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Results: 1 - 15 of 94
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2023-06-12 16:20 [p.15768]
Mr. Speaker, today I rise for the last time in this chamber.
It has been the honour of a lifetime for me to serve Durham in Parliament, my hometowns of Bowmanville and Port Perry, Oshawa and dozens of small towns and hamlets. However, these are just names on signposts. The real honour has been working with and learning from Durham's people—the volunteers, the young people, the civic leaders, the business leaders, indigenous leaders and first responders. It has been a joy to work with them.
I want to start my remarks by thanking my incredibly supportive and patient wife Rebecca. You are my true partner in all things, my rock and my biggest supporter. We dedicated our family to public service, and I think we made a real difference. Thank you; I love you.
I am also incredibly proud of our two children and will retain special memories of my time with them, like running in Stanley Park with Mollie and fishing for crabs on Vancouver Island with Jack. Thank you for serving Canada, and I love you too.
They are here today with my parents and one of my siblings. I want to thank all of my family for your love and support.
I want to thank my political family, my friends and family here in the Conservative caucus, my best friends from the military, from law and from the corporate world. You were with me throughout this journey. How many first-time candidates can say they had Wayne Gretzky show up at their first fundraiser? How many candidates have little platoons of veterans knocking on doors with them in every election? My success is due to you; you know who you are. Thank you very much.
I give a special thanks to my incredibly dedicated staff. The compassion from the number of people who have worked with me over the years in Durham has helped hundreds of families in our community. The incredibly bright women and men who came to work with me in Ottawa in my office as Minister of Veterans Affairs and as the leader of the official opposition often left good jobs in the private sector or elsewhere to take a chance and face immense challenge. You did this because you believed in me and in this country. Thank you. I will never forget your efforts.
I am also incredibly proud of the accomplishments we made together, both in government and in opposition. The last full sitting day of 2012 was when I first entered this chamber. Actually, it was not this chamber, but the real one up the way. I had the pleasure and honour of being escorted in as a by-election winner by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the late Jim Flaherty. Jim Flaherty was a political mentor to me and a colleague of my father's from Queen's Park, and to have my family in the audience that day as I was taking my seat for the first time is a memory I will never forget.
A few months later I had the honour to then work with my friend the hon. member for Abbotsford as his parliamentary secretary for trade, at a time when Canada had its most ambitious trade agenda in history, helping to finalize our free trade agreement with the European Union, travelling to Seoul, South Korea, to help drive home a final deal for our first free trade agreement with Asia, and while in Seoul taking the time to lay a wreath for the hundreds of Canadians who died helping that great country earn its freedom, as well as working with our friends, the United States of America and other countries in the Americas. What an exciting time for a brand new MP.
I will never forget the day I was sworn into cabinet. The memory of Mollie explaining to her three-year-old brother Jack that we were going to Rideau Hall, that it was kind of like the home of the Queen's friend in Canada, and then an hour later seeing Jack, knowing it was the Queen's friend, standing on the couch in his shoes is a memory Rebecca and I will always keep.
What an honour for a Canadian Armed Forces veteran to be able to expand mental health treatments for our veterans, to reduce wait times, to start to win trust back from a generation of Afghanistan war veterans who were already feeling forgotten.
I travelled to more Legions than anyone in Canada at that time, and I can tell the House that I was yelled at in more Legions than anyone in Canada at that time, but sometimes listening, tough talk and humility are ways to start to earn back trust.
From restoring the memory of World War I soldier and MP Sam Sharpe to expanding benefits for veterans and their families to forging friendships with the Equitas veterans who had been suing our government, I gave it my best in the time we had, and I truly believe that we made a real difference.
Getting the chance to serve as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, the party of Confederation, the party of the bill of rights, of leading the global fight against apartheid, of calling out, at an early time, the aggression of Vladimir Putin—this was the zenith of my time in politics. Given the pandemic, polarization and uncertain prospects at the time, I took that responsibility very seriously, and I do believe that we made a real difference.
I am proud of my team and the work we did for the country on the economy and on innovation, mental health and reconciliation, and I am proud of our values and our interests on the international scene. We have proposed intelligent policies for our future.
It was an honour for me, an anglophone member from Ontario, to honour the Quebec nation and participate in debates on its culture, language and identity. These debates are important to Quebec.
When I was leader, I often said that we must preserve the only francophone nation in North America. There are seven million francophones in Quebec and across the country living in an ocean of nearly 400 million people in North America. We must recognize that that is very special, and we must protect it. It is a patriotic project. It is a truly Canadian project.
I now end my time in this chamber as it began: as the member of Parliament for Durham, as a husband, as a father, as someone who believes deeply in Canada. This is why, in my final moments, in my last time in the chamber, I want to share my thoughts with my fellow parliamentarians
Over a century ago, as war raged in Europe, Prime Minister Borden said this about a Canada coming together to meet the challenges of its age: “In the awful conditions which confront the world today, why should the political future of any individual or the political fortunes of any party stand for one moment across the path of a great national purpose?”
War is again touching Europe and democracy is being strained in many parts of the world. With this in mind, all of us in this chamber must ask ourselves this question: What is our great national purpose at this critical moment in history?
There will be an important counteroffensive from Ukraine in the war this spring, and Canadian soldiers have helped train our friends in the Ukrainian army, but just last week we learned that Canadian soldiers in Latvia were forced to buy their own helmets.
This news came mere weeks after learning that the Prime Minister had told other world leaders that Canada had no intention of paying its fair share in NATO. The country that in Borden’s time secured victory at Vimy Ridge now has its soldiers buying their own kit. The country that helped draft the NATO charter is now saying it is not willing to pay and support it.
This chamber should always ensure that the men and women have the equipment they need to do the job we ask them to do and that our country never wavers from its commitment to peace, security and living up to our word. That should be our national purpose.
There are indigenous youth in Canada who voted for the first time for people here in this chamber, yet some of these Canadians have never been able to drink the water in their communities. It is our job to ensure that every child has access to clean drinking water and a fair chance to succeed in life. That should be part of our national purpose.
It takes a decade to get a pipeline built to tidewater in this country, and two decades to get a mine into operation. Canada has been slowing down at a time when the world is asking us to speed up. Getting Canadian resources to global markets, both for our economy and for our environment, should be our shared national purpose.
There are many challenges facing Canada at this time, but there are also incredible opportunities waiting to be seized. However, that is not happening today. Instead of leading, instead of debating our national purpose in this chamber, too many of us are often chasing algorithms down a sinkhole of diversion and division. We are becoming elected officials who judge our self-worth by how many likes we get on social media, but not how many lives we change in the real world. Performance politics is fuelling polarization, virtue signalling is replacing discussion, and far too often we are just using this chamber to generate clips, not to start national debates.
Social media did not build this great country, but it is starting to tear its democracy down. If we are not careful, there will soon be a generation of young voters who have never even heard a point of view different from their own. I fear that ignorance of the views of others will slowly transform into a dislike of others, and we can see that starting to happen.
Canada is a frontier country. We were built on the strength of the fur trade, a country where going hunting with our grandfather or an elder is as quintessentially Canadian as the backyard hockey rink, but today hunters are often demonized as a threat to society by politicians who know that this is not true. Whole rural swaths of our country are being held up as the problem, just to secure a few political points in the suburbs.
We are a country that sent our citizens far from our shores several times to fight for liberty alongside other countries in multilateral efforts. Canadian diplomats, including a future prime minister, helped draft the agreements built on that sacrifice to give us decades of peace and security, creating NATO, the United Nations and the Commonwealth, but today, too often, we are allowing conspiracy theories about the UN or the World Economic Forum to go unchallenged, or we attribute sinister motives to these organizations or people in a way that is simply not true or not fair. If we do this more, we are allowing others to define the debate for us and we risk allowing others to set the course for this country, because too many members on all sides of this chamber—and from time to time I have been guilty of it myself—are becoming followers of our followers when we should be leaders.
One member from the other side of the House told me that they no longer speak to their brother because of the divisive nature of the vaccine debates in the last election. Canadian families are, in some cases, finding it difficult to talk to each other about important issues. If we ever want to change this and begin to have respectful and serious discussions again, that change needs to start right here in Canada's House of Commons.
Why should the political future of any single member of the chamber or the electoral success of any one party stand in the way of our unity and of the prosperity we want to give to our children? Preserving these things and rising to meet the unique challenges facing Canada and the world today needs to be our national purpose.
As members of Parliament, we must always put the country first. We must lead and not just follow. We must strive to inspire and be careful not to incite. We must debate with insightful reason and not just tweet out of frustration. If we do not, decades in the future, Canadians will point to the current Parliament as the time when our national decline first began. However, I say to my colleagues that I do not think that will happen. I am an optimist, and I hope all members reflect on some of these things over the summer, because I believe that Canada’s best days are actually ahead of us. I believe in this great country and its people, and I believe in each of my friends. It has been an honour to serve with them.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2023-05-30 11:55 [p.14992]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank you for allowing my colleague from Brantford—Brant to finish his speech today.
I am rising on a question of privilege concerning efforts and actions by officials and agents of the People's Republic of China to interfere with me as a consequence of actions that I have taken here on the floor of our House of Commons.
On Friday, I received a briefing from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, that confirmed several matters to me that I will discuss in a few moments. In the notice I subsequently sent to the Speaker, I indicated that I required yesterday to reflect upon how best to present the information I received. While I recognize that the law of parliamentary privilege affords me absolute freedom of speech here in Parliament, subject only to the rules of the House itself, I also proudly held our late Queen's commission as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces and have taken several oaths to protect our nation and its secrets.
It is because of this background that I have such profound respect for the men and women who swear such oaths to keep our country safe. Whether in the military, in a police service or in one of our security and intelligence agencies, these Canadians are charged with keeping us safe in a dangerous world. With the respect I have for those institutions in mind, I wrestled to find the right balance between satisfying the diverse demands on my conscience and saying what I am about to say today in my question of privilege.
In the Speaker's May 8 ruling on a similar but distinct question, at page 14106 of the Debates, where he noted “the gravity of the claims made by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills”, the Speaker favourably cited the words of Mr. Speaker Milliken from May 29, 2008:
The Chair has always exercised discretion on this point given the need to balance the need for timeliness with the important responsibility members have of marshalling facts and arguments before raising matters of such import in the House.
In my case, it was a matter of not just marshalling the facts, but also giving adequate consideration as to how those facts could be presented in this House in a way that safeguards the sources and methods of our intelligence agencies and the personnel who work within them.
As I alluded to a moment ago, the facts of the People's Republic of China's campaign against me are separate and distinct from those that led to the Speaker's important ruling regarding the intimidation campaign orchestrated against the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills. In that case, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on intelligence leaks that indicated an accredited Chinese diplomat was involved in the targeting of this hon. member and his family.
This targeting appears to have been ordered following the February 2021 motion brought by that member recognizing the harms perpetrated against the Uyghur population in the Xinjiang region of China as genocide. After the hon. member raised his question of privilege, the government and CSIS acknowledged to him the veracity of the media reports.
The facts of my case are distinct, as they relate to an ongoing campaign of foreign interference to target me as both a member of this chamber and leader of the official opposition. Given my respect for the men and women who work for CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment, I will not provide the specific details from my intelligence briefing on the numerous threats identified to me, as I do not want any details to reveal sources or methods of collection.
While I have more detail than I am sharing with the House, I want to ensure that the public interest is properly served alongside ensuring that important intelligence gathered can continue unimpeded by appropriate parliamentary review. As an aside, the procedure and House affairs committee could, of course, obtain further details directly from the government under appropriate in camera cautions.
That said, I will break down the nature of the threats identified to me by CSIS into four distinct categories of threats. Each of these threats was intended to discredit me, to promote false narratives about my policies and to severely obstruct my work as a member of Parliament and as leader of the official opposition. The numerous examples also demonstrate that there was an orchestrated campaign of foreign interference in the 43rd Parliament and in the 2021 general election.
The first category of threat is related to foreign funding, specifically the payment of funds by the Chinese Communist Party through the united front work department, to create specific products of misinformation on me as a member of Parliament and as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. The second category of threat is related to human resources, specifically the use of groups of people working for or aligned with the United Front Work Department in Canada that were organized and directed by a foreign state to amplify misinformation efforts and undermine my work as a member of the chamber and as the leader of a parliamentary caucus. The third category of threat is related to foreign-controlled social media platforms. This category related specifically to the WeChat communications platform and its use to further the aims of the Chinese Communist Party and the United Front Work Department, and their campaign to spread misinformation to undermine and discredit my work in the chamber as the member of Parliament for Durham and as leader of the official opposition. The final category of threat outlined to me is related to voter suppression, specifically that intelligence indicated an active campaign of voter suppression against me, the Conservative Party of Canada and a candidate in one electoral district during the 2021 general election.
I must acknowledge at this point that I also believe that my privileges as a member and officer of Parliament were infringed upon by the government's unwillingness or inability to act on intelligence related to foreign interference. The briefing from CSIS confirmed to me what I had suspected for quite some time, which is that my parliamentary caucus and I were the target of a sophisticated misinformation and voter suppression campaign orchestrated by the People's Republic of China before and during the 2021 general election.
I also believe that my privileges as a member and as opposition leader were infringed upon by the government's unwillingness to act on intelligence related to foreign interference. The briefing from CSIS confirmed to me what I had suspected for quite some time, that my party, several members of my caucus and I were the targets of a misinformation and voter suppression campaign orchestrated by China before and during the 2021 general election.
Not only were the multiple threats against me and members of my parliamentary caucus not raised to me by the government or security agencies during the 43rd Parliament, but these serious threats were also not communicated to us through the security and intelligence threats to elections task force created by the government in the 43rd Parliament to safeguard our election.
The context of the final months of proceedings in the chamber in the 43rd Parliament is also important to consider with respect to my privilege. The House, at the time, was seized with four separate document production orders forcing the government to be accountable to the House with respect to what actually happened at the Winnipeg laboratory and the firing of scientists with links to China. I know that you remember the time, Madam Speaker, because the government forced you into federal court over the issue, and forced me, as a member of the chamber and leader of the opposition, to seek intervenor status in that proceeding, which, ultimately, dissolution rendered moot. While denying our privileges as members for disclosure of these documents at the time, the government also denied me and other members of the chamber, including a member of the NDP, knowledge of identified foreign interference threats against us as parliamentarians. This is a matter that should concern all members of the House, regardless of party.
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, this is a separate and distinct matter from that which my colleague, the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills, raised to you a few weeks ago. The threats identified against me by CSIS did not relate to one single event or one single accredited diplomat; rather, the numerous threats identified to me provide proof of an ongoing campaign of foreign interference, intended not only to disrupt my work as a member but also to critically disrupt my work as the leader of a large parliamentary caucus in a minority Parliament.
Threats, disruption and interference of this scale actually violated the privilege of hundreds of members of the House. I stress this distinction because it is my respectful submission that it represents a question that is distinct from the one addressed in an earlier ruling or in the subsequent May 10 order of reference to the procedure and House affairs committee. It is worthy of its own separate finding of a prima facie contempt and committee investigation. Indeed, the situation here might be analogous to a couple of periods in the Speaker's early days as a member of the House. In spring 2005, there were no less than four prima facie cases of privilege, all related to member mailings, which were each referred to the procedure and House affairs committee in an overlapping manner. One of them originated from today's government House leader. Later, in November 2009, there were two prima facie cases of privilege related to members' householder mailings, which were also separately referred to committee again in an overlapping way.
In a ruling on May 10, 2005, Speaker Milliken said, at page 5885 of the Debates, words which probably have some echoes with the way the issues we are confronting this spring are cropping up. He said the following:
As the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills well knows, we have had a number of these kinds of questions of privilege raised in the House recently and quite a number have been sent off to the procedure and House affairs committee, which is actively studying these issues, I believe, as we speak.
I am more than happy to permit him to move his motion and send the matter to committee, if he wishes. I am sure the committee will be interested in considering this one along with all the other ones that it is currently dealing with of a similar nature. There do seem to be a lot of these mailings these days.
There do seem to be a lot of foreign interference reports these days as well. The House should be seized with each of them individually. As I said, they should trouble all members of the chamber.
As members know, I have been a frequent commentator on Canada's foreign policy in the House. Specifically, I have been raising concerns relating to Canada-China relations for many years. Before serving as leader of the opposition, in both the 42nd and 43rd Parliaments, I served as the shadow minister for foreign affairs, the same parliamentary position held now by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. It was in that capacity that I was one of the first voices in the chamber to discourage the use of Huawei technology in Canada's 5G network. I, alongside other colleagues, raised concerns about the approval of sales of several Canadian technology companies without proper security assessments by the government. I, along with others, spoke about the issue of human rights in China and the abuse of the “one country, two systems” agreement in Hong Kong. Like many members of the House on all sides, I met with people from persecuted religious and cultural minorities. In fact, in many ways, my concerns about the government's approach to China culminated in a December 2019 motion to establish the first special committee on Canada-China relations.
This retaliatory campaign by a foreign government, targeting my work as a member of Parliament, arose from my participation in these, among other, proceedings of the 42nd and 43rd Parliaments. It is because of this advocacy that I have faced, in response, many years of an orchestrated retaliation campaign run from Beijing. These events occurred not only before and during the 2021 general election, which has been the subject of considerable reporting in the last year, but also prior to this election, and they were in the knowledge or control of the government, which refused to act. In fact, CSIS advised me that I will remain a target of Beijing's influence operations long after I leave the House this summer.
These timing aspects should pose no barriers to the Speaker's favourable ruling. Indeed, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, notes, at page 81, “Instances of contempt in one Parliament may even be punished during another Parliament. This area of parliamentary law is therefore extremely fluid and most valuable for the Commons to be able to meet novel situations.”
Although some of the actions in this retaliatory campaign of foreign interference were even more present during an election campaign, while Parliament was dissolved, there remained, throughout that time, a clear nexus among the retaliatory campaign in Parliament, parliamentary proceedings and through dissolution and election. The attacks on my privilege began before dissolution, were accelerated during the writ and resumed again afterwards. It shows how insidious this foreign interference has become. In this light, I would draw the Chair's attention to this passage at page 773 of Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand, fourth edition. It says, “Conduct that seeks to influence members in the performance of their public duties is perfectly proper and permissible. People may even exert pressure on members (for example, by threatening to withdraw support at the next election), unless such an attempt to influence becomes an attempt to intimidate, or there is a threat to do something that is improper in itself.”
The right of all members of the House to go about their parliamentary duties free from intimidation, interference or any form of obstruction has been affirmed by a long line of precedents. The hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills cited several of those concerning intimidation when presenting his own question of privilege, some of which you also quoted in your ruling on that matter. In the interest of time, I commend those to your consideration, but perhaps the most powerful words are your own, from your May 8 ruling, at page 14107 of the Debates: “The Chair agrees that the matter raised by the member, that is that a foreign entity tried to intervene in the conduct of our proceedings through a retaliatory scheme targeting him and his family, squarely touches upon the privileges and immunities that underpin our collective ability to carry out our parliamentary duties unimpeded. On the face of it, the Chair believes this matter to be serious enough to take priority of debate over all other parliamentary proceedings.”
One new aspect that my situation raises is what our authorities consider to be a form of “obstruction”. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, at pages 111 and 112, offers this explanation:
A Member may also be obstructed or interfered with in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions by non-physical means....
It is impossible to codify all incidents which might be interpreted as matters of obstruction, interference, molestation or intimidation and, as such, constitute prima facie cases of privilege. However, some matters found to be prima facie include the damaging of a Member’s reputation...[and] the intimidation of Members and their staff....
The unjust damaging of a Member’s good name might be seen as constituting an obstruction....
Speaker Fraser, on May 5, 1987, at page 5766 of the Debates, ruled:
The privileges of a Member are violated by any action which might impede him or her in the fulfilment of his or her duties and functions. It is obvious that the unjust damage of a reputation could constitute such an impediment. The normal course of a member who felt himself or herself to be defamed would be the same as that available to any other citizen: recourse to the courts under the laws of defamation and the possibility of damages to substitute for the harm that may be done. However, should the alleged defamation take place on the floor of the House of Commons, this recourse is not available.
Where these campaigns were masterminded by diplomats accredited to Canada, the diplomats enjoy legal immunities under the Vienna Conventions. Therefore, just as in the example cited by Speaker Fraser, ordinary recourse to the courts of law is simply not possible under the circumstances.
To be clear, this parliamentary privilege is not being asserted, nor do I seek to assert it, against any Canadian who exercises his or her democratic right to enter into the parliamentary and political debate and to criticize politicians for the stands or policies they take. Joseph Maingot, at page 235 of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, second edition, articulates the appropriate balance here:
...all interferences with Members' privileges of freedom of speech, such as editorials and other public comment, are not breaches of privilege even though they influence the conduct of Members in their parliamentary work. Accordingly, not every action by an outside body that may influence the conduct of a Member of Parliament as such could now be regarded as a breach of privilege, even if it were calculated and intended to bring pressure on the Member to take or to refrain from taking a particular course. But any attempt by improper means to influence or obstruct a Member in his [or her] parliamentary work may constitute contempt. What constitutes an improper means of interfering with Members' parliamentary work is always a question depending on the facts of each case.
In investigating a past contempt concerning the prejudicing of a member's reputation, the procedure and House affairs committee explained the heart of the reputational concern succinctly at paragraph 38 of its 51st report tabled in November 2005. It stated, “Members of Parliament are public figures, and their reputations and integrity are among their most valuable assets.”
The same committee, when reviewing misleading statements about a member made in one of these ten-percenter cases I mentioned earlier, wrote, in its 38th report tabled in May 2005, as follows:
The content of the document, while not complained of by other Members whose constituents received similar mailings, must be considered in relation to [the member for Windsor West]. Under such an analysis, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that it is inaccurate and misleading with respect to him. [The member] noted that he had received complaints from constituents as a result of the mailing. By unjustly damaging his reputation with voters in his riding, it thereby impairs his ability to function as a Member.
That last sentence brings me to some important points. First, whether the defamatory or misleading comments were made inside or outside of my riding, they, nonetheless, must be considered in relation to me and to the unjust damaging of my reputation within my riding.
Second, at the time, I was the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition. I was an officer of this House with national responsibilities, which I believe requires the Speaker to consider matters through an additional lens. By unjustly damaging the reputation of the leader of a national party, it has the consequence of impairing his or her ability to function as one of those political officers of this House, but also of indirectly implicating all of my colleagues, whom I was proud to lead as leader of a parliamentary caucus.
Third, we must truly understand the goal of Beijing's retaliatory campaign here. The Communist government's ideal outcome is to have its critics pull their punches and turn a blind eye. It is to create, at the end of the day, a chilling effect on our public policy and the debates in this chamber, a chilling effect on our parliamentary democracy.
At its heart, Beijing's goal and detailed actions toward the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, myself and other members of this chamber stifle free debate in this House. The special committee on rights and immunities of members explained the importance of freedom of speech in Parliament in its first report tabled in April 1977 as:
...a fundamental right without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them to speak in the House without inhibition, to refer to any matter or express any opinion as they see fit, to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.
It is this very principle which the House must uphold, must vindicate and must defend robustly for it is what ensures that we are vibrant democracy, where the people's representatives defend the people's interests, not vested interests.
Earlier, I cited an authority for the proposition that the area of parliamentary law of concern here remains fluid in order to allow the House to meet new and novel threats. This novel and expanding situation of foreign interference in our politics seeking to silence the debates of this Parliament must be met and our parliamentary democracy must be defended.
It is important for me to raise this issue before I finish my service in the House in the coming weeks. It is also important for me, and all of us collectively, to raise this critical issue for Canadians who might contemplate joining the House and standing for office. We can no longer ignore this interference and the chill effect it will have on free speech and our debates. We owe it to the next generation of members of Parliament from all backgrounds, cultures and experiences to be able to take their place in this chamber to build on our democracy unencumbered by threats, intimidation or pressure.
As my colleague, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, observed, members of Parliament, and especially opposition members, are certainly not ordinary Canadians who can rely on the government, the executive branch, to discharge its role as defender of the realm. The problem does not lie with our proud, hard-working intelligence agencies; it lies in the blindness to their activities by some figures in this government and in some of the senior offices that advise it. The government has gone from one diversion to another for years to deflect its responsibility in tackling this scourge of foreign interference that has limited the privileges of several members of the House. They are being willfully blind to attacks on our parliamentary democracy.
I could go on at length about my views concerning the SITE task force, the panel of five senior civil servants, and review the inaction or incompetence of those structures and how disappointed I was in the report of the special rapporteur, but I acknowledge that might be straying into debate. Besides, the House and the whole country know first-hand my views on the special rapporteur's review process, because when he met with me, the review was largely completed. He did not even seek input from a member who our intelligence agencies knew was being targeted by Beijing. I will simply say that rather than restoring faith in our institutions and democratic process, the perceived conflict of interest of the special rapporteur, the outcome-driven terms of reference he was given and the final report that followed them have actually deepened mistrust and further demonstrated the need for an independent review.
The conversation and inquiry do not need to wait until there is a Conservative government elected and it determines to appoint an independent public inquiry. The longer there are delays, the longer there will be embarrassing leaks and headlines that will only continue to erode public trust in our institutions and in our parliamentary democracy. This historic and proud House of Commons has the duty and responsibility to stand up to attacks on the privilege of every single member of this chamber. Inaction to do so amounts to muting the voices sent to Ottawa to defend the interests of their constituents.
So, let us do it for all members of this chamber, on all sides of the House, and for the Canadians who might want to join the House in the future. As the defender of our rights and privileges, this effort starts with you, Mr. Speaker. Should you agree with me, Mr. Speaker, that this amounts to a prima facie case of contempt, I am prepared to move an appropriate motion at that time.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2023-05-02 14:02 [p.13806]
Mr. Speaker, this morning, parliamentarians, members of the military, veterans and the mental health community gathered for the 10th annual Sam Sharpe mental health breakfast.
We heard a song from Terry Kelly and a keynote speech from retired Major Mark Campbell, a 30-year veteran of the military, a proud PPCLI officer and someone who was gravely injured on his second tour in Afghanistan, losing both lower limbs and suffering from major physical and mental injuries. He spoke in raw form about his recovery from the mental and physical wounds of service. He spoke about the impact of those wounds on Donna and their children. He spoke about his frustration with Ottawa and challenged us to do better as a nation. However, Mark also provided hope, talking about how the Soldier On program and peer supports helped him, as well as how we are making progress. That is why Roméo Dallaire and I started this breakfast 10 years ago.
I want to thank the Hon. Roméo Dallaire. I also want to thank the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and Senator Rebecca Patterson, two great veterans themselves, for carrying on this important discussion on mental health each Mental Health Week.
We must honour those who serve. This event gives hope, healing and purpose to our veterans and first responders.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2023-03-09 14:09 [p.12148]
Mr. Speaker, all members of the House depend on family to support us in our public service: our family at home and our political family here in Ottawa. It is with great sadness that I rise to talk about the passing of an important member of the Conservative political family.
John MacDonell was an incredible volunteer and adviser. He was my chief of staff during the Conservative government, and for seven years, he was chief of staff to the hon. Peter MacKay, including during the Afghanistan war.
We would have no modern Conservative Party but for John MacDonell's tireless work as the national councillor for Nova Scotia.
A proud lawyer and graduate from Dalhousie law school, he encouraged me to go to law school, and I worked under his tutelage for a summer at Stewart McKelvey.
A bursary in his name is being established at Dalhousie law school.
I want to say that John will be missed. The pride of John's life was his son, Jack, who was the apple of his eye. We are sending Jack love from John's political family.
A lawyer, a Tory and a patriot, John MacDonell will be missed. We offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2022-11-30 14:05 [p.10205]
Mr. Speaker, I thank parliamentarians on all sides of the House for joining the celebration of service, where we welcomed veterans to Parliament Hill to thank them for their service and help them in their transition.
We were joined by the True Patriot Love Foundation and the Treble Victor Group, which help veterans find jobs in the private sector. Veterans brings skills, experience and loyalty to a job, and I would like to thank and congratulate Babcock Canada and Commissionaires for their innovative commitment to hiring veterans.
We also presented the Tracey J. Hubley Memorial Award for veteran purpose, which honours the late Tracey Hubley, who was a former Hill staffer. She was the president of Summa Strategies and was a great supporter of military families and veterans.
The award was given to Team Rubicon Canada, which just helped with disaster response after hurricane Fiona. Hundreds of veterans have worked on over 100 disaster response missions, and have shown that they can find purpose and continue to build this country.
I give a big “Bravo Zulu” to all of those groups.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2022-11-17 12:19 [p.9619]
Madam Speaker, I found it remarkable that, in the last year, we have seen a change in the Liberal Party on nuclear energy. I agree with the member that it is critical for any industrialized country to meet their climate change reduction targets to have, as baseload power generation, support for nuclear. The issue is that Catherine McKenna, when she was the minister of climate change and environment, did not support that technology. In fact, in all of the discussions of our Paris targets, it was never mentioned. That technology was not included in the green bonds program, as the member discussed. He has the opportunity in the Liberal caucus to make it clear that they should have included that technology, as well as the investments in small modular reactors.
These are all positive steps. Maybe the member could tell the House what has changed within the government after six years of inaction on nuclear? Are they now going to pursue this as a part of their strategy?
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2022-10-03 11:41 [p.7984]
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to stand today and speak to Bill C-244, an act to amend the Copyright Act.
This bill is pretty much the same bill that Parliament expressed a majority opinion in favour of in the last Parliament, with Bill C-272. Copyright law is something I have worked with professionally since my time as a lawyer in the private sector. It is an important part of our intellectual property regime. All of these laws should make sure to keep pace with technology, with change and with consumer need. That is why I am in favour of this private member's bill going to committee and being studied.
The short form for this bill is enshrining the right of repair. Why is that important? There are two fundamental areas in which it is critically important for us to modernize our approach to repairing technology. The first is for consumers. We use intellectual property to grant extraordinary commercial rights, almost monopoly-like protections, and we do this to encourage innovation and to make sure we have smart phones and technology that make our lives easier and our economy more productive.
However, that monopoly protection, for a period of time, will also lead to higher prices and less competition. In the case of technology that cannot be repaired because of digital locks, technology manuals and other things that are being kept secret, that is providing a monopoly protection for that technology, thereby not allowing someone to have a device repaired. When we have spent a lot of money on a device, we are then going to be forced to either buy a new one or have the repair done only by an authorized dealer. What does that mean? It means higher prices for consumers.
The biggest thing we will see a lot of parties in this House supporting Bill C-244 on is this consumer protection. In the previous Parliament, that is why the official opposition and I supported it. It is for consumers to have more choice and have that right to repair something themselves. I doubt there is an MP in here who is technologically proficient enough to fix their smart phone or anything else. I am sure everyone would agree. However, we can have a third party do that for us, an agent we take our device to. They can fix it.
It is important for any Canadians who might be following this debate to know that this is beyond just getting a smart phone fixed. There are so many computer operating systems, semiconductors and chips. We have seen a shortage of them in the last year, causing a backlog in orders from cars to recreational vehicles and farming machinery. These devices are manufactured and we think of them as industrial goods, but they are so heavily dependent on consumer programs. If we then have digital locks on those programs, we will not be able to repair them, and when there is a supply chain shortage, we will have trouble replacing an item.
The first reason I think Bill C-244 should go to committee is this consumer protection, small business, and the ability to have lower prices and reuse materials. We are going to hear that some industry players in the automotive field, in farming implements and in computer devices are opposed to this. If someone has an intellectual property monopoly, of course they are not going to want more competition and they are going to say we should not allow a digital lock to be opened to allow someone to repair something.
Our society needs this, because this is now the state of the consumer. Every large purchase we make, like that of a home, vehicle or business, will be impacted by these intellectual property provisions, and it is time for industry to get with the program. We have to encourage an ability to repair for the consumer and more competition on the repair space. Industry will adjust to this change, which is necessary after a few decades of rapid technological advancement.
The second reason the right to repair is so important, and I think we will hear a lot of advocacy groups around the country talk about the environment, is if we are not repairing items, they will often be discarded. Therefore, not only is the consumer or small business paying more, but piles and piles of electronic waste are being created, which are far too often finding their way to jurisdictions in China, or other parts of the developing world, where they are not really being recycled.
They are just paying to destroy or dispose of these items. It is out of sight, out of mind for us, and we go on to the next purchase, but this is then allowing our waste to be a problem in an area of the world that certainly does not have the ability to deal with it. The developed world has to get in line with the philosophy behind the right to repair, not just for the consumer, as I said, but also for the environment.
We are also seeing our friends do this. Of our friends and trading partners, there is no bigger one than the United States. Updates it made to its Digital Millennium Copyright Act are providing the ability for a right to repair. Right now, the United States is limiting that to the consumer level, so if it sees a large company buy a large manufacturing CNC type of machine, it is not providing that right of repair in the industrial commercial setting, but it is providing it for the consumers. It is extending in copyright what is known as fair use rights, allowing fair use to include the diagnosis, repair or maintenance of operating systems within a device or some sort of machinery. A consumer has that right, the fair use of copyrighted material, to diagnose a problem and fix it.
That is what should be done with our copyright regime to allow fair-dealing exceptions at the consumer level. This bill really does not tackle the right to repair from the standpoint that the Americans have, but at least it is a start. This private member's bill would actually define or redefine what it means to circumvent a computer operating system, thereby making sure that the right to repair does not attract violations of the Copyright Act. At committee, one of the things that would be explored is whether we should be in line with western countries that respect intellectual property rights and create this right to diagnose and repair as a fair-dealing exception.
I must note for fun, having done copyright work when I was legal counsel to Proctor & Gamble and with two large law firms, that copyright and fair use have always been areas that I have watched, including fighting counterfeit goods, which is people using trademarks and copyrighted material to trade off the goodwill of other brands when they are selling phoney products.
In fact, the most leading case in Canada on the fair-dealing exception, the most recent major legal development, was in the case of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation v. Conservative Party of Canada, where the Conservative Party of Canada was successful in defeating the claim by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that television commercials that use clips from CBC's news programs somehow violated its copyright. Certainly a public broadcaster should not really have the same intellectual property strategies as the private broadcasters, but, in any event, the court recognized that criticism, political debate and questioning allowed for a fair-dealing exception to use those clips.
We see now this copyright usage on YouTube videos and a whole range of things, where small clips can be used in someone's production as long as they are just being used for news, commentary and criticism. These are exceptions that have developed within copyright as our society developed, as social media grew and as technology grew. As copyright changes with the times, for the benefit of both the consumer and the environment, we need fair use exceptions or changes to allow a right of reply. That is why it is encouraging that Bill C-244 builds on the work done under Bill C-272 in the last Parliament to give Canadians this right of repair.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2022-09-29 11:46 [p.7913]
Madam Speaker, I want to express my personal condolences to the member on the passing of his father, Bill Blaikie, who was the dean of the House of Commons when he was here and someone respected on all sides. As a Canadian Armed Forces veteran, I know he had a passion for our country and those who serve it. As someone who was inspired into politics through a parent who served, I know he can be very proud of the son he inspired into public service as well.
I know, having lived in Winnipeg, that families there are struggling. Grocery prices have gone up 10% to 30% in the last few years. We have seen gas and rent go up. People at the margins are particularly struggling. The government has the ability to either pause or reduce all input costs, whether they are taxes or changes to plans that run over decades.
Would the member not agree with the Conservative intent here? With record inflation, at the highest point in the member's lifetime because he is a young member, is this not the time to take a pause and give Canadian families in Durham or in Elmwood—Transcona a break?
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2022-09-16 10:09 [p.7320]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today, as parliamentarians on all sides of the House remember, honour and pay tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, our sovereign, our head of state, commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces, a global leader, a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.
I want to start, as a member of Her late Majesty's Privy Council and a member of Parliament, by expressing my deepest sympathies to the royal family. While the Queen was an icon to people around the world, possibly the most recognizable figure, to them she was a mother. She was leader of the family, and she was someone they could go to in good times and bad.
I also want to pledge my allegiance, as Canada does within its constitutional monarchy, to our new King, Charles III. Long live the King.
There have been many great reflections on Her Majesty in the last week. We are still in a bit of shock, despite the fact that her 70 years on the throne led to us knowing that this day would come. It is still a very difficult day, so I looked to two of the greatest Britons for inspiration, one being the Queen, the longest-serving monarch and a great leader, the other being their longest-serving member of Parliament. At 64 years in Parliament, Sir Winston Churchill did not reach the Platinum Jubilee levels of the Queen, but he was her first prime minister, and he had remarkable thoughts about the Queen that I will share with the House today.
In fact, in 1928, Winston Churchill met Princess Elizabeth at two years of age, at Balmoral Castle. In a letter to his wife, Clementine, he said, “There is no one here at all except the Family, the Household & Princess Elizabeth—aged 2. The last is a character. She has an air of authority & reflectiveness astonishing in an infant….” At that time, given a later abdication, Winston Churchill never would have thought that that young princess would be his queen and he, her first prime minister.
What is more remarkable is the next speech I am going to give. Canada, really the leader within the Commonwealth, particularly in the modern age, was pushing within the Commonwealth to end apartheid and pushing for aid, security and trade around the world through our common bonds in the Commonwealth.
In 1953, just days before the Queen's coronation, at a gathering of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at which both the Queen and Canada were present, Winston Churchill said, “Here today we salute fifty or sixty Parliaments and one Crown. It is natural for Parliaments to talk and for the Crown to shine.” He went on to say, “Well do we realize the burdens imposed by sacred duty upon the Sovereign and her family. All round we see the proofs of the unifying [force] which makes the Crown the central link in...our modern changing life, and the one which above all others claims our allegiance to the death.”
The Queen did shine with a remarkable brilliance for over 70 years on the throne, not just in the United Kingdom, but in Canada and around the world. She was the central link for our parliamentary democracy for almost half of our time as an independent country.
I would now like to say a few words in French, one of the two founding languages of our country. Interestingly enough, the greatness of the Quebec nation was enshrined in our Constitution and guaranteed by the Crown. Throughout our country's history, the Quebec nation has faced challenges and discrimination. Despite that, Quebeckers have grown strong and proud. Today, we have a nation that is proud of its language, culture and identity thanks to the people of Quebec, the constitutional monarchy, and the Constitution of a country founded by two peoples in partnership with the first nations.
I am proud to stand in the House of Commons and speak in French, thanks to my service in a bilingual federal institution. Canada is not perfect. There are challenges facing francophone minority communities in some parts of the country.
We live in the best country in the world, thanks to our history and our two peoples. North America is home to an island of 7 million francophones in a sea of 600 million Anglophones, and we neighbour the most influential nation in the world, the United States. However, the Quebec nation and French-speaking communities are thriving from coast to coast to coast. That is incredible. We must remember that and celebrate it.
The Queen shone when she was here for 22 official visits, meeting millions of people. She said this in the nearby chamber for her Silver Jubilee in 1977: “My happiest memories of our travels throughout Canada have been these individual contacts, which have revealed the enormous strength and astonishing diversity of this nation.”
She was the mother of all people, a title given to her in the 1950s by the Coast Salish people in British Columbia, commander-in-chief of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the honorary captain, honorary air commodore or honorary colonel of 16 regiments; 34 of our commissioned ships are Her Majesty's Canadian ships, and I wear the tie today of one institution, Royal Military College, that was given her seal.
One of those regiments is something that touched this Parliament not long ago, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, Princess Louise's. The Queen was their honorary colonel. Going back to 1951, when she was a princess, she visited then. She visited again in Hamilton in 2002 to bestow new colours on the regiment.
However, it is not in celebration that the Queen's leadership was evident. It was in 2014, when one of their soldiers was killed not far from here, at our National War Memorial. The Queen's letter to the regiment was the first to arrive. Her wishes were expressed to the family of Nathan Cirillo and to the regiment. Months later, she invited members of the regiment to her private apartment at Buckingham Palace, not only to express sympathies but also to inquire as to how the son and family of Nathan Cirillo were doing.
These were not honorary titles that the Queen just took without caring about them. She was deeply committed to every institution that she was the central link to, as Winston Churchill once said. She was the commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. My first oath to the Queen was given in 1991, at the age of 18, when I swore an oath of allegiance. I have had that honour many times, as a member of Parliament and in 2015, when I joined what was then Her Majesty's Privy Council, that central link in these institutions upon which our rich parliamentary democracy is built. She is the central link to the great mother, Queen Victoria, and our rights and responsibilities and the constitutional rights for indigenous peoples in this country. She is a patron and has been a supporter of innumerable causes in her 22 visits to this country.
The Queen's first speech from the throne in person in Canada was years after the creation of NATO, and she has been there as our sovereign as our country grew in the modern age, from NATO to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Expo 67, the Montreal Olympics and, of course, the 1982 patriation of Canada's Constitution, which in many ways was the full-circle moment for the Queen to help deliver the modern Canada on the world stage and showcase our commitment to the fundamental rights of all of our citizens in the charter. The Queen said on that day, April 17, 1982, just outside where we are today, “I am pleased and proud to be with you today, not only to celebrate the patriation of the Constitution, but to rejoice in Canada, its past, its present and its future.”
Today, let us rejoice in the life of service and the leadership of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Let us remember where she shone on her visits here and around the world, and let us remember that that central link of our constitutional monarchy has provided stability and helped build great institutions upon which we rely as Canadians. In this Parliament, we can celebrate, debate and discuss the future of this country, knowing it is rooted in the fertile soil of our Constitution and our roots.
Today, we say, “The Queen is dead. We celebrate and honour her life. Long live the King.”
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2022-06-17 12:32 [p.6916]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to seek support for a unanimous consent motion. The details on this motion have been provided to all members of Parliament. There have been discussions between the parties.
I would say to my colleagues respectfully that the subject matter is dealing with people who sacrifice all for our country. This is something that stems from e-petition 3636, brought by the member of Parliament for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, and it comes as well from thousands of veterans of the Afghanistan war. I know all members of this chamber would at least want to be heard before the question is called in the House. I would ask for that courtesy as we are nearing the end of this session.
Mr. Speaker, I have conducted extensive research and engaged in discussions with all parties and members and, if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
That the House recognize that Canadians are fortunate to enjoy peace, order, and good government, and that we must honour the service and sacrifice of our citizens who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces; that presently Canada has no independent review body to advise the government and the Chancellery of Honours with respect to errors or omissions related to military honours within the Canadian honours system; that the Canadian Victoria Cross, created in 1993, has never been awarded, including during the 12-year period of the Afghanistan war, when more than 40,000 Canadians served as part of the longest deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces in history; that the organization Valour in the Presence of the Enemy, alongside the Afghanistan Veterans Association of Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion, and countless other Veteran associations have asked for the Star of Military Valour awarded to Jess Larochelle, of North Bay, Ontario, be reconsidered for elevation to a Canadian Victoria Cross to recognize the tremendous valour he demonstrated in Afghanistan on October 14, 2006;
(e) that thousands of Canadians have supported this request for reconsideration as evidenced through the 14,129 signatures for petition e-3636 tabled by the member of Parliament for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski on May 19,
(f) that such reconsiderations for the Victoria Cross or the Medal of Honor have been and are being performed by our major allies in an independent fashion that also permits historic reconsideration for error or omission including due to racism or bias in the past with regard to language, race, religion, or other form of intolerance of the era, and
and therefore, the House calls for the creation of an independent Canadian advisory body with the specific mandate to review decisions made under the Directorate of Honours and Recognition and its precursor bodies when new evidence demonstrates that the reconsideration of a military honour is warranted to ensure that no error or omission was made; that the advisory be styled as the Military Honours Review Board; that the board have at least nine members including, but not limited to, the Canadian Secretary to the Queen or designate from the Privy Council Office, a designate from the Department of National Defence, a designate from Veterans Affairs Canada, a designate from the Canadian War Museum, a designate from La Citadelle de Québec, a designate from the Royal Canadian Legion, a designate from Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association, an anglophone professor of military history from a Canadian university and a francophone professor of military history from a Canadian university;
that the Board and its participant organizations undertake to select designates that incorporate gender balance and diverse perspectives, that the Board meet at least twice annually to fulfill its function, that the Board consider requests for reconsideration referred by a committee of the House of Commons, a committee of the Senate, the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada, or by reference from the Prime Minister's Office, that the Board be funded with staff researchers to support in administrative and reporting duties, including the administration of applications, examination of evidence provided by applicants, and providing recommendations to the Board,
that the board deploy a formal process for review which would include the requirement that scholarly evidence be provided by applicants for consideration; that the board advise the Chancellery of Honours at Rideau Hall and the Prime Minister’s Office of their decision in each specific case and that the decision be tabled in the House within sixty days of notice to Rideau Hall and the Prime Minister’s Office; and that the Department of National Defence be instructed to amend the Canadian Forces honours policy in accordance with the intent of this motion, including but not limited to chapter 1, paragraph 26, on retroactivity, and chapter 1, paragraphs 75 and 76, on award errors and policy changes.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that all members to consider that valour has no time limitation attached to it, so I hope we can do the right thing as a chamber before we rise and before we celebrate our country on Canada Day.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is hard with an e-petition to split some of the signatures that were brought forward by my colleague, the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, and I want to thank her for doing that. This is a bipartisan effort, so we cannot split those 14,129 signatures, but as a veteran and a former minister of veterans affairs, I want to pledge bipartisan support for the work done by Valour in the Presence of the Enemy, which gathered these signatures.
All veterans groups, including the Royal Canadian Legion, want a proper review, because valour in the presence of the enemy was demonstrated by Jess Larochelle, who in 2006, while injured, defended against 20 to 40 insurgents. The 12-year mission in Afghanistan was our longest. We need a process to review the valour of our citizens, much like all of our major allies have.
I support the efforts of our veterans and my colleague. We need a fair and transparent process to review the valour of soldiers like Jess Larochelle. Now is the time to do that.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House representing my home communities in Durham. The last time I rose in the House, on January 31, my speech was on Ukraine. A lot has changed since that speech, for me and where I sit in this chamber, but more important, and something that has had the world transfixed, is that our fears about a Russian invasion were actualized.
We have seen horrific videos of indiscriminate violence toward the civilian population by Mr. Putin and his Russian aggression. We have seen inspiring stories of parliamentarians, of elderly people and of people who had never held a rifle picking one up to defend their land, to defend their community and to defend their country. Our fears have been actualized. When I last rose in the House, I never thought we would see the extent of aggression we see.
It is good to be back. I want to start by thanking all members of the House for their remarks tonight. It has been nice to see all sides coming together to stand up for our friends in Ukraine. I want to thank the government for moving on weapons for our allies in Ukraine. That was the subject of our debate a month ago. I want to thank the government for the aid that has been provided, the move alongside our allies to take Russia out of the SWIFT financial system, and the restrictions on airspace. There must be a full-court press of both diplomatic and security pressures brought to bear to halt this aggression and save lives. I want to thank the government, and I want to thank the Conservative opposition and all members of the House for this debate tonight.
I would also like to thank Canadians, business leaders, community and charity leaders across the country for stepping up, donating and doing drives to raise awareness and raise funds to help. Particularly, I want to thank the Ukrainian Canadian community, which has always inspired me, from my very first speech as a fledgling politician in the Dnipro Hall in Oshawa with members of the long-standing Ukrainian community there. The League of Ukrainian Canadians, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and charities and credit unions across this country are stepping up, and I know that it is providing hope.
The debate we have here tonight is one of unity because it is about the values we represent as a country: the commitment to liberty, to democracy and to the rule of law that we want to see our millions of friends in Ukraine have as well. It has been shocking to hear some of the stories. This morning, I heard an interview with a Ukrainian member of parliament. She is 37, and her name is Inna Sovsun. Speaking to a Canadian journalist, she said, “I'm so much better with words than with arms, but I will pick up arms if it comes to that”.
We are so fortunate in the House that we never have to worry about going beyond our words. We see the president, and all sides of their parliament stepping up, inspiring and even taking up arms to defend their land. It is something. As Canadians, we have to act and be relevant within NATO, the United Nations, the G7 and the G20 to make sure countries such as Ukraine do not face this brazen aggression, this hostility of the highest order, or else we will become a world where politicians have to stop the words and pick up the arms. That is a scary notion. I want Ms. Sovsun to know that parliamentarians around the world, including here in Canada, are going to fight hard to make sure she can continue to fight with her words and her democracy and not have to resort to picking up arms.
In the spirit of co-operation, with my words of thanks I would like to provide two recommendations to the government in this debate.
It is an honour for me to be here as the member for my home communities. I am a proud veteran. We need our foreign policy to be based on our values as a country and as a society. That policy also needs to be focused on our allies and our friends around the world, including Ukraine.
There are two very specific recommendations that I would like to bring to the government's attention. The first is that we have to return to interest-based foreign policy. What are our interests, from an economic and trade standpoint? What are our diplomatic and humanitarian assistance interests as a nation? What are our security concerns? What are our defence alliances as a country?
We are one of the most multilateral countries in the world because we have always had to be, as a trading nation: a nation that straddles the northern half of the Americas, a nation born not of revolution, but of evolution from an empire. We now stand as one of the world's great democracies. We have to have our foreign policy not based on appealing to small groups or appealing to the issue of the day. We have to make it based on our strategic, long-term interests as a country and on our values as a country.
When the Deputy Prime Minister laid out the government's foreign policy approach in a speech in this place in 2017, she began her remarks with a question. She asked, “Is Canada an essential country at this time in the life of our planet?” The government then did not really lay out interests, but laid out a number of emerging issues. We have seen that repeatedly with progressive trade agendas, with climate change and other issues outflanking our economic, security, trade, diplomatic and humanitarian interests as a country.
That has to change because all issues are a priority, from climate change to some of the progressive trade agenda that was promoted with the United States, but our security as a country, and our relevance within NATO and within NORAD, are critical to what our country must advance. I would ask the government, in the spirit of co-operation we see here, to make sure that we have the equipment we need for our Canadian Armed Forces, and that we arm our diplomats and our aid workers with the tools and the funds they need to assert our interests and will around the world. We have been lulled into a sense of complacency.
The second recommendation I have relates to our Arctic. It is something that I have been talking about for many years. It is something that I was pleased to work on with Michael Levitt when he was chair of the foreign affairs committee. We conducted the most robust examination of our interests in the Arctic in a generation. It was titled, “Nation-Building at Home, Vigilance Beyond: Preparing for the Coming Decades in the Arctic”.
The April 2019 report stated that, “The Arctic is a fundamental and indivisible part of Canada”, and that when we wrote it our sovereignty was at risk. The first section of that report dealt with Russia's military and security buildup in its portion of the Arctic, Russian interest in the continental shelf and Russian interest in polar trade and circumnavigation routes.
We are decades behind where we need to be in asserting our Arctic sovereignty. “We the north” should be more than a hashtag we use when we are proud of our basketball team. This defining element of our country right now is in jeopardy, so we need the ships, the drones, the personnel, the rangers and the infrastructure investments to realize the true potential of Canada and recognize that we are a neighbouring country to Russia.
Based on our national interests and a foreign policy based on that, we also have to help our friends in Ukraine. We need to provide that continued support through the winding down of the SWIFT financial system and with sanctions, including the Magnitsky sanctions brought in with the help of my friend for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. We need to make sure that we have the military equipment needed for Ukraine to defend itself. We should work within NATO to see how we can use parameters, including looking at restricting the ability for Russia to inflict more damage, and then of course help with refugee support.
The 1.4 million Ukrainian Canadians have helped build this country. Canada was the first nation to recognize Ukraine.
Tonight, let us show, as parliamentarians, that we will continue to be one of the strongest, one of the most consistent and one of the most steadfast allies of Ukraine.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I know, that the hon. member has pride for the men and women who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, as I do, particularly at CFB Greenwood. I was stationed at Shearwater and did a lot of training at that incredible air base.
I think all parliamentarians are proud of any Canadian who steps up to put a uniform of service on for their country, whether service at home, which we have seen particularly in British Columbia in recent months, or abroad.
We have also been steadfast, going back to the Conservative government, with operations such as Unifier and Reassurance. We have had great collaboration within NATO and particularly on training operations in Ukraine and in the Baltics to make sure we have a presence.
I really do think that there has been a creeping barrage of aggression by Vladimir Putin and we have been lulled into a sense of complacency in the western world.
It started in 2014 with the Revolution of Dignity, which led Mr. Putin to go into Crimea and into the Donbass. We saw Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down. We saw cyber-attacks in 2015 that took out part of the Ukraine energy grid. There has been a steadfast and consistent approach of aggression, and we had hoped that the post-war world order would not change. It has changed.
I know that member shares an interest in our Canadian Armed Forces. In the spirit of co-operation, we need a non-partisan plan to build out capacity for our Canadian Armed Forces and to exert control over our land mass in the Arctic. With regard to that, right now even our friends in the U.S. have stepped away from the relationship Mr. Mulroney and former president Reagan negotiated with respect to the Northwest Passage.
We must act now to help our friends in Ukraine, but also to make sure we defend our own territorial sovereignty.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I gave a speech in January about the situation in Ukraine before Mr. Putin's invasion. Unfortunately, there is now an illegal war that contravenes international law.
Our country needs a new approach to foreign affairs. As I stated in my speech, our country needs a foreign policy focused on our economic, security and diplomatic interests. Our approach must also reflect our values as a democratic country that has compassion for the poor around the world.
The time has come to reinvigorate our policy. The time has come to work closely on our country's interests, human rights and the plight of Ukrainians.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time I have had the chance to respond to the new member for Edmonton Griesbach, I want to welcome him to the House. I remind him that the Conservatives have been asking for this for many years. My friend for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman whispered to me how many years and it has been four.
One thing I think we are very proud of in the House is the strong, deep, historical ties between Ukraine and Canada. We can facilitate those ties through parental, grandparent and family travel, through business relationships and through the free trade agreement that my friend, the hon. member for Abbotsford, helped negotiate. These are the indications of a mature and important relationship for our country.
I agree with the member, and I do think it is something we need. We also need to work with allies across Europe, particularly in Poland. We have seen 500,000 people already flee.
I want to speak for a moment about someone who works on the Hill who just moved here from Ukraine a couple of years ago. She is a friend, Daria Fesenko. I spoke to her a few days ago. All of her family is in eastern Ukraine, and they have had to hide out in the country away from the war being inflicted there. Daria is in contact with them every day, and like so many Ukrainian Canadians, she is worried about her family. That is why it is so nice to see the House come together tonight and so nice to see Canada assert itself alongside our allies. Whatever we can do to help in this time of crisis, we need to do.
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