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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the unanimous 38th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, entitled “Cybersecurity in the Financial Sector as a National Security Issue”.
The reason this report is unanimous is that the members worked together in a fashion that would do credit to our Parliament and the functioning of committees. I particularly want to take this opportunity to single out each of the members of the committee for their contributions, particularly the member for Montarville for his experience as a CBSA officer and his quarterbacking skills; the member for Laurentides—Labelle, who speaks faster than I can think; the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for his thoughtful interventions; the member for Brampton North for her practical insights; and the member for Toronto—Danforth for her really pointed questions.
I also want to recognize the vice-chair, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, for his really helpful steering of the committee; the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, who asked very pointed questions from his police background; as well as the member for Yellowhead, who also asked very pointed questions due to his police background; and the member for Beloeil—Chambly, who was reasonable and helpful throughout the entire committee process. It is a real example of how, when committees work together, they will succeed and provide very helpful insight.
Finally, I want to draw members' attention to the first recommendation of the committee, which states, “The Committee recommends that, in the next Parliament, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security establish a sub-committee dedicated to studying the public safety and national security aspects of cybersecurity, with potential areas of inquiry including international approaches to critical infrastructure protection, impact of emerging technologies, and cyber supply chain security.” One of the things we really learned out of this study was that this field is moving so fast that the Parliament of Canada needs to stay on top of cybersecurity in all of its manifestations.
It has been a great honour for me to have chaired that committee and I would like to think the success of the committee is entirely due to the co-operation among the members. I look forward to the government's response tabled pursuant to Standing Order 109.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table the 37th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Bill C-98, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Canada Border Services Agency Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
I also want to endorse the general comments on the way in which we are so well served by those officials who are clerks and analysts. In this instance, I also want to compliment and appreciate the co-operation of my vice-chairs, the members for Beloeil—Chambly and Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, and all of the members of the committee, along with the House leadership who have moved the bill in a very expeditious fashion because it is of great importance to the Canada Border Services Agency.
I also want to generally compliment the working of the committee. We have gone through something in the order of 13 major pieces of legislation, plus numerous reports, plus numerous private members' bills and we have had a collegial atmosphere that has served us all well. I am thankful to present the bill and this report.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, this might be an appropriate moment to remind colleagues that it is an ancient right of citizens to present petitions to the Crown, notwithstanding what the member might think.
These petitioners are concerned about devices that have been planted in their brains without their knowledge and consent, affecting a variety of health issues. The petition is signed by hundreds of people from across Canada.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for his work as vice-chair on the committee. It has been a pleasure to work with him and the hon. member from the NDP. I would describe it as a high-functioning committee.
Given that there is a general consensus by all parties that Bill C-98 is an important bill and that there has not been a great deal of disagreement among the parties, and given that the committee members work well together, would the hon. member be prepared to deal with this bill in an expeditious manner at committee, and would he be prepared to let the motion for second reading come to a vote today so that it can be referred to the committee and avoid all of the angst that comes with time allocation motions?
It seems to me that in the House there is a fairly significant consensus, so why not let it come to a vote and be referred to the committee? Then I will solicit my hon. colleagues' co-operation in laying on additional meetings for dealing with Bill C-98.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, let me ask a blindingly obvious question. The Liberal government agrees with the bill. The official opposition agrees with the bill, and the NDP agrees with the bill.
Why, therefore, are we not simply allowing debate to collapse rather than there being an almost express invitation to have time allocation? It seems that the time would be much better used by voting to send the bill to committee. This is a good committee. It works hard,. It is open to amendments. It listens to witnesses. There is good co-operation, particularly from her NDP colleague from Beloeil—Chambly. It is an obvious case where the committee could do its work, do it expeditiously, and move this bill to the next stage, which is back to the House after committee stage. Why not proceed and let us get on to other business?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, we have just seen a classic example of people not being able to get out of their partisan lanes.
We now know that the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP and the Green Party agree that Bill C-98 is a good bill and that it should move forward. However, what are we going to do? We are going to spend the rest of today, and possibly into the next sitting of the House, talking about a bill that we all agree is a good bill.
Every day that we talk about it here is a day we cannot talk about it in committee, which means that we cannot hear witnesses on the very issues the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands raised. We cannot deal with the issues the previous speaker raised, and we cannot bring in witnesses who have useful things to say about the operation of this bill.
This is a classic example of some dysfunctionality in this place at a level that is really quite distressing. Everyone agrees that this is a bill that needs to be passed. This is a bill that needs to hear witnesses. It is going before a committee that I have the great honour of chairing and that functions at a very high level. The member for Beloeil—Chambly is a very helpful and co-operative member, as is the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. Both are vice-chairs of the committee who help with getting legislation through. I daresay that there is not a great deal of distance between the government's position and the opposition parties' positions. The situation continues to evolve.
As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said, this sounds like an egregious set of facts for which there is no oversight body. That is why we are here. It is to get an oversight body put in place for the CBSA.
The CBSA apparently interacts with between 93 million and 96 million people on an annual basis. That is about three times the population of Canada on an annual basis. Some are citizen interactions, some are permanent resident interactions, some are visitor interactions and some are refugee claim interactions. I daresay that with 93 million to 96 million interactions on an annual basis, not every one will go well. That is something we are trying to correct.
There is something in the order of 117 land border crossings, some of which are fully staffed, such as at Toronto Pearson International Airport, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport or wherever, but others are simply a stake in the ground. There are about 1,000 locations across this long border over four time zones. The CBSA facilitates the efficient flow of people and goods, and it administers something in the order of 90 acts and regulations. It administers some of those acts and regulations on behalf of other levels of government.
In addition to having 93 million to 96 million interactions on an annual basis, the CBSA collects about $32 billion in taxes, levies and duties over the course of the year.
This is an enormous organization. It has enormous numbers of interactions with people, services and goods, and I dare say, not every one of them goes the way it should, as much as we would like to say otherwise. Hence the bill before us as we speak.
I heard the other speaker say that we have not had enough consultation, and the speaker before that said that all the government does is consultation. They cannot have it both ways. Either there is too much consultation or there is too little consultation.
All I know is that we have very little legislative runway left. We are speaking on a Friday afternoon about a bill that we all agree on, and by speaking on it, we are in fact preventing the bill from proceeding to committee, where it could be dealt with. I would be absolutely delighted to give up my time in order to let debate collapse and allow us to go to the vote, but there does not seem to be a huge amount of enthusiasm. Therefore, regrettably, members are going to have to listen to me talk for the next 15 minutes about a bill that we all agree on.
The unusual part of the situation in which we find ourselves is that unlike the case with the RCMP, unlike CSIS, unlike various other security services, there is no actual oversight body. That is a clear gap in the legislation.
Bill C-59, which I had the honour of shepherding through the committee, is an extraordinarily complicated piece of legislation.
I know, Mr. Speaker, that you love flow charts and appreciate the way in which legislation proceeds, and I commend you. The flow chart produced by Professor Forcese on Bill C-59 shows that Bill C-59 is extremely complicated in making sure that there are enough supervisory bodies for the various functions of CSIS, the RCMP, CSE, etc., spread over quite a number of agencies. There are at least three ministries responsible, those being defence, public safety and global affairs. It is an extraordinarily complicated piece of legislation. We anticipate and hope that it will return from the Senate and receive further debate here—though hopefully not too much—because it is really a revamping of the security architecture of our nation.
One of the gaps, as has been identified by other speakers, is the absence of an oversight body with respect to the activities of the Canada Border Services Agency. I expect to have an interaction with the Canada Border Services Agency in about two hours. Many of my colleagues will similarly be having interactions with the Canada Services Border Agency within a very short period of time, and I am rather hoping that my interaction and all of their interactions will go well, as I dare say they probably will.
The committee is now in place, and I want to talk about one further piece of legislation that has passed and is functioning, Bill C-22, which established the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. In addition to its reporting function to the Prime Minister, there is a reporting function to the public safety committee. I know you, Mr. Speaker, were present as the chair of that committee presented his first report to the public safety committee. I have to say that while listening to the interactions with the chair of that committee, I felt that the questions by the members of the public safety committee were of quite high calibre and gave very pointed and useful insight into the work of that committee.
Bill C-98 fills a gap. It is being strengthened and renamed the public complaints and review commission, or the PCRC, and will have, in effect, a joint responsibility for both the RCMP and the CBSA. If the PCRC were to receive a complaint from the public, it would notify the CBSA, which would undertake an initial investigation. I dare say that this would resolve a great percentage of the complaints the public may have. In fact, 90% of RCMP complaints are resolved in this way.
The PCRC would also be able to conduct its own investigation of a complaint if its chairperson was of the opinion that it would be in the public interest to do so. In those cases, the CBSA would not start an investigation into the complaint.
Therefore, in effect, there is an ability on the part of the CBSA to say it is not going to refer it to mediation or some further investigation, but to simply assume the jurisdiction and move forward with it. To make that request, the complaint would have to be made within 60 days of receiving notice from the CBSA about the outcome of the complaint. The idea here is that the complaint does not just languish.
When the PCRC receives a request for a review of a CBSA complaint decision, the commission would review the complaint and all relevant information and share its conclusions regarding the CBSA's initial decision. It could conclude that the CBSA's decision was appropriate, it could ask the CBSA to do a further investigation or it could assume the jurisdiction and investigate the complaint itself.
The commission can also hold public hearings as part of its work. At the conclusion of the PCRC investigation, the review body would be able to report on its findings and make recommendations as it sees fit, and the CBSA would be required to provide a response in writing to the PCRC's findings and recommendations.
In addition to its complaints function, the PCRC would be able to review, on its own initiative or at the request of the minister, any activity of the CBSA, except for national security matters. I think that is an important thing to take note of, because we do not want national security matters dealt with in an open and public forum, if at all possible. Then it would be reviewed by the national Security Intelligence Review Committee, under Bill C-59, which hopefully by then will be passed and brought into force.
PCRC reports would include findings and recommendations on the adequacy, appropriateness, sufficiency or clarity of the CBSA policies, procedures and guidelines, the CBSA's compliance with the law and ministerial directions, and the reasonableness and necessity of the CBSA's use of its power. On that latter point, the members previously have indicated instances where one would reasonably question the use, reasonableness and necessity of the CBSA's interactions with members of the public. Hopefully, with the passage of this bill and the setting up of the PCRC, those complaints would be adjudicated in a fashion that is satisfactory to both the service and members of the public.
With respect to both its complaint and review functions, the PCRC would have the power to summon and enforce the appearance of persons before it and compel them to give oral or written evidence under oath. It would have the power to administer oaths and to receive and accept oral and written evidence, whether or not the evidence would be admissible in a court of law. That provides a certain level of flexibility. As this is not a criminal case, we are not asking for a standard of beyond reasonable doubt; rather, by passing this legislation and giving these authorities, we are trying to create an environment in which issues can actually be resolved.
It would also have the power to examine any records and make any inquiries that it considers necessary. However, beyond its review and complaint functions, Bill C-98 would also create an obligation on the CBSA to notify local police and the PCRC of any serious incident involving CBSA officers or employees. That includes giving the PCRC the responsibility to track and publicly report on serious incidents, such as death, serious injury or Criminal Code violations involving the CBSA. Hopefully, we could reasonably anticipate a reduction in these incidents by virtue of just the very existence of this entity because, as has reasonably been said by speakers previously, there is nowhere to go when one has a complaint with the CBSA.
Operationally, the bill is worded in such a way as to give the PCRC the flexibility to organize its internal structure as it sees fit, and to carry out its mandate under both the CBSA Act and the RCMP Act. The PCRC could designate members of its staff as belonging either to the RCMP unit or the CBSA unit. Common services, such as corporate support, could still be shared between both units. There are several obvious benefits that can be generated by operating in this fashion. For example, expertise could be shared between the RCMP and the CBSA. Hopefully, by doing so, the agency would be strengthened. Clearly identifying which staff members are responsible would also help with the management of information.
In addition, a vice-chair and chair will be appointed to the PCRC, which would be mandatory. It would ensure that there will always be two individuals at the top who are capable of exercising decision-making powers.
Under Bill C-98, the PCRC would establish and publish an annual report covering each of its business lines, the CBSA and the RCMP, and the resources devoted to each. The report would summarize their operations throughout the year, such as the number and types of complaints and any review activities, and would provide information on the number, type and outcomes of serious incidents. I am hopeful that this will be a readily accessible report, transparent to all, so that those who follow these issues can operate from the same set of facts.
The annual report would be tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Presumably, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security would be able to review that report, call witnesses and examine the functionality of the entity.
The new public complaints and review commission proposed under Bill C-98 would close a significant gap in Canada's public safety accountability regime.
As I said earlier, the number of interactions we have with Canadians, visitors, landed folks, refugee claimants and others is quite significant, because Canada is open to receiving not tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, but millions of people crossing the border on an annual basis. The legislation is long overdue.
I would urge my colleagues to get out of their partisan lanes and let the bill move to committee. The complaint seems to be that the bill is last minute and will therefore never see royal assent. Well, the bill will certainly never see royal assent if the chamber holds it up. All parties are responsible for House management, and I would urge all party representatives who are responsible for House management to let the bill move to committee sooner rather than later.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. Service standards have not always been met, and this is true throughout a variety of agencies across all governments. The member's representative on the committee, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, should, as his number one concern, raise that very issue.
I would like to answer the question for the member directly, but I cannot, for the simple reason that we have not heard from witnesses, the officials, and, in particular from the minister, on that point.
Again, my core suggestion is to move the bill out of the House and into the committee.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as I have listened to several hours of speeches thus far, there have been significant concerns raised by the hon. member, such as the concern raised previously about time standards and service standards.
Much of the debate, however, has been taken up with how ineffectual or whatever either the government or the opposition parties are. There has been a lot of partisan stuff, back and forth. What I regret about this place is that the time allocated for debate does not actually result in debate about significant concerns to be raised about this bill itself. Rather, we spend endless amounts of time talking about how bad the other parties are.
In this particular instance, I would urge my colleague that if there are concerns that his very able representative has, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, those are best dealt with at committee.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is right; I have been here a long time. For some bizarre reason the people of Scarborough—Guildwood keep sending me back here. I am rather hoping that they will do it one more time.
My comments are directed to the issue of House management, and House management is an all-party function. When we take up endless amounts of time over what is perceived to be party positioning or party advantage, we actually waste House time. Possibly one of the reasons that the number of bills passed is not up to the previous Harper standards is that the opposition has spent a lot of time talking about partisan issues rather than getting to the issue.
The issue itself about the unions is a legitimate point. I expect that the unions will be before the committee, if not as the number one witnesses, then certainly as the number two witnesses. I cannot really comment on whether they were consulted because this is not the forum in which to address that issue. The forum to address that issue is at committee itself. If the hon. member wishes to send me, as chair of the committee, the name, address and location of the union people whom he thinks need to be heard from, I am more than happy to have them come as witnesses.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have absolute confidence in the hon. member's contribution to the flow of legislation through the House.
We are getting to the end of a Parliament and frankly, we should be looking in the mirror. There are times that this place is thoroughly dysfunctional. It is even dysfunctional on things that we agree on, which is really quite sad.
Moses came down with the Ten Commandments. I am sure that we could have at least four weeks' worth of debate, whether it should be 10 commandments, or 20, or two, for no particular advantage to the Canadian people.
I wish that the bill would come to our committee sooner rather than later. I would urge hon. colleagues over the course of this afternoon to reflect on the fact that if we are to have any chance of seeing Bill C-98 receive royal assent, the bill needs to move along and it needs to move along today.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, last week, the world lost a great Canadian, Jean Vanier.
Born to privilege, this erudite intellectual and social visionary pursued the simple idea that we are all made in the image of God, that we have “unique value”, especially those among us who have been discarded by society. He lived what he believed.
The origins of the worldwide l'Arche movement were in a modest home with two intellectually challenged adults. Now there are 147 communities around the world, 31 of which are in Canada.
Tens of thousands of Canadians have spent time in a l'Arche community, sometimes called “a university for the heart”, among those who society has treated as discards and have learned lessons that have influenced their life paths in profound ways.
Jean Vanier used his formidable gifts to follow the teachings of Jesus. His life was a road less travelled, his influence, both temporal and eternal. It was a life well lived.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise in my capacity as the chair of the public safety and national security committee.
The hon. member for Lakeland made an intervention last week. Regrettably, I had no notice of the intervention, and I would have preferred to bring my point of intervention after hers, but it is what it is. The hon. member was concerned about the pace at which Motion No. 167 was proceeding through the committee. I want to offer some observations with respect to that particular motion.
It was, in fact, referred to the committee on May 30, 2018, which is roughly a year ago. I would just note that the language of the motion was that it should be “instructed” to undertake, which I would note is not an obligation to undertake. Nevertheless, the committee did hear from the hon. member fairly shortly thereafter, on June 12, as she presented her concerns on Motion No. 167.
Subsequent meetings were held on October 16, October 18, October 23 and October 30. Then, through November and December, the committee was seized with other committee business, namely supplementary estimates, Bill C-83 and a variety of other things. This is an extraordinarily busy committee with private members' bills, private members' motions, supplementary estimates, main estimates and government business.
The first consideration of a draft report occurred on December 4, and then subsequently on March 20. After hearing all of the witnesses and the intervention by the hon. member for Lakeland, receiving four briefs, hearing 19 witnesses and having seven meetings, there is significant disagreement in the committee as to what the report should say, not only the body of the report in recitation of the testimony but also the recommendations. I would be remiss if I did not note that there is significant disagreement in the committee.
In addition to all of the above, I would just note, as you, Mr. Speaker, are considering the hon. member's intervention that, one, the referral is not a mandatory referral, and if the Speaker does do an intervention, I would like that to be taken into consideration; two, this is a very busy committee; three, there is very significant disagreement in the committee as to the way forward; and four, there is consequence to the continuous disruptive nature of House business. Just this motion alone takes all committees off their business, and of course, like all of the other committees, we have suffered the consequence of all these motions.
As due consideration is given to the motion by the hon. member for Lakeland, I would ask that those things be taken into consideration as well.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have my Kleenex at the ready, in case I cannot get through this. I want to continue the theme that the hon. member has spoken about, which is that this is a God moment. Seldom do we hear a speech in this chamber that is filled with such honesty, such directness and such frankness. There was such candour that I actually looked up the definition of “candour” in the dictionary while he was speaking. It said “he spoke with a degree of candour unusual in political life”.
Indeed, the hon. member's speech was unusual in the political life of us all, because we do not speak with candour, as we should. That is the tension of people of faith who work in this chamber. The priorities and beliefs of faith do not always line up with the needs and desires of being a practising politician. I know that the hon. member has faced that tension. I know that many of us in this chamber face that tension. I would say that the hon. member has navigated that tension about as well as any of us, because his candour in his admission of his faith in Jesus Christ is not something we hear every day in this chamber. In some circles, frankly, it is frowned upon.
The hon. member has, from time to time, joined us all at the prayer breakfast. It is probably the one hour in the entire week when we are no longer Liberals, no longer Conservatives, no longer NDP; we are just members of a faith community. Then as members of a faith community, we actually pray for each other. I know the hon. member has been a subject of our prayers in the last while, as have others, to be frank.
I would ask the hon. member how he has navigated that tension, but I would also ask him whether he has sung with his singing colleagues the song with the lyric “thou hast taught me to say...it is well with my soul”?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-United Kingdom Inter-Parliamentary Association respecting its visit to London.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, today is a good day for corporate social responsibility in Canada. In the 10 years since the introduction and ultimate defeat of Bill C-300, the responsible mining bill, Canada has evolved from a strong resistance to naming an ombudsman for the Canadian office of responsible enterprise. This office will help support Canadian companies around the world to operate in accordance with international human rights standards.
Could the Minister of International Trade update the House on the appointment of the ombudsperson and the establishment of her mandate?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, thank you for that generous five minutes.
I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-83. I join this debate in two capacities: as an interested member of Parliament and as the chair of the public safety committee, which reviewed the bill, heard the witnesses and put forward quite a number of amendments to the original bill, which in some respects reflects the interest in the bill and how the government was open to amending the bill at committee.
The bill would replace the existing administrative segregation system with structured intervention units. The new SIUs would ensure a separation from the general prison population, which is sometimes necessary for security reasons. Even those witnesses who had actually been segregated prisoners emphasized the need for some mechanism by which a prisoner is separated from the general population. This, however, does not mean separation from rehabilitative programs, mental health care and other interventions.
If members think that this is just an academic exercise, I direct their attention to the front page of The Globe and Mail this morning. It read:
Ontario will not appeal a judge’s decision to abandon a charge of first-degree murder against Adam Capay, the 26-year-old from Lac Seul First Nation who spent more than 1,600 days in solitary confinement before a public furor over his plight forced officials to send him to a secure hospital.
The very issue that we are debating today is on the front page of The Globe and Mail. The article continued:
In deciding against an appeal, the province is consenting to a scathing ruling from Justice John Fregeau that set Mr. Capay free last month and faulted the ministry of corrections for allowing a term of solitary that was "prolonged, egregious and intolerable.”
In particular, he found that the jail’s procedure for reviewing Mr. Capay’s segregation was “pro forma, perfunctory and meaningless”....
Further on, there is some disaggregation of the errors and omissions:
At the time, nothing was controversial about the initial decision to lock him in solitary confinement. Correctional officers have authority to segregate a prisoner if they believe he could harm himself or others. On average, 472 provincial inmates faced segregation every day in 2012.
But in the Capay case, the institution started racking up serious errors and omissions that led directly to his release without trial.
The Supreme Court long ago ruled that people keep some residual rights and liberties after the courts send them to prison. If those residual rights are further reduced by being placed in segregation, the state must hold regular review hearings of the decision.
In Ontario, the law requires segregation review hearings to be held at the institutional level....
The article goes on to discuss Mr. Capay's case, but also the larger issue and that is the larger issue that we are facing today.
As I said earlier, when we heard testimony from various witnesses, those who actually had been subject to segregation and those who were supporting those who had been subject to segregation all argued for the need for segregation. The bill fits with the broader approach to corrections, which is based on the fact that public safety is best served by effective rehabilitation and treatment.
Naturally, there are some inmates who will never be granted any form of conditional release by the Parole Board. They are mostly people serving life sentences who will never progress to the point where the risk they pose to the outside can be managed outside of a correctional institution.
I see that my all too generous five minutes are now up and I will be delighted to resume after question period.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I will resume where I left off, which has to do with the utility of committees. I noticed that was a theme of question period, that committees are assigned tasks and committees doing their work make significant differences. Therefore, I want to go over a number of the significant differences the committee made with respect to the original Bill C-83 and the Bill C-83 that is before us as amended by the committee. We listened to witnesses and suggested changes to the government, and in many instances the government listened to the committee and made those changes.
The bill now includes a strengthened health care review system. If the warden disagrees with a recommendation from a health care provider to move inmates in or out of SIU or to alter their conditions of confinement, the committee or senior CSC personnel, external to the institution, would review the matter. That was a Liberal amendment.
The Conservatives contributed an amendment, which said that a new provision would allow CSC staff to recommend to a health care professional that an inmate be assessed under certain conditions, such as self-harm, emotional distress, adverse drug reaction, etc.
The NDP-Green Party amendment reinserted the principle that CSC and the parole board impose the “least restrictive” measures, consistent with security. The language existed for 20 years until the previous government changed it to “necessary and proportionate”. Least restrictive is back in, thanks to the amendments provided by the NDP and Green Party.
The NDP wanted a meaningful four hours of face time. Therefore, when CSC records the fact that an inmate did not get his or her four hours out, it would now have to include in the report the reasons for refusal.
About 14 or 15 different amendments were provided by all parties. Those amendments strengthen the bill and recommend the bill to the House.
The bill would enshrine in law the principle that medical professionals in CSC must operate independently of correctional authorities. It would also require CSC to consider systemic and background factors when making decisions that would impact indigenous people in federal custody.
None of this is a panacea. Even once the bill passes and the considerable resources to implement it are put in place, there will remain a lot of work to do.
One of the amendments I did not mention was that we insisted on a five-year review. Therefore, this is an open bill. It is not a panacea, but it is to be recommended. The effective rehabilitation and safe integration of people who have broken the law is essential for public safety. That is why I support the legislation and commend it to hon. colleagues.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I have the delight of chairing what I regard as an excellent committee. The members work well together. The partisanship occasionally flares up, but it is by and large minimal.
With respect to this bill, there was some divergence of opinion regarding what amendments should and should not be included. However, I note that of the 14 or 15 amendments, six were from opposition parties.
I recommend this attitude of openness in amending bills to all ministers, frankly. The committees can do useful work if they are allowed to do it. Indeed, if members on the committees assert themselves in a collective fashion, the legislation going into committee can be improved before leaving committee.
As I said, this is not the end of our addressing solitary confinement. There are more things to be done. This is not a panacea bill, but it is a bill to be recommended to members.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I partially agree with my hon. colleague in that there was considerable criticism of the original bill presented to the committee. However, that is the point of a committee. Members listen to testimony and suggest amendments. These amendments are before the House as we speak. There are 14 amendments, six of which are from opposition parties. If that is not appropriate committee work, I do not know what is.
The other gun to the head, so to speak, is that there are two outstanding lawsuits. If we do not move this legislation forward, there will be no solitary confinement units or segregation units in prison. That would be a shame.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I request unanimous consent for the following motion: Recognizing that 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the end of armed conflict in Sri Lanka and honouring the tens of thousands of lives lost and countless victims displaced during this 26-year war; and recognizing further that the Government of Sri Lanka has made insufficient progress in implementing its commitments on reconciliation, accountability and transitional justice and that frustrations persist among those seeking to heal the wounds of all those who have suffered; therefore, the House of Commons calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to fully implement its obligations under the Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 and to set a clear timeline bound strategy for ensuring a process of accountability that has the trust and confidence of the victims, including the families of those who have disappeared.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 30th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to its report.
Mr. Speaker, may I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a merry Christmas and a happy new year, and particularly to compliment the public safety committee, which has worked admirably throughout this entire year.
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Lib. (ON)
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-423, An Act respecting the fight against certain forms of modern slavery through the imposition of certain measures and amending the Customs Tariff.
He said: Mr. Speaker, in the arc of Judeo-Christian history, the seminal event is the enslavement of the Israelites by the Egyptians, and the subsequent flight to freedom. That is embedded in the theology and psyche of Jews and Christians alike.
The gospel of Jesus talks about freedom throughout. Of course, unfortunately, the lineup of theology and practice does not always occur. Regrettably, the entire British Empire was built upon the notion of slavery, and its economic underpinnings were slavery.
It took possibly the most significant member of Parliament in the history of Westminster Parliament, namely William Wilberforce, to destroy the underpinnings of the British Empire by destroying slavery.
Unfortunately, slavery is still here. In fact, members will be shocked to know that there are more people enslaved now than there ever were at the height of the Atlantic slave trade.
This bill gives an opportunity for consumers to know whether, in fact, anywhere along the supply chain of the product they are buying or the service they are using, slave or forced labour conditions applied.
I am anticipating that this bill will receive both pan-Canadian support and cross-party support. It is my honour to introduce this bill and my hope that it moves through the process quickly.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 29th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security regarding Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 28th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act.
The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back, under very constrained timelines, with extensive amendments.
I want to take this opportunity to thank staff, officials and members for their extensive co-operation in presenting this report to the House today.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in the debate. At times we do not recognize our blessings in our country for the way things are unfolding. I would like to attribute it all to the government's wisdom, knowledge and political acumen. That is, of course, a critical point. Nevertheless, as a nation, we do have many blessings and many things to be thankful for, and we do not recognize some of the things for which we should be thankful.
For the first part of my speech, I will focus on the issues of trade. The government has signed three trade deals in the past while, the most recent being the CPTPP, an acronym that is challenging at the best of times. It includes 16 countries, six of which are Asian countries. We only had one previous trade deal with an Asian country, so it is like getting six new trade deals simultaneously. It reduces our dependence on one market. We have seen what our dependence on one market can create for us, which is an unhealthy dependency. The last Conservative questioner talked about the gap between Alberta crude and other oils, and we do sell it at a significant discount because we are dependent entirely on one market for that product.
This is a good deal, and I am glad to see that we ratified it and moved it forward. Ironically, the U.S. is on the outside looking in. We have 16 nations that are now prepared to trade with each other on a fair trade basis, and it is a better situation for us all. In fact, if we are to pursue a trade deal with China, it is probably better that we pursue a trade deal with this collective rather than on an individual basis. There is significance to this trade deal, which has yet to play out.
The second deal was the CETA, which was the European deal. I will give credit where credit is due. The previous government did a lot of the heavy lifting with respect to that deal. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs completed the deal, and it is now in place. Access is something in the order of about 300 million to 400 million people in 20 plus countries. This is, again, a tremendous opportunity for us to diversify our market.
The third deal is the one that got all of the ink, namely, the USMCA. The USMCA deal is always going to be a critical deal for us because of our relationship with the Americans on the North American continent.
If there is a lesson to be learned out of all of these trade deals, it is that we need to lessen our dependence on one market and get into other markets. Hopefully, the combination of these deals will get us into other markets, at least a billion people, possibly as many as two billion people, and in the order of 40 plus countries.
One plus one plus one actually makes more than three, because the collective of being able to ship into and out of North America to Europe and the Pacific nations is of enormous benefit to those businesses that operate out of Canada.
Let me turn now to the state of the economy. As I indicated earlier, we are blessed. There have been some very prescient moves made by the Government of Canada, which have paid off. We have just signed the largest private deal in the history of Canada, the $40-billion LNG deal. That was done in a way that recognized a lot of the claims by indigenous nations along the length of the pipeline and at the terminus. That is, ultimately, a really good opportunity for western Canada.
On the monetary side of things, inflation is largely under control. That is entirely due to the stewardship of the Bank of Canada. Interest rates are creeping up, which creates some situations where debt, particularly private debt, is at risk, but by and large, the monetary side of things is quite good.
On the fiscal side of things, we have a fairly robust economy, the top-performing economy in the G7. We have, as I said, the largest private deal ever in Canada in the history of private business. We have historically low unemployment rates. At this point, the economy has created something in the order of 500,000 new jobs in the last three years.
The debt-to-GDP ratio is in a steady state. I, like others, would be keen to see debt reduction, but at the same time, I am concerned about the major issue of growing income inequality. In some respects, the government has rightly attempted to address the issue of growing inequality among Canadians. I think we can all agree that monetary or economic gaps among citizens are to be reduced in as many instances as possible. We started off with the middle-class tax cut, which was a significant reduction in income tax for middle-class Canadians, and in a very courageous political move, we increased the rate for the top 1% of tax filers.
Small business rates have been reduced from 11% down to 9%.
One of the most significant social initiatives ever taken by any government was the Canada child benefit, where nine out of 10 families with children will benefit. Those who need it most get the most. For my riding of Scarborough—Guildwood, which I have the honour to represent, that means $100 million a year. A lot of kids are growing up in Scarborough—Guildwood and there are also a lot of poor families in Scarborough—Guildwood. The combination of the two means that benefit is of real significance to those families.
That means there is money ending up where we want it to end up, mainly in the hands of people who need it. That money will immediately be returned to the economy in the form of food and clothing purchases, transportation, etc. It gets circulated back as opposed to giving tax breaks to those who possibly do not need them. Those monies generally go into savings. While not exclusively dead money, it is money that is “languid” as opposed to money going into the CCB benefit, which is active. This is all to reduce income inequality in Canada.
Those who want to live the American dream should move to Canada, because the reality is that people move out of the lower quartile of wherever they were born at twice the rate than if they were American. That is significant because it shrinks income inequality among Canadians and when we shrink income inequality among Canadians, we all benefit.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I think the hon. member asked a legitimate question. Alberta is a resource-based economy and lives and dies on its resources. Ten years ago, Alberta was king of the hill and doing very well, because its resources were in demand. Regrettably, we have not been able to diversify the market, hence the TMX purchase and the attempt to bring some other market into play for the resources that Alberta wishes to sell.
I agree with the member that we should not be selling at a discount. As long as Alberta is selling at a discount and does not have access to other markets, I think that times will more difficult, unnecessarily, for Albertans.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the hon. member asked a question in the context of a government that has done more on the feminist concerns than pretty well any government in history, and that includes pay equity. It also includes moving status of women to a department.
These are issues that have been historical injustices. The government has moved massively in redressing these historical injustices, and I hope that in a very short period of time, the hon. member will not need to ask a question such as that.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I always appreciate the comments of my hon. colleague, but it seems to be settled at this point that Alberta crude sells at a discount. It does cost more to upgrade it. I agree with that. It does cost more to ship it. I agree with that. However, we are dependent on one market. That is where we sell 98%, 99% of the crude. When we are dependent on one market, we know we are going to be in a vulnerable position when it comes to sale.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, for years I have had the privilege of sponsoring the Association of Progressive Muslims' annual Eid dinner on the Hill. The president, Mobeen Khaja, has worked tirelessly among all faith groups to make this dinner a celebration of peace and respect for people of all backgrounds. In addition to earning him the Order of Ontario, Mobeen's decades' long efforts were recognized and acknowledged last week when he and his colleagues met with Pope Francis in Rome.
At a time when we see conflict, violence and disrespect toward people of faith, and most recently the horrific attack on the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, Mobeen and the Pope have shown everyone that there is another way. The world could use a lot more of the quiet wisdom of Mobeen and the Pope and a lot less of the bombastic rhetoric that showers us daily.
I would like to offer my congratulations to Mobeen and the Association of Progressive Muslims for the work they do to build bridges among people of all faith.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Brampton Centre.
This initiative goes back quite a long way for me. I want to recognize the former member for Kitchener Centre, the hon. Karen Redman, who raised the issue of Ashley Smith's death and how it affected so many of us, in caucus and outside of caucus, particularly for people like me who are not from Kitchener.
I want to begin by reading the dry coroner's report, which states:
Coroner's Inquest Touching the Death of Ashley Smith.
Aged: 19
Name of Deceased: Ashley Smith
Date and Time of Death: October 19, 2007, 8:10 a.m.
Place of Death: St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener
Cause of Death: Ligature strangulation and positional asphyxia
By What Means: homicide
That is the coroner's way of introducing what is in fact a substantive report that forms, in part, the basis for the initiative in Bill C-83.
The newspaper report is a little more graphic. It states:
Smith, 19, originally from Moncton, N.B., was imprisoned at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., when she died in 2007.
She had tied a piece of cloth around her neck while guards stood outside her cell door and watched. They had been ordered by senior staff not to enter her cell as long as she was breathing.
...
In the last year of Smith's life, [she] was shuffled 17 times between nine institutions in five provinces.
She was clearly a troubled young lady, but there was still a massive failure on the part of the institutions that were responsible for housing her, and ultimately for her death.
The minister of the day, the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, said after receipt of the coroner's report: “My thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Smith's family. I've asked my officials to review carefully the jury's recommendations”. That was on December 19, 2013. At that time, he was the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness.
Here we are, more than 10 years after Ms. Smith's death, looking at a bill that incorporates of many of the recommendations contained in the coroner's report. Clearly, nothing was done from 2007 to 2015, when the previous government ceased to be the government. Three years later, we are now preparing this, in some respects driven by the forces of civil society, but also by the reality of two lawsuits, which at its core means the current system is not sustainable.
Among the recommendations of the coroner's report is that CSC ensure that nursing services are available on site for all inmates; that CSC expand the scope and terms of psychiatric contracts to enable them to perform duties in a meaningful way; that decisions about clinical management of inmates be made by doctors, not CSC staff; that inmates must have access to an independent patient advocate system; that indefinite solitary confinement for prisoners be abolished; and that meetings between prisoners and support staff should not happen through food slots. That was something that happened frequently with Ms. Smith.
We have a long way to go, and I do not pretend to assume that Bill C-83 responds to each and every recommendation. My colleague, the NDP critic for public safety, highlighted some of the real questions that would be properly posed to the minister before a committee. Hopefully, the responses of both the minister and the head of Correctional Service Canada will be helpful in assuaging him about the concerns that are legitimately raised, both in the coroner's report and in the lawsuits that have come up.
The Prime Minister was so concerned about the inadequacies of, for want of a better term, solitary confinement that he actually incorporated it into the mandates of the justice minister and the public safety minister.
The justice minister's mandate says, “recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith regarding the restriction of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of those with mental illness.”
The mandate letter of the public safety minister, states, “address gaps in services to Indigenous Peoples and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system”.
In 2013, we had a coroner's inquiry and recommendations coming out of the death of Ashley Smith in 2007. In 2013, the Conservative Party said that its thoughts and prayers went out to the family. The Liberal Party became the Liberal government in 2015. Incorporated into the mandate letters of two senior ministers were the requirement that they deal with these issues. Now we have Bill C-83 on those issues.
In addition, the corrections commissioner has further been mandated to help create a “safe, secure and humane” corrections environment and to address the physical and mental health of inmates, among other priorities. In fact, two weeks ago, the new head of CSC, Anne Kelly, spoke to her mandate. Indeed, members had every opportunity to question her about her mandate and also to see how this part of her mandate might well be fulfilled.
Most significant is that Bill C-83 would put an end to segregation. In Ontario and British Columbia, two constitutional challenges have found that the legislation governing the administrative segregation is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. My friends in the Conservative Party might wish that to go away. They probably wish the charter would go away. Nevertheless, two of the most significant provinces in the country have said that the way things are being done is not sustainable and is contrary to the Constitution.
It is quite clear that what is motivating in part, beyond the mandates etc., is the reality of the NGO community and these class action lawsuits. The time to act clearly is now.
It is clear that large parts of the administrative segregation provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act will no longer be in existence in two of Canada's most populous provinces. The Conservative Party's position seems to be to just let people sit in the current system anyway. That is neither a very morally nor legally sustainable position.
In my opinion, taking prisoners out of administrative segregation and putting them into a situation is a greater benefit to public safety.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, there is clearly an effort to make the secure intervention unit an environment that allows very troubled prisoners to have more human interaction. There is a mandated time that they will be allowed to interact with other human beings. There is a mandated time that they have to interact with health care professionals. There is a mandated time in which there is a review of their past progress.
At the end of the day, almost everybody gets back on the street. We can wish that they come back onto the street whole, but that is just wishful fantasies. The prison system needs to be mandated to make people as able as possible to reintegrate into our society to maximize public safety.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the measurement of the success of the bill will be over time, and that is absolutely necessary. We currently have a system that is not working, that is constitutionally deficient, that offends the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that has a little too many Ashley Smiths in the system. The improvement will hopefully be measurable over time. I am sure the head of CSC will have some metrics to share with the committee.
With respect to funding, we are certainly in recovery mode from the previous government. The hundreds of millions of dollars that were cut out of the system are clearly having an impact, and that is extremely regrettable for public safety and for the rehabilitation and well-being of the prisoners.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I really feel bad that the Liberal Party and the Liberal government adheres to the rule of law. What a concept. We do have those of us in here who make law and we have those down the street, learned judges in the law, who interpret the law. When the interpretation comes back that this offends the Charter of Rights of Freedoms, which it does according to the two cases that are currently before the justices, then this body needs to adjust.
We are all subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We might not like that, but we are.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 26th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security entitled, “M-124, Automated External Defibrillators”.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that I inform the House of the passing of Peter Adams, MP for Peterborough from 1993 to 2004.
Peter loved Peterborough and Peterborough loved him. MPP from 1987 to 1990, Peterborough's Citizen of the Year in 1991, honorary doctorate from Trent University in 2010, Order of Ontario in 2012, one way or another all of his awards and distinctions circled back to his beloved Peterborough. At one point, Peter even tried to convince me that the city was named after him.
In Parliament, he advocated for science before it was fashionable to do so. He was concerned about the Arctic before global warming became so alarming. He was a partisan Liberal, but embraced consensus and collaboration before they became bad words.
A marathoner, Peter ran the good race of life to the end.
He was a mentor and friend to the current MP for Peterborough—Kawartha, the Hon. Minister of Status of Women. She will miss him. I will miss him.
I thank Jill and family for lending him to our nation.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, like others before me I want to express my personal sympathy to the family of Tori Stafford. It must be very difficult for them to listen to this debate and what has gone on before, because in some respects it is reliving what is every parent's most horrific nightmare.
The government understands the concerns Canadians have with respect to ensuring safety in our communities. We want to assure Canadians on all sides of this debate that the protection of society is the paramount consideration for our government, and that public safety is at the forefront of all decisions regarding the classification and transfer of offenders.
Correctional Service Canada is recognized as a leader in the international corrections community and has a long-standing history of co-operating with national and international partners in the stabilization and reconstruction of foreign criminal justice systems. It is not only a nationally recognized good system, but an internationally recognized good system.
Correctional Service Canada regularly assesses all the risks presented by all offenders, to ensure they are placed in the appropriate location. The various considerations are codified in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act under the criteria for the selection of the penitentiary, as follows:
the Service shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that the penitentiary in which they are confined is one that provides them with an environment that contains only the necessary restrictions, taking into account
(a) the degree and kind of custody and control necessary for
(i) the safety of the public,
(ii) the safety of that person and other persons in the penitentiary, and
(iii) the security of the penitentiary;
It goes on to list several other criteria. Those are the criteria Correctional Service Canada uses for anybody coming into the facility who has to be classified as maximum, medium or minimum, as well as for their ongoing time in the facility, whether for a reclassification or a transfer to another institution.
Canadians need to keep in mind that these are not willy-nilly classifications, and that there are guidelines and policies that go with the consideration when it comes to the transfer or classification of a prisoner.
Immediately after sentencing, CSC officials begin a comprehensive assessment process to identify immediate security needs and critical concerns in accordance with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. The critical factors taken into consideration determine the security level and placement of an offender, and include institutional adjustment, escape risk and risk to public safety. Furthermore, the custody rating scale, an actuarial tool, is also used to assist in assigning the most appropriate initial security classification for the penitentiary placement of an offender.
The aboriginal social history must also be taken into consideration during all risk assessments. Based upon the entire risk assessment, a placement decision is made by CSC.
At this point, I hope I have conveyed that this is a very rigorous process with respect to both the classification of an individual as maximum, minimum or medium, and also to the facility in which the person will be placed.
Based upon their motion today, Conservatives want to simply have the minister intervene and in effect toss that entire decision. This would put the minister in a position of having to make what is essentially a political decision. The Conservative motion asks the minister to ignore the evidence that supports the transfer to this institution and substitute his own decision based upon a set of facts that everyone in this room agrees are egregious in the extreme.
There is a review process that has been triggered by the collective outrage. I say “collective” because it is on both sides of the aisle. The commissioner came before the public safety committee last week. She was originally scheduled to talk about her mandate. However, this set of facts effectively overwhelmed her appearance there. Under repetitive and I would say occasionally even aggressive questioning by the Conservatives, she said at the end of her testimony, “I just want to be clear. This was a tragedy that changed many lives forever. I have been asked to do a review. I am committed to doing a review of the case.”
That is the proper procedure. If in fact the minister is faced with what we collectively agree is an egregious set of facts that causes questions among parliamentarians and Canadians in general, then he does not simply say that he does not like the decision and that he is going to change it. Rather, he asks the commissioner to review the file and see that proper practices were followed.
He has asked the commissioner to do just that. She repeated that over and over again, yet the members from the Conservative Party were not satisfied with that answer. They simply wanted an arbitrary decision to be made by the minister at that point. In fact, they want the minister to make a decision that is unilateral, fact-free and process-free, because the minister cannot undertake the process that I have outlined here. Therefore, they are asking him to do exactly what they would not do while in government.
The minister cannot tell the commissioner of CSC how to manage individual offenders, just as he cannot tell the commissioner of the RCMP who to arrest. My friend, the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, said as much when he was the public safety minister. He also said that he did not control the security classification of individual prisoners. In 2014, he was right. Now, in 2018, on the opposite side of the aisle, he wishes for the rest of us to do exactly the opposite of what he was advising four years ago.
Benjamin Perrin, a former staffer in Mr. Harper's office, recently tweeted, “This may be unpopular to voice, but I’m concerned with politicians being the ones who decide how any particular individual offender is treated.”
Not only is it unwise to micromanage offenders, it is also illegal. No minister can tell a commissioner how to manage individual offenders, any more than he or she can tell the RCMP who to arrest. There is a wall between the commissioner and the minister, and it is founded on good logic, good law and common sense. The minister makes the policy, and the commissioner executes the policy.
I could have been more persuaded to support the motion had it not been framed in the lexicon of, “We do not care what the decision is, but make the decision now. Reverse the decision of the commissioner”, but rather, “This is an egregious set of facts. Please have the commissioner review the facts and see that the policies were followed. If these facts and the facts in other cases lead you to make a change in policy, so be it.” That should be the way proper law and policies are followed.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to support this motion. I wish the phrasing of the motion had been a little more thoughtful. However, we have what we have.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the government is doing the exact right thing in accordance with the rules, the policy and the law as it is presently set out. The minister has asked for a review of the file. That is what is happening. There is going to be a review of the file. If the decision is changed, that will be the decision that is made.
If, however, the decision is not changed, that may inform future policy. There may be an argument to be made that future policy may change according to this set of facts. However, there may be an additional set of facts that might not be present in our debate today.
This is the process. The process is as important as the decision itself. When the Conservative members were in government, this was the process they followed. They could make policy decisions, but they did not intervene on specific files, and properly so. Ministers should not micromanage this kind of file.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is quite to the contrary. I feel badly that I am having to repeat myself, but there is a process. The government has initiated the process. That was the responsible thing to do. That would be the responsible thing for any government to do. When the Conservatives were on this side, that is exactly what they did. The minister has initiated a review of this particular case. One cannot just go around making decisions willy-nilly.
My analogy was from my hon. friend from Saskatchewan. He knows Regina very well, and he knows the RCMP police college there. The minister does not tell the police who to arrest. The minister does not run the RCMP other than from a policy standpoint and from a standpoint of budgeting. It would be wrong for a minister to say to the RCMP, “You must arrest this person. You must try this particular person.” That would be an intervention that no right-thinking Canadian would tolerate.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, if my hon. colleague's argument is that there is a right to housing, is there also, therefore, a right to adequate transit? The reason I ask is that housing is not so much an issue where I come from, but adequate transit is. People cannot get to and from Scarborough in any kind of efficient fashion comparable to other parts of Toronto. I want to know whether the member would also argue that if housing is a right, adequate transit is also a right.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, when I had the honour of being the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of National Defence, we were doing the strong, secure and engaged, the overall plan for the military. One of the points driven home to us time and time again was that when a member deploys, so does his or her family. It is also true for veterans. A veteran is not a veteran by him or herself but is a veteran in a family context.
My concern is that we are on the floor of the House of Commons, and we have before us a very bad set of facts. There is no question that we have a bad set of facts, but as they say in law school, bad facts make bad law.
I would be interested in the hon. member's observations with respect to the overall policy that veterans benefits should be made available to the family and her concern that these egregious facts, on which every member agrees, should in fact drive a change in policy.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the work of the hon. member on the committee.
The position of the Conservative Party prior to and during the committee work was that Bill C-71 is essentially a backdoor registry. There were supporting witnesses who said that this was a backdoor registry. The hon. member moved an amendment which said that this cannot be construed in any way, shape or form as a registry. The committee was persuaded by the hon. member's arguments that this was not a registry.
Is it still the position of the member and his party that Bill C-71 is a backdoor registry?
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the member's speech reflects his contribution at committee, which is always thoughtful and quite effective.
I agree with the sentiments that he expressed toward the end of his speech, which unfortunately seems to pit literally law-abiding gun owners against those who have been victimized by firearms. It does seem to be like a dialogue of the deaf, but it is where we are and it is extremely frustrating. As the chair of the committee, I was amazed to realize how much angst these bills produce.
I am sure my hon. colleague would agree that this is a relatively modest bill and the impositions that it would make are on those who sell firearms and those who use firearms, and are quite modest. Earlier a Conservative member said that these would be undue burdens on lawful firearm owners. Is that the member's view as well?
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I get the overall impression that my hon. colleague is not overly enthusiastic about Bill C-71. Nevertheless, he does make a valid contribution at committee and I always appreciate his interventions there.
The member had a multitude of points but I am only going to pick up on two.
The first one has to do with the five-year limitation, which he argues is unnecessary because it already happens and it is a lifetime inquiry. I therefore would ask the hon. member why a former Conservative colleague of his, a former minister in fact, felt compelled to introduce Bill C-42, which Bill C-71 picks up on and which directly addresses the issue of lifting the five-year limitation?
The second point has to do with licence verification, which the member repeatedly said always happens, yet Bill C-42 refers to where the transferor has no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm. In other words, all that has to be established is the threshold of no reason to believe. A valid licence does not have to be produced.
I would be interested in my hon. colleague's comments on his former colleague's Bill C-42, which was Conservative legislation.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, before I start, may I say it is a delight to see my colleague for Scarborough Centre back in the House after her recent illness. We share a border, and I know her to be a very hard-working MP. When she supports Bill C-71, I know it is on the basis that she has a very good ear to the ground and has worked hard with her constituents to establish her support.
It is an honour to rise and speak to Bill C-71. I have the good fortune to chair the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. As the chair, I remained relatively neutral as the debate occurred. However, it is not as if I do not have an opinion on Bill C-71.
After hearing 39 witnesses, reading 101 briefs, and meeting for over 18 hours, we now have an amended bill back in the House. This does not include either the minister's or his parliamentary secretary's extensive consultations, both within and outside of caucus.
At its heart, Bill C-71 is a relatively modest bill. It tries to do three or four things.
First of all, it tries to remove the decision on the classification of guns from the Governor in Council, namely the government, i.e. politicians, and place it with the RCMP.
Second, it grandfathers individual licence-holders in two sets of prohibited weapons, one being Czech and one being Swiss. Then, on a specific day that has already passed, June 30, it reinstates those weapons as prohibited weapons and makes new acquisitions prohibited. Under the previous legislation, or the order under the Governor in Council, those guns were not prohibited.
Third, it expands the realm of inquiry into background checks.
Fourth, it requires vendors to keep a record of sale and have a potential purchaser show a valid licence. There has been some considerable discussion about that over the course of the morning.
In addition, two very significant amendments were made. The first was unanimously agreed to by the committee, and I quote from the amendment: “nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to permit or require the registration of non-restricted firearms.” In other words, it was unanimously agreed that this bill is not a gun registry. That amendment was moved by a Conservative member, the critic for public safety.
As my colleagues know, the term “gun registry” sends both sides of the debate into paroxysms of fear and loathing, which is not particularly helpful in actually reconciling this dialogue of the deaf. It seems to happen every time guns are debated on this floor. Apparently, anything that might make it easier for police to trace a weapon in an efficient way is something to be resisted at all costs, even at the cost of solving a crime.
The second amendment expands the realm of inquiry for someone looking to acquire a firearm licence. For instance, looking into somebody's digital life is good, and looking into someone's history of violent and threatening behaviour is also good. That amendment also passed unanimously after some vigorous back and forth among committee members.
In my view, the arbiter of the weapons classification system should be the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, not the Governor in Council. The first of the two main arguments against the removal of the GIC states that there is no right of appeal. This argument presumes that there should be a constitutional right to challenge the RCMP's classification or that of the Governor in Council.
ln my view, when those who are in the pro-gun lobby think that a weapon has been classified as too restricted, i.e., prohibited or restricted, there is no one they can lobby to downgrade that classification: not an MP or a minister, and not during an election or after an election. The reason is as imaginative as one can be. I cannot understand why people would think that I, a politician, not particularly familiar with the classification of guns, should have any say in whether a gun is restricted or prohibited or not, on the basis of its millimetres, calibre, frequency of fire, length of barrel, etc. This is a responsibility that is appropriate for the RCMP only.
The second argument is that the RCMP makes mistakes. I do not know anybody who does not make mistakes. I do not know of any organization that does not make mistakes or is entirely consistent, including the courts, and indeed including this chamber.
However, there are a number of administrative and quasi-judicial entities from which there is no right of appeal and whose decisions are final. The classification of firearms seems to me to be one of those areas of administrative law in which it is appropriate that the police classify and make the final decision. I would note that any administrative decision can be appealed regardless.
Personally, I would rather take my chances with an organization that has a daily life experience with firearms, rather than some people in cabinet or on the floor of the House.
The firearms that are listed in Bill C-71, the Swiss and Czech firearms, which were grandfathered until June 30, were given a lower classification. This just illustrates the problem: Some people would have classified them as restricted, some would have classified them as prohibited, and some would have classified them as not restricted. I believe the RCMP should make that decision.
Finally, Bill C-71 requires a business to keep a record of sale. This might be thought to be obvious, and apparently it has been obvious for a number of years in a number of jurisdictions. Bill C-71 makes this a requirement. Many are convinced that this makes for a backdoor registry. Apparently, business records held by multiple private businesses across the country constitute a backdoor registry in the minds of some. I would hope that the amendment, as moved by the Conservative member, and as agreed to unanimously by the committee, puts an end to that argument.
In conclusion, this bill is exceedingly modest. Expanding background checks is good. Removing political input into the classification of firearms is good. Requiring the retention of sales records is good. The reclassification of certain weapons is good. I believe colleagues should support this bill as amended.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the great honour to represent a riding in the east end of Toronto, a riding I have represented for 20-odd years. I believe I have some authority and right to speak to this on behalf of my constituents.
It is virtually unanimous that there is no need to have handguns, or any kind of guns, in one's possession in the city of Toronto. That was reflected in the unanimous motion by the City of Toronto. It was reflected in the unanimous motion by the City of Montreal.
If there is a requirement to sports shoot, that can be accommodated. However, to have firearms in one's possession creates difficulties. We heard at committee that the possession and ready availability of weapons made for higher incidents of crime, with very tragic consequences.
I am sure my colleague would actually support the elimination, reduction and control of weapons, as much as possible. I look forward to him supporting Bill C-71.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more.
Given the past summer, given the evidence we heard, given the tragedies spelled out by witness after witness, not only with murder and assault but also with suicide, also with intimate partners, I just cannot imagine how anyone would not support this amendment, which might go some distance toward reducing that. Just a basic inquiry into the violent history of an individual or the psychiatric history of the individual seems to me to be a step forward.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 25th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security entitled “Use of Ion Mobility Spectrometers by Correctional Service Canada”.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 22nd report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, entitled “Indigenous People in the Federal Correctional System”. This was a unanimous report.
There was a lot of hard work, but it reflects the upset of members with respect to indigenous incarceration. The members wish me to convey that they will be calling the ministers and the officials to the committee in the fall to respond to their recommendations.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.
I also have the honour to present two reports of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in relation to the recently tabled, as amended, Bill C-71, an act to amend certain acts and regulations in relation to firearms.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 21st report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill C-71, an act to amend certain acts and regulations in relation to firearms.
The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, one of the delightful privileges of this job is the joy of meeting and working with people so accomplished as to make one wonder what one has done with one's life. Bruce Kidd is one such person. He recently retired from the University of Toronto Scarborough campus as principal and vice-president. Those of us of a certain age will know Bruce as an Olympic athlete and a Commonwealth champion. Others will know him as a scholar, others as a university administrator, and still others as a human rights advocate.
The Bruce Kidd I know, however, is a gentle, wise, and skilled man who represented the very best of UTSC. As with many great people, he listened before he spoke. He thought before he acted, and he attributed to others the credit that was rightly his. He was very modest about his accomplishments.
No one could begrudge Bruce a long and comfortable retirement. However, I doubt that he will actually retire. I look forward to seeing Bruce in his next reincarnation after his so-called retirement.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, for the sixth time, Bill Browder was arrested on an Interpol arrest warrant. Mr. Browder has been tireless in his advocacy of the Magnitsky legislation. To retaliate, Russia has added him to the Interpol warrant list. Could the Minister of Public Safety speak to what the Government of Canada is doing to ensure that individuals unjustly blacklisted by Russia, such as Mr. Browder, will not be unlawfully detained if they come to Canada?
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have seldom met a politician more skilled in the art of politics and policy than Bob Rae.
On May 16, the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians recognized Mr. Rae with a lifetime achievement award. It is a recognition well deserved.
Many more eloquent than I have highlighted Bob's many political accomplishments. From my perspective, keeping the Liberal Party in the game from 2011 to 2013 was easily one of Bob's most significant political accomplishments. Political leadership is required when times are darkest, and indeed times were dark until October 2015.
In caucus, Bob was pure joy. Not only does he have a wicked sense of humour, but he can and did quickly summarize complex political and policy positions with insight, perspective, and clear direction.
I am glad to know that Bob is not retiring. I will miss his wit and wisdom. This is a well-deserved recognition.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his thoughts. Indeed, he is one of the hardest-working members on the committee. He offered many thoughtful amendments and has delved into this bill. He is to be commended for his hard work on the committee. However, this is a bill that we will never get entirely right. There is always the challenge between the human rights concerns and security concerns. It is eternally evolving.
I appreciate the hon. member's concerns, many of which I personally think to be quite legitimate. However, on the other hand, they are not set off against the security concerns. The people who have been writing about this bill seem to think that the government has struck the right balance.
I would be interested in the member's comments about Craig Forcese, from the University of Ottawa, who said that it is the “biggest reform of Canadian national security law since 1984....” He said that on accountability and review, we seem to have caught up to the 2006 Arar Commission, with real cleanup of CSIS threat reduction powers.
Craig Forcese and Kent Roach wrote that “solid gains—measured both from a rule of law and civil liberties perspective...at no credible cost to security...rolls back much of the unnecessary overkill of...Bill C-51.”
It seems to me that those people seem to think that balance is being obtained. While I think the hon. member's interventions are quite legitimate and thoughtful, I wonder whether he thinks that the comments by those professors reflect the appropriate balance in the bill.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, Canada's national parks play a critical role in shaping our national identity, protecting wildlife, and preserving national heritage. Last year a record number of Canadians visited parks and heritage places across the country, including the Rouge National Urban Park in Scarborough.
In 2017, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change held the most comprehensive consultation ever to be undertaken. Could the minister tell us what she heard and what her vision is for Canada's parks?
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, several hundred witnesses later, and 50-plus amendments, 76 briefs, and over 70 hours' worth of testimony, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in relation to Bill C-59, an act respecting national security matters. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments. This was a classic demonstration of how a parliamentary committee should operate.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the previous speakers and thank the hon. member for her eloquence on this file. It really is a good day for Parliament when we can discuss matters of such importance and sensitivity. The member for Timmins—James Bay is to commended for bringing this motion forward.
The key issue here is the request for an apology. An apology, by definition, means a sincere request in connection with an offence that has been committed. For whatever reason, the Catholic Church has chosen not to apologize. At the end of the day, regardless of this motion, presumably it will still not have apologized. I wonder whether the hon. member cares to reflect on the state of affairs if there is either no apology or an apology that may be something less than sincere.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her speech, made ever more eloquent by the fact that she is a practising Catholic, and may I even say a disappointed Catholic. I am not a Catholic. In fact, my ancestors were so upset with the Catholic Church they all became Protestants, which means protest-ants.
I want to talk about the day after this motion passes. It is pretty obvious that there is almost unanimity in the chamber. The key issue is the request for a papal apology. It is pretty clear that at this point, the papal apology is not going to be forthcoming. The member used the word “finger-pointing”, and there is some element of that in our conversation today. The question becomes this. Does this conversation, which I think is an important one, move us further along the path of reconciliation, or does it, in effect, freeze us in place or move us back from reconciliation?
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, could the hon. parliamentary secretary offer a reflection on the remarkable adherence of indigenous folks to Christianity?
By this stage in the evolution of history and given the levels of abuse we heard about, one would have thought that indigenous people would be rejecting adherence to the church and adherence to the faith. However, it is quite to the contrary. The numbers and the enthusiasm of indigenous people who embrace Christianity are quite remarkable.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, human beings are strange at times. The more one asks, the less one gets. I wonder whether the hon. member has contemplated the irony of a potential debate like this. It is pretty obvious at this stage that the Catholic Church is unwilling to give an apology. The ironic effect may be that we move further from actually obtaining what is the desire of the House by asking for an apology once again.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to present two petitions on behalf of constituents in my riding of Scarborough—Guildwood. This is from the Somaliland expatriate community. It wishes to have Canada recognize Somaliland as an independent country, as well as contribute to international disaster and relief efforts in Somaliland.
Somaliland was a former British protectorate. After an unsuccessful union with Somalia, the people declared their independence in 1991. Over the last 25 years, Somaliland has established a new constitution and its own currency and bank. The people have overseen the restoration of peace and an independent judiciary. In 2015 and 2017, Somaliland suffered from a drought. The local population has suffered from malnutrition, lack of water, and thousands of deaths.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague for Lac-Saint-Louis gave an excellent speech and I thank him for sharing his time with me. It is very generous of him.
This is actually a very good budget. I realize that may not be a universally held position and possibly is really bad for the opposition parties and for the Conservative Party's propaganda machine, but it is a very good budget. It is a very good budget in terms of economic fundamentals.
I would encourage members to go to page 26 of the budget where it talks about our debt-to-GDP ratio and the progress we have made literally over a great period of time. I am looking down at the end of the chamber and I see the hon. member for Kenora who arrived here in the bad old days when our debt to GDP was at its highest, which is 69% of debt to GDP. It climbed steadily from around 30% back in the 1980s through the Mulroney years until the election of 1993 and the Chrétien-Martin period. The New York Times had described Canada as an honorary member of the third world because our debt was out of control. While our Conservative colleagues might wish us to believe that at this point, unfortunately this chart and these facts do not support that contention. It is unfortunate for them but very fortunate for us and our nation.
Since 1993 when both Chrétien and Martin worked on reducing the debt and actually paid down something in the order of about $100 billion of debt, we, meaning the nation, had worked this down around 2006 when it actually dipped under 30% of GDP. After that, we kind of limped along a little above. Certainly, in the 2008 financial crisis, there was a bit of a bump. The Conservatives at that point ran a deficit of $56 billion claiming it was entirely due to financial turmoil. In fact, in part, it was also due to mismanagement with respect to fiscal instability and reduction of revenues coming into the government. Thereafter, economic conditions settled down and when the Conservatives left office, it was in and around 30% of GDP.
If members think this is simply luck or that we are just a blessed nation, which we are, I would invite members to think again. If we compare, again in the same chart, our fiscal performance to any other G7 nation, members will notice that, for instance, Italy and Japan run debt to GDP well over 120%. Even the United States, which loves to lecture everyone about debt and fiscal responsibility, is running its debt to GDP around 90%. We are around 30%. There is a broad consensus among Canadians of all political stripes that we do need to maintain fiscal discipline in order to be able to provide the services and programs that Canadians rightly are concerned about.
I have heard previous speakers say that we are out of control with respect to the deficit. It is true that there was a promise, a commitment made in the election to run a modest deficit. At the time, that was quite radical because the opposition parties, the Conservatives and the NDP, were promising a balanced budget. At this point the leader of the day decided that Canada's economy needed a stimulus. The stimulus, as it turned out to be, went from $10 billion, as was set out in the election, to an estimate of $30 billion. However, if we look at the charts, it actually comes in at less than $20 billion. The interesting part is that we ended up with a growth in the Canadian economy.
What my Conservative colleagues fail to mention when they talk in those numbers, namely, 10 becomes 30 which actually ends up as 20 and is projected to decline over the next two or three years, is that at the same time, our unemployment rate went from a high of 7.1% in 2015 to a historic low of 5.9% in 2017. It poses the interesting and nice question as to what it is that we want. Do we want to have a balanced budget at all costs and run the unemployment rate at 7.9% or do we want to provide a stimulus, possibly a larger stimulus than was originally promised but still a stimulus, and run the unemployment rate down to 5.9%?
I know that all governments say the same thing, that it is because of their fiscal management and brilliance that the economy is just humming. The problem for the opposition is that the economy is humming. My hon. colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis referenced the speech of the Governor of the Bank of Canada at Queen's University. The governor said there is still some space in the economy to improve without inflation, which is the dream of every central bank governor. Right now, the Canadian central bank governor has the most envious job in the world. He is running an economy without inflation, with low unemployment, with a debt to GDP that is well within a manageable range.
Again, looking at the charts on page 22, the average real GDP growth since 2016 Q2 is 3.2% in Canada, 2.4% in Germany, 2.4% in the United States. Apparently making America great again has not quite worked. In fact, if one wants to live the American dream, one should move to Canada.
All of these numbers probably in some respects make some people's eyes glaze over, and probably my wife is one of them, but they have to be for some purpose. One of the purposes has been the redistribution of income, or of wealth, if you will, across the income spectrum.
Probably the most significant income redistribution that has happened under this government has been the re-profiling of the Canada child benefit. In the budget at page 38, there is a commitment to raise the amount that is available for an income of $35,000 from $7,500 or $7,600 to almost $11,000. That is enormous. For a family income of $70,000, it is raised from $4,000 up to $6,700.
In a riding like mine, Scarborough—Guildwood, where there are a lot of children and a low level of income among a lot of people, that is a significant and huge impact. In Scarborough—Guildwood, that means something in the order of $100 million comes into the riding each and every year.
We can talk about tax cuts. For those of us who have a good income, tax cuts are very attractive, but the beauty of putting $100 million into a riding like Scarborough—Guildwood is that the money gets spent. It gets spent on transportation. It gets spent on food. It gets spent on clothing. It gets spent on education. It is money that goes into the bank accounts of the constituents of Scarborough—Guildwood and immediately, because the incomes are low, gets turned around and ends up in the economy.
The government has initiated, literally, a fiscal revolution under the Canada child benefit. Unfortunately, I am not going to get a chance to talk about the other revolution, which is the ability to redistribute, under the working benefit.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I love the way the hon. member seems to be able to extract bad news out of good.
After his wanderings all over the fiscal map, I will say that growth in the United States is an issue. There has not been a government in Canada since the time of Confederation that did not base its projections upon growth relative to our main trading partner. After all, 70% of our trade is with the United States. We wish it was less.
I do not think we can underestimate the risk that the White House is to NAFTA. If the hon. member reads the back annexes of the budget, he will realize that there is an itemization of risk to GDP. The first risk is the NAFTA negotiations. I hope they go well, but if they do not go well, we will all suffer.
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Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, one of the things that I learned from former finance minister Paul Martin, and subsequently Prime Minister Martin, is to get the economic fundamentals right.
For the first two years, the government has been readdressing the economic fundamentals of the previous government. The previous government was “a balanced-budget at all costs”. The mere fact that it only achieved this once in its mandate seems to be lost in the mists of time.
Until the economics are right, we cannot address the issues that the hon. member raised, all of which are quite legitimate. The issue of pharmacare, for instance, is a live issue, and all of us on this side are hoping that it moves forward.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, nine years ago this month, I introduced a bill on corporate accountability, Bill C-300. It proposed the withdrawal of consular and financial support from Canadian mining companies found to have breached international human rights or environmental standards. Companies told us that this would be the end of western civilization as we knew it. Hell hath no fury like a mining company cut off from its money and support.
Needless to say, Bill C-300 nearly died several times as it made its way from the House to committee and back again. However, die it ultimately did by six votes. However, it had an afterlife and lived on in the imagination of civil society, the international press, and hundreds of thousands of Canadians. At one point, 450,000 petitions were presented to the former prime minister, and ignored.
January 17 was resurrection day for Bill C-300, with the announcement of the creation of the Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister, the previous and current ministers of international trade, and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who kept the dream of Bill C-300 alive.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, before I present the report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, I want to acknowledge the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who has made a significant contribution to this report.
I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill C-66, An Act to establish a procedure for expunging certain historically unjust convictions and to make related amendments to other Acts. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I want to express my admiration for the hon. member, who has covered a massive range of subjects in his 20 minutes, some of which are actually related to the bill before us.
I want to bring him back to his comments about his riding, which apparently is a younger riding, to ask him about a subject that he did not cover but I think would be of considerable benefit to him, which is the Canada child benefit. After his conversation about boutique tax credits, tax cuts, and things of that nature, does he in fact believe that the Canada child benefit is possibly the most revolutionary and effective way to get money into the hands of families who will actually use it? That is my first question, from a theoretical and policy standpoint, as it were.
The second question is whether he knows the amount of Canada child benefit money that has gone into his riding from the inception of that benefit in July 2016 to its first fiscal year-end of June 30, 2017.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague, who is a very able contributor to the public safety and emergency preparedness committee. I did not agree with everything he had to say, but nevertheless there was sufficient there to be helpful in this debate.
I also want to inform members that I will be splitting my time with the member for Joliette.
I will focus my remarks over the course of these few minutes on the issue of the Canada child benefit and discuss it in a kind of larger context.
The Government of Canada raises revenues somewhere in the order north of $300 billion. All of that money comes in, and then it is largely distributed to various benefits and programs. The biggest chunk of that money is distributed back to provinces. After that, it is distributed to individuals, such as seniors who get the Canada pension, and various other programs, which members are quite familiar with. It then comes down to the money that the government can actually control, because most of that money is spoken for, if you will, upon its arrival in the coffers of the federal government.
Within that pool of money that the government can direct, there is obviously program spending, such as the Department of Defence, which is somewhere in the order of about $20 billion and is far and away the largest program spending that this government has. Then we get into some other nuances, and we have this discussion as to the best way to use funds in order to benefit Canadians. Some will argue that tax cuts are the best, and clearly tax cuts are the best for those who have the highest margins of taxable income. Clearly, in order to be able to benefit from a tax cut, one has to have a taxable income. Therefore, those who are in the high margins benefit the most from tax cuts. Then we have this beast called a tax credit. Again, one has to have taxable income in order to benefit from a tax credit. It is a contribution, if you will, to those tax credits. Usually they are kind of targeted tax credits, which are sometimes called “boutique tax credits”, and they are a bit hit and miss. Then we have kind of a refundable tax credit where, if one does not have a taxable income, money goes back.
However, the ones I want to talk about today are benefits. Some benefits, and this was particularly true of the previous government, are taxable benefits. For example, the government sends a person $100, that has to be declared, and it is taxed at whatever one's marginal rate might be. The revolutionary concept here with this government has been that it introduced the Canada child benefit, a non-taxable benefit, which has become an enormous amount of money that has gone into the hands of Canadians directly.
The government is always fond of speaking in large numbers. The problem with speaking in large numbers is that it does not give a feel as to how much money is really going into our pockets. Most taxpayers want to know how it affects them. Therefore, on the larger number in the 2016 budget, for instance, a family with two children with an income of $90,000 received $2,500 more per year than they would have under the previous system. This is a significant sum of money.
However, what struck me, and why I wanted to talk about this particular subject, was that I received a memorandum a few weeks ago that set out the amount of money that has come into my own riding from the Canada child benefit. This is why I asked the previous speaker whether he knew about that amount of money.
On average, the size of a riding is in the order of about 100,000 people. Some are a little more than that, some a little less, but that is a rough average. Between July 1, 2016, when the benefit was introduced, and June 30, 2017, a sum of $101,629 million came into my riding. That is a lot of money in one 12-month segment. It is by far the biggest payment of funds received by my constituents, literally in years. I think that all members would be interested in knowing how much money has come into their ridings as well.
The point is that this money goes into the pockets of families with children. It is a cheque that arrives in their bank account. It is money that goes directly back into the economy.
I looked around for a study to arrive at a kind of economic multiplier, such as the one that applies to a tax cut. How much money does a tax cut actually generate to stimulate the GDP? However, I could not find a multiplier effect on GDP for the Canada child benefit. It is not that it does not exist, I simply could not find it. If we compare this to other forms of monies that the federal government returns to taxpayers, this is possibly one of the most effective ways to stimulate the economy.
Statistics Canada announced today that the unemployment rate is down to 5.9% and that 80,000 jobs were created in the last month. That is not insignificant. It is interesting to me, and it would be an economist's paradise to try to correlate the Canada child benefit and the amount of money that goes directly into the economy, the rise in economic productivity, and the increase in GDP. This is possibly the most direct way to stimulate the Canadian economy, by putting money into the hands of people with children.
There was an American study which dealt with a tax credit. It stated that the first half of monies are spent on groceries, child expenses, and furniture. Therefore, if $100 came into the bank account of a person receiving this benefit, the first half would go to groceries, child expenses, and furniture, while the second half would go to paying past-due bills and asset building, such as saving money for education. That does put a lie to those who say that all it does is create dependencies, etc.
I would suggest that the single most significant economic initiative by the government has been the Canada child benefit. I was heartened in the past week to hear the Prime Minister announce the housing benefit, which is, in some respects, a parallel benefit, as it puts money directly into the hands of those who need it. That is the most important economic stimulus that we can do as a government and a nation.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it was a good half idea, insofar as it was universal. That is the good part. It was not such a good idea with respect to taxing the benefit, because that actually diminishes the benefit of the benefit, as it were.
I think income testing it is not such a bad idea. It is a pretty simple way to do things, because what we want is for the money to be in the hands of the people who need it the most. For people who are earning significant sums of money, this is just free money, and in some respects it becomes dead money because it goes into savings accounts and places where there is not economic activity, or postponed economic activity. As the study in the United States showed, of that $100, the first half goes directly into economic activity and the second half goes into asset building. In this instance, the government has taken what is half an idea and turned it into a whole one.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am sure my hon. colleague would like me to say that it is entirely due to the wisdom and intelligence of our government, but I do not believe that. We are doing well economically. The point I want to make, though, in connecting the Canada child benefit to the extraordinary economic performance over the last 18 months is that the benefit has been in place for the last 18 months, so we are actually flowing this money directly to people who stimulate the economy.
It would be an interesting and important economic study to see what the correlation is between the Canada child benefit and the way the economy has taken off.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have two responses. First, Bill C-63, or the ancillary documents with the bill, move forward the benefit by two years. The anticipated benefit was going to start in 2019 or 2021, but it has been moved forward by two years.
As to child care spaces, the best way to have more of those is for the Canada child benefit to be real and meaningful, providing cash in the hands of parents. Also, the housing benefit that was announced in the last week or two is money that can be directed to all of the needs of parents, who are most able to decide what is of benefit to their family.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, in 2016, the unemployment rate for recent immigrants was 11%, while Canadian-born people had an unemployment rate of just 5%. That is a significant discrepancy.
If we truly want Canadians to build successful lives in Canada and join the ranks of the middle class, we must make it easier for immigrants to get their education and credentials recognized. This is why I was pleased to announce in my riding on Friday that our government is providing $573,000 to the College of Dental Technologists. This project will help internationally-trained dental technologists find jobs by shrinking the licensing process by three months. That is a significant amount of time for a newcomer eager to join the workforce in Canada.
We know that Canada is at its best and most prosperous when all Canadians have a real and fair chance at success. I am proud that our government is supporting newcomers by ensuring—
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House today to recognize the nomination of Jan Rowan for the Samara Everyday Political Citizen award.
At age 12, Jan received one shilling for Lent, and much like the good and faithful servant in the parable of the talents, Jan felt the challenge to increase its value by helping the less fortunate. That shilling grew into eight decades of social justice work.
Jan has been a Girl Guide, a Cub Scout leader, and she has raised money for Ronald McDonald House, the Cancer Society, and United Way. As a member of the Raging Grannies, she used song to enhance public awareness. As a union leader, Jan walked picket lines seeking fairer wages and working conditions.
In the 2015 campaign, at age 85, Jan out-canvassed and outworked many people many decades her younger.
Jan is truly an everyday political citizen and much deserving of this recognition.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Customs Act.
The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with an amendment.
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Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, on October 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin placed one of his fiercest critics, Bill Browder, on Interpol's most wanted list for the fifth time. It was removed a few hours ago for the fifth time. Mr. Browder led the campaign seeking justice for murdered Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The notice was submitted to Interpol one day after this Parliament unanimously passed Magnitsky legislation.
Does the Minister of Public Safety believe this is an appropriate use of Interpol resources?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her comments on this bill, which I think are largely constructive, and her amendments reflect a legitimate worry. However, I take issue with one concern the member has, which is that this proposed legislation would be challenged in the courts.
I can personally guarantee that this will be challenged in the courts. There is not a scintilla of doubt in mind that this will be challenged. I recollect the time when 0.08% was put in the Criminal Code, and it was challenged every which way from Sunday.
I would ask the hon. member this. Should Parliament still not face up to the larger public purpose of putting forward this legislation, and how the courts deal with it is how the courts deal with it?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his usual thoughtful speech. He is a law professor, but he is a recovering law professor, I think.
His core analysis is that replacing the reasonable suspicion test with the mandatory test will, in effect, create more difficulties for people who already feel victimized by the way police officers target, for want of a better term, particular groups of people in our society. I represent a riding that possibly has one of the most, if not the most, numerous varieties of races, ethnicities, religions, etc., and this is a point of acute sensitivity for me.
I am concerned. He makes a good point, but I am not convinced that replacing reasonable suspicion with mandatory will actually address the scourge he is most concerned about. I am interested in his thoughts on that matter.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am entering this debate from a position of disadvantage in that I do not sit on the justice committee and therefore have not listened to the testimony that came before it. I am therefore dependent on what is going on here this morning and also upon my friend from Scarborough Southwest, the only double-hatted parliamentary secretary in this chamber, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health. He brings to this debate unique expertise, having been the former chief of police in the city of Toronto, and has, in some respects, seen it all. We are fortunate to have his contribution to this debate.
When I did sit on the justice committee, we looked at this issue several times in several different ways. What always stopped us from moving forward on drug-impaired driving was the issue of a test, a test that somehow or other would provide a definitive statement as to whether the individual was or was not impaired. What is being suggested is that a saliva test will be administered, which would give an indication of impairment.
The public good here is obvious, because numerous deaths are caused on our roads by drivers impaired by alcohol, drivers impaired by drugs, and sometimes drivers impaired by both. It is right that this government focus on those levels of impairment, and it is particularly right that this government focus on a test for drug impairment in anticipation of cannabis legislation being the law of the land come this time next year.
Drug-impaired driving is currently a criminal offence. Bill C-46 would create new ways by which to determine impairment. Currently, there is a standardized set of tests that every police officer can give to someone who is suspected of impaired driving by means of drugs. These are sobriety tests. A driver may be asked to walk a straight line, stand on one leg, or demonstrate some form of physical or motor skill to lead the police officer either toward the conclusion that there is some impairment or away from the conclusion that there is some impairment.
If, in fact, the police officer concludes that there is some form of impairment by drugs, he or she is then authorized to take the driver to the station to see whether the driver is in fact impaired. At the station, there is a 12-step protocol to determine whether the person is impaired by drugs. It includes balancing, such as whether the driver can walk a straight line or stand on one leg. They look at pupil size and take the person's blood pressure. These tools have been useful, although time-consuming, in increasing the number of convictions for drug-impaired offences. However, the incidence of drug-impaired driving has gone up quite dramatically. Even though the current use of these tools is effective in securing convictions, it is still not sufficient.
Bill C-46 proposes a better or improved solution. I do not think anyone would say that this is the final solution. A core proposal is providing an oral fluid sample that would be analyzed if a police officer had a reasonable suspicion, which is well understood in criminal law, from observing the suspect. Things like red eyes, muscle tremors, abnormal speech patterns, and of course, simply the smell of cannabis, would precipitate the request for an oral fluid screen that would provide information to the officer as to whether he or she had the grounds to believe that impaired driving had occurred.
The next stage would be that the police officer would be entitled to demand a blood sample from the driver. If the blood sample met the test, there would be a presumption that would set in, the presumption being that impaired driving had occurred. The crown would then be relieved of the burden of proving impairment and the onus would, therefore, shift to the accused. It would be enough to prove that the driver had an illegal level of drugs in his or her body.
It is proposed that this would be framework legislation. It would be setting things up so that when the cannabis law eventually passed, there would be a framework in place. People will observe that the levels at this point have not been set, but there is a proposal as to what the levels might be. The lowest level would be two nanograms to five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood within two hours of driving. On the hybrid offence, which could either be summary or indictment, it would be over five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood, again within two hours. Then there is a proposed combined offence for both THC and alcohol. It would be 0.5 milligrams of alcohol combined with 2.5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood within two hours of driving.
A number of members have said that it is almost certain that this will be challenged in court, and I agree with them. I can recollect when the 0.8 level for alcohol impairment was first proposed. Prior to that, a determination of drunk driving was made through the tests I outlined earlier, namely, walking a straight line, balance tests, and breath tests. They were always subject to cross-examination and challenge by the accused, but once the 0.8 level was set, after a great deal of litigation, it became the accepted standard and brought much more certainty to the prosecution, and defence, for that matter, of drug-impaired driving.
From time to time, people ask how much cannabis they could consume or how much of any other drug, for that matter, they could consume. The only answer is none.
If people intend to drive, do not take drugs. It is about that simple. Similarly with alcohol, if people intend to drive, do not take alcohol. They should make some other arrangement to get home. We have a scourge in our society, a serious problem. One of the previous speakers said that in the case of the Germans, they drank a lot more but drove a lot less. We have it exactly reversed.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, on the face of it, those seem to be irreconcilable concepts, namely, that $1,500 slap-on-the wrist kind of idea for impaired driving. It speaks to the larger issue of minimum mandatories and substituting in effect parliamentary judgment on each individual case for a judge's judgment. A judge will sit in a court, hear evidence from both sides, look at the law, and apply the law according to the facts.
In my view, I am much more confident that the judiciary will fashion a just sentence rather than a punitive sentence. Necessarily, Parliament is quite crude because we have not heard the facts of every individual case.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a very legitimate question, one that had some debate earlier in the day, to which I do not think there is any really good answer. I represent a community that has pretty well every racial ethnic group known to mankind in it. I have sat in my office and listened to people who feel they have been unfairly discriminated against by police officers.
A statement by this Parliament to the issue of mandatory breath samples versus reasonable suspicion breath samples would be in order, that this is not tolerable. Professor Hogg as well was given pause in concern to this. I do not think there is a great answer to his question.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, when I started my speech, the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest was out. He said that he had forgotten more about this area of practice than I will never know. With the greatest respect to my colleague, the issue is not so much what the law says; it is the practice. We have to take seriously the concerns that have been repeatedly expressed by various people, both in his riding and mine and around the country, about profiling. While I appreciate that the police officer should have and has to have a reasonable and probable ground to cause an investigation, I also appreciate that some people feel they have been targeted. That is just simply not right.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, it is always encouraging to hear that a committee's recommendations are incorporated into legislation.
For the purpose of people who are not familiar with this piece of legislation, such as myself, what concrete difference will it mean pre and post this legislation, for instance, to a department such as the Department of Justice or the Department of Public Safety? That is so that people have a concrete feel of what this legislation would make in terms of real difference to real departments.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I was thinking as the hon. member was speaking that we seem to be sleepwalking into catastrophic events. As a brief canvas of what is going on in North America, we have had fires in California. We were at a caucus meeting in Kelowna this summer, and there were fires all up and down the B.C. interior. There were catastrophic hurricanes in Houston, in Florida, and the Caribbean. I know the hon. member has ties to the Caribbean. I wonder whether the hon. member might be prepared to comment on this apparent sleepwalking by some members of not only this House, but particularly Congress in the United States, about these catastrophic events that seem to be becoming much more frequent, and for which we do not seem to be willing or able to prepare in any kind of fashion.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, it looks like the hon. member and I will be carrying on this debate for a few minutes.
I am asking a question in respect of her capacity as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Development. Can she elaborate on the issue of climate change resilience as Canada provides aid and development assistance to various vulnerable countries, the very vulnerable countries that she talked about, the ones that are, in many instances, the victims of climate change?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, prior to meeting Bill Browder, the name Sergei Magnitsky was just another name in the news, one more Russian dissident to be tortured or killed by Russian authorities when he or she got too close to the truth about Russian corruption. There is a long and sad list of people tortured or killed for standing up for the basic freedoms that we in Canada take for granted.
Last year, Bill Browder asked to meet us. He told us the Sergei Magnitsky story, and he gave us his book. I made a point of reading it. Briefly, Sergei Magnitsky had the opportunity to leave Russia. He believed, however, that the law would protect him when he exposed a massive $280-million fraud scandal involving some of the most powerful in Russia. There is a fine line between naïveté and bravery, and some might argue that one has to know where the line is. He paid for that with is life. Very simply, Sergei Magnitsky died at the hands of Russian authorities, because he exposed financial malfeasance at the highest levels in the Russian government.
The second meeting on the subject was with Vladimir Kara-Murza and the daughter of Boris Nemtsov, an assassinated Russian activist. Kara-Murza walks with a cane. He was poisoned by Russian authorities for being a Russian voice for democracy. Little did I know at the time that we would meet again and that he would be poisoned a second time, and only through an incredible set of circumstances is he alive today. There is no doubt that his bravery, superb intelligence, and persuasive testimony before the foreign affairs committee brings us to where we are today.
I took some satisfaction in contributing to the foreign affairs committee report entitled “A Coherent and Effective Approach to Canada's Sanctions Regimes: Sergei Magnitsky and Beyond”. I was particularly pleased with recommendation 12, which says:
In honour of Sergei Magnitsky, the Government of Canada should amend the Special Economic Measures Act to expand the scope under which sanctions measures can be enacted, including in cases of gross human rights violations.
That leads me back to my first conversation with Bill Browder. What good will this sanctions regime do? The short answer is to hit them where it hurts. The unique part is that sanctions can now be tailored and applied to those who torture and abuse human rights for financial gain, whether or not they can be linked directly or indirectly to any government of the day. Now there will be no place in Canada for gross abusers of human rights: no condos, no companies, no stocks, no banks, no access to bonds or investments, nothing. They can take their filthy blood money and keep it.
I would have thought that every right-thinking person would support the report of the foreign affairs committee, the minister's initiative, and the bill before us. Therefore, it was with some surprise that I received the following letter from the Russian Congress of Canada, dated June 15, signed by Igor Babalich, president. It would be interesting to know whether the Russian embassy saw this letter before it was sent.
I believe it would be instructive for members to see the letter, and I would be quite willing to table it. In the meanwhile, however, I will use my remaining few minutes to read from it. It is titled “Statement of the Russian Congress of Canada regarding the announced adoption of the so-called Magnitsky Act (Bill S-226)”. It states:
The Russian Congress of Canada calls upon the Canadian government to withdraw its support for the proposed legislation.... [as it] would set a dangerous precedent...further closing dialogue with Russia at [this] time....
...[The Foreign Affairs Minister] announced...that the Canadian government has agreed to endorse a Canadian version of the...Magnitsky Act.... [It] would punish Russian officials, allegedly involved in human rights violations and it would provide for expanding sanctions
That is true. It then goes on to criticize the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. I cannot imagine why. It gives three reasons that this bill should not be supported. The first is apparently because it mirrors the U.S. law:
...[it] will not serve Canada's national interests or demonstrate its leadership in the vital area of human rights protection. This copycat adoption of the U.S. legislation...under the pressure from the most overzealous representatives of the Ukrainian nationalist diaspora will set a dangerous precedent...and will further...[deteriorate] dialogue with Russia at [this] time
The second reason is “the Foreign Affairs Committee...heard only one side of the Magnitsky controversy...William Browder and a few long-time opponents of the Russian government who had little success in trying to get elected to a public office.” These members of the so-called Russian opposition in reality are fully marginal to the Russian political process and have very limited political support among the Russian population. Possibly they have limited success in Russian elections because they are either tortured or killed. Possibly if they stop being tortured, killed, or poisoned, they might have more success.
The third reason is that the bill is named after the Russian Sergei Magnitsky. “He was an accountant...but has often incorrectly been identified...as a lawyer.” For some reason, that is very important to the writer, that he has been incorrectly identified as a lawyer. It went on to say, “Magnitsky was arrested and put in a pre-trial detention facility. After 11 months in detention, he died in November 2009.” That is true.
“The official Russian investigation of Magnitsky's death did not find any evidence of maltreatment or torture.... The reports of his beating by prison officials, which were circulated in the West, have not been based on any empirical or documentary evidence.” Well, maybe that has something to with the fact that nobody can gain access to the evidence.
Then, in a really interesting statement, it says, “The Russian law has changed, so that no criminal investigation can now be opened against those facing their first criminal accusation of tax evasion and an accused would not be detained during the processing of their case by the authorities.” Somehow that is not as comforting as possibly the writer would hope, but I suppose it is an argument to say they are getting better.
His fourth argument is even more interesting. He says, “The death of Sergei Magnitsky was unfortunate indeed.” It certainly was. He then analogizes that in Canada, 43 prisoners died in 2014, that prisoners die in our facilities as well. As far as I know, none of them have died while being tortured.
He says, “we can not support [a bill that is ill-informed by individuals] with personal animosities against Russia that drag Canada into a campaign of wholesale demonization of Canada's partners and neighbours in the Arctic who also bear shared responsibility for the state of affairs of the region, and must see each other as strategic partners but not enemies.”
He urges that the government withdraw itself from its support of the Magnitsky legislation as it “will be detrimental to such a dialogue and counterproductive with regard to its announced purpose.” I do not quite know what Mr. Babalich hoped to accomplish by his letter to parliamentarians, but it seems to me that it is exactly the opposite of what he intended to accomplish.
I am very pleased to know that colleagues on both sides of the aisle from all three parties will unanimously support the bill.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, the dream of home ownership seems to be moving further and further away from middle-class Canadians in my riding of Scarborough—Guildwood. While many of my constituents try to save for what will likely be the biggest investment in their lives, we continue to see stories of rampant speculation by certain individuals who cheat the system.
Would the Minister of National Revenue update the House and all Canadians on the progress made to crack down on those who do not comply with real estate tax laws?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, my colleague has a clear advantage over me in that he is part of the committee that wrote the report.
I would like his comments on proposed new section 35.2 of the bill, which says that the Governor in Council and minister shall not use the lack of scientific certainty regarding the risks posed by any activity that may be carried out in certain areas of the sea as a reason to postpone or refrain from exercising their powers. The power, of course, is the power of designation or to repeal the designation.
I am a little concerned about the exact position of the hon. member and his party. Is it his view that the government has erred in presenting this bill by saying that the lack of scientific certainty should not impede a designation, or is it his view that in order to have a designation or repeal of a designation there has to be absolute scientific certainty?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I certainly am familiar with the member's riding, which is a beautiful riding that has a lot of coastline. It is almost as nice as Scarborough—Guildwood. The member knows, as well as I do, that it is a lovely riding.
The hon. member suggested that he was a little upset with the phrasing in proposed section 35.2, which states:
the Minister shall not use lack of scientific certainty regarding the risks posed by any activity
I am curious whether the member is open to amendments. Does he want the phrasing to say that there should be absolute certainty before any action is taken, or does he want that section taken out altogether and there should be no reference to scientific certainty?
I do not quite understand the hon. member's position. He cannot have it both ways. It is either absolute or it is nothing or it is framed the way the government has framed it, which is to say “shall not use lack of scientific certainty regarding the risks posed”.
I will be interested in the hon. member's response to that concern.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, last Saturday, quite a number of colleagues and friends and I, including the Prime Minister, attended Arnold Chan's funeral. Arnold's last gift to us was a brilliant rendition of themes and variations on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
That is exactly how I saw Arnold's brief time among us, as a brilliant shooting star illuminating, guiding, and fascinating. Arnold's intellectual brilliance was instantly obvious when one first met him. He was a walking, talking version of O'Brien and Bosc. Not only did he know the arcane world of practice and procedure, but he also knew enough to know that reliance on rules and procedure quickly leads to stalemate and frustration. Some people are very bright, some quite wise. Arnold was both wise and bright and, therefore, cherished by us all.
Arnold was also determined. Scarborough celebrates Canada Day with a parade. While physically taxing, urging Arnold to give up the parade was a waste of breath. He did make it. We have the picture to prove it. I believe it is my last picture with Arnold.
I will miss his smarts, his wisdom, his determination, and most of all his sly sense of humour.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, it is good to be back and to listen to my friend. I would not offer the opinion that I have missed him, but nevertheless it is good to be back.
I do not know whether the hon. member has addressed his mind to proposed section 92 of the bill in question. It says that the Canada Border Services Agency may collect information concerning the “surname” of the individual, “the type of travel document”, the date and time, and where they are going in the United States. I am taking it that it is somewhat similar to the document that we all fill out when we are travelling to the States right now. Therefore, in some respects, this formalizes what we do right now.
Does the hon. member have any concern with how that information is collected, who receives the information, and how that information could be used?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the support of the hon. member. I realize that I am having to play both opposition and government roles here while I ask questions.
The hon. member made reference to an interesting point about the sharing of information. I want him to think about it, not only as a member of Parliament but as a former police officer. He made reference to the sharing of information about his constituents leaving Canada and that the information may well be shared with the Alberta health authorities. Presumably that information may also be shared with immigration authorities on persons who are permanent residents and on the path to citizenship and have to be able to demonstrate that they have lived in Canada for x number of years.
I would be interested in the hon. member's comments on the sharing of information with other government agencies, which on the face of it seems like a good idea. Can the member think of other areas in which this information could, should, or should not be shared?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his support for this bill. It allows for an atmosphere in which we can debate some of the more subtle things and, possibly, the law of unintended consequences with respect to this. He gave a good example of how this law could possibly track the movements of an estranged spouse in the kidnapping of a child. This information would be given at the border or the point of purchase of a ticket. I am not sure where, when or how, and it is reasonable to consider that this information would be shared with foreign governments, sub-national governments, and agencies.
As the law of unintended consequences applies in all matters, I would suggest a couple of examples. For instance, it is very difficult for people to have their name removed from the no-fly list. Also, NEXUS was to be a means by which people who have already done their interviews with the RCMP go through the border at a rapid pace, but is something else. The member and I share that line at the Ottawa airport every Thursday or Friday. With respect to the law of unintended consequences, are there concerns at this point that this information could be used in a manner that would make it difficult for the citizens we are most concerned about?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, it seems that every time a program like trusted traveller or NEXUS is set up, the timelines do not actually shrink, they expand--
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to see that the amendments to the Rouge National Urban Park Act received royal assent yesterday. Now the Rouge park has the same level of environmental protection as every other national park. This was a Liberal platform commitment, it was a mandate priority of the Prime Minister, and, most importantly, it was a fulfillment of the dreams of citizens of Scarborough and the GTA.
Would the Minister of Environment and Climate Change please inform the House of the next steps in the completion of this national park?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, no debate takes place outside of a context, and I want to paint a picture of the context in which this debate does take place.
As an example, the Russians are refurbishing their nuclear capabilities with both bombers and missiles, and we are not even able to get them to co-operate on Syria. Similarly, China at the present time is not a particular nuclear threat, but it cannot seem to get its client state, North Korea, to back off on literally threatening the world with nuclear weapons. That is the context in which this debate takes place.
I would be interested in the hon. member's comments on, effectively, the requirement to keep up mutually assured destruction, MAD, while these negotiations take place so that we can, as a community of nations, get ourselves out of this very dangerous situation.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman's speech was excellent and eloquent, and in some respects, I agree with many of the sentiments. The question is the realistic context. In my view, the threat assessment comes primarily from Russia, which is upgrading its weapons systems and the ability to deliver the weapons systems. Indeed it can deliver the weapons systems undetected by our current early warning system, therefore, requiring us to do an upgrade.
Similarly, North Korea is a bit of a rogue state and threatens the immediate regional nations, and then Iran is vigorously pursuing the ability to create and deliver a nuclear weapon certainly within the region of the Middle East.
If those nations are not prepared to come to the table, does the member agree that all of the efforts that Canada has made in the last few months have been in vain, or does he think that trying to husband this fissile material treaty is in fact a worthwhile exercise?
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