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View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, our supply management sector is under threat at the current secretive negotiations on the trans-Pacific partnership. Countries such as the U.S. and New Zealand are applying tremendous pressure on Canada to put supply management on the chopping block.
Most recently, the Conservatives buckled under European pressure to allow an additional 17,000 tonnes of subsidized European artisan cheese to flood our markets. Our farmers are taking a direct hit as a result of this CETA sell-out.
Unlike other agricultural sectors, farmers in the supply management sector have been able to survive in difficult times over the years without any government subsidies. Prices to consumers have remained constant and competitive. The price of chicken, for example, has risen by only 3.5% over the past two years, while non-supply managed pork and beef have risen by over 20%, and supply management contributes $20 billion to our gross domestic product.
I call on the Conservatives not to give any additional duty-free access for imported dairy, egg and poultry products. The system is working for Canadians. No further concessions.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Chair, as always, when I get up here, there is a standing ovation.
This has been quite a journey, which started during the summer of 2003 while my wife Ann and I were driving across the Prairies. I remember it clearly. It was at dinner in Medicine Hat when I mentioned to Ann that I was thinking of seeking the NDP nomination in the 2004 election. I remember her response, “I think you are crazy, but I support you”. I believe she regrets those words to this day.
My next step was to check with my friends, Ed and Katrine Conroy. Ed was a former MLA and Katrine is currently our MLA. They said, “Go for it”.
My final blessing came from the president of our local riding association, Lily Popoff, who said, “Would you please run?” Although I lost in 2004, I was successful in 2006.
The privilege of serving as an MP has undoubtedly been the most enriching and rewarding experience of my life. I am extremely fortunate to have known our former leader, Jack Layton, and remember many interesting conversations we had over the years. We even went jogging together during one of my campaigns when he was in Castlegar with Olivia.
I would like to pay tribute to all of my NDP caucus colleagues, both past and present. A number of us remember the days when caucus meetings would take place around a table. I have never worked with such a dedicated and committed group of people. Many have been committed to social justice for decades. I wish all of those who are retiring this year the best of health and happiness as they adjust to what we call a normal life.
I must also admit that it has been and continues to be an honour for me to work with them. As members know, 2011 was a time of great change for our party.
I would like to thank all of my new colleagues, particularly my younger colleagues, for their passion and their commitment to building a better Canada.
My friends from Quebec, I really enjoyed the conversations we had at the parliamentary restaurant after the votes. I will truly miss you.
I would especially like to mention our leader. I really appreciate his leadership and especially the fact that he was always available to listen to me and to read the many articles I sent him over these past few years. I am very happy that he is here.
I also want to thank my MP colleagues from all parties who have treated me with respect over the years. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some of them a little more, for example, during trips with the agriculture committee and during my two trips abroad. We do not do enough of that, getting together and socializing with our colleagues.
I would also like to recognize the government front bench. There have been numerous occasions when I have approached ministers directly here in the House as a last resort on behalf of my constituents when all else had failed. They have been very gracious and respectful of my concerns and have taken the time to follow up with their officials. I thank them for this.
I have enjoyed working here in Parliament. There is a very high degree of professionalism everywhere we look. I would first like to thank our interpreters who are always here for us, not only in the House but at each committee and caucus meeting. They are very good at what they do. As a former interpreter, I understand the difficulty and complexity of their work and hope that all members assist them by giving them copies of their speeches well ahead of time.
I would like to wish all of the pages the best in their future endeavours. These dynamic and fluently bilingual university students are a pleasure to be with. I thank them for their service.
If I may use military terminology, I often liken our position as MPs to being on the front line. However, without our support staff, life here would be impossible. I thank all of the staff here in the House and all who make Parliament function smoothly, the clerks, researchers, recorders, postal workers, library staff, and all other support staff.
As you know, Mr. Chair, the work that you do here in the House is not easy, particularly when the debates get a bit heated. I would therefore like to sincerely thank you, your colleagues and the other speakers for your patience.
As a former schoolteacher, I know what life can be like when we are in front of an unruly class of energized students.
You are very understanding.
Also, in spite of the tragic incident last October, I have always felt safe working here on the Hill. The members of our security staff are very professional and truly amazing in how they are able to recognize each and every one of us by name. I thank them as well as the dedicated RCMP officers for their service.
I have a special place in my heart for all the staff upstairs in our parliamentary restaurant. I will truly miss not being able to go up to the sixth floor after votes and be greeted by what I call true professionals as I partake in the daily evening buffet with my Quebec colleagues. It has been a pleasure spending time in the restaurant with my server friends. I only wish they could be assured of full-time employment even when the House is not in session. It is not a very comfortable position to be in when they lose their job when the House rises. Would it be possible, for example, to keep this great restaurant open to staff and tourists in the summer? It could be a win-win situation. I ask the next government to take a serious look at this possibility.
I would also like to recognize the work of the staff in our whip's office and in our leader's office. They are extremely knowledgeable and professional. I really enjoyed working with them during my time here in Parliament. I hope that they will continue their work after the election, but that this time they will be working for the government.
I also want to thank all those who work in our cafeterias, particularly in the Confederation Building. It was very nice to see them every week.
I want to thank all of the support staff, those who keep our workplace clean and in good repair.
Finally, all of us are here because of the support we have received in our ridings. My sincere thanks go out to all members and supporters who have made it possible for me to have this honour. It is truly amazing to observe the behind-the-scenes work that goes on during election campaigns. It is quite a humbling experience to see the efforts that go on to elect us to office. Democracy is alive and well.
It has truly been an honour to serve all constituents of British Columbia Southern Interior, regardless of their political affiliation. In fact, after the election, I made it a point to forget who belongs to which party. I would like to single out my provincial and local government colleagues for all their co-operation as we have worked together for the benefit of our constituents. I have always attempted to consult them prior to advancing federal issues on their behalf, or sometimes even wading in on provincial and municipal issues. I wish them all the best as they continue to work on behalf of those they represent.
I would like to take this time to pay tribute to the former mayor of Osoyoos and MLA, John Slater. It was always a pleasure to work with him. He will be missed. May his soul rest in peace.
Sometimes people ask me how I put up with all the nonsense in the House. First, I say that just as in teaching high school, a good night's sleep and a sense of humour certainly help. However, most important of all it is all those committed people who are fighting for social justice right across the country. When I meet with them, it is as if I recharge my batteries. It has truly been an honour to represent their views in Parliament. I have met with citizens concerned about world peace, Canada's involvement in war, protection of the environment, food sovereignty, poverty, Canada Post, smart metres, women's rights, international development and many other issues. It is amazing to see how many people, both in my riding and across the country, are consistently engaged in working to improve the lives of others.
When I was the Agriculture critic for our party, I was in regular contact with many organizations representing farmers as well as those concerned about GMOs, horse slaughter, international trade and food sovereignty. It was always a pleasure to meet with their representatives and to listen to their concerns.
Finally, I would like to recognize my staff, those dynamic women who point me in the right direction and tell me what to say: Jennifer Ratz in Ottawa; Lilly Zekanovic in Oliver; and Margaret Tessman, Gina Petrakos, and Gail Hunnisett in Castlegar. Thanks to their dedication and persistent efforts, my office has been able to assist many constituents over the course of the past nine years. It will be sad not to be able to spend time with these dedicated individuals when I retire.
I would also like to thank others who have worked in my office since I was first elected in 2006. I wish them all the very best in their future endeavours.
A number of people have asked me what I plan to do when I retire. My answer is, nothing. It is my plan to spend time at home with my wife Ann, our two cats and hopefully a new dog. There is wood to chop, flowers to plant and music to play. I guess that is what retirement is all about.
I wish everyone here in Ottawa all the best.
I thank the people of British Columbia Southern Interior for having given me the honour to serve my country as their representative for the past nine years.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I have over 300 names from Trail, Castlegar, and the Beaver Valley of folks who are upset about paying additional fees so that they can pay their bills. This especially hits seniors unfairly.
The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada, its agencies, ministries, and departments to employ the measures at their disposal, appropriate to their jurisdiction, to prohibit the charging of customers for receiving a monthly bill or statement in the mail.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure and a certain amount of emotion that I speak to Bill S-6. My heart has a soft spot for Yukon and its people.
In 1976, I first went to Yukon to undertake a study on the feasibility of expanding youth hostels. For those of us who remember the late 1970s, it was a time of youth migration across this great country. My task was to see if we could set up a network of centres or hostels to accommodate these young people. That was my first opportunity to visit this magnificent area of Canada. I went for a few months and stayed for five years, perhaps the happiest and most rewarding of my life.
My next job involved working with the Yukon recreation branch, which at that time came under the Department of Education. The minister at the time, a current senator for Yukon, was Senator Dan Lang. I fondly remember spending time in his office trying to get support for various initiatives that our branch was working on. Now we see each other occasionally on flights to and from Ottawa. However, unfortunately we do not agree on Bill S-6.
One of the initiatives that I had the pleasure of working on, an idea that came from the director of recreation at that time, Barry Robb, was that of implementing a network of territory-wide recreation and advisory boards that would be all inclusive. We tried and were successful in involving all communities, with first nation participation as equals, helping to break down some of the barriers that existed at that time.
What is puzzling is that this type of consultation process has apparently been lacking in regard to the bill before us. As I read my notes, I find it very troubling that the Conservative government is once again attempting to ram its ideologically driven agenda through without taking into account the needs of all citizens of Yukon.
Yukon is a majestic area with an extraordinary landscape, wide open spaces unequalled anywhere in the world, and with a dynamic proud people. While there, I spent many hours visiting various communities, from Dawson City to Watson Lake. I even had the pleasure of flying into Old Crow in the Arctic Circle. At that time, we had functioning mines in Elsa and Faro. I even spent a few months working as recreation direction in Elsa.
Bill S-6 would unilaterally rework Yukon's environmental and socio-economic evaluation system, a system which is a product of the Umbrella Final Agreement, which settled most of the first nations land claims in the territory. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, YESAA, is a made-in-Yukon solution to the unique environmental and social circumstances of the territory.
It is clear to see that the changes proposed in Bill S-6 are being driven by what I would call the corporate agenda of southern resource development companies. The bill would dismantle the environmental and socio-economic assessment process developed in Yukon, by Yukoners for Yukon.
In my opinion, it is part of the Conservative ideologically driven agenda to systematically weaken environmental protection legislation, with no public consultation, little or no parliamentary security, and often being buried in omnibus budget legislation. Some examples of weakened environmental laws include the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act, navigable waters protection act, and Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
It is interesting to note that four former fisheries ministers, three of them Conservative, have been highly critical of the gutting of the Fisheries Act by the current Conservative government. I would like to recognize one of these individuals, the hon. Tom Siddon, who continues to serve his constituents as a director with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
As I mentioned earlier, there was incomplete consultation with Yukon first nations before these amendments were made. I find it hard to believe that there was no public process while developing these amendments. At the same time, non-Yukon stakeholders, including the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Mining Association of Canada, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association were allowed input.
It appears as if the Yukon government, with support from the Conservative MP and senator, pushed this deal through in spite of considerable opposition to the changes from Yukoners and the Council of Yukon First Nations. In other words, these amendments favour the Yukon government over the Yukon first nations, the other partner in the YESAA process.
There should not be this kind of division. What is more, the Council of Yukon First Nations has threatened legal action should the bill become law. Ironically, instead of favouring development, Bill S-6 could wind up slowing it down.
Let us listen to what Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president of lands and environment at Kaminak Gold Corporation has to say:
...Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment and regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.
Specifically, the YESAA five-year review resulted in a number of recommendations, most of which were supported by the parties involved in the review, including Yukon first nations. We understand that some of the proposed amendments do not accurately reflect comments and recommendations raised during the five-year review, and as a result, instead of celebrating a historic alignment between the governments and the Yukon first nations on most of the proposed amendments to YESAA, Yukon first nations have expressed a common position that they intend to take the federal government to court, if Bill S-6 is passed as proposed.
Kaminak is very concerned about this development, because court cases create assessments and regulatory uncertainty in addition to extraordinary delay, all of which erodes investor confidence.
In these difficult economic times, why would any government even consider implementing measures that would encourage economic uncertainty? It would seem to me that a stable environment supported by first nations should be a necessary prerequisite to any shift in policy.
Former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell spoke in the House to the original bill creating YESAA on October 21, 2002. He said:
Much of that time has been spent in consultation with stakeholder groups and, as a result, we have a much better bill and much better process than might otherwise be the case. First nations in particular will have a more meaningful role in assessments in Yukon.
It is safe to say that virtually everyone in Yukon had an opportunity to comment on the bill and many did.
Larry talked about how the department released drafts of the legislation in 1998 and 2001 for public review and undertook two separate tours to meet with first nations and other residents to review and discuss these drafts. He went on to say:
This took time, but it was time well spent. Those in Yukon who participated believe the process was inclusive, transparent and worthwhile.
Why is it that a former Liberal majority government made an effort to adequately consult prior to introducing legislation where our current conservative regime has chosen to disregard the democratic process?
Speaking of the lack of respect for democracy, one only has to look at how the Canadian Wheat Board was gutted in spite of support for the single desk by over 60% of farmers, or the complete rejection of over 20 amendments proposed by the NDP and Liberals to strengthen the food safety act, Bill S-11, or most recently the way that Bill C-51 was rammed through, in spite of the fact that knowledgeable witnesses spoke out against these draconian measures. Clearly Canadians are asking for a change. This will happen in October, but sorry for that digression.
Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations said this when appearing before the Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources:
Pursuant to the UFA, the CYFN, including Yukon First Nations, Canada and Yukon undertook a comprehensive review of YESAA. Initially, CYFN, Yukon First Nations, Canada and Yukon worked collaboratively to prepare the interim YESAA review report. In the end, Canada unilaterally finalized the report and systematically rejected the input from the CYFN and Yukon First Nations.
The proposed amendments in front of the Senate today were not discussed in the five-year review process with Canada and the Yukon government.
Mary Jane Jim, councillor, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, said:
...it is our view that YESAA has been operating effectively and efficiently since its enactment in 2003. The federal government now works to unilaterally make additional amendments to the YESAA. We did not request these amendments, nor do we support them. These amendments are not necessary.
Let me close by saying that I believe this is not a good precedent in these difficult times. I urge all members of the House to reject this flawed piece of legislation.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, that is a logical question. However, if we look at the process and see that one group of people, namely the first nations in Yukon, do not agree with that, then in my mind that should trigger that there is something wrong. It then becomes another top-heavy federal government decision that people are not supporting. There is something wrong with it.
Obviously the protection should be there, but it should be worked out and agreed upon by all stakeholders. In reading my notes and discussing the bill, my conclusion is that has not happened, and that is one of the flaws of the amendments on this piece of legislation.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Liberal colleague for his excellent question. I have notes here that I have not had a chance to talk about, such as various stakeholders who believe that this consensus, this consultation, did not take place. One of them is Mr. Felix Geithner, director, Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon. He said:
The most pertinent question isn't why Bill S-6 should be prevented from being passed but why was it ever put forward in the first place, in its current form?
He goes on to say:
The reason he provided for introducing a bill that proposes sweeping changes to a fundamental part of this regulatory regime was the need to involve and maintain a competitive and predictable regulatory system.
However, this is not what is taking place. In fact, it is just the opposite.
We have already heard what Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong of Kaminak Gold Corporation said. I did not have a chance to talk about Chief Steve Smith of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, or Ms. Wendy Randall, chair and executive committee member of the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board, or Chief Angela Demit, and we could go on and on.
There is a groundswell of opposition to these amendments and this bill, so why on earth would the current government even consider putting this legislation forward?
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I have over 300 names, with three different petitions, on Canada Post. The first one from Nelson, Salmo, and Ymir calls upon the government to reverse the cuts to services announced by Canada Post and to look instead for ways to innovate in areas such as postal banking.
The second petition, from folks in Nelson and the Slocan Valley area, calls on the government to ensure that our public post office is not scaring people into accepting community mailboxes and that it continues to provide door-to-door delivery to residents.
The third petition is from residents of Castlegar. It calls upon the government to instruct Canada Post to keep and expand the public post office instead of opening privately run offices or franchises.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition that deals with climate change, with over 60 signatures, calling for Canada to adopt a carbon policy that applies a fee to greenhouse gas emissions at their source of production in Canada, and calling on nations around the world to adopt a similar policy.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, on another topic, I have here a petition signed by more than 300 people from Quebec and across the country. They say that 3% of the population immediately experiences undesirable effects from wireless radiation. The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to immediately implement an official process enabling Canadians to report undesirable effects of exposure to wireless radiation.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, as I ride off into the sunset later on this year, I would like to pay tribute to all those who made the past nine years the most enriching experience of my life. I thank my wife Ann and my staff, both past and present, for their loyalty and service to our constituents.
To those front-line activists who are advocating for a better world, it has been an honour to stand by them.
To the members of my party who are always there for every election, I thank them for their confidence in me. One such person is my brother George, here with me today, who together with his wife Gloria have been truly an inspiration to me.
To all those in Ottawa who make this a very pleasant place to work—custodians, maintenance workers, restaurant and cafeteria staff, security personnel, post office staff, House of Commons and NDP staff—I thank them for their professionalism and dedication.
Lastly, I want to thank all of my colleagues, from all political parties in the House, for the respect they have shown me. It has been, and continues to be, an honour to work with them. I wish everyone all the best in their future endeavours.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for the wise words you just said, encouraging us to have a full debate and giving us time to answer questions.
I wish I could say that it gives me pleasure to speak to this motion. Unfortunately, I cannot. It is not with pleasure that I rise here. It is with a sense of duty that, with the expansion of our mission in Iraq and now into Syria, I see there is no question that we are being drawn into what will turn out to be a long and costly prolonged conflict.
The Prime Minister tells us that our country is under threat. His Minister of National Defence states that if we do not do anything, and allow this organization to metastasize into an actual state with its resources and army, ISIL will recruit and radicalize people from all over the world. The implication is that somehow they will all head to Canada to attack us. Therefore, by bombing ISIL in Iraq and Syria, this will be prevented.
There has been a horrendous number of atrocities right across the world. We just need to bring into question central Africa, which our leader and foreign affairs critic talked about. Millions of people lost their lives. We did not have this debate about going into central Africa. We did not have this debate about going into other areas where people were being liquidated and where atrocities were being committed.
The question is why we have chosen this. I just mentioned the train of thought. I believe that its logic was supposed to send us into combat, and that merits some careful analysis.
It is my understanding that all of the threats to Canada have come over the Internet. There have been messages encouraging fanatics to take up the cause. If that is the case, do we realistically believe that these messages will stop as we continue to bomb the hell out of this region? I submit that they will increase, and ISIL will recruit more deranged individuals to its cause.
From what I have been able to ascertain, Canada is one of roughly ten nations carrying out air strikes. Only one of the other nations, Jordan, is from the immediate region. Another, Morocco, is from northern Africa. The first question that comes to mind is this. If this campaign is so vital to the security of this region and to the world, where are the other countries? We could legitimately state, whether we agree or disagree on this mission, that we have done more than our share. Our resources are limited. In my opinion, they could be better spent reinforcing our protection right here on the ground in Canada under the existing legislation, not what the government is trying to ram through here.
Most of all, we could ensure that no more veterans have to come to Ottawa to demand the assistance that they so rightly deserve. I spent time in the Royal Canadian Navy, and as a former naval officer, I would say that our navy is in a state of disarray. Instead of bombing in other countries, we could spend a lot of this money to beef up our protection and ensure that we have good vessels to protect our coastlines, as an example.
I would also like to submit that we send troops into war as a last resort. This is not a last resort. We need to take a moment to reflect on Afghanistan. In 2005, the previous government was pressured by the then-chief of the defence staff, General Hillier, to send our troops into combat. Other nations and other allies stayed on the sidelines. This tragic conflict cost us 160 lives, 170 deaths by suicide, and hundreds of veterans with permanent physical and mental disabilities. The tragedy in all of this is that we cannot safely say that Afghanistan is a secure country based on all of the democratic principles for which our country stands.
The United States and its coalition of the willing invaded Iraq in 2003. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died. Iraq's army was dismantled. The country turned into chaos. What we are seeing today with ISIL is a direct result of the destabilization of Iraq by the George Bush regime.
The question arises, therefore, of what will happen if Canada withdraws from this conflict. The answer is probably not a lot. It seems to me that the countries who were initially responsible for this mess, in addition to those in the immediate area, should be the ones that take up the charge against the threat of ISIL.
A leading Iraqi researcher, Munqith al-Dagher, stated that as long as the political and social grievances of Iraq's Sunni community go unaddressed, Canadian air strikes against the Islamic State will not defeat the group. Without giving Sunnis hope for the future, the international coalition fighting the extremist groups will not be successful. That is an interesting point. He goes on to say:
ISIL is not the disease; (it) is just the symptom. If we want to (push Islamic State) out of Iraq and the region, we should deal with the real reasons behind this disease....
(Canada’s) prime minister, like U.S. politicians and other politicians in the world...all they think about is sending troops and aircrafts. This is not the way to have a victory over ISIL....
No matter how strong the army is...there will not be any victory without a full cooperation from the people who are living there.
The question, then, is why we are there without having made an effort to seek co-operation, to make sure that the current government of Iraq is in place and works on a solution. The solution to this problem needs to rest with the Iraqis themselves as well as the Americans and others who were responsible for the 2003 invasion. This is not Canada's role. I submit this tragic conflict is not worth any more Canadian lives.
As I mentioned earlier on, in a speech a few months ago, Bernard E. Trainor, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general states the following in an article that was published in the Washington Post and appeared in the September 26th edition of the National Post:
The Islamic State presents a problem to be managed, not a war to be won....
The U.S. role should be limited to helping Kurdish forces and the new Baghdad government better organize to keep the pressure on, with U.S. air strikes contingent on their progress....
The idea of destroying the Islamic State...is nonsense....
The situation in Mesopotamia is a violent game of mistrust and self-interest. The Saudis despise the Iranians but will cut deals with them if doing so is in their interest. Iran will play any card necessary to achieve regional hegemony, while Turkey is coy about its own quest for preeminence. The Gulf States talk out of both sides of their mouths. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad uses the Islamic State to create problems for other rebels. Iraq plays at democracy as long as it can subjugate the Sunnis. Shiites and Sunnis fight each other while carrying on intramural warfare with their kinsmen. The double-dealing is almost endless. It doesn’t make sense to us, but it does to the players. After more than a decade of frustration and humiliation, the United States should have learned that the Middle East is no place for Wilsonianism on steroids.
This is a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general. As our leader stated in his eloquent speech on this issue a few days ago, what happens when we go into Syria without the permission of the Syrian government? Do we become allies of this despotic regime? What is the end game? Who are we going to support? Are we supporting the regime, or are we supporting other factions fighting against ISIL? What do we make out of all this confusion?
None of this makes any sense.
We went from an advise and assist mission to a six-month bombing mission, to a front-line combat mission. We are now getting involved in an 18-month conflict where Canadian troops will exchange fire with members of the Islamic State.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I have been here for nine years, and I have watched the debate unfold on Afghanistan. I have watched the spin coming from the government, as we have watched our people dying on the field and suffering.
We do not need any more of this. We need to look at this, step back, and ensure that war is a last resort.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question and clarification. I will try to be quick, in following your wishes.
I believe it is mainly up to the countries in the region and I am happy to see that other countries, other than the ones I mentioned, are in there on the ground. They are the ones that are faced with this threat in their region and obviously there should be more countries working together with the Iraqi government and all the different factions to work this out.
We are told this is a direct threat to us here. I do not buy that, as I said in my speech; it is not.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from British Columbia for her question and thank her for her hard work on this file.
The way I look at it is this. We have seen here that the training mission has gone into a combat mission. We do not believe, and I do not believe, that our people should be in a combat mission in Iraq or in Syria. The other thing is that we have seen the results. We have had one unfortunate death.
The Kurdish have been fighting for years. They have combat experience. I often question why we would be there telling them how to engage in combat experience. I have not really understood that from the point of trying to help them in training, which we have seen has turned into a combat mission.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, in preparing for this brief speech I was not exactly sure how I wanted to begin. However, after reading my background notes I am left to wonder why this piece of legislation has even been introduced. It is becoming evident to me that the current Conservative government really is not interested in making Canada a better place in which to live. In fact, sometimes I think it is the opposite.
We have seen a number of pieces of legislation introduced with sensational titles such as this one, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act, that play to the emotions but often lack substance. We have seen this with various so-called tough-on-crime bills introduced in the past years in spite of the fact that our crime rate is falling. In the U.S., which has an alarmingly high rate of incarceration, there are discussions to reject this punitive and primitive approach that is not working and determine which other measures are needed to ensure that those found guilty can return safely and become productive members of society. In other words, that is the approach we have always had in this country, at least until very recently.
A lot of what is presented by the government I would say is meant to increase fear amongst Canadians with respect to problems that may not even really exist. Let us look at Bill C-51, which gives sweeping powers to the government to infringe upon our rights and freedoms. Thousands of Canadians took to the streets last Saturday to protest against the draconian measures of this bill. The sad truth is that we already have adequate measures to protect us from terrorist threats under existing legislation.
I believe and will venture to say that a lot of these bills are just a simple waste of time. Rather than concentrating on crime and fear, perhaps we could realistically tackle issues that are facing us, such as climate change, poverty, the lack of affordable housing, the erosion of our health care system, and the thousands of working poor we have in this country.
Experts who appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights explained that criminalization will not solve the problem and instead will exacerbate it. In fact, several Criminal Code provisions already provide legal recourse with regard to the offences targeted by the bill. Instead of politicizing the issue of gender-based violence, the government could strengthen the legislative measures already in place. It must also commit to implementing a national action plan to combat violence against women and invest more in the organizations that provide services to women in forced or underage marriages.
Naturally, we agree that no woman should be subject to gender-based violence, including the practices of forced marriage and underage marriage. The bill could have serious unintended consequences, including the criminalization of the victims of polygamy, criminalization and deportation of children, and separation of families.
As an aside, I sometimes get the impression that a lot of the bills that are presented here are not really thought out. A bill is presented and then we get an opinion back from the legal profession saying that it may not stand up to court challenges or that it is not well written and thought out. I think this bill falls into that category.
Instead of a sensationalized bill that does not get at the root of the problem, the minister should commit to widespread and meaningful consultations with community groups and experts so that the real issue of gender-based violence is addressed in an effective manner.
The government should also increase investments in organizations that provide services such as safe and affordable housing, counselling and help for families that are often traumatized by the fact that they must navigate complicated legal and immigration systems.
The thing is that what is happening with this bill, what I have learned in going through some background information, is that the information here often duplicates our existing laws. For example, the bill would change the Civil Marriage Act to make free and enlightened consent legal requirements for marriage, but these requirements are already part of the civil code of Quebec and common law in other provinces. The bill would limit the defence of provocation, ostensibly to exclude honour killings, but courts have already ruled that the concept of honour and the culturally driven sense of what is an appropriate response do not count as provocation under the Criminal Code.
Canadian criminal law already provides recourse relevant in most cases involving forced marriage, prior to and after the marriage, as well as in cases of travelling with a minor with the intent to force her or him to marry.
I am just going to list what it includes because it is important for my colleagues here to understand that we have adequate measures in our current legislation for a lot of this information that we are discussing and we are voting on.
For example, it includes uttering threats, section 264.1 of the Criminal Code. It includes assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement, abduction of a young person, procuring feigned marriage, removal of a child from Canada, extortion, sexual offences against children and youth, failure to provide necessities of life and abandoning children, abduction of a young person and, moreover, spousal abuse, abuse of a child and abuse of a position of trust and so on.
We have to ask ourselves this. If in fact we have provisions in our current legislation to address these issues, why are we taking time to do another bill? I would like to submit that perhaps we are doing this because the Conservatives want to sensationalize certain aspects of our society and play to the base, to the fear factor that I talked about before.
Witnesses at the Senate committee hearings pointed out that immigrant women often have significantly less information about the Canadian immigration and legal systems than their sponsoring partners, which allows their sponsors to threaten and manipulate them. However, this bill would make no provision for providing women with basic information about immigration rules or with adequate integration services.
Families who have suffered from violence and harmful practices need adequate supports and programs, especially since the challenges faced by survivors of forced marriages are unique. However, this bill makes no reference to support services. That is an interesting point. We have seen, for example, the sensationalism about Bill C-51, this anti-terrorism bill, and all the provisions that are going into the bill. However, there is really very little about resources to people in the field, to our police and to others who keep our society safe or, in this case, resources that are provided for the safety of women.
It is no secret that under the current government, women's centres have lost funding, that the organizations that support and work with women who are undergoing violence and spousal abuse do not have the resources that they had a decade ago. At the same time, we see a bill that supposedly would address the situation, but there is nothing on the ground to help those people when they approach a centre, if in fact the centre is still allowed to exist.
According to UNICEF, if Canada wants to ensure the protection of children from human trafficking, it must recognize that Canadian children who become victims of trafficking largely end up that way as a result of a series of failures in the protective system.
Many children live in low-income families without adequate access to community support services that could prevent the risk of exploitation. Many need educational support and mental health services, but do not receive them.
In 2008, Denmark's parliament unanimously passed a law making it a criminal offence to force anyone to marry. However, six years after the law was enacted, the police have not yet charged a single person and the courts have not convicted anyone under the act. Why? Susanne Fabricius of the national organisation of women's shelters in Denmark said that she did not think this had any impact on protecting women and, in fact, might have backfired and driven the problem underground. I rest my case with that.
View Alex Atamanenko Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I agree with intent of the question. The fact is that we have existing laws and if we add a third or fourth law, it does not mean the problem will go away.
I would like to share with the member an experience I had last week. I was driving in my riding and saw a hitchhiker with a big knapsack on his back, rings in his nose and tattoos, and decided to give this guy a ride. I told him I was stopping to have some lunch and asked if he would like to have lunch. He said sure. I asked him where he was going and he said to Summerland, which I thought was interesting. He did not talk much, but as we were having lunch, he opened up. He said that he had been on the road for 10 years and was a homeless person. He said that there were hundreds of homeless people around the country who were angry at what was going on with the system, a system they could not access. He said that there were people in power who had no idea what is going on. To me, that illustrates in a small way what is happening in our country today.
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