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View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to recommend that Bill C-35 be referred to a committee, as suggested by my colleagues. I think that all the parties in the House support the national DNA data bank and want to make it a tool that is as effective as possible to implement the act.
As hon. members know, DNA evidence has had what some are calling a revolutionary impact on the legal system. Canada can be proud of its DNA data bank. Indeed, our country is a world leader in this area and it has developed methods to protect privacy which, apparently, are being copied all over the world. However, while the DNA data bank is a success, it must be recognized that some difficulties have been encountered when using it, and the implementation of the act has also run into problems in court.
As hon. members know, the legislation that initially established the DNA data bank provided for a parliamentary review within five years of the coming into effect of this measure, that is by June 30, 2005. This is why I think the government acted responsibly by introducing Bill C-35 at this point in time. Indeed, we do not know when the review will actually begin and, more importantly, when it will be completed.
The problems that we are trying to solve with this legislation were raised by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, by the provincial governments, which deal with the overwhelming majority of cases involving a DNA data bank order, and by the RCMP, which is responsible for the bank.
Every year, the criminal justice section of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada brings together federal and provincial government officials and also defence counsel to discuss various resolutions on changes to the Criminal Code and other acts relating to criminal law.
In August 2001, the criminal law section of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada adopted a number of resolutions that called on the Department of Justice to consider, in consultation with the provinces, the territories and other interested stakeholders, amendments relating to the scope and application of the DNA data bank legislation in the Criminal Code. In particular, it recommended that seven issues be addressed on a priority basis. Subsequently, these proposed amendments were studied thoroughly by the Department of Justice, particularly during its legislative consultations in the fall of 2002. The amendments were discussed with the provinces and they urged the federal government to make the changes.I am pleased to advise the House that all seven of the priority items have been addressed in Bill C-35.
The bill will make significant amendments to the DNA Identification Act which governs the operation of the DNA data bank. While these changes are important, I will restrict my remarks to the main proposals for change in the Criminal Code, which, in my view, are the most significant: the inclusion of the offences of indecent assault female, indecent assault male and gross indecency in the list of designated offences and the list of sexual offences.
Moreover, there are persons who should be in the DNA data bank as a result of having committed a series of these offences prior to the legislation coming into force. The Criminal Code does allow for persons convicted of two or more sexual offences to be sampled so this change to the definition of sexual offence will allow the Crown to apply to a judge to have them included.
The Uniform Law Conference and the provinces also proposed the inclusion of those individuals found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder within the DNA data bank scheme. We currently have in the House Bill C-29 which proposes important changes to the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with the mentally disordered offender.
While those accused are not convicted of the crime, the court has found beyond a reasonable doubt that they have in fact done the act that constitutes the physical element of the offence. While they should not be sentenced to jail, it is clear they may be very dangerous. They are therefore put under the jurisdiction of a provincial review board. By making it possible for a judge to order that they DNA profiles be included in the DNA data bank, we may be solving crimes that they committed in the past. More importantly, if they should be released and commit a crime where they leave their DNA, we may solve that crime.
Members should remember, however, that having their DNA in the data bank could be a benefit to a mentally disordered offender who has been released into the community. These offenders are likely to be suspects, but if their DNA does not match the DNA from the crime scene, the police will know they are innocent.
The bill also contains a process, which the Criminal Law Section and the provinces wanted, for compelling the offender to attend in court at a hearing to determine whether a DNA data bank order should be made. Usually, this hearing takes place as part of sentencing, but there are occasions where the parties are not ready and the matter should be set over to another date. The bill contains a provision which ensures that the judge retains jurisdiction to order the person to show up for the hearing and, if the person does not show up, for a warrant for the person's arrest to be issued.
The Criminal Law Section and the provinces also recommended creating a process that would permit a judge to make, upon request, a second DNA data bank order, where the national DNA data bank has declined to process the first one because of police error in completing the forms that must accompany the bodily substances submitted for analysis.
The Criminal Code contains a provision permitting such a second sample if, for some reason, a DNA profile cannot be derived from the bodily substance. It is entirely appropriate if there has been a clerical error, for example in mixing up bar codes making identification of the offender impossible, that it should be possible to seek another order. Again, this bill will make this possible.
The provinces also wanted a mechanism to require the offender to appear for the purpose of providing a DNA sample. The law, as it currently stands, only makes provision for the DNA sample to be taken when the order is made. This has proven to be impractical. The police simply cannot have trained personnel in every criminal courtroom in the land. It is far more practical for the court to order the person to go to the police station at a fixed time. The bill provides for such an order and enables the judge to issue an arrest warrant, where necessary.
The bill also proposes changes in the list of designated offences covered by the DNA data scheme. Probably the most important additions to the list will be uttering threats and criminal harassment. As these will be secondary offences, the crown will have to apply for the order. People who engage in these activities present an elevated risk of subsequent violence, particularly to the victim of the offence. Having their DNA in the data bank may assist in deterring them.
The bill also proposes to move robbery and break and enter into a dwelling house from the list of secondary designated offences to the list of primary designated offences. This should increase the likelihood that a court would make a DNA data bank order in the case of these very serious offences.
I believe this review of the highlights of Bill C-35 shows clearly how important it will be in promoting the safety of the public and how it responds to the suggestions made by the provinces.
Of course, identical changes are being made in the National Defence Act to ensure that the military justice system remains consistent with the Criminal Code.
The sooner that review begins, the better. Therefore, I urge members to send Bill C-35 to committee.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in response to the request put to the House by my colleague, the member for Ottawa West—Nepean, in regard to allowing Mr. Arar's counsel to participate in the in camera hearings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar. We recognize the particular interest and the work that the member, our colleague, brings to this file.
As hon. members know, this commission of inquiry was called on the recommendation of the hon. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to investigate into and report on the actions of Canadian officials in the Maher Arar affair.
The government has appointed a well respected judge in the person of Mr. Justice O'Connor to conduct an impartial review of all the evidence relating to the way Mr. Arar was treated by Canadian officials.
The role of the factual inquiry is not to investigate the actions of Mr. Arar. It is meant to investigate and report on the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Mr. Arar during his detention in the United States, his deportation to Syria via Jordan, his imprisonment and treatment in Syria, his return to Canada, and any other circumstances directly related to Mr. Arar that the commissioner deems relevant to fulfill his mandate.
In this process, Justice O'Connor is seconded by his own counsel, Paul Cavalluzzo, who will have access to all the information and all the witnesses who will be heard during the inquiry, including those testifying in camera.
The commission's counsel will be in charge of calling witnesses and thoroughly testing their evidence. The interim rules of procedure and practice provide the following:
Commission counsel will thoroughly test the evidence heard in camera by examination in chief or by cross-examination where deemed appropriate.
We also recognize the provisions of rule 46, whereby, prior to going in camera, all parties shall raise with commission counsel specific areas for questioning, which would include representations by Mr. Arar's counsel.
It is also important to note that in accordance with rule 41 of the commission's draft rules of procedure and practice, the commissioner will appoint an independent legal counsel to act as an amicus curiae to appear in the in camera hearings to make submissions with respect to the request for in camera hearings. This counsel shall be independent of government and shall be a person with a background in security and intelligence. His or her mandate shall be to test in camera hearing requests on the grounds of national security confidentiality.
Some parts of the commission's hearings will likely be held in camera—the decision will be made by the judge—because of the nature of the information that the commissioner will review during his inquiry. In camera hearings are necessary to prevent the disclosure of information which, if it became public, could, according to the commissioner, be prejudicial to international relations, defence or national security, as mentioned in paragraph (k) of the mandate of the public inquiry commission.
In summary, the government has called this inquiry to provide assurances to Canadians that an independent and respected jurist has examined all of the relevant evidence about the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Mr. Arar's arrest, detention, treatment in Syria, and return to Canada, through both public and in camera proceedings.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member, who is understandably concerned about this rather disturbing situation, that the government made a commitment to get to the bottom of this issue by launching a public inquiry.
Unlike a trial, the inquiry process is not adversarial in nature. Commissioner O'Connor is responsible first and foremost for establishing the facts. The commissioner will be assisted by lawyers whose role will consist in examining the evidence in an impartial and independent fashion, to help him determine what happened.
Successive Canadian governments have consistently maintained that they have an obligation to protect certain fundamental principles including the right to privacy, the confidentiality of officials' advice to ministers, cabinet confidences and sensitive national security, law enforcement and international relations information.
The government has a responsibility to balance the importance of public disclosure against national security concerns.
I want to reassure the hon. member by telling her that the minister will always ensure that this balance is maintained.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, Emergency Preparedness Week runs from May 2 to May 8, 2004. Under the theme “Prepare now!”, Canadians can learn how the Government of Canada is working with provincial and territorial governments to promote national awareness to emergency preparedness and to the need to be prepared for any emergency.
If we have learned anything over the last few years, it is to expect the unexpected. To mark this important week, events and activities across the country will stress the importance of being prepared and of increasing our overall level of civil preparedness.
This week also provides an opportunity to find out about the progress made to ensure that Canada is an even safer place. All levels of government are increasing their ability to deal with emergencies and their effectiveness in this regard.
I encourage all Canadians to take time during Emergency Preparedness Week to learn what they can do to prepare themselves for a possible emergency.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Ottawa West—Nepean for her question, which reflects the sensitivity of public opinion in connection with this case and this inquiry, for indeed it is an inquiry and not a trial.
It is not appropriate for a parliamentarian, minister or not, to comment on the arguments used by counsel for either side. I must emphasize to everyone here, as well as to the general public, that we have confidence in Justice O'Connor's ability to carry out the inquiry appropriately. He will be the one to hear representatives of both parties and he will decide on the proper way to hold this inquiry.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I must point out that the government has announced this policy because it is in keeping with the most recently set standard of the International Civil Aviation Organization. We are therefore basing our decision on major studies that have been carried out on the international level. If we are moving toward biometrics, this is because it is what we find to be the most advanced and the most effective on the international level.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would invite the hon. member of the opposition to take time to read “Securing an Open Society: Canada's National Security Policy” in its entirety. This is a series of measures, an integrated overall action plan, one measure among many. It is a plan that will evolve over time. It reflects the best of what is available as far as international standards are concerned at this time.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-15, the International Transfer of Offenders Act, at third reading stage. After second reading and consideration in committee, this bill has received strong support from all members who have taken part in this debate so far. Now is the time to move on to the third and final stage.
The current Transfer of Offenders Act came into force in 1978, following a United Nations meeting where member states agreed that international transfers were desirable because of increasingly greater mobility and the need for countries to cooperate on criminal justice matters.
Since 1978, only technical amendments have been made to this act. Policy issues relating to international transfers have expanded due to Canada's greater experience with treaties and legislative amendments brought about by the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in 1992, Bill C-41 on sentencing in 1995, and Bill C-45 on sentence calculation reform in 1996.
Bill C-15, which we have before us for third reading, would modernize the legislative framework authorizing the implementation of treaties, including multilateral conventions on the international transfer of offenders. I am particularly proud to sponsor this bill because of its objectives relating to public safety and the humanitarian objectives it will advance.
The purpose of this bill concerning the transfer of offenders and related treaties is essentially humanitarian. Canadian citizens are often imprisoned in countries where they are unfamiliar with the language and culture. Furthermore, it is not unusual for the places where they are held to fall short of even the most rudimentary Canadian standards for health, hygiene and safety. The isolation felt by Canadians in these difficult conditions of detention adds to the hardship they face, especially without regular contact with family and friends. Awareness of these conditions also causes suffering to the offenders' families in Canada.
This legislation has another important goal. It will contribute to protecting Canadian society. For offenders who are serving prison terms outside Canada, rehabilitation may be impossible. Often, the countries where they are imprisoned do not have any treatment programs or parole systems. In addition to this shortfall, there is the lack of direct support by family and friends, which is often the key to reintegrating offenders into society. This lack of programs and support reduces their chances of long term rehabilitation, and this has an impact on public safety. That is why it is so important to be able to repatriate Canadians.
The International Transfer of Offenders Act will also contribute to the administration of justice. Canadian offenders who are returned to Canada must serve their foreign sentences right to the end. When they arrive in Canada, they come under the authority of the Correctional Service of Canada, or a provincial corrections service, which is responsible for their gradual and controlled reintegration into society. This solution is preferable to deporting offenders to Canada at the end of their sentences. If they are deported, they arrive here with no correctional monitoring and no help in reintegrating into society.
Most states recognize the importance of cooperation in criminal justice matters.
The states enforce criminal laws and sentences to dissuade people from committing illegal acts. However, offenders do not escape justice by purging the remainder of their foreign sentence at home. The international transfer of offenders program allows countries to do this.
In its consideration of this legislation, the government consulted 91 private and governmental organizations. These consultations and consideration confirmed the need to clarify and update the current Transfer of Offenders Act, which, as I mentioned, dates back to 1978.
This resulted in proposals to amend the legislation that would reflect traditional international treaty principles, close identified gaps, ensure consistency with other legislative provisions, and improve efficiencies of the transfer of offenders.
For example, Bill C-15 would integrate a clause stipulating that the purpose of this new legislation is to contribute tothe administration of justice, the rehabilitationof offenders and their reintegrationinto the community by enabling them toserve their sentences in the country of whichthey are citizens. This important characteristic would clarify the intended purpose of this legislation. It would contribute to the interpretation of the legislation and to ensure parliamentary endorsement of the approach and policy behind legislation.
The voluntary consent of the offender to his transfer is also a key principle which, in reality, serves as the foundation for Canada's participation in the international transfer of offenders. This notion is based on the traditional humanitarian objectives of treaties. This is a critical notion, because the prospects for an offender's successful rehabilitation and reintegration would likely be compromised if an offender were forced to transfer against his or her will.
Foreign states may also be less inclined to approve a transfer on humanitarian grounds if the offender has not willingly consented. This is why Bill C-15 would reflect this important principle.
To ensure truly informed consent, the bill provides that Canadian authorities must explain to offenders how they would serve their sentence upon their return to Canada. In this context, the bill also provides that Canadian authorities must give to any foreign offender who asks for a transfer to his country of origin information provided by that state and describing how the offender would serve the rest of his sentence in that country.
The current Transfer of Offenders Act does not provide for the transfer of young offenders who are on probation. This omission is not compatible with the provisions of the act. Indeed, the act authorizes the transfer of adult offenders who are on probation, or who are serving a term of imprisonment. Bill C-15 would correct this inconsistency by making young offenders who are on probation eligible for a transfer.
The current Transfer of Offenders Act does not provide for the transfer to Canada of children who may be serving a sentence abroad. Bill C-15 would correct that by authorizing the transfer to Canada of children of Canadian origin who are under 12 years of age and who are being detained abroad. The bill also provides that, following their transfer to Canada, children would not be detained under the terms of their foreign sentence. Instead, they would be covered by the legislation dealing with the well-being of children in the relevant province or territory. This is an illustration of the humanitarian nature of the bill.
These provisions would broaden the scope of the offender transfer system and advance the primary objective of this legislation.
At this time, Canada may enter into a treaty for the transfer of offenders only with recognized foreign states. Recent international events such as the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia highlight the need for a transfer mechanism for Canadians serving sentences in jurisdictions not recognized by Canada as foreign states.
In these cases, a considerable amount of time must pass before the jurisdictions are formally recognized as foreign states. Consequently, Canadians incarcerated and serving sentences in these jurisdictions do not have access to the international transfer process when a treaty does not exist between Canada and a foreign state or when one has been negotiated but ratification is still years away.
In all these cases, there may be compelling reasons to return an offender to the home country. That is why Bill C-15, clause 31, which is a major clause in this bill, provides for the negotiation of administrative arrangements with a foreign entity or non recognized state, in order to render the transfer system more sensitive to the international situation. It would allow Canada to transfer its citizens back home under the authority of Correctional Services Canada, which would be responsible for the gradual and controlled reintegration of these offenders into Canadian society.
Most offenders benefit from transfer agreements. Although the number of entities having signed and ratified treaties or conventions on the transfer of offenders is still limited, it is increasing. Serving a sentence in a foreign country adds to the seriousness of the sentence and often denies the offender access to the correctional programs and community support that are essential to his reintegration. It is not in society's best interest for things to continue this way.
The Transfer of Offenders Act and the treaties and conventions implemented by that act have achieved their goal and continue to play an important role in Canada's international relations. Major progress has been achieved in prisoner transfers. Every year, about 85 Canadians are transferred to Canada under a treaty or a multilateral convention for the transfer of offenders. Since 1978, more than 1,000 Canadians have been repatriated and more than 100 foreign offenders transferred to their country of origin. Once again, while these numbers are not large, they will surely increase once this bill is in place.
I would like to highlight the need for more flexible legislation to advance the humanitarian objective Canada has in mind with this bill on the international transfer of offenders. The need for more cooperation between countries as far as criminal justice is concerned is obvious, as is the need to protect the public by reintegrating offenders into society safely and gradually, and with proper monitoring.
Bill C-15 would meet all these needs by reflecting the traditional principles of international treaties, remedying detected shortcomings and ensuring consistency with other legislative measures. This bill would contribute, among other things, to expanding the system to a wider range of offenders and including more entities within the category of those with whom Canada could enter into transfer agreements.
For all these reasons, I urge hon. members to support Bill C-15 at third reading.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to echo the demand by the Italian-speaking community in my riding and in other regions of Quebec—some 250,000 people—to have access to the Italian television network known as RAI International.
Italian television is accessible throughout the world, but not in Canada, because of an agreement with a Toronto company called Telelatino, which, it appears, holds the rights to broadcast a number of hours of RAI International programming. The Italian-speaking community is furious, and rightly so; the situation is currently before the CRTC.
During the CRTC consultation process, this request has received more than 344 favourable comments. Presentations in favour of RAI International have included a letter-writing campaign and a huge petition containing over 100,000 signatures.
I hope that common sense will prevail in this matter. As I have for months, I continue to support this legitimate request from the Italian-speaking community.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, we were very proud to learn that Madam Justice Louise Arbour of the Supreme Court of Canada has been named High Commissioner for Human Rights by the United Nations.
We are happy that the undeniable qualities of Madam Justice Arbour have thus been recognized by the international community. She succeeds Sergio Vieria de Mello, who died in a terrorist attack in Baghdad. The task awaiting her is enormous.
Madam Justice Arbour has already shown her remarkable abilities as chief prosecutor at the tribunals that brought to trial those responsible for the Rwandan genocide and the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia.
Such a record suggests that the status of human rights in the world cannot help but improve through the competent and dedicated work of Madam Justice Arbour.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to Bill C-19 introduced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety.
I would remind the House that, when this bill was first introduced in the House on June 4 of last year, it was known as Bill C-40. It died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued on November 12. We now want to reinstate it and refer it to committee before second reading.
As we know, a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights made a number of recommendations in its report entitled “A Work in Progress: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act”. All 53 recommendations contained in this report were approved by the standing committee. The government then accepted 46 of these recommendations, the majority of which were implemented internally by the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board.
We now have before the House the responses to some of the recommendations yet to be implemented. These responses were gathered in a bill, because they need to be officially approved before they are implemented.
Before going over some of the proposed measures, let me give you an indication of the efficiency of this legislation and of its impact on public safety.
Since the Corrections and Release Act came into force, the crime rate has dropped to its lowest in 20 years and keeps decreasing. It is important to note that, for the same period, the number of inmates in Canada has practically stopped increasing.
Also, the number of prison sentences is declining while public safety measures are on the rise. For instance, according to Statistics Canada, 8,914 criminal offences were reported to police in 1996, compared to 7,590 in 2002. Therefore, the number of inmates in federal prisons has decreased from 14,100 to 12,600, for a total decrease of 1,500.
I could also point out that the success rate of offenders on conditional release continues to be excellent. During the past year, over 99% of temporary absences, 84% of day paroles, and over 75% of full paroles encountered no problems. That shows that the legislation is working very well overall.
Countries all over the world respect Canada for the integrity and efficiency of its criminal justice system because, while on the one hand, it protects its citizens by ensuring that offenders are kept and supervised in safe and humanitarian conditions, on the other hand, it prepares offenders for their reintegration into society as law-abiding citizens.
The provisions of Bill C-19 will make it possible to increase the effectiveness of this act and respond directly to the concerns expressed by citizens. Bill C-19 is designed to tighten up the provisions relating to the accelerated parole review process, as it is called in the act. The current provisions apply only to offenders who are serving their first federal sentence and who have been convicted of a non-violent crime, and allow them to be released on parole at the earliest date possible, provided it is unlikely they will commit a violent offence after their release.
The bill will tighten up these provisions in a number of ways. First, offenders sentenced for the following criminal acts will be added to the list of those already excluded from the accelerated process: criminal organization offences, child pornography, high treason, sexual exploitation of a person with a disability, causing bodily harm with intent in certain cases, and torture.
Second, parole under this process will no longer be statutory. The National Parole Board will use much more stringent tests. Each case will be subject to an individual review and decision by the Board. Moreover, the bill will ensure that, when reviewing the cases of offenders eligible for accelerated parole review, the National Parole Board take into account the likelihood of re-offending in general, versus the likelihood of committing violent re-offending, as is the case under current legislation.
Finally, the APR provisions will increase the ineligibility period for day parole for offenders serving more than six years, if those offenders are serving a first federal term for a non-violent offence.
So these are proposals to be added to what is already in place; they will improve the legislation. The bill will ensure society is better protected through provisions on statutory release.
Offenders serving a sentence for a determinate period, that is anything shorter than a life sentence or a sentence for an indeterminate period, who have not been on day parole or full parole, benefit from statutory release with supervision after they have served two-thirds of their sentence.
However, offenders who, in the opinion of Correctional Services, are likely to commit another offence causing death or serious harm, may be sent before the board for examination with a view to continuing incarceration or imposing special conditions.
The concept of statutory release is based on research which has proven that the best way to protect society is to implement a gradual, structured release program before the end of the sentence, rather than a release without transition at the end of the sentence.
The bill before us today will tighten up the provisions relating to statutory release in a number of ways. First, it will require the service to examine all cases with a view to their eventual referral to the national board.
Second, Bill C-19 will require Correctional Service Canada to refer to the National Parole Board the case of all offenders who have committed a sexual offence involving a child and all those who are likely to commit an offence causing death or serious harm, so they can be kept in prison until the end of their sentence.
The tightening of provisions relating to the accelerated review or statutory release of offenders, which I just outlined, will inevitably have an impact on the number of cases the board will have to review.
That is why this bill increases the maximum number of board members from 45 to 60.
Another provision in Bill C-19 concerns victims of crimes. Our opposition colleague from Langley—Abbotsford addressed this subject.
The bill will give victims the legal right to make a statement at parole hearings. Now, we could discuss the amendments proposed earlier by our opposition colleague.
Currently, victims are authorized to make a statement only under a board policy. Now, this will become a legal right. The measures proposed, which I have just briefly touched on, directly respond to many recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice. They follow up on almost all the improvements recommended by this committee.
The protection of society continues to be the guiding principle of the correctional process, as indicated in the bill's first principle. This legislation will continue to be closely scrutinized by the Standing Committee on Justice, the media, Canadians and, of course, the opposition parties.
The government remains open to any suggestions to improve the correctional process and is committed to making the necessary changes in due course.
We have the opportunity to take concrete action, once again, to further improve this system. For this reason, I urge my hon. colleagues to support Bill C-19 without reservation.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, with the passing of Claude Ryan, Quebec and Canada have just lost a remarkable man, a man whose intellectual and political pursuits left an impact on 40 years of our history.
The indefatigable Mr. Ryan was involved in all our social and political debates, from the time of the quiet revolution until very recently. I knew him as an editorial writer and as a minister who did an excellent job, particularly in the educational sector.
A proud Quebecker, he was able to rally around him a broad social and political coalition in his opposition to the October 1970 war measures. I am proud to have been part of that coalition as a member of the labour movement.
Throughout all those years, Claude Ryan never stopped working to have Quebec recognized as a strong society, a respected society taking its rightful place within the Canadian federal entity.
Thank you, Mr. Ryan, for all that you contributed to the public life of our country. Thank you for all your advice to me over the years; it played a large part in my decision to enter politics in 1994 in order to defend the unity of our country, to defend Quebec, and to defend those most often forgotten by the government.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, last evening, when I set out the main thrust of the Speech from the Throne delivered Monday by the Governor General, along with a summary of the government's action plan, on which the Prime Minister had spoken the day before, the 400 people present in this assembly of which I am a member warmly applauded this clear and dynamic speech.
They had a number of reasons to be pleased with the speech. They were pleased to hear the Prime Minister, via the throne speech, affirm and confirm in the most convincing way our desire to build a Canada on solid social foundations, where people will be treated with respect and no one will be left out. They were happy to hear this objective mentioned, particularly as the number one priority.
We have been hearing a lot from the opposition parties about the new Prime MInister and his policy direction, which they claim to know. There is no point in seeking to find that direction in all sorts of allegations and statements that are meaningless. It must be looked for where it really is, that is in the top priority of the throne speech: building a country on solid social foundations.
The second priority mentioned by the Prime Minister is to have a strong and open economy to help us meet the challenges of the 21st century and take advantage of meaningful jobs.
That economy will also allow us to remain or become leaders in such areas as information technology and biotechnologies, where we are already well established, and in as yet lesser known areas such as nanotechnologies, with great promise for the future, as well as in an area very close to my heart, and I think the hearts of the people of Canada and Quebec: the development of environmental technologies, ecotechnologies.
The Prime Minister made himself very clear about these aspects, these pillars which will ensure that the Canadian economy in all regions will be strong, healthy, competitive and productive in the years to come.
Third in our priorities and goals—and people around me were quite proud to hear this—is our commitment to give Canada, our country, a role and influence in the international community. We will be proud because our country will have an independent voice, like it did in the talks about the war against Iraq.
Inquiries have been launched in the United States and in Great Britain into the role played by intelligence services. We do not have this kind of problem here.
Canada wants to have an independent voice. The public is proud of the direction taken by our country last year. That is what they tell us whenever they get a chance.
We will also be proud to see more and more forward looking initiatives in Canada, and leading edge projects in international cooperation. These projects promote Canadian values internationally.
I want to thank for its attention the audience I had in my riding of Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies last night. Approximately half were members of our party, but the others had no political allegiance. We had people from the provincial and municipal level, from school boards, volunteer agencies, ethnic communities, and economic agencies. These people had no political allegiance, but were interested in knowing what was going on politically at the federal level and what the government had to say in the speech.
These people were very happy to hear the throne speech, whatever their political allegiance. We did not ask them about that. We know that about half of them were Liberal Party members. We did not ask questions or give a test at the door in order to find out the political affiliation of the other half. These people came because they were interested in what was happening, what was going on and what our main thrust was going to be. Therefore, people were happy to see that the throne speech and the Prime Minister's speech provided a fresh impetus and a new vision.
They greatly appreciated this new vision, a vision of partnerships to be created or developed, partnerships with the provinces and the municipalities. Here in the House there are some who do not like it when we talk about partnerships with the municipalities and the provinces. These people are not happy unless everyone is fighting all the time. We are also talking about partnerships with business and new partnerships with organizations in the social economy. That is something new; that is a refreshing change. There also are partnerships with our American neighbour, based on mutual respect, reciprocity and transparency.
These people were happy to hear about this government's commitments to ethics, transparency and accountability. They were also happy to see that we would be working together as members of Parliament in order to take on more responsibilities and work in an atmosphere that will be more stimulating for our ideas and our work here, and that will enable us and those of our opposition colleagues who would like to take part in this reform and renewal, to get things moving.
Obviously not everyone is ready for that and in that frame of mind. Some are ready and some are less ready.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Hon. Yvon Charbonneau: There are some who do not even listen when someone is talking. That shows just how much they prefer making noise to listening to what we say on this side.
The House of Commons should be a place where there is an ongoing public debate, a thorough and calm examination of the great issues we face in this country, and not a place where people who are not equipped to take power or do not even aspire to it take pot shots at one another and indulge in petty politics. Some parties act like lobby groups.
People watching us last night were also very impressed because our government has decided to not only make promises, but to put its words into action. For instance, the government provided $2 billion last week for health care and agreed to meet with the premiers this summer to come up with viable solutions to our health care problems.
Politicians, whether at the provincial or the federal level, all realize that money alone is not the solution in the area of health care. We need to find new ways to work together and further promote cooperation. A lot of work remains to be done. This summer, the first ministers will review the situation and try to come to an agreement on new ways to make our health system viable in the long term. The goal is to avoid any more emergency infusions of billions of dollars.
Another example is the government's commitment to immediately provide municipalities with full relief from the portion of the goods and services tax they now pay. The government is also prepared to work with the provinces to find a way to help finance some of their most critical needs, which have to do with municipal infrastructures throughout the country.
The people were impressed to see that we were not willing to wait two months, until the next budget or the next election, to make good on our promises. The Prime Minister said, “Start counting now, the money has started to come in as of February 1”. These are not merely promises, they are commitments already being acted on. The people were very impressed with how our Prime Minister and our government were working.
Also, they were thrilled with some of the measures affecting young people, including the increased access to registered education savings plan, particularly for poorer Canadians, and also the modernized Canada Student Loans program for the less fortunate students.
Companies that are part of the social economy were a special focus of the Speech from the Throne. This is the first time, I think, in the history of Canada or one of its provinces, that the emerging social economy sector has received so much attention.
Aide domestique in northeast Montreal is an agency that employs dozens of people. In the Montreal east area, services are offered to seniors and people who sometimes rely on not-for-profit agencies. There are 11 similar agencies in Montreal that employ some 500 people. There are 103 of them in Quebec in the social economy field, in several sectors.
This is very important for the harmonious functioning of our society and our community. They work with seniors, young children and families. They work for NPOs or cooperatives, and, according to the Speech from the Throne, they can benefit from measures comparable to those available to small businesses. This represents considerable progress and much-deserved recognition of all those who are continually working hard for the well-being of our society.
We welcome our Prime Minister's commitments with respect to sustainable development and the environment. All these commitments cannot be listed in a few short minutes. However, we must highlight those that, in our view, are key to the future; we are talking about sustainable development and the environment.
In the Speech from the Throne, an entire series of measures was announced. We will go beyond Kyoto—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Hon. Yvon Charbonneau: For the eternal skeptics in the recesses of this House who say that the government hesitates when it comes to respecting its commitments to the Kyoto protocol, the Prime Minister said we will go beyond Kyoto. These are firm measures.
The Prime Minister also said we would not just hold forth on the international stage and participate in protocols and major agreements; we will start by putting our own house in order. That is a sincere promise, not just a general statement.
We are going to undertake a 10-year, $3.5 billion program to clean up contaminated sites. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has been recommending for years that the government take the initiative; now it has. Firm commitments have been made.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Hon. André Harvey: The Bloc is not included in that. The Bloc will be taken care of in the election.
The hon. Yvon Charbonneau: As my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord says, there are two kinds of contaminated sites; those for which there are environmental solutions and those that require an election.
There are thousands of contaminated federal sites in Canada and numerous studies have been done over the years. We are now ready to go forward and to deal with the problems that have been identified. This will also affect sites like the Sydney tar ponds that have been widely explored and analysed for years. Millions of dollars have been set aside for that purpose.
The situation is the same for abandoned mines like the one in Yellowknife and many others in Canada's far north. These are important measures because we are dealing with fragile ecological environments that deserve our attention.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
The hon. Yvon Charbonneau: Some people are not really interested of course, because these are measures that they themselves had asked for and that have suddenly become unacceptable when the government took the lead. These people are not serious. They like to play politics.
Also with respect to the environment, the Prime Minister made a commitment that he had already put forward when he was critic for the Liberal opposition, 12 or 13 years ago, and that he reiterated as Minister of Finance, which had to do with using environmental indicators in major government decisions.
These were environmental indicators for the air, for emissions and for the quality of our water.
Our government is not guided strictly by financial criteria. Environmental criteria are also now part of the decision-making process, following the national round table on the environment and the economy. These are major steps forward.
The throne speech includes other commitments on the marketing of innovative and environmentally friendly technologies. Such technologies exist all across the country. There is a huge potential. The marketing process was undertaken a few years ago. It will be more sustained in the coming months and years.
I should also tell the House how pleased we are to see the commitments made by the government to develop our skills, our human resources. For the past number of years, the government has been focusing on this area. This commitment is firmly renewed in the throne speech. We are talking about our human resources. In particular, there is a very specific commitment by the government to better integrate new immigrants into our economy and our communities. Immigrants are not a problem in Canada. They should not be. On the contrary, they are the solution to a number of our problems in the future, provided some changes are made. We must recognize the skills of those who come to Canada.
There are people who were trained abroad and who have Ph.D.s and masters degrees. They come here, but the professional corporations, the provinces and the administrations do not recognize their degrees. They end up driving taxis. We need cab drivers, but not to the point of relying on people who have Ph.D.s and masters degrees, and who are trained to be doctors to do the job.
We must recognize the skills of these people. We must also, in other cases, facilitate the updating or upgrading of their skills. In my view, these are very concrete commitments that were well understood and appreciated by people like the residents of Montreal, particularly in the eastern part of Montreal, in my riding of Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies.
The people who were there included many who were of Hispanic, Arab, Haitian or Asian origin. They saw in these words a message of hope, a policy of open arms and humanity that truly warmed their heart. Such was the effect of the throne speech on people.
I would also like to applaud two other initiatives of the government. There is the creation of an organization that will be called Canada Corps and that will allow our young graduates to acquire valuable international experience when they are 20, 22, 23 or 25 years old. Not only will they acquire meaningful experience, but, at the same time, they will get first-hand experience in international cooperation by participating in projects that will help countries targeted by this organization.
I think this is one of the most promising projects. Indeed, when these young people will have participated in these projects overseas for six months, 18 months or two years and will come back in this country, they will be better Canadians and also better citizens on the international level. They will be people who are more aware of the realities and of the need to get involved to contribute to a better world on the international level.
Everyone is talking about globalization. We should humanize it, give it a human face. As soon as they come back, these young Canadians who are 20, 22 or 25 years old, who will have acquired this experience, will contribute to Canadian politics and to our society in a more humane, social and fair manner. This proposal is extremely promising.
I also saw the government's commitment to work more with unions, with major Canadian unions that are particularly involved in the skill development sector. This work with unions is considered an essential component of our training and skill development system. This kind of commitment is quite something. We heard our Prime Minister make this commitment.
There are so many reasons to applaud this Speech from the Throne that some people would inevitably blame me for not saying enough. However, they are so inspiring and meaningful that they got enthusiastic support from all the people who took part in the meeting last night and from all the people who expressed their satisfaction.
Through their attitudes, their applause and their welcome, they expressed their confidence in the government, in our new Prime minister and also, I must admit, in your humble servant, who was seeking a nomination to represent their riding in the next federal election.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question on health care.
I have already had the privilege of being the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, and I closely considered these issues a few years ago. It is now clear that health is the top priority in Canada, a fact that the federal, provincial and territorial governments are unanimous on.
In any given region in Quebec or elsewhere, health is the basis of every discussion. It is the main concern.
At any meeting with seniors or other groups, health rapidly becomes the basis of discussions and concerns. People want reassurance.
Often, we talk about security. There is now a Minister of Public Safety in Canada, and I am that minister's parliamentary secretary. The main concern currently is not borders or terrorism, which still are part of the whole, but health.
People want to know what care they can expect for themselves, their children, their families and their parents, no matter what their age or their condition. That is the first insecurity that needs to be addressed.
Last week, the first ministers and the federal Prime Minister agreed to meet again over the summer, specifically to discuss measures to be taken in the medium and long term. We know that these problems cannot be solved merely by throwing a billion here, and a billion there. Sometimes this is even counter-productive, because purchases are made despite the fact that the human resources to operate the equipment are not available.
My colleague is right to point out that young professionals, health professionals in particular, are increasingly open to the idea of training leading to a new concept, a new practice of medicine, including a preventive aspect, which they would like to see more developed than it is.
We have opened up the public health field. We all heard in the throne speech how much emphasis was placed on that. There is a Minister of State for Public Health, a system that is at the preparation stage. Public health is essentially prevention, not waiting for disease to strike but taking pre-emptive action by looking at what living conditions, hygiene and diet we can have to avoid later health problems.
Young health practitioners are increasingly open to the idea of training in this area.
All of the initiatives to which my colleague has referred will be totally productive for the health system in the medium term.
View Yvon Charbonneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for the opportunity to return to this aspect of the throne speech.
It is rather unusual for a throne speech to place such importance on a sector like that. We are talking about big business, productivity, international competition, technology. In all the throne speeches, in all the political commitments, in all the speeches from opposition leaders, the same major themes keep coming up. There is one, however, that is not often heard except from this side of the House, but it was clearly mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, and that is the social economy.
At first glance, for people who have not yet taken the time to examine this concept, it might seem rather contradictory. Usually, we keep social measures, economic measures, and environment and health measures separate, and that is how it is. The social economy is a concept that is just emerging, that is receiving more and more attention in our society. Briefly, it is a fabric, a web, of small organizations. Right now they are small organizations, but sometimes they can be a little bigger, with 50, 75 or 100 employees.
These organizations work with people. They help meet community needs or the needs of groups, such as underprivileged children, seniors, people unable to cut their grass or shovel snow, clean their windows or clean their apartment because they are sick or disabled.
There are all kinds of formulas, such as recycling plastics or dangerous goods; all kinds of companies are emerging in this broad sector of the social economy.
There are opportunities for some to privately provide these services and earn a profit, but when we talk about the social economy, we talk about non-profit organizations—NPOs—or cooperatives. They hire people and provide services at low cost to those who need them; they provide jobs for people who provide services that the private sector does not, which also gives these services a human quality. They are close to local needs. This is an emerging sector, a new sector.
The throne speech demonstrated incredible sensitivity. It is extremely avant-garde. The government says that it has identified this sector and that it will do more than just watch it, encourage it, congratulate it and award medals; it will take concrete action to help these people and give them recognition. It is also a sign of recognition for the entire volunteer sector within the social economy.
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