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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, in my colleague's eight-minute speech, he covered a lot of ground with not too much focus on the actual conversation on the table. He said the Conservative Party is supporting the border crossing and I would like him to expand why he thinks it is important for his party to support this new legislation.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, as you know, February is Black History Month.
It is time to look back at the monumental role that African Canadian communities have played in Canadian history. No African-Canadian community has had such a long and rich history as the African Nova Scotian community. This community has given birth to some incredible historic figures, such as civil rights activist Viola Desmond, world-renowned singer Portia White and Victoria Cross recipient William Hall.
This community was the first African-Canadian community to touch Canada and is the oldest generational community of African descent in our nation. Many members of the African Nova Scotian community reside in North Preston, East Preston, Loon Lake, Cherry Brook and surrounding areas, and I am very proud to be their member of Parliament.
I encourage everyone in the House and this country to learn more about the important contributions of African Canadians.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2020-02-21 11:06 [p.1377]
Mr. Speaker, on February 8, the Africa Festival of Arts and Culture hosted a Black History Month dinner at Mount Saint Vincent University. Everyone there got to experience the magnificent tastes and sounds of Africa.
This event commemorated the contributions of African Canadians to war efforts, including the contributions of William Hall, the first Nova Scotian to be awarded the Victoria Cross, of the members of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, who served with distinction during the First World War, and of those who served during the Second World War and other conflicts, often making the ultimate sacrifice.
One of our great shames is that so little credit was given to these heroes for so long, and rarely during their lifetimes. The tremendous contributions made by black Canadians to our country deserve our respect and admiration. We can do better.
View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is working collaboratively with the five Nuu-chah-nulth first nations to advance reconciliation with regard to their right to fish and sell fish.
An incremental reconciliation agreement for fisheries resources concluded in September 2019, and subsequently, we moved forward collaboratively with more comprehensive reconciliation negotiations for fisheries resources.
At the same time, our government is working closely in collaboration with B.C. first nations and stakeholders towards a renewed salmon allocation policy that is in line with the court's decision and respects indigenous rights.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-20 12:28 [p.1308]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing this motion forward. Being that I am from the other coast, the east coast, I appreciate his personal insight on this issue.
I also want to thank my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable for his interventions. We are suffering the consequences of these blockades in eastern Canada.
I would like to start at a place where it seems we are all in agreement. These rail blockades are affecting the economy of Canada and need to be shut down. The blockades are illegal. The Prime Minister acknowledged that yesterday in some of his answers during question period. The blockades are affecting the lives of Canadians.
I have no problem with peaceful protests, but they should be done with respect and without hurting anyone. Many times as a provincial MLA we saw people protesting in front of our legislature, asking for representation, asking for changes to laws and fighting for their families, so I understand the representation that it does give to us. So far, on that we can agree.
I have no ill will for the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in B.C. or the Mohawk in Ontario. They have their convictions. They believe in something and are standing up for it. However, I do have a problem with activists who have no connection to these nations and are using this situation to benefit their cause.
If this had been one protest in one area, I think it might have been resolved in the two weeks that it has been going on. It would have been de-escalated, to use a word that I have heard many times this morning. However, because this has never been truly taken on, other protests have sprung up in support of others. In our area the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island has been shut down. Recently there was the blockage of train tracks in Alberta and the blockage of train tracks in parts of Quebec. All this is occurring because the main problem was not dealt with in a quick fashion, by having a discussion up front and stopping us from getting to this situation. Letting things go before any dialogue began has emboldened others to civil disobedience.
What I find troubling about the situation is that the Liberals have branded themselves as friends of our indigenous peoples. However, where they thought they were doing well, they have obviously failed dramatically and quite honestly have no idea what to do next. This is undermining the process as people are getting frustrated.
Since the government has created the “us against them” narrative dividing our country, let me talk about the effects on Nova Scotia, and more specifically the effects on the beautiful riding of West Nova that I have the honour of representing.
Yesterday, I got to talk about how the blockades are affecting Acadian Seaplants. This company was founded in 1981 by Louis Deveau, a leader in Nova Scotia's Acadian community. The company processes raw seaweed into food products for human and animal consumption. The company has grown since it was first founded. It now has 400 employees and exports to 80 countries.
Louis' son and now CEO, J.P. Deveau, has expressed his concerns on the blockade, due to the fact that Acadian Seaplants is one of the province's largest consumers of propane. They have orders to fill, and in order to do that, they need to convert their 115,000 square foot operation in the small community of Cornwallis to be able to use light oil, or furnace oil, which is a more environmentally sensitive product adding an extra 63% to their fuel bill compared to propane.
Beyond this challenge, Mr. Deveau has concerns about being able to ship his product, as it is normally containerized and shipped around the world. Cargo ships are being diverted from the port of Halifax, causing an interruption in Nova Scotia's connection to the world and its export strength.
When I talked to Mr. Deveau, he was very worried about how long it will take for the industry to get back to normal once the blockades come down.
Also in my riding of West Nova, Royal Propane is a wonderful small business. As a matter of fact, it installed the propane fireplace in my mother-in-law's house. It redistributes propane from the same supplier that Acadian Seaplants uses, Wilson Fuels, which is trying its best to get product trucked from somewhere else. Normally, that would come from Montreal, but as we heard from my colleagues, it probably does not exist there either.
I was talking to the manager of Royal Propane earlier this week. She is concerned for the employees she would have to lay off the next day if nothing changed. Forty employees will have to be laid off because there is no propane to provide. She is also concerned about her clients who use propane as a method of heating their homes.
This causes further problems for small businesses in my region, as we do not have natural gas running under our streets. Local restaurants and other businesses will start to run out soon, cascading the problem even worse.
The Eden Valley Poultry plant in Berwick employs 430 people. It processes birds from all over the Atlantic provinces. It is currently still in production, but will run out of propane and oxygen sooner than later. Not only does this directly affect jobs at the plant, but it also affects hundreds of jobs on the farms raising chickens and turkeys for market.
The secondary concern that Eden Valley has is that protests, like the one on the Confederation Bridge, stop and delay the trucks that have live birds inside from crossing over, causing an animal welfare issue.
Speaking of the animal welfare issue, a large amount of feed comes from western Canada for our agricultural sector. Companies like Clarence Farm Services in Truro are trying to get product trucked from Quebec and Ontario, but this will increase the cost, causing financial hardship for our producers and a complete lack of product causing other animal welfare issues.
I would like to read part of the letter that was provided to me from Clarence Farm Services. It states:
We have had some ingredients arrive before CN shut down the national rail service, and others that were shipped from east of Belleville that have made it to Truro. However, CN's space in their Truro yard is now filling and they will not pull empties from our siding to place other full cars that are in Truro—so basically our rail service is ended. As a result of the situation we have been scrambling to bring ingredients in via truck (both sourced locally and from Ont./PQ).
Finally, my friend, Dan Mullen, is a farmer who was hit by market forces in the past few years when the mink industry was decimated. Being a great farmer, he adapted his infrastructure into greenhouses, producing greens and other products for local markets. He heats with propane and either has wrapped up or will be wrapping up his production soon because he can no longer heat those greenhouses.
I know my time is coming to an end, but I thought I would quote a couple of people.
First is the Liberal Premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil. He was quoted in aIINovaScotia this morning saying that government needs to do what is necessary to protect Canada's economy as protesters bring rail traffic to a standstill. He said, “The laws of this country need to be enforced. All of us need to abide by the laws of Canada, and we believe it is up to the national government to do what is necessary to ensure the economic future of our country and our province continue to move forward.”
Finally, this discussion is extremely important for Canadians. It is probably one of the toughest discussions we will have in the House of Commons, but as John F. Kennedy stated, “We do not do these things because they are easy, we do these things because they are hard.”
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-20 12:39 [p.1309]
Madam Speaker, what the Conservatives have said is that the Wet'suwet'en, the Mohawks in Belleville are all concerned about their environment. It is the other activists who are attaching themselves to these groups, saying they are supportive. Quite honesty, they are there to shut down the energy sector, to shut down progress in the country and hurt the rest of Canada. We are mad at those people.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-20 12:40 [p.1309]
Madam Speaker, we have been talking about leadership all day. There is no leadership from this government. They have just had discussions with the indigenous people in the area. They are offering no solution. The Prime Minister is here every day, as is the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. They are here every day.
Why are they not in Vancouver or the British Columbia region to have discussions and make sure the blockades end? We need those discussions. We need leadership and that starts with the government.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-20 12:41 [p.1309]
Not at all, Madam Speaker. In fact, it is probably doing the opposite, ensuring we are doing our job, which is to talk about the interests of all Canadians. We want to ensure this issue comes to the floor of the House for dialogue. If the dialogue can truly start here, then hopefully the people sitting on the front benches of the government will understand the importance and the effects to the rest of Canada. My folks are getting angry and frustrated because of the inaction of the government.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-20 12:43 [p.1310]
Madam Speaker, we have heard a number of times from my colleagues that the majority of the Wet'suwet'en support this project. This project is good for B.C., it is good for the Wet'suwet'en. It is good for the environment to get that gas from the back side of B.C. to tidewater. Why do we continue to sit in the House and oppose energy projects when we know we need to do these things?
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-02-20 13:45 [p.1318]
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by recognizing that we stand on the ancestral land of the Algonquin people.
There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun Long before the white man and long before the wheel When the green dark forest was too silent to be real
These words by Gordon Lightfoot are ringing in my head these days, partly because of what is happening across Canada, but also due to the fact that I just read a fascinating story in Maclean's, which is a short history by Stephen Maher about the indigenous people of Canada and the CN Railway. It may help put some perspective on the current situation regarding the blockades.
Mr. Maher writes:
If you study Canadian history, you find similar stories of dispossession and subjugation from coast to coast. The Crown pushed Indigenous people aside, forced them to live in poverty on land that nobody else wanted, destroyed their traditional systems of governance, broke treaties at will, a period that ran from Confederation until 1973, when the courts granted an injunction to the James Bay Cree, temporarily blocking a hydro development.
For most Canadians, the railway has been a great boon, as Lightfoot described it: “An iron road running from sea to the sea, bringing the goods to a young growing land, all up through the seaports and into their hands.”
As Mr. Maher writes:
We can't expect Indigenous people to see the story that way.
When tempers get raw, and politicians talk forcefully about the importance of the rule of law, we would be wise to remember that the rule of law, and the Canadian Pacific Railway, brought ruin and death to Indigenous people.
I don't know how we are going to get through this winter and get the trains running again, but I believe our politicians and police should err on the side of caution, and we should keep in mind that our country only exists because of the lawful crimes our government committed to get the railway built.
This is very poignant. It is very poignant for all of us to consider this when we are talking about what is lawful and what is not.
I want to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
Over the past few weeks, people have been troubled by what they are witnessing. Many people across Canada are asking what is happening in this country as they see the protests and the blockades, as they witness the goods not getting to them in Nova Scotia or out west, and as businesses are affected. They are questioning, too, whether reconciliation is still possible. Young people are questioning this. Indigenous peoples are wondering if their rights will be respected and, as they see the protests and blockades grow, they are questioning, “Can reconciliation still happen?”
I would like to say, yes, reconciliation is still possible and that this is a turning point on what I would call that vital path. We need reconciliation. Hundreds of years have gone by without reconciliation and now is the time to do it and get it right.
Many are impatient about climate action and a society that still relies on fossil fuels. Many in the business community and those who rely on jobs in the resource industry to support their families are afraid for their futures as well. There are workers who have been temporarily laid off. There are seniors who are anxious about the timely delivery of their medication. There are business owners who are worried about getting oil and gas to the people who need to fill their furnaces.
There are also protesters standing in the cold in allyship with the Wet’suwet’en people.
On both sides of this issue, people are upset and frustrated. I understand that, because this is about issues that really matter to Canadians, to indigenous people and to me, such as treaties, rights, livelihoods, the rule of law and democracy.
I fully agree that this situation must be resolved quickly. However, we also must be aware that this situation was not created overnight and it certainly was not created in the past four years.
It was not created because we have embarked down a path of reconciliation recently in our history. It was created because, for too long in our history, successive governments failed to do so. Therefore, finding a solution will not be simple. It will take determination. It will take hard work. It will take co-operation.
I have to say that, standing here as a newcomer to Parliament, I am proud to be part of a government that has a true leader, one who will not simply pick up a sword and rush blindly into battle as others here seem to prefer, but who has deep empathy and compassion, who recognizes the gravity of the situation and, as our Prime Minister, is extending his hand in partnership and trust to the Wet'suwet'en people. What our government is attempting to do is create a space for peaceful, honest dialogue with willing partners.
As we heard from the Mohawk leaders, and from AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde last week, we need to resolve this impasse through dialogue and mutual respect. Therefore, we only ask that the Wet'suwet'en be willing to work with our federal government as a partner to find solutions.
They often remind us that trust has historically been betrayed after indigenous negotiations with Canadian governments. I, for one, remember that very well. I tell provincial, municipal and federal leaders that we must keep this in mind and it is why we need to do the right thing.
I was pleased to be able to say to the Prime Minister just this week that I feel he is on the right path. I stand with him. We cannot rush blindly into this. It needs to be done right and with mutual respect. I believe the reason we are facing this situation today is because of the history of broken treaties and lies by many governments and many people in powerful positions who betrayed our first nations people. For that I am truly sorry and very sad.
However, our common ground is the desire to arrive at a solution. We cannot resolve this alone. We need all Canadians to show resolve and collaboration.
Over the weekend, the Minister of Indigenous Services met with representatives from Tyendinaga, as well as with other members of the Mohawk nation. Now that the RCMP have agreed to step back, it is our hope the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs will meet with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, as she has requested.
This is our opportunity to bring these perspectives together because the alternative, the use of force, has been tried many times and those attempts at colonial control are not the path to reconciliation.
Despite having invested more than any other government to right historic wrongs and to close persistent gaps, we know there is still much more to be done. It is unacceptable that there are people who do not have access to clean drinking water, that indigenous women and girls still go missing and are murdered. It is unacceptable that indigenous people are still denied rights and lands.
We need to keep finding solutions. That can only happen by working together and listening to each other. In this country, we are facing many important and very deep debates. Canadians are impatient to see answers. People are frustrated that there is so much uncertainty. However, the debates in the House are very important. The language that is used is also extremely important. Yes, there is always a place for Canadians to protest and express their frustrations, but we need to ensure that we are listening to each other. We must be open to working together—
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-02-20 13:57 [p.1320]
Madam Speaker, I do believe members have the right to get to work unobstructed, and it did bother me when that happened in British Columbia. It also bothered me when our Deputy Prime Minister was prevented from going into a legal office in Halifax recently. These things should not be occurring and, in fact, any kind of violence is not okay.
However, I do believe that many of the protesters are standing with the Wet'suwet'en people, and they are not paid protesters or renegades. As a member of the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia for 10 years, I stood up for the grandmothers who were being taken off their land by the RCMP in the Alton gas situation. I was actually asked to leave the House for that, so am I a crazy activist? I do not think so.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-02-20 13:59 [p.1320]
Madam Speaker, I have to say, first of all, that I am not the keeper of the Prime Minister's schedule. That is not in my job description, so I do not know what his plans are in the coming days or weeks. However, I do know that the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations is meant to meet with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. They were prepared to go out west to do it, but now that the hereditary chiefs are coming to Ontario, I am hoping that might happen even more quickly.
I believe the next step is the dialogue and discussion that will take place with them.
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2020-02-20 14:00 [p.1320]
Madam Speaker, I would say to my hon. colleague from the NDP that any kind of quoting of songs and poetry is great, because in Nova Scotia we were not allowed to do so in the legislature. It is very freeing.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-20 15:06 [p.1332]
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's weak leadership has led Atlantic Container Lines to stop using the port of Halifax. Instead, it will now use American ports.
The CEO of the port of Halifax, Andy Abbott, said there are virtually no containers left in Ontario to even truck goods. Its Canadian operations have been shut down for almost two weeks. The port of Halifax is at risk of never seeing that container traffic again.
When will the Prime Minister show leadership and help lift the blockade?
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2020-02-20 15:33 [p.1336]
Madam Speaker, I want to ask my hon. friend from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, who I know is well aware of the impacts these blockades are having on the Atlantic region, a question.
I was talking yesterday, in fact, with a representative of Shannex, which owns a number of seniors' residences in Nova Scotia, where there are approximately 4,000 seniors. They use propane to heat those buildings, as well as for cooking. This is a great concern for them and for many communities, including the Port of Halifax, in a variety of ways.
I wonder if my hon. colleague would agree that it is important for a solution to be found as soon as possible to resolve this situation in a peaceful manner.
View Mike Kelloway Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mike Kelloway Profile
2020-02-19 14:11 [p.1244]
Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise in this House today to remember Al Pace, a community leader Cape Breton lost last week at 81 years of age.
Al was known for many things, and being a committed and loving family man was one of them. Al was a founding member of Sydco Fuels and Scotia Propane. He knew the importance of giving back to community. His work ethic and dedication never ceased. In fact, even after his retirement, he showed up every day for work.
Al served on many community boards, including the Kiwanis Club, the Shriners, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation and the United Way. He was the very embodiment of “a rising tide raises all ships”.
On behalf of Cape Breton—Canso constituents and members of this House, I wish to offer my sincere condolences to his four generations of family and his loved ones. Al was an inspiration to all and will be deeply missed.
It is my hope that we can carry forward Al's virtue of putting community first for the betterment of the province, the region and our country.
View Andy Fillmore Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Andy Fillmore Profile
2020-02-19 14:21 [p.1246]
Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 100th anniversary of Kin Canada, the nation's largest all-Canadian service club organization. Over 6,000 members belong to more than 400 Kinsmen, Kinette and Kin clubs across Canada, dedicating themselves to serving the community's greatest need.
Since its founding by Hal Rogers in 1920, the association has contributed more than $1 billion to Canadian causes, communities and individuals in need, as well as to disaster relief efforts beyond our borders.
Kin Canada's repertoire of good deeds includes supporting the fight against cystic fibrosis, having raised more $47.6 million for research and patient care since 1964; awarding bursaries to Canadian students from coast to coast to coast; and spreading cheer on its national day of kindness.
I invite all members to join me in expressing our heartfelt gratitude to all of the inspiring individuals who uplift their communities in a spirit of co-operation, inclusiveness and compassion. I say thanks to Kin Canada.
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
CPC (NS)
View Chris d'Entremont Profile
2020-02-19 15:02 [p.1253]
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's weak leadership is hurting Nova Scotia. Acadian Seaplants, which employs over 400 people in my riding, has run out of propane and cannot ship its products to market. Autoport in Eastern Passage, which handles thousands of cars for the North American market and employs dozens of people, issued layoff notices. Even Royal Propane in Digby, a small business in West Nova that employs about 40 people supplying products, had to issue layoffs.
How many more jobs must be lost before the Prime Minister acts?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, three reports of the Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, the APF.
The first report is respecting its participation at the meeting of the Cooperation and Development Committee of the APF, held in Cambodia, from May 3 to 5, 2019.
The second report is with respect to its participation at the meeting of the Political Committee of the APF, held in Djibouti, on March 5 and 6, 2019.
The third and final report is on its participation at the meeting of the Parliamentary Network on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria of the APF, held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on November 18 and 19, 2019.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing up an issue that is very important not only to me and our government but to all Canadians: the well-being of our veterans, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.
The House supported the motion in 2018 to end lapsed funding. We all want to ensure that veterans and their families have access to the supports and services they need when they need them. The well-being of veterans is a top priority for me and our government. That is why we are committed to doing more to support veterans and their families.
Our benefits are demand-driven. No matter how many veterans come forward, when eligible, they will receive their benefits. The process guarantees that whenever veterans come forward, whether it is this year, next year or beyond, they will receive those benefits. The resources are there for them at all times.
Over 90% of Veterans Affairs' budget goes to funding veterans programs and benefits. Every day, over $5 million in disability benefits goes to veterans. Last year alone, we spent $4.4 billion directly on benefits and services for veterans, their families and other eligible recipients. This is $1 billion more than the former Conservative government. This year, we expect to spend approximately $5 billion directly on services and benefits for our veterans. Changing how we account for lapsed funding will not change that or our priorities.
The veterans community is evolving and expanding along with its needs. Veterans Affairs is evolving too. For example, we opened 10 offices to provide better services, face to face, to veterans and their families. These offices were closed by the former Conservative government. We increased the amount of benefits provided to veterans with service-related injuries and illnesses. We introduced pension for life as an option for them. We also introduced eight new and enhanced initiatives to better support a seamless transition to life after service.
Our evolution in services and benefits and success in reaching veterans and their families has led to a significant increase in volume. Disability benefit applications alone rose from 29,000 in 2015 to 54,000 last year, which is an increase of almost double. To respond to this increased demand, Veterans Affairs has increased its program budget. This guarantees that no matter how many veterans come forward or when, they will receive the benefits and services they are entitled to.
It is worthwhile to note that last year 98% of the estimated funds available was spent to support veterans and their families with the benefits and services they needed. The remaining 2% that the hon. member has identified provides VAC the required flexibility to ensure that sufficient funding is available to support all veterans who are approved for those benefits. Therefore, there has been no impact on our commitment to helping veterans or on the ability of the department to deliver the services required.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, because Veterans Affairs Canada's programs and services are demand-driven, we will never be able to predict 100% accurately the exact funds required for the programs for the upcoming year. Rest assured, however, that there will always be money available to support those who are eligible for these benefits.
We will continue to adapt and provide programs and services to the changing needs of veterans and their families. We will review them and see where things can be improved.
Make no mistake, we always want to provide faster, more efficient and higher-quality service for our veterans. This government will never cease in its efforts to improve the lives of our veterans and their families.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-19 18:19 [p.1283]
Madam Speaker, on a personal note, I want to thank the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. He gets this. He truly cares, and I want to thank him, not only for that passion and compassion, but also for the fact that he truly cares.
We are deeply concerned about Canada's opioid overdose crisis. New data released in December show that from January 2016 to June 2019, 13,913 people across this country have died as the result of opioid overdoses. While this number is staggering, we must not lose sight of the fact that this crisis impacts many more people than are reflected in the statistics. Each death affects families, friends, communities and loved ones, creating a loss felt by tens of thousands of people. This crisis is impacting all Canadians and is a national public health crisis of the highest priority.
This tragedy involves many factors, however, we know that the vast majority of overdose deaths are caused by illegally produced, highly toxic synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil. The introduction of these substances into Canada's illegal drug market corresponds with the steep rise in overdose deaths. Therefore, an important element in our response to the crisis must be to address the smuggling of these toxic opioids into Canada.
We have responded by enacting new legislation, fast-tracking regulatory action, making investments and working collaboratively with other countries to prevent the smuggling of illicit drugs from countries like China. Prior to amendments to the Customs Act under Bill C-37, CBSA officers did not have the authority to inspect international packages weighing 30 grams or less without consent from the sender or addressee. For context, one 30-gram package can contain enough fentanyl to kill 15,000 people. Today, officers now have the authority to open any incoming package when they have reasonable grounds. We have also put in place scheduling amendments to restrict importation of chemicals used to produce fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances illegally. Additionally, our government has provided up to an additional $76.2 million to address the opioid crisis and problematic substance use, bringing the total recent investment to more than $100 million, including $30.5 million from budget 2019.
Because illegal drug trafficking knows no borders, international co-operation is also essential. Canada is working closely with international partners to prevent fentanyl and carfentanil from entering our country. Nowhere is our partnership stronger than with the United States. In fact, last June, the Prime Minister and President Trump reconfirmed our shared desire to address the overdose crisis ravaging Canada and the United States by committing to a joint action plan. Both countries are also working with the Chinese government to address the issue of illicitly produced fentanyl. The Government of Canada welcomed China's recent efforts to disrupt the illegal trafficking of fentanyl, as well as its addition of fentanyl-related substances to its supplementary list of controlled narcotics.
Enforcement to reduce the illegal drug supply is, however, just one component of our government's approach. If we are to turn the tide on this tragedy, we must commit to saving lives and supporting people who use drugs to improve their health and well-being. That is why our government restored harm reduction as a pillar of the Canadian drugs and substances strategy, approved more than 40 supervised consumption sites across the country, made naloxone available without a prescription and provided $150 million through the emergency treatment fund to provinces and territories to improve access to evidence-based substances and treatment services. A further $106.7 million was provided in budget 2019, which includes funding for pilot projects focused on pharmaceutical alternatives to the illegal drug market.
Our government recognizes—
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-19 18:25 [p.1284]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his passion.
In the Speech from the Throne and in the minister's mandate letter, our government reaffirmed its commitment to making it easier for people struggling with problematic substance use to get help. We are working with the provinces and territories on new investments that expand community-based services, build more in-patient rehabilitation beds and scale up the most effective programs.
However, we know that stigma regarding substance abuse is hindering efforts to address the opioid overdose crisis. That is why one of our government's priorities in responding to the opioid crisis is to address this stigma. Under budget 2018, over $13 million was invested in a national public awareness campaign to help change attitudes and perceptions about people who use drugs.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Niagara Centre.
I am pleased to participate in the debate on the opposition motion on employment insurance and sick benefits.
For starters, I want to say that our government is not blind to the financial difficulties that Canadians may face during the most challenging times of their lives. On the contrary, we take them very seriously. Health problems can change a person's ability to earn a living at any time.
We know that far too many Canadians are coping with serious illnesses, and are worried about being able to get the treatments they need and ending up relying on their families. A serious health problem can disrupt all aspects of their lives, whether it is a chronic or life-threatening illness, such as cancer, mental health illness, stroke, heart attack, etc.
We know that workers and their families face difficult, stressful situations because of this, particularly if they are also dealing with financial burdens. That is why we made changes to the employment insurance plan to make it more responsive to Canadians' actual circumstances.
First, I would like to highlight the employment insurance sickness benefit, which is an important measure supporting Canadians who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine. It allows workers time to restore their health so that they can return to work.
Today, under the Employment Insurance Act, eligible claimants can receive sickness benefits for a maximum period of 15 weeks. Recipients have the flexibility to use their 15 weeks of sickness benefits during the 52-week benefit period. For example, in 2017-18, a total of approximately $1.7 billion in sickness benefits was paid to over 412,000 claimants.
Of that number, 64% of recipients did not use the full 15 weeks of benefits to which they were entitled. That being said, some recipients use up 15 weeks before they are able to return to work, and we are sensitive to the experiences of these Canadians and their families. That is why our government is committed to extending the EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks in order to help workers pay the bills while they rest and recover.
The proposed extension would support Canadians who are diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer and who need to take time off from their jobs to receive treatment. Sickness benefits are a short-term income replacement measure for temporary absences from work.
It is important to note that in cases of chronic and long-term illness, workers also have other financial support measures at their disposal; for example, Canada pension plan disability benefits, private insurance plan benefits and support from provinces and territories.
Since 2016, our government has improved the flexibility of the employment insurance special benefits, which include maternity leave, parental benefits, sickness benefits, compassionate care benefits and family care benefits. Today, millions of Canadians provide informal care and support for critically ill family members. Canadians told us what they wanted, and we found ways of being more flexible and more inclusive for all families.
We announced special measures in budget 2017 to make it easier for caregivers to access EI benefits and give families more flexibility. These measures are making a real difference in the lives of Canadians.
One example is the creation of the new employment insurance family care benefit for adults.
This new benefit has made a huge difference in the lives of many hard-working Canadians who must take time off work to care for a loved one. This benefit of up to 15 weeks allows caregivers to provide care for a critically ill or injured adult family member.
I would also like to point out that, for the first time, immediate and extended family members of children who are critically ill have access to a maximum of 35 weeks of benefits, which was previously accessible only to parents.
This goes beyond the immediate family and relatives to individuals who are not relatives but are considered to be like family. For example, neighbours could be eligible to receive the benefits to provide care for a critically ill child. Caregivers can share the available weeks of benefits at the same time or at a separate time. It is estimated that approximately 22,000 families have accessed the new EI caregiving benefit since its creation.
Another very important aspect applies to caregivers of both children and adults. More specialists, family physicians and even nurse practitioners will now be authorized to sign medical certificates confirming that a child or adult is critically ill or injured.
This also applies to caregivers who access compassionate care benefits while providing care, including end-of-life care, for a child or adult family member.
This change makes the administrative process easier while allowing Canadians to focus on what really matters, being at the side of their loved ones. Every Canadian situation is unique, with different family and work needs, but every Canadian family deserves our support. That is why the EI benefit is now more flexible and more inclusive for Canadians.
In conclusion, what matters most to us is family. When a family member needs help, people must be able to provide care, and we must support these caregivers. We are committed to offering EI benefits that are more flexible, inclusive and, of course, accessible.
Our government promised Canadians that we would support parents and caregivers, and that is exactly what we are doing.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I think the member has to look at the big picture, which is that 64% of Canadians only use up to 10 weeks of the 15 weeks available to them, and then 34% use up to 15 weeks. By moving forward and changing it up to 26 weeks, we are moving that target. We may have no Canadians needing more than 26 weeks. If there are more, we are going to have to deal with that as well, and that is why we are here.
Let us not forget that the HUMA committee reported that we should increase it. Members did not say 50 or 75; they said we should increase it. Moving the bar to half a year is a very productive approach, and we are going to be able to meet the needs of Canadians.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Maybe I am just lucky, but it seems to me that every time I make a speech, he asks me questions. I invite him to continue, because it allows me to further explain to Canadians what our government’s plans are and what changes it is making.
We need to be careful. One could argue that the Bloc knows that we already promised Canadians, based on consultation, to increase the length of benefits to 26 weeks. The Bloc is proposing that it be increased to 50 weeks. Is this not the Bloc playing political games? It is certainly not us.
We listened to Canadians. We made them a promise. The committee recommended that we expand EI sickness benefits and that is what we are doing. There are also other safeguards in place to help us do that, such as the Canada pension plan measures and other provincial and territorial services. Today, we are adequately addressing that need.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, we should not be playing politics with this. The member for Victoria is talking about the Visa cards and everything else, and she said in her opening statement that the Liberals are not following through on their commitments. I am sorry, but if one reads the platform correctly, one will see that we said that we were going to move the bar from 15 weeks to 26 weeks, which was the recommendation of the Canadian Cancer Society and various other organizations across the country.
We are following through on our commitments, and I am very proud of that.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-18 14:52 [p.1160]
Mr. Speaker, the accommodations at CFB Trenton are currently at capacity because of the previous repatriation efforts. The Nav Centre was chosen because there are existing supports to coordinate processing and provide support services for all repatriated Canadians coming from Japan. It also has a facility available to house individuals in separate accommodations. These Canadians have been through a stressful experience over the past couple of weeks.
The member was offered a meeting directly with the minister. My understanding, to the best of my knowledge, is that the member turned that meeting down.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-18 14:53 [p.1161]
Mr. Speaker, it is important to know that before boarding the plane, passengers will be screened for symptoms. I remind the members on the other side—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Darren Fisher Profile
2020-02-18 14:54 [p.1161]
Mr. Speaker, I remind members on the other side that those who get on this plane are healthy Canadians. They have been screened multiple times. Those who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to board and will be transferred to the Japanese health system to receive appropriate care. Those who remain in Japan will continue to receive full consular services from the Government of Canada.
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