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View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to explain why I cannot support the motion introduced by the member for Northwest Territories.
Since its implementation in 2011, nutrition north has proven to be an effective, responsive and functional program that has lowered the cost of food in the north and increased the amount of nutritious perishable foods to northern communities. The program subsidizes the cost of perishable, nutritious food for Canadians in northern and remote communities.
Lowering prices for nutritious food, combined with increased knowledge of healthy eating, contributes to the Conservative government's larger vision for the north. We take tremendous pride in the support for self-reliant individuals living in healthy, prosperous communities.
While other members of this House have focused their arguments on the cost of the food in the north, how the program works and eligibility criteria, I will emphasize the important role that retailers play.
As my hon. colleagues recognize, making nutritious food accessible to residents in remote communities is a challenge far too great to be met by any single entity working on its own. Success requires willing partners. This is precisely why nutrition north Canada directly engages retailers.
These retailers are made up of men and women who not only have a deep understanding of the nature of supply and demand in the north, but also have a vested interest in satisfying their customers. In many cases, they and their families live in the communities served by nutrition north Canada. In other cases, they travel regularly to some of these communities and have first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground. In every case, they want the program to succeed.
For all of these reasons, nutrition north Canada was designed as a market-based program to encourage retailers and suppliers to choose the most economical option for shipping foods. The program also assigns retailers an essential role in transparency in ensuring that subsidies and savings are passed on to the consumers by assigning responsibility for some aspects of the program to those directly involved in it.
For retailers and consumers, nutrition north Canada fosters competition and innovation, and I will elaborate further on each of these points, beginning with decisions about shipping methods.
Determining the most economical and effective way to transport a particular food depends on many factors. The most important factor is shelf life. For non-perishable items, such as dry pasta, rice and most grains, the best option usually involves transporting large quantities infrequently. Retailers tend to use the annual sealift or occasional truck transport on winter roads for these items.
For perishable items, such as eggs, dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables, retailers have little choice but to rely on regularly shipping small quantities by airplane. To minimize their potential losses, retailers strive to order only enough perishable items that their customers will buy within a certain timeframe. Ultimately, retailers and suppliers must manage their supply chains to ensure fresh food is available to customers at competitive rates and prices.
Along with shipping, retailers also play an essential role in the transparency of nutrition north. Under the program, registered retailers and suppliers are fully responsible for passing on the full subsidy to consumers. The Government of Canada closely monitors retailers' performance on this responsibility and posts regular compliance reports online.
To further ensure that consumers benefit fully from the subsidies, nutrition north recently added a new clause in the funding agreements that will ensure recipients provide all the information on eligible items, including profit margins. These agreements came into effect on April 1, 2015. Recipients, retailers and suppliers must now not only submit to audits, but also provide the government with all financial information and supporting documents for a seven-year period to justify subsidy claims. The new clause specifies that retailers must provide complete information on eligible items, including current profit margins and profit margins over time.
External independent auditors will undertake annual compliance reviews of retailers in order to ensure that the subsidy is being passed on to the consumer. These compliance reviews will then be made publicly available on the department's website. I want to be very clear that there is no requirement to publish the profit margins of individual businesses, as this is commercially sensitive information. This new measure helps to reassure Canadians that nutrition north is delivering effective results for northerners.
Assigning these responsibilities to retailers also helps inspire innovation. A recent example is an initiative of la Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec. The federation operates 14 co-operatives in Nunavik and has voluntarily implemented a point of sale system. In each of the 14 stores it operates in Nunavik, the receipt shows the amount of nutrition north Canada subsidy for each item. There is a total at the bottom of the receipt and a notation that says how much the nutrition north program has saved consumers on their purchases that day.
The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was so impressed with this innovation that he directed the nutrition north advisory board to take a closer look at the approach by la Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec and provide him with recommendations by June 1, 2015 on how to apply a point of sale system. Just this morning, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development released a statement after receiving the recommendations for the wider application of a point of sale receipt system from the nutrition north Canada advisory board. This new point of sale system will ensure that customers see how and when the NNC subsidy is applied to their grocery bill. This means that consumers will be able to clearly see the amount of the subsidy passed on to them, ensuring greater retailer transparency and accountability.
Our government strongly believes that northerners deserve to see the NNC savings on their grocery bill and that a point of sale system is a step retailers should take to clearly demonstrate that the full subsidy is being passed on to consumers.
Thanks to the program's close relationship with qualified retailers and suppliers, nutrition north Canada has experienced tremendous results. Northerners living in isolated communities now have far greater access to perishable nutritious foods compared to the program's predecessor, food mail. Since the implementation of nutrition north, the volume of healthy food shipped to northern communities has increased by 25%. Nutrition north Canada incorporates a market-driven, cost-effective and transparent model to deliver considerable value to consumers and overcome the fundamental challenge posed by the uniqueness of the Canadian north.
The truth of the matter is that shipping perishable food over long distances to small isolated communities is an expensive undertaking. However, by engaging the private sector and monitoring compliance closely, nutrition north continues to deliver solid results. Even the NDP's aboriginal affairs critic, the member for Churchill, admitted last week that the program is working. She said, "Well, I mean there's no question it does reduce the price by a couple of dollars, maybe two or three dollars”. Between March 2011 and March 2014, for example, the cost of the revised northern food basket for a family of four, in communities eligible for a full subsidy under nutrition north Canada, fell by an average of 7.2%. This same family is saving $32 per week. That translates into a saving of approximately $137 per month for a family of four.
Given this performance, I have no choice but to urge my hon. colleagues to join me in opposing the motion now before us.
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, we can look at the freight rates and what the government is doing. It is trying to make nutritious food more available for northerners, like those in northern Saskatchewan.
The review board for nutrition north is going to be looking at the system as a whole and making recommendations for first nations communities, northern communities, aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities to get produce to their stores and get nutritious food to consumers.
One of the things we are also looking at as a government is the profit margins and the addition of a new clause in the funding agreement that will ensure the recipients have all the information on all eligible items and profit margins from the independent auditors. That will make the independent suppliers more competitive and ensure competitive pricing for stores. That is what we are trying to do, give proper food and healthy food choices to the people in the north that would lower the costs of buying supplies.
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, the advisory committee that has been set up by nutrition north takes individuals from Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Saskatchewan to meet the individual stakeholders and consumers. They are meeting with individuals and getting the information to look at innovative ways to address the special needs of getting consumers the proper products. That is what the government is doing.
It is doing the consultations. It has individuals out there who are doing the consultations to make the nutrition north program better.
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Chair, Canadians across the country expect access to clean, safe drinking water. Our government has been working since we were elected to ensure that this rigorous standard applies on reserve as well. We understand that access to a reliable source of clean, safe drinking water is fundamental to the health and well-being of any community. It is a basic part of the infrastructure that communities need to grow and prosper.
I am proud to stand in the House and share with my colleagues all of the important work that our government has accomplished on this front. As they will hear, a key priority of our government is to put in place the conditions that support long-term prosperity for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.
Access to safe drinking water, the effective treatment of waste water, and the protection of sources of drinking water in first nations communities is critical in ensuring the health and safety of first nations. First nations should expect access to safe, clean and reliable water, and waste water services at a level comparable to those enjoyed by other Canadians living in communities of similar size and location.
Since being elected, our government has invested heavily to support first nations communities in managing their water and waste water systems. In fact, since we took power, 243 major water and waste water projects, those valued at over $1.5 million, were completed in 177 first nations across Canada.
In 2013-14 alone, 543 first nations and 74 tribal councils received funding to support 733 on-reserve drinking water systems. In addition to major improvements, our government continues to provide funding for operations and maintenance or smaller upgrades to first nations water systems.
In communities where it may not be necessary for first nations to operate their own water and waste water facilities, we provide funding for service agreements with local municipalities to provide water services. In 2013 and 2014, we funded 49 of these agreements.
Our government is delivering on its commitment to address water and waste water issues by extending the first nations water and waste water action plan with further investments of just over $323 million over 2 years, beginning in 2014-15.
These investments support the concrete actions that our government has taken to support first nations communities in improving water and waste water services.
Let me share some of our most recent investments. Just last month, we announced $3.8 million to update the Ucluelet First Nation water system. More than $9.9 million was announced in December 2014 to upgrade water systems for the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band and the Okanagan Indian Band. T
In November 2014, we announced $5 million to upgrade water infrastructures for the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band and Upper Nicola Indian Band. We also, recently, announced $27.6 million in funding for the construction of a new water treatment plant and distribution centre for the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.
These are just the most recent examples of investments that we are making. They are investments that will make a difference in the lives of those living on first nations reserves.
Along with the funding that we provide for first nations to assist in the planning, construction, upgrade and operation, and maintenance of water and waste water systems, funding is also provided to enhance the capacity and training of the on-reserve water and waste water system operators. Results in the 2011 national assessment were very clear. Trained and certified individuals operating these water and waste water systems reduce the risks and help to ensure safe drinking water in first nations communities.
That is why our government is working with first nations and their technical organizations to increase the capacity of operators. We also provide funding to first nations for the circuit rider training program, which is a specialized training program that provides first nations operators with ongoing, on-site training and mentoring on how to operate their drinking water and waste water systems.
In 2014-15, we invested over $10 million into the circuit rider training program across Canada. This is direct evidence of our government's commitment to creating the conditions for stronger, healthier, more self-sufficient first nation communities. Investments in water and waste water infrastructure also open the door to economic and job opportunities that will make a real difference in the lives of people today and generations to come.
In addition to strategic investments to improve first nations' water and waste water infrastructure, our government has worked in partnership with first nations to provide legal protections for first nations' water and waste water quality on reserve.
The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, which was passed in 2013, provides enforceable standards to govern water and waste water quality on reserve. This will ensure that residents on reserve have the same access to clean and safe drinking water that other Canadians do.
Before our government brought this act into force, standards and regulations existed for drinking water quality off reserve, but there was no such protection for hundreds of thousands of first nations who lived on reserve. Thanks to our government, first nations will soon enjoy the same quality of water as all other Canadians.
We are currently in the process of working jointly with first nations to develop specific standards and regulations. While this will take time, it will allow our government the opportunity to bring the water and waste water infrastructure and capacity to the level required for future standards.
It is important to note that this is an initiative that was supported by first nations. When the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act was introduced, Chief Lawrence Paul, Millbrook First Nation, offered ringing praise for the bill. He said:
First Nations will be able to look forward to having the same protections that other Canadians have around the provision of drinking water, water quality standards and the disposal of wastewater in their communities. This is not only an important health and safety issue, but will help build confidence in our infrastructure and help create a better climate for investment.
It is clear that our government has made working with first nation partners to improve on-reserve water and waste water services a priority. Through progress on enforceable standards, through substantial investments in water and waste water systems, and by supporting capacity building and operator training, we are delivering concrete results. I am confident and comfortable that our government will continue to make progress as long as we remain on this path.
Our government is delivering on its commitment to address water and waste water issues by extending the first nation water and waste water action plan with further investments of $323.4 million over two years, beginning in 2014-15.
In the spirit of innovation and partnerships, what other innovative solutions is the government pursuing to achieve value for money in the context of supporting first nations in managing their water and waste water infrastructure?
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Chair, that reminds of a story that took place years ago, while I was stationed in northern Saskatchewan where the water treatment plant was brand new. The community had a state-of-the-art facility, but the problem it had was that the operators would routinely not be in the community, which would result in the water treatment plant shutting down. This is just one of the reasons our government has taken these actions.
Since we were elected, our government has made health for first nations a top priority. One way that we are accomplishing this is by aiming to provide every first nation with the same quality of water and waste water that all other Canadians receive.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development tell the House how much funding our government has invested to support first nations in managing their water and waste water systems since 2006?
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Chair, our government recognized that throwing money at a problem was not the solution. Rather, it is a strategic investment along with systematic reform that creates transformative changes.
Could the parliamentary secretary inform the House of his long-term strategy to address safe water in first nations communities? Also, has progress been made since 2009 to 2011 on national standards for first nations water and waste water systems?
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Chair, in addition to providing money for water and waste water infrastructure projects, how is the government supporting first nations in managing their own water and waste water infrastructure?
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Chair, I look at my career in the RCMP. I have been stationed in over nine different communities across Saskatchewan, in aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. I have seen the challenges faced in the non-aboriginal communities as well with regard safe drinking water. They have boil advisories in a lot of these communities as well.
However, it has been almost two years since the Safe Drinking Water For First Nations Act received royal assent. What has the government done to put regulations in place under the act so residents of first nations lands may have the same health and safety protections as other Canadians?
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, my constituents are concerned about violent crime. They know that the first duty of any government is to protect Canadians from dangerous and violent criminals, particularly those in gangs. That is why we are pleased that our Conservative government passed over 30 measures to get tough on crime. Shockingly, most of these were obstructed and opposed by the Liberal leader. The leader for the Liberals even said that they would repeal all mandatory prison sentences in the Criminal Code.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety update the House on the actions this government is taking to address these serious issues?
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, prescription drug abuse remains a growing public health and safety concern, especially in aboriginal communities. While legal with proven benefits, prescription drugs have a high potential for harm, including addiction, withdrawal, injury, and even death. In 2013, over 146,000 Canadians abused prescription drugs, fostering harmful addictions and pressures on our health care system.
Could the Minister of Health please give the House an update on our Conservative government's latest efforts to treat those suffering from these addictions in aboriginal communities?
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, our low-tax plan for families is working. Under our Conservative government, the tax burden on Canadians is at the lowest level in more than 50 years.
As part of that, every family with children will benefit from our new family tax cut and enhanced universal child care benefit. The family tax cut and enhanced universal child care benefit will leave 100% of families with kids with more money in their pockets.
The Liberals and the NDP will take this away. They want higher taxes on middle-class families, high taxes on middle-class seniors and high taxes on middle-class consumers. That is their plan for the middle class. Our government's plan is reducing taxes on the middle class.
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday evening the anti-terrorism act, 2015, was passed by the public safety committee. This is thanks to the hard work of our Conservative members. If the Liberals and the NDP had their way, our national security agencies would be deprived of important tools and resources.
The New Democrats introduced dozens of amendments that were needless. In fact, they even had to withdraw one because they had not taken the time to understand the practical impact. Not to be outdone, the Liberals voted to allow free reign for terrorist travellers to get on aircraft with law-abiding Canadians.
Clearly, only our Conservative government can be trusted to keep Canadians safe from terrorists.
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, some Canadians choose to have family members care for their young children. This important group deserves support, but the NDP child care plan would do absolutely nothing for them. It would not provide these families with a single dime they could use to care for their children. That is shameful.
Could the Minister of State for Social Development please update the House on how our Conservative government plan would help every Canadian family?
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, constituents in my riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River are concerned that the NDP leader has still not reimbursed Canadian taxpayers for the $3 million the New Democrats used for parliamentary offices outside of Ottawa. This is a violation of the rules of the House of Commons. Now he is saying that he does not see this money coming out of the pockets of the 68 NDP members who misspent these funds; instead, he expects the taxpayers to pay.
It is time for the NDP leader to do the right thing and repay taxpayers immediately. The New Democrats made inappropriate use of taxpayer funds to run party offices, and their March 31 deadline is fast approaching. When will the leader of the NDP take responsibility and pay back the taxpayers of Canada?
View Rob Clarke Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. I would like to take this opportunity to address the comments that have been made in this and other places suggesting that the reform to the defence of provocation is unnecessary in light of three cases of so-called honour killing in which it was unsuccessfully raised.
The defence of provocation, sometimes known as the heat of passion defence, applies only to the charge of murder and comes into play only if murder is actually proven. It does not give rise to complete acquittal but rather produces a verdict of manslaughter instead of murder.
The defence offers significant benefits to an accused. A conviction for second degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison and strict parole ineligibility rules, whereas a manslaughter conviction carries no mandatory minimum sentence, except if a firearm is used, and allows a murderer to avoid the stigma associated with the label.
The defence will be successful where the murder was committed in response to a wrongful act or insult from the victim that would be sufficient to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control and where the accused acted suddenly, before there was time for his passion to cool. The killing must be a spontaneous reaction to an unexpected provocation.
Most honour killings are believed to be premeditated. If the crown can prove premeditation, resulting in a conviction for first degree murder, the defence of provocation will not succeed. However, some killings that may be characterized as honour killings can be spontaneous reactions to something unexpectedly said or done by the victim.
In cases where the crown prosecutor proves that the killing was intentional but not premeditated, the provocation defence is available.
The defence of provocation has been raised in at least three cases that could be characterized as honour killings. These are R. v. Nahar in 2004, R. v. Humaid in 2006, and R. v. Sadiqi in 2013. All of these reported cases were appealed to the appropriate courts of appeal. In the case of Nahar, it was to the British Columbia Court of Appeal. The other two were to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
It is true that in each of these cases, the defence of provocation failed. However, this cannot be taken to have the consequence some have suggested, namely that the defence is now barred in an honour-killing context and that therefore there is no reason to amend the law.
As a general matter, even assuming that a court of appeal determines conclusively that the provocation defence is unavailable in these circumstances, the relevant legal issues have arisen in only two provinces: British Columbia and Ontario. Rulings from one provincial court of appeal are not binding in any other province. Without a ruling on the relevant legal issues from the Supreme Court of Canada, it is simply incorrect to say that the legal questions have been definitely resolved in Canada.
When we come to the substance of what was actually decided by these courts of appeal, a careful reading of these cases shows that the courts did not, as a matter of law, rule out the possibility of the defence operating in situations of honour killings. The defence continues to be available to be raised in cases where family honour has played a role in the killing. For instance, it would be available to an accused who, upon finding his teenage daughter in her bedroom with a boy from school, becomes enraged at this breach of the family's honour code. If he intentionally kills her in the heat of the moment in response to her verbal insults against his cultural traditions and beliefs, he could benefit from the potentially successful defence of provocation.
In the two cases, it was the defence that submitted evidence on the cultural background of the accused to demonstrate how a wrongful act or insult from the victim would give the provocation significance and would have gravity for an ordinary person from the same culture as the accused.
For instance, in Nahar, the accused claimed that he killed his wife in the heat of passion following disrespectful comments from her about men and behaviour such as smoking, drinking, and socializing with men. He introduced evidence that the victim's behaviour was completely at odds with acceptable behaviour for wives in his culture.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal actually found this cultural context to be relevant to understanding how an ordinary person of the same background as the accused would be provoked by the behaviour of the victim.
This may come as a surprise to those who have tried to suggest that all three cases definitively ruled out provocation in an honour-killing context.
This provocation claim failed for different reasons. First, the trial judge had grounds to find that the alleged provocation by the victim was not unexpected to the accused but rather had been going on for several months. In this regard, the killing was on the sudden, following an unexpected provocation. Second, the nature of the provocation by the victim was not found to be such as to cause an ordinary person to lose self-control, even assuming that the ordinary person was from the accused's cultural community.
In the Humaid case, the accused alleged that he was provoked by comments his wife made that he interpreted to be an admission of sexual infidelity. The accused led expert opinion evidence that in the accused's cultural tradition, infidelity by a female member of a family was considered a very serious violation of the family's honour and was worthy of harsh punishment by the male members of the family.
The court of appeal expressed the strong view that the application of cultural values that are contrary to gender equality to the defence of provocation was inappropriate. However, this was not the reason the defence failed. One reason the defence failed was that the accused did not introduce any evidence that he personally shared the views his community was said to have. It also failed because the crown had proven premeditation, which is inconsistent with the provocation defence. The views of the court on the question of cultural values were not matters that were necessary to decide the appeal, so they are not binding on lower courts.
Finally, in the Sadiqi case, the accused raised the defence of provocation in the killing of his sister and her fiance by alleging that his sister had refused to seek their father's approval for the proposed wedding and that she and her fiance insulted him in the moments before the murders.
The crown tendered expert evidence of honour killings within the traditional culture of the community of origin of the accused. The jury found the accused guilty of first degree murder. The appeal was about whether the crown's use of expert evidence was appropriate. The court of appeal held that it was. That is the only legal proposition this case stands for.
Despite some helpful discussions on gender equality in these cases, none of the rulings established as a matter of law that the defence is excluded in honour-killing cases. It remains available to be argued by any person accused of murder. The provocation claims failed in these three cases because of the facts and evidence presented and not because of any principle of law.
Taken together, these cases reflect outcomes all Canadians would hope for, but it is purely wishful thinking to say that these cases legally closed the door on the provocation defence in the honour-killing context.
Moreover, there is a long history of the provocation defence being raised and sometimes accepted to excuse spousal murders in Canada in circumstances that closely resemble the Nahar and Humaid cases. The principle difference is that the feelings of dishonour and shame are experienced at the family or community level in the case of honour killings and at the personal or private level in the case of spousal killings. What is the same is that men kill women when they feel that they have lost control over them.
It is high time we amended this defence so that it can no longer mitigate killing in response to a lawful insult. No person has a right to control another, and where people fail to get what they want, they should not have the murder of another person mitigated through a 500-year-old defence that originated in a culture that treated women as the property of their husbands.
This reform is about reaffirming the value of gender equality in Canada and about making it clear that homicidal violence against all women in reaction to lawful conduct will no longer provide an excuse for murder.
Bill S-7 proposes to address this long-standing problem in our criminal law by limiting the defence so that it can only be raised where provoking conduct by the victim amounts to an offence punishable by five years or more in prison.
People should not be able to use the defence that they violently harmed others because they were provoked.
The zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act sends a clear message to those coming to Canada that forced marriage, honour based violence or any other form of harmful cultural practices are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
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