Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 36th Parliament,
Volume 137, Issue 154
Wednesday, September 8, 1999
The Honourable Gildas L. Molgat, Speaker
Table of Contents
Wednesday, September 8, 1999
The Senate met at 2:00 p.m., the Speaker in the Chair.
The Late Honourable Paul Lucier
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, in the early years of this century, the great poet and
writer Robert Service wrote rhymes in charcoal letters on coarse rolls of
newspaper which he pinned to his cabin wall. This wonderful poet, novelist and
chronicler of the Yukon Territory captured the heart and soul of the land he
One of Service's famous "Yukonisms," as he put it, was penned in only
five words. "The North has got him," he wrote.
When the young Paul Lucier first went to Whitehorse in 1949 from LaSalle,
Ontario, he worked on the largest sternwheeler to ply the mighty Yukon River,
the S.S. Klondike, now beautifully restored to its original proud
stature. He went on to become a fire-fighter, an ambulance driver, a mechanic,
a bus driver, a lover of amateur sports, a boxing instructor, and, later, the
mayor of Whitehorse.
During a long and devoted service to the Senate of Canada, Paul remained always
a man of the people and for the people. He much preferred the common sense
coffee shop talk of ordinary Canadians to the sometimes rhetorical
remonstrances of those in the so-called higher echelons of political life. Paul
had a way of cutting through the rhetoric with his razor-sharp mind, and he
could reduce even the most complex subjects to the simplest possible terms.
Throughout all the diverse occupations and volunteer activities that Paul
undertook, throughout all the lengthy years of conviction and principle which
he brought to the Senate of Canada, the people of this country, and that
wonderful territory, there was one overriding force which shaped his remarkable
Robert Service said it best, because he knew the feeling better than any other:
The North got him. The North shaped his vision. The North was the engine of his
strength. The North emboldened his courageous heart.
Paul knew the way of the canoe and the freedom and call of the wild. He knew
the wonder of vast distances, the excitement of adventure, and the splendid
vast migration of the caribou from the Porcupine herd in the northern Yukon. He
understood the power of solitude at the northern end of the world. He knew the
joy of spring flowers, bursting through the melting snow, bringing their
brilliant colour and infectious spirit to a recently frozen landscape. How well
he spoke of it, of the big, unspoiled, majestic country of treeless land and
24-hour sunlight. How often he spoke of the tundra, and the small communities,
of the vision and the spirit of its wonderful people, of their future, of their
hopes and their dreams. How well he spoke, not only of what the Yukon was, but
what it would become.
Paul understood better than most of us that the North is our greatest
challenge, our greatest adventure as a people. He understood that what happens
in the North and to its people will tell us much about our collective will as a
nation. He knew that what happens to the North will tell us much about the kind
of people that we are. Resolutely and passionately, Paul brought his
experience and knowledge to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
In his final years, Senator Paul Lucier taught a lot of us about courage. In
fact, for his many friends and colleagues, his very life became the epitome of
that word - a word which to me is one of the finest in the English language or
in any language.
On July 29, in the company of His Honour Speaker Molgat and several other
honourable senators, I visited Whitehorse to speak at a memorial service in
honour of our old friend and colleague. At that service, we learned much more
about our modest, courageous friend, the impact he had, and the imprint he
left on the people of the Yukon. One of our newest colleagues, Senator Ione
Christensen, spoke movingly about Paul and his incredible influence on the city
and on the territory.
In the two weeks before that celebration of Paul's fascinating life, the world
watched as a very special American took Paris in the grand prix of cycling. I
thought at the time of grand prix champion Lance Armstrong's thoughts about
courage because I had never heard anyone express it better. On being pressed
again and again about how he could perform at such a high level in the
venerated Tour de France, after his monumental struggle with a particularly
aggressive form of cancer, the 27-year-old Texan responded, "You have to
believe in yourself. You have to fight. You have to hold the line."
Believe, fight, hold the line - Paul Lucier did that every day over the last
few difficult years, returning to his work here in the Senate of Canada with
enormous fortitude, in between treatments. He remained always, in spite of his
illness, a decent, fair-minded Canadian with a fighting spirit, and an
honourable and principled parliamentarian until the end.
I think many of us will always remember him as part of that land that he so
this land hidden in wonder and snow or sudden with summer this land staring
at the sun in a huge silence.
Those words were written by the lawyer-poet Frank Scott over three decades ago.
We will think of a noble Canadian who found no mountain and no river too hard
to cross. We will think of a land of magic and mystery, and we will think of a
man who personified its strength. Yes, the North got him, and, yes, he, Senator
Paul Lucier, will belong to the North forever.
To his wife, Grace, to his children, Edward, Frances and Tom, to his extended
family and friends, I join with all honourable senators in an expression of the
deepest and most profound sympathy on the occasion of the death of this truly
Hon. C. William Doody: Honourable senators, I rise today to add
a few words to those of my colleagues in offering tribute to the memory of our
late friend Paul Lucier.
Paul was called to the Senate in 1975, just a few years before I arrived here.
He was a very active senator, full of energy and involved in every facet of
Senate activities. He was a very personable man, quick to laugh, easy to like.
Some years ago, Paul and I were both members of the CPA delegation to India. I
got to know him pretty well during that week or 10 days, and I was fascinated
to watch him absorb the culture and study the problems of governing that
complex country. He was a joy to know.
He was a passionate advocate of Canada's North, and never missed an opportunity
to explain to any who were interested what a truly wonderful part of the world
he represented. Although he was not born in the Yukon, he quickly came to love
that incredibly beautiful part of our country. He was an ardent and articulate
spokesman for his adopted home.
I came to know Paul Lucier pretty well during our years of service in this
place, and I developed a high regard for his honesty, his integrity and his
dedication. He will be missed in the Senate of Canada and, I am sure, in the
I should like to offer my condolences to the members of his family and to his
multitude of friends.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Deputy Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, when I learned of the passing of Paul Lucier, and knowing
that he was living at that time in Penticton, I called His Honour the Speaker
and I indicated that, while I knew the major service would be held in
Whitehorse, I wanted the Senate to be represented in Penticton. I, therefore,
went to Penticton, and I was joined by Senator Fitzpatrick, where the first of
a number of services were held in memory of the late Senator Paul Lucier.
Paul was in Penticton because palliative care could not be found for him in
Vancouver where he was receiving the majority of his treatments. He had a
summer cottage in Penticton, where some of his family lived, and so he went to
a palliative care centre in Penticton, which is where he lived the last few
weeks of his life.
It was a traditional funeral service in a Catholic church where we do not
usually eulogize the person. He was eulogized, though, because there was a
reception following the service. I wanted to explain to the senators here, and
to all of his former colleagues, what a joyous sense there was in this
reception as we celebrated the life of Paul Lucier.
The room was decorated with a series of pictures. Some of them were snapshots
of Paul and some of them were more formal pictures, but the picture of honour
in this room was a picture of this chamber and his colleagues. Everyone who
entered immediately saw that this Senate chamber had been such an important
part of Paul Lucier's life.
Like all of you, I knew Paul as a man with an easy-going sense of humour, a man
with a joy for living, and I knew of his deep feelings for the North. However,
I did not know Paul Lucier, the jokester. This aspect of his life was so
central to the conversations that went on in the room and the remarks that
people made, that I want to share one story with you, honourable senators.
There was a picture of Paul holding a large fish that was estimated to weigh
about 35 pounds. Paul was clearly holding this fish as if he had caught it.
However, the story that was told at the reception was that not only had Paul
not caught this fish but it had been caught by a nephew. Paul had demanded that
his picture be taken holding this fish, but once the picture had been taken,
he dumped it back into the lake so that the nephew never did get a picture of
himself holding it.
Everyone in the room who knew Paul and knew him to be a jokester thought this
was wonderful, including the nephew, who told the story and said that even he
thought it was funny though he did not get his picture taken.
I will remember those few moments spent with that family forever because,
although I had admired and respected Paul, I got to know the real Paul at that
reception. I only wish I had been able to know him a little better while he was
still with us.
Hon. Jack Austin: Honourable senators, I want to add a few
words to the comments of Senators Graham, Doody and Carstairs with respect to
our friend Senator Paul Lucier.
Senator Paul Lucier and I met in Whitehorse in September of 1975. At that time,
I was a new senator who was pursuing an old interest in the Yukon, where I had
been called to the bar in 1966. I heard a great deal about Paul on that
particular trip. He was the mayor of Whitehorse and he had a reputation as an
outstanding administrator and a person with a pervasive knowledge of
everything that happened in the Yukon. I gave him a call. We chatted about
mining in the Yukon, which was one of our joint interests, life in the native
communities, and the prospect for resolving native land claims.
Paul decided that I needed a real Yukon experience, so he took me fishing. His
son Ed, who had just become a pilot, flew us in a small plane to a lake some
distance from Whitehorse. The fishing was marvellous. I cannot remember the
name of the lake, but in my mind it has always been "Lake Lucier."
Over the years since, we had great conversations. I discovered that Paul was an
exciting person who possessed a shrewd judgement about human nature. I think my
colleagues in the Liberal caucus came to see Paul as the quickest read of
anyone in the caucus as to where an argument might be going. He was very quick
to call the shots when he disagreed with a particular argument.
During his years in the Senate, Paul was a partisan for the Yukon. He worked
very hard on the development of the native claim settlement process and other
legislation dealing with the economy of the Yukon. However, he was also a
pan-Canadian. Paul never forgot his Franco-Ontarian roots in that marvellous
hotbed of political growth, namely, the Windsor area of Ontario. He had a
vision about Canada that was truly an ideal for what Canadians should believe
in when they come to believe in their country.
I always thought that Paul would have made a great member of Parliament from
the Yukon. By "member of Parliament," I mean a member of the other
place. Paul's career coincided with the years of the Honourable Eriq Nielsen,
and then with the years of Audrey McLaughlin. We were fortunate to have Paul in
our chamber and to have his contribution here.
Before I left for China in the third week of July, I spoke to Ed Lucier to see
how Paul was faring. I was not surprised when I heard, while I was in China,
that Paul had died. I am very sorry that I was unable to attend the funeral,
but I send my respects and regrets to his family, Grace and the children.
Hon. Ione Christensen: Honourable senators, I am honoured to be
able to stand as the representative of the Yukon and to address my words of
condolence to the family of Senator Paul Lucier.
While Paul's health in the past years did not allow him to be as visible at
home in the Yukon as he would have liked, he always kept in close touch with
people there, as I quickly learned from the numerous phone calls that I
received two days before I came down here.
Paul was a fierce advocate in this place with respect to all matters that
concerned the Yukon. It was evident from the numerous comments that I have
heard and received in the last two days that he was both loved and deeply
respected by the members of this place.
I certainly have very big shoes to fill.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, the North,
the mysterious, inviting, inhibiting true North, aligns Canada as no other
tangible or intangible bond. Our dearly departed friend Paul Lucier was born in
Ontario and chose to settle in the North, in the Yukon, while still in his
As the North defined Paul, so Paul helped define the North. Roustabout, sailor,
trucker, boxer, inveterate card player, coach, mechanic, fire-fighter,
ambulance driver, gun collector, hunter, wilderness guide, fisherman,
politician, small businessman, Paul was a skilled jack of all trades. Almost of
his life, he worked with his hands and his brain and, in the process, developed
a simply marvellous rapport with working people - a rapport in which he had
A while ago, I travelled to the Yukon with several parliamentarians of both
Houses. We stopped at a high lookout. Far below was a small, shimmering,
diamond-like lake, and beyond, vast snow-capped vistas that stretched for miles
in all directions. The air was crisp, cool, clean and invigorating. I asked
one colleague, a member of the Bloc Québécois, as we stood there
gaping at the beauty of the geography: "All this is yours and mine. Why
would you want to give it up?" He turned to me in deep reflection and said
quietly, "I am not sure we do."
The North defines all of us in ways that we cannot imagine. For me, Paul
exemplified the best pioneering spirit of Canadians who choose to live and work
in the North. Paul was cocky, confident, tough, humorous, quick and
self-sufficient, with a marvellous smile and an outrageous sense of humour.
I first met Paul in 1966, when I visited Whitehorse during an infamous national
election campaign. Even then, you sensed that he was on the way up politically.
As we strolled through town, there was not anyone who did not stop and say "Hello"
and ask for a joke or for his advice about some matter, large or small. Who
can forget Paul's dazzling smile, his chuckles, his quiet partisanship, his
loyalty to friends and liberal ideas, which were self-evident and exemplary.
Paul was born and brought up in a French home in Ontario, and educated in a
totally French environment. Yet, he had no time for French nationalists. He
vitriolically opposed in this chamber, and elsewhere, Meech Lake. He felt Meech
would not unite the country but divide it. He was, honourable senators, the
first senator appointed to the Yukon, and he fought hard to gain recognition
for aboriginal land claims in the North and elsewhere. It was only right,
according to Paul. It was only fair.
Paul remained a fighter to the very end. He fought his illness with courage and
quiet valour until finally it conquered him. He sat there just a few seats
away, when he came back from time to time. He would always throw me an
irreverent one-liner which never failed to break me up, even in the most solemn
moments of this chamber.
Paul had a zest for life and a zest for living. He never complained, even when
his eyes betrayed the pain that he was suffering. I was privileged, as many of
us were, to call him a friend.
I extend to his wife, Grace, and his family and friends too numerous to
mention, our deepest condolences.
I conclude with a paragraph from a poem written long ago by English writer
Stephen Spender entitled "The Truly Great":
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields, See how these names are fêted
by the waving grass And by the streamers of white cloud And whispers of wind in
the listening sky. The names of those who in their lives fought for life, Who
wore at their hearts the fire's centre. Born of the sun, they travelled a short
while toward the sun And left the vivid air signed with their honour.
When Paul left this world, he left the air vivid with his honour.
Honourable senators, the surname Lucier is French, originating from the Latin
word lucere which means "to shine brightly." Paul's plucky
memory will ever shine brightly for all those who had the privilege to know
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I would like to say
a few words in memory of someone who was a very early friend of mine when I
came to this chamber. He became one of my closest colleagues and friends over
the last 15 years.
When I first came to this place, Paul and I had offices across the hall from
each other on the fifth floor. From the very beginning, he held out his hand to
me in a way that was of great comfort. Others may think this is an easy place
to enter, but each of us here knows that, upon first arriving, this place is at
the very least confusing and, at the most, I suppose, a joy.
I came to know this gentleman from the Yukon as being very real. He had fierce
principles, no pretension, a great sense of humour. When people talk about
someone being a "fine person," Paul Lucier personified that
He valued fairness and compassion for people above politics, above Parliament,
above all. That value motivated his personal life. It motivated his work here
at the Senate, and it certainly was at the heart of his determination to
represent his beautiful territory and all those who live there. He most
particularly wanted to represent aboriginal Canadians. Whether they were
residents of the Yukon or any other place in Canada, he sought to defend their
hopes and aspirations.
Honourable senators, I also attended the service in Whitehorse. Although the
occasion was very sad, I was glad to be there because I saw Paul's life in a
context in which most of us have never seen him. I saw where he lived, among
his mountains, along that river. The service was held in a community hall with
a window looking out on the beautiful scenery, and it was truly a celebration.
As Senator Graham has said, it was a time when one appreciated the effect that
a person of such humanity and quality had upon the people he served. We also
saw the strength that he had drawn from them.
To paraphrase Senator Lynch-Staunton as he welcomed our new senators yesterday,
the Senate is an institution which represents, through the people in it, some
of the finest qualities of Canadian citizenship. I would say that Paul was
first amongst those representatives.
After the memorial service, I had a wonderful dinner with his faithful
supporter, Anne, who I think is in the gallery today with other friends.
Afterwards, they sent me a copy of the local newspapers showing the kind of
coverage that they felt this gentleman deserved. They gave him a terrific
send-off. They had colour photos of Senator Lucier on the front page and they
included exciting and interesting stories, the way stories used to be written
when I was young. Senator Carney would remember. The paper did a wonderful job
in describing Paul and the esteem in which he was held by those who were there.
Our new senator, Senator Christensen, was there. Senator Graham spoke, as did
the Honourable Judy Gingell, Commissioner of the Yukon. Father David Daws, the
vigorous priest who conducted the memorial service, gave us some new insights
into Paul. He described the relationship between himself and Paul Lucier as
being like the relationship he had with God. We all took a breath and then he
Not that I would consider Paul as God. After all, he was a Liberal.
That brought some chuckles from a few of us in the crowd.
I want to quote another comment from that service because it puts an exact
description on this former colleague and friend of ours. It was made by a
long-time friend of Paul's, Jack Cable who sits in the Yukon territorial
He did not have a lot of formal schooling, but he had a lot of common sense and
he had a lot of good judgment and he had a lot of good people skills. He had a
whole lot of what people like about other people.
That to me sums up the wonderful man. We can only say again to Grace and to all
of the family, what a privilege and joy and honour it was to have him with us
in the Senate, to have him as part of our lives. We know how much we will miss
him. We can only imagine the memories that you, your children and
grandchildren, will take with you for so many years to come. Please accept our
sympathy and our very best wishes.
Hon. Willie Adams: Honourable senators, I first met Paul Lucier
when I was appointed in 1977. There were not many aboriginal senators here in
the Senate and not too many senators with real experience of the North.
When my appointment was announced, Senator Lucier called me in Rankin Inlet to
congratulate me and welcome me to the Senate. I told him this was a difficult
time for me, that I really was not very familiar with the Senate of Canada, and
I wondered what I would do. Paul said to me, "Willie, don't worry, come to
Ottawa and we will work together on issues concerning the North."
I will never forget that. He made me feel so much better about coming into
Ottawa to sit in this Senate chamber.
In the early 1980s, we were talking about the Constitution of Canada. At that
time, the future of the North, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and the
Arctic in general was a difficult subject. The committee chaired by Senator
Molgat travelled quite a bit across Canada. At that time, it was difficult to
see what would happen with regard to aboriginal people in the Constitution.
Finally, section 35 was added to the Constitution.
We were then talking about setting the boundaries in the Arctic and the Yukon.
It was said that the Yukon would be part of B.C.; that part of Manitoba would
be in Keewatin; that Baffin Island would become part of Quebec, and that other
area would become part of Prince Edward Island.
I will never forget Paul. When we were fighting over the Constitution and
native rights, we learned a lot from him about dealing with the Government of
Canada. He had so much concern for the people of the North.
There was talk at that time about seats for the provinces. In 1982, we did not
expect that Nunavut would become a reality, and that we would reach land claims
agreements. At that time, the government agreed that, in the future, there
would be extra seats for the territories. Paul and I fought hard for that, and
yesterday my friend Nick Sibbeston was appointed to the Senate. Today, we have
more representation for natives in the territories.
We did a great deal of work in the Senate on the Constitution and in our
committee in 1982. At that time, Senator Watt was president of the Makivik
Corporation and the Northern Quebec Inuit Association as well as a councillor
for the Kativik Regional Government. He appeared before the committee as a
witness. I never expected at that time that he would later be appointed to the
After a few years, I moved to Ottawa, and Senator Lucier and I would go up to
the Parliamentary Restaurant and share jokes. When Senator William Guay was
still here, three or four of us would go up together to the Parliamentary
Restaurant. It was cheaper to go there at that time. A meal cost about $2.50.
Now the prices are up to about $20 a meal. We used to go there and talk about
the old days.
I had bought a piece of property in Ottawa, and learned that I had some beavers
on my property. Paul told me to trap them. I said "No." He said "Some
people are interested in trapping beavers." One day, a white man came
along and trapped on my property. They always joked and said, "Willie, you
are a native. Why do you need to hire a white man to trap on your property?"
I will never forget that.
I used to travel quite a bit, and at one time we had a small party in an igloo
with some area administrators. I had gone up there to do some electrical work.
One day, one of the area administrators bought a few beers, and we wanted to
show people that it was possible to party in an igloo. Someone left a candle
in a cardboard box, and no one blew it out. The next morning, we went by the
igloo, and it had burned down - or rather, it had melted. Paul Lucier and Peter
Bosa, who is also no longer with us, used to joke and ask me if I had collected
insurance on my igloo yet.
Those are the kinds of memories that I have of Paul Lucier. I am sorry that I
did not make it to his funeral in the Yukon. I miss him. He did a lot of work
for us. I wish to thank everyone who did everything they could for Paul,
including all the members of his family, to whom I express my deepest
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would ask you to
rise for a moment of silence in honour of our colleague the Honourable Paul
Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.
The Late Honourable Hédard
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, on
Monday, August 16, 1999, New Brunswick and Canada lost one of their greatest
politicians, with the passing of the Honourable Hédard Robichaud at the
age of 87.
Born at Shippagan on November 12, 1911, Mr. Robichaud had an illustrious
political career as an MP, a minister, a senator, a lieutenant-governor and
special ambassador to Chile.
Elected in 1953, he held the federal seat for Gloucester, now the riding of
Acadie-Bathurst, in Northeastern New Brunswick, until 1968. In 1963, the Right
Honourable Lester Pearson appointed him Minister of Fisheries. In was in that
position that Mr. Robichaud left his greatest mark.
To quote the Honourable Louis-Joseph Robichaud:
He is the first minister to come to the portfolio with the needed knowledge of
the fisheries. The others were perhaps stronger on the administrative side.
One of his successors in Fisheries, the Governor General of Canada, the Right
Honourable Roméo LeBlanc, also recalls Mr. Robichaud's determination to
promote this industry in the Acadian Peninsula. As he said:
I had the opportunity to listen to him, and to consult him. He told us that all
the fish must not be caught this year, because they would not then have the
chance to spawn for next year. This was a warning that there were fish in the
waters, but care had to be taken to keep them there for future generations.
In 1968, Mr. Robichaud was sworn in as a senator. There he remained for three
years before becoming the first Acadian to be appointed Lieutenant-Governor of
New Brunswick, in 1971. During his ten years in that position, he rendered
great service to New Brunswick as well as to the political representation of
He was more than a politician. He was the husband of Gertrude Léger and
the father of nine, as well as a friend to many throughout Acadia, New
Brunswick, Canada and the whole world.
Respected and admired, he was ever at the service of the people. He has left an
indelible mark on his former colleagues and compatriots.
On behalf of myself, all Acadians, to whom he was so devoted, and all my
colleagues in the Senate, I offer my heartfelt sympathy to his wife, Gertrude,
his children and his grandchildren. I sincerely thank them for sharing this
husband, father and great Acadian and Canadian politician.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, the people of New Brunswick were saddened to learn of the
death of the Honourable Hédard Robichaud, the twenty-fourth
lieutenant-governor of the province and the first Acadian to occupy the
Hédard Robichaud served as a member of the House of Commons before being
appointed to the Senate in 1968. I, therefore, have had the privilege of
working with and admiring this great Canadian for over 30 years.
Mr. Robichaud was born in Shippagan, New Brunswick. He pursued his studies in
Tracadie, at the Académie Sainte-Famille and at the Université
Sacré-Coeur in Bathurst. He was a graduate of the Université
Saint-Joseph, later the University of Moncton. He lived in Caraquet, but, as we
know, his world extended well beyond the boundaries of New Brunswick and
Mr. Robichaud made a strong contribution to the fisheries sector, first as an
inspector and director of fisheries for New Brunswick and then, from 1963 to
1968, as the Canadian Minister of Fisheries.
In carrying out his public duties, Hédard Robichaud was a model of
generosity and self-denial and was rewarded for being so by great professional
success and many expressions of affection.
In the Privy Council as in his positions of lieutenant-governor, senator and
federal minister, he turned his sense of duty to the service of New Brunswick
and Canada, and loyalty and honesty were the watchwords in his treatment of
them. This loyalty was a great source of inspiration to us, and we are sure he
is at peace among the just.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, Acadia has lost a
man who marked its history in various ways. Hédard Robichaud, as has
been said, was elected the member for Gloucester, where he represented a
strongly Acadian population of the Acadian Peninsula.
He accepted the responsibility of his appointment as Minister of Fisheries with
enthusiasm and conviction. His great knowledge of this sector was not due
simply to the fact that he lived in Caraquet on the Acadian Peninsula, but also
to the fact that he was close to the people, he was attentive and he knew how
to listen to the people he represented.
This willingness to meet with people characterized his tenure as
Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of New Brunswick. He delighted in
travelling to all corners of the province to meet the public.
I had the pleasure of meeting Hédard on more than one occasion, and in
more than one place. He was always accompanied by his wife, Gertrude, who was
as unfailingly good-humoured and interested in what was going on as her
husband. Hédard always had the unconditional support of his family, who
understood the role his political life required him to play.
Like me, Hédard was born in Shippagan. I am proud to say that, yes, we
are related! Hédard was the son of Jean, who was the son of Georges. My
father, Albert, was the son of Pierre, known as Peter, who was also a son of
I therefore extend my deepest condolences to his entire family. I know that Hédard
will long be remembered, particularly by the Robichaud clan.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would ask you to
rise and observe a minute of silence in honour of the Honourable Hédard
Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I am sure we
are all agreed that anything we can do to reduce health costs in this country
is in the best interests of Canadians. I have learned recently of Smartrisk, a
national injury prevention organization dedicated to showing Canadians the
risks that we face in our everyday lives. Their main purpose is to help us
understand how to navigate these daily risks, and practice smart risk behaviour
to prevent potential injury and death.
In July, I participated in a golf fundraising event, where I met Dr. Robert
Conn, the founder of Smartrisk. A respected paediatric heart surgeon, Dr. Conn
began to question the cause of the staggering number of injuries he saw
disabling and killing Canadian youth. He came to realize that the majority of
these injuries were not simply accidents, or acts of fate, and that 9 out of
10 were predictable. Dr. Conn's solution was to create Smartrisk, an
organization based on the premise that if certain injuries are predictable,
they can be prevented, thereby saving lives, eliminating needless pain and
suffering, and reducing health costs.
Too many Canadian are dying needlessly. Seven out of every 10 teenage deaths
occur as a result of a preventable injury: There was the newly engaged
21-year-old, just accepted into law school, who crashed without a seatbelt and
literally smashed his head in; there was the 19-year-old who, after a few
beers, ran his motorcycle into a tree, and the grade 8 student who jumped off a
rooftop into the shallow end of a pool; there were the teenagers who skied off
the trails, went on a snowmobile ride over thin ice, and dived into rocks.
These are young Canadian lives that were lost in accidents that could have been
both predicted and avoided.
Injuries are the leading killer in Canada of Canadians under the age of 44, and
injuries result in the death of more children than any other cause combined.
According to the 1995 study conducted by Smartrisk, in partnership with Health
Canada, preventable injuries cost Canadians $8.7 billion, or $300 per every
citizen. Roughly, $4.2 billion is spent on health care, while the remaining
$4.5 billion is attributable to social productivity losses associated with the
loss of people from the workforce. Falls and motor vehicle accidents
represented over 60 per cent of this total cost. In 1995, there were over
468,000 falls among the elderly, amounting to almost $1 billion in costs or
$2,100 per fall.
The statistics get worse as each year over 2 million Canadians are injured, an
average of 6,000 injuries per day. Even more startling, 250 injuries occur
every hour of every day and each year more than 47,000 people are left
permanently with partial or total disabilities.
Honourable senators, the sad reality is that 21 Canadians will die from an
unintentional injury today. This equals almost one person per hour.
It is clear that preventable injuries are the silent epidemic that poses an
extremely serious and expensive public health challenge to Canada. It is a
problem that significantly affects the lives of Canadians every day but has for
the most part gone unnoticed by our governing institutions.
Smartrisk has taken a giant step in opening the eyes of Canadians to the
potential dangers that exist in their daily lives. However, still more needs to
be done. Very little detail is known about unintentional injuries such as falls
and motor vehicle accidents. Better information and tracking systems are needed
to guide prevention efforts. According to the Smartrisk study, Canadians could
save over $1.7 billion every year by preventing 20 per cent of these injuries
with the establishment of a well-coordinated national effort.
In conclusion, I encourage all honourable senators to support the Smartrisk
Foundation and to endorse an inquiry by the Standing Senate Committee on Social
Affairs, Science and Technology into the development of a national injury
We need to help Canadians learn how to take smart risks and assure that we all
continue to enjoy long and fulfilling lives.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, on our final
International Literacy Day of this century, I invite all of you to join in
renewing commitment and encouragement to Canadians everywhere who are
struggling with literacy problems, while technology demands that we move
constantly further and faster along the road of education.
As we look towards the millennium, it is useful to reflect on the progress made
on this difficult issue over the last few decades. Through the years, the
literacy movement has expanded from an army of volunteers in all the towns,
villages and cities of this country, to a growing partnership of literacy
organizations and governments, businesses, unions and a myriad of associations
whose concerns and demands cross over into the literacy area. Each year our
programs grow stronger and spread more broadly throughout society.
Canadians are coming to accept that we cannot take learning and education for
granted. This is a slow process and our biggest challenge still is the lack of
awareness that the fundamental problems of difficulty in reading, writing and
communicating continue to exist in varying degrees in the daily lives of more
than 40 per cent of our adult citizens.
We are finally seeing the light that these problems do not just begin somewhere
along the way in school or in the workforce but right at the start, in the
earliest months and years of a child's life.
In my work with the National Literacy Secretariat, it has been interesting to
watch how these messages come up from the ground, from the communities, and not
down from governments and boardrooms. Canadians on the ground have taken a
strong lead in telling us that family literacy is the most potent dictator of
how young Canadians begin a life of learning. Strong and creative support is
needed to build the literacy health of all family members so that there may be
a collective influence.
Honourable senators, we need all of our citizens to have a fair chance to
contribute to and to participate in a meaningful way to the daily life of
Canada, no matter what their age or social or economic situation may be. Our
world must not become simply a place where people cope.
I urge each one of us, from our very privileged positions, to listen to those
messages and send back our own response of support and understanding with all
our progress. We as a society need to do so much more and I know each of us can
contribute to that goal.
Hon. Mabel M. DeWare: Honourable senators, I rise with pleasure
on International Literacy Day, 1999 to speak on an occasion which is cause for
both celebration and concern.
International Literacy Day should indeed be celebrated, for countries around
the world have recognized the critical importance of literacy and are taking
action to promote it. The ability to understand and use printed information at
home, at work and in the community is key to the economic success of
individuals and of the societies in which they live.
The issue of literacy is becoming more and more important. Poor literacy skills
have long been recognized as a major problem for developing countries. There is
now a growing awareness that poor literacy can also be a real problem for
industrialized countries. This problem must be addressed. Adult literacy is
fundamental to both the economic performance and social cohesion of Canada and
other industrialized nations.
Thanks to the recognition of and action on literacy issues, some progress has
been made. Internationally, the incidence of illiteracy, estimated at 45 per
cent 50 years ago, has fallen to 23 per cent. However, honourable senators,
there remains much cause for concern. An estimated one in five men and one in
three women worldwide are not literate.
In Canada, close to one-half of our adults aged 16 and over lack adequate
literacy skills. The 1994 international adult literacy survey measured Canada's
proficiency at five different levels. The results bear repeating. It was found
that 48 per cent of Canadians are at the two lowest levels. One third of
Canadians are at level three, which is widely considered to be the minimum
skill level for successful participation in society. Only 20 per cent of
Canadians are at the top two levels, with strong literacy skills that will
enable them to deal with complex materials.
Honourable senators, International Literacy Day, which was celebrated for the
first time on September 8, 1967, was established by the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1966. UNESCO did this on
the recommendation of the 1965 World Conference of Ministers of Education on
the Eradication of Literacy.
Many significant events have taken place since then and, in particular, I wish
to draw the attention of this chamber to the presentation of the 1995
International Reading Association Award to the Community Academic Services
Program of my own province of New Brunswick.
In Canada, many groups have been working at the grass roots level for decades
to promote literacy among Canadians. However, it was not until the late 1980s
that Canada recognized literacy as a national issue requiring a national
response. A former Progressive Conservative government created the National
Literacy Secretariat in 1988. That was 11 years ago. Today, it continues to
foster partnerships among Canadians and their governments to promote public
awareness of literacy issues and to improve access to literacy programs for
Canadians in all regions. I am pleased that the current government has seen fit
to maintain this important organization. In particular, I must commend our
colleague the Honourable Joyce Fairbairn for her tireless efforts to promote
literacy both within and outside this chamber.
Our own Senator Di Nino has introduced in this chamber legislation to remove
the tax on reading materials. Support for this bill would show that we are
serious about increasing literacy.
Therefore, our initiatives to promote literacy can be big or small; they can be
political or personal; one-time or ongoing. By reaching out, not only on
International Literacy Day, but throughout the year, we can all make a
Expropriation of Nanoose Test Range
Hon. Pat Carney: Honourable senators, on Friday, September
3, Michael Goldie, Hearing Commissioner for this summer's hearings into the
federal government's proposed expropriation of B.C.'s Nanoose Bay torpedo
range, submitted his report to Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano. In his
report, he outlined more than 2,000 objections submitted to him by British
Columbians to this unprecedented hostile takeover of B.C. property by Ottawa.
I have five serious concerns about the proposed expropriation of Nanoose, which
I raised before Hearing Commissioner Goldie in my appearance of August 5, and I
should like to put them on the Senate record.
First, the federal government's jackboot response to the breakdown of talks
between Ottawa and British Columbia on the terms of the renewal of the seabed
lease sets a disturbing precedent for other provinces opposed to federal
actions and for the balance of federal-provincial powers in Canada. I believe
it will cause irreparable harm to our country.
Imagine, if you will - and I am sure Senator Taylor could - that the feds do
not like what an Alberta premier plans to do in energy pricing. Within days,
Ottawa expropriates the Cold Lake Weapons Range; or the government in Ottawa is
unhappy with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, so it impounds
Labrador's Goose Bay foreign military training site. Both facilities were
established by means of agreements between the federal and provincial
governments that use them and, like the Nanoose Test Range, are part of
Canada's international defence obligations.
You may think it unthinkable that Ottawa would move to expropriate land owned
by these provinces. One suspects the only reason the feds have put the boots to
British Columbia is that the current unpopularity of the B.C. government
permits such an outrageous action.
Second, the proposed expropriation would mean the impounding of territory that
the Supreme Court has ruled was owned by the colony of B.C. before it joined
Canada. Think of the precedent this would have for Quebec if it were ever to
hold another referendum on separation. Think of the precedent and the problems
it would create for the future development, protection or conservation of
B.C.'s oil and gas or other marine resources, or for native land claims.
My third objection is the chilling effect on the disclosure of underwater
maritime activity that expropriation will create. At present, there is a lease
agreement between the provincial and federal governments, the terms of which
are available to anyone who wishes to review a copy of the lease. However, what
happens to disclosure or transparency if the federal government simply
confiscates Nanoose? The present federal government is known for its tendency
to keep things secret, even environmental assessments. Things get worse when
the Americans are involved, given the current American paranoia over security
issues raised in the Cox report on alleged Chinese nuclear espionage
This brings me to my fourth concern: the role the Americans are playing in this
federal war games exercise with B.C. My office has been unable to determine the
terms of renewal for the agreement between Canada and the U.S. over the use of
the Nanoose Test Range. This adds to the secrecy surrounding the federal
government's intent to expropriate and raises the possibility that B.C. is
being used as a pawn in political war games with the Americans - even more so
if we consider the Cox report, ensuing restrictive American defence
regulations, and the billions of dollars in Canadian defence contracts put in
jeopardy by these changes.
My last and most serious concern is that Ottawa's hostile takeover of
provincial property represents a failure of our political system and a personal
failure of the politicians involved.
Having been the political minister for B.C. in another federal government, I
know that the job requirements are to liaise with the provincial governments,
to get along with each other and to negotiate differences. First ministers
conferences are just that - the meeting of equals in Confederation. Certain
powers such as defence are reserved for the federal government in the national
interest. However, it is in the national interest to negotiate, not to
expropriate. This is the Canadian precedent for settling disputes such as the
Nanoose Test Range, and it is the one which has the support of the many British
Columbians who have written me on this issue.
The Inauguration of the Carrefour
Unveiling of Bust in Honour of
the Honourable Raoul Dandurand
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, on August 25 I
took part in a ceremony to inaugurate the Carrefour L'Industrielle-Alliance in
Montreal and unveil a bust in honour of Senator Raoul Dandurand.
The Carrefour L'Industrielle-Alliance came about as a result of a project to
restore a historic building in downtown Montreal. Its inauguration will inject
new life into the city.
However, what is important is that the Carrefour is dedicated to the memory of
an eminent Canadian, Senator Raoul Dandurand. Few of us are familiar with the
achievements of this distinguished Montrealer.
Born in 1861, he studied law and entered politics at the age of 18. As a
candidate in federal elections, he became a key player in the cabinets of Sir
Wilfrid Laurier and Mackenzie King.
Throughout his life, Senator Dandurand defended the cause of universal public
education and played a role in making school attendance compulsory. He founded
the Collège Stanislas and the Université de Montréal.
He was appointed to the Senate in 1898, where his interests lay in promoting
Canada's role internationally and promoting the evolution of our relations with
Great Britain. Senator Dandurand was appointed a Canadian representative of La
Société des Nations in Geneva in 1924 and a delegate to the
Council of the League in 1927. He was named a Grand Officer de la Légion
d'honneur. Throughout his life, he remained an ardent defender of human rights
and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Senator Dandurand was a visionary, a great Montrealer, and an eminent Canadian.
What a wonderful idea to honour his memory in a centre as popular and
frequently visited as the Carrefour L'Industrielle-Alliance. This initiative
will provide the people of Montreal with an opportunity to learn more about the
little-known but extraordinary accomplishments of one of our predecessors.
Shelter Strategy for Aboriginal
Hon. Thelma J. Chalifoux: Honourable senators, pursuant to
rule 57(2), I give notice that on Friday next, September 10, 1999, I will call
the attention of the Senate to the Shelter Strategy for Aboriginal Peoples.
Public Sector Pension Investment
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour
to present to the Senate petitions containing over 3,650 signatures of members
of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers from all across Canada. They are
petitioning senators to amend Bill C-78 to ensure negotiations over their
pension plan begin immediately and, failing that, to encourage the Senate to
defeat Bill C-78.
Program for Expense-paid Trips
for Journalists-Government Position
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, my question is
addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and is about the use of
taxpayers' money for expense-paid trips to foreign cities by Canadian
In a story in today's National Post newspaper, the headlines say, "Foreign
Affairs gave trips, cash to journalists - part of bid to boost image." The
story states that the programs include all-expense-paid trips to foreign cities
for journalists from Canadian community newspapers, cross-Canada speaking tours
for high-profile diplomats, and that it is costing $1.4 million in funding. Is
this the proper use of taxpayers' money? Is this a new initiative of the Chrétien
government? When will this abuse of power end?
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, without agreeing with either the premise or some of the questions
asked by Senator Oliver, I am not aware of such assistance or such offers being
made, but I shall certainly make the appropriate inquiries.
Senator Oliver: Did the Leader of the Government not see the
story in the front page of the National Post today? If he read it, does
he not know that the program has $4.6 million for these expenditures?
Senator Graham: Honourable senators, I regret very much that,
while I try to read the National Post as often as I can, I have yet to
get to the front page of that paper today.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Day-Recognition of Other Prime Ministers-Government Position
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, my question is
addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
It was reported over the summer that the government would soon announce that
November 20 would be set aside each year as a non-statutory holiday in honour
of the memory of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, a Liberal. Honourable senators, Laurier's
contribution to Canada's development cannot be disputed. He holds a special
place in our history, as do others who followed. His immediate successor, Sir
Robert Borden, a Conservative, led Canada through the Great War, as it was then
called. Sir Robert Borden is credited with overseeing Canada's coming of age
and is certainly one who is equally deserving of recognition.
The debate could go on and on as to who is deserving and who is not. However,
as much as revisionist historians wish it were not so, Sir John A. Macdonald
was Canada's first Prime Minister. Sir John A., as we all know, was a
Conservative. He has naturally been referred to by many as Canada's greatest
Prime Minister because he is the Father of Confederation. He shaped together a
great coalition, our beloved country Canada, and lead the country for 18 years
and 11 months, from 1867 to 1873 and from 1878 until his death in 1891. He was
a visionary and a nation builder.
To mention a few of his accomplishments, under him the Northwest Mounted Police
Force was established, the Canadian Pacific Railway was built, and Prince
Edward Island, Manitoba and British Columbia all joined the Canadian
Confederation. Indeed, Canada's first national park, Banff, was established
under the Macdonald government.
We in Parliament often decry the fact that Canadians know little of our
history. How is it possible, then, that the government could even consider a
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day and overlook Sir John A. Macdonald, our first Prime
Minister and, in so doing, also overlook the first 30 years of Canada's history
as a nation?
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate state emphatically that this is
not the case?
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I overlook Sir John A.'s statue outside the window of my office.
Everyday, I am reminded of the great contribution that he made to our country.
I am not aware of any specific decision with respect to the Right Honourable
Sir Wilfrid Laurier and a holiday to be announced in his memory. I shall make
the appropriate inquiries, but I could not agree more with Senator LeBreton
regarding Sir John A. Macdonald's contribution to the history and development
of this country.
Passage of Bill S-10 in
Recognition of International Literacy Day-Government Position
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, my question is
to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Honourable senators heard today from a number of senators who spoke in
recognition of International Literacy Day and its value not only to Canada but
to the rest of the world, including an eloquent speech by Senator Fairbairn -
who, as an aside, would have made a great Governor General!
Senator Tkachuk: Better than the one we got!
Senator Di Nino: Bill S-10, which received a certain amount of
support from that side and from this side, is still sitting on the Order Paper.
Would it not be appropriate to pass that piece of legislation and dispose of it
today? Perhaps it could be passed today as a symbolic gesture to International
Literacy Day, as Mr. Peter Gzowski, one of the great Canadian supporters of
literacy, suggested during his appearance in front of the committee?
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, Peter Gzowski is not only a great champion of literacy but also a
great golfer who sponsors golf tournaments around the country in aid of
literacy. However, he is no greater a champion of literacy than my colleague
the Honourable Senator Fairbairn, who was the minister responsible for
literacy. Even today she has special responsibilities within the Department of
Human Resources Development for promoting literacy, which she does in such an
eloquent and tireless manner across the country. I recall well the debate that
we had at that particular time.
Yesterday, we introduced six outstanding Canadians as new senators in this
chamber. I remember the day that eight new senators came in from across the
way, all outstanding Canadians.
Senator Kelleher: Answer the question!
Senator Graham: We have a wonderful tradition of dealing with
legislation, whether it be government legislation or bills introduced by
opposition senators or those who sit on this side of the chamber. That
particular piece of legislation will evolve in due course, as it should.
Senator Di Nino: Honourable senators, in applauding the skating
skills and stickhandling skills of Frank Mahovlich during his great career as a
hockey player - he was also a schoolmate of mine - I would add that I think the
minister has done well at "skating."
Will the minister give us the assurance that this bill will be dealt with by
the Senate before we rise this week?
Senator Simard: Or next week!
Senator Graham: Honourable senators, any honourable senator is
free to speak on Bill S-10 at any time. I heard the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition say, "before we rise on Thursday." Maybe he is giving us a
message that we will give quick passage to the important government legislation
that is before us. I see the Leader of the Opposition, who is presently
sitting back in the third row, shaking his head, perhaps in disbelief at what
we all heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Bill S-10 is an important piece of legislation. Senator Di Nino has made an
important contribution to that debate, as have other honourable senators.
However, there may still be others who would wish to speak on it.
With respect to stickhandling, Frank Mahovlich only plays left-wing; I have to
play centre and several other positions at the same time.
Conflict in East Timor-Possible
Withdrawal of Mission-Use of Rapid Ready Force for Protection-Government
Hon. Douglas Roche: Honourable senators, I direct my
question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in East Timor is further demonstrated
by the announcement that the United Nations will pull out its mission from East
Timor, approximately 400 workers and their families, because Indonesia and
martial law has not stopped the slaughter by the gangs of rampaging militia.
Can Canada show leadership in fulfilling its responsibilities as a member of
the Security Council by working to save the UN's presence in East Timor by
supporting the rapid introduction of a small, international force to guard the
UN compound and ancillary site?
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I accept the point being made by the Honourable Senator Roche.
Some of us have thought, over the years, that we should have a United Nations
rapid-ready force to go into situations of that nature. However, I do not know
that it would be possible unless we were invited by Indonesia to have the UN
present under such circumstances. Early indications are that Indonesia itself
would not accept such a force.
With respect to the Security Council, Canada has consistently argued for the
need to impress upon the Indonesian government its responsibility for
maintaining peace and security in East Timor. This responsibility forms part of
what we referred to yesterday as the May 5 agreement. It includes protection
for the UN personnel as well as for the people of East Timor.
As I understand it, the United Nations officials are safe for the moment within
the compound in the capital. I was asked yesterday how many Canadians are
present. I believe the number is five, two RCMP officials and three Canadians
who are serving the United Nations directly.
Senator Roche: I thank the minister for his answer but I
respectfully draw to his attention that it is not a question of Indonesia
inviting in the foreign presence inasmuch as the United Nations has never
accepted the Indonesian annexation of East Timor. In international eyes, the UN
is in a controlling situation.
In that respect, I ask if the minister has had drawn to his attention the
editorial in the Irish Times of today which makes the point that the 15
members of the Security Council, including Canada, all bear responsibility for
the abandonment of the people of East Timor, who were promised freedom and
protection following a successful referendum.
In that context, has the Leader of the Government in the Senate yet seen the
statement by Bishop Belo, the Noble laureate and spiritual leader of East Timor
who was driven into exile in Australia? Bishop Belo has called on all world
leaders, of which Canada is one, to act to stop the killing in the ravaged
Senator Graham: Honourable senators, I regret that I have not
yet seen that statement. I shall look into it and ask that it be given to me as
soon as possible. I should add that the Security Council of the United Nations
has sent a delegation of representatives to Jakarta to discuss with the
Government of Indonesia concrete steps to allow the implementation of the
ballot results. The people of East Timor are not being allowed to exercise
their democratic rights, the rights for which they voted presumably with the
blessing of the Indonesian government.
The UN delegation, I understand, has met with the foreign minister and the
Canadian embassy. Tomorrow a meeting is scheduled with President Habibie, with
the opposition leader and possibly with General Wiranto, the head of
I assure Senator Roche and all honourable senators that Canada is doing
whatever it possibly can and is urging the United Nations Security Council to
act and hopefully to act soon.
Conflict in East
Timor-Possibility of Sanctions Against Indonesia-Government Position
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, yesterday I
asked the Leader of the Government to explain to us why the Minister of Foreign
Affairs had said it would be an error for Canada to impose sanctions against
Indonesia. Since the leader asked for time to obtain clarification, is he in a
position to reply today?
Senator Graham: Honourable senators, I have no formal answer
but I believe that the Foreign Affairs Minister said it would be an error
because it would not be getting at the root problem. We are not giving aid
directly to the Indonesian government but to the poorer sectors of society in
that part of the world. Sanctions would have an adverse effect on the poorest
people of that nation. That is why Minister Axworthy made the statement that he
Senator Nolin: I would like to remind the Leader of the
Government that, about ten years ago, when the Commonwealth was looking at ways
of making the South Africans understand that they were acting in an
unacceptable way, Canada imposed sanctions, and they worked. Could you consult
your colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs in order to understand why it
would be an error for Canada to impose sanctions against Indonesia?
Senator Graham: Honourable senators, the circumstances were
quite different because there were more extensive economic relations between
South Africa, Canada and other countries at that time. I remember very well
having discussions with then foreign affairs minister Joe Clark when he
returned from meeting Nelson Mandela shortly after Mr. Mandela was released
from prison. Minister Clark asked a small group of us to help raise money for
democratic education in South Africa. I also recall very well the pivotal role
played by Prime Minister Mulroney in convincing Prime Minister Thatcher and the
President of the United States that there had to be sanctions.
Without trying to gild the lily, I wrote in a book of mine that, with respect
to international affairs, historians might even say that this would probably go
down as Prime Minister Mulroney's finest contribution or his finest hour.
The circumstances in Indonesia are quite different with respect to sanctions
which might be imposed because the aid is directed heavily to NGOs.
Foundation-Commencement of Issuing Grants-Government Position
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, post-secondary
students are returning to classes at universities and colleges across Canada
this week. Hundreds of thousands of them will be forced to take out more
student loans to pay their tuition. Why does the government continue to refuse
to give any scholarships to post-secondary students even though money was set
aside for those scholarships in the millennium fund two years ago?
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I explained this matter on an earlier occasion. I congratulate
Senator Cochrane again for raising this subject. She was and continues to be an
educator. The millennium scholarship fund is just that - $2.5 billion set aside
for 100,000 scholarships over a 10-year period. I understand that agreements
have been signed with one territory and with all of the provinces except
Newfoundland and Quebec. I understand there are only two issues presently
outstanding with Quebec, and it is hoped that those will be resolved at an
Outstanding Answer to Order
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, I should like
to enquire when the government might get around to answering a question I put
on the Order Paper on November 17 of last year. I do not want to see Question
135 die on the Order Paper at the end of next week.
The question refers to the government's contract with BMCI Consulting Inc.
Could the house leader advise when I might expect an answer to this question?
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I will make inquiries as soon as I leave the chamber. I hope an
answer will be forthcoming shortly.
Public Sector Pension Investment
Third Reading-Debate Adjourned
Hon. Michael Kirby moved third reading of Bill C-78, to
establish the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, to amend the Public
Service Superannuation Act, the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, the Defence Services Pension
Continuation Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Pension Continuation Act,
the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Canada Post
Corporation Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.
He said: Honourable senators, before I begin my remarks on Bill C-78, I would
draw senators' attention to the fact that yesterday a document was distributed
to all senators entitled the twenty-eighth report of the Standing Senate
Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce on Bill C-78. The document that was
distributed to everyone has, in fact, two pages missing from it. I have had a
revised copy of the document distributed to everyone's office today.
The Journals of the Senate of yesterday, however, is correct and does
have the complete copy of the observations. It was appended. One page of the
observations, printed on both sides, was missing from that document. I say that
because some senators may wonder why they received a second copy this morning.
They were sent this copy as soon as it was drawn to my attention that whoever
is responsible for printing did not print it properly.
I will now turn to some general comments on Bill C-78, before addressing a
number of issues that have been of concern to members of the committee and many
members of this chamber.
As all senators are aware, this bill contains a number of major amendments to
public service pension plans; amendments that are inherently aimed at improving
the financial management of the plans and ensuring their long-term
sustainability. These amendments not only include many technical changes, some
of which I will comment on in detail, but they also include changes in
relation to the way contribution rates are set, improvements in employees'
pension benefits, and changes to the way the plan is managed.
First and most important, let me state that the benefits to which the
government employees contributed during their careers continue to be fully
guaranteed by this plan. The government pension plan is a defined benefit plan.
The benefits which every employee of the government, both already retired and
still working, expects to be able to receive or now receiving are fully
guaranteed and maintained and, indeed, in several cases actually improved by
These plans are among the best in the country. They provide defined benefits
which offer inflation protection. It is worth noting that inflation protection
is contained in less than 10 per cent of employer-sponsored pension plans in
Canada. In addition, the current plans involve employees contributing less
than 40 per cent - actually, a number closer to 30 per cent today - of the cost
of the plan, which is a significantly smaller percentage than in most private
In order to ensure the long-term financial stability of the federal pension
plan, Bill C-78 creates an independent public sector pension investment board
that will invest future contributions from both the employee and the employer
in financial markets with a view to achieving maximum gain without undue risk.
This plan's management structure will be accountable to government, employees,
retirees, and Parliament in a way explained in the bill.
Senators should also be aware that this bill includes a series of technical
changes to improve other benefits linked to federal pension plans. Let me
illustrate with a few examples. The supplementary death benefits plan will
double to $10,000 from the existing amount once the recipient reaches 65. In
addition, the death benefit will not begin to phase out until age 65, so that
it will be effective now until age 75 rather than age 70.
Second, the premium paid for supplementary death benefits will be reduced by 25
per cent, so supplementary death benefits will be cheaper for people subject to
these pension plans.
Third, Bill C-78 extends survivors benefits to same-sex partners of pension
plan contributors. This would bring the public sector service plans in line
with a number of recent decisions rendered by the courts.
Finally, this bill will also establish a separate pension plan for Canada Post
employees so that Canada Post can manage its own pension plan just as all other
major private sector companies do and, indeed, as do all other major Crown
Let me turn for a few moments to the issue of the governance of the board, that
is, the board governance structure that will manage the money invested in this
pension plan by both the employer, the government in this case, and the
Prior to tabling this bill, the government tried to reach an agreement on a
joint management and risk-sharing agreement with employee representatives. Such
an agreement would deal with the distribution of future surpluses in the plan
and, indeed, future deficits if they arise. Unfortunately, as evidence before
the committee in both June and August indicated, a final agreement on what a
joint management framework would consist of was never reached. The agreement in
principle was reached, but the details of an agreement were not.
Senator Stratton joined the committee for these hearings because this was an
issue in which he was very interested, and he did an excellent job in asking
witnesses questions. He, along with a number of other Banking Committee
members, expressed concerns about the governance provisions of the investment
board contained in Bill C-78. These criticisms, which I will not review here,
were reflected in the observations that we tabled in June and were attached as
an appendix to the observations contained in the report that I tabled in this
Nevertheless, given these criticisms, and given the fact that a joint
management framework was never formally agreed to by both the unions and the
employer, the committee came to the conclusion that the best way to handle it
was to encourage the stakeholders to return to the bargaining table to
negotiate the final terms of a joint management board and risk-sharing
agreement. Our view was that, if those negotiations could be completed, then it
would be possible to include in the bill the kind of governance structure that
Honourable senators, we had hoped that this would happen over the summer. That
is the primary reason the Senate agreed to send the bill back to committee
during the summer. Unfortunately, the jam that had existed since December of
1998 continued to exist through the summer, largely because both sides
attempted to impose a pre-condition on the negotiations. The union insisted
that, yes, they wanted to sit down and discuss a joint management agreement,
but that they would do so only if the issue of the disposition of the current
pension fund surplus was on the table. The government said that, yes, they
wanted to negotiate a joint management agreement with the unions, but that
they would do so only if the question of the existing pension surplus was not
on the table. Effectively, one side imposed a condition that an issue had to be
on the table, and the other side imposed a pre-condition that that issue could
not possibly be on the table. As a result, no meaningful negotiation, in fact,
no negotiations at all on that subject, took place over the summer. As a
result, I can add nothing to the comments I made in June respecting changes in
the joint management and risk-sharing plan because there have been no changes.
The fact is that the bill does set up the pension investment board. Its role
will be to invest future contributions to the pension plan. The board will be
independent of the government and plan members but will be accountable to
Parliament so that in fact we will have a way of overseeing the quality of its
investment decisions. The board will be selected with input from plan members
as well as the government, with plan members having the right to put forward
nominations to the nominating committee. The board will be subject to strict
conflict of interest provisions, a code of conduct which will require it to
disclose its government practices, investment policies and other financial
While we would much prefer to have had in this legislation the joint management
agreement, neither side was able or willing to get to the table for the
discussions. Thus, on the joint management and risk sharing issue, we are left
with the plan exactly as it was in June.
The second issue of concern to the committee, and many of the witnesses who
came before it - and I know it is of concern to a number of our colleagues on
both sides of this chamber - is the issue of the distribution of the current
surplus. The existing legislation provides mechanisms to manage plan deficits
but not to manage any surpluses that accumulate. The existing legislation
requires the government, and therefore taxpayers, to cover all deficits, as the
government has done from time to time over the years, having covered somewhere
over $11 billion worth of deficits since the plan began some 40 years ago.
Indeed, honourable senators, one of the principal arguments in favour of the
government having the right to the current surplus is the fact that,
historically, the government has been responsible for deficits in the plan.
None of those shortfalls have been paid by employees. Therefore, as the group
responsible for covering the deficits, it seems only reasonable that they
should also be responsible in cases where there is a surplus.
Yet, during our hearings on this bill, all the public service unions and
retiree associations voiced their opposition to the government's entitlement to
this current surplus. A minority of Banking Committee members, as our report
makes clear, agree with this position, as I am sure we will hear from some of
the speakers opposite. They take the position that the fact that the
government has assumed all the risk in the past does not necessarily entitle
them to the surplus.
This minority of committee members - composed essentially of members opposite -
believe that the government has never assumed 100 per cent of the plan risk. In
support of this claim, they argue that there have been increases in
contributions from plan members, and that these increases in contributions
could be, in some way, attributed to having offset previous plan deficits.
They say this in spite of the fact that the increases occurred in times which
were quite different from the times when the plans were in deficit.
I have difficulty with this notion for a number of reasons. The first is that
the existing legislation clearly places the burden of deficits on the
government and not on the employees. The second is that the contribution rate
increases that have been called into question do not accord with reality. From
1974 to 1991, nearly 90 per cent of the cost of indexation, an amount of $8
billion to $9 billion, was paid by Canadian taxpayers through the government
from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Further, Bill C-78 limits the government's ability to implement contribution
rate increases in the future. Indeed, under this legislation, the plan will
freeze current public service contribution rates until 2003. In 2004, the
government may gradually increase contributions to public sector pension plans,
but any such increase is limited to, at most, four-tenths of 1 per cent of
earnings during any given year.
I look forward to hearing the speeches of Senators Tkachuk, Stratton, Kelleher
and others who, I am sure, will set out the logic that leads them to the
conclusion that, given the history of this legislation, the surplus does not
automatically belong, as it would in any corresponding private sector
situation, to the employer.
Finally, with respect to the surplus, several people have commented that the
government was not complying with the Pension Benefits Standards Act. The fact
is that the Pension Benefits Standards Act sets out a process requiring
consultation between an employer and employees only when the employer does not
have clear entitlement to the surplus. The government believes it has
entitlement to the surplus. In any event, it is an issue which will be resolved
in the courts. Therefore, the government believes, as do a majority of members
of the committee, that the government is complying with the provisions of the
Pension Benefits Standards Act.
The other issue that arose in connection with the surplus issue has to do with
why the government needs legislation concerning the surplus if it is confident
that it is entitled to it. The reality is that this bill does not directly
create any legal entitlement to the surplus. It delineates options for managing
the surplus on the basis of both expert pension opinion given before the
committee and legal opinion. In fact, the bill does not create an entitlement
to the surplus. The bill states that, over time, there can be a gradual
reduction of existing surpluses over a period of up to 15 years. There are a
range of options presented in the bill for dealing with this surplus, including
contribution holidays for the employees and the employer, or both, as well as
for contribution reductions for the employees and the employer, or both. It is
clear that the issue of the government's entitlement to the surplus will be
tested in court. That has been made clear from the hearings and comments from
witnesses. This bill will leave the issue of whether the employer is entitled
to the surplus in the hands of the courts.
I have already commented on the issue of joint management and, frankly, the
committee's disappointment that more progress was not made in that area this
summer. The other area about which all members of the committee were unanimous
was our disappointment - which is an understatement; the word we used in our
observations in the report was "outrage" - by the lack of
consultation with the RCMP and the Armed Forces. As most honourable senators
know, the RCMP and the Armed Forces are not allowed by law to unionize.
Therefore, their pension plans are dealt with through employee associations.
They are not separate pension plans in the sense that they contain separate
funds. However, over the years, they have had pensions comparable to those in
the public service. Nevertheless, it seemed to all members of the committee
that if one is to introduce a bill changing pension plans for public servants,
and by implication changing them also for the RCMP and the Armed Forces, then
consultation should have been held with those employee associations. This was
The committee was concerned that part-time members of the RCMP ought to be
included in pension and superannuation plans, which they are not now. Our views
on this stem from the fact that part-time employees of the public service are
included in the public service plan. Sheer equity says that the same criteria
ought to apply with respect to the RCMP and the Armed Forces. We have been
assured that discussions with the RCMP and the Armed Forces personnel
associations are about to be undertaken. The committee indicated in its
observations, as well as to witnesses when they appeared before the committee,
that we would be watching those negotiations very closely. We are concerned
that the employees of the RCMP and the Armed Forces be treated fairly in
comparison with employees of the public service, who are members of the same
The other big change which will occur is to the Canada Post pension plan. The
Canada Post plan would come into effect on October 1, 2000. It would reflect
similar amendments to the Public Service Superannuation Act that are contained
in Bill C-78. These changes to the Canada Post pension plan are necessary for
a strange reason. It turns out that when Canada Post became an independent
Crown corporation and was no longer a department of government, the pension
plan for employees was funded as follows: The employees put in an amount, which
was matched by Canada Post, and the government made up the rest. In round
numbers, 30 per cent came from employees, 30 per cent came from the employer,
and 40 per cent came from the government. The result was that the government
was explicitly subsidizing the cost of the Canada Post pension plan.
This bill takes that subsidy away by giving the corporation a year in which to
get itself in a position to manage its own pension plan and, indeed, pay the
full cost of that pension plan. Nevertheless, the bill makes clear that payouts
to Canada Post employees under their pension will remain as they are now; that
the employees do not lose anything. The issue here is the employer paying the
full cost of the pension plan and not having the employer's share of the
pension plan subsidized by the taxpayers through a contribution from the
Another issue that was raised originally by Senator Lawson, and also by Senator
Mahovlich and a few other honourable senators during the discussion that we had
in this chamber in June, was the issue of pension plans as a trust. The issue
was whether or not access to the surplus was different in the case of the
public service pension plan from, for example, the NHL players' pension plan,
or as a more current example that one might use the CMHC pension plan. The
fundamental difference is as follows: In the NHL case and in the CMHC case,
pension plans are set up as a trust. That is to say, the funds are put into a
trust fund where the employer holds the contribution in trust for the players
In the case of the federal public service pension plan, that is not a trust. In
fact, there is no fund. Essentially, the individual employees make their
contributions, those contributions go into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and
then the government pays pensions out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund as an
operating expense. Although we have talked about the pension fund, the reality
is that, in the case of the federal government and, historically, in the case
of most provincial governments, there never has beenan actual fund in and of
itself. Therefore, the public service pension plan, as it exists today, is not
a trust fund; it is not even a fund. It is certainly not a trust fund such as
the NHL example, or the CMHC example.
Indeed, in the case of trust funds, it is often not true that they apply to
defined benefit plans. Even in the case of a trust fund which does apply to a
defined benefit plan, that trust issue is not applicable in this case because
there was no trust document, and there has never been an actual fund. It has
essentially been an accounting transaction which put on the books of the
federal government a liability, as forecasted by actuaries, based on assumed
rates of inflation, age of employees, average salaries, and so on.
Finally, the last issue, on which there were many questions when I spoke in
June, dealt with the extension of survivors' benefits. Senators Cools, Taylor,
Prud'homme and several other senators raised issues related to this. I will
summarize that issue a little more succinctly than I did in June.
In relation to the extension of survivors' benefits to same-sex partners, the
government is attempting to comply with recent court decisions, including the
Supreme Court decision in the
M. v. H. case, and the Federal Court decision in the Moore and
Akerstrom case. While we may not all agree with this fundamental change,
namely that same-sex couples are entitled to survivors' benefits, we clearly
must pass legislation which respects these decisions of the court. The courts
have made clear that the issue of having different survivors' benefits based on
sexual orientation is, in fact, an issue of discrimination, and the Federal
Court has ruled specifically in relation to the benefits enjoyed by members of
the federal public service.
In a sense, what this bill does is in accordance with the decision in the more
recent Moore and Akerstrom case, where the Federal Court ruled that
Treasury Board, as the employer, was to extend benefits to same-sex partners in
the same manner as it did to opposite sex partners living in a common law
relationship. The Treasury Board could not create a separate category for
same-sex partners because that would amount to perpetuating harmful
stereotypes and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That, I
believe, underlies the rationale for that part of the bill.
The other issue which has been raised in connection with this part of the bill
is whether survivors' benefits should also apply in cases of dependent
relationships: sister to sister, brother to brother, someone looking after a
mother, and so on. In other words, should there not really be a clause which
provides survivors' benefits to dependants in general, entirely independent of
the nature of the relationship.
The new President of Treasury Board responded to that question in some detail
in testimony before the committee a couple of weeks ago. What the minister
agreed to, at the urging of all members of the committee was a detailed
analysis of the consequences and costs of that kind of a change, and that that
type of study would be undertaken by Treasury Board.
The committee members indicated very clearly to the minister, and we say so
very clearly in the observations attached to this bill, that we will be
monitoring the government's work in that area quite carefully because we want
that issue to be dealt with quickly, since we feel it is important.
Honourable senators, in winding up, I will make the observation that this bill
has come under close scrutiny. We had a set of hearings in June, and another
set in August. There are still some significant differences on both sides of
the chamber on a limited number of issues, specifically the surplus issue. On a
substantial number of other issues, both sides of the chamber, I believe, are
in agreement that the bill makes progress in some areas, but not as much
progress as we would have liked to see in other areas, such as the joint
management plan, but that our disagreements over the bill are really limited to
one or two issues.
A majority of the committee members, essentially those on this side, believe
that, on balance, this is a good piece of legislation. We would like more in
the bill, obviously. In particular, we would like to see the joint management
plan in effect. We hope that those negotiations proceed quickly, and in the
way in which both sides have said they will proceed, and we will hold the
minister to her commitment that as soon as those negotiations are completed,
changes will be made in the act which will implement them immediately.
While this is not a perfect bill, honourable senators, I do believe that it is,
on balance, a good first step. It is not the last step but a good first step;
therefore, it is deserving of the support of the members of this chamber.
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I should like to put a question to Senator Kirby. The honourable
senator said something which to me is new, and corrects an impression which I
have had regarding the status of the surplus in this bill. I was under the
impression that this bill would confirm the government's ownership of that
surplus. I understood you to say that the bill does not confirm the employer's
ownership, and that it is left up to the courts to decide on the question. Did
I hear you correctly?
Senator Kirby: The honourable senator did hear me correctly. I
believe if you check the bill, Senator Lynch-Staunton, you will find that the
bill does not, in essence, say that the government owns the surplus. In that
sense, the bill does not create an entitlement. The government believes it is
entitled to the surplus. The bill deals with the question of the allocation of
the surplus or, if you want, the use of the existing surplus, and puts forward
two different proposals, one of which is a slow, "phase out over time"
I see one of the lawyers on the other side is beginning to have some questions
as to whether I am right or wrong, and I am happy to debate that point with
him. Senator Oliver seemed to be about to say that, but the short answer to
your question is yes, you heard me right.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: Is the answer yes or no? Is the $30
billion, which is the subject of great dispute between the Public Service
Alliance and the government, resolved in this bill, or is it still left up in
Senator Kirby: I wish to come back to the premise of your
question for a minute. However, I will try to answer your question directly.
It is my understanding that this issue is not settled. Indeed, the unions told
us in testimony that the matter would still be taken to court. That is the
Second, I wish to be clear when we talk about the surplus. The surplus in this
plan is different from the surplus in a case where you had an actual fund.
Essentially, what happened was the following: Actuaries forecast the liability
the employer would have as a result of employees retiring in the future. An
actuary's forecast is based on a whole series of assumptions. The two key
assumptions are inflation rate and salary changes, salary changes and inflation
rate often being related.
The reality is that, over a long period of time, if you look back at the high
inflation rates of particularly the late 1980s, you find that the inflation
rate and therefore salary increases were fairly substantial. Forecasts made by
actuaries under those circumstances indicated that the government would incur a
very high liability down the road.
Early in the 1990s, two things happened. First, civil service salaries were
frozen so that the actuaries' forecast of the rate of increase of salaries was
too high; and, second, the rate of inflation dropped.
Therefore, actuaries have indicated that there is a liability, but that the
liability shown by the government on its books as a liability for the pension
plan is not nearly as great a liability as was originally forecast. They have
changed their assumptions as the rate of inflation has come down. There was
also a period of time through much of the 1990s in which civil service
salaries, if they were changing at all, were changing very little in
comparison to the rate at which they were changing in the 1980s when the
original assumptions were made.
Fundamentally, we are dealing with what one would view as an accounting entry.
All that happens is that the liability shows on the books of the government as
What one is dealing with when one speaks about a surplus is, I admit, reducing
the size of the liability which increases the net bottom line. That is what we
are dealing with. It is not an actual pot of money out of which someone is
physically taking money. We are dealing with an accounting and an actuarial
Senator Lynch-Staunton: I am aware of the nature of the $30
billion. It is not $30 billion in the bank; it is a notional figure.
However, I believe that other unions have already commenced an action in court
regarding another pension surplus or pension surpluses. Is that correct or
Senator Kirby: I believe that is incorrect. The two cases now
before the courts are not related to the surplus; they are related to the
assumptions that have been used in forecasting the rate of inflation and the
salary increases. The two cases now before the courts are not directly related
to the surplus question. I am looking at Senators Meighen and Oliver, who were
with me. I believe that is what the lawyers for the unions said. That is
certainly what the lawyers for the government said. I see they are nodding, if
Senator Lynch-Staunton: I would set aside those court cases,
but, again, I would like to have a precise answer, perhaps from this side if
not from the other side, as to how this bill affects the $30-billion surplus.
If it is up to the courts to decide on the issue of ownership, whether it
should be shared or be sole ownership, why has the government refused to sit
down with the unions to talk about a joint management program, if the courts
will decide the most litigious question in the long run?
Senator Kirby: One would have to pose that question directly to
the minister. However, it is my understanding that the government holds the
view that it is entitled to the surplus. The government believes it owns the
surplus and it is not prepared to negotiate that question.
In a letter to the minister on June 28, give or take a day, the committee that
negotiates on behalf of the union wrote the minister, the then President of the
Treasury Board, and indicated that, in order to enter into negotiations on the
joint management board issue, the issue of the pension surplus had to be on
table. The government has said from day one, I gather, in these negotiations
that the issue was not to be on the table because they believe they own it.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: If it is up to the courts, in the long
run, to decide this issue, is there anything in this bill regarding the
$30-billion surplus which would inhibit the claimant to it in his proceedings
before the court, or give direction to the judge as to how that surplus might
be disposed of ? Is there anything in the bill which would affect the rights of
the plaintiff in making its case before the court to the advantage of the Crown
which claims the surplus?
Senator Kirby: It is my understanding, based on testimony
before the committee, that the issue of entitlement to the surplus is not
affected by this bill. This bill does affect how the surplus can be used if the
government is given entitlement to the surplus, in the sense that it precisely
specifies what options are available to the government to make use of the
surplus, if the government owns it. It does not, however, deal directly with
the question of the entitlement to the surplus. That issue was very clear in
testimony from government lawyers, both in June and again 10 days ago, when
last we met.
I believe that answers your question directly.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: The second question flows from the
first. Can we have some assurance that there is nothing in the bill which would
prejudice a claimant other than the Crown to the surplus, or favour the Crown
in the dispute before the courts?
Senator Kirby: It is my understanding that that is the case. It
does not prejudice the outcome the court case.
Hon. Douglas Roche: Honourable senators, in paying respect to
Senator Kirby and Senator Tkachuk, as chairman and deputy chairman of the
committee for their leadership in this complex legislation, I ask this question
as one who did not participate in the committee study but who must decide how
to vote on third reading.
Can Senator Kirby tell us why no amendments were brought back to the Senate
following the committee's study? Correct me if I am wrong, but I took it as
implicit in the vote of the Senate last June to send this bill back to
committee that there was something wrong with the bill and that it needed some
improvement. That is why we sent it back. If I am not mistaken, the bill that
has been returned to the Senate is precisely the same bill.
I want to know why the committee is reporting the bill without amendment when
Senator Kirby has pointed out that there have been no negotiations to reach a
joint management agreement. A potentially very serious situation for the future
exists as a result of this stalemate. Should we not propose that the
legislation be strengthened to deal with what we now see as a stalemate, and to
resolve a situation that could be much worse down the road?
Senator Kirby: I am not quite sure I get the last part. Senator
Roche is right in the sense that both sides would agree that we would have
loved to have put into this legislation a joint management and risk sharing
agreement, had the two sides been willing to agree. We were not prepared to
impose one. Obviously, we would not specify what the risk sharing agreement or
the joint management agreement should look like.
The committee was optimistic that, over the summer, the two parties would get
together and finalize details on something to which there has only been
agreement in principle. That did not happen.
I think the one item all of us would agree on, is that we should not impose a
particular joint management or risk sharing agreement on the two parties which
would be the effect of us introducing amendments the basis of which would not
have been negotiated by the employees and employer.
We were left in the quandary of wanting to make changes, but only wanting to
make changes if the two sides had agreed. They had not agreed to anything. That
is why there are no amendments. At the beginning of the summer, in private
conversations among committee members, we had hoped that adding the pressure of
time might lead to an agreement. Unfortunately, it did not.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I am sure Senator
Kirby did not mean to forget to mention a particular letter and leave the wrong
impression with honourable senators regarding the discussions we had hoped
would take place.
Mr. Sjoquist sent a letter dated June 28, 1999, to the President of the
Treasury Board who, at that time, was Mr. Massé. Mr. Sjoquist stated
that, on behalf of the National Joint Council that governs their negotiations,
they would have to discuss the surplus. I think all members of the committee
will have to agree that, during the committee meeting, we had problems trying
to get an answer from the minister concerning whether he sent a letter to the
same Mr. Sjoquist.
Then, on August 4, Mr. Sjoquist sent a letter to the new President of the
Treasury Board, Ms Robillard, stating that he would agree to meet. He wrote:
On June 28th, I replied negatively to a request from the Hon. Marcel Massé
to engage in further discussion because of his requirement of a pre-condition
that the issue of pension surplus could not be on the agenda.
Nevertheless, I am sure that pension reform continues to be high on the
priorities of the Federal Government and yourself as Minister. Therefore, I
would respectfully urge you to convene a meeting of the Public Service Pension
Consultative Committee without pre-conditions so as all parties are free to
address any issues considered outstanding.
That was a problem in the committee meetings. The minister kept going back to
the June 28 letter and refused to attend to the August 4 letter.
Perhaps my honourable friend could enlighten us as to why nothing happened
after the August 4 letter and after those preconditions were eradicated both by
Mr. Sjoquist and by Mr. Bean?
Senator Kirby: I am not sure why nothing happened, other than
the fact that there was a cabinet shuffle and a new minister was appointed. We
were then 10 days or two weeks away from our hearings. The time schedule for
the hearings had been set by the Senate in June.
My friend is quite right that there was a change in the union position between
the end of June and the beginning of August. Mr. Daryl Bean, president of the
public service union, made the observation that there was no way an agreement
would be reached on the joint management board until the issue of the current
surplus had been dealt with. There was some confusion from both sides as to
what happened. It appears that a combination of the unions changing their
position in August from what it had been in June, and the change of the
minister, and the view that the government was still not prepared to negotiate
the surplus, led to no negotiations taking place. Indeed, to the best of my
knowledge, they still have not taken place.
I wish to clarify something so there is no confusion at all with respect to
Senator Lynch-Staunton's question. The staff members who worked on this with me
will confirm what I said a moment ago in response to Senator Lynch-Staunton's
question. This bill does not affect in any way, shape or form the issue of the
entitlement to the existing surplus. That has been confirmed by the lawyers who
have been working on this issue by way of a note to me.
The two cases are before the court. I was wrong in stating that they deal with
the government's forecast. In a sense that is right. They deal with the
accounting principles currently being used regarding the surplus, but they do
not deal with the ownership question.
Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Honourable senators, perhaps Senator
Kirby could repeat what he just said because it is at the core of the major
concern of all members of the committee. I think I heard the honourable senator
say that the bill does not affect the rights of anyone in respect of their
entitlement or lack thereof to the surplus.
Senator Kirby: That is what I said. I am quite happy to read
the words that were sent down to me by the legal staff. This note states: "This
bill will not affect the ownership of the PSSA existing surplus."
Senator Meighen: In effect, it would appear that the government
is proceeding on that great old legal principle of possession being nine-tenths
of the law. If you can get the surplus now and argue about it later, it is a
heck of a lot better than putting it to one side and discussing it.
Senator Kirby: As a lawyer, I am sure that might well be the
advice my honourable colleague would give one of his clients. I have always
thought that not being a lawyer is one of my great blessings.
I think the government is simply proceeding on the assumption that they own the
surplus. The bill states that, assuming they own it, this is how they can
handle it. However, the issue of whether they own it - and this has been made
clear by the union - will ultimately be settled by the courts.
The Hon. the Speaker: Before the Honourable Senator Oliver
proceeds, I would inform honourable senators that the 45-minute period has
Is leave granted to continue, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I have three simple
First, when we were at our last committee hearing, one of the witnesses - I
believe it was Mr. Daryl Bean - said that he had received a letter from the
minister suggesting that they have a meeting to discuss the joint management
framework and other matters on September 1 of this year. Could the honourable
senator tell us whether that meeting took place? If it did take place, was
joint management discussed, and how far did the negotiations go?
Second, the honourable senator talked about the joint management framework and
the risk-sharing plans, but he said that, regretfully, there was no agreement.
He mentioned that we are talking about a $30-billion surplus. He also indicated
in his remarks today that it is clear from the evidence before the committee
that the government funded an $11-billion shortfall. If we take the current
surplus at $30 billion and take away the $11-billion shortfall, my math
indicates that $19 billion remains. Why not share that $19 billion with those
who have paid the premiums?
My third question deals with the language my honourable friend used in his
speech. I wrote it down. He said, "The bill does not create an entitlement
to surplus." He then went on to say that it merely outlines the way the
government can deal with it. If it outlines the way the government can deal
with the surplus, is that not implicitly saying that there is, in fact, an
Senator Kirby: On the first question, I do not know if there
was a meeting on September 1 between the minister and Mr. Daryl Bean. I would
be pleased to try to find out and supply an answer tomorrow. I know the letter
to which my colleague refers. I simply do not know if the meeting took place.
Therefore, I cannot answer the question about what happened.
I cannot quite remember the second question.
Senator Oliver: My second question concerned the $30 billion
and the $11-billion shortfall that was funded.
Senator Kirby: The question, then, is who should be entitled to
the $19-billion surplus, not the $30-billion surplus.
First, the surplus, in a sense, is "fictitious." The surplus does not
exist in a fund. It exists by virtue of the way the accounting has been done,
as I explained to Senator Lynch-Staunton.
Second, the government firmly believes it is entitled to the surplus, as other
employees with defined benefit plans have been entitled to the surplus over the
years. Therefore, the government is operating as if it simply believes it owns
the surplus and has made a policy decision to, in your words, not share the
surplus because of the fact that it has borne the risk.
What was your third question, senator?
Senator Oliver: My third question relates to your statement
that the bill does not create an entitlement to the surplus.
Senator Kirby: The last thing I would want to do is comment on
the legal implications of an act. I think the honourable senator is saying that
if a bill states how the surplus should be handled, that implicitly gives you
an entitlement. As a mathematician, as opposed to a lawyer, I would say, "No.
It simply brings into question an assumption, that the people drafting the act
assumed that they owned it and, therefore, they drafted the act accordingly."
I do not think an assumption automatically generates an entitlement. If it did,
Parliament would pass an awful lot of interesting pieces of legislation based
on assumptions that you were entitled to something. Just as in mathematics you
can prove the assumption is wrong, I would assume that you could make a similar
ruling in a legal case.
I would have difficulty with the notion that an assumption by definition, which
is what this is, creates an entitlement. However, there are many better lawyers
in the chamber than I am, as I only pretend to be one.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, first, I wish to
thank Senator Kirby for his kind complements about my attendance at the
Senator Kelleher raised a question with the minister during the last days of
the hearings a couple of weeks ago concerning the morality of all this. He said
that, while we can argue both sides of the issue here in a legal sense, the
perception on the part of pensioners, in particular, is that they have been
quite wrongfully dealt with. They feel quite angry and that they have been
wrongly dealt with.
If there is a message to the other side, it is that they have badly handled
that issue. The moral issue is staring you in the face. It must be staring at
you on a day-to-day basis, because these people are very unhappy. Can the
honourable senator explain to this chamber how you would explain away that
sense of injustice?
Senator Kirby: Honourable senators, one cannot explain away
that perception. I agree 100 per cent that that perception very much exists.
Indeed, one often says in politics that the public's perception is reality. If
that is the case, there certainly are unhappy people. That is clear not only
from the petition that Senator Tkachuk tabled today but from the literally
hundreds of letters which have been sent to my office and to the offices of a
great many of my colleagues, in particular, those on the Banking Committee. It
is also clear from the many comments made by witnesses.
This is simply a case where the government, as an employer - and, as other
employers have done in other situations where the same perception has existed -
has made a decision that, consistent with pension practice in the private
sector as well as the public sector, it is entitled to this surplus. I use the
word "surplus" in quotations because it is sort of fictitious.
Nevertheless, the government is entitled to it. I understand the misperception
that exists and the fact that many people disagree with that position of the
government. However, it seems to be a position which is defensible, both in
terms of past practice vis-à-vis defined benefit plans and entitlement
to the surplus. I think what the honourable senator is really saying is that
it poses a significant political issue, and I fully understand that.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I rise to speak on
third reading of Bill C-78. Since we are being so gracious today, first, I
should like to thank Senator Kirby, chairman of the committee, for allowing how
the opposition minority felt regarding the bill to be placed in the main report
so that we were not forced to have two reports. Many of the points that we
raised, which were difficult questions, were supported by not only the
minority members, the Conservative members, but also some of the Liberal
members. Nonetheless, we are still here before you today dealing with this
As the opposition party, we have had several problems with Bill C-78 from the
outset. One of the main problems is: Who speaks for the pensioners? Who speaks
for the people who are affected by this bill? Although this is not a trust
agreement in the sense of a pension plan that has a trust, nonetheless, the
government and the Treasury Board itself must act as a trustee and has an
obligation to pay the pensions not only now but in the future. Yet, there they
are, not only changing the way this pension will be governed but taking the $30
billion. We do not believe this stuff about it being "non-existent."
You see, a surplus does not exist but a deficit does. Is that not interesting?
We really have no surplus here. The President of the Treasury Board called the
surplus simply "an overstatement of an actuarial liability." I then
asked him, "A deficit must surely be an understatement of an actuarial
asset, then, because when you are short of money you take it from somewhere. In
this particular case, however, when you have more money than you need, it is
not really a surplus but, rather, an accounting practice." They are not
really taking the surplus.
The handling of Bill C-78 and Bill C-32 is testimony enough to the need to
reform Parliament itself.
My objections to the substance of Bill C-78 are well stated in the speech that
I gave on June 3 and in the speeches that other members on our side gave, in
particular, Senator Stratton and Senator Kelleher. The exercise that we have
followed since our motion in June is what I will dwell on today.
The motion that passed was based on what we believed to be a sincere desire of
the government to make right what they admitted were serious flaws in the bill.
We all know there are serious flaws in the bill. The minister knows there are
flaws in the bill; the members opposite know there are serious flaws in the
Our first concern has been the government's decision to claim the entire
surplus in the public service pension plan in spite of the fact that 40 per
cent of the money in that plan was taken from employee paycheques and in spite
of the fact the government recently passed Bill S-3, the Pension Benefits
Standards Act, taking an entirely different approach for the private sector.
Indeed, the government is taking a different approach to those whom it employs
directly than for those whom it employs indirectly, namely, Crown corporations
such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which did have negotiations on
how to dispose of the surplus, because they could have negotiations on how to
dispose of the surplus.
Our second concern has been the governance of the plan. The plan should be
jointly managed. Both sides were close to an agreement in December of 1998. As
well, the governance rules set out in law must be strengthened to guide the
selection work and oversight of a board that will, in time, be responsible for
managing in excess of $100 billion.
Our third concern has been over the government's approach to the same-sex
survivor benefit issue. We would prefer that the government not proceed in a
manner that will lead to a new court battle as lawyers argue the legal meaning
of the term "conjugal relationship," in particular given that - and,
I think the government has stated this - an omnibus bill is coming in this
fall which will deal with this issue in all the acts of the government. We
would prefer that the same consideration be given to other relationships where
a dependency exists.
In June, the Banking Committee reported Bill C-78 with a number of observations
concerning the bill. With the exception of the views of the majority on
ownership of the surplus, these observations reflected our concerns. In his
response to our report, the former President of the Treasury Board wrote to
Senator Kirby, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and said.
I hope that you will convey to the Committee the government's sincere intention
to undertake whatever measures are necessary to ensure that discussions with
employee and pensioner representatives are re-established as soon as possible
with a view to achieving a joint management arrangement in the future.
The key words are:
...government's sincere intention to undertake whatever measures are
Honourable senators, if the government were sincere, then should this bill not
be put on hold since it will need to be amended in any event a short time from
now in order to create a jointly managed board.
Last June, we believed the government's sincerity. Instead of voting to pass
the bill, we presented a motion to return the bill to committee, and to enable
the government and affected unions to discuss joint management.
On June 17, a motion was passed that this bill:
...be not now read the third time but that it be referred back to the Standing
Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce so that the Committee may
monitor discussions between Treasury Board and affected unions over matters
contained in the letter of the President of Treasury Board referred to in the
report of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce on Bill
That the Committee report back to the Senate no later than September 7, 1999.
We did that because the minister said that he would act. We were not acting
under a false assumption. We have a letter which was tabled with the report
saying that he would act.
Honourable senators, the committee has reported. While we have made a number of
additional recommendations, no action was taken. There has been no progress
over the summer. Nothing has been achieved.
It seems that the unions do not get it. It seems that the unions do not want to
give up their right to the surplus. What union leader will enter the
negotiating room offering to give up $30 billion? Does any minister of the
Crown believe, in his wildest dreams, that a union leader will say such a thing
before walking into the negotiating room? That is why the minister used those
words, giving us such consolation and promising to undertake whatever measures
are necessary. That is why he used those words.
I believe, though other senators may not, that the government knew from the
very beginning that they were blowing smoke. They were not interested in
meeting with the unions. They were trying to ram this bill through in order to
pick up the $30 billion, to erase the liability and make that total debt load
look good for Minister Martin in his next financial statement.
Daryl Bean told us something during our hearings that is very upsetting if it
is true, and I have no reason to believe that it is not: Almost immediately
after the motion was passed, Mr. Bean received a phone call from Treasury
Board; it was from an unnamed senior government official who unofficially
advised him that Treasury Board had no intention of meeting, and would wait
out the summer in the expectation that a final vote would be held by a
reconfigured Senate in early September, at which time the government's position
would prevail. That is what Mr. Bean recounted to us. I have no reason not to
believe him. I think this is clearly contempt. Such an attitude holds
Parliament in contempt, and the Senate, in particular. All of us on both sides
of this chamber should be upset about that action.
Mr. Bean did offer to resume negotiations without any pre-conditions in August.
The government chose not to accept that. Mr. Sjoquist did offer to resume
negotiations without any pre-conditions on the surplus. Nothing happened.
I do not believe that the appointment of a new minister kept things from
happening. Surely someone could have picked up the phone, even in the month
before, and suggested the beginning of discussions by not talking about any of
these issues and then see what would happen. That would have been a very simple
thing to do.
This motion of Parliament was ignored by a minister of the Crown. How can
democracy work when we do that? Democracy works because we respect each other.
That is why they are having all that trouble in East Timor. They have voted,
but some people do not care about the vote. They shoot people who disagree.
Here we approve motions in our house of Parliament. Surely we expect more
reaction from the minister than what we got over the summer months. We expect
more from the government than we got over the summer months.
I know some members opposite are a little uneasy about what has transpired,
particularly those on the Banking Committee who know what happened. Not only
has the government failed to meet with plan members but, from the evidence we
heard during our August hearings, the government intends to ignore the Banking
Committee's report and the minister's comments in other areas. We did ask about
the auditor, and disclosure items, and those other areas. I do not believe the
government has any intention of incorporating those issues into the new
negotiations that will take place.
We named specific recommendations on specific issues and we were ignored. The
minister, the former and the current ministers saw the first 28 pages and did
not like them. The first 28 pages govern the management of the pension plan.
The minister told us she wants to begin negotiations to change the bill. Why
would we pass a bill and then immediately change it? If we are passing a bill
into law, why would we meet in the next week to talk about revising the law?
I do not speak for all senators on this side, but I personally do not believe
that what this bill is about is the first 28 pages. It is about the
non-existent surplus of $30 billion.
Why would we, as a Senate, pass a bill that the executive of the government
says it will change immediately following its passing? Why would we do that?
Why would we set up an administration which will not last more than a few
months? Why would Liberal senators go along with that?
The government's failure to consult the RCMP and the military was a further
issue raised by our committee. On June 25, following the Senate vote, Mr. Massé
indicated in a letter to Senator Kirby that he would write to the Minister of
Defence and the Solicitor General asking them to proceed with a consultation
process on pension matters as soon as possible. Once again, zero progress has
been made. Instead we are being told, in the words of the minister, to pass the
legislation so that we will be able to do the job afterwards.
You must wonder why the government wants to wait until after all the decisions
have been made and the bill is law before talking to the RCMP and military
about their pension plans. How much money will be wasted in setting up an
administration that may never oversee the investment of a dime because it will
be replaced, one year from now, by something else? We know how long it took
them to set up the CPP Investment Board. They had to have the bill passed right
away, they said. They had to invest that money and get going, they said, but
one and a half years later the CPP board has not even been set up.
Now we will begin this set-up process, but amendments will be made so nothing
will actually happen for years to come - except that the government will get
the $30 billion that it wants. The government wants passage of this bill, warts
and all, because of that $30 billion. There has been only opposition from
people affected by this bill. I did not get one letter, out of the many I did
receive from pensioners, saying that the government is right and that they
should take that money. No pensioner has said they would be happy with that
because the government has a legal right to take the money. I do not think any
onr of you got such a letter, either. It is a free country; we could have hoped
for one, but we got none; not from one retiree, not one such letter. Perhaps
Senator Kirby received a letter like that but he did not table that petition in
This bill is not just about a $30-billion supposed surplus. Bill C-78 is about
exercising the power of the Langevin Block to get that money. The bill is not
about the Pension Plan Management Board, it is about government arrogance: We
have to do this now. It was not done over the summer, so we must do this now.
That is government arrogance. They were, perhaps, a little embarrassed.
The process and the summer events are not about parliamentary democracy, they
are about the usurpation of the parliamentary process, because that is what
happened this summer. They do not care that we passed a resolution because
they can do what they want. That is what Bill C-78 is about.
This entire process is not about the well-being of the workforce and retirees,
it is about having a timely party with Adrienne Clarkson. That is why we are
here, and that is why we cannot come back on October 23. They will be having a
party with Adrienne Clarkson. We will be here until the fall. What is the
problem? My remarks apply equally to Bill C-32. Both bills are about a party
with Adrienne Clarkson. We must have it on October 13. There will be motions to
limit debate on both bills for that very reason.
The entire process should be about our role and not about the government's
role, and our duty, and whether we will have the courage to exercise our duty
and defeat this bill.
Hon. Douglas Roche: My question is the same one that I put to
Senator Kirby. I listened carefully to Senator Kirby but perhaps I did not
quite understand everything he said. I put the same question to Senator Tkachuk
which concerns the absence of any proposed amendment to the bill that has been
returned to us.
Senator Tkachuk referred several times to the flaws in this bill and made
particular reference to the poor wording that will lead, in his view, to legal
battles over conjugal relationships. I should like to hear from Senator Tkachuk
as to why there were no amendments proposed to this bill.
Senator Tkachuk: If I am not mistaken, Senator Taylor suggested
some amendments. If I remember correctly, there was no movement from the chair
last June to even consider them. Being fairly wise people, we decided that we
would move our amendments in this chamber. We have a number of amendments
prepared on Bill C-78, which we will move here, however, the summer process,
after the June vote, was to give the opportunity to the government to make the
As Senator Kirby so aptly expressed, we are not here to impose some joint
management agreement, even though we see many flaws in it, on what we think
should be a negotiated deal between the people affected; the pensioners, the
present workers, and the government. That should be brought to us. We gave them
a two and a half month opportunity to do that and nothing happened, therefore,
our view was that nothing would happen in committee.
However, there will be amendments to the bill, I am certain.
On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.
International Position in
Consideration of Report of
Transport and Communications Committee-Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the consideration of the Report of the Subcommittee on
Communications of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications
entitled "Wired to Win! Canada's Positioning Within The World's
Technological Revolution," deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on May
Hon. Shirley Maheu: Honourable senators, I rise today with
pleasure and enthusiasm to speak to you of the final report of the Subcommittee
on Communications entitled "Au fil du progrès! Wired to Win!"
on Canada's position within the world technological revolution.
Pleasure and enthusiasm because this report represents the termination of a
study which will, with the recommendations it contains, 21 in all, enable
Canada to play its rightful role in a world being inundated by new means of
This report focusses on the impact of these new technologies on the
entertainment industries, the new media and the cultural industry in
particular. It emphasizes the challenges raised by new distribution systems
such as the Internet, and proposes means of meeting those challenges.
These new technologies know no borders. Our cultural diversity will therefore
have to stand up to international competition. We will need creativity and
foresight if we are to determine the path that must be followed if Canadians
are to be able to take advantage of this technological progress and if that
progress is to enable our national culture to flourish.
In order to reach that goal, the subcommittee on communications stresses the
importance of making sure that no group of Canadians is left behind. We do not
want groups of Canadians to become disenfranchised have-nots, at the margins
of society, unable to function in today's wired world.
It is for that reason that the Senate's study of technology wants Statistics
Canada to monitor the ownership of computers and the use of the Internet to
ensure that there is equal opportunity throughout all levels of our society.
They all must have access to the new media. It is also why this study urges the
government to continue its efforts in bringing the Internet into all Canadian
schools so that our young people have the opportunity to take part in the world
of new technology and, ultimately, contribute to Canada's place in the world.
Today, knowledge of the Internet and new communication technologies is highly
useful, but before long it will become essential. These modern media, by virtue
of their enormous capacities, limitless scope, and regulatory flexibility, will
become a pervasive presence and will force the traditional media such as the
cable and electrical companies to re-examine their strategies and the services
they have been offering.
This reorganization will make it possible for people to do such things as
watching a film on a computer screen or using their television set to surf the
net. Canadians will need to move easily within this wired world if they are to
fully benefit from it.
However, we must be watchful of what happens on the Web. Although this new
media offers great possibilities, some people are more interested in using this
technology in a less appropriate way. Many Web sites promoting racism and
pornography have been emerging. These sites should not be tolerated, and
actions are to be taken to make content of this sort illegal.
In North America, some want a hands-off approach to the Internet, arguing that
it would be very difficult, almost impossible, to regulate the Web. The
subcommittee understands that very well, and acknowledges that it might be a
difficult task to draft legislation to control the content of the Internet.
However, the subcommittee believes that something must be done to solve this
problem. It believes that one way of curbing obnoxious sites is to make the
distribution systems that carry them liable, with penalties that include
seizure of assets.
It has also asked the government to move quickly on addressing the issues of
racism, violence and pornography on the Internet. In some European countries,
laws have already been drafted to make content of this sort illegal. Why could
we not do the same?
The Internet and the new media are, as we know, powerful tools of communication
that will greatly influence Canadian culture.
I wish to remind you that, in the context of our work, we looked at culture in
its broadest sense. This includes, therefore, all the elements that contribute
to a definition of Canada as it is now. One of the witnesses appearing before
us, Yvon Thiec, the Director General of Eurocinéma, summarized the
situation very well. According to him, culture is:
[...] the communal conscience bringing people together.
The subcommittee also made a few recommendations so the new technologies may
become promotional tools to introduce the world as a whole to Canadian culture.
In order to achieve that goal, it was felt that fiscal incentives, such as
those available to conventional film and television producers, should be
extended to creators of new media content. It was also recommended that
Internet service providers, or ISPs, should begin contributing a levy that
would be pooled and used for new media productions. This approach would be in
line with the current levy on cable operators who pay, according to their
revenues, into a fund for the development of domestic programming.
Studies show that TV viewing is declining while use of the Internet is
increasing. Therefore, as cable contributions to the fund go down as a
percentage of revenues, ISP levies would kick in at a certain point to
compensate. This would not be a new levy but a fair practice to ensure funds
for Canadian content.
Canadian culture may also gain exposure through the "portals" on the
World Wide Web. These portals, such as America Online and Yahoo, are real ports
of entry to the Web. They attract clients with single entry windows and then
direct them to commercial income generating sites, thus favouring some sites
The subcommittee therefore recommends that Canadian portals be given incentives
to give Canadian cultural works greater prominence on their sites. The CBC,
among others, as a public broadcaster should be given resources to create a
search engine or a portal giving Internet access to Canadian works. These
measures would give Canadian culture and products a choice location and good
visibility on the Web.
The subcommittee recognized as well that our young talents will represent
Canadian culture in the future. They will therefore have to have the support
they need from Canada's cultural organizations in order to play this role
fully. These organizations' commitment to our young artists must be expressed
in the new media and in the more traditional ones, too.
To conclude, I would like to draw your attention to an interesting project of
the more traditional media. It appears that the action taken by broadcasters in
francophone countries to form a consortium to provide an international
television service has proven successful to some extent. This consortium,
called TV5, has expanded its distribution and improved the quality of its
Through its participation in this initiative, Canada has made its culture
better known in francophone countries. The subcommittee believes that the
public broadcasters in the anglophone countries could learn from this
I think honourable senators can easily understand why we are so proud of this
report. The recommendations that are made as a result of this study will surely
help Canada stay a leader in the world of new technologies and will assure that
we stay the most wired country of the whole world. The world's technological
revolution brings many new challenges. I believe that Canada has all the tools
to face them.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: How did you, or the committee, react
to the news that the CRTC had decided not to control Web content?
Senator Maheu: The CRTC is not the only means of controlling
what appears on the Web. Several neighbouring countries, including the United
States, use external monitoring. Through legislation, we will be able to force
an agency to monitor Web content that is pornographic, or racist, for instance.
Senator Nolin: This is certainly something that interests a
great many people. The Internet began in California on September 2, 1969. This
week, Munich is the site of a conference attended by 300 participants
representing various governments, including the governments of Canada, the
United States and other countries interested in controlling information on the
Were you aware of this conference and, if so, do you know whether Canadian
officials are taking part? What do you hope will come out of the conference?
Senator Maheu: Unfortunately, I am not aware of the conference,
but I am sure the chair of the subcommittee on communications was. Europe is
determined to find a way of controlling Internet content, and the Americans
have already begun; we in Canada must certainly be capable of introducing
legislation in this regard.
Senator Nolin: Most of the members of this group are North
Americans. The conference is being held in Munich for reasons I am unaware of.
The name of this very recent group is the Internet Content Rating Association.
On motion of Senator Spivak, debate adjourned for Senator Johnson.
Bill to Amend-Motion to Adopt
Report of Committee Negatived on Division
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Murray, P.C., seconded
by the Honourable Senator Cochrane, for the adoption of the fifteenth report of
the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill
S-10, to amend the Excise Tax Act, with an amendment) presented in the Senate
on December 9, 1998.-(Honourable Senator Carstairs)
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, as was mentioned earlier today, there is a symbolic and
practical interest on this side to see this matter resolved by this chamber.
The symbolic dimension relates to the fact that international literacy is on
the front burner today. The practical interest is that, in looking at the
parliamentary timetable, we are of the view that this session of Parliament
will probably draw to a close within the next few weeks.
In light of that, I wish to move the previous question.
The Hon. the Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator
Kinsella, seconded by the Honourable Senator DeWare, that the previous question
be moved. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Deputy Leader of the Government): No.
The Hon. the Speaker: Those honourable senators in favour of
the motion will please say "yea."
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker: Those honourable senators opposed to the
motion will please say "nay."
Some Hon. Senators: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker: In my opinion, the "nays" have
And two honourable senators having risen.
The Hon. the Speaker: Call in the senators.
The whips confirm that the bells will ring for one half-hour. The vote will
therefore take place at 5:45 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the motion before
the Senate is that the previous question on this order be now put.
Motion negatived on the following division:
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
The Hon. the Speaker: I declared the motion defeated.
Accordingly, pursuant to rule 48(2), the main motion drops from the Order
International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights-Recent Responses to Questions from
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Kinsella calling the
attention of the Senate to the Responses to the Supplementary Questions emitted
by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on
Canada's Third Report on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights.-(Honourable Senator Andreychuk)
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I congratulate
Senator Kinsella for putting this inquiry on the Order Paper. The issue is
extremely important and the outcome of Canada's involvement in committee
processes at the United Nations is worthy of scrutiny. However, in light of the
lateness of the hour this evening, I propose only to open the debate at this
point and now move that the adjournment stand in my name.
On motion of Senator Andreychuk, debate adjourned.
Motion to Establish Special
Committee to Examine Activities of Canadian Airborne Regiment in
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Lynch-Staunton,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Berntson:
That a Special Committee of the Senate be appointed to examine and report on
the manner in which the chain of command of the Canadian Forces, both
in-theatre and at National Defence Headquarters, responded to the operational,
disciplinary, decision-making and administrative problems encountered during
the Somalia deployment to the extent that these matters have not been examined
by the Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia;
That the Committee in examining these issues may call witnesses from whom it
believes it may obtain evidence relevant to these matters including but not
1. former Ministers of National Defence;
2. the then Deputy Minister of National Defence;
3. the then Acting Chief of Staff of the Minister of National Defence;
4. the then special advisor to the Minister of National Defence (M. Campbell);
5. the then special advisor to the Minister of National Defence (J. Dixon);
6. the persons occupying the position of Judge Advocate General during the
7. the then Deputy Judge Advocate General (litigation); and
8. the then Chief of Defence Staff and Deputy Chief of Defence Staff.
That seven Senators, nominated by the Committee of Selection act as members of
the Special Committee, and that three members constitute a quorum;
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to
examine witnesses under oath, to report from time to time and to print such
papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the Committee;
That the Committee have power to authorize television and radio broadcasting,
as it deems appropriate, of any or all of its proceedings;
That the Committee have the power to engage the services of such counsel and
other professional, technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary
for the purposes of its examination;
That the political parties represented on the Special Committee be granted
allocations for expert assistance with the work of the Committee;
That it be empowered to adjourn from place to place within and outside Canada;
That the Committee have the power to sit during sittings and adjournments of
That the Committee submit its report not later than one year from the date of
it being constituted, provided that, if the Senate is not sitting, the report
will be deemed submitted on the day such report is deposited with the Clerk of
the Senate; and
That the Special Committee include in its report, its findings and
recommendations regarding the structure, functioning and operational
effectiveness of National Defence Headquarters, the relationship between the
military and civilian components of NDHQ, and the relationship among the
Deputy Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Minister of
And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Forrestall, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Beaudoin, that the motion be amended by adding in
paragraph 2 the following:
"9. the present Minister of National Defence.."-(Honourable
Hon. Norman K. Atkins: Honourable senators, due to the recent
series of allegations about Canadian soldiers being exposed to toxic substances
while serving in Croatia between 1993 and 1995, and the alleged shredding of
medical documents, I move that the motion be amended by adding two new
paragraphs after point 8 as follows:
That the committee also examine and report on allegations that Canadian Forces
personnel were exposed to toxic substances in Croatia between 1993 and 1995,
the alleged destruction of service personnel medical records, and actions by
the Chain of Command in theatre and in National Defence Headquarters in
responding to these issues;
That the committee in examining these issues may call upon witnesses from whom
it believes it may obtain evidence relevant to these matters, including but not
limited to the Minister of National Defence;
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators,
to adopt the motion?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Deputy Leader of the Government): If
Senator Atkins is not going to speak to the amendment, I move the adjournment
of the debate.
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: Honourable senators, I suggest that the
amendment is totally out of order because the main motion deals with actions in
Somalia. Senator Atkins is attempting to enlarge it, by way of amendment to a
subclause of the main motion, to encompass events that took place in another
theatre of intervention, namely, Czechoslovakia. If he wants to bring that to
the attention of honourable senators, he should give notice of a motion to do
so, but he cannot simply, as he did today, introduce this new matter as an
amendment to another substantive motion. The motion should be ruled out of
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, the point of order raised by the Honourable Senator Corbin
is an interesting one, but I am not sure that it will meet the test of either
precedent or the Rules of the Senate of Canada.
First, the plain reading of the main motion is universal enough to encompass
all activities that relate to the chain of command, the culture of which chain
of command has not changed since the time of the Somalia tragedy and continues
to affect, in the view of many, the management of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The amendment proposed by Senator Atkins is particular to the culture within
the chain of command which the universal proposition contained in the main
motion would easily encompass. Therefore, the matter is not out of order and
there is nothing in the procedural literature which would suggest to the
Hon. John B. Stewart: Honourable senators, we should look at
the wording of the main motion. That motion proposes that a special committee
of the Senate be appointed to deal with the chain of command of the Canadian
Forces, both in theatre and at National Defence headquarters, the effective
...responded to the operational, disciplinary, decision-making and
administrative problems encountered during the Somalia deployment to the extent
that these matters have not been examined by the Commission of Inquiry into
the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia;
The original motion focuses on the operations in Somalia and not in any other
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have reread
the main motion carefully. I agree that the main motion deals specifically with
the Somalia deployment. It does indeed say:
...the Canadian Forces both in-theatre and at National Defence Headquarters,
responded to the operational, disciplinary, decision-making and administrative
problems encountered during the Somalia deployment to the extent that these
matters have not been examined by the Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment
of Canadian Forces to Somalia;
To bring in Croatia would, I think, fall outside of the main motion.
I therefore declare the amendment out of order.
Honourable senators, we still have the main motion before us. Does some
honourable senator wish to adjourn the debate on the main motion?
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, it is my understanding
that, since Senator Atkins has now spoken to the motion, it would normally be
adjourned in the name of another senator. However, since Senator Atkins only
spoke to this motion briefly, if he wishes the adjournment to stand in his
name, he may move such a motion.
Senator Atkins: Honourable senators, it is my intention to
speak to it on another occasion. That being so, I would move that the debate be
adjourned in my name.
On motion of Senator Atkins, debate adjourned.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it is now six
o'clock. Is it your wish that I not see the clock?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Deputy Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, since there are only two items left on the Order Paper, it
would be the will of the chamber not to see the clock.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):
The opposition agrees with the Deputy Leader of the Government that we not see
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, we have now
reached the end of the regular Order Paper. We were at Inquiries. The first
item to be taken up now is Honourable Senator Kinsella's question of privilege
which he raised yesterday and which, by general agreement, was set to be dealt
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, I shall not keep you very long on this matter. The facts
of the matter are quite straightforward, so I shall be brief.
I did, however, want to provide some background to this matter, which is very
serious. On Sunday, August 15, 1999, I co-chaired a senators' Sunday round
table on citizen participation in civic affairs, held here in the National
Capital Region. During that round table, I had asked the participants to
address the question of barriers they perceived to citizens' participation in
civic affairs. A certain Dr. Shiv Chopra was one of the participants, and he
responded to the question with a personal example involving a five-day
suspension without pay that he had just received from his employer, Health
Canada. He stated that it was his view that this five-day suspension without
pay was a direct consequence of his testimony before a standing Senate
committee. Dr. Chopra was attending the workshop as a representative of the
National Capital Alliance on Race Relations and is, in fact, their past
Following that round table discussion, Dr. Chopra wrote me a letter dated
August 19 in which he again stated that this job action taken against him by
his employer, Health Canada, was a direct result of his testimony before the
standing Senate committee.
Dr. Chopra was one of five Health Canada scientists who were witnesses before
the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry during its study on
recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBST, and its effects on human and animal
In September, 1998, an invitation was sent by that committee to Dr. Chopra and
others to appear before the committee, and a notice of meeting was issued for
October 1, 1998. That meeting, however, was cancelled as the scientists stated
that they were concerned about the repercussions on their careers if they
appeared before our committee.
On October 2, 1998, the Minister of Health sent a letter to Senator Whelan, who
was the chair of that committee at the time, reassuring him and the committee
members that any suggestion that Health Canada employees are under threat was "completely
On October 22, 1998, Dr. Chopra appeared before the Standing Senate Committee
on Agriculture and Forestry and gave evidence. On October 29, 1998, officials
from Health Canada appeared before the same committee, and I wish to quote
from an exchange between Senator Stratton and Mr. David Dodge, the Deputy
Minister at Health Canada.
Senator Stratton: As you know, five scientists appeared last
week before this committee, three of whom took an oath. It took a lot of
courage to give that testimony. I would like to have your assurance in front of
this committee that those people will be dealt with fairly in the future. The
last thing this committee wants to hear is that one of them ends up in
Timbuktu, for lack of a better word. I do not want to offend anyone in Canada
by naming a city such as Winnipeg. Therefore, I would like to have your
I have told them - and I thank them for being here again today - that if they
do have a problem, to please come to us. If we cannot get assurance or
reassurance from the health department, do I have your assurance?
Mr. Dodge: Senator, the allegations that are being made are
obviously being examined through due process. That due process is
extraordinarily important. Every employee deserves the protection of that due
These employees and every other employee of the Department of Health -indeed, I
would hope, of the Government of Canada - ought to be afforded all those
protections of due process.
On April 26, 1999, Dr. Chopra again appeared before the committee as part of
the human safety panel, and on May 3, 1999, he appeared also as a scientist
from Health Canada.
In this chamber, on May 5, 1999, during the debate on the interim report of the
Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry concerning rBST, I asked
the following question of my colleague Senator Milne:
I attended the Monday morning session of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry and listened to Dr. Haydon and her colleagues,
including Dr. Chopra.
I should like to know whether the honourable senator shares my view on the
following subject. When the scientists from Health Canada testified before the
committee, they indicated that they were experiencing a sense of insecurity
about possible retaliation as a result of their testimony before the Senate
Does the honourable senator agree that any kind of retaliation taken by senior
managers in Health Canada against their scientists on the basis of their
appearance before one of our committees is totally unacceptable and is
contemptuous of the Senate?
Would the honourable senator also agree that any witnesses who appear before
Senate committees should not be subject to interference?
Senator Milne responded:
Honourable senators, I sincerely hope that no witness appearing before any
Senate committee would be placed in the position of fearing for the loss of
their job, or in fact intimidation in any way whatsoever. Certainly that should
not be the case if that person is a federal government employee.
Now we turn, honourable senators, to the date of the job action against Dr.
Chopra. Apparently, Heritage Canada invited Dr. Chopra to be a member of a
panel at the Heritage Canada conference entitled "The Human Dimension,
Workplace Experiences of Visible Minorities," which was held here in the
National Capital Region on March 26, 1999. That date is important. On March 26
Dr. Chopra appeared as a panellist at a Heritage Canada workshop on visible
minorities in the workplace. Dr. Chopra had been invited to attend this
workshop in his capacity as president of the Federation of Race Relations
Organizations of Ontario.
On July 21, 1999, Dr. Chopra was told in writing by Dr. André Lachance,
Director, Health Canada Bureau of Veterinary Drugs, Food Directorate, that
there was a problem with what he had to say at the Heritage Canada conference
back in March and was asked to attend a meeting with Dr. Lachance and other
officials on July 23, 1999. Sometime later, he was notified that he would
receive a five-day disciplinary suspension, starting August 18.
Honourable senators, here we have an individual who appeared before one of our
committees on October 22, 1998, and again on April 26, 1999, and May 3, 1999.
This individual was concerned that the evidence he would give, which was
critical of his employer, would be used against him by that employer. The
committee undertook a number of initiatives to reassure its witnesses,
including receiving written assurances from a minister of the Crown. Prior to
these last two appearances before a Senate committee, he was a panellist at the
request of another government department where he was critical of the
government's record as it pertains to visible minorities in the workplace. No
job action was taken by his employer until some five months after that
Honourable senators, I do not know more than these facts as I have presented
them to this chamber, but Dr. Chopra believes that his five-day suspension
without pay was a direct consequence of his testimony before the Standing
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.
Honourable senators know that the Bill of Rights of 1689, article 9, is a
statutory provision which spells out the rights to freedom of speech given to
parliamentarians and witnesses who appear either at the bar of the house or
before a committee. Canada, honourable senators, claimed these privileges under
the Constitution Act of 1867 and further codified the rights of witnesses
before parliamentary committees in the Parliament of Canada Act and the Charter
of Rights and Freedoms.
Beauchesne's 6th Edition, citation 109, provides as follows:
Witnesses before committees share the same privilege of freedom of speech as
Members. Nothing said before a committee (or at the Bar of the House) may be
used in a court of law. Thus a witness may not refuse to answer on the grounds
of self incrimination.
It is clearly in the interest of our parliamentary committees that our
witnesses feel safe to give unreserved testimony without fear that it may
jeopardize, directly or indirectly, their personal or professional lives. Erskine
May, Twentieth Edition, has a provision which reads that "molestation
of or threats against those who have previously given evidence before either
House or a committee will be treated by the House concerned as a contempt.
Such actions have included assault or a threat of assault on witnesses,
insulting or abusive behaviour, misuse (by a gaoler) or censure by an employer."
The crux of the matter is that freedom of speech on the part of witnesses
before a committee is essential to the process of gathering information by this
house. Witnesses who fear retaliation, directly or indirectly, arising from
their testimony, whether because of implied or direct threats or because
previous witnesses have suffered due to their testimony before a committee,
obviously will not be forthcoming in their evidence. Since this lack of full
disclosure impedes parliamentarians on the committee in the full exercise of
their duties, it represents a breach of parliamentary privilege and the action
of the Department of Health amounts to contempt of the Senate and its
Should His Honour make the appropriate finding of a
prima facie case, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion, which
would be to the effect that the matter be referred to the Standing Senate
Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders for investigation and report
to this house.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, this is a serious
matter because, obviously, witnesses who appear before our committees must be
able to speak freely to the committee. However, I must be satisfied that the
action taken is related to the appearance before the committee. If any other
senators have information on this matter, I would be pleased to hear from them.
Hon. John B. Stewart: Honourable senators, I should like to ask
Senator Kinsella a question. I agree entirely with what he says in the matter
of principle. However, if I recall accurately what he said, the doctor in
question believes that a penalty was imposed on him by reason of his appearance
before a committee of the Senate and the testimony which he gave there.
Can the honourable senator substantiate his statement that the doctor believes
that this occurred? Does he have, for example, a letter from the doctor in
which the doctor states that he believes that, or is it just hearsay?
Obviously, if the doctor believes it and has put that in writing, then it makes
the matter much more serious.
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, the same thought
occurred to me. On August 19, 1999, I received a letter from Dr. Chopra in
which he states that, "I mentioned that all these actions were the direct
consequence of my testimony, which I was requested (required) to give before
the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry for its bovine growth
hormone rBST investigations." It is this letter and that statement from
Dr. Chopra which I rely upon to bring this matter to the attention of the
Senator Stewart: That is a useful answer.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Deputy Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, Senator Kinsella has raised a serious question of
privilege. We must in this chamber, as they must in the other chamber, always
know that witnesses can come before us in our various committees without any
fear of reprisal.
It is clear that there is some disagreement as to why this penalty was imposed.
We know, for example, that Dr. Chopra feels that it was his appearance before
this Agriculture Committee that resulted in his penalty. We have had
correspondence with the Deputy Minister of Health which would indicate that
that was not the case.
It would appear to me that we have a disagreement, which is not possible for us
to resolve unless we hear testimony. If His Honour thinks that there is a prima
facie case of privilege, I would certainly support Senator Kinsella's
motion that this be referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing
Rules and Orders for further study.
Hon. Shirley Maheu: Honourable senators, as chair of that
committee, I would ask to adjourn this debate to give me enough time to make
inquiries of Health Canada to ascertain if Dr. Lachance can give us the other
side of the story.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I am sorry, but the
matter cannot be adjourned. The procedure is that the Speaker hears all
honourable senators who wish to speak on the matter until the he is satisfied
that the he has enough information. The Speaker then either makes a decision or
takes it under advisement.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I have listened
most attentively to this debate. I have given equal attention to the words of
Senator Kinsella, and I am satisfied with the response by Senator Carstairs.
She says that is what is done here in this chamber, as it is in the other.
I am not too sure about the other chamber, having been there 30 years, but the
Senate should defend rights and be satisfied that the rights of any witness
called before us has been respected.
As far as I am concerned, I am satisfied with the agreement that the official
government side and the opposition side are in a dilemma, one side versus the
I am happy to welcome to the Senate the chair of the Joint Committee on
Official Languages, Senator Finestone.
The doctor really believes that he has been punished and his rights have been
interfered with. He is totally convinced of this. The response by his bosses
did not indicate any connection. That is where the dilemma lies. How can we be
satisfied as to which is the case? Senator Carstairs has stated it very
clearly: A committee is the only body that could conclude that yes, what the
doctor says is correct, or no, his rights have not been interfered with.
If the Senate has a duty to fulfil, it is in the total protection of any
witness. Could you imagine, just for a moment, if we were to take such a thing
too lightly? We must signal respect to witnesses who have information about
certain matters. How would they feel if they discovered that, in a case which
was submitted to us, we saw fit not to take any action? Therefore, I agree with
both Senator Carstairs and Senator Kinsella.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, may I remind you of the phase
that we have reached. Senator Kinsella is raising a question of privilege under
the prima facie rules. Senator Kinsella is seeking an opinion from His
Honour as to whether there is sufficient evidence at first blush. The other
determinations will be made as a result of serious and intense consideration in
committee, if this proceeding goes far enough for Senator Kinsella to make such
I thank Senator Kinsella for bringing forth the question of privilege. I am
satisfied that there is prima facie evidence. I also thank Senator
Kinsella for his survey of the facts in this case. I thank Senator Kinsella for
qualifying his statements and stating that Dr. Chopra believes that he is the
victim in this particular situation.
I support Senator Kinsella's question of privilege. I would ask that Senator
Kinsella table that document with us today.
In addition to requesting that useful documentation, I have a few points on
fairness and due process. It is a contempt of Parliament and of the Senate to
attempt to hurt, or damage, or molest a witness. It is also a contempt of
Parliament and of the Senate for any witness to attempt to mislead the Senate
in any suspicious or questionable or undesirable way. If this issue goes
forward for study, much reliance would be placed on the integrity of this
I remind honourable senators that there are few instances where the privileges
of the Senate and of Parliament have actually made their way into statute, but
there is one such place. In the Criminal Code, the act of falsely testifying
under oath before a committee of Parliament is a criminal offence.
We must understand clearly that if His Honour finds a prima facie case,
and if this matter goes to committee, we will be taking a very serious step and
we will be relying on the integrity of this individual.
I am pleased that steps are being taken to look into these matters. We hear of
this sort of thing quite frequently. When we were looking into UI matters a few
years ago, we heard about contracts being denied to people who had come before
Senate committees. When Senator Orville Phillips was chair of the Veterans
Affairs Subcommittee, there was concern voiced about reprisals for appearing
before the committee. One potential witness, Mr. Fred Gaffen, wrote to us that
he had been forbidden to speak to that committee. Committee members expressed
their great concern. Another witness, Victor Suthren, was so concerned about
his vulnerable position that the committee chairman asked our parliamentary
counsel, Mark Audcent, to sit with the witness while he was giving testimony.
I have not had time to prepare remarks today, but Dr. Chopra has raised direct
and pointed accusations with which we should deal directly. I have no doubt
that the gentleman understands the seriousness of the situation in which he
would find himself if it turns out that his allegations are false.
There is no need to belabour the point. According to the Bill of Rights, which
Senator Kinsella cited, proceedings in Parliament are beyond question and
beyond impeachment. This institution has been especially negligent in studying
its own privileges and the privileges of its witnesses.
A committee should examine this issue in detail and reach conclusions using all
fairness and due process. We will go forward from there again.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted for Senator
Kinsella to table the letter to which he referred?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, I wish to make three
brief points. Senator Kinsella has covered the situation. I will not speak to
the merits of the case, but the context, since I was a member of the committee
at which Dr. Chopra appeared.
First, Dr. Chopra and his colleagues gave testimony on a very controversial
issue. It is an issue on which the same committee had a great deal of
difficulty getting all of the information. Information was withheld. Second,
these particular individuals who appeared were under a gag order not to speak
to the press, which I believe is rather unusual. Third, the witnesses asked to
be sworn before giving their testimony, something which is also quite unusual.
In this particular committee process, the Agriculture Committee, normally the
issues are not such as to require that sort of defensive posture on the part of
witnesses. The committee does not deal with matters of constitutional affairs
or of national defence.
I believe this is a matter that the Senate ought to look at, and I would thank
Senator Kinsella for raising this issue and for bringing it forward.
The Hon. the Speaker: If no other honourable senator wishes to
speak, I might say that, in view of the marvellous unanimity which I hear on
this matter, it would be easy for me to rule immediately. Nevertheless, I do
wish to read the letter from Dr. Chopra as well as consider what Senator
Kinsella has said, since the rights of the employer are also an element to be
considered. I want to be certain that we are not doing anything that is
improper. I will take the matter under advisement and report as quickly as I
The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.