Skip to Content
Download as PDF

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 75

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


 

THE SENATE

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on November 25, the world joined hands to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Today, we also commemorate the death of 14 women at l'École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989.

In the endeavour to come to terms with such acts — such terror and struggle — I draw the attention of this chamber to the pain that wears the mask of our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and cousins: violence against women.

Over 30 years ago, when I started working as a lawyer in Vancouver, I was first exposed to the issues of violence against women. I worked with women of diverse backgrounds and circumstances who, at the hands of their husbands or partners, had been physically and emotionally assaulted. I saw the evidence of physical assaults from scars not yet faded. I heard through strained voices of the emotional scars that continued to affect their lives.

In the early 1990s, Prime Minister Mulroney created a panel on violence against women, of which I was a member. At the launch of the panel, I met Ms. Edward, whose daughter had been shot by Marc Lépine at l'École Polytechnique in Montreal.

Why had she been shot? She was shot for wanting to become an engineer. The pain that Ms. Edward carried still haunts me.

When our panel traveled to Eastern Canada, we met with a woman who had been shot in the face by her husband. Her face had been practically destroyed. All we could see of her face were holes where her ears had been, a hole where her nose should have been and a hole where her mouth should have been. The disfiguring of this woman's face still haunts me.

On a reserve, we visited a young girl who expressed to us how she was repeatedly raped. Her uncle held a gun to her head while raping her. The young girl recounting to us this repeated rape while a gun was held to her head still haunts me.

Honourable senators, Marc Lépine's treacherous act of killing 14 women, the woman whose face was almost destroyed, and the young girl's repeated rape are all part of what I live now. Honourable senators all have similar stories. Today, I ask that we remember the women and girls we have lost through violence, and give our support to women and girls who are still suffering from violence.

[Translation]

French Language at 2010 Olympic Games

Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, an article by Vincent Marissal, published in La Presse last week, was not only full of errors, but was also so ignorant and nasty that even putting a partisan spin on things could not have made it worse.

Claiming that no one here is worried about the presence of French at the Olympic Games in Vancouver is absolutely ridiculous. It is clear that this expert Parliamentary affairs correspondent has not been following the work that the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages have been doing for the past three years. We have worked with all the francophone groups in British Columbia, with the Commissioner of Official Languages, with the special committee appointed by the Prime Minister, and with the entire VANOC team.

Obviously, the man who signed this rag did not take the time to read the three reports written by our committee, or the government's responses, or the positive steps taken by VANOC. He would have seen the hard work and the results we have achieved.

Of course, convincing the Richmond city council to ensure that its speed skating oval complies with the official language legislation of Canada and of the International Olympic Committee was a difficult problem to solve. But the new money set aside by the minister for official languages made it possible to make the changes. Accusing us, senators of all political stripes, accusing our ministers and our government of failing to keep a watchful eye, of not encouraging the organizing committee to ensure that everything is done properly in both official languages, is completely unfair and could not be further from the truth.

He accuses us of carelessness, when he is the one who did not bother to check his facts, or to see what had been done.

Will the 2010 Olympic Games in Canada be completely free of language blunders? One thing is certain; any blunders will not happen because the Government of Canada or the two official languages committees did not do their jobs.

What will the ineffable Mr. Marissal — and I am being polite here — have done, aside from writing a few lines, less than three months before the opening of the Games? Nothing.

Honourable senators, we have done everything in our power, and we can hold our heads up high.

[English]

World AIDS Day

Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, today marks World AIDS Day, an occasion dedicated to raising awareness of the global AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of the HIV infection. This day provides an opportunity for all of us — individuals, communities and political leaders — to take action today and everyday to stop the global spread of this devastating disease.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 33.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. Over 62,000 of them are right here in Canada. There are 2.7 million new infections each year. Globally, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of mortality among women of reproductive age.

Honourable senators, this year's theme is "universal access and human rights," chosen to highlight the critical link between universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for human rights in the response to the global AIDS epidemic. Without addressing and combating human rights abuses around the world, many of the populations at the greatest risk of being affected by HIV/AIDS will continue to lack access to prevention and treatment services.

In Canada, we, too, have a responsibility to ensure we do everything we can to prevent the spread of this disease and to properly treat those affected by it. This treatment includes providing support to harm reduction programs, like safe injection sites and needle exchange programs, for which a growing body of scientific evidence supports their efficacy. We must also ensure that health services and treatment are provided to all Canadians through sexual health centres, for example.

Honourable senators, we cannot let our ideologies trump public health and safety. We must do all we can to help reduce the spread of all communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS. We must be leaders at home and around the world.

(1410)

The Honourable James S. Cowan

Congratulations on Honorary Degree

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our colleague Senator James Cowan who received a highly deserved honorary degree from Dalhousie University one month ago in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Oliver: Honourable senators, I have known Senator Cowan for more than 50 years. Half of that was spent as partners in the law firm of Stewart, McKelvey, Stirling and Scales in Halifax. Through those five decades, I have been impressed by Senator Cowan's commitment to give back to the community. His life has been characterized by decades of public service. I was delighted when I learned that Nova Scotia's largest university would publicly acknowledge his contribution by awarding this important degree.

Honourable senators, a major element of Senator Cowan's private and public contribution is related to post-secondary education. He promotes the concept that education should be more affordable to all qualified students without regard to their personal financial circumstances. He also promotes greater access to education. Here is the way he expressed it in this chamber in May 2008:

A highly skilled and educated workforce is of critical importance to the future economic growth and prosperity of our country. Surely there can be no higher priority than the education of our young people.

The Dalhousie University citation read:

Senator Cowan represents well Dalhousie Law School's Weldon tradition of unselfish public service. He was honoured for "his lifetime of generosity and leadership to Dalhousie, his community and his country.

A few years after graduating from Dalhousie Law School, Senator Cowan joined the Board of Governors at Dalhousie University where he served for an impressive 36 years, from 1972 to 2008. Six of those years were as chairman of the board. He has contributed to Dalhousie's recent positive stories in relation to enrolment growth, faculty renewal and financial stability.

I have had the opportunity to work alongside Senator Cowan for more than five decades, first as a law partner, then as a governor on the board of Dalhousie, and now as a senator. He is a committed community worker and a good friend.

Honourable senators, please join me in congratulating the Honourable James Cowan for his honorary degree from Dalhousie University.

SHARE Agriculture Foundation

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, last month, I had the privilege of attending the annual SHARE Agriculture Foundation dinner. I wish to take this opportunity to update you on new developments in the work of this very important farmer-based organization.

For those unfamiliar with it, SHARE stands for Sending Help and Resources Everywhere. It is an effective rural Canadian non-profit organization working with partners, including CIDA, that provides funding and guidance to community-based agricultural projects in Third World countries with a focus on Central and South America. Their motto is a hand up, not a hand out.

SHARE's projects are in the poorest and most isolated communities. These communities are often made up of refugees who have left their home areas due to war and poverty. SHARE chooses communities where the projects will have the greatest impact.

SHARE director Trish Murphy delivered a powerful speech at the event entitled "The People at the End of the Road — Reflections on El Salvador." In describing the poor and displaced people at the end of dirt roads that SHARE encounters, Ms. Murphy illustrated the projects they are currently working on. The stoves project replaces old stoves that filled rooms with smoke, causing health and environmental hazards, with new, healthier and more efficient stoves. Other ongoing projects include: high school scholarships for children in Belize; training and education in rural communities in Guatemala; teen and adult literacy programs for 800 adults in rural communities in El Salvador; and micro-credit programs for agricultural enterprises throughout South and Central America, such as chicken and egg farms, cattle farms and apiaries.

I commend SHARE for the tremendous contributions it has made in helping to improve the quality of life since 1976 for those people at the ends of the roads. I wish them much future success in travelling the isolated dirt pathways ahead to spread opportunities and resources to others waiting at the dead ends of these muddy roads.

Performance of Senate Pages at Concert on the Hill

Hon. Bert Brown: Honourable senators, I want to make a brief statement about the Senate pages and their performance at the Christmas concert yesterday in the West Block.

Our pages showed extraordinary talent in a presentation of "Hallelujah." It was followed by a long standing ovation in honour of their talents.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Mr. Rolf Hauge

Congratulations on Ninetieth Birthday

Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to a wonderful man who is celebrating his ninetieth birthday today. Rolf Hauge lives in Midland, Ontario. He was born on December 1, 1919, in Oslo, Norway.

Active all his life, Rolf's first sport was cross-country skiing. At the age of 56, he was the first Canadian to compete in all 10 Worldloppets, earning a Coureur des Bois gold medal. Also an international champion marksman, Rolf was a pioneer of Biathlon Canada. He wrote their first training manual and coached the national team from 1979 to 1982.

Shortly afterwards, at the age of 67, he took up alpine skiing. He soon got involved in masters ski racing in the Collingwood area. Ski racing is not an easy sport. The techniques take many years to hone to perfection. Rolf's dedication and determination, combined with his fitness and athletic ability, took him right to the top. In 2005, at the age of 85, Rolf won the gold medal in the combined for slalom, Giant Slalom and Super G in the World Masters Criterium in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Rolf competes at the annual Canadian Masters Championships at Sun Peaks. It has been very impressive to see this quiet but determined gentleman race faster than competitors 20 years younger. He is a shining example of the sport-for-life model.

Next Sunday, when I see Rolf at the training camp at Sun Peaks, I will present him with a scroll with the following words:

All of us who have come to know you have been inspired, not only by your ski racing talent and your work ethic, but also by the twinkle in your eyes. Thank you for sharing your love of life with us.

Honourable senators, I would be remiss if I did not mention one more thing and that is the bittersweet results for the Canadian ski team at Lake Louise this past weekend.

Manny Osborne-Paradis had an impressive victory in the Super G on Sunday. There were three Canadians in the top five in the world cup event. We saw excellent skiing that augers well for the rest of the season.

Unfortunately, our reigning world champion, John Kucera, who led the team in the downhill on Saturday, suffered a broken leg. He will not be competing at Whistler.


[Translation]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Business of the Senate

Notice of Motion for Adjournment and to Authorize Committees to Meet During Sitting of the Senate

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That, notwithstanding rule 5(1)(a) and the order adopted by the Senate on February 10, 2009, when the Senate adjourns on Wednesday, December 2, 2009, it do stand adjourned until Thursday, December 3, 2009, at 9 a.m.; and

That committees of the Senate scheduled to meet on Thursday, December 3, 2009, be authorized to sit even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.

Electronic Commerce Protection Bill

First Reading

The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-27, An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act.

(Bill read first time.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?

(On motion of Senator Comeau, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)

(1420)

[English]

Health

Notice of Motion to Make the Issue of Maternal and Child Health a Priority Topic at the 2010 Spring G8/G20 Meetings

Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence, I will move:

That the Government of Canada make the issue of maternal and child health a priority topic of G8/G20 discussions at the meetings scheduled in Canada in Spring 2010 in order that nations work in a united way to increase investments aimed at reducing global maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality.

Human Rights

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights have the power to sit at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 9, 2009, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.

[Translation]

Protection of Animals and the Ecosystem

Notice of Motion

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 58(1), I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That,

Whereas the Senate of Canada recognizes that contemporary principles of animal welfare, sustainable development, ecosystem-based management and precautionary principles must be applied, and the contribution of Aboriginal traditional ecological knowledge to these principles must be recognized;

Whereas the Senate of Canada recognizes the moral obligation to treat all species without cruelty and with respect;

Whereas the Senate of Canada recognizes that the contributions to ecosystem diversity and function made by the sustainable use of natural resources by humankind, without prejudice against species that might be regarded as competitors in drawing on these resources;

That the Senate of Canada affirms that a balanced ecosystem is the result of constant interactions between predators and prey throughout the food web, that humans are an integral part of the ecosystem and, therefore, that their position as predators cannot be separated from nature;

That the Senate of Canada affirms that humankind can legitimately raise, harvest and use animals that are either wild or farmed and this for purposes that are either economic, personal or scientific; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons requesting that House to unite with the Senate for the above purpose.

Violence against Women

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, pursuant to rules 56 and 57(2), I give notice that, on Thursday, December 3, 2009:

I will call the attention of the Senate to violence against women, its root causes, and possible solutions.


[English]

QUESTION PERIOD

Status of Women

Violence against Women

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

In the aftermath of the massacre at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal, we learned that Mr. Lépine was a deeply troubled young man with a violent attitude toward women. Having grown up in an environment where abuse against women was common, Mr. Lépine unleashed his disturbed sentiments toward women by killing 14 female engineering students on December 6, 1989.

Understanding the profound influence his social environment had in forming his anti-feminist opinions, which led to his horrific actions, could the Leader of the Government in the Senate please tell the chamber what steps the government is taking to combat abuse against girls and women, especially as it relates to educating and building awareness for youth and young adults?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, all women and men remember December 6, 1989. I remember that horrific day. It was a cold, bitter day.

This morning, the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons and representatives of political parties participated in a ceremony marking this tragic date.

As both Speakers noted, a disturbed and deranged man struck down 14 young women who were in the prime of their lives. All levels of government are working and have worked extremely hard to address this serious issue.

Violence against women is now, and always will be, a serious matter. Since 2007, through Status of Women Canada alone, we have supported 117 separate initiatives to address abuse of women, domestic violence, culturally based gender violence and violence against Aboriginal women. One year ago, on behalf of the Government of Canada, Minister of State Guergis signed on to the UNIFEM Say No to Violence Against Women campaign. As the honourable senator is aware, we also support the Sisters in Spirit Initiative, which is a five-year initiative to address racialized and sexual violence against Aboriginal women and girls.

There is no easy answer to dealing with a person like Marc Lépine. All levels of government have undertaken initiatives to combat this issue including, and I believe most importantly, the initiatives undertaken under the chairmanship of former Senator Kirby on the issue of mental health and mental health issues, dealing, at least in part, with one aspect of this serious issue.

Society as a whole cannot and will not tolerate views such as those held by Mr. Lépine. Each and every one of us should be on the look-out to prevent situations like this from happening again.

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On October 21, I asked the leader why the Minister with responsibility for the Status of Women had not attended the G8 International Conference on Violence Against Women last September. Not one representative from the Canadian government attended that conference. The leader took that question as notice over a month ago. Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate been able to find out why the minister did not attend the first G8 International Conference on Violence Against Women?

Senator LeBreton: I just checked with my colleague to see if we have received that answer and he informs me that we have not. I will be happy to check with Minister Guergis, who has been extremely busy and attending many events.

As I think I said at the time the honourable senator asked the question, I am quite certain there is a good and valid reason. Clearly, the government is committed to all social issues involving violence against women, seniors, Aboriginals and children. It is an important social policy area of the government. I ask the honourable senator's indulgence. I am sure that Minister Guergis was unable to participate for a very good reason.

(1430)

Senator Callbeck: Honourable senators, I will be interested in hearing why the minister did not attend the first G8 International Conference on Violence Against Women.

The leader said that the issue of family violence is important to the government, and yet the government could be doing more to help women affected by family violence. It should show leadership on the civil legal aid file and collaborate with the provinces, as it does on other matters.

The Canadian Bar Association and the provincial attorneys general have called on the government to create new dedicated funding for civil legal aid. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin commented that legal aid is an essential public service like health care, and should be accessible to everyone.

When will this government listen to individuals and groups on the front line of this issue and take the lead on civil legal aid?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the whole issue of violence against women or any other violence in our society is not to be tolerated. No individual or political party has all the answers to this serious and complex problem.

With regard to programs for women, the government has increased funding provided through Status of Women Canada to help women and women's groups at the community level.

The government has many initiatives in the area of justice to promote safe streets and reduce attacks and other violence. An important bill on human trafficking, which was introduced in the other place, is currently before the Senate. The government is doing many things, although some people have other views to which they are entitled. The government has an ambitious agenda.

Violence against women, children or anyone in society will not be tolerated. The government has strengthened the law in many areas to protect those who are the most vulnerable.

Senator Callbeck: With all due respect, the leader has not answered my question. I asked about civil legal aid. When will the government listen to individuals and groups on the forefront of this issue and finally take the lead on civil legal aid?

Senator Mercer: Answer the question.

Senator LeBreton: I answered the honourable senator's question. Many people have different views about the programs and policies to be followed. The government follows specific policies that it believes will address the problem more directly. Senator Callbeck asked a specific question, and that is her view. The government has other projects. For example, on August 10, funding was announced for a project in Prince Edward Island where 100 survivors of violence will benefit from mentoring sessions by becoming peer mentors to another 100 women who are survivors of violence. That is the kind of community-level program that addresses this serious issue.

Obviously, the honourable senator has other suggestions. The government was elected on its suggestions and intends to implement its plans.

Justice

Long-Gun Registry

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, it is not only the victims of Marc Lépine's murderous rampage at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal that we mourn this week. Since that day in Montreal, we have seen other murderous rampages. In 1992, Valery Fabrikant shot and killed four colleagues at Concordia University. Kimveer Gill went on a terrible shooting spree at Dawson College in 1996, where, by the grace of God, only one person died and 19 others were wounded.

The leader can understand the consternation of the citizens in Montreal and throughout Quebec when they learned that the Harper government was whipping its members in the other place to vote in favour of abolition of the long-gun registry.

Montreal Police Chief Yvan Delorme, has commented that the existence of the long-gun registry has enabled police in my city to avert yet another shooting rampage. The minister in Quebec for the Status of Women has said that if the long-gun registry is dismantled, the Quebec police and victims of domestic violence will be put at unnecessary risk.

[Translation]

On November 4, 2009, the National Assembly voted unanimously for the third time in favour of maintaining the gun registry in its entirety, including the registration of hunting rifles. The Quebec public safety minister, Jacques Dupuis, plans to come to Ottawa with a non-partisan Quebec delegation to express his opposition to this bill.

[English]

What is the government's response to the Quebecers who have seen the terrible price we pay for losing control of guns in our society?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question.

The long-gun registry did not prevent any of the horrific murders cited by the honourable senator. The toughest gun control laws in the history of this country were brought in by two separate Conservative governments, first in the 1930s by the Right Honourable R.B. Bennett and in the 1980s by the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, more specifically the former Minister of Justice, Kim Campbell.

Access to the long-gun registry is not always accurate because that data is part of a larger database. Every single inquiry does not automatically go to the long-gun registry.

The government believes in not criminalizing law-abiding gun owners, and public opinion polls support that belief. Over $2 billion in hard-earned tax dollars were wasted on an ineffective long-gun registry, so the government has taken another approach and introduced mandatory prison sentences for those who commit gun crimes, tougher bail rules for weapons-related offences and improved front-end screening.

When the issue of a long-gun registry was before Parliament in the 1990s, many, myself included, believed that the money would have been better spent on policing and border security to prevent illegal guns from coming into Canada.

(1440)

The best answer I can give the Honourable Senator Fraser is to quote from her own leader, who said:

No sensible Canadian thinks the problem is the shotgun on the barn door. No sensible Canadian thinks the problem is the target shooter or the legitimate licensed gun owner. The problem is those handguns.

The honourable senator's leader, Mr. Ignatieff, is absolutely correct: A long-gun registry targeting hunters and farmers is not the answer to mad men like Marc Lépine.

Senator Fraser: Do not take my word for it, minister. These words belong to Priscilla de Villiers, who, as many honourable senators know, is one of the most ardent advocates of victims' rights this country has known. She says the following:

In 1991, in the wake of the Montreal Massacre, my daughter, Nina de Villiers, was shot and killed . . . together with Karen Marquis of New Brunswick, by a sexual predator with his own rifle, which he had recently used to terrorize and threaten his victim in a violent sexual assault. He then turned that same gun on himself. The Inquest into his death called for a gun registry. . . .

Six other Inquests in Ontario . . . also recommended the need for a gun registry. . . .

It is incomprehensible that after all these years we should still be held hostage by a relatively small group of citizens, gun owners, who demand the right to possess, exchange or use weapons without the same restrictions that we, in a civil society, demand from owners of vehicles and animals. . . .

As a long-time victim advocate and as Nina's mother, I beg Members of Parliament to withstand the self-serving ideology of a few and, whatever party they represent, to withstand political coercion.

How can this government look Priscilla de Villiers in the face, and all other mothers like her?

Senator LeBreton: I know Ms. de Villiers personally and I have read her book. I have participated in conferences with her in support of victims, and I well remember the horrific circumstances and the death of her daughter.

Honourable senators, anyone who acquires a firearm in this country must pass an examination and obtain a licence. Neither of these requirements will change. Stringent laws are in place to acquire a firearm in this country. The only issue here is the long-gun registry targeted, basically, at law abiding citizens.

The problem, as we all know, is guns, gangs and street crimes. Most crimes are committed by people such as the person who murdered Nina de Villiers, and people who cross the border. Most murders are not committed by using rifles and shotguns but by using illegal handguns that are not registered. The police have no knowledge of them. Any government would be smart to focus on these illegal handguns, namely, by strengthening our borders, toughening laws for criminals caught in these crimes, and dealing severely with people who smuggle illegal guns into our country.

An Hon. Senator: Put them in jail.

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, if the government feels so strongly that it is in the national interest to kill the gun registry, then why does it not bring forward Bill S-5 for second reading? I remind the leader that this bill was introduced on April 1. The government has done absolutely nothing since that time to bring the bill forward so that we can debate it in this house. If it is the will of the house, then send it to committee where we can hear from witnesses and determine what Canadians think about the long-gun registry.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, that bill sits on our Order Paper, as do other bills on political loans, and so on. A private member's bill was introduced in the House of Commons that allowed all members to participate actively in this debate. There was a free vote and the bill was supported by members of several political parties.

An Hon. Senator: The majority.

Senator Cowan: Do I take it that the government is no longer interested in pursuing its own bill?

Senator Munson: No, they are only waiting for the numbers next month; that is all.

Senator LeBreton: No, absolutely not; because this process is under way in the House of Commons — and, after all, it is the elected chamber — I think it is incumbent upon us to have the views of our elected representatives. We will then decide what we will do with our bill in this place.

Senator Cowan: If this bill is so important, so central to its whole being, then why did the government not introduce the bill in the House of Commons?

Senator Rompkey: Right on.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, this bill is an important piece of legislation. The bill has been introduced. Obviously, some members of Parliament, both in the Senate and in the House of Commons, have strong views. A private member's bill that was introduced in the house allowed the people who were directly elected by the people to speak on this important issue.

Again, I point out to Senator Cowan that the long-gun registry, which the honourable senator's own leader, as I quoted, had major problems with —

An Hon. Senator: More excuses.

Senator LeBreton: These are not excuses; I am putting the facts on the record.

Senator Tkachuk: They do not like to hear them.

Senator LeBreton: Mr. Ignatieff is absolutely correct. We have a stringent, strong gun law in this country. It was brought in by then Minister of Justice, Kim Campbell, under the Prime Ministership of the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney.

Honourable senators, the provisions for owning a gun in this country are strict. A person cannot buy a gun without passing a written test to obtain a licence. I invite the honourable senator to look through the documents required for people who want to buy a gun, period. The process is stringent.

The only question here was having this long-gun registry at great cost. My father was a dairy farmer. We had a shotgun in our house. My father would no more think of using that gun to commit a violent act — much less against women — than any other farmer or hunter would. We are targeting the real criminals here, not innocent farmers and duck hunters.

Senator Cowan: I thank the leader for the historical lecture on the accomplishments of Prime Minister Bennett and Prime Minister Campbell. My question, however, was this: If this government feels so strongly that it is in the national interest to eliminate the long-gun registry, why did the government not have the courage either to move forward with the bill in the Senate or, if it preferred, to introduce it in the House of Commons and have it dealt with there? Why does the government want to stand behind a private member's bill and pretend that it is some sort of free vote?

Senator LeBreton: I guess that overheated comment of the Leader of the Opposition indicates the difficulty that bill would have in this place.

Senator Comeau: Exactly.

Seniors

Elder Abuse

Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and it relates to her capacity as minister with responsibility for seniors.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of physical violence against seniors, particularly women. I know the minister is well aware of this fact. The government has recognized it in their advertising campaign, informing Canadians that such violence exists, and I have congratulated her on that campaign. However, an advertising campaign, in and of itself, is not enough. Much violence against seniors, unfortunately, happens at the hands of their caregivers — caregivers who are frequently untrained or frequently, unfortunately, suffering from great exhaustion. These caregivers are the family caregivers. They do not have enough respite care.

When will this government recognize its responsibility in establishing a national caregivers' strategy, as recommended unanimously by the Special Senate Committee on Aging?

(1450)

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, obviously, elder abuse is a serious issue. As the honourable senator commented, we have embarked on a massive public awareness campaign. However, the issue does not end there. We have engaged Public Safety Canada, Health Canada, the RCMP, police forces, and the provinces and territories. I participated in a meeting of the ministers responsible for seniors in Edmonton in early September where much information was given and coordination of our efforts was undertaken.

With regard to caregivers, I was at a meeting last Thursday with the National Seniors Council. We met with national organizations across the country. Obviously, the issue of caregivers is an important and looming one that all levels of government will face. I can only say to honourable senators that all levels of government are looking at ways to support and enhance the work of caregivers.

As honourable senators know, the government has undertaken measures to assist caregivers, including tax relief. Having said that, there is much work to do in this area by all levels of government.

Senator Carstairs: I have a supplementary question. I have heard this minister indicate, and I have heard other ministers indicate as well, that provinces deliver health care and, therefore, the federal government should have a hands-off approach. In reality, and this is important for all of us to understand, outside the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, this federal government delivers direct health care to more Canadians than any of the other provinces — because the federal government has responsibility for Aboriginal health, for our Armed Forces, for our veterans, and for those who live in correctional institutions.

My question to the minister with responsibility for seniors is: What is the minister doing specifically to address violence in communities, both on and off reserve, toward Aboriginal seniors?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the whole issue of elder abuse was first put on the table by the ministers responsible for seniors from the North. It was to their great credit that they did so. Elder abuse was the first issue that I asked the National Seniors Council to study. The council came up with a comprehensive report, which was released to this Parliament and led to us launching our national elder abuse awareness campaign.

With regard to specifics, there are specific programs in Veterans Affairs Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and Health Canada. The programs are all related because — the honourable senator is correct — the federal government is solely responsible for health care in those areas. Each department in this area contributes significantly. I will provide the honourable senator with a response from each and every one of the departments as to what is being done in this area of Aboriginal elder abuse.


ORDERS OF THE DAY

Canada's Economic Action Plan

Third Report—Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Comeau calling the attention of the Senate to Canada's Economic Action Plan — A Third Report to Canadians, tabled in the House of Commons on September 28, 2009, by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P., and in the Senate on September 29, 2009.

Hon. Linda Frum: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak for the first time in this place, and I do so a little cautiously and very much in awe of this chamber. I have been given an unexpected opportunity to serve my country as a senator. I feel the full weight and honour of this new duty.

Honourable senators, I rise to speak to the inquiry into Canada's Economic Action Plan A Third Report to Canadians, but I understand it is the tradition of this place that I first introduce myself.

They tell a joke in Chicago about the novice who arrives at a campaign headquarters to volunteer his services. The ward boss looks him over. "Who sent you?" he demands. "Nobody sent me," the volunteer answers. "Well, we don't want nobody nobody sent."

So let me tell you a little bit about those who sent me.

I think first of my grandmother, Florence Hirschowitz, born on a kitchen table in the Bronx before the First World War. A brilliant intellect, a voracious reader, a schoolteacher, she took a personal interest in almost everyone she met and she practiced her charity face-to-face and eye-to-eye. Millions of people spend their honeymoons in Niagara Falls. My grandmother spent 34 years of married life there, thanks to a joyous cross-border marriage with my grandfather, Harold Rosberg. Harold was a businessman and community leader, and the gallery in the Niagara Falls public library still bears his name and that of his brother Joseph.

Florence and Harold's eldest daughter, and my mother, was Barbara Frum, a name that still resonates in this country, all these years after her early death. She loved this country more than anyone I have ever known, and was at home everywhere in it, from the mines of Nova Scotia to the rainforests of the Pacific Coast.

My father Murray has played a substantial role in Canadian cultural and business life, generously, and usually invisibly, supporting some of our finest institutions. His parents, Saul and Rivke Frum, arrived in this country in 1930. That decision for Canada surely saved their lives: their parents and siblings who remained in Europe were murdered by the death apparatus of Nazi Germany, with only one survivor to tell the story of their last days.

I have a brother, David Frum, a political thinker and respected public intellectual whose independence of mind was an example to me from childhood.

You are looking at a very lucky woman to be born into such associations. I am extremely proud of each one.

Honourable senators, when I was received into this chamber on September 15 — along with eight others whom I am proud to be linked by association — it was with an oath sworn on a Bible given to me by Rabbi John Moscowitz of Holy Blossom Temple, one of the oldest congregations in Canada. The Bible was over 100 years old, its cover flaking. Rabbi Moscowitz had little information about how the Bible had found its way to the temple's library. He knew only that it was printed in Vienna, and that it came to Canada before the Holocaust, and thus had eluded the incinerators of World War II — incinerators that consumed not only so many of my own relatives, but also my husband's, for both his parents arrived in Canada only after surviving the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau.

After my swearing-in ceremony, the Bible was sent to the Senate archives of Canada. It pleases me greatly to know that there it will rest, a visible symbol of liberty, bonding persons invisible to one another over generations of time.

I grew up in Toronto, went to university in Montreal, but it was only when I spent a year crossing the country to write a guidebook to Canadian universities, at the age of 24 — and then crossing it again to promote that book — that I began to appreciate the dimensions of my home and native land. That tour was my first introduction to the surprising fact that not everybody admires Toronto — or Torontonians — as much as we admire ourselves.

I learned a few lessons the hard way. For example, while I was conducting research for my book, I interviewed students at Memorial University in St. John's, who told me that their campus was the most "amorous" in Canada, and that their pub was the most profitable. I wrote that down just the way I heard it; but then, when I came back for my book tour, nearly half the campus — or so it felt — came out to greet me in something near to a lynch mob. It was a good lesson for me — a good lesson for everyone in public life. People want to be understood the way they understand themselves. Even an exact quotation can be perceived as an attack, if that quote is wrenched from its context and intended meaning.

(1500)

In the years following, I worked as a magazine writer, a newspaper columnist, an author, and a documentary filmmaker. I thought often of the lesson those St. John's students had taught me and, if I gained any success in my profession, I owe much of the credit to them.

As a volunteer, I have dedicated time and effort to the Writers' Trust of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Soulpepper Theatre, Canada's Walk of Fame, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, the Military Families Fund, and many other causes close to my heart, including Zareinu, a Toronto school for the physically and developmentally challenged.

Thanks to my husband, Howard Sokolowski, I have gained a new appreciation of the central place of the Canadian Football League in the culture of this country. This culture is not just naked men wearing green body paint and watermelons on their heads — though, to our delight, we saw much of that at Sunday's Grey Cup match in Calgary, for which a record-setting 6.1 million Canadians tuned in to watch.

As great as that is, Canada's culture is even more than that. It is founded on practices of tolerance and ideals of freedom. It is a culture of liberty that is open to the world. It is a culture of justice and equality.

My devotion to these Canadian ideals has sharpened my concern for the erosion of personal security and religious liberty that I see on our Canadian university campuses. It is a very strange thing that in this haven for the world's persecuted, it should again be true that young Jewish men and women face the fear of physical attack if they express their identity, not in some rough street after dark, but in the public spaces of our institutions of learning. Sixty years after one attempted extermination of the Jews, some of our universities have offered their facilities to activists who urge a second try.

When students at these universities seek protection, they are usually denied. Sadly and strangely, it is their tormenters who often successfully deploy our Canadian law of human rights as a weapon against human liberty.

I am distressed by the Orwellian inversion of the meanings of such terms as "human rights." I am concerned by the abuse of quasi-judicial tribunals to harass Canadians who speak freely about these issues; and I am challenged and excited by this new opportunity as a senator to get to the bottom of things, to cast light on dark corners of our public life.

As a woman, too, my ears hear whisperings of new dangers: forced marriages, genital mutilation, and the killings of wives, sisters, and daughters in the name of some primitive conception of honour. These, too, are becoming Canadian realities.

However, it is not Canadian to tolerate injustice. It is not Canadian to submit to silencing and intimidation. Since Confederation, our soldiers have fought bravely and victoriously on battlefields half a planet away. Our men and women, under the Maple Leaf, fight the forces of fanaticism and cruelty in distant Afghanistan today. We must never dishonour them by failing to uphold, back here at home, the causes for which they made such sacrifices.

Nor should we shy, out of some false, Neville Chamberlain sense of the importance of diplomacy, from continuing to confront states that deny humane values while seeking to arm themselves with weapons of mass destruction. Yes, Western governments should always be prepared to go that extra diplomatic mile, but Canada has unique assets to offer if and when it becomes necessary to impose crippling sanctions on a nuclearizing Iran. In my opinion, that day is already upon us.

Honourable senators, I could not be prouder to have my name associated with the Harper government. The moral courage shown by our Prime Minister is a model to leaders around the world.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Frum: I applaud specific actions that have exhibited this courage: the recent walk out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN; the boycott of the Durban Conference; the suspension of aid to Hamas; the refusal to be neutral, when neutrality is a moral abdication in places like Lebanon; the Prime Minister's leadership in Afghanistan; and his work in restoring the dignity and might of the Canadian military. These actions and others like them have changed the way Canada is perceived in the world.

I hope to repay, through dedicated efforts in this chamber, some of what my family has been blessed with here in this magnificent country. My forebears embraced Canada with their whole hearts.

Now, in this time, new generations of migrants have enriched our country. I speak for a city that is almost one-half foreign born. My city has shown the world the power of the Canadian ideal. Whether born in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, or the Americas, new Torontonians have worked hard. They learned English, they mastered new trades, and they raised their children to be Canadians. They have found here opportunity and welcome. We, with the good fortune to be born here, celebrate their success and expect that they embrace Canada as their only home and Canadian values of tolerance and equality as their own.

I would like to express the great satisfaction I have found in reading the new citizenship guide, published by the Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. It articulates with a wonderful, reasonable clarity what Canada is and has been; and also, with admirable candour, what Canada is not. Small things change from generation to generation, but in a good country the big things stay the same.

Honourable senators, on the question of my own personal migration into this fine, if sometimes mysterious, chamber, I should like to express particular gratitude for the welcome shown me by my female colleagues, especially our leader Senator LeBreton, and Senators Eaton, Johnson, Wallin, Martin, Andreychuk, Nancy Ruth, Raines, Cools and Poy. Also, I wish to thank my wise and protective executive assistant, Gillian Rokosh.

Honourable senators, it is not that my male colleagues have been any less gracious, but that the path of a woman in public life is especially complicated, particularly when, as in my unusual case, she is also trying to be a good mother to three school-aged children, the youngest of whom is six. I am lucky to be of a generation that has groundbreakers to model itself upon and to look up to. Even luckier, I have the good fortune to be married to a man who has cheerfully accepted the burdens of the legislative spouse, and for that I wish to thank him here.

That returns me now, by perfect circularity of political speech, to the proposition with which I began: a promise to speak to the government's Economic Action Plan. I had better say something about that.

Given the difficulties that so many countries around the world have experienced during this global recession, these regular reports on Canada's efforts ease the impact and speed economic recovery, provide useful and well-organized information to parliamentarians and to Canadians at large. However, they provide more, and I should like to call attention to what I find most admirable in them. They provide what appears to me to be an honest account of the government's thinking and strategy, and a candid survey of the progress to date on an agenda that has never been concealed.

One item on this agenda has been Senate reform — delayed but not forgotten. I support and endorse any measures that will make the Senate a more democratic and accountable body. I look forward to working with my colleagues, both in the house and in the Senate, to advance legislation that will make this chamber more responsive and relevant.

Honourable senators, I pledge that on these issues, as well as the others I have discussed today, I will dedicate myself to hard work on behalf of the people of the province it is now my great privilege to represent.

(On motion of Senator Tkachuk, debate adjourned.)

(1510)

Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Speaker's Ruling—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ringuette, seconded by the Honourable Senator Pépin, for the second reading of Bill S-241, An Act to amend the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act (credit and debit cards).

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, on November 17, Senator Oliver rose on a point of order challenging proceedings on Bill S-241, An Act to amend the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act (credit and debit cards). He argued that the bill should be accompanied by a Royal Recommendation and should therefore not have originated in the Senate.

Senator Oliver's contention was that Bill S-241 would add an additional purpose to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act, creating a new oversight body and inevitably requiring additional resources and staff. He stated that such an expansion of purpose would have to be accompanied by a Royal Recommendation. Senator Oliver referred to a number of rulings from the other place, and his concerns were supported by Senator Comeau.

[Translation]

Senators Fraser and Tardif questioned this position. Senator Fraser noted the importance of relying on Senate precedents, suggesting that they have established that merely ancillary expenses do not prevent a bill from originating in this house. Senator Tardif, in turn, noted the importance of only addressing what is required or authorized by the specific bill under consideration. She also referred to various rulings given in the Senate.

[English]

Senators Banks and Cools also questioned whether there was a valid point of order. Senator Banks did not see how Bill S-241 mandates the creation of any new body. Instead, the new purpose would be assigned to an existing entity. Senator Cools then explained that the bill does not appropriate monies or impose taxation. As such, she did not accept that it violates the limits on bills originating in the Senate. She later identified relevant provisions of the Constitution and citations from Beauchesne.

[Translation]

For her part, the sponsor of the bill, Senator Ringuette, clarified that Bill S-241 would not create any new body. Instead, the additional purpose is to be assigned to an existing agency, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. In her defence of the bill she also referred to a past ruling given in the Senate and to Erskine May.

[English]

I wish to thank all honourable senators for their assistance with this point of order. The fundamental issue in this case has to do with the financial prerogative of the Crown. As noted at page 831 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, this means that "Under the Canadian system of government, the Crown alone initiates all public expenditure and Parliament may only authorize spending which has been recommended by the Governor General." This principle is reflected in Senate rule 81, which states that "The Senate shall not proceed upon a bill appropriating public money that has not within the knowledge of the Senate been recommended by the Queen's representative." The rule itself embodies some of the provisions contained in sections 53 and 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

[Translation]

The existing Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act has as its purpose "to ensure that financial institutions and pension plans are regulated . . . so as to contribute to public confidence in the Canadian financial system." Bill S-241 would add an additional purpose, relating to the use of credit and debit cards. This can be seen as directly relating to the act's existing purpose, since credit and debit cards are essential, indeed integral, parts of a modern financial system and the operations of financial institutions.

[English]

Bill S-241 does not contain provisions appropriating any part of the public revenue. The Superintendent of Financial Institutions already exists, supported by an office. The office is funded both by a standing appropriation and by assessments on regulated bodies. It is to this office that the new purpose would relate. It is the superintendent who would be mandated to consult with other already existing bodies.

To be clear, Bill S-241 does not mandate new hiring or other expenditures. Although the changes it proposes may impose some administrative adjustments, arguments did not establish how the new responsibility would automatically incur new public expenditures, as opposed to being accommodated within existing funding, or how any expenditures would be "new and distinct." The purpose to be added by Bill S-241 fits within the existing general roles and functions of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. In light of the available information, the ruling is, therefore, that the point of order has not been established, and debate on the motion for second reading can continue.

(On motion of Senator Oliver, debate adjourned.)

Bank of Canada Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Pépin, for the second reading of Bill S-230, An Act to amend the Bank of Canada Act (credit rating agency).

Hon. Stephen Greene: Honourable senators, the subject matter raised by Senator Grafstein in Bill S-230 is important. Unfortunately, I have yet to finalize my notes on the topic and therefore ask that the debate be adjourned in my name for the balance of my time.

(On motion of Senator Greene, debate adjourned.)

Library and Archives of Canada Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Pépin, for the second reading of Bill S-201, An Act to amend the Library and Archives of Canada Act (National Portrait Gallery).

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, the subject matter raised by Senator Grafstein on this bill is important. I have not yet completed my speech on the matter, and I therefore ask that the debate be adjourned in my name for the balance of my time.

The Hon. the Speaker: As a procedural matter, I did not hear the table call the item, but we will assume that it has been called.

Is it agreed item 21 has been called? Senator Tkachuk is moving the adjournment of the debate for the balance of his time.

We ought not to have debate on a motion to return, but I want to give Senator Grafstein a chance. I have yet to put that question.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: I want to call the vote on this question.

The Hon. the Speaker: We will have to stay with the principal motion, which was a motion to adjourn.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Hon. the Speaker: Carried, on division.

And two honourable senators having risen:

The Hon. the Speaker: Will the whips advise as to the time of the bell?

Senator Stratton: One hour.

Senator Munson: An hour is fine.

The Hon. the Speaker: One-hour bell.

Honourable senators, the vote will take place at 4:20 p.m.

Call in the senators.

(1620)

Motion negatived on the following division:

YEAS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Andreychuk Manning
Angus Mockler
Brazeau Nancy Ruth
Brown Neufeld
Carignan Nolin
Cochrane Ogilvie
Comeau Oliver
Di Nino Patterson
Eaton Plett
Finley Raine
Fortin-Duplessis Rivard
Frum Segal
Gerstein Seidman
Greene St. Germain
Housakos Stewart Olsen
Keon Stratton
Lang Tkachuk
LeBreton Wallace
MacDonald Wallin—38

NAYS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Callbeck Lovelace Nicholas
Campbell Mahovlich
Carstairs Massicotte
Cordy McCoy
Cowan Mercer
Dallaire Merchant
Dawson Milne
Day Mitchell
Downe Munson
Dyck Murray
Eggleton Pépin
Fairbairn Peterson
Fox Poulin
Fraser Poy
Furey Ringuette
Grafstein Robichaud
Harb Rompkey
Hervieux-Payette Smith
Hubley Stollery
Jaffer Tardif
Joyal Watt
Losier-Cool Zimmer—44

ABSTENTIONS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Nil

The Hon. the Speaker: Accordingly, the motion is defeated.

On debate.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I would like to conclude the debate, if I may.

Honourable senators, this issue has been before the Senate —

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, if Senator Grafstein speaks, it will have the effect of closing the debate.

Senator Grafstein: Honourable senators, I will be mercifully brief. I want to commend my honourable colleague Senator Joyal, who has joined me for these last seven years to bring this matter before Parliament and before the Canadian public, that is, the establishment of a national portrait gallery across the street. The plans are complete and a contest has been waged to complete the plans. The building has been emptied. A national archives treasure awaits exhibition. In this way, we will open up a storehouse of treasures to the Canadian public. The one million or so people who come to Parliament Hill every year would be able to walk across the street and view these unbelievable treasures, not only paintings but also photographs, including the great collection of photographs of Yousuf Karsh, and paintings of Canadian leaders, politicians, business people, artists, explorers and military heroes. All of this would be exhibited across the street. I urge your support of this bill at second reading.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Those in favour of the motion will signify by saying "yea."

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Hon. the Speaker: Those opposed will signify by saying "nay."

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Hon. the Speaker: Carried, on division.

(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)

Referred to Committee

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, to be fair to the other side, I move that this matter be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in order that a fulsome debate can take place on the facts underlying this project. I urge your commendations.

(On motion of Senator Grafstein, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.)

[Translation]

Citizenship Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded by the Honourable Senator Brown, for the second reading of Bill S-225, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (oath of citizenship).

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, it is day 15 for this important bill. I am currently doing some research on its content and impact. Senator Segal is aware that we will proceed with this bill at some point.

For the time being, I would like to adjourn debate for the remainder of my time.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

(1630)

[English]

Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Budget and Authorization to Engage Services and Travel—Study on Current State and Future of Energy Sector—Thirteenth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the thirteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (budget—study on the energy sector— power to hire staff and travel), presented in the Senate on November 26, 2009.

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I move the motion standing in my name.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Mahovlich, that the thirteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources be adopted.

Senator Mitchell, do you wish to speak?

Senator Mitchell: I call the question.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Budget—Study on Current Social Issues of Large Cities—Eleventh Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the eleventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (budget—release of additional funds (study on current social issues pertaining to Canada's largest cities)), presented in the Senate on November 26, 2009.

Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I move the adoption of the motion to adopt the report, which is in my name.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Eggleton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Smith, that the eleventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, presented in the Senate on November 26, 2009, be adopted now.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament

Second Report of Committee—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion by the Honourable Senator Oliver, seconded by the Honourable Senator Brown, for the adoption of the second report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament (amendments to the Rules of the Senate— reinstatement of bills from the previous session of the same Parliament), presented in the Senate on March 11, 2009.

Hon. John D. Wallace: Honourable senators, the subject matter raised by the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament in this matter is very important to the operation of this place. I have yet to finalize my notes on the matter and ask that debate be adjourned in my name for the balance of my time.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Wallace, seconded by the Honourable Senator Rivard, that further debate be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate, under Senator Wallace's name, for the remainder of his time.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(On motion of Senator Wallace, debate adjourned.)

Iran

Motion to Support Democratic Aspirations of the Iranian People—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Day:

That,

(a) Canada supports the democratic aspirations of the people of Iran;

(b) Canada condemns the use of violence and force by Iranian authorities against their own people to suppress pro-democracy demonstrations following the Iranian presidential elections of June 12, 2009;

(c) Canada condemns the use of torture by Iranian authorities;

(d) Canada calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners held in Iran;

(e) Canada calls on Iran to fully respect all of its human rights obligations, both in law and in practice;

(f) Canada condemns Iran's complete disregard for legally binding UN Security Council Resolutions 1696, 1737, 1747, and 1803 and International Atomic Energy Agency requirements;

(g) Canada affirms its opposition to nuclear proliferation and condemns any pursuit by Iran of nuclear weapons capability;

(h) Canada recommends to international organizations of which it is a member that a new set of targeted sanctions be implemented against Iran, in concert with allies, unless Iran comes into compliance with its human rights and nuclear obligations in law and in practice.

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Senator Grafstein's motion to support the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. First, I wish to begin by commending our honourable colleague for introducing this motion, which I support.

The issue of freedom and human rights in Iran needs to be illuminated and more must be done to support the people of Iran in their assertion for the rights and democratic aspirations. A large part of what makes a democracy so great is freedom of choice. We in Canada and, indeed, the world, are free to choose what religion to follow, for example, and perhaps more importantly, we are free to practice it without the fear of state reprisals. This is not the case in Iran.

Honourable senators, Iran is one of those states, as Senator Frum stated earlier in her excellent speech that must be confronted for its denial of human value.

As a 2003 International Freedom for Human Rights report notes, the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on two principles:

The first principle is that divine law is the unique source of legitimacy and political authority. The second one is that, while waiting for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam, the depository and unique interpreter of divine law is the Spiritual Leader2. Together, these two principles form what is known as the concept of "Velayate Faghih" or "spiritual leadership" — the cornerstone of the Islamic Republic of Iran — according to which religious jurisprudence, best expressed through the Spiritual Leader, is given control over all aspects of civil and political society.

The legal framework that has been derived from the spiritual leadership identifies Islam as the official state religion. While the Iranian Constitution does recognize three religious minorities, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians, it also, in effect, renders followers of these religions second-class citizens. For believers of faith not recognized, such as the Bahá'ís, the law offers no protection whatsoever. Such followers are essentially non-persons in the eyes of the law and are unable to own or inherit property, practice their faith, rent property such as in cemeteries, and are regularly discriminated against.

Both the penal code and civil code in Iran discriminate against non-Muslims who are often given harsher penalties when convicted of crimes. Non-Muslims are prevented from seeking converts among the Muslim population and are effectively prevented from much religious expression under the pretenses of this measure.

This discrimination extends even to other Muslims, as a 2008 United States Congressional Research Service Report notes. I quote:

Iran's Sunni population, which includes Kurds and Baluchis, complain there is not a single Sunni mosque in the country (the authorities reportedly blocked one from recently being built in Tehran) and the government has barred public displays of Sunni religion and culture.

Access to education, employment and pensions is dependent on religious choice in Iran and, to varying degrees, the estimated 1.4 million followers of other faiths — 2 per cent of the total population — and 6 million Sunni Muslims — 9 per cent of the population — do not have equal rights and freedoms. Such blatant and institutional discrimination is a means of social control. As many of the accounts documented in the U.S. Department of State 2009 International Religious Freedom Report suggests:

Such discrimination appears to have political motivations, such as when seven Baha'i community leaders were arrested and detained in early 2008. They were accused of espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic. In May 2009, nearly a year later, they were publicly condemned by state-run media of spreading corruption on earth, which is punishable by death.

Their attorney was not given access to the accused and was himself arrested without a warrant days after the June election and was held for 72 days in prison, 17 of which were in solitary confinement.

As well, to continue quoting:

In February of this year, when the place of worship for the Gonabadi dervishes at Takht-e Foulad cemetery in Isfahan was destroyed by authorities, who then arrested all Sufis present, confiscating cellphones and destroying all Sufi publications on site.

To continue with another incident:

Or in July 2008, when an Arabian Christian couple were injured so badly from a raid on their home by plain clothed security officers that both died, the local Christian community was prohibited by the authorities to even hold a memorial service.

Honourable senators, it is evident that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran confuses the practice of other religions with politics and for that reason, I suggest an additional recommendation be included in Senator Grafstein's motion to also cover the issue of religious discrimination. I informed Senator Grafstein that I would be doing this, so I hope it is not a surprise.

Motion in Amendment

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Therefore, honourable senators, I propose that the motion be amended by adding a new recommendation:

(i) Canada condemns the use of discrimination, both religious and ethnic, as a means of suppressing the population of Iran.

I urge honourable senators to support the amended motion.

(1640)

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I want to thank the honourable senator for his support of this resolution. I agree wholeheartedly with his amendment. It strengthens this particular resolution.

I also want to commend my honourable friend. He has been a colleague of mine at the OSCE where he has shown great leadership. His fight for human rights and his speech today are examples of the reputation he is developing for himself and for Canada in 56 countries, from Vladivostok to Vancouver.

If no one else wants to speak on this amendment to the motion, I have only a few brief comments to conclude the debate.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Further debate on the amendment?

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Senator Jaffer has indicated her desire to speak on this bill. I would like to take the adjournment in her name.

(On motion of Senator Tardif, for Senator Jaffer, debate adjourned.)

[Translation]

The Senate

Motion to Urge the Preservation of Canadian Heritage Artifacts—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Grafstein:

That,

Whereas works of art and historical objects, including silver baskets offered as wedding gifts to the Duke of York (who later became King George V), as well as a porcelain set decorated with war scenes by the Canadian Maritime artist Alice Hagen, kept at the Governor General's residence at Rideau Hall but shelved during the last few years, have recently been sold online through the Department of Public Works;

Whereas there does not seem to be any adequate policy regarding the status and management of works of art and historic objects previously at Rideau Hall;

Whereas there is an urgent need to prevent the scattering of other such items without any regard to their historical character or the protection of Canadian heritage,

It is moved that this chamber:

  • deplore that decorative items related to Canada's history, and in the past to Rideau Hall, were sold publicly without any regard to their special importance to Canadian heritage;
     
  • express its surprise that no heritage management policy at Rideau Hall prevents such scatterings;
     
  • demand that the contents of rooms reserved for official functions at Rideau Hall be subsequently managed by an authority at arm's length from the building's occupants in order to preserve their historical character;
     
  • that the National Capital Commission carefully manage the art and artifacts previously in use at Rideau Hall; and
     
  • that surplus moveable art or decorative works of art be offered first to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Library and Archives Canada or Canadian museums recognized for their role and mandate in preserving and promoting our country's historical heritage.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, given that Senator Andreychuk is not here at this time, I move adjournment of the debate in her name for the remainder of her time.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, for Senator Andreychuk, debate adjourned)

[English]

Contraband Tobacco in Canada

Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Hugh Segal rose pursuant to notice of November 18, 2009:

That he will call the attention of the Senate to the seriousness of the problem posed by contraband tobacco in Canada, including the grave ramifications of the illegal sale of these products to young people, the detrimental effects on legitimate small businesses and the threat on the livelihoods of hardworking convenience store owners, and the ability of law enforcement agencies to combat those who are responsible for this illegal trade throughout Canada.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to discuss a matter receiving much media coverage, but for which no one seems to propose a solution or method of minimizing the criminality and all of its insidious and damaging side effects. I am speaking of the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of illegal contraband tobacco.

This is not a new problem. In the early 1990s, the sale of contraband tobacco became such an issue for government and law enforcement that the only possible solution, according to the "powers that were," was an immediate and substantial decrease in taxation of tobacco products. I did not agree at the time with this attempt to stem the flow of contraband and to ease the burdens on our policing and justice system as a method of curtailing criminal conduct.

It is now 15 years later and the problem is worse than ever. Knuckling under to criminals is never the right answer.

Earlier this month, the Toronto Star did a three-part series dedicated to the problem and reported some astonishing facts that shone a light on how pervasive, dangerous and damaging smuggling is to our economy, to our provincial and federal administration of justice, and to efforts to reduce youth smoking. It also highlighted the spinoff benefits to criminal elements that have access to much extra cash in hand. The bottom line, as with most criminal activity, is the "follow the money" proposition. The article in the Toronto Star also reported one kingpin as claiming that he makes $250,000 cash per week and a simple courier transporting the cigarettes to smoke shacks on reserves pockets up to $6,000 cash per week.

Those who buy unlicensed and untaxed tobacco products do not do so purposely to finance the purchase of firearms or the trafficking of human beings. However, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy in 2008:

. . . there are approximately 105 organized crime groups currently engaged in the contraband tobacco trade in Canada. The enormous profit margins generated through the sale of contraband tobacco help provide these groups with cash flow to support other illegal activities. Two-thirds of the groups engaged in contraband tobacco are also involved in drug trafficking (mainly cannabis and cocaine), arms trafficking, counterfeit cash, money-laundering and human smuggling.

The RCMP document went on to say:

The current system of manufacturing, distributing and selling contraband tobacco involves organized crime networks exploiting aboriginal communities and the politically sensitive relationship between these communities and the different levels of government and enforcement agencies, as well as counterfeit tobacco products arriving in Canada mainly from China.

Perhaps more frightening is a recent report entitled Time to Revisit "Sin-Tax Failure" from the Mackenzie Institute in Toronto. It pointed out how contraband trafficking is, in some cases, funding terrorist activities. It references cases in the United States where members of Hezbollah and al Qaeda have been involved with contraband trafficking.

On November 14, the Toronto Star reported that in 2008, the RCMP seized 1,079,529 cartons of contraband cigarettes, 73 per cent higher than in 2007 when 625,659 cartons were seized. A study for the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council found that illegal cigarette purchases in Ontario have climbed to 46.8 per cent, followed by Quebec with 40.1 per cent. In a separate investigation, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco collected 19,770 cigarette butts by hand near 110 high schools and discovered that 30 per cent were illegal. The coalition was launched by the Canadian Convenience Store Association, whose members each lose an average of $115,000 in sales annually due to illegal cigarettes. It analyzed 14,064 butts from 75 Quebec high schools and concluded that 45 per cent were contraband.

On November 30, La Presse reported as follows:

[Translation]

According to RCMP investigators, about one hundred criminal organizations in Canada use contraband cigarettes to launder funds or increase their revenues. Hells Angels are the best-known group on this long list. These groups also use money from the sale of contraband cigarettes to buy guns or to maintain prostitution rings. Since 2001, seizures of contraband cigarettes by the RCMP have jumped by 2,100 per cent. In 2008, the RCMP seized a record number of cigarettes, more than one million cartons.

(1650)

[English]

Honourable senators, as it stands, nearly one in two cigarettes smoked in Ontario is illegal. Aside from the real threat to our young people who can gain, and are gaining, access to tobacco products at a low price they can afford, with all the associated health concerns that can become a lifelong plague, this criminal activity robs provincial and federal taxpayers of more than $2 billion annually.

This is money all of us and our fellow taxpayers, federally and provincially, desperately need for education, health care, social service programs, food bank assistance and, most definitely, anti-smoking education and advertising campaigns to lessen the possibility of more and more people becoming addicted to a life-threatening habit. On top of the $2 billion lost in revenue, the federal and provincial governments have the added burden of the costs of policing, forcing authorities to divert precious human and financial resources to capturing and prosecuting traffickers.

Lawlessness — deliberate, exploitive, open and profitable — is not less important because it happens on our First Nations territory. Lawlessness that builds cancer into the lives of hundreds of thousands, flouts both our borders and our Criminal Code and steals taxes from working Canadians every day, everywhere is not less important because some among our First Nations citizens are, with others, deeply involved.

No community is above the law. No community must be allowed to be beyond the reach of the peace officers and law officers of the Crown. No one wants violence or loss of life, but letting the implicit threat of violence and loss of life dilute the enforcement of the law is a dangerous precedent none amongst us or among our fellow citizens can ever afford to countenance. If we do, we replace the rule of law by the rule of intimidation.

Attempts have been made to target the problem. In Budget 2006, the federal government, to its credit, allocated funding for 1,000 more RCMP officers and federal prosecutors to focus on such law enforcement priorities as drugs, corruption and border security. In total, 71 new positions were allocated to the RCMP customs and excise program, with these resources focused on combating tobacco smuggling.

In 2008, a contraband tobacco enforcement strategy that was launched by the government also committed to increasing enforcement capacity through the anti-smuggling initiative. The enforcement component of this initiative allocates new resources to the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency to intensify efforts along the Canada-U.S. border and in high-risk areas across the country. However, as of yet, the quantum of illegal cigarettes continues to increase and the threats posed by that criminal activity bring the real possibility of violence, injury or worse for both sides of the battle.

Honourable senators, different groups have come forward with possible recommendations to combat the problem, and I will put some of these recommendations on the record for your consideration.

First, prohibit the supply of raw materials, including raw leaf tobacco, cigarette packaging, filters and rolling paper to anyone without a valid tobacco manufacturers licence.

Second, promote with First Nations the benefits of having a native tobacco tax equal to the provincial one.

Third, increase penalties substantially to deter would-be smugglers and manufacturers.

Fourth, accelerate the ability of First Nations to impose their own tobacco taxes if those tax levels do not undermine the tobacco tax structure in Canadian jurisdictions.

Finally, appoint a high-level envoy to serve as a broker between Aboriginal leadership and interested stakeholders and to play a pivotal role in bringing this problem to the attention of key U.S. decision makers in both the federal and New York state governments and seeking their support for effective solutions.

Honourable senators, some or all of these suggestions have been brought forward and are endorsed by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, the Canadian Coalition for Action on Tobacco and the Non-Smokers' Rights Association; groups who normally would not work together. While the end goals of the individual groups are not in any way similar, the process is the same: to take every measure possible to stem the manufacture, distribution and illegal sale of tobacco products.

I believe it is time to bring together all the interested parties and stakeholders, gather all the information available on the subject and hear from all sides of the issue, including law enforcement, in an attempt to make headway on a problem that seems to have everyone stumped. I know there are honourable senators in this chamber, regardless of party affiliation, who are equally concerned with this issue, and I urge honourable senators to spend a moment to speak to this notice of inquiry and put their own perspectives on the record.

Honourable senators, the value of the Senate may be in question on occasion, but there is one thing that members of this chamber are able to do, and for which they have been praised — detailed Senate reports on issues ranging from foreign affairs and mental health to social programs. I urge honourable senators to take part in this debate and should it be the will of this chamber, move an inquiry in a more formal fashion.

A Senate study on this issue, hearing from witnesses ranging from law enforcement, government representatives and Aboriginal leaders — affected parties — will bring forward realistic and implementable recommendations. The Senate of Canada is in the best of all positions to hold and manage such a study on a level not feasible at this point in time in the other place.

I ask honourable senators this afternoon to consider the merits of such a study, consider the notice of inquiry and research for themselves the astounding numbers and spinoff side effects of this pervasive and socially destructive challenge to civil authority and democracy in this country.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there continuing debate?

Hon. Pamela Wallin: Will Senator Segal take a question?

Senator Segal: I will be delighted to.

Senator Wallin: The honourable senator used the figure of $2 billion in lost tax revenue. In his research, was he able to define the larger number that might include the smoking-related health care costs and also the cost of policing, or whether separate numbers are attached to these costs? There is still a cost to enforcement even if that enforcement is lax.

Senator Segal: Honourable senators, I do not have that specific broad global number. However, if honourable senators assume that a fixed percentage of those people who end up in hospital with cancers directly related to smoking are a direct drain to our health care system as a cost base, and that when the police are dealing with this issue they are not dealing with other issues, my own sense is that the $2 billion number is a tiny fraction of what this particular area of non-enforcement of the law costs us.

I recall the debates when Mr. Chrétien was Prime Minister. There was a concern that if we sent the police into communities adjacent to the border where they would have three cigarette plants, one of which was licensed and the other two were not, it is unclear what kind of armed resistance might be found. The police, justifiably, were concerned about loss of life from innocent citizens and from their own serving members.

The decision was made to slash the taxes so that the incentive for smuggling would dissipate. It did have that effect; but as often is the case with solutions that appear simple at the time, there are perverse outcomes that are not so constructive. The price of cigarettes to young girls in high school collapsed, which meant they could afford to buy cigarettes, which they could not afford to buy unless they had access to the smuggled variety.

In the reports we saw in the Le Journal de Montreal this weekend, for example, it was pointed out that there are now a series of flavoured cigarettes of the kind this chamber banned in Bill C-32 available on many reserves across Canada and that are being distributed on school property illegally. The truth of the matter is that no one has an enforcement answer to that problem, as we speak.

I believe we have to look at the cost of non-enforcement and compare it to the real cost of enforcement. As I said in my formal comments, no one wants any loss of life over this issue, but the law is the law. The notion that we make the decision not to observe parts of it because it is inconvenient or unduly risky sets a precedent.

If we do not observe the law with respect to tobacco, why would we observe it with respect to alcohol? If we do not observe it with respect to alcohol, why would we not stand back and decide not enforce it with respect to immigration? Where does that line take us?

We are dealing with our kids, who are the victims here. Specifically, when Prime Minister Harper made a compelling commitment on stopping these flavoured products from being made available to kids through Bill C-32, there was bipartisan support from all three parties in the other house. Now, because we are not prepared to enforce the real law, those same kids are exposed to the precise danger that the government —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I am sorry, Senator Segal. Your time has expired.

Is there continuing debate?

(On motion of Senator Tkachuk, debate adjourned.)

(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, December 2, 2009, at 1:30 p.m.)