Hon. Sheila Finestone: Honourable senators, on February 19 we
celebrated Heritage Day and the beginning of Heritage Week. Not too long ago, in
the other place, I introduced a bill to establish Heritage Day as a nationally
celebrated holiday. Today, I still feel very strongly that the recognition of
this event could stand as a symbol of our pride in Canada's unique history and
The theme chosen by Heritage Canada for the year 2001 is "Travel Through
Time: the Heritage of Transportation.'' As we all know, transportation has
played a pivotal role in the development of Canada, connecting people by land,
sea and air. Transportation, however, is but one aspect of our tangible legacy.
Like the great Canadian railway, stretching from the shores of the Atlantic and
arriving at our western seaboard, our heritage itself travelled the same
pathways in one majestic and unified architecture of people, cultures, customs
In this sense, Heritage Day symbolizes the celebration of our intangible
legacy: the values of our past recognized in the present, the strength of our
aboriginal peoples, the fortitude of our immigrants, the creativity of our
artists, the genius of our scientists, the vision of our statesmen and the
spirit of our laws projected into the future. Intrinsic to their nature are the
fundamental principles of justice, equity and freedom that have formed our
nation. These principles have shaped our heritage as Canadian people, enabling
us to establish our cultural and historical identity.
While our heritage respects our diversified ethnic, societal and
philosophical background, at the same time it exemplifies a unified people under
one creed and one flag. Multiplicity and unity: This is quite an achievement.
Yes, we are all Canadians.
This is the epic reality of the Canadian journey, honourable senators. These
are the passages of becoming, through the ages. At this moment in time, as we
progress into the 21st century, we are embarking on a voyage of rediscovery
whose destination holds the imprints of our glorious Canadian heritage.
Hon. Erminie J. Cohen: Honourable senators, I wish to speak to the
report "Promoting Equality: A New Vision,'' updating and revising the Canadian
Human Rights Act, tabled in June 2000.
As honourable senators are aware, my work in this place has been aimed at
raising Canadians' attention to the plight of our disadvantaged. In recent
years, establishing "social condition'' as a prohibitive ground of
discrimination has been of particular interest to me. Over the course of
studying chronic poverty and social disadvantage in Canada, I met many people
whose economic situation makes them the object of discriminatory treatment.
As we begin yet another parliamentary session, honourable senators, I should
like to share with you the sense of pride and accomplishment I feel knowing this
place unanimously agreed during the First Session of the Thirty-sixth Parliament
that a person's social condition should be a prohibitive ground of
discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Although Bill S-11 was defeated
in the other place, the federal government has indicated that it has taken our
work seriously and will be improving and updating human rights protection in
In June 2000, Justice La Forest and his colleagues concluded a comprehensive
review of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which included the Justice Minister's
request to address social condition in this context. In his panel's final
submission to the minister, Justice La Forest noted:
Our research papers and the submissions we received provided us with ample
evidence of widespread discrimination based on the characteristics related to
social conditions such as poverty, low education, homelessness and illiteracy.
We believe that there is a need to protect people who are poor from
In the spirit of the constructive debate that marked senators' deliberations
on social condition, and the recommendation of Justice La Forest, I wish to
remind this house that the need to protect the poor, illiterate, homeless and
poorly educated from discriminatory treatment is more important than ever
before. In an era when the richest 20 per cent of Canadians saw their income
rise and the poorest 20 per cent saw their income fall, discrimination directed
toward persons based on their social condition is repellant to us and cannot be
tolerated in practice or in law.
Honourable senators, I look forward to continued discussion on this important
matter in the weeks and months to come.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, in our personal lives and in
our political lives, there are pivotal moments. At such times, our profound
convictions, our principles, our very reason for being are called into play.
The right to life is by far the uppermost of all rights. To respect life, to
protect it, is the most profound of human acts, the very core of humanity in any
civilization. It is in light of that responsibility that we must interpret our
responsibility in any debate concerning capital punishment.
On Thursday, February 15, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed in a
unanimous decision by its nine justices the fundamental right to life as
guaranteed in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Everyone
has a right to life, liberty and security of person.
Two years ago, the Senate debated Bill C-40 and the opportunity to give
Canada's Minister of Justice the discretion to decide if an accused should be
extradited to a country that imposes the death penalty. Our debates were
intense. They revived all the arguments that the Supreme Court studied later in
considering its judgment. Many times during the debate, the argument that Canada
could become a safe haven for the most dangerous criminals was raised on both
sides of the chamber. The Supreme Court concluded otherwise. It determined that
the argument was unproved and was no justification for the death penalty. Life
imprisonment without parole is an effective deterrent.
The court concluded that the right to life obliges the Minister of Justice to
require a guarantee that the life of the guilty party will be protected. The
court went so far as to conclude that, if it had to hear the 1991 Kindler v.
Canada (Minister of Justice) case and the Reference re Ng Extradition again, it
would reach the same conclusions as in the present one, The Minister of Justice
v. Glen Sebastian Burns and Atif Ahmad Rafay. We will therefore have to amend
the Extradition Act to reflect this obligation.
Honourable senators, the right to life is the heart and foundation of all
This fundamental principle is now part of our constitutional heritage and is
one of the inalienable values that Canada should constantly and faithfully
protect and serve as much within our borders as in the international community.
Indeed, the court implied that Canada should promote the abolition of the death
penalty, especially in those countries with which we have the closest relations.
At a key moment when a new administration takes command in Washington under a
president who was the governor of a state that recently refused to commute the
death sentence of a Canadian citizen, I am very proud to be a citizen of a
country that recognizes the fundamental principle of the respect of the right to
life above all the pressures, above all the interests, above all the decisions
and, in particular, above all the legislation. May we thank the Supreme Court
for its historic decision.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, earlier today I gave written
notice of my question of privilege to the Office of the Clerk, pursuant to rule
43(3) of the Rules of the Senate of Canada. I believe the notice has been
circulated to honourable senators. I rise now, pursuant to rule 43(7) of the
Rules of the Senate of Canada, to give oral notice that I will speak to this
question of privilege later this day.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, the Minister of Justice
recently signalled her intention to table, once again, omnibus Criminal Code
amendments. I am delighted to report that my initiative on a tougher response to
stalking — Bill S-6 in the last Parliament — is part of the amendments. The
omnibus bill introduced in the last Parliament died on the Order Paper. Before
that, our Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee heard from more than 19
Honourable senators, I am happy that my private bill has again been
incorporated in an omnibus bill as part of government policy. I am particularly
interested in this legislation because it is designed to provide stiffer
penalties against stalkers. "Stalking,'' commonly defined as "malicious,
repeated and unwanted pursuit or harassing of an individual,'' has always been a
serious crime in Canada. I raised the issue because the voices of victims were
not being heard by either courts and prosecutors.
As I said in this chamber on May 28, 1998, three quarters of those convicted
of harassment receive either probation or suspended sentences. A 1994 study of
family homicide conducted by the B.C. Institute Against Family Violence proves
that at least one-sixth of male perpetrators who killed former intimate partners
had stalked their victims for some time. The law is obviously too lenient.
Honourable senators, the dangers of stalking can escalate to physical harm
and sometimes death. Victims of harassment constantly live in fear and terror.
Often they are forced to alter and constantly adjust their lifestyles in
attempts to find safety. I therefore urge honourable senators to give speedy
approval to the stalking provisions of the omnibus bill when it comes to the
Honourable senators, I believe the current response against stalking is
inadequate to protect victims. The adoption by the Minister of Justice of my
private bill also shows that the Senate can be effective.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, the unanimous
decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Burns and Rafay case, issued
February 16, 2001, gives all senators cause for reflection.
Honourable senators will recall that Bill C-40, the extradition bill, was
considered by the Senate. Amendments were moved in the Senate to remove from the
Minister of Justice discretion to extradite an accused to a state with capital
punishment without assurances that, if convicted, the death penalty would not be
imposed. This followed the practice of the states of the European Union, which,
like Canada, no longer impose the death penalty.
After consideration by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs, Bill C-40 was reported without amendments. Amendments
were introduced in the Senate. After weeks of debate in May 1999, the amendments
were rejected and Bill C-40 was approved, unamended.
In the Burns and Rafay case, the Supreme Court of Canada decided on
five grounds to deny the minister discretion unless the Minister of Justice
obtained assurances that the death penalty would not be imposed. In effect, the
court found that imposition of the death penalty would violate section 7 of the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court's five grounds echoed the reasoning in
the Senate by those voicing support for my amendment.
Honourable senators will recall that later that year, in December 1999, the
Civil International Space Station Agreement Implementation Act, Bill C-4, was
passed without amendment. This bill also provided for ministerial discretion to
extradite accused without assurances that the death penalty would not be imposed
for indictable offences in outer space. When the bill was referred to the
Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, I again raised the question of the
Burns and Rafay case then before the Supreme Court. I abstained from voting to
approve Bill C-40, as we were told, in effect, by officials that the government
would consider appropriate amendments in light of the pending Supreme Court of
By the way, honourable senators, no member of the House of Commons raised
concerns with respect to the imposition of the death penalty in either Bill C-40
or Bill C-4 when it was considered in the other place. Senators can extract
their own lesson from the interesting parliamentary trail of Bills C-40 and C-4.
This parliamentary saga was played out in the transcripts of the committees of
both Houses of Parliament and in the Hansards of both Houses of Parliament. All
is recorded there for each senator to contemplate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table
the report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission entitled "Time for Action,''
a special report to Parliament on pay equity, pursuant to section 16(2) of the
Canadian Human Rights Act.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, pursuant to rule 58(1)(f), I give notice that at the next sitting of
the Senate, I will move:
That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing
Rules and Orders that it examine the maximum number of senators for each of
the several standing committees provided for in Rule 86(1);
And that the Committee report its findings to the Senate no later than
Tuesday, March 27, 2001.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, pursuant to rule 57(1)(a) of the Rules of the Senate, I give
notice that Thursday next, February 22, I will move:
That Rule 86 of the Rules of the Senate be amended:
1. by deleting subsection 86(1)(h) and replacing it with the following:
(h) The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, composed of twelve members,
four of whom shall constitute a quorum, to which shall be referred, if there
is a motion to that effect, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers
and other matters relating to foreign and Commonwealth relations generally,
(i) international treaties and agreements;
(ii) external trade;
(iii) foreign aid;
(iv) territorial and offshore matters.
2. by deleting subsection 86(1)(m) and replacing it with the following:
(m) The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology,
composed of twelve members, four of whom shall constitute a quorum, to which
shall be referred, if there is an order of the Senate to that effect, bills,
messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to social
affairs, science, and technology generally, including:
(i) Indian and Inuit affairs;
(ii) cultural affairs and the arts;
(iii) social and labour matters;
(iv) health and welfare;
(vii) fitness and amateur sports;
(viii) employment and immigration;
(ix) consumer affairs; and
(x) youth affairs.
3. by adding new subsections 86(1)(r) and 86(1)(s) after subsection
86(1)(q) as follows:
(r) The Senate Committee on Defence and Security, composed of nine
members, four of whom shall constitute a forum, to which may be referred, as
the Senate may decide, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and
other matters relating to national defence and security generally, including
(s) The Senate Committee on Human Rights, composed of nine members, four
of whom shall constitute a quorum, to which may be referred, as the Senate
may decide, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters
relating to human rights generally.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, pursuant to rules 56(1) and
(2) and 57(2), I give notice that, two days hence, I will call the attention of
the Senate to the celebration of Black History Month in Canada, and the Canadian
Bar Association of Ontario's dinner in Toronto on February 1, 2001, at which I
as the keynote speaker spoke to the topic "Room with a View: A Black Senator's
View of the Canadian Senate.''
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, pursuant to rules 56(1) and
(2) and 57(2), I give notice that, two days hence, I will call the attention of
the Senate to the month of February's designation as Black History Month, and to
the ongoing celebrations of black people across Canada, and to my many speaking
engagements in my capacity as the first black senator of Canada, and to the
contributions of black Caribbean Canadians to Canada, and to the role of black
parliamentarians in the Parliament of Canada.
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present
petitions signed by 363 Canadians requesting that the government allow the
release to the public, after a reasonable period of time, of post-1901 census
reports starting with the 1906 census.
Hon. J. Michael Forrestall: Honourable senators, I offer my very best
wishes to the Speaker and to Senator Carstairs in their new responsibilities. I
would simply note that it is good to see young Nova Scotians getting on in the
Lest Senator Carstairs did not pay much attention to the dialogue between her
predecessor in that esteemed office, Senator Boudreau, and myself, she should
know that she is about to embark upon a lesson, if you will, in National Defence
matters, in particular, the necessity of providing promptly, on time and at good
cost, reasonable equipment to enable the Canadian Armed Forces to function well
and carry out its duties as seen fit by the Canadian public and the Canadian
government from time to time.
My question today deals with the government's letter of interest for the
Maritime helicopter project and the issue of commonality. Can the minister tell
us today if commonality will be a factor in determining the competing bidder for
the basic vehicle, that is lowest price compliant?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I thank the honourable senator both for his congratulatory words and for his
questions. I certainly did pay attention to the dialogue between the senator and
the previous government leader, Senator Boudreau, and the previous government
leader to him, Senator Graham. I want the honourable senator to know that my
very first visit to a minister was regarding an answer about the Sea Kings,
which was for the nation as a whole but particularly relevant to the province of
Nova Scotia. I wanted to know just what stage that project was at. The answer
was that while the project was delayed somewhat because of the election, the
target of 2005 is still the desired target, that the department is moving toward
that end and that it wishes to make an announcement soon.
I suggested that an honourable senator from Nova Scotia would be only too
happy if that was sooner, rather than soon.
As to the honourable senator's specific question on commonality, I have to
say that I have no information. I will get back to the Minister of Defence and
try to get an answer as quickly as possible.
Senator Forrestall: Honourable senators, I appreciate that, and I
thank the minister for her response. Of course, if she is not aware, I know that
she will quickly find out.
Honourable senators, with respect to my first question, all I really want to
know is whether it is a yes or a no. As the minister is aware, we have already
chosen the EH-101 as our replacement for search and rescue. Whether that remains
intact is a question for a later date.
I simply want to make the point so that it is, I hope, well understood. In
terms of 1990-91 dollars, the saving through commonality of equipment was $257
million at a minimum, according to government documents. We have a strong
suggestion now that lowest price compliant will be the effective measuring
force. If that is so, and if commonality is not a factor in determining the
successful bidder, Canadian taxpayers stand to lose. I would not want to do the
arithmetic, because it would scare even me, but we are talking about hundreds of
millions of dollars. No country or government is that rich. No political
embarrassment is so great that the good of the nation and the good of the Armed
Forces cannot be taken into account.
If the leader can determine from her colleagues whether compliance will be
taken into account and if she receives a positive answer, then it will certainly
have my support.
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, I thank the honourable
senator. As he undoubtedly is aware, perhaps the most difficult answer to get
from any government at any level is a simple yes or no. However, I will do my
best to get him a yes or a no and bring it back as quickly as possible.
Hon. J. Michael Forrestall: Honourable senators, on a final question,
would the minister find out, while making that inquiry, why it is that it has
been suggested to me that DND backgrounder 1993 DND 3190-100-070 1990 has
somehow been lost? I wonder why.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I will do my best to find out why DND Order 3190-100- 070 dated 1990 has been
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, I read with interest an
article in the Winnipeg Free Press. The government leader had to know that this
was coming. That article suggested that the leader was the political minister
for Manitoba, and being from rural Manitoba, that she would look after things
rural. Is that report anywhere near accurate?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
no, I must say that it is nowhere near accurate. The political minister in the
province of Manitoba is the Honourable Ron Duhamel. Mr. Duhamel and I have
spoken about the duties in that province. I have indicated to him that because I
live in rural Manitoba, I would be more than prepared to do the travelling
required in that part of our province, which is vast, but I do not have
co-responsibility with the Honourable Ron Duhamel.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, on a supplementary question,
in that same article it talked about, of course, the floodway, or Duff's ditch.
It stated quite clearly that the Leader of the Government was in favour of one
of the alternatives. Two alternatives were recommended by the international
joint commission, one being the widening and deepening of the floodway and the
other being the construction of a vast dike at Ste. Agathe, south of the city.
The widening and deepening of the floodway protects the city alone from the
level of a flood that comes every 500 years, while the Ste. Agathe structure
protects the city and the rural area between south of the city and Ste. Agathe
to a 1,000-year level. The minister was quoted as saying that she supports the
widening and deepening of the floodway rather than the Ste. Agathe solution. Is
that accurate, and if so, could she explain?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I want the honourable senator to know that if I was quoted in that way, I was
not accurately quoted. I have been saying all along that protection is more
important and should be the policy of the government, as opposed to dealing with
flood victims after the fact, and that the federal government should be at the
table when we are looking at initiatives to protect the people of Manitoba, not
just the people of the city of Winnipeg. My concern is that we move on the
protection aspect rather than on the payout aspect some time in the future.
Senator Stratton: Honourable senators, I have one last question. I
thank the leader for that response. My concern is, as I stated before, that
while Duff's ditch was a remarkable structure and a remarkable feat, it only
protects the city and not the area south of the city, where I happen to live.
Has the leader received a response to her inquiry as to how this issue is moving
along? We are now in year four after the flood of 1997.
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, as the senator has indicated,
and just for the edification of the members of this chamber, we have a strange
anomaly in terms of population in the province of Manitoba. Almost 66 per cent
of all Manitobans live in the city of Winnipeg. That only leaves 34 per cent of
the population outside of the boundaries of the city of Winnipeg. However, in my
view, and I think I share this with the senator opposite, that is no reason to
develop programs that protect only 66 per cent of the people of my province.
Programs should ve developed, wherever possible, to protect 100 per cent of the
residents of our province.
I must tell the honourable senator that, to my knowledge, there are no
negotiations taking place at this time.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Leader of the Government in the Senate and relates to parliamentary reform and
specifically reform of the Senate. The honourable leader will know that for a
long time I have had a very active interest in reform of the Senate to make it
more responsive to the needs of the regions of Canada. Apart from difficult
matters like a Triple-E Senate, which I do not espouse, there are, in my
opinion, several significant internal structural changes that can be made to the
operations of the Senate of Canada that do not require constitutional amendment.
In view of the fact that parliamentary reform is very much on the minds of
millions of Canadians today, will the honourable leader use her power and
authority to establish immediately a bipartisan committee mandated to do a
thorough analysis of changes and modernizations to the Senate of Canada that
will more clearly reflect the needs and desires of all Canadians from east to
west? This would include opening up dialogue immediately with the leadership on
the other side.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I thank the honourable senator for that question. I think such a committee would
be very interesting, and I would look forward to a senator proposing such a
special study or indeed a special committee of the Senate to do just that.
Senator Oliver: Honourable senators, I would not necessarily think we
need another committee. I am really asking if the leader herself, with her power
and authority, would undertake to take the lead and the initiative for such a
job. Would she strike a committee, say, of 12 senators, with the manifest
interest to reform the structure of the Senate of Canada? Further, will she
ensure that such a committee is funded appropriately by the Standing Committee
on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, so that the committee may
gather the views of Canadians from coast to coast through public hearings and
thoroughly canvass the needs and possibilities for change?
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, Senator Oliver has proposed in
his question exactly what we do when we establish a special committee of the
Senate of Canada. That should not come from the leadership of the Senate but
from the members of the Senate who choose to put such a committee together and
then get the financial approval of Internal Economy in order to make such a
study possible. I would be supportive of such a motion should it come forward.
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, the United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organization recommends specific actions to prevent the spread of
mad cow disease in countries such as Canada that have imported cattle and animal
feed products from Britain. Canada, however, has not completely complied with
these actions. In fact, the Minister of Agriculture categorically denied that
Canada has imported feed products from Britain or other European countries that
now have the disease. The minister's statements are contradicted by Britain's
customs and excise figures and by The Sunday Times, which has named the British
rendering company that exported potentially contaminated material to Canada.
The minister's statements are also contradicted by last July's report of the
European Commission Scientific Steering Committee, which assessed Canada's BSE
risk based on information provided by Canada. The report states that Canada
imported 160 beef cattle from the U.K. before 1990, one of which developed mad
cow disease in 1993. Another 69 died or were slaughtered. The report says that
Canada imported meat and bone meal from Germany, a country that is now
slaughtering 400,000 cattle, and from other BSE-infected European countries.
The U.K. customs and excise table indicates that Canada imported 125 tonnes
of animal protein, approximately half being potentially contaminated meat and
bone meal, in the critical 1993-96 period. Infected material of just the size of
a peppercorn could transmit the disease to a cow.
My questions are to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What are the
real facts from the Canadian side? It appears, as Senator Forrestall indicated,
that some information disappeared before 1997. Why do we not have a ban on the
feeding of meat and bone meal to all animals? Why have all high- risk organs,
such as brains and intestines, not been removed from the human and animal food
chains? We are talking about the compliance measures that Canada should have in
place. Why is there not an active BSE surveillance program with adequate
testing? Why are dead animals not fit for human consumption still used as animal
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I thank the honourable senator for her questions because the BSE risk is clearly
a serious one. We heard many discussions in the last few weeks about whether
Canada may have acted prematurely in terms of Brazil or may not have acted
appropriately. I believe those claims are totally unjustified because the health
of Canadians is more important than anything else, and nothing should take
precedence over the health of Canadians. The honourable senator has asked some
very critical questions.
Not all investigations carried out by Canadian regulatory officials, as a
result of the article and of the statements made support the conclusion that
BSE-risk products were imported in contravention of our policies. The European
Union has independently verified Canada's system of import control for these
products and has concluded that our system meets the highest standards of food
safety. However, having said that, these claims were made in reports over the
weekend. Officials are working to ensure that the reports are wrong and the
information that we have in Canada is correct.
Senator Spivak: Honourable senators, these are very specific
questions. I ask that the leader obtain the answers to the questions about bone
meal in animal feed, et cetera.
I have other questions having to do with vaccines and products that are
derived from cattle and are still imported into Canada, as well as the
regulation of rendering plants, which is a question I raised in the Senate a
long time ago but has since dropped from sight. Of these rendering plants, the
EC report cites 13 that might be a source of cross-contamination. I am concerned
about enforcement and proper surveillance in these matters, and I would
appreciate proper information. As was mentioned, there is a serious health risk
and people are concerned about it.
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, I assure Senator Spivak that
every question she has asked will be taken to the Minister of Agriculture for an
Hon. Brenda M. Robertson: Honourable senators, my question is
addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and relates to the 1997
agreement to privatize the Moncton airport. The Moncton airport authority was
the first in the Atlantic region to sign an agreement with Transport Canada to
privatize its facility. This agreement was characterized by the Auditor General
as not as good as agreements signed by the other airport authorities in the
At a meeting with Transport Canada officials almost two weeks ago, Moncton
airport officials had the opportunity to make the case that the transfer
agreement is unfair because it has resulted in a competitive disadvantage for
Moncton with regard to other privatized facilities in the region.
Honourable senators, the issue has become a bit of a political football
between the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Transport, who said that even
while agreeing to send his officials to Moncton, he was not convinced that the
Greater Moncton Airport Authority got a raw deal from his department.
All the authorities in Moncton would disagree with that statement, of course,
because with the sensitive infrastructure that exists in the Atlantic region, it
is easy to create an imbalance among the communities and create unfairness.
Would the government leader make inquiries as to when Moncton can expect an
answer to concerns raised with the government in their meeting on February 8?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I thank the honourable senator for her question. I will take that line of
inquiry to the Minister of Transport and urge an immediate answer.
Hon. Erminie J. Cohen: Honourable senators, my question is directed to
the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In June 2000, Justice La Forest
concluded an audit of the Canadian Human Rights Act. On page 113 of that report
submitted to the Minister of Justice, he noted that there is a need for the
federal government to recognize social condition as an addition to the
prohibitive grounds for discrimination.
Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate indicate whether it is her
intention to once again support the principles articulated in Bill S-11 of the
First Session of the Thirty-sixth Parliament, which this house passed without
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I thank the honourable senator for her question. I have no up-to-date
information about amendments to the Human Rights Act, but I will make the
inquiry and get that information back to the honourable senator as quickly as
Senator Cohen: Honourable senators, if the federal government supports
Justice La Forest's recommendations, will the Leader of the Government in the
Senate support a motion that calls on the Minister of Justice to include social
condition as a prohibitive ground of discrimination when legislation to amend
the Canadians Human Rights Act is tabled?
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, if the Government of Canada
supports the recommendation made by Justice La Forest, then I would be pleased
to support it as well.
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, my question relates to
an article that I read in The Globe and Mail while travelling to Ottawa
today. The article states:
George Weston Ltd. is buying Bestfoods Baking Co. in a $1.77-billion (U.S.)
deal that will make it the most profitable — and second-largest — bakery in
The deal, when it closes this summer, will take Weston's breads, buns and
cookies into just about every supermarket in North America.
My question is obvious. Does the minister believe that farmers are getting a
fair share out of a loaf of bread when we are told that only 4 cents from that
loaf goes to the producer?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
if the honourable senator is correct in his retelling of this particular story,
then it is obviously a good news business story in that Canadian companies will
find their goods in every supermarket throughout North America.
There is no question that we have a serious problem with the prices farmers
obtain for their products, both nationally and internationally. We know that in
the value of a loaf of bread there is little actual return to the farmers of
this country. That is why we have to work very hard at maintaining a strong
position to ensure support for our farmers.
I want to return to a question the honourable senator asked when we were last
here. He asked why this issue was not raised with President Bush if it is of
such importance. I want to assure the honourable senator that it was raised with
President Bush during the talks between the Prime Minister and the President of
the United States.
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, I am pleased to hear
that response. It has been a long time coming in terms of this very serious
problem faced by our farmers. The question, however, remains: How serious is
this government about dealing with the need? We lost thousands of farmers last
year, and we are losing more. Many farmers will not have enough money to put in
their crops. On top of that, there are farmers here today from the provinces of
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, as well as others. This is a
desperation move by farmers. One group after another is coming to Ottawa. They
want to know if the government is serious. Will the government make something
available that will meet the needs of the farmers? Throwing a few dollars at the
problem will not solve it. How serious is the government about moving before
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
the government is very serious. Its statement in the Speech from the Throne that
we must go beyond crisis management is an indication of its seriousness. The
issue was followed up in the first meeting between the President of the United
States and our Prime Minister. The whole issue of subsidies was raised and
pressed by our Prime Minister. These are indications that there will be movement
on this file.
Hon. Roch Bolduc: Honourable senators, my question has to do with an
internal matter concerning the business of the Senate that I believe is
important for all of us.
Would it be possible for the minister to agree with the Leader of the
Opposition to have a calendar for the parliamentary session? It would be very
useful to know ahead of time when the Senate will be sitting and when it will
not. The other place has a calendar that is distributed at the beginning of the
session. Let us not forget that airfares are rather high, particularly since the
introduction of the private monopoly. For example, a return trip between Quebec
City and Ottawa costs $600, so it would be important to know ahead of time when
the Senate will be sitting.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate has the critical responsibility of
running this house. The Leader of the Opposition wants to get along with the
Leader of the Government in the Senate.
It would really be helpful to have such a calendar, particularly if we want
to save money.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I thank the honourable senator for his question. I hope he will be pleased to
hear that we began preliminary discussions with his leadership several weeks ago
about producing a calendar that will be shaded in red rather than green. It has
always upset me that I had to walk around with a House of Commons calendar in my
pocket instead of a Senate calendar. We have asked the staff of the Senate to
prepare a mock-up of such a calendar. I will take it to the leadership on the
other side. I hope we can have it in force and effect within a few weeks.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Cordy, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Setlakwe, for an Address to Her Excellency the Governor
General in reply to her Speech from the Throne at the Opening of the First
Session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament.—(1st day of resuming debate).
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, first, I wish to congratulate His Honour on his appointment. I wish
him the best of success in his new responsibilities, which go far beyond
presiding over our deliberations. I have no doubt that the serenity and good-
naturedness with which he carried out his duties as Deputy Leader of the
Government, more often than not next to an empty chair, will serve him well as
Speaker. Indeed, the Speaker of the Senate is constantly called upon to
represent the government and the country both at home and abroad. The Senate can
only benefit from these assignments.
I had the privilege of being part of a Senate delegation last month on an
official parliamentary mission to Saudi Arabia and to Qatar. It was led by
Senator Molgat, who was accompanied by his charming wife, Allison. If the visit
was a success, and by all accounts it was, it was largely the result of Senator
Molgat's leadership. Protocol and customs foreign to our own can put quite a
strain and much pressure on a Speaker when abroad. Senator Molgat, as on other
missions, acquitted himself on this last one with great distinction. I also want
to commend him for the many years that he served as Speaker, although I am still
perplexed by more than one of his rulings, which, when not breaking new
procedural ground, certainly did not lack in originality in their conclusions.
I congratulate Senator Carstairs as the newly appointed Leader of the
Government in the Senate. I trust that she will not be less diligent in her
efforts as the government majority keeps on swelling, nor less understanding of
the role of the opposition as its ranks dwindle. The success of the
parliamentary system rests largely on the majority's intentions being decided
only after the minority has been allowed a complete debate on them, both in full
session and in committee. Decisions based on arithmetic alone have no place in
There is no doubt that his many years of experience as a parliamentarian will
enable Senator Robichaud to carry out his duties as Deputy Leader of the
Government with distinction.
It is interesting to note that his immediate predecessor is now presiding
over the deliberations, that his immediate predecessor's predecessor is Leader
of the Government, and that that predecessor's predecessor was also the Leader
of the Government. This would initially suggest a very promising future for
someone in this position, I agree, but it is perhaps a bit early to speculate.
It will be recalled that the person who is now Leader of the Opposition was
also Deputy Leader of the Government. I am all for a similar succession.
As for the Speech from the Throne, I congratulate both the proposer and the
seconder for having so accurately set the tone of the debate. Neither made but
passing references to the speech, preferring instead to extol the virtues of
their communities when not praising the Prime Minister for his continuing in
I have been to Cape Breton on a number of occasions, but never to Glace Bay.
Senator Cordy's intervention has convinced me to change all that on my next
visit to her region. As a resident of Quebec's Eastern Townships, I agree
wholeheartedly with Senator Setlakwe's description of it. It is certainly
beautiful geographically but, more to the point, it is a region where Canada's
two official languages are so understood and so respected that they might as
well be one.
When I purchase an English newspaper in Magog, the sales person says "Thank
you.'' When it is a French newspaper, the same person says "Merci.'' Simple,
but typical of the traditional coexistence which makes this region so hospitable
and so enjoyable.
Both Senator Cordy's and Senator Setlakwe's passing reference to the Speech
from the Throne rather than making it their main topic is quite understandable.
Its main thrust was an undisguised tribute to the government, put together in a
slapdash way and imposed upon the Governor General, whose reading of it did
nothing, despite her fine oratorical gifts and elocution, to stir her audience
to other than vacant stares, drooping eyelids and not always stifled yawns.
The greatest concern shared by all Canadians is the state of the economy as
that in the United States begins to falter. No less an authority than the
Federal Reserve in the United States said at the end of January, only a day
after the Speech from the Throne, that:
Consumer and business confidence has eroded further, exacerbated by rising
energy costs that continue to drain consumer purchasing power and press on
business profit margins. Partly as a consequence, retail sales and business
spending on capital equipment have weakened appreciably. In response,
manufacturing production has been cut back sharply, with new technologies
appearing to have accelerated the response of production and demand to potential
excesses in the stock of inventories and capital equipment.
President Bush, in sending his tax proposals to Congress at the beginning of
the month, said, "A warning light is flashing on the dashboard of our
economy.'' Only last week, in commenting on better-than-expected January retail
sales, the President said that this was, "one good statistic among a sea of
some pretty dismal statistics'' and that he remained "concerned about the
The Governor of the Bank of Canada, in a statement on February 6, while
saying that "...despite near-term uncertainties, the Bank remains positive
about our economic prospects for 2001,'' nonetheless points out that "the
abrupt weakening of U.S. economic activity raises a question of what the
implications for Canada will be'' and, accordingly, the bank has "revised
downward our projection for Canada's economic growth this year to about 3 per
cent.'' Only one week later, however, a deputy governor of the bank admitted it
could slip below 3 per cent. Slower growth means weaker tax revenues and it is
estimated for every 1 per cent drop in growth, the government loses some $2
billion a year.
Rather than suggesting that a new budget will be brought down as
circumstances warrant, the government is content to rely on the Finance
Minister's economic statement of last October. Things have changed considerably
since then, as the authorities from whom I just quoted attest. Projections were
made at a time when Canada was continuing to benefit from the U.S. economic
boom, thanks in great part to the free trade agreements, which, when in
opposition, Liberals predicted would spell the end of Canadian unity, not to
mention medicare. Surely new revenue and spending projections are required as
the U.S. slowdown affects our own economy just as much as positive results do.
We also need a budget to determine the spending priorities of this government
because the speech is silent on these also. As well, we need to know how much
money is committed to each one of the initiatives in the speech. Are we,
perhaps, going back into deficit financing — a favourite exercise of the Prime
Minister when he was Minister of Finance?
The Speech from the Throne stands out for not mentioning any of the key
problems facing Canadians. Such disinterest is eerily reminiscent of the "don't
worry, be happy'' attitude exhibited by the Prime Minister during his detached,
not to say pathetic, participation in the 1995 referendum campaign.
As the speech was being read, farmers were demonstrating on Parliament Hill,
seeking help against the ravages of low prices and generous subsidies in the
United States and Europe. The cash squeeze on many of them is such that, unless
some alleviation occurs, and soon, some farms will not secure financing for
spring seeding. Yet the word "agriculture'' or "agricultural'' appears only
twice in the speech, and even it is more of an afterthought of platitudes than
Contrast this with the new administration's response to falling farm income
in the United States. According to the Food and Agricultural Policy Research
Institute based at the University of Missouri, net farm income is likely to drop
20 per cent over the next two years. For instance, in addition to lower
commodity prices, nitrogen fertilizer, which is made from natural gas, is
expected to be at least one-third more expensive this year than last. Last year,
Americans received $8 billion — this is in U.S. funds — in emergency aid, and
the Agriculture Secretary has endorsed the idea of another emergency package
this year. Since 1996, government payments to farmers in the United States have
tripled to $22 billion, while in Canada, the Minister of Agriculture limits
himself to saying that he has to meet with his provincial counterparts, so
please be patient — even if the seeding season is rapidly approaching.
The other Canadian resource industry that continues to be devastated is
fisheries. It is not even deserving of one mention in the Speech from the
Throne. The government's treatment of the fishery exemplifies its treatment of
virtually all issues: Do nothing until the crisis arises. Ignore it as long as
possible, then slap together some legislative initiative in an attempt to
alleviate problems that should have been anticipated and addressed before the
According to Marleau and Montpetit's House of Commons Procedure and Practice,
"The Speech from the Throne usually sets forth in some detail the conditions of
the country and provides an indication of what legislation it intends to bring
forward.'' This speech fails on both counts. It contains no broad vision of the
future of the country. It provides no leadership, no coherent plan — neither
short nor long-term. It is simply a random list of spending initiatives on
various social problems without any details as to how much will be spent, how
the vague intents will be accomplished, or why these are important now as
opposed to a few years ago, or even details dealing with priorities among these
issues. There is nothing to catch the imagination of the Canadian people, nor is
there anything to allow them to see themselves reflected in the proposed work
plan of the government. In fact, the only economic initiative announced is to
explore free trade with the Americas, simply an extension of the Conservative
government's basic trade policy — a policy the Liberal Party fought with furious
partisanship in this place, and elsewhere, during the 1980s and right into the
1993 election campaign.
Most of the legislative initiatives listed are the ones that died on the
Order Paper in the last Parliament, such as the proposed species at risk bill,
the bank reform bill, the proposed young criminal justice bill and the
Employment Insurance bill. The fact is that these were well overdue even when
they were introduced in the previous Parliament. While there is a section on
skills and learning, it does not address the three major post-secondary
education issues in Canada: student indebtedness, crumbling university
infrastructure and a shortage of experienced teaching staff.
There is no mention of at least re-examining the equalization formula to
allow have-not provinces, which will receive royalties from offshore oil and
gas, to keep a greater portion of these revenues for a period of, say, five
years to allow them to get back on sound fiscal ground before these revenues
have to be shared with the rest of Canada.
Canada is one of the few if not the only industrialized country in the world
not to have a national highways policy. With this speech there is still no
commitment to develop or fund such a policy.
Of course, the government remains silent on the Constitution. Bill C-20 took
care of everything, the Prime Minister keeps repeating. Western alienation? Let
the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs go out and tame the unruly. Now
Minister Dion, in his usual conciliatory way, has gone so far as to accuse those
such as the Right Honourable Joe Clark, who would negotiate to address the
issues raised by Quebec, as engaging in separatist blackmail. He just cannot get
it straight and admit that strains on the federation have been a historical fact
since 1867, and that every national government until this one has at least been
prepared to discuss and argue over them with provinces as partners, not
subalterns as the present Prime Minister and his constitutional pitbull do. As
the economic growth years are coming to an end, disparities and disenchantment
will increase and only exacerbate an always fragile situation unless the
government shows more understanding and a willingness to exchange ideas, not
impose views unilaterally.
Parliamentary reform is dismissed with a vague reference to improved
procedures, including voting "which will be modernized.'' The Prime Minister's
idea of reform of the House of Commons is not free votes but more efficient
voting through electronic means. Instead of addressing the root causes that can
result in all-night voting sessions on hundreds of irrelevant amendments, voting
will take place more quickly in a matter of minutes by everyone pressing a
button at the same time rather than being called on individually to stand and be
counted. How the government must wish that this voting procedure had been in
place when the hepatitis C motion was being decided and, just recently, the one
on the Ethics Counsellor, which came word for word from the Liberal Party's
infamous Red Book. Not surprisingly, then, there is no commitment to make the
Ethics Counsellor responsible to Parliament, but why not at least have a code of
ethics applicable to members of both Houses?
There is nothing on shipbuilding. There is nothing on the lumber sector as
Canada faces renegotiation of the softwood lumber treaty with the United States.
The confusion between the Minister of Industry and the Minister of International
Trade on where the government stands on this important issue is inexcusable,
particularly on the eve of negotiations with a U.S. administration more
susceptible to protecting domestic interests than the previous one.
While health care is mentioned, there is no commitment to sustainable funding
or what will happen to the federal share of funding when the present agreement
runs out in 2005.
One of the most crucial international debates taking place right now is a
proposal by the United States to develop a national missile defence capability,
while the European Union is moving ahead with a 60,000-person rapid reaction
force. Where does Canada stand, as an active participant in the creation of
NATO, on these two developments? Do not look in the speech for an answer. All
you will find is a pious statement on Canada's proud record of peacekeeping. How
easily one wants to forget Somalia.
As for low wage scales, below-minimum-level troop requirements, substandard
housing and dismissal of health problems related to peacekeeping assignments,
there is not a word. The 1994 findings of the Special Joint Committee on
Canada's Defence Policy and the government's white paper on Defence have been
completely ignored, while the press yesterday spoke of across-the-board cutbacks
of Canada's defence capability. How encouraging this must be to our search-and-
rescue crews and to those who serve on Canada's frigates who are so desperate to
be rid of the helicopter fleet that puts them at risk daily. Other than perhaps
health care, it is hard to imagine an area more badly bungled by this
As a matter of fact, do not look in the speech for anything but vague goals
and fuzzy intents. It lives up to a quote found in the January 29 Hill Times:
"This is a government that has raised doing nothing to new heights. If good
governance is setting low expectations and exceeding them, this government has
turned it into an art.''
May I add in conclusion that the Speech from the Throne exemplifies this art
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C.,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Corbin, for the second reading of Bill S-8,
to maintain the principles relating to the role of the Senate as established
by the Constitution of Canada.—(Honourable Senator Kinsella).
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I rise to participate in the debate on Bill S-8 and in so doing would
like to frame my intervention within the context of four elements: first, the
failure of the Senate and the House of Commons to supervise the executive power
of government; second, the dominance of the Prime Minister's Office in today's
Canada; third, the "unlikelihood'' that parliamentary supervision will develop
in any short term; fourth, the opportunity for the Senate to play a major
supervisory role if circumstances change.
Let me begin with the failure of this house, as well as the failure of the
other place, to supervise the executive power of government. This first question
that needs to be raised in this regard is simply this: How well have the two
Houses of Parliament done in examining the various reports that are submitted to
them under the current array of statutes that have such a reporting obligation?
Honourable senators, a cursory review of the debates and proceedings of each
House and the respective committees of each place reveals a less than impressive
record. Honourable senators will know the many reports that are already received
by the Senate and reported to us usually by the Speaker. Today, for example, the
Speaker tabled a report from the Canadian Human Rights Commission on pay equity.
What will we do with that report? What have we done with the reports that are
submitted to the Senate as required by the statutes that include the Senate? For
example, we receive annually a report from the Commissioner on Official
Languages. Today we received the report from the Canadian Human Rights
Commission. We receive a report from the Privacy Commissioner. Recently, at the
request of the opposition in the Senate, we did examine the report of the
Privacy Commissioner in Committee of the Whole. That was an excellent
initiative. The Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages, which has its
own problems, nevertheless does receive the report of the Commissioner of
Unfortunately, these examinations are more the exception than the rule. Most
reports are not subjected to debate in this house, and that, honourable
senators, is our failure.
Bill S-8 seeks to amend those statutes that omit reporting to the Senate,
such as to have the given reporting obligation responsive to the Senate and not
just to the House of Commons. I agree with this. However, I hasten to add that
we will need to improve our record of dealing with these additional reports,
given our less- than-vigilant performance with the reports we already receive.
It is important that members of our chamber accept responsibility for the
state of affairs created by the current array of statutes that exclude the
Senate, for each one of those statutes only became law with the consent of the
Senate. If we want to predicate blame for the Senate's exclusion, we need not
look beyond the doors of this chamber. Did these laws that exclude a Senate
supervisory role result from a failure of this chamber to examine the given bill
carefully when it was before us? Indeed, I often wonder myself, if I were to
submit myself to an examination of conscience, how well have I read many of the
bills that appear before this house. How many have I read from cover to cover?
Honourable senators, does this failure flow from blind obedience to the
ministry? We have all heard ministers who plead that their bill must pass the
Senate without amendment even though it excludes a Senate supervisory provision.
Honourable senators will recall that we heard the view of Minister Stéphane
Dion when he appeared before the special committee studying Bill C-20. The
minister defended the exclusion of the Senate from the final determination of
the clarity of a referendum question. His argument was that the Senate had
already abdicated its constitutional responsibility in some 27 statutes because
the Senate passed them and gave a role to the House of Commons but no role to
Honourable senators, we were masters of the situation that Senator Joyal's
bill seeks to correct. It is precisely this death by a thousand cuts that Bill
S-8 seeks to prevent, and I intend to support it. It will amend those 27 pieces
of legislation that currently exclude the Senate from carrying out its
responsibility of oversight in our Canadian parliamentary system.
Over the continual objections of this chamber, the government persists in
bringing forward legislation that excludes the Senate. Just this past June, the
government introduced sweeping changes to the Bank Act, and lo and behold, the
Senate was absent in that legislation. Our colleague Senator Kolber, in a
stinging rebuke, reminded the government of our bicameral system of governance.
While I have not looked at the new incarnation, I am sure honourable senators
will be looking at it very carefully in this regard.
Some observers have been particularly concerned with this weakening of
parliamentary supervision in terms of a new culture that seems to have
established roots in this town: the dominance of the unelected officials who
work in the Langevin Block in the Prime Minister's Office. The role of the
members of the House of Commons has, according to many observers, diminished
significantly over the past few years in terms of oversight of the spending
authority and oversight of the bureaucracy. The role of the cabinet is not what
it once was — the centre for executive policy formulation and execution.
Consider the views of observers such as my academic colleague Professor Donald
Savoie and his well-known metaphor of the federal cabinet and a focus group.
Honourable senators, with the dominance of the unelected appointees in the
PMO over executive policy and the influence of their tentacles reaching
throughout the public administration, the need for ensuring parliamentary
supervision has never been greater in Canada than it is today. In recent years,
a culture of unresponsiveness and unaccountability has taken root in Ottawa, and
Senator Joyal's bill provides an important mechanism to change the situation.
The exclusion of the Senate from the many pieces of legislation that require a
statutory reporting to the House of Commons must be remedied to be also
inclusive of the Senate.
Honourable senators, an examination of the debates of the House of Commons
and its committees will not indicate much oversight by that other house. Let us
be clear: Ensuring that the Senate is treated equally in all legislation is not
an issue of competition with the other place; rather, the aim is to reaffirm the
critical and legitimate role of Parliament as a whole to provide supervision of
the executive. That is what is at stake here.
Parliamentary supervision of the executive, which has been ensured through a
series of checks and balances involving the two Houses of Parliament, is at the
very heart of our Westminster model of governance. Such supervision should never
be undervalued, as it is primarily what separates a democracy from a
dictatorship. It has been successfully here in Canada our system of governance
for 134 years. To that extent, Canadians now seem to take it for granted. In
fact, the term "supervision of the executive'' is not one that often appears
outside the covers of political science texts or is often heard outside of
lecture halls. I am sometimes astonished that it is not common phraseology to be
found in the public scripts of our print or other media.
Supervision of the executive is important and not to be confused with
controlling the executive. Simply put, it means holding the executive
accountable to the people. Canada's Prime Minister and cabinet have
traditionally been held accountable to the people for their actions by two
Houses of Parliament that are equal in almost all respects. This supervisory
role is accomplished by a variety of mechanisms exercised in both the Senate and
the House of Commons. The legislative process is a key example. It allows
opposition parties to critique government policy initiatives and to introduce
policy alternatives into public debate.
Another example is parliamentary committees, and this is why the discussion
in this house about the nature of our committees, format, structure and modus
operandi is such a critically important matter. Some casual observers might
wonder why we spend so much time trying to reform our committee structure. The
answer is that it is at the core of our system of review and supervision. Senate
committees, in particular, have earned a reputation for doing fine work, and in
many cases they are even called upon to correct errors or omissions in
legislation that were not caught by committees in the other place. We can all
think of many examples.
Another technique that is available when Parliament is working the way it
ought in terms of supervision is the daily Question Period in both Houses, and
that is perhaps the most readily recognized accountability mechanism. As well,
private members' legislation gives those who are not part of the executive an
opportunity to participate in policy development. The party system itself places
pressure upon the executive to involve members of the governing party in
government initiatives in order to retain their allegiance. Perhaps that is not
fully understood by Canadians. In my judgment, this places an awesome
responsibility upon our friends opposite as a parliamentary grouping.
The list goes on, honourable senators, extending well beyond the
parliamentary precincts through investigations led, among others, by offices
such as the Auditor General and through the activities of special interest
groups, et cetera. Consider the Auditor General. What good is the Auditor
General's report if it is not debated and studied in each of the Houses?
Honourable senators, in terms of the development of parliamentary supervision
of the executive, I do not think we will see a lot of development in the short
term. I do not expect that we shall see it any time soon. However, I would hope
that we would not be discouraged from taking some steps forward, and I see a
realistic and practical opportunity afforded by Senator Joyal's bill.
It is an opportunity for us to remind ourselves, honourable senators, that in
the follow-up we must look at these studies and reports that are submitted by
statutory requirement. I am prepared to recognize that it is debatable that the
capacity of a government to govern might be impaired if the political ascendancy
of the executive were too severely eroded by parliamentary assertiveness. The
executive government of the day should be able to command the political support
needed to preserve the national interest in a constantly changing world. Indeed,
the challenges today are no doubt those presented by the ambitions of the
emerging corporate states — corporations that recognize no geographical
boundaries, that exist to serve their shareholders' interests, and that command
economies and economic resources greater than those available to many nation
states. Of course, a powerful executive government that falls captive to an
adverse corporate influence would itself be a schism to the national interest.
In conclusion, honourable senators, I believe we should seize the opportunity
that is presented by Senator Joyal's bill to make these necessary amendments and
ensure that we will do the follow-up. This is an excellent opportunity for the
Senate to play a major contemporary role of supervision in the Canadian
parliamentary system of the 21st century. In this regard, I believe we should
congratulate Senator Joyal for presenting a bill that affords us the opportunity
to reflect on the role of the Senate some 134 years since its establishment.
Honourable senators, I underscore my belief that the Fathers of Confederation
got it right in 1867; that is, that the model of governance, this Canadian
parliamentary system, has worked and that the practice of freedom has enjoyed a
grand success in Canada for 134 years. I worry about those who wish to reform
our system of governance, for their idealized reform system comes with no
guarantee for freedom.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I regret to advise that
Senator Kinsella's time has expired. Is leave granted to extend the time?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, I would request two more
Indeed, when I listen to the reformers speak of the return of capital
punishment and other right-wing issues, I would clearly prefer our system, which
has delivered on freedom.
Honourable senators, we can make our system work better. The model has
worked, but the machinery of state might need some adjusting. One area in which
the Senate could undertake a major functional change for the betterment of
governance is by significantly improving the supervisory role of the Senate.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I am delighted with
Senator Kinsella's support of this measure. The honourable senator, like myself,
has a concern with respect to Senate or parliamentary oversight of the executive
and parliamentary oversight of each House. Blackstone put it very well in saying
that the tripartite system of government was based on a system of checks and
balances, where each House was to check the executive and, in turn, each House
was to check each other. We have not seen much of that. This bill raises that
question, and the honourable senator has put it in an even and narrower way.
Would the honourable senator be in favour of a provision, either a rule or,
in effect, a piece of legislation, that would make it mandatory that all reports
of the various agencies of government be referred to the relevant committees for
consideration within a given period of time?
In this new session, it is my estimate that over 90 reports have been tabled
here, and, as Senator Kinsella points out quite rightly, they just disappear
with no oversight — no constitutional, legislative or parliamentary oversight.
Would the honourable senator agree that it would be appropriate to follow up
this measure, if it were approved here, with a further measure that would seek
to remedy the problem raised?
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, I thank Senator Grafstein for
that question. Yes, I would support such an initiative. One would need to work
out the detail, but we need the principle. I believe we were given the
opportunity to zero in on that need, and there would be a major contribution
made by this house should we do that.
Hon. Jean-Robert Gauthier: Honourable senators, I wish to ask a
question of Senator Kinsella. The honourable senator spoke about the need for
Parliament's oversight or accountability, and also about the Auditor General
tabling a report in the other place. We seldom receive that report in the Senate
because the law is that way right now. Until 1993, the Auditor General tabled
only one big report a year, read it in the House of Commons for approximately a
day and a half and made a wonderful media case, but it did not have any
substance or follow-up.
Honourable senators, it is still the law that the House of Commons names the
Auditor General. We do not have a word to say as to who will be appointed. The
selection of a new Auditor General will soon take place because the present one,
Mr. Desautels, must resign after 10 years in office.
Does the Honourable Senator Kinsella know why the Senate is excluded from the
good accountability measure of having the Auditor General table four reports a
year, as he is allowed to do now? Does Senator Kinsella have any reason to
believe that the Senate cannot study those documents, cannot look at them,
because they must be considered as expenditures?
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, I thank the honourable senator
for that question. As to the appointment of the Auditor General, I would need to
review that legislation. I simply do not remember how that appointment is made.
However, the report of the Auditor General is submitted by the Auditor General
to both Houses, and the Speaker formally tables the report of the Auditor
As far as this house is concerned, it seems to me that the next step is the
vehicle that we wish to use to have the Auditor General's reports taken into
consideration. The report could be considered in Committee of the Whole, which
worked quite well with the Privacy Commissioner on two occasions in the last
Parliament, or the report could be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance. We are arguing that the work of these various officers of
Parliament, or other agencies, should be reported to both Houses. Those reports
are not receiving the fullness of their worth unless they are subjected to
analysis by the respective Houses. For those who reflect upon the future of this
chamber, given the problems with the method of selection, I should think that
there would be much support across this country and much understanding of the
importance of a second chamber in a country such as ours if we were to
concentrate on the supervisory function.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I listened to the exchange
between Senators Kinsella and Gauthier. As Senator Kinsella spoke, I was
reminded of the unique position that the Auditor General occupies. It is clear
that the Auditor General is the servant of the House of Commons. However, it is
not as clear that he is the servant of the Senate, even though the Auditor
General is an officer of Parliament. Thus, it is a unique and special situation.
I want to lend support to the notion that Senator Kinsella raised, which is
the need for parliamentary superintendence. The honourable senator called it
supervision. However, the word used to describe it is not particularly
important. The honourable senator raised the whole phenomenon of parliamentary
superintendence over the business of cabinet and the business of government. I
share the concern that he and many here have expressed, that being that the
notion of responsible government is becoming a thing of the past in Canada. It
is sort of a historical relic to which some people refer once in a while. From
the point of view of an active constitutional doctrine that functions on a daily
basis, it has been disappearing.
To add to what Senator Kinsella was saying, perhaps he could also add his
voice of support to the Senate being a little more aggressive in the
superintendence of many more aspects of government. To that extent, I thank him.
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, I concur.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, I wish to join the debate
respecting Bill S-8, to maintain the principles relating to the role of the
Senate as established by the Constitution of Canada.
First, I wish to commend Senator Joyal for introducing this bill and for the
detailed work he undertook in preparing it. I also wish to recognize the efforts
of Senators Beaudoin, Grafstein and Kinsella, all of whom have spoken on this
The technical aspects of this bill and its constitutionality have been spoken
of by senators more learned in those areas than I. Hence, my remarks will focus
on actions that I have observed and words that I have heard and read,
particularly during the Thirty- sixth Parliament.
In the last Parliament, activities were undertaken and words were spoken
respecting the Senate by some members of the House of Commons from all parties.
They called for various actions, including the abolition of the Senate, changes
to its membership process and changes to its makeup. Others still have indulged
in empty rhetoric about the Senate. Any one of those things is possible, of
course, by a required appropriate amendment to our Constitution. Until such a
change occurs, the Senate as enshrined in our Constitution is here, is
functioning very well and deserves recognition in that regard.
Some activities and words of members of the House of Commons were not only
uncomplimentary to the Senate but were misleading in their incompleteness. In
their utterances, those members of the House of Commons did not tell Canadians
that the Senate is one of the two equal Houses that make up our Parliament. They
did not tell Canadians that the Senate is first and foremost a legislative
chamber. They did not tell Canadians that the Senate is a chamber of last
resort, where committees will hear Canadians and pay the travel expenses of
those Canadians in order to have the benefit of their valued opinions. They did
not tell Canadians that, like members of the House of Commons, senators, too,
It is one thing for the Senate to be a whipping boy for a hoped- for personal
gain by those members of the House of Commons who participate in such activities
and utterances; however, it is quite another for such activities and utterances
to present only part of the picture. To make incomplete or misleading statements
does a disservice to all Canadians, thereby giving them an incomplete picture of
how Canada is governed and confusing them as to who is a parliamentarian. No
doubt the continuous use of the abbreviation "MP'' adds to that confusion. Like
all my Senate colleagues, I am a member of Parliament, an MP. To be absolutely
fair, perhaps those members of the House of Commons did not know that.
I am particularly concerned that students at all levels of education in
Canada be not confused or misinformed about the makeup of Parliament and that
they be fully knowledgeable about how our country is governed, including the
important role of the Senate in that constitutional responsibility.
There is a particular concern that arises from this rhetoric. The worst thing
of all is that the members of the House of Commons pretend that institutional
reform is easy, as if the Prime Minister could amend the Constitution with a
stroke of his pen. That illusion creates unrealistic expectations, expectations
that are unfulfilled and that feed public cynicism about politicians generally.
Not only do those members of the House of Commons do harm to the Senate, they
unwittingly do harm to themselves.
Bill S-8 is important because it serves to remind us of constitutional facts.
It upholds an important principle, the equality of the two Houses, which is
essential to each of them for the discharge of their respective constitutional
duties and which is essential to the smooth functioning of Parliament as a
This bill gives recognition to the equality of both chambers and to the
ongoing need for all to be vigilant, to ensure that the principle of equality is
maintained and effective. I give my hearty support to this bill.
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition) moved the second
reading of Bill S-13, respecting the declaration of royal assent by the Governor
General in the Queen's name to bills passed by the Houses of Parliament.—(Honourable
He said: Honourable senators, at the last meeting of the Standing Senate
Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders in the last Parliament, which
was the Wednesday before the Thursday Parliament was dissolved, the members of
the committee agreed to report this bill to the Senate. Because I thought it
would fall off the Order Paper in any event, I said that it would save time and
expense if we just let it sit in the committee and that I would bring it back in
the new Parliament, which is what I am doing now.
There is nothing more I can add to the purpose of this bill that has not been
said before. The purpose of Bill S-13 is not to abolish the traditional ceremony
of Royal Assent as we know it but to provide for an alternative form of Royal
Assent under circumstances that might make it difficult for the traditional
Royal Assent to take place, such as emergency legislation when it might be
difficult to find those responsible to have the ceremony take place.
If there is no further debate on this bill, I would ask, therefore, that it
bill be returned to the committee where it was last seen.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, senators on both
sides know my position with respect to the suggestions proposed in this bill. I
have no objection whatsoever to renovating the Royal Assent ceremony and the
role of Her Majesty's representative in this chamber — none whatsoever.
My difference with the Leader of the Opposition is that I hope that by having
this discussion and referring it to committee we could end up with a Royal
Assent that would heighten the visibility of this chamber, heighten the
visibility of the role of all senators and, perhaps, call upon our colleagues in
the other place, including Her Majesty's representative, to take a more forceful
and active role in Royal Assent, which is again one of the three important parts
of all legislation.
Therefore, I concur with Senator Lynch-Staunton that we should refer the
matter yet again to committee. As the honourable senator will know, I shall once
again table my proposed amendments. They are only proposed amendments to obtain
the views of members of the Rules Committee on how we can achieve the objective
that I think we all desire, that being a heightened visibility of the role and
credibility of this chamber.
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition) moved the second
reading of Bill S-14, respecting Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid
Laurier Day.—(Honourable Senator Lynch- Staunton).
He said: Honourable senators, in the last Parliament, Senator Grimard
introduced a bill urging that Sir John A. Macdonald be recognized with a
national day. I sensed, as he did, that proposing that for a Conservative prime
minister gave the proposal a partisan tinge that was not intended. To offset
that, I later proposed a similar bill to honour Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Parliament
was dissolved before the two bills were dealt with. Therefore, in an effort to
emphasize the non-partisanship with which these two suggestions should be
considered, they have been merged into one bill. The bill before you now
proposes a day to honour Sir John A. Macdonald and a day to honour Sir Wilfrid
I need not talk in this chamber of the extraordinary contributions made by
both men, one to the creation of this country and to its initial stages of
advancement and the second to further the process of maturity. Both faced
extraordinary difficulties. The social makeup of this country was split largely
between French and English and Catholic and non-Catholic, and the tensions
between the two were extraordinary. The provinces had yet to adjust to the new
system of federation. It is not an exaggeration to say that had it not been for
the persistence of these two men under difficult circumstances in the initial
period of this country, Canada today would be totally different from what it
This bill does not ask for the declaration of a national holiday. It simply
says that these two men should be recognized by having a day in honour of each
of them, so that in February Canadians can become more familiar with the senior
Father of Confederation and in November can become more familiar with the first
Prime Minister from Quebec, whose commitment to national unity was quite
extraordinary and is still inspiring today.
There are those who have suggested that we should have a "Prime Ministers'
Day.'' Coincidentally, yesterday was Presidents' Day in the United States, a
national holiday. The Americans also honour Washington, Lincoln and other great
men and women in their history — more recently, Martin Luther King. Not all of
them have holidays in their honour, but they all have special days because they
deserve that special honour to remind Americans of their contributions to their
country. Similarly, the purpose of this bill is to honour two extraordinary
individuals for the same reasons on their birth dates.
Through Mr. Harvey Haber, President of the Sir John A. Macdonald Foundation
Inc., I learned that January 11 may not be the actual birth date of Sir John A.
Macdonald but rather January 10. The birth records in Scotland indicate January
10. When John came to this country at the age of five, his father, Hugh,
recorded his birthday as January 11.
These are minor considerations in the appreciation of this bill. Should the
bill be referred to committee, necessary corrections can be made there.
Meanwhile, I urge honourable senators to support the bill and I look forward to
hearing any comments on this bill that members of this chamber may wish to make.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I commend Senator
Lynch-Staunton for bringing this matter before us again. I had extensive
discussions with Senator Grimard when he brought forward a bill proposing a Sir
John A. Macdonald Day. The bill has now been changed to include Sir Wilfrid
Laurier, which is, I think, fair and appropriate in the circumstances. Too
often, we neglect great Canadians who are both symbolic and historic figures,
denying ourselves and our children a better sense of Canadian history.
I agree with this bill in principle. However, as the honourable senator will
recall, I also was the one who suggested that perhaps we might have a day
commemorating Parliament and the prime minister — the prime minister being
secondary to Parliament, because, under our system of government, the prime
minister is accountable to Parliament.
I hope that all these issues will be discussed afresh in committee and I have
no objection to referring the bill, upon second reading, to the Rules Committee
for an extensive and historic discussion on this very momentous piece of
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I have always been very
interested in Sir John A. Macdonald, for many reasons, the first being that he
was a brilliant man. Sir John A. Macdonald's second wife was a Jamaican. Perhaps
in the proposed committee study there will be an opportunity to explore that
part of Sir John A.'s connection to the British Caribbean. We must remember that
at the time that Sir John A. was in power this part of the world was referred to
as British North America. I believe his wife's name was Agnes Bernard, although
I am not positive of that. Some senators may be thinking that she was black, but
she was a white Jamaican.
Sir John A. Macdonald was an amazing man. Of the 72 Quebec resolutions during
Confederation, I believe that he personally authored 44.
In the committee study, will we learn some information about Lady Agnes?
Senator Lynch-Staunton: Honourable senators, perhaps I should admit to
a conflict of interest. On my grandmother's side, I can trace my ancestry back
to Jamaica, too. Although you may not like this part, they were sugar plantation
owners; the part I do not like is they all went broke after the abolition of
Hon. Lorna Milne moved the second reading of Bill S-12, to amend the
Statistics Act and the National Archives of Canada Act (census records).—(Honourable
She said: Honourable senators, I was pleased to hear the immediate discussion
we have had on genealogy in this chamber because the purpose of Bill S-12 is to
allow for the timely public release of the post-1901 census records to allow
genealogists to pursue their interests.
This bill is intended to make reasonable and workable amendments to both the
Statistics Act and the National Archives of Canada Act, to allow for the
transfer of census records from Statistics Canada to the National Archives of
Canada, where the records will be released to the public, subject to the Privacy
In the last Parliament, I introduced this same bill. During second reading
stage, it attracted the attention of the Honourable Senators Fraser, Johnson,
Taylor and DeWare, before it was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
Following my introduction of this bill, there was an identical bill, as well
as a private member's motion, introduced in the other place, both of which were
intended to get exactly the same results as Bill S-12.
The issue of census release is gaining more urgency as time passes. Access to
census data remains an essential part of historical research in Canada. David
Havegood of the Galton Institute said at a recent conference in London that the
development of the family pedigree, so familiar to all genealogists, including
Senator Lynch-Staunton, is "the most commonly used tool in medical genetics.''
Thus, I am proud to speak to the second reading of Bill S-12 today.
I believe this bill achieves an acceptable compromise between the concerns
and goals expressed to me by the various interest groups involved — Statistics
Canada, the National Archives of Canada, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada,
genealogists, historians, medical research and the Canadian public.
I do not want to bore the Senate by repeating everything I have said here on
several occasions on this subject. Since that time, however, several things have
Early last summer, the Expert Panel on Access to Historical Census Records
reported to the Minister of Industry. In their report, released in December
2000, they responded to many of the concerns raised when this bill was first
introduced in the previous Parliament. The panel recommended to the minister the
Our fundamental recommendation is simply that census records should be
publicly released through the National Archives 92 years after a census is
taken. The means by which the release of historic census records can be
achieved varies with the historical period in which the census was and will be
The expert panel further stated:
The Panel is firmly convinced of the benefits of the release of historical
census records. The Panel is of the view that with the passage of time, the
privacy implications of the release of the information diminishes and that the
passage of 92 years is sufficient to deal with such concerns. We are persuaded
that a guarantee of perpetual confidentiality was not intended to apply to the
census. We believe that the indication of transfer to the National Archives
also implied an intention that the census records would eventually become
public and we would not view any legislation deemed necessary to do so as a
breaking of a promise to respondents. We view the historic and international
precedents as fully supportive of this position. The Panel is equally
convinced of the value of the census and other work of Statistics Canada and
is unwilling to make any recommendation which it believes will jeopardize this
work. It is for that reason that we recommend release of the pre- 1918 Census
records and the post-2001 records on a 92-year cycle...
The expert panel, by the way, consisted of the following individuals: our
former colleague the Honourable Lorna Marsden; Professor John McCamus of Osgoode
Law School, York University; the Honourable Gérard LaForest, former Justice of
the Supreme Court of Canada; Chad Gaffield, Director of the Institute of
Canadian Studies at the University of Ottawa. The panel was was chaired by
Richard Van Loon, President of Carleton University.
Honourable senators, I should like to briefly outline the bill and
demonstrate how it is legislatively compatible with the report of this expert
Clause 1 of the bill makes amendments to the Statistics Act by adding a new
section after section 21. Under this proposed new section, Statistics Canada
would conserve the records while they are in the care of the department.
In addition to ensuring the conservation of these records, the bill requires
the Chief Statistician to obtain the consent of the National Archivist of Canada
before administering the destruction or disposal of any census records,
including individual census returns, and ensures that this can only be carried
out once all of the information has been transferred onto another recording
medium. This proposed section also details when the transfer from Statistics
Canada to the National Archives of Canada should occur, first: for population
censuses taken under section 19 and agricultural censuses taken under section 20
and, second, all the population and agricultural census data taken prior to
Bill S-12 recommends that the transfer to the National Archives occur 30
calendar years following when the census was taken but leaves the window open
for the transfer to take place sooner if the two departments are in agreement.
For the pre-1971 records, the transfer is to occur before the expiration of two
years after this proposed section comes into force, or at an earlier time agreed
upon by the two departments. This is consistent with section 6 of the National
Archives of Canada Act.
Once the records are transferred to the care and control of the National
Archivist, the Chief Statistician will no longer be responsible for those
records. The information contained in the records and the release of the census
records would then fall solely under the responsibility of the National Archives
of Canada and the National Archivist.
Therefore, the second part of this bill amends section 7 of the National
Archives of Canada Act.
Under Bill S-12, proposed section 7.1 would recognize the permanent historic
and archival importance of census records, and thus the necessity to ensure the
security of the permanence of these records through specifically prohibiting the
transfer, destruction or disposal of the records unless all of the information
is saved on an alternative recording media.
Proposed section 7.2 would recognize the promise of confidentiality. Once the
records are in the control of the National Archivist, prior to 92 years after
the census has been taken, the archivist could only disclose the information in
the records to the Chief Statistician of Canada and persons authorized by order
of the Chief Statistician under subsection 17(2) of the Statistics Act, or as
authorized by this proposed section. After the 92 calendar years have elapsed
since the census was originally taken, the National Archivist would provide
public access to the records of the census. This does not touch any provision
already providing access to the information under the Statistics Act prior to 92
years since the taking of the census. The access provided by the National
Archivist after 92 calendar years would be subject to such reasonable terms and
conditions as the archivist may establish that are consistent with the purposes
of the National Archives Act.
The last addition that Bill S-12 makes to the National Archives of Canada Act
would implement an objection process whereby the National Archivist would accept
written objections from individuals who wish the information they submitted
during the course of the census to remain confidential. The archivist will
receive these written objections in the final year before the information would
otherwise be released. Bill S-12 sets a number of requirements for those written
objections. In addition to when it should be submitted, the objection must
contain sufficient information for the archivist to be able to locate the
information and would have to satisfy the National Archivist that the disclosure
of that personal information would constitute an unwarranted invasion of the
privacy of the person to whom it relates. If these requirements are satisfied,
the archivist would not allow the disclosure of that personal information
referred to in such a valid objection.
When 92 calendar years since the census was taken have elapsed, the archivist
will make public all census records of individuals recorded in the census who
have not made a valid objection to the archivist and who would, therefore, be
deemed to have given irrevocable consent to public access to this information in
Honourable senators, virtually every civilized nation in the world retains
census data and makes it available to the historic researchers once a reasonable
period of time has elapsed, including such privacy-focused and litigious
countries as the United States of America, which released its 1910 census to the
public in 1982. Even in the home province of the minister presently responsible
for the census, all the census results up to and including the 1945 census are
now open to the public and have been for half a century. These records are of
vital importance for Canadians not only for reasons pertaining to family history
but also for medical, demographic and historic reasons.
Since the release of the report of the expert panel, I am more convinced than
ever that Bill S-12 strikes a good balance between all of the issues considered
around the census release. I hope that no Canadian will be deprived of this
vital personal data that belongs not only to the state but also to that
Honourable senators, this issue will not go away. Presently, census
committees have been set up in almost every province and territory and are hard
at work lobbying politicians — I heard from one of them today — and are rapidly
gaining increased support.
I want to give all credit for this surge in public support to Mrs. Muriel
Davidson of Brampton and her multilingual Canada Census Committee, to Gordon
Watts of Port Coquitlam, B.C., to Donald Nisbet of Surrey, B.C., and to the many
fine minds who are presently researching this matter and writing to me.
Today, I presented petitions signed by 363 Canadians. In the last year, I
have presented petitions in this place signed by over 1,800 Canadians. In the
other place, petitions signed by well over 6,000 people have been presented so
far. I repeat, this matter will not go away.
Honourable senators, I look forward to your support.
Hon. Sheila Finestone: Honourable senators, the honourable senator
makes a very interesting and persuasive case. I have an interest in and a
serious concern regarding privacy rights. Could the honourable senator define
what, exactly, would be found in a census record? To what extent would a census
record expose my life, my history, my financial accounts, my illegitimate and my
legitimate children, et cetera? Could the honourable senator please inform me as
to what information is contained in the census records?
Senator Milne: The honourable senator's question does make me curious.
However, the questions contained in the Canadian census have remained the same
basically from the time it was instituted in 1861, when the first fairly
complete census record was taken in Canada. The questions remained the same
through to 1901 — and those records have already been released with no adverse
reaction whatsoever — and to 1906, the first year of the Western census, right
through until after the Second World War. The census asked questions of a
personal nature — who you were, your name, the number of children you had, and
the names and ages of your children.
Senator Finestone: What about questions concerning finance?
Senator Milne: No, the finance part of the census usually came through
in the agricultural census, when Canadians were asked the value of their crops,
how many acres of grain they had produced in the last year and what it was
worth. Questions regarding finances were not part of the census.
The questions remained the same until after the 1951 census. Ninety-two years
after 1951 would bring us to 2043. Therefore, until the year 2043, we do not
have to worry about a lot of personal information being released when the census
results are released. Between now and then, I am sure there will be many changes
in various laws about privacy, so I am not terribly concerned about after 2043.
I am concerned about getting the historic censuses that now exist into the
public domain, where I believe they should be and where it was always intended
that they should be, and where the same instructions that tell the census takers
they cannot run down the street and tell your neighbours everything about you
also told them to make sure that their writing was clear and distinct because
these records were to be deposited in the Public Archives of Canada, eventually
for all to see. It was the clear intent at the time that these records would
eventually be made public.
Senator Finestone: I have two supplementary questions. First, what
happened or what changes took place after 1951 in the nature of the census
Second, I was Vice Chair of the Standing Committee on Communications and
Culture in the other place in about 1985-86, when there was serious damage to
the National Archives Building. We became aware of the need for repair and the
need for a new storage facility for all these wonderful archival materials. Many
of these handwritten documents, which are magnificent to look at, are to be
found there. I saw documents from the 1840s and 1850s. At that time, I do not
recall seeing anything that was more personal than your name, your address, your
number of children, the names of your children or the quality of the cattle that
you owned. Frankly, with everything that is happening today, I think there is
more protection of cattle than there is of people.
I do not recall seeing anything that was of serious concern, such as the
distribution of your financial estate or the relationship within your family.
There are serious concerns, honourable senators, about what information we are
releasing and whether it should be made anonymous. Removing or making that
information anonymous would meet the criteria of the right to privacy, which was
The honourable senator has stated that it was said that the census documents
were there to be made public. I am not familiar with that phrase, nor with that
approach. I would like to be further sensitized and better informed, and perhaps
we could do that in committee.
When you are presenting a creative approach such as this to honourable
senators, it is important to indicate the content of the census on the public
record so that we can allay the fears of many people about the historic record
and what will become part of the public record under a census report.
Senator Milne: Honourable senators, to answer the first of the two
questions, sometime after 1951, Statistics Canada went to the use of an
individual form for the first time, rather than writing down consecutively in
the same book the names of each member of a household. Because they went to
individual forms, future research on any name through the census became
That was the main change after 1951, along with the fact that, yes, they did
begin to ask more intrusive questions. They asked those questions in order to
sell the results, I believe, to the public. Statistics Canada is in the
marketing business. Now they are selling aggregate results; they are not selling
Forty years from now, that usage will become a concern to researchers. I
agree with the honourable senator on that point. For the questions up until
then, I am quite prepared to document every single census question in those
intervening years. We can discuss this fully in committee and let senators know
that the questions then were not intrusive, were not invasive and had not
The 1901 questions have already been released; they were pretty well
identical to the 1911 census questions. There was no change.
There was no change in the law between those two years. Why was the 1901
census released with no problems and no concerns, but, all of a sudden, the 1911
census cannot be released? This I do not understand.
The honourable senator makes a point about the promised right of privacy .
That promise is a myth. A right of privacy was never promised. Good brains all
across this country have been researching this question for the past three or
four years, and they have yet to find any evidence of a right of privacy
promised to the people by the Laurier government.
Three or four days ago, a demand for access to information was made to the
government. That demand must be answered within 30 days. The demand is for proof
that the government promised this privacy. It will be very interesting to see if
they can come up with the promise because, so far, no one has been able to come
up with it. It is a myth.
Hon. John G. Bryden: Honourable senators, I should like to make a
short comment and then ask a question of Senator Milne.
As I listened to the honourable senator's statement and the exchange that
followed, I thought about the valuable role of this chamber in addressing some
of the things we have been discussing, issues that are significant and important
to the fabric of Canada and to understanding Canada's past, its present and its
future. Such hugely significant questions can consume the time of this chamber
and properly so, but those same questions would likely not find a champion or
champions in the other place because there is no necessity of X dollars required
to plant the crop in April, for example. It is extremely important that
honourable senators take the opportunity to delve into this area with great
I have one other comment on the reference to privacy that Senator Finestone
raised. It probably is true that there was no commitment to privacy. When I was
attending law school — and all the lawyers here and elsewhere may correct me — I
understood that there was no concept of a right to privacy under the common law
under which we functioned. That is why we have developed acts dealing with
privacy. There was no inherent right to privacy at common law in Great Britain
or its colonies. Senator Grafstein is looking at me. Nevertheless, it is worth
seeking out that commitment because chances are pretty good that privacy was not
one of our inherent rights.
The honourable senator referred to appeals being made to prevent the release
of some information. The National Archivist is to make the decision after having
heard all arguments. I have not looked at the act, but is there any appeal of
the decision of the National Archivist? If not, then I take it that recourse
would be through the normal court system. Is there any board to which appeals
may be taken?
Senator Milne: Honourable senators, Senator Bryden is quite right that
British common law contains no such idea as a right to privacy. Unless it is
specified, privacy does not exist. In this case, the original act was silent;
therefore, privacy does not exist. The bill does state that the archivist shall
not disclose any personal information after receiving a valid written objection
regarding that information.
No, I have not provided within this bill for any form of appeal. Presumably,
it would be very difficult to find someone who wanted to appeal because, if one
person objects out of 30 million people in Canada, it is pretty hard to let
everyone know that one particular person has objected to their information being
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, forgive me; I did
not hear the fulsome debate. I just heard the former Chairman of the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs suggest to the Senate that
there is not under common law a right to privacy. I will not debate that issue
today, but certainly we are called upon to at least review the question.
The only instant recall I could give would be the extensive treatise by Mr.
Justice Brandeis about the right to privacy. That article was written, I
believe, in the 1920s or perhaps the 1930s. It was an extensive review of the
origins of privacy. I will bring that article back to the Senate, but I did not
want to sit and listen to these comments by our colleagues without at least
saying that the issue is worth exploring, as the honourable senators have
Senator Milne: Honourable senators, I believe that I said that there
is no inherent right to privacy.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, could Senator Milne explain the difference between the right to
privacy and the inherent right to privacy?
Senator Milne: At this point, I would resign.
On motion of Senator DeWare, for Senator Murray, debate adjourned.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Gauthier, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Corbin:
That rule 86(1) of the Rules of the Senate be amended:
1. by deleting paragraph (e);
2. by adding immediately after paragraph (q) the following new paragraph:
"The Senate Committee on Official Languages, composed of seven
members, four of whom shall constitute a quorum, to which may be referred,
as the Senate may decide, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers
and other matters relating to official languages.''; and
3. by relettering the paragraphs accordingly.
That, notwithstanding Rule 85(3), the Senate membership on the Standing
Joint Committee on Official Languages lapse; and
That a Message be sent to the House of Commons acquainting that House
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, it was my intention to
support Senator Gauthier's motion calling on the Standing Committee on
Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders to examine this motion concerning the
creation of a standing Senate committee on official languages.
However, the notice of motion moved earlier today seems to ignore this
proposal. It instead calls for the creation of new committees, the committee on
defence and security, and the committee on human rights. Since Senator
Gauthier's arguments are very valid, I am sorry to see that the government side
appears to have rejected his proposal.
I do not, however, wish to minimize the importance of these two new
committees but, for some of us, official languages are also important. I
therefore move a motion in amendment to the motion moved by Senator Gauthier.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, we have now completed the
Order Paper. Senator Cools has given oral notice of a question of privilege,
which was circulated in writing by the Clerk of the Senate.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, earlier today, as we know, I
had given notice that I would raise a question of privilege in respect of the
scheduling of committee meetings. I had based that question on the
well-established fact of parliamentary privilege, which is that the Senate and
its committees have a right to the attendance of its members and, conversely,
that a senator has the right to attend the Senate and its committees. Attendance
is one of the oldest and most important privileges. After all, it is deemed that
the Senate has a right to its members' attendance and service. The attendance of
senators is an absolute privilege and is protected by immunity.
My question arose out of two notices from committees, both of which I am a
member. The notices arrived in my office indicating that both the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and the Standing Senate
Committee on National Finance were scheduled to meet on Wednesday, February 21,
2001, at 3:30 p.m., or when the Senate rises. The Legal and Constitutional
Affairs Committee regularly meets at 3:30 p.m., so there was no problem with
that. However, the National Finance Committee regularly meets at 5:45 p.m. Thus,
the committee that was subjected to the time change was the National Finance
My question of privilege related to arbitrariness in rescheduling, and I was
intending to seek a ruling from the Speaker. However, events have overtaken my
question today to the extent that my concern has been resolved to the
satisfaction of both senators' privilege to attend Senate committees and my
The Hon. the Speaker: I have listened carefully. Is Senator Cools
withdrawing her question of privilege?
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I would be happy to tell His
Honour what I am doing, if I could finish.
I was saying that I now have in my hands a new notice from the Standing
Senate Committee on National Finance indicating that on Wednesday, February 21,
2001, that committee will meet 45 minutes after the Senate rises, and that
satisfies my concerns. In that regard, I should like to thank Honourable
Senators Carstairs, Robichaud, Murray and Finnerty.
Although my particular problem has been resolved, there may be other problems
in the same vein. I am not quite sure how to proceed with that issue.
Honourable senators, the question that I am raising has been resolved to my
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Cools, privilege is one of the most
serious matters that can be raised in the chamber. Before going to other
senators, my understanding is that you have resolved any issue that you had in
terms of whether your privileges have been affected in a way that you think
should be drawn to the attention of all honourable senators and dealt with by a
motion or reference to committee or by request for a ruling by the Chair.
Under our rules, as I understand them, a matter of privilege affecting any
senator is the responsibility of all senators. Do I understand that you are not
now raising a matter of privilege affecting your privileges, but rather a
hypothetical question of other senators' privileges or actual senators'
Senator Cools: No, I am not raising a hypothetical question at all. I
am raising the important phenomenon that is contained in the summons that all
honourable senators receive as they are called to the Senate and that is signed
by the Governor General, which says in part:
AND WE do command you that all difficulties and excuses whatsoever laying
aside, you be and appear, for the purposes aforesaid, in the Senate of Canada
at all times whensoever and wheresoever Our Parliament may be in Canada
convoked and holden, and this you are in no wise to omit.
Essentially, I am saying that my personal encounter has been resolved but
that there is still a problem in the scheduling of these committee meetings. I
was just told a few minutes ago that there are several other committee meetings
that are overlapping and there are several conflicts. However, I am saying as
well that we are compelled by the Rules of the Senate of Canada to defend
privileges. That is all.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I have three points. First, the question of privilege, of which we
were given notice and raised after the Orders of the Day concluded, speaks to
the privileges of the house, not only one senator. The substantive issue is that
senators have an obstacle placed directly in front of them if they are duly
assigned by the Senate as a member of two or three committees and those
committees are meeting at the same time. Notice has been given that tomorrow
afternoon the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and
Technology, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, and the Standing Senate
Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce are all meeting at 3:30 p.m.
I take it that Senator Cools had a problem because she is on the Standing
Senate Committee on National Finance and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal
and Constitutional Affairs. The honourable senator's problem apparently has been
resolved through discussions with the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I
do not understand why the Leader of the Government in the Senate determines when
the committees meet. I do not find that in the rules. Be that as it may, the
problem we have in terms of the privilege question is a question for all
We can resolve the matter simply by having a short discussion now, and it may
not even need to be referred any further. I believe that what all honourable
senators are placing on the record is that in order for us not to have a breach
of parliamentary privilege occur, we cannot have committees meeting at the same
time when members of those committees are duly appointed by the Senate. Tomorrow
afternoon, for example, based upon the notices received this afternoon, Senator
Kirby must be at the meetings of the Social Affairs Committee and the National
Finance Committee. Senator Hervieux-Payette must be at the meetings of the
National Finance Committee and the Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee. There
are three senators whose privileges would have been interrupted.
I believe the problem can be obviated by a more careful examination of the
membership on committees by the clerks. I would hasten to add that in dealing
with issues of privilege there is a distinction between a privilege of
Parliament and a claim of a personal privilege by an individual. In the House of
Lords — and this house of course flows from that house — the privileges of
peerage basically have disappeared and what is left is privilege of Parliament.
The criteria of the privilege of Parliament are well laid out in the standing
orders of the House of Lords, and interference with attending committees is
quite clearly articulated on page 213.
This problem should have been resolved, either for Senator Cools or for other
honourable senators, by a little more attentiveness on the part of the clerks to
see that committees are not scheduled at a time when conflicts occur. From the
standpoint of the opposition, it is an important point to be raised and, one
would hope, resolved simply by placing it on the record.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I am satisfied that there is no
need to place this matter before His Honour for any further consideration. I am
satisfied that the leadership has acted at my instance and that the situation is
properly resolved. I am satisfied with what Senator Kinsella has said, which is
essentially that the fact of raising the matter should go a long way to the
resolution of that other set of problems.
The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, honourable senators. I take it that
the request for consideration of a matter of privilege is no longer being
pursued and that the matter has been aired under the properly given notice of
Hon. Donald H. Oliver rose pursuant to notice of February 6, 2001:
That he will call the attention of the Senate to the historical importance
to Canadians of February being proclaimed Black History Month.
He said: Honourable senators, it is a privilege for me to stand to speak to
this important issue. I should like to begin by recalling a crime that occurred
in the United States in June of 1998. The crime involved three white boys who
chained a black man by the ankles to the back of their truck and dragged him to
his death. The black man's name was James Byrd. Mr. Byrd was dragged for five
kilometres along a country road. He died brutally. His skin was ripped from his
body. His right arm, neck and, finally, his whole head were torn off. James
Byrd's final agonizing moments on earth went unrecorded. They were lost amid the
din of racing motors, burning tires, beer and good-old-boy laughter.
James Byrd was a quiet man. He was a family man. He was a brother, an uncle
and a son. Suddenly he was dead, torn and ripped to pieces, dumped in a ditch on
the side of a rural east Texas highway.
The picture I have just painted for you is not a pretty one. Racism rarely
is. I mention it because what happened that day in Texas cuts right to the bone
of what I believe Black History Month is all about.
Black History Month is more than just a celebration of black culture and the
contribution of black people to our nation. It is a yearly reminder that our
quest for equality and respect is still far from over. It is a string around our
collective fingers telling us to keep up the fight against racism, to continue
exposing false and pernicious stereotypes, and to persist in doing everything in
our power to forge a relationship of real equality with white people.
Black History Month is also, or at least should be, a period of reflection.
We should all be asking ourselves the following question: What can I do to
improve the condition of black people, indeed, all visible minorities, here in
Canada and around the world?
Honourable senators, we can all agree that the sad events in Texas should
never have happened. There are laws against dragging people to death, there are
legal codes and there are moral laws as well, or so I thought.
The sad truth is that the law can only do so much. It can control behaviour,
but what about attitudes? What can the law do to control these? The answer is,
very little. The attitudes that lead people to commit crimes like dragging an
innocent man to his death really can only be changed through education and the
elimination of ignorance and fear.
How do we do this? We do it through concerted, positive, tenacious and
unrelenting effort. If we want to rid our society of the ignorance and fear that
lead to racism, we have to get out into that society. We have to participate. We
have to militate for change. We have to inform and enlighten our friends,
colleagues, neighbours and fellow citizens. We have to refuse to be
marginalized. In a word, we have to demand that we be allowed to enjoy our
rightful place as citizens.
Honourable senators, I grew up in a small rural town in Nova Scotia. My
father was a janitor at a local university — Acadia University. Wolfville was
like most of Nova Scotia at the time. In fact, it resembled pretty well all of
Canada. It was almost all white, with a few pockets of blacks and other visible
minorities scattered here and there on the periphery.
Diversity was not a common word in those days. In most people's eyes, Canada
was a nation of white, English-speaking, God-fearing people, a sort of American
Graffiti with snow. Racism was a fact of life for blacks everywhere,
particularly in Nova Scotia. People are often surprised when I tell them this.
They do not know that it was not just in Mississippi and Alabama where black
people were isolated, exploited and harassed, where they were called "niggers''
and worse, and where they were routinely denied basic human rights and services.
Honourable senators, let me offer you but one small example, of which I have
hundreds. When I was 20, I decided to take my family — mother, father, sisters —
to Halifax to celebrate an important family event by eating out in a great Nova
Scotia restaurant. My family and I were all dressed in our Sunday best. After
the ceremonies at Acadia University were over, we got in the family car and
drove 60 miles to Halifax where we stopped at a restaurant for a meal. We waited
and waited. Gradually, those around us were all served. We waited still longer.
Finally, the manager approached us and, in very simple terms that I remember
clearly to this day, said, "We don't serve niggers here.''
In the years since my graduation from Acadia, the palette of Canada's
citizenry has taken on new hues. To the once omnipresent white have been added
new shades of black, brown, red and yellow. In short, our mosaic has changed. It
has become more diverse.
Canada's increasing diversity is excellent news for everyone. Diversity
promotes tolerance. It leads to greater openness of spirit; it increases
understanding and awareness; and it fosters compassion. As well, diversity
enhances economic development and opportunity, and it helps promote equality and
social peace. Our diversity is good for Canada.
An article in Silicon Valley North in July said inter alia the following:
Canada is engaged in two complex games: developing a learning and growing a
knowledge economy. Both games are being played at the local and global level,
and Canada may have an unconscious competitive advantage in both games.
Referring to the higher-level societal game, John Ralston Saul recently told
the Canadian Distinctiveness into the 21st Century Conference at the University
of Ottawa that Canadians are adept at encompassing the best elements of other
cultures without compromising their own. This is the least European country in
the world and the most American country in North America. It is a sign of great
self-confidence that we can live with this complexity.
That same week, the Round Table on Diversity, Learning and Creativity,
chaired by Assistant Deputy Minister Norman Moyer, heard that fostering
innovation is a comparative advantage in the economic game. In a knowledge-based
economy, diversity can be viewed as a major resource. It is a potent source of
new ideas, attitudes, visions, perspectives, challenges and opportunities. A
society that has learned to accommodate — and even flourish — in the midst of
diversity has already taken a giant step toward developing the kind of learning
environment that leads to innovation.
As John Ralston Saul reminded us:
So just possibly they are right to build on their diversity. With our
proximity to the great economic attractor, a winning strategy will no doubt
involve intentionally building a learning society based on our cultural
diversity and inclusiveness. Diversity is a good ecological measure of
vitality and resilience.
Hence, in our diversity is our strength.
As I look around me today, honourable senators, I see Caribana festivals,
Sikhs in turbans, and houses built on the principles of feng shui. These things
are good. They are positive contributions to our evolution as people and a
society. They have helped us break down many of the barriers of distrust and
fear that once allowed gross ignorance and prejudice to flourish. People have
begun to realize that different does not mean bad or evil, but just different.
Of course, not everything is perfect. It never is. Racism remains. Opposition
to change still exists. Some of our country's most important institutions
continue to drag their feet in the task of building a diverse, modern and
Consider the Parliament of Canada, honourable senators. Take a look around
you, or consider institutions such as the Public Service of Canada. For the past
20 years, the Public Service has been studying the issue of visible minority
representation. When it began, there were almost no black people in the Public
Service of Canada. In fact, there were almost no non-whites of any kind. Today,
in spite of all the talk and the hard work of many well- intentioned people, the
situation remains far from ideal. One can count on the fingers of ones' hand the
number of visible minorities in positions of real influence and power in the
entire Public Service of Canada.
Yet, honourable senators, I still have hope. I had the privilege of working
with Mel Cappe, the Clerk of the Privy Council, to assist in a very modest way
with recommendations designed to overcome some systemic barriers. Twenty years
ago, or even ten years ago, even this could not have happened.
The failure of the Public Service to diversify has many causes. Obviously,
racism is a factor, and probably a major one, but there are other reasons as
well. The quasi-absence of visible minorities in our popular culture is another
one that comes quickly to mind.
Look around you today, honourable senators. How many black university
presidents do you see or do you know of? How many black CEOs of major
corporations do you know? How many black TV anchors do you see? How many shows
about black Canadian families can you watch? How many visible minority
politicians do you know?
There are no visible minorities in any of our national symbols. No national
monument of which I am aware is dedicated to the memory and works of visible
As a result, our presence and contribution to Canadian society remain largely
unknown and ignored. We have no national presence; therefore, we have little
influence. With little influence, our power to effect change is diminished. We
play little part in making decisions that affect us.
If we are to take our rightful place as citizens in this country, we will
have to push harder for change. We will have to push constantly, vigorously and
single-mindedly. A tolerant and accepting society will not just happen. We have
to make it happen. Diversity will not just one day be there. We have to put it
In Nova Scotia, a great number of dedicated black people have devoted
enormous amounts of energy to achieving this very goal — people like actor
Walter Borden, poets like Maxine Tynes and David Woods, novelist Fred Ward and
filmmaker Sylvia Hamilton. Each of these talented men and women has worked hard
to dispel the many myths and stereotypes that surround and restrict black
people. In the process, they have made white people aware of the black community
and of the importance and desirability of building a tolerant and diverse
One Nova Scotian who has been particularly active in this regard is George
Elliot Clark. A poet, author, filmmaker and educator, Clark has spent his entire
life exploring and publicizing the culture and heritage of black Nova Scotia.
The importance of George Elliot Clark's work is that it brings the black
experience to national attention. Through his works, increasing numbers of
people in the white community are starting to become aware of the reality of
black Canada. Clark, of course, is not alone. There are many others who deserve
equal recognition, including people like Austin Clarke and Dany Laferrière.
Intellectuals like George Clark are important because they get people to
think about blacks. They put black people on our collective Canadian mental map.
They educate white people to the importance and worth of black history and black
culture. They are the vanguard of a diverse society, the shock troops of the
Canada our children will inherit.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Most people think that the French
Revolution started with the storming of the Bastille in 1789. In actual fact,
the revolution started years before, among the artists and intellectuals of
France. As the excesses of the old regime grew, the people of France became
increasingly unhappy with the status quo. However, this unhappiness had no
outlet and no amplifier. This is where the poets, playwrights and writers came
in. They were the ones who synthesized and publicized the peoples' unhappiness.
They spread the word. They articulated the desire for change that was nowhere
reflected in official culture. All of this took place long before the people
marched to the barricades. Hence, when the Bastille was stormed, there was
already a public consensus in favour of it.
The same process is at work here in Canada. George Clark, Dany Laferrière and
the rest of the black intelligentsia are bringing the thoughts and desires of
black people to the common conscience. They are providing a venue through which
our common desire for change can be expressed. White people are beginning to
learn more about us. They are learning of our desire for a diverse society where
we are all accepted, where we all work and live together.
In closing, honourable senators, let me just give you a little bit of vintage
Clark that was penned a week or so ago about Black History Month. Mr. Clark
stated the following:
African Heritage Month is a redemptive celebration, a time for Westerners to
honour the contributions of so-called Negroes to the project of (Western) human
civilization, from "whenever'' to 2001 (Xian calendar). It is just to focus on
heroes and heroines, the achievers, the geniuses, the rich and the famous: They
provide fleshed-out examples of how (diasporic) Africans have overcome — and
will always overcome — snares, pitfalls and obstacles.
But what about the victimized and the destroyed, the hunted- down and the
falsely-accused, the wrongly-jailed and the wrongly- executed? Is there a room
in our collective historical memory for those who strove and failed, and for
those who were violently prevented from progressing, from movin' on up?
Sometimes, I know, it's better not to remember.
However, let me say this. Like the laws in Texas, these people cannot do it
all. We have a part to play. It is up to all of us here in the Senate to help
spread the idea that diversity is important and desirable.
I often, and thankfully so, have occasion to speak to groups of young people.
I like to talk to them about the importance of diversity. I tell them of a
diverse society and a dynamic society. It is a society that looks to the future,
one that uses all of its potential. It is a place where cooperation is based on
talent, where achievement and potential are more important than skin colour,
community of birth or the old boys' network.
In order to participate in and profit from such a society, I tell them to
seize all of the opportunities presented to them. I say to them: "Study hard.
Work hard. Get as much education as you can. Always strive to better yourself.
Never accept defeat. Take your rightful place in society.'' It is my hope that
they are listening to me, because, you see, if we are to forge a diverse
society, then we must be ready to play our part. We are the ones pushing to
change the status quo, so we must be willing to go the extra mile. It can be
done. With hard work and faith, I believe anything is possible.
Honourable senators, I urge all of you here today to participate in the task
of building a truly diverse society for the sake of our children and the people
Hon. Vivienne Poy rose pursuant to notice of February 6, 2001:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to the national anthem.
She said: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to an omission,
a grave omission, in our national anthem — an anthem that serves as a potent
symbol of our devotion to Canada.
Unfortunately, the wording in it currently excludes more than half of the
citizens of this country. I refer, of course, to the third line in the English
version, which reads as follows: "true patriot love in all thy sons command.''
For those of you who would argue that language is of little importance, just
imagine the reaction if the anthem were written to read as follows: "in all thy
Undeniably, the national anthem is an important symbol that is part of our
collective heritage. In fact, the English version of the national anthem is
based on wording that dates back to 1908. It was Robert Stanley Weir, a judge in
the city of Montreal, who penned the phrase "in all thy sons command'' in
honour of the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of Quebec City. The
Weir version was later published in official form for the diamond jubilee of
Confederation in 1927 and gained widespread acceptance among English-speaking
Weir reflected the times in which he lived. In writing "in all thy sons
command,'' he described the gender relations that existed in 1908. Even though
women had agitated for suffrage at the end of the 19th century, they did not
have the right to vote at that time. They were primarily homemakers and mothers,
and, with the exception of the poor, they did not participate in the workplace.
Women were not involved in politics or in the defence of the country and they
expected their husbands and sons to represent their public interests. In this
sense, Weir's wording appropriately described the significance of "sons'' in
such a patriarchal society.
However, the suffrage movement of the early 20th century put Canadian women
on the path to change. Women were granted the right to vote in federal elections
on May 24, 1918. In 1921, Agnes Macphail became the first woman member of
Parliament. As we are all aware, in the Persons case in 1929, women were
declared eligible for appointment to the Senate. In the following year, Cairine
Wilson became the first woman appointed as a senator.
Between 1908 and the 1960s, the feminist movement made great strides in
Canada, but women were still largely excluded from positions of authority, both
in the public and the private sectors. As such, in the late 1960s, when a
special joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons once again
considered the English version of the national anthem, it recommended changes to
a number of words but did not seem perturbed by the phrase "in all thy sons
Since that time, I think we would all agree that gender relations in our
country have been significantly altered. Women are gaining more equitable roles
in relation to men in society. As of 1999, about 60 per cent of Canadian women
worked outside of the home, making up almost 50 per cent of the total labour
Today's women are more educated than ever before. As the result of our
education and societal change, we are increasingly occupying professional
positions in both traditional and non-traditional occupations.
Today, women are active members of the Armed Forces. In the political realm,
women now make up a third of the Senate and one-fifth of the House of Commons.
In 1980, when Bill C-36, the National Anthem Act, was discussed in
Parliament, it was noted in the debates that the wording did not accurately
reflect the reality of Canadian society. On June 27, 1980, when Bill C-36 passed
through the other place, the Senate, and received Royal Assent the same day,
there were misgivings expressed about its passage.
However, the uncertainty created by the referendum in Quebec in May 1980 led
to a desire to assert our patriotism and shore up our national symbols. While it
was widely felt that there was a need for an official anthem, assent for the
National Anthem Act was obtained with the understanding that the lyrics would be
subject to further scrutiny and modifications by a committee. The debates
indicated that members of Parliament and senators shelved whatever amendments
and concerns they may have had about the bill on the assumption that changes
would follow shortly after the bill's passage.
Unfortunately, the national anthem as passed remained unchanged, despite much
controversy over its wording. The words "thy sons'' have been the primary focus
Bill C-247, the first attempt to amend those words in the national anthem,
was introduced in the other place in June 1984. That was followed by Bill C-243
in June 1985, Bill C-251 in October 1985, Bill C-232 in October 1986, Bill C-439
in 1993 and Bill C-264 in 1994.
Although the suggested wording varied, the intent of the members did not.
Each bill proposed a change to the words "thy sons'' in the national anthem to
something more equitable for the daughters of Canada. Each document in its turn
has been shelved and forgotten.
The members of Parliament who tabled these bills were not acting alone. They
were acting as representatives of their constituents who had petitioned them to
bring about change. Often it was school teachers who approached them because
their female students felt left out of the national anthem.
Today's young women are not aware of a time when women and men did not have
equal opportunities. Should they be taught that this is a part of our heritage
we wish to retain, as is suggested by some in the parliamentary debates?
In 1982, two years after the national anthem became official, the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect. This document, which is
fundamental to our understanding of ourselves as a nation, ensures the equality
of men and women. Whether or not one regards the reference to "thy sons'' as
implying male superiority, elimination of these words is more consistent with
the idea of gender equality as defined in the Charter.
Canadian women have an equal desire to command true patriot love for our
country and to share in our national pride. This is not political correctness,
as some might argue. After all, language is a reflection of society's values. We
once used words to describe other races that we would now shun as disrespectful
and insulting. We once had words for the disabled, that we now recognize as
discriminatory. Many words have changed in common usage because they imply that
women do not participate fully in our society. Both the private and public
sectors have taken measures to eliminate sexist language. Now Parliament must
play its part.
Honourable senators, we would likely all agree that words are important.
After all, it is the words of the national anthem that make us glow with pride
as we stand at attention when it is being played. However, many women I have
spoken to cannot sing our national anthem with pride. Their tongues trip over
the third line and they grow silent.
The national anthem not only represents our own aspirations as a nation; it
also defines Canada in the world. As it is played at official events overseas,
such as the Olympic Games, it provides a vision of Canada to others. As such,
other nations could be forgiven for assuming from the lyrics that, despite the
evidence to the contrary, Canada remains a patriarchal country.
In recognition of the progress women have made throughout the last century,
many of us attended the historic unveiling of the Famous Five monument here on
Parliament Hill last October. The occasion was significant because women's
status in Canada as an equal partner was finally officially acknowledged.
As the Prime Minister so eloquently expressed in his speech at that ceremony,
women are now involved in every aspect of Canadian life. Unfortunately, our
national anthem does not reflect this reality.
As we approach March 8, International Women's Day, I would argue that
Parliament should not forget the contributions women have made to the growth of
our nation, nor can we afford to ignore the daughters of tomorrow. We have an
obligation as legislators to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of
Canadian women through both practical and symbolic measures.
It has been over 90 years since Robert Stanley Weir first penned the words
"in all thy sons command.'' In the new millennium, which offers unprecedented
opportunities to the daughters of Canada, it is incongruous that women are
excluded from our national anthem. As senators, I think it is our obligation to
rectify this situation.
Honourable senators, let us join together to send a clear message to
Canadians and to other nations of the world that Canada respects gender equality
by changing the wording of the national anthem to more closely reflect the
reality of our country.