 days on a second conviction, a minimum of 180 days on a third conviction and a minimum of two years less a day on subsequent convictions.
In order to place this bill in context, it is important to describe the serious problem that has become the trafficking in contraband tobacco.
As members will recall, the contraband tobacco market first became a significant issue in Canada in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that period, more and more legally manufactured Canadian cigarettes destined for the duty-free market began making their way back into the Canadian underground economy. The high retail price of legitimate cigarettes made smuggling them back across the border a lucrative illicit business.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canada Customs seized record quantities of contraband tobacco. The RCMP was also engaged in investigating this illegal activity at its source. These investigations eventually led to negotiated settlements involving several tobacco companies paying more than $1.5 billion in criminal fines and civil restitution.
However, the illicit tobacco market in Canada has rebounded in recent years and once again has become an acute problem.
Tobacco is not just a Canadian problem. The illicit trafficking of tobacco is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide today, fuelling organized crime and corruption and spurring addiction to a deadly product.
Last year smuggling experts, customs officials and diplomats of nearly 160 countries, including Canada, gathered in Geneva, Switzerland to finalize the development of what had eluded governments for decades, and that was an international instrument allowing for a global crackdown on the black market in tobacco.
Under the auspices of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global treaty to curb tobacco use, delegates worked to complete protocol to stop cigarette smuggling.
Illicit tobacco feeds an underground economy that supports many of the most violent actors on the world stage. Organized crime syndicates and terrorist groups facilitate global distribution and use the profits to finance their activities.
Perhaps even more troubling is the impact that smuggling has on the public health crisis caused by tobacco. Worldwide, one out of 10 adults dies prematurely from tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema, cardiovascular disease and stroke. If the trend continues to hold, tobacco will kill about 500 million people.
By 2030, that figure will reach eight million deaths a year and with cigarettes being heavily marketed in poor countries, 80% of those deaths will be in the developing world. Over the 21st century, an estimated one billion people could die from tobacco use.
In Canada today, illegal tobacco activity is primarily connected to illegal manufacture and not to the diversion of legally manufactured products as it was in the past. I should point out also that it includes, to a lesser degree, the illegal importation of counterfeit cigarettes and other forms of illicit tobacco from overseas.
Organized crime plays a central role in the contraband tobacco trade in Canada and that means this illegal activity is linked with other kinds of crime. Most of the organized crime groups across the country involved in the illicit tobacco market are also active in other forms of criminality.
The problem is further complicated by the international aspect of the illicit tobacco trade. Transnational crime of the type found in contraband tobacco smuggling is considered a threat to public safety and national security and has a direct impact on individual Canadians, small businesses and the economy. It also has implications for relationships with our international partners, especially the United States.
On this issue, I would like to point out that Canada and the United States share a long history of law enforcement co-operation across the border. Recent and ongoing threat assessments have identified that organized crime is the most prevalent threat encountered at the shared border. This includes significant levels of contraband trafficking, ranging from illicit drugs and tobacco to firearms, notably handguns, and human smuggling. In this regard, Canada and the United States have explored the concept of integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement operations. Joint maritime law enforcement vessels, manned by specially trained and designated Canadian and U.S. law enforcement officers, have been authorized to enforce the law on both sides of the international boundary line in the course of integrated cross-border operations.
The contraband tobacco market is driven largely by illegal operations in both Canada and the United States. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec have the highest concentration of contraband tobacco manufacturing operations, the majority of the high-volume smuggling points and the largest number of consumers of contraband tobacco.
The 2012 Criminal Intelligence Service Canada National Threat Assessment on Organized and Serious Crime in Canada identified 58 organized crime groups that were involved in the contraband tobacco trade throughout Canada, 35 of which were currently operating in central Canada. These criminals networks reinvest profits from the manufacture and distribution of contraband tobacco into other forms of criminality, including trafficking of illicit drugs, firearms and human smuggling.
Furthermore, the RCMP reports that violence and intimidation tactics continue to be associated with the contraband tobacco trade. Since 2008 and up to May 2012, the RCMP has laid approximately 4,925 charges under the Excise Act, 2001, and disrupted approximately 66 organized crime groups involved in the contraband tobacco trade throughout Canada. During that time period, approximately 3.5 million cartons, unmarked bags of cigarettes, were seized nationally by the RCMP, along with numerous vehicles, vessels and properties.
It is clear that the illicit tobacco trade is dominated by criminal organizations motivated by the lure of significant profits and relatively low risks. Enforcement actions are therefore directed at increasing the risks associated with contraband tobacco activities: dismantling illegal manufacturing facilities; disrupting distribution supply lines; apprehending key figures; confiscating conveyances such as trucks and boats; and seizing the proceeds of crime. These actions have the dual goal of disrupting the illicit flow of tobacco and weakening the organized crime groups involved in the production, distribution, smuggling and trafficking of contraband tobacco.
Contraband tobacco remains a serious threat to our communities and if left unchecked, organized crime will continue to profit at the expense of the health and safety of Canadians. Overall, the proposals in Bill S-16 represent a tailored approach to the imposition of mandatory minimum penalties for serious contraband tobacco activities. The bill proposes minimum penalties only in cases where there are certain aggravating factors present, such as a conviction for a second or subsequent time.
The Government of Canada recognizes that contraband tobacco smuggling is a serious problem. Canadians want to be protected from offenders involved in these contraband tobacco smuggling operations, which threaten their safety and that of their families. They also want to be protected from the violence that is associated with contraband tobacco activities.
Protecting society from criminals is a responsibility the government takes seriously. Accordingly, this bill is part of the government's continued commitment to take steps to protect Canadians and make our streets and communities safer. Canadians want a justice system that has clear and strong law that denounces and punishes serious crimes, including illicit activities involving contraband tobacco. They want laws that impose penalties that adequately reflect the serious nature of these crimes. This bill would do that.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the federal government always consults with the provinces, primarily at federal-provincial-territorial conferences. Clearly, crimes relating to cigarette smuggling are of concern to both the provinces and the federal government. The provinces are responsible for the administration of justice. Therefore, they must use their own resources to resolve this issue. Consultations are continuing, as always.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, obviously the issue of contraband tobacco attacks Canada's initiatives on many fronts.
It attacks it on the health issue. It attacks it on the issue of gaining access to a dangerous product for many youth. The Department of Health has taken many steps to bring forward warnings of what the dangers of tobacco are, as well as hiding them behind screens when it comes to purchasing them or putting the grotesque warning signs on the packages. Those are the cigarettes that are distributed legally.
What can we do about cheap tobacco finding its way onto schoolyards at a very affordable price? It is a matter of breaking up this activity because it is bad for health. It also finances organized crime, which we know uses the funds, which it does not pay taxes on, to fuel its many activities, one of them being the trafficking in human beings.
It is a vicious circle when it comes to breaking up illegal activities. They are all very integrally tied. One of the them that seems to be harder to discern is tobacco. Tobacco is legal when it is sold under the rules and regulations of the Government of Canada. Therefore, how does one really tell, without looking carefully, whether a cigarette being smoked has been legally produced and sold versus one that has not?
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I would add that in conjunction with the bill, there would be a special enforcement force of 50 specially trained RCMP officers who would be dedicated specifically to breaking up the contraband trafficking of illegal tobacco.
The hon. member heard me in my speech, I trust, talk about a specially trained joint marine force for the United States and Canada. It will have a customs mandate and will do cross-border verification within the marine context.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has invested significantly in this area. In my speech, I noted that we are strengthening the perimeter not only in Canada but in North America. We are working jointly with the United States in enforcing our common security interests.
Of course, contraband is as present in the United States as it is in Canada, so we will continue to work with the United States, our very close partners, in strengthening security for both our countries. We will continue to invest significantly to break up trafficking in illicit cigarettes.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, we are continuing to invest in public safety.
As I said earlier, a new unit of 50 RCMP officers will be set up specifically to fight drug trafficking and cigarette smuggling.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the verb “to consult” can be conjugated in the past, present or future tenses and the noun “consultation” covers the past, present and future.
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2013-06-11 20:39 [p.18132]
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member a question. He said we have to pass this bill in a hurry. He said he is happy that time allocation was put on it, which means we cannot discuss it in-depth. The same thing will happen at committee when the government wants to move a bill that quickly. Is he discouraged with his own government that we have been waiting since 2008 and we needed the Senate to bring the bill to the House? If it was that important, why did the Conservatives have to wait for the Senate to bring it in? Now that the Senate has brought it in, the elected members of Parliament cannot take the time to discuss it and do the real job that needs to be done. Is he not ashamed of the way his own government is acting on this bill?
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, we want to ensure that project funding for aboriginal organizations is focused on the delivery of essential services and programs in key areas such as education, economic development and community infrastructure. I would also remind the member opposite and the House that these priorities were determined through close collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations on a number of occasions.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the member intimates, no cuts will prevent the delivery of essential services by bands or tribal councils or any organizations that deliver essential services.
View Rob Moore Profile
CPC (NB)
View Rob Moore Profile
2013-06-10 15:01 [p.17978]
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to announce that today is Tax Freedom Day, the day Canadians can finally keep their hard-earned dollars. While I am sure that the NDP and the Liberals are disappointed, since they stand in the House day after day calling for higher taxes, our government believes that Canadians deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money. That is why, since taking office in 2006, we have reduced the federal tax burden to its lowest level in 50 years.
Could the Minister of State for Finance please inform Canadians how much earlier Tax Freedom Day is today compared to when our Conservative government took office?
View John Williamson Profile
CPC (NB)
View John Williamson Profile
2013-06-10 15:21 [p.17981]
Mr. Speaker, I do not mean to challenge you, but there are many bills for which I would like to vote on both sides when I go home and tell my voters that I voted with them.
However, the fact is that it is very unclear. Mr. Speaker, you cannot allow members to vote one way and then appear to vote the other way without a correction. We typically expect that of members as we have in the past. The rules of the House have to apply to all of us equally.
I ask that they stand and record their votes properly, as my seatmate had to some time ago.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill S-2. When the time comes to vote on the bill, I intend to vote in favour of it and I encourage all members of the House to do the same.
No one can dispute the fact that the bill is in the best interests of individuals living on reserves and that it creates a more fair and just Canada. Currently, very few laws exist to protect the matrimonial real property interests and rights of people who live on reserve.
Bill S-2 proposes to fill a gap in legislation that continues to affect the most vulnerable people in Canadian society, specifically women and children living in first nations communities. For most individuals, the problem begins with a relationship breakdown, or the death of a spouse or common-law partner. In many cases, this results in a woman, or her children, being kicked out of the family home and the law is powerless to help them. Many end up homeless, impoverished and isolated from their home communities.
As difficult as these circumstances are for those who are directly impacted, the suffering extends even beyond them. Grandparents may be denied daily access to their grandchildren. Siblings and friends may be forced apart. As a result, the negative impacts of these events can often be felt through the entire community.
It is hard to believe that we as parliamentarians have allowed this inequity to endure for more than 25 years. It is in our power, and so it is our responsibility, to eliminate causes of inequity such as this one. Moving ahead with this legislation now before us is clearly in the best interests of all Canadians, most particularly those likely to be affected by this legislative gap.
Bill S-2 proposes to fill the gap with a two-part solution. One part establishes a legal authority that first nations can use to design, ratify and implement laws governing marital property interests and rights on their reserve lands. This means that first nations could develop their own laws to meet the community's cultural and social needs and that the courts could apply these laws. The second part of Bill S-2 is a set of provisional federal rules that would, once in force, provide protection for individuals living on reserves unless, or until, first nations have ratified their own laws in this area.
The proposed legislation and the issues it addresses are quite complex. There is little doubt that these complexities confounded previous attempts to enact legislation. However, if we remain focused on the crux of the matter, that the legislative gap hurts individual citizens and perpetuates injustice, the path forward becomes perfectly clear.
Bill S-2, like any legislation touching on complicated and emotional issues, has critics. However, what is often overlooked is that the legislation now before us is the product of a comprehensive and collaborative national consultation and engagement process.
Many critics deride the consultation effort as inadequate, but the truth is that two national aboriginal organizations helped stage more than 100 consultation sessions at 76 sites across the country. Hundreds of people actively participated in these sessions. Over $8 million was spent to facilitate the process. In addition, there was an extensive study of the previous version of Bill S-2, Bill S-4, when more than 30 witnesses appeared before the committee. Further, study by committee in the other place on Bill S-2 offered more opportunity for review and comment, as did the study by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in the House. In total, 93 witnesses have appeared before committee. There should be absolutely no doubt as to the amount of consultation that has taken place. The changes that were made to Bill S-4, and now to Bill S-2, demonstrate that the government has heard the comments and responded.
I want to spend some time today explaining the degree to which Bill S-2 responds to the views expressed. The consultation sessions shaped the original bill in several significant ways. For example, as a direct result of the consultations, the bill rejects the application or incorporation of provincial family law. Instead, Bill S-2 proposes to enable first nations to design and ratify their own laws related to marital real property and interests. These laws would reflect a first nation's particular traditions and culture and could be applied by the courts.
Bill S-2 also proposes an interim solution to help first nations develop laws in this area.
Despite the best efforts of many talented people, at the end of the process full consensus on a legislative solution could not be reached due to the complexity of the issue. For further clarity on this point, I call to members' attention the final report of the ministerial representative. This wide-ranging document of more than 500 pages is a comprehensive resource for anyone who wishes to fully understand the issues in play. Point 213 of the report reads as follows:
The inability of the parties to articulate a link between the matrimonial real property initiative and the larger policy development processes that AFN and NWAC respectively are interested in, and that they have mandates to pursue, ultimately constituted a barrier to consensus.
This sentence goes a long way toward explaining why the effort initiated in good faith by this government, and funded by more than $8 million in public funds, failed to produce a full consensus. The parties could not separate the need to eliminate specific causes of inequity from other policy development initiatives. In other words, instead of focusing on a specific problem that this legislation was intended to address, debate on the bill became a proxy for a much broader discussion whose scope goes beyond the intent of this bill.
Ultimately, the legislative gap continues to affect individuals living on reserves, as it has for more than 25 years. As many may recall, in the last Parliament a previous version of this bill was before us for consideration. At that time, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights conducted a thorough review of the bill and, as I have mentioned, heard from more than 30 witnesses, including representatives of national aboriginal organizations. First nations chiefs and other stakeholders were included. This review led to the adoption of 12 amendments to the bill in the other place. Unfortunately, the bill died on the order paper before it could be considered by this chamber.
Before introducing this bill in this new Parliament, three further improvements were made: the verification process was eliminated; a 12-month transition period was added; and the ratification threshold was lowered. I am convinced that all three of these measures strengthen the bill and that all three would facilitate the development of a first nations law in this area. They also respond directly to criticisms that the previous version was paternalistic and that the process for the ratification of a first nations law was too onerous.
Bill S-2 would finally fill this gap with a balanced and effective solution. It would authorize first nations to establish laws in this area based on their unique cultures and traditions, and after a 12-month transition period, Bill S-2 would establish a provisional federal regime to protect individuals living on first nations reserves that have no such laws in place. However, even after the provisional rules were in effect, first nations could still, at any time, develop and ratify their own laws. At the end of the day, it is Parliament's responsibility to make decisions about legislation that affects Canadians and, in particular, to ensure we protect our vulnerable citizens. That is why Bill S-2 is before us today.
I believe that Bill S-2 would effectively balance the rights of individual citizens and the collective interests of first nations. It would eliminate inequity that continues to affect some of Canada's most vulnerable citizens. I urge all members of this House to set aside unfounded criticism and to endorse this legislation without delay.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I would have to say that 25 years of consultation is fairly sufficient. Setting aside the rhetoric from my hon. friend, we have listened and we are acting. We will not let “perfect” be the enemy of “good”.
This is a move forward. It is about equity. It is time to move. Twenty-five years is far too long.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I would invite the hon. member to sit in on the special committee for missing aboriginal women, where there is a legion of groups that have been consulted. Far many more of these groups are interested in what we are doing. They are backing that.
I am saddened by the fact that, as the Minister of Immigration has said, and he has been here for 16 years, never once has the NDP had the courage to do what is right for the people living on reserves who are being abused. It is time to move. It has been 25 years. If there is anything that is sad, it is the inability of the NDP members to understand their dilemma.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if there was a question there, but why should we talk about the United Nations.
Charity starts at the home. Here they are in Canada, on the reserves, asking for our help and the NDP is unable to lift a hand to feel their pain, to do what is right to right this inequity.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the member is not very much concerned about the substance of the subject matter of this motion.
The motion is about Bill S-8, safe drinking water for first nations. This bill is crucial to ensure that first nations have the same health and safety protections concerning drinking water and waste water treatment as are currently enjoyed by other Canadians.
It has taken seven years for us to get to this point. It has taken seven years of continuous dialogue with first nations, including formal engagement sessions and implementing measures to accommodate the concerns of first nations.
The proposed legislation before Parliament today is the result of hard work and collaboration. It is time to move forward.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the member's claims are completely untrue and are not based on the facts.
If she looked at the facts, she would see that, as part of the strategy the government has adopted in this bill to fix the situation, nearly $3 billion has been allocated between 2006 and 2014 to improve infrastructure on first nations reserves.
Furthermore, more than $300 million was announced in budget 2012—and is being invested as we speak—to upgrade infrastructure on first nations reserves.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, we know that members of the New Democratic Party like to spin their wheels and waste time by talking instead of acting.
This issue has been before Parliament in one form or another for seven years. First nations across the country are the only communities that do not have a regulatory system that sets standards for clean water and sewage treatment that are similar to standards in neighbouring communities.
I understand that the NDP does not want to take action, which is why the motion is before the House. This country needs legislation that will treat first nations members like other Canadian citizens who enjoy rights that those living on reserve do not.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, not to disagree with the member, but we think enough time has been allocated to discuss and debate views and concerns about this bill.
The fact is that over 50 witnesses spoke on Bill S-11, the previous version, and on Bill S-8, the current version. Members heard from many organizations, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, the Institute on Governance and the Indigenous Bar Association.
Bill S-8 was introduced only after many hours of discussion. There has been enough debate. It is time to act.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, in response to the 2011 national assessment, our government worked with first nations to build a long-term plan to improve on-reserve water and waste water. This is founded on three pillars, as the hon. member referred to. We are talking about enhanced capacity building and operating training, infrastructure investment and enforceable standards and protocols. When we say enforceable standards and protocols, this is what this enabling legislation would allow. We cannot move seriously, effectively and efficiently in addressing this gap on reserves throughout Canada without the proper legislative framework that would put the regulations in place to protect first nations members.
I just cannot understand why the NDP and Liberals would oppose such a legislative framework. It is required and has been recommended by committee after committee. The first nations have called for it, yet they oppose it.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I am always amazed to hear members of the New Democratic Party lamenting the lack of democracy in our great and beautiful country. I have a bit of experience in the House, and I had the privilege of seeing the Constitution repatriated. I have seen and I am seeing—every week and every month, in every community—peoples' representatives, elected by Canadians, who are living up to their responsibilities.
Here today, we have a mandate from Canadians. Improving the lives of first nations people is one of the objectives of that mandate. We know that there is a gap for first nations reserves in terms of the quality of drinking water and waste water treatment, yet when faced with a bill that all elected members are asked to vote on, they are voting no. We are asking them, urging them, to think for once about what is effective and best for the country, for first nations, and to vote in favour of this bill.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I understand the ideological position of the member's party, which wants to make Canada the only western country and the only major democracy with a unicameral system. However, at present, we have a bicameral system, and this system empowers the Senate to introduce bills.
In the end, what matters is not how the bicameral system functions, but the end result. What matters here is that first nations urgently need us to take action. The member should know this better than anyone.
I understand that he likes to spin his wheels, but we want to take action and the motion is designed to do that.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, that is the member's point of view, one that I can respect, but that I totally disagree with.
Anyone who takes a hard look at the procedures will realize that any member who wants to do serious and reasonable work will have ample time to give his or her opinion on any bill before Parliament.
When we look at the work of committees, we see that a great number of people are asked to appear and give their opinion. There is no time allocation there. The idea is that at some point decisions must be made. I understand that the NDP like to spin their wheels, but we want to move forward and it is time to rectify the situation.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member is concerned about the Walkerton tragedy and its outcome, he should insist that all his NDP colleagues change their minds and support this regulation, which is essential to preventing such a situation. That is what this bill is trying to and will do. Once regulations are adopted throughout the country and once first nations are subject to regulations and standards, we will be able to ensure that the drinking water in those communities is safe.
If he is serious about protecting the interests of first nations, he should be the first to vote in favour of this bill, since that is its primary objective.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, indeed, the government will work with first nations and other stakeholders to develop regulations and standards on a region-by-region basis. As a matter of fact, the preamble of the bill makes it clear that this is the intention.
The government recognizes that many first nations communities face unique challenges, and their ability to meet federal regulatory requirements may vary from province to province and territory to territory. Developing federal regulations will take time. It will not happen overnight. These regulations will be implemented over a number of years, in full co-operation and collaboration with first nations and stakeholders.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member would have us believe that he is concerned about the resources invested in first nations.
If he is so concerned, then how can he just stand there? Let him stand up and explain to aboriginals on the reserve he was just referring to why, in 2012, he and the other NDP members all voted against the government's budget, which invested $328 million in infrastructure.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I am not shocked by the member's comments. It sounds like something the New Democratic Party would say.
It is important to note that this bill is a response to various recommendations about drinking water on first nations land, including recommendations from the reports I mentioned earlier. These reports were from the Commissioner of the Environment, the expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, the national assessment of first nations water and waste water systems, and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
They call it muzzling. We say it is time to take action. I understand that members of the New Democratic Party would like to see us end up with the same record as the Liberals at the end of our mandate, which is to say no progress on this issue. On the contrary, we have a detailed three-pronged strategy that includes regulation. That is what this bill will be able to do.
If they were seriously concerned about the issue, they would vote in favour of the bill so that it would pass.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, this is typical of the New Democratic Party, which is now questioning my French, likely because I am a simple Acadian from New Brunswick.
To come back to the question, perhaps the member would be more likely to understand if I said it in English. I am sure he would understand that.
I have to admit that aboriginal and treaty rights on first nation lands could be negatively affected if, for example, the land was used in a way that negatively affected the safety of the water. In that kind of circumstance, that could happen.
However, people's health comes first, and that is the priority with this bill.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, they are upset because a similar motion has been moved 41 times. However, this proves that the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party were categorically opposed to passing bills in the House. Any reasonable Canadian would wonder why they are systematically opposed to anything and everything that is in the interests of Canadians and first nations.
View Robert Goguen Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition misled Canadians when he stated that he stripped his official languages critic of his responsibilities the minute he heard of his outstanding tax debt.
We know that this member's tax woes go back a decade. This was all laid out in public record, so the Leader of the Opposition cannot deny knowing of it. The leader of the NDP should explain to Canadians why the member was selected as a candidate for the NDP, why he was picked as a critic and more importantly, why he continues to sit as a member of the caucus of the NDP.
The NDP has kept this hidden from Canadians for years. The NDP allows the member to continue to sitting. This underlines a complete disrespect for Canadian taxpayers by the NDP.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, this is totally false. Housing will not be cut because of that, and no other social programs will be cut because of this. These are projects that are funded annually. What we want to ensure is that project funding for aboriginal organizations, not first nations, is focused on the delivery of essential services and programs in key areas, such as education, economic development and community infrastructure, and these are shared priorities with first nations.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, if the member did not rely on notes prepared by others, he would know that those announcements were made in September 2012, which was quite a while ago.
The answer is the same. We want to ensure that project funding—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, we want to ensure that project funding for aboriginal organizations is focused on the delivery of essential services and programs in key areas such as education, economic development and community infrastructure. That is what we will continue to do.
View Tilly O'Neill Gordon Profile
CPC (NB)
View Tilly O'Neill Gordon Profile
2013-06-06 14:57 [p.17827]
Mr. Speaker, yesterday Radio-Canada announced a rebranding campaign that would remove the word “Canada” from its name.
Can the Minister of Canadian Heritage please tell the House what our government thinks of this change?
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2013-06-05 15:40 [p.17719]
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to present a petition signed by hundreds of residents of New Brunswick and other provinces in Atlantic Canada.
They are objecting to the very wrong-spirited and mean-spirited changes that the government is making to employment insurance, particularly as it impacts seasonal industries and those who work in seasonal industries.
The petitioners are asking this House and the government to change direction and to rescind these changes to employment insurance to ensure that economic progress and fairness can continue in areas dependent on seasonal work.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
moved that Bill C-62, An Act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts be read a second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to lead off our discussion of Bill C-62, the Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act.
On April 11, 2013, I had the privilege to be in Vancouver to sign the Yale First Nation Final Agreement along with Chief Robert Hope of Yale First Nation and the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation for the Province of British Columbia.
The final agreement brings certainty to the ownership and use of lands and resources in the area. It creates opportunities for the Yale First Nation and provides predictability for continued development and growth in the province. The introduction of this legislation marks the culmination of almost 20 years of discussion to reach a comprehensive treaty and bring about the bill in front of us tonight.
Now this was no small feat. Before I go any further I want to take a few moments to thank those who made it possible for us to be in a position to consider Bill C-62.
I want to thank the First Nation and the negotiators for their tireless efforts. I also want to thank the chief commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission, Sophie Pierre, as well as Premier Clark and Minister Chong for standing firmly behind the B.C. treaty process.
Most of all, I want to thank the men and women of Yale First Nation for their staunch support of the final agreement. For, in the end, this agreement and this bill are about them, their families and the future of their community.
No one deserves more credit for this final agreement than Yale First Nation Chief Robert Hope. Simply put, we are here today discussing Bill C-62 because of the vision and steadfast commitment of Chief Robert Hope. We must also credit his father, the late Chief Lawrence Hope, whose practical wisdom and quiet strength guided negotiators and continues to do so even after his passing.
I strongly believe that this agreement provides the people of Yale First Nation with a strong foundation on which to build a stable, accountable government and an economically prosperous, culturally vibrant community.
If any member of this House was in doubt of its merit, I am sure that my brief description of the five key areas of the agreement will convince them.
The first of these key areas is its financial components. As part of this comprehensive treaty, Yale First Nation will receive a capital transfer of $10.7 million. The community will also receive $2 million to promote economic development. Canada will also provide Yale First Nation with a one-time funding of $1.4 million and annual funding of some $1.25 million to implement the agreement and provide key programs and services.
The second key area of the agreement is land. As a result of the final agreement, Yale First Nation will own and control nearly 2,000 hectares of treaty settlement land located within the Fraser Valley Regional District just north of the town of Hope.
In addition, 23 hectares of provincial land transferred to Yale First Nation will retain their designation as part of the agricultural land reserve. If any land designated as agricultural land reserve is added to Yale First Nation in the future, this land will also retain its designation as agricultural.
What is more, 233 hectares of Yale First Nation land known as Frozen Lakes will be accessible to the public.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, 233 hectares of Yale First Nation land known as Frozen Lakes will be accessible to the public for temporary non-commercial and recreational purposes, such as hunting and fishing.
With respect to the land, I should also point out that the parties sought to accommodate the interests of several neighbouring first nation communities whose traditional territories overlap with Yale First Nation's land.
To be precise, the agreement makes it possible for the public, including members of other first nations, to request access to Yale First Nation lands in order to fish, hunt and carry out other recreational activities as well as first nations traditional activities.
This unique provision also sets out that these requests must all be considered by the Yale First Nation and may only be refused on reasonable grounds.
The third key area of this agreement is access to and control over natural resources. In other words, all Yale First Nation land, that is, all 2,000 hectares of treaty settlement land, would be fee simple or private land subject to provincial and federal laws. Yale First Nation would control mineral rights on its land. Yale First Nation would own any forest on its land, and Yale First Nation community members would enjoy the right to fish and harvest wildlife and migratory birds for non-commercial purposes on its land. In addition, members of Yale First Nation would have the right to gather plants for food, social and ceremonial purposes and to harvest natural resources in provincial parks within Yale's defined harvest area, with the exception of the protected area, the Yale Garry Oak Ecological Reserve.
The final agreement would also make it possible for Yale First Nation to exercise control over water reserves, subject to federal and provincial laws, and to derive hydroelectric power from designated waterways on Yale First Nation Land.
The fourth key area of this agreement covers fishing. In fact, a harvest agreement that is separate from but related to the final agreement provides for fishing licences to be issued to Yale First Nation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The term of this harvest agreement is 25 years, and Yale First Nation can renew it every 15 years after the initial term expires. The terms and conditions of commercial licences issued to Yale will be comparable to those of licences issued to other commercial fishers.
Those are the key provisions of the Yale First Nation Final Agreement, the agreement that Bill C-62 will enshrine in Canadian law. Clearly this bill will empower the Yale First Nation to make its own decisions and become more vibrant, prosperous and self-reliant.
For these reasons, I ask honourable members to adopt Bill C-62. In doing so, we will build a stronger Canada for all of us.
View Yvon Godin Profile
NDP (NB)
View Yvon Godin Profile
2013-06-04 10:08 [p.17613]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition signed by 32 people from Prince Edward Island.
This is in addition to all of the other petitions that have been presented in the House in opposition to employment insurance reform. The petitioners are calling on the government to reverse its decision on employment insurance reform.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that this issue has been before this Parliament for many years now. My colleague referred to the majority government. All those families living on reserve in Canada will thank Canadians for having elected a majority government.
This is the fourth iteration of this bill before Parliament. The first bill was introduced as Bill C-47 on March 4, 2008, in a minority Parliament and was debated at second reading and referred to committee. It died on the order paper on September 7, 2008. In all of those months, when the opposition and everybody had a chance to debate the bill, it did not happen.
I will continue with the next question, but the member is going to get the same answer as to why it is time we acted.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to me that the importance of the issue escapes the hon. member. He is talking about the economy, but we are talking about fundamental rights here.
Why do families who live on reserve in Canada not enjoy the same rights as all other Canadians and children living off reserve?
Anyone who watches the procedures of the House of Commons knows that if we do not limit debate on the bill, then it once again risks not being passed by the House of Commons. With a majority government, we can ensure, once and for all, that Canadian families living on reserve, women and children, enjoy the same protections as other Canadians. That seems to me like a fundamental, valid and justifiable reason to limit debate and ensure that these people will finally have the same level of protection as other Canadians.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, currently, aboriginal women in our country cannot go to court and seek exclusive occupation of the family home or apply for emergency protection orders while living in a family home on a reserve. The bill extends this basic protection to individuals living on reserve. In situations of family violence, which is what the member referred to, a spouse would be able to apply for an emergency order to stay in the family home at the exclusion of the other spouse for a period of up to 90 days, with the possibility of extension.
An emergency protection order is quick. It follows a simple process and is recognized by child and family justice advocates as being one of the most significant means of preventing family violence. Violations of these orders can result in fines or jail time, hence the importance of the bill.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, in short, the department consulted extensively with aboriginal nations across the country.
We began these extensive consultations in 2006. About 100 meetings were held in 76 locations across Canada, which allowed us to improve the bill at that time. A number of changes were made specifically to address the concerns of certain stakeholders, the first nations and others about the implementation of this bill. We had to ensure that its real objective of protecting aboriginal families living on reserves across Canada would be attained.
Consultations were held and changes were made such that, today, the bill passes the test and achieves its objective.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, once again, I totally reject the unsubstantiated and far-fetched allegations made by the member. As I said earlier, consultations were conducted.
This is the fourth iteration of this bill. On several occasions, and every time that it has been introduced in the House of Commons, numerous Canadians and aboriginals—in the first nations and across Canada—were consulted, and a number of amendments were made to improve the bill.
In fact, contrary to what the member stated, amendments were made. The result: the bill responds to the challenge Canada faces of guaranteeing the same rights to all its citizens. Most notably, it will ensure that women, children, and couples living on reserve are not treated like second-class citizens.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the federal provisional rules in Bill S-2 would enable the courts to provide short-long to long-term occupancy of the family home to the exclusion of a spouse or common-law partner. The duration of this order could range from a determined number of days to a longer period, such as until dependent children reach the age of majority.
What is important to add is that the bill contemplates that with the extension of such period of time, the judge would take the advice of the First Nations Leadership Council chiefs about the implications this has on the community. Therefore, this provision in the bill would help ensure that spouses or common-law partners who are primary caregivers would have access to housing for their children and/or dependent adults. As has been demonstrated by witnesses during the debate at committee, this would really be an added value to our set of laws for aboriginal people in Canada.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, on the last question from the chief, the member may tell her that, indeed, the aboriginal presence in Canada enriches this great country of ours. We are attempting to work co-operatively with all chiefs and councils and first nations members in communities all across Canada in trying to reconcile aboriginal rights with Canada exercising its sovereignty.
I will read an important quote in answering the question. I will quote representatives of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples who testified before the committee in November 2011. They stated:
The MRP Act has more significance than meets the eye, because it goes to the heart of the issue-- dignity of the person.... For many years, we’ve been calling for an effective Matrimonial Real Property regime to protect spouses who are forced to leave a reserve.... Promoting the dignity of the person does not erode Treaty or Aboriginal Rights.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to remind the member of something. Were he the slightest bit familiar with this issue, he would know that the first nations have already obtained the right to self-government and that they are part of a comprehensive agreement. These first nations already have legislation that addresses these issues.
The bill targets first nations that do not benefit from such a system. It is designed to enable these first nations to pass their own legislation that focuses on their own communities and on the cultural values of those first nations. They will have one year to do this, then the legislation will come into effect. Until this is achieved, even provisionally, federal rules and regulations will remain in effect. The bill was, therefore, developed to fully respect self-government, comprehensive agreements, and, most notably, the rights and treaties that are currently in force.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, there is no legal protection available to couples living in first nation communities that are governed by the Indian Act. This is what we are attempting to correct here. I would argue that nothing should be considered so complicated or burdensome as to justify not extending these basic rights and protections to one segment of the population.
Throughout the country, judges already deal with the division of matrimonial property off reserve. As part of our implementation plan, we are committed to ensuring that judges will receive educational materials to help them better understand the legislation and the social context in which these matrimonial real property issues arise in first nation communities.
In closing, I would also argue that Bill S-2 does not place too much of a burden on the individual, rather it is the complete opposite.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, you would really have to be on the other side of the House, in the New Democratic Party, to seriously contend that the bill is being rammed through, six years after its introduction in Parliament.
The member’s proposal would enable the opposition to delay, if not completely block, a fundamental initiative under which families living on reserve in Canada would have the same rights enjoyed by other Canadians.
I know that the New Democratic Party would like to see the rights of women and children on reserve remain inferior to the rights enjoyed by every other Canadian. We, however, believe that it is time to act, and that is what the motion seeks to achieve.
View Bernard Valcourt Profile
CPC (NB)
Mr. Speaker, the abuse of parliamentary democracy is the opposition. It is the opposition members using every means they can to prevent the House from adopting a bill that will give equal rights to families living on reserve. That is an abuse of democracy. That is an abuse of parliamentary democracy. The member may gesture with his head as he wishes, but I do not think that is parliamentary.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
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