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Results: 1 - 60 of 725
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I thank the minister for being here today to talk about ministerial responsibility. I think this gets at the crux of the problem in the failure to attack sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces.
When Operation Honour was announced in 2015, I was among those who gave credit to the Canadian military for recognizing the problem and setting out to solve it, but what we heard multiple times is that Operation Honour actually failed. We heard multiple times in this study from witnesses that members of the Canadian Armed Forces felt that there were two different standards, and that senior leaders in the Canadian military were not held to the same standards as rank-and-file members when it came to Operation Honour. This is the crux of the problem. None of the actions can have any credibility in assuring women that they can serve equally if there's no action when there's misconduct at the highest level.
Minister, my question is a very direct question. General Vance was allowed to continue serving as chief of the defence staff after credible allegations of sexual misconduct had been raised against him. Who is the minister responsible for him continuing to serve as chief of the defence staff under those circumstances?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, as I stated before, any time information is brought forward, regardless of rank or position.... In this case, it was about the GIC appointment of the former chief of the defence staff. It was about making sure that the information brought forward, the allegations, were taken extremely seriously, and that's exactly what was done. It is important to make sure that the proper process is followed by the book. If you do not follow the proper process, you may interfere in a just outcome.
I have taken very seriously my responsibility to the Canadian Armed Forces, from the day I came in. The focus that we put on our people, the focus that our government has put on dealing with all types of systemic misconduct, especially sexual misconduct...we have taken steps.
Now, when it comes to Operation Honour, yes, it has run its course. It was started before we formed government. What we are doing is looking at what worked, what things we need to keep and what things we need to change. Our team has been working aggressively, even before the allegations on the former chief of the defence staff came forward this year. We wanted to work towards a complete culture change, something that we were already discussing. We were looking at all forms of misconduct. We had a panel put together made up of former serving members who had lived experience that includes systemic racism all the way through to gender bias and sexual misconduct, so that we could actually move forward.
Madam Chair, one of the things I will always champion with all of the senior leadership is to work forward and create that inclusive environment. No, it's not going to be easy, but one thing I can assure you is that no one is going to rest. Everybody within the armed forces, including the acting chief of the defence staff and our deputy minister, and all of you will continue to work to make the necessary changes.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Well, Madam Chair, I'm not sure how that answers the question of ministerial responsibility. Vance continued to serve under a cloud of allegations about sexual misconduct, and nothing happened.
Now, the minister always leans on investigations. No investigation happened in 2018, so I want to go back to ministerial responsibility. Who is the minister who was responsible for making sure that an investigation took place? When the minister found out that PCO was not investigating, when the Minister of Defence found out that the ombudsman's office was not investigating, was he not the minister responsible—not to do an investigation, but to make sure an independent investigation was conducted? Why was the matter dropped? Is the minister responsible for this failure to conduct an investigation or not?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, regardless of the assertions that were posed in the question, in our society, in our system, we have due process, and that process has to be followed. Regardless of what position one holds, we cannot just make a decision and try to get an outcome; we have to follow the absolute process. Just like in any other police investigation, if you don't follow the absolute process here, in this case, when information was brought forward from a GIC.... And GIC appointments are the responsibility of management by the Privy Council Office, so in this case, that was the reason information was sent to the Privy Council Office to conduct that immediate follow-up.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
That immediate follow-up was conducted, and then from there, multiple follow-ups continued. The information that was provided to this committee, from what I understand, from a production of papers, outlines the actions that actually took place and also states that the reason why the former ombudsman did not provide any further information was that the complainant did not want to come forward.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Minister, you seem to be saying that the Prime Minister, then, is responsible for the fact that there was no investigation, because the Privy Council Office reported to him. When the Privy Council failed to proceed with an investigation, the Prime Minister should have acted. Is that what you're telling us under ministerial responsibility?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, I'm not sure how the member or his party decide on what type of power politicians should have, but one thing I can assure you is that—
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you.
No politician, Madam Chair, should ever be involved in an investigation. What we need to do is allow for independent public service members to look at the facts and then decide which direction it needs to go. If you don't follow that process, you will undermine a potential just outcome for the person who has come forward.
View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
To follow on that question, Minister, is a minister, a politician—or, in this case, you—responsible to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces has a chief of the defence staff who is above reproach and has not carried out and is not carrying out any sexual misconduct?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, first of all, when it comes to any type of sexual misconduct, it is all our responsibility. When it comes to the Minister of National Defence, under the National Defence Act, I have the direction, a ministerial responsibility for the direction the Canadian Armed Forces goes. That direction we put in our defence policy, and we put it in our defence policy to make sure that we have a workplace free from harassment, and we put our people number one, Madam Chair. We know that we have not—
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Minister, you had said that the Prime Minister is the minister responsible for the PCO. Since the PCO did the investigation, are you saying the Prime Minister is responsible, then?
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Minister Sajjan, you've spoken at length today about ministerial responsibility. You referred to it as the reason why your staff wouldn't be allowed to speak to this committee. Yet you've denied any responsibility for the failure to investigate General Vance and for the fact that he remained in office for years, despite the allegations against him.
Let's face it, under your government, Operation Honour was a failure. The Admiral McDonald scandal also took place under your government, as did the scandal involving the person responsible for human resources in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Given all these accumulating factors, do you think that this ministerial responsibility, theoretically, should apply to you?
Do you accept responsibility for all these situations?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Let me make it very clear. From the day I became Minister of National Defence, my number one priority has always been to focus on our people and to make sure we have an inclusive environment regardless of the colour of someone's skin or someone's sexual orientation or gender. I joined in 1989, when women were being allowed into combat. I've seen some of the challenges they have faced directly. That's why, when we started the consultations for a defence policy, we made it very clear that we wanted to be focused on our people. That's exactly what we did. The changes we have made are part of that progress. We knew we couldn't get everything right. We knew at that time, and we discussed it many years back, that there were survivors who had not come forward. We said that we wanted them to come forward and that they would be looked after.
As Dr. Preston has stated, we want to make sure we empower them. That's why we passed Bill C-77, which the previous government let die on the order paper. That's why we put resources and made policy changes to make sure—
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Minister, it's your position, then, that you wouldn't have done anything differently, in hindsight now, from what you did, you wouldn't have done anything other than turning this over to the Privy Council Office. If that is the case, it seems to me that under ministerial responsibility, you're laying this at the feet of the Prime Minister. The chief of the defence staff remained in office for three years after a substantiated allegation of sexual misconduct was raised, and no investigation was done. If it was not you, under ministerial responsibility, then wasn't it the Prime Minister who was responsible for that? Doesn't that affect how confident women serving in the Canadian Forces can be about their ability to serve equally?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, with all due respect to the member, as I stated, the Prime Minister was not aware. It's about no politician, whether that's the Prime Minister or a minister, ever getting involved in an investigation. Madam Chair, our Prime Minister was the one who named the first cabinet that was 50% women, who actually put a focus on things—
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank my colleague Mr. Garrison for that line of questioning.
I can tell you, Minister, that it doesn't seem as though you're at all apologetic for what has transpired. Especially since 2018, this matter has lain at your feet, and General Eyre talked about how there's been a loss of trust in the leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces, and that includes in you as minister.
Minister Sajjan, do you have any regret that you left General Vance in charge of Operation Honour?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, I understand where the member is going. Every time there is any type of misconduct by a member, it is extremely painful. I wish we could immediately do a fast-forward and get the just outcome that they deserve. One thing I have done right from the beginning is to make sure that regardless of the case, we have given the right resources to our folks, and that's exactly what we did.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Do you have any regret, Minister, about leaving CDS General Vance in charge of Operation Honour?
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, in hindsight, if I had known what I know, things obviously would be very different. When it comes to Operation—
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
You knew in 2018 that there was an allegation. You knew there was an allegation against General Vance and you still left him in charge of Operation Honour.
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Chair, if the member wants to go there, you knew about something in 2015. Of course, when it comes to it, all I can do is follow the proper process—
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
The member knows there was an investigation in 2015. I take responsibility for what—
View Harjit S. Sajjan Profile
Lib. (BC)
I take responsibility for the work that we need to do and I take it very seriously, Madam Chair. I made sure that we put in place the right resources when we did and that we changed policies. We have made the progress that we have made, even though right now it is not the progress that we all need and want and that our members deserve. We have a lot more work to do.
View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Mr. Wernick, in your opinion, then, who has overall responsibility to ensure that the position of the chief of the defence staff is filled by someone whose behaviour is beyond reproach and doesn't include sexual misconduct or harassment?
Michael Wernick
View Michael Wernick Profile
Michael Wernick
2021-04-06 15:08
The appointment is the recommendation of the Minister of Defence to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister would agree or not to the recommended appointment. Minister Kenney recommended the appointment to Prime Minister Harper, and then subsequent issues about his promotion and tenure would have been decisions recommended by Minister Sajjan to Prime Minister Trudeau.
View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
So the Minister of National Defence is responsible to ensure a CDS whose behaviour is representative of the values of the Canadian Forces, etc.
Michael Wernick
View Michael Wernick Profile
Michael Wernick
2021-04-06 15:09
Every minister is responsible for the portfolios for which they're answerable to Parliament.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
When there are allegations of inappropriate behaviour by a senior military officer, such as the Chief of Defence Staff, whether they are criminal in nature or not, who is ultimately responsible for their actions?
People often say it's the Privy Council Office. The Minister has stated many times that he sent the information to them.
Is the Privy Council Office or the minister responsible for that?
Michael Wernick
View Michael Wernick Profile
Michael Wernick
2021-04-06 15:50
I'm not sure what the answer is. I believe you would have to ask a lawyer.
As I understand it, the Privy Council Office still has an obligation to do an initial screening, a review of the facts, and to decide what procedures to follow afterwards. As someone suggested, it may be to call in the national security advisor. If early indications suggest the possibility of criminal activity, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are called right away.
View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Wernick, for your apology, but ultimately, if I understand this correctly, ensuring that the military has a chief of the defence staff who is beyond reproach lies with the Minister of National Defence. Was that not your testimony?
Michael Wernick
View Michael Wernick Profile
Michael Wernick
2021-04-06 16:06
These positions are chosen by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the Minister of National Defence, yes.
James Cohen
View James Cohen Profile
James Cohen
2021-04-01 14:57
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak today. My name is James Cohen, and I am the executive director of Transparency International Canada. TI Canada is a registered charity and is the Canadian chapter of Transparency International, the world’s leading anti-corruption movement.
Canadians and the world have gone through a difficult, sad and exhausting year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are not done yet. In order to react to the pandemic, the federal government has had to spend unprecedented amounts of money in a short time. These funds were needed to procure essential medical supplies and equipment and to support Canadians experiencing economic distress.
In this time of need to fight the pandemic and support Canadians, it is also critical that transparency and accountability are preserved and even strengthened. In this rapid movement of large amounts of money, there is the risk of not only the misuse of public funds, but also the erosion of public trust. The public needs to be reassured, with evidence, that decisions are being taken with caution and integrity, and that they are executed with the same care.
To this end, I would like to address three topics today: procurement, beneficial ownership transparency and economic recovery.
First, transparency in public procurement is fundamental to ensuring that goods are procured at a reasonable price and in a fair manner. While the pandemic can allow some measures to be expedited in a procurement process, these principles must remain.
While it took considerable public pressure for the government to release some pandemic-related data, such as Canada emergency wage subsidy recipients and vaccine distribution timetables, there is procurement spending data available—namely, on the Public Services and Procurement Canada website. This data is in the aggregate, though. Spending in different procurement categories and the recipients of the contracts are available, but there is no breakdown of how many contracts each party received. While the aggregate data is a start, TI Canada implores the government to go further and make successful contracts available. This is particularly important for the roughly $1 billon spent on Canada’s vaccine contracts.
The second point I would like to raise is on beneficial ownership transparency—that is, the transparency of the actual physical person who benefits from a company. We remind the committee that Canada received negative reviews from the financial action task force's 2015 mutual evaluation and is viewed by many experts and other bodies as a destination for money laundering. This makes it all the more important for the public to know who is actually benefiting from COVID procurement contracts.
TI Canada was pleased to provide commentary to the government’s public consultation on establishing a public registry of beneficial ownership last spring. A public registry would help Canada fight money laundering—or “snow washing”, as it's referred to. We have been waiting for one year, though, for the results of those consultations. While we understand that the pandemic monopolized much of the government’s attention, surely the consultation results should be released by now.
Corporate beneficial ownership transparency is just as urgent for Canada during the pandemic as it was before, perhaps even more so. Beneficial ownership disclosure should be a requirement for all government contracts, licences and permits so the government knows whom they are doing business with. A public registry can also help Canadians protect themselves from fraud such as fake job offers and fake medical supplies.
This leads to my third point: economic recovery. Anti-corruption and anti-money laundering compliance and, indeed, transparency and accountability measures cannot be paused as a means to economic recovery. Here again, a public beneficial ownership registry will help, especially as designated non-financial businesses and professions like real estate agents and money service businesses will be required to conduct beneficial ownership due diligence as of June this year.
In the mining sector, TI Canada has observed provincial governments citing the pandemic as a reason to fast-track public consultation processes for environmental assessments in an effort to speed up economic recovery. TI Canada recently assessed EA processes relating to mining in Ontario, B.C. and Yukon, and our findings were that public consultations are already less than adequate. More transparency is needed, not less, especially with Canadian jurisdictions eyeing rare earths for green tech as an engine of economic recovery.
The Government of Canada has had to react quickly, with unprecedented resources and powers, to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. While perfection in the response may not be reasonable to expect, transparency in decision-making and adherence to accountability during and after the pandemic are in our view non-negotiable.
Thank you.
Tara Shea
View Tara Shea Profile
Tara Shea
2021-03-30 11:09
Good morning, Mr. Chair, members of the committee and fellow panellists.
I'd like to start by acknowledging that I'm participating from Ottawa, which is traditional Algonquin territory. Kara is participating from Edmonton, which is Treaty 6 territory and the homeland of the Métis people.
Thank you very much for the invitation to be here today to share our members' views on Bill C-15.
MAC members have a strong record of establishing respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with Inuit, Métis and first nations peoples. Our members are among the largest industrial employers of indigenous peoples in Canada and a major customer of indigenous-owned businesses. Across the country, there are examples of partnerships between mining companies and communities that are advancing reconciliation and contributing to the implementation of the UN declaration.
As an association, we looked to the UN declaration and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for guidance when we were drafting our recently updated indigenous and community relationships protocol as part of our sustainability initiative, “Towards Sustainable Mining”. We established a good practice level that includes a commitment to aim to achieve free, prior and informed consent for new projects or expansions where impacts to rights may occur. This is among many other criteria in the standard designed to facilitate strong relationships through effective engagement and decision-making processes.
We are supportive of the objective of incrementally and thoughtfully implementing the UN declaration through collaboration. We see potential for Bill C-15 to improve relations between the Crown and indigenous peoples and to help advance reconciliation, but this will require additional clarity on certain key issues, effective implementation and adequate resourcing.
Our understanding of Bill C-15 is that it is enabling legislation that will require the federal government to work with indigenous peoples to co-develop an action plan to ensure that the progress made to date continues. It acknowledges that the declaration is already used as an interpretive tool but that it is not meant to give the declaration direct, legal effect in Canada.
We raise our interpretation of the bill today because we recognize that there are differing views as to the purpose of this bill, and this growing spectrum of interpretations is creating confusion about what this bill means and what it is intended to do. We are concerned that, in the absence of a common understanding of the intent of the legislation, there will be unintended consequences, including unmet expectations, legal challenges and increased uncertainty, all of which impact the viability of natural resource projects and their associated benefits to indigenous individuals, communities and businesses.
To help avoid expectations diverging further, the federal government must be transparent with how it interprets the declaration and what obligations it sees arising from Bill C-15. This includes enhancing communications on the bill’s intent in Parliament with indigenous peoples, provincial governments, other Canadians and the investment community.
Clarity on the federal government’s approach to free, prior and informed consent and its relationship to existing duty to consult obligations is particularly important. There have been recent statements from the Minister of Justice and others explaining what FPIC means in principle and notably that FPIC does not grant a veto over government decision-making.
We believe there is an urgent need for further clarity on process, beyond whether FPIC equates to a veto. In particular, this includes the circumstances that give rise to the obligation to consult and, in some cases, to seek consent and the specific processes for each; the government’s approach when efforts to obtain consent have been unsuccessful or when consent is provided by some affected indigenous communities but not all; and whether existing indigenous engagement processes may change and the specific changes being contemplated.
While we recognize that, to some extent, government decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis by considering issues such as strength of claim, impacts on rights and overall project benefits, the current lack of clarity does create uncertainty for investment, and these issues need to be clarified before the legislation is passed.
In our submission we recommended that guidance, policies and training be enhanced to ensure that federal officials are able to effectively engage in relationship building and consultation with indigenous communities. The current “Aboriginal Consultation and Accommodation: Updated Guidelines for Federal Officials to Fulfill the Duty to Consult” are extremely outdated.
In addition to updating these guidelines, there are other practical steps that can be taken now to help ensure there is consistency across the federal government, including issuing a directive to federal officials informing them of the government’s interpretation of FPIC and the intent of Bill C-15. This should be done now to ensure there is no confusion at the working level about what Bill C-15 means.
Additional steps include incorporating the government's interpretation of FPIC and the bill into guidance training and policies; implementing oversight mechanisms to ensure that guidance and policies are consistently followed; and committing resources for ongoing training initiatives to respond to high turnover in key federal roles. This cannot be deferred any further. This guidance is needed now.
In looking ahead to the action plan, it will be critical that the process to develop this plan be transparent and well defined, given the wide spectrum of expectations with respect to this bill and the range of outcomes that are possible. This includes establishing a meaningful consultation plan, determining how actions will be identified and prioritized, and ensuring that the required resources are in place.
We respect and support the intent for the action plan to be co-developed with indigenous peoples, and we have asked to be engaged in the development and implementation of the action plan on any elements that may impact our sector.
With that, Mr. Chair, thank you again for the invitation to present today.
We look forward to the committee's questions.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Minister, can you tell us why Mr. Theis isn't here today?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
It's because of ministerial responsibility, a principle you are very familiar with and one that we uphold here just as the National Assembly of Quebec does.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
As I clearly stated in the House of Commons the other day, staffers will not appear before committees and will be replaced by the ministers who are responsible.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
If I understand correctly, Mr. Theis isn't here today because you told him not to come. Is that right?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Based on the instructions I gave the other day, it was clear to Mr. Theis and other individuals that they wouldn't appear before committees and would be replaced by the appropriate ministers, which is how our system is set up, and which is what the Conservative government quite rightly did in its day.
I am here to speak in his stead.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Minister, what gives you the authority to contravene an order of the House of Commons or to take precedence over the House?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
As I said, Mr. Fortin, it's the principle of ministerial responsibility, a long-standing tradition. We can also operate according to tradition. Traditions are often absolutely essential to the operation of our institutions. This is a very important one.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
If I understand correctly, there's a tradition that gives you, Mr. Minister, precedence over any decision or order of the House of Commons.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
What I was trying to say is that we have a tradition that's deeply rooted in our way of doing things and that's essential to the workings of Parliament. That tradition is called ministerial responsibility.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
I'm not aware of that tradition, Mr. Minister. I've never heard of it.
I'm probably naive, but I was under the impression that the House of Commons is the highest authority in Canada and that nobody can contravene an order of the House without being liable to severe penalties. Now you're telling me that there's a tradition that allows ministers to contravene obligations imposed on them by the House of Commons. That's news to me.
Does this same tradition authorize you to encourage people to disobey orders of the House, or rather, to instruct them to do so? Is that the same tradition?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
That's a very fine point, Mr. Fortin.
I'm not saying that ministers can do whatever they want, generally speaking. That's not at all what this is about, and that's as it should be. However, it's a prevailing tradition that a minister can replace an employee who is called to testify in committee. In 2010, Mr. Poilievre fought for that tooth and nail when Mr. Baird appeared before a committee instead of an employee. The Conservatives did that in all the committees in 2010.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
I wasn't here in 2010.
There was a debate on Thursday, March 25. What I know is that, four or five days ago, on March 25, the House ordered Rick Theis to be here. Today, you are here with us, Mr. Minister. You're telling me that you told Rick Theis not to obey the order because you would appear in his place.
So be it, but I'd like to know what gives you that authority. What is the basis for it, the rationale? I still don't understand. You said that you can't contravene an order of the House under just any circumstance. Can you tell me what those circumstances are? Under what circumstances does the minister take precedence over the House of Commons?
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
I respect you too, Mr. Minister, and now that I know you take precedence over the House, I have even more respect for you.
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