- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Business of the Senate
- Criminal Code
- The Senate
- Criminal Code
Canada Evidence Act
Security of Information Act
- Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
- Fisheries and Oceans
Thursday, March 8, 2012
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker pro tempore in the chair.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, today we celebrate International Women's Day. Each year on March 8, International Women's Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the indispensable contribution women have made and will continue to make in all aspects of our society, both here in Canada and throughout the world.
This year's theme, "Strong Women, Strong Canada — Women in Rural, Remote and Northern Communities: Key to Canada's Economic Prosperity,'' is particularly relevant. This special recognition of the millions of women who live in our rural, remote and northern communities, including Aboriginal communities, is timely and relevant. The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister for Status of Women, spoke at the United Nations last month and quite correctly pointed out that these women face unique challenges and opportunities, experiences they share with many of the women who live in rural and remote communities around the world.
As a Conservative woman, I am especially proud of my government's record in many areas of endeavour as they relate to women. We have increased funding for women's programs to its highest level ever, the result of which is that more and more groups are applying than ever before. Obviously, our practical approach is widely acknowledged, and it is working.
For example, earlier this week, in honour of International Women's Week and International Women's Day, Minister Ambrose announced over $12 million for new projects for women in rural and remote communities and small urban centres. This is targeted support for grassroots, community-based projects right across the country, seeking to assist rural women with some of the biggest challenges they face: violence, isolation and economic stability.
As I have said many times in this chamber, we are committed to working with Canadians across the country to end the abuse of women and girls. Since 2007, we have approved more than $42 million in projects designed to help end violence against women and girls. Over the last two years alone, Status of Women Canada has committed over $4.5 million for projects directly aimed at eliminating violence against Aboriginal women.
As well, our government has taken action on numerous fronts to increase women's economic security and prosperity. We are assiduously focused on creating a healthy economy for all Canadians. Status of Women Canada also funds projects in support of employment prospects for Aboriginal women, to increase growth opportunities for women business owners and, as well, increase the participation of women as leaders and decision makers in previously non-traditional occupations such as in science, engineering, trades and technology.
I know that all honourable senators will join with me in celebrating International Women's Day and acknowledging the important contributions of women who live in communities, large and small, all over our great country.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I would like to join my colleagues in drawing the attention of the Senate to International Women's Day.
We have been celebrating this day, which gives us an opportunity to take stock of the status of women and speak out for gender equality, for over 100 years. It goes without saying that significant progress toward equality has been achieved in that time.
The theme this year is the strength of women in Canada's rural communities. This theme strikes a chord in Alberta in particular, where over 20 per cent of women live in rural communities. I would like to highlight women's major contribution to the economic prosperity of rural, remote and northern regions.
I would also like to point out that the progress achieved to date has not been accidental. It has come about thanks to the courage and audacity of many indomitable women, women who refused to accept the status quo, such as Alberta's Famous Five who, in the Persons Case, challenged the position of women in their day. They paved the way for women, enabling them to participate fully in public life. Early pioneers included Carrie Derick, the first woman to become a professor in a Canadian university, who completed her doctoral studies but did not receive a diploma because the university she attended did not yet award such degrees to women; Agnes Macphail, the first woman elected to the House of Commons; and Cairine Wilson, the first woman appointed to the Senate.
The pursuit of equality has featured prominently in Canada's history thanks to women like these and countless others who have achieved so many of the things we now take for granted, but who do not get the recognition they deserve.
However, the fact that some progress has been made must not distract us from the day-to-day reality that many women still face, a reality marked by inequality and injustice. Much of this reality is all too familiar: the pay inequity that still exists between men and women in Canada; the fact that every day about 3,000 Canadian women seek refuge at shelters to escape domestic violence; and, although women make up half the population, they represent only 25 per cent of parliamentarians in Ottawa and only 30 per cent of federal court judges. These statistics reflect the fact that gender equality is not yet a reality in Canada.
It is up to each and every one of us, men and women alike, to try to come up with concrete measures to challenge the attitudes that lead to inequality, in order to continue the progress that has characterized Canada's history.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Honourable senators, I would like to bring your attention to National Brain Awareness Week, March 12 to 18, 2012, and to Neurological Health Charities Canada, which is a coalition of 26 health charities working to improve the quality of life of people living with neurological diseases, disorders and injuries.
This is an opportunity for us all to be mindful of the importance of brain health and to recognize the brain as one of the body's most critical organs. If the brain does not work properly, every aspect of life is compromised.
In Canada, 5.5 million citizens live with a chronic neurological condition. Most of these conditions are progressive and degenerative, with no known cause or cure; and while therapies exist for some conditions, in most cases there is no way to stop or even slow the progression.
Brain disease is not a normal part of aging; however, there is an increased incidence of these conditions as we get older. Some analysts suggest that within the next 20 years neurological conditions will become the leading cause of death and disability in Canada.
Living well with a brain condition is more than a health issue. The onset or progression of a chronic brain disorder permanently changes one's life. It creates issues and challenges that did not previously exist. It impacts everything about the present and the future, including family relationships, employment, housing, financial stability, education, health and social participation.
I want also to remind us all that our government has taken this issue very seriously, including the allocation of up to $100 million in the 2011 Budget to help establish the Canada Brain Research Fund. This fund will support the very best Canadian neuroscience, fostering collaborative research and accelerating the pace of discovery, in order to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians who suffer from brain disorders. Total public expenditures on mental health in Canada exceed $14 billion on an annual basis.
During this year, but especially during the third week of March, let us all learn more about the challenges that those living with brain conditions face every day, including the challenge of access to caregivers and the challenges posed by discrimination. Let us all increase our awareness of these challenges and support those dedicated to improving the lives of those afflicted by neurological damage.
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, today we are celebrating the 2012 International Day for 52 per cent of the world's population. Of course, I am talking about women.
Sound management of our societies and our planet cannot be achieved without women. Women represent one crucial half of our successive civilizations, yet women still — always — get the short end of the stick. Many women all over the world suffer from inequitable access to education, employment, power and wealth.
I welcome the theme chosen for 2012 by the International Women's Day website: Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures. I also find much comfort in the United Nations report tabled this past January 30: Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing. In it, the UN argues that "empowering women and ensuring a greater role for them in the economy is critical for sustainable development.''
I was once a teacher and I cannot help but repeat that education is the key to success. Therefore, you will understand that today I am advocating in support of better education for girls and young women before they become adult women and full participants in their society.
If girls receive at least a high school education, they will develop the literacy and numeracy needed in everyday life. They will understand the documents they read, whether public health notices, election leaflets or instruction manuals. They will know to ask questions to obtain more information. They will be able to influence the economic and social life of their community by participating in discussions.
However, educating girls and young women should go beyond school books. Indeed, these future women should be familiar with information technologies, be it a smartphone or a computer. They should also be informed on essential health matters, including sexual and reproductive health.
By educating these girls and young women, we are giving them the tools to participate fully and equitably in the life of their community, their region and even their country. We are giving them independence by allowing them to take their rightful place on our planet.
Therefore, I encourage our government to continue, in its national programs and international aid, to support all projects and organizations that make it possible for girls and young women to obtain an education in order to build the future.
On this special day, I would like to wish these young girls and young women success as they travel a path where they encounter both great and small moments of happiness and they achieve personal fulfillment.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, it is easy to take the availability of clean drinking water and sanitation systems for granted. We saw in the aftermath of 2010's devastating earthquake in Haiti and last year's tsunami in Japan and, indeed, we see every day on many of our First Nations reserves how fortunate most of us are to have available to us clean drinking water and properly functioning sanitation systems.
Clean drinking water and basic sanitation should not be a luxury. It is something that each and every person on this planet, especially within our own country, should have available to them. Fresh water is, without question, our planet's most precious natural resource. The plumbing industry recognizes the balance that mankind must maintain to guarantee its very existence.
Honourable senators, we all heard Senator Patterson yesterday as he delivered an excellent speech on our government's recently introduced Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for First Nations act. This enactment addresses health and safety issues on reserve lands and certain other lands by providing for regulations to govern drinking water and waste water treatment in First Nations communities. Further, the Conservative government has budgeted some $2.5 billion over the next seven years for clean drinking water on reserves. This new legislation will build on that investment.
The United Nations declared 2005 to 2015 the International Decade for Action Water for Life. This is of tremendous importance in a world where preventable diseases related to water and sanitation kill over three million people every year — the majority of these being children younger than five years of age. UN statistics show that 783 million people on the planet live without clean drinking water.
Today, I pay tribute to World Plumbing Day, which is celebrated around the world on March 11. This is the third celebrated year World Plumbing Day aims to help the general public better understand the vital role the plumbing industry plays in protecting the public's health and safety in both developed and developing nations. It further helps to educate the public about the work the industry does in helping to conserve the world's increasingly overstretched resources of drinking water and to promote energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable sources of energy.
Honourable senators, please join me on March 11 in celebrating World Plumbing Day and recognize the tremendous contribution that the World Plumbing Council and its members make to improve living conditions around the world.
Hon. Pana Merchant: Honourable senators, on this day, International Women's Day, we recognize the contribution of women to the development of society. The twenty-second Global Summit of Women will be held in Athens from May 31 to June 2.
Bringing honour to our chamber, I have been asked to lead the Canadian delegation. The Senate, our government and businesswomen leaders have contributed to these meetings in the past, notably our friend Senator Poy at the 2001 summit in Hong Kong.
An event like the upcoming 2012 Global Summit of Women helps our European friends who are under financial siege and, at the same time, helps the women of the world in our own quest toward equality.
Women entrepreneurs are at the forefront of the encouragement of best practice models to enhance excellence and productivity in business and in government.
Even in the so-called First World countries, women entrepreneurs and those seeking public life still face systemic barriers to success. Challenges include the need for increased opportunities for women to be involved in the crafting of innovation and learning programs and the need for meaningful access to the international marketplace and the freedom of participation in global markets.
A particularly tough barrier for women in business is the limited availability of credit, even micro-credit.
The socio-economic and socio-political architecture of government and societies vary significantly from nation to nation and continent to continent. The systemic challenges for women are too often negatively reflected by the minimal role women are permitted to play outside of their families. Logically it follows that women who want to expand their business in their own countries, and beyond into global markets, need to change how government works.
Even today, on a global scale, we elect a minimal number of women at all levels of government. Canada ranks among the top 10 countries where the rate of representation of women is the highest in the upper chamber — over 35 per cent. In Canada's House of Commons, that rate is roughly 20 per cent.
The Global Summit of Women is a leader of change and a very notable forum where women may exchange their entrepreneurial and governmental experiences, and in so doing become better prepared to direct and manage their own entrepreneurial affairs.
I hope that Canada will host the Global Summit of Women in the not-too-distant future, and I look forward to our strong representation in Athens.
Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, last year Canadians witnessed the end of our 10-year combat role in Afghanistan, but this war continues, and it can still touch Canadians in unexpected ways.
My hometown of Louisbourg has produced a monthly newsletter since the 1940s called the Louisbourg Seagull. In the January 2012 edition, the Seagull highlighted the report by the Australian-American reporter embedded with the United States Marine Corps, featuring a story on Sergeant William Stacey, who was in the process of completing his fourth deployment to Afghanistan. Although he was only 23 years of age, among Sergeant Stacey's many commendations and decorations were the Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Afghanistan medal with two bronze devices and the NATO medal for ISAF Afghanistan, to name a few.
The U.S. Marine Corps has been deployed in Afghanistan to serve in support of the ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, mission. This, honourable senators, is the same mission that our own Canadian Forces have so bravely undertaken for the people of Afghanistan.
It was quite evident that both the reporter and the men who served with Sergeant Stacey held him in the highest esteem.
Sergeant William Stacey is no stranger to my hometown. The Stacey family is well known and long established in the Louisbourg area. The Staceys are true Cape Bretoners.
Although William and his parents are American citizens, his grandfather Frank faithfully made a pilgrimage home with his family for decades, ensuring that his children and grandchildren would stay in touch with their Cape Breton roots. I have so many fond memories of Frank's family, particularly his late brothers Charlie and George, and have heard many stories of his late father, Wylie.
Although he grew up in Seattle, Washington, young William Stacey, from infancy until he joined the marines, made the regular trek to Louisbourg as well. He loved his grandfather's little hometown and could not wait to get back every summer so he could head to the wharf with his fishing rod and catch the mackerel when they were running.
In the February 2012 edition of the Seagull there was an addendum to the publication. On January 31, 2012, while on foot patrol in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, Sergeant Stacey and his colleagues were hit by the blast of an improvised explosive device, otherwise known as an IED, an acronym we have all become too familiar with hearing. One person was injured and there was one fatality, Sergeant William Stacey. He was 23 years old.
Since the report of William's death, the sergeant has been remembered as the confident and charismatic individual that he was, one who was highly respected by his fellow marines.
Lawrence Dabney, the author of the January article aforementioned, wrote:
Will was one of the most impressive human beings I have ever met. Every word I wrote about him in that article was honest and true. That he will not grow into the incredible man he would have been is a tragedy that is going to take me some time to come to terms with. . . . In a few years he left an outsized footprint on the world.
Honourable senators, I would like to share a portion of the letter Sergeant Stacey left to his parents, Bob and Robin, in the event of his death.
My death did not change the world; it may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all. But there is a greater meaning to it. Perhaps I did not change the world. Perhaps there is still injustice in the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built . . . He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.
I was deeply moved by Sergeant Stacey's words. They speak directly to the spirit of the mission in Afghanistan. Every marine soldier, sailor and airman or woman, whatever their nationality, should be commended for the bravery they show in fighting for the people of Afghanistan. It is about much more than combating terrorism. It is a mission for those defenceless against insurgency and a mission to provide freedom to the less fortunate.
Because of men like Sergeant Stacey, the children of Afghanistan will enjoy the gift of freedom: free to go to school, free to live without fear.
On behalf of my hometown of Louisbourg and the Senate of Canada, I would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt condolences to his father Bob, his mother Robin, his grandparents and all the extended Stacey family. Sergeant Stacey will be buried later this month in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. His family will also be erecting a monument to him in the family plot in Louisbourg, the little town in Cape Breton that was his home away from home.
May God bless and rest the soul of Sergeant William Stacey and may perpetual light shine upon him.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, the first International Women's Day was observed over 100 years ago. Back then women took to the streets in Europe and the United States to protest and demand basic democratic rights, such as the right to vote and run for office. It was a day for international solidarity, for political action, and for women to raise their voices and speak out. Today women around the world are still struggling for the same democratic and human rights.
In the past year, from Tahrir Square to Red Square, women turned up by the thousands to protest in the streets. The women who participated in the Arab Spring in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia often risked their personal safety to demand freedom and democracy. They now have high hopes for the future. This is a key moment in time for these emerging democracies. It is essential that women be heard and their rights be fully respected and incorporated into all new political institutions.
However, as these countries restructure their governments and ratify new constitutions, women's rights are still far from secure. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent endorsement of an edict proclaiming women as second-class citizens is exactly the kind of worrying trend that threatens not only women's future in these countries but the future of their democracies as well. Women are an incredible resource. They have skills, intelligence, creativity and energy in abundance. A country that does not recognize and embrace the powerful talents of its women will not thrive.
On this one-hundred-and-first anniversary of International Women's Day, I urge women around the world to stay vigilant, engaged and aware. The struggle for democracy, equality and human rights is ongoing, and women in many countries, especially in the Middle East, still need our support and our encouragement.
Hon. Yonah Martin: Honourable senators, 61 years and a day ago, on March 7, 1951, the men of D Company of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry were up at 4 a.m. The night before, they had been in a front line position. They had been brought to the rear, were given absolution by the clergy, and were allowed to wash, get into dry clothes and gather heavy loads of ammunition. They marched off in the dark in ankle-deep snow, five long miles to the start line.
Their objective beyond it was the massive Hill 532. It rose more than 40 storeys above the valley floor. Just beyond the start line, they came under machine gun fire but moved through the enemy rear guard. There were supposed to be air strikes on the enemy, but the sky was laden with snow clouds and the planes never came.
D Company moved up regardless. The slope was brutal, 20 degrees, and even steeper as they neared the summit. With three platoons forward, they moved upward for two more hours. Then they came under withering fire from concealed machine guns. The enemy was there in great force. They outnumbered the Canadians five to one. Canadians were falling; the fire was intense; they ran low on ammunition; they ran out of grenades entirely. Small groups of these brave Canadians pressed on, pressed upward. The bullets coming at them never slacked off.
The attack went on for four hours. The Canadians were exhausted, but they pressed on inch by inch until they were within 100 yards of the summit. Half a hundred of the enemy had fallen. The track down the snow-covered hill was awash with blood from soldiers of both sides.
Shortly before dark, Corporal Roy Rushton from the small town of Tanner Hill, Nova Scotia, asked Captain John Turnbull to put the men to ground. With the attack put in check, the enemy set up a rear guard and withdrew down the reverse slopes. The victory was consolidated early the next morning when the last few enemy surrendered.
This small force of Canadian soldiers had attacked a well-entrenched force five times their size, a force armed with automatic weapons and endless supplies of grenades, and they were successful. They had lost 8 men and 27 were wounded, fully one third of their company. The battle went unsung. Only those who were there remember it.
Honourable senators, now, 61 years and 1 day later, let us remember it and let us remember them. Nous nous souviendrons d'eux, lest we forget.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, yesterday marked the last day of classes at the Lunenburg Academy in historic Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. This school was built in 1894-95 on Gallows Hill and is affectionately known as the "Castle on the Hill.'' The site was chosen following an acrimonious debate in town council. The resulting tie vote was broken by Mayor Watson Oxner casting in favour. He was defeated in the next election.
The school was designed by H.H. Mott of Saint John, New Brunswick, and was constructed by the Oxford Furniture Company of Oxford, Nova Scotia. When that builder exceeded the $35,000 budget, the town council dismissed it and engaged local master carpenter Solomon Morash to finish the building.
The Lunenburg Academy opened its doors on November 7, 1895, and was part of the county academy system of schools in Nova Scotia's Department of Education, teaching grades 1 through 12. The last continuous such house of learning, at its closing yesterday the academy was an elementary school teaching primary through grade 5. Beginning on March 21, 2012, the new Bluenose Academy will open its doors for grades primary through 9.
On March 6, 1984, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the Lunenburg Academy as a site of both national and architectural significance. In 1995, upon its centennial, the academy was featured on a stamp of Canada.
This remarkable building is a landmark in the town of Lunenburg. Its unusual architectural style is enhanced by an abundance of decorative Victorian designs, sometimes referred to as gingerbread, which create a unique structure admired by townsfolk and visitors alike.
The Lunenburg Academy is owned by the Town of Lunenburg. In 1981 the Lunenburg Academy Foundation was incorporated as a society of volunteers whose mandate is to upkeep, preserve and restore the academy. That community service has been successfully carried out under the caring leadership of Roxanna Smith and Jane Ritcey. It is now the task of the town and that foundation to strive to ensure that the academy space continues to be used for education-related purposes, and we wish them well in that work.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, pursuant to subsection 38(3.3) of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a case report of findings of the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada.
Hon. Michel Rivard: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF) respecting its participation at the meeting of the Political Committee of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, held in Liège, Belgium, from May 1 to 5, 2011.
Hon. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas: Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Today is International Women's Day, and here in Canada I stand as an Aboriginal person, ashamed of the way this government has ignored the cries of Aboriginal women over the murder of their mothers, aunties, daughters, sisters and children. The government has failed to provide justice for the victims and healing for the families, or to end the violence. The government should be ashamed of itself.
The United Nations sounded the alarm of missing women and murdered Aboriginal women years ago, and it has now launched an investigation into this matter. The government is refusing to act and is ignoring this serious situation, adding yet another blemish to Canada's international reputation. The government's contempt for Aboriginal people is completely horrifying.
Will the Conservative government stop embarrassing Canada on the world stage and agree to cooperate fully with the United Nations inquiry?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I thank the honourable senator for the question. Like all women and all Canadians, I feel the issue of murdered and missing women in Aboriginal communities — and violence against women, generally — is to be soundly condemned. Although the honourable senator has every right to feel the way she does, as a Canadian woman and as a parliamentarian I do not feel that the government or any of us view this subject in the terms she stated.
We are well aware of the apparent note that was sent to the United Nations. As far as I know, we have not formally heard from the United Nations, although I could be wrong. I will check that for you, Senator Lovelace Nicholas.
This is a blight on all of us, and it has gone on for many years. The honourable senator is absolutely right that it is intolerable. Everything we can do to combat this and do something about it should be done, and we are trying our very best. We will continue to work with police officials, provincial governments, territorial governments and Aboriginal groups to address not only this terrible situation but also the ongoing safety of women and girls.
In October 2010, we announced seven concrete steps that would be taken to fulfill our investment of over $10 million over two years to address the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Through this investment, new tools have been provided to law enforcement officials, and improvements are being made in the justice system.
That is not to say, honourable senators, that everything is as it should be, but I think it is quite unfair and quite incorrect to characterize this situation in the manner that the honourable senator did.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: I have a supplementary on what Senator Lovelace Nicholas asked before I ask my main question.
To the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I have asked this before and I would ask again: As she is very much aware, there is an Aboriginal missing women's inquiry in British Columbia. Unfortunately, the lawyers for the women who are missing have now withdrawn because the women, after over 50 days, have still not had their voices heard.
Is our federal government doing anything to support these families?
Senator LeBreton: That is a good question. This is a matter of a public inquiry being conducted in the province of British Columbia. I do not know specifically what involvement the federal Department of Justice has had in the process, but I would be very happy to try to find out.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Today, Thursday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a day on which we recognize the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world. Unfortunately, today is also the anniversary of the death of Ms. Arlene May. On March 8, 1996, as the international community celebrated International Women's Day, Arlene May's family grieved the death of their daughter. It was on this day in 1996 that Arlene May was murdered by a man who was once her common-law partner.
Sadly, Arlene May is not alone. On any given day, over 3,000 Canadian women are living in emergency shelters to escape domestic violence.
As I have said at other times, I know that when the leader was working with Prime Minister Mulroney she was very instrumental on many programs set up to prevent violence against women. Today, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, would she inform us what exactly our government is doing to protect women like Arlene May, who are victims of domestic and spousal violence?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for the question. She is quite right: This is a subject I have been intimately involved with for quite some time, including, as she mentioned, during the Mulroney government. That was when I first had the opportunity to meet Senator Jaffer; we appointed her to a special board on the subject of violence against women.
I do not know whether she was in the chamber when I made my statement earlier today, but there have been significant increases in funding. Minister for Status of Women Ambrose has just announced further funding focusing on women who live in rural and remote areas and particularly targeted on programs that deal with isolation, economic security and, primarily, violence against women. There is a long list of programs that the government has participated in, not only through Status of Women but through the Department of Justice Canada and through the Minister of Public Safety.
I have a long list. I know I do because I use it as the basis for the many speeches I give on the subject, and I would be happy to give Senator Jaffer a long, detailed answer by written response.
Senator Jaffer: I understand that the leader cannot give an oral answer on this and I respect that. However, when she is providing the information, may I please also ask that she provide the steps our government is taking or has taken to have in place ways to prevent violence against women? What are the exact steps; what tools are currently in place to ensure the safety of women like Arlene May; and, finally, are there any specific programs for newly arrived immigrant women?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the government has involved itself in various programs to combat violence against women. The elder abuse campaign was sort of a spinoff of the campaign this government and previous governments had run on violence against women.
With regard to immigrant women, we had before us last week Bill C-10, which has specific provisions to deal with human trafficking and the abuse of immigrants who come into the country.
I will be happy to add all of those topics to my answer when I respond.
Senator Jaffer: I appreciate that. I commend the leader on the elder abuse campaign that was run. I found it very instructive.
May I ask that the leader now consider a campaign for people who are newly arrived in our country so that they will be aware of where they can turn so that they are not alone or isolated when they face violence?
Senator LeBreton: Again, as I mentioned, there are specific provisions that will be provided once Bill C-10 is passed that target the people who would abuse women — and they are primarily women, because many are domestic workers.
To follow up on a question by Senator Lovelace Nicholas, and with the permission of Senator Jaffer, I will provide to Senator Lovelace Nicholas a copy of an answer. It was the honourable senator who asked this question about missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in B.C. We provided an answer to the question that was asked last November and December. We filed it here in the Senate on February 7. With Senator Jaffer's permission, I would like to ensure that Senator Lovelace Nicholas gets a copy of it.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, on this International Women's Day I draw attention to the fact that far too many women in this country live in poverty. The overall poverty rate is bad enough at about 10 per cent of the population. Thirty-six per cent of Aboriginal women live in poverty; 35 per cent of visible minority women live in poverty; and 21 per cent of single mothers live in poverty. These are appalling statistics in this rather rich country.
One of the main reasons why women slide into poverty is because approximately 40 per cent of women in paid employment work in nonstandard arrangements. They are employed part-time or in temporary, casual or contract work. In the EI system, where eligibility for benefits is based on hours worked, women are less likely to be eligible for benefits.
I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if she will advocate with her cabinet colleagues that the government change the Employment Insurance program to reflect the challenges faced by women?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, there is no doubt that many people in the country, women and men, live below the poverty line. There are many things that the government has done to assist people who are living with low incomes; many things the government has done to assist single seniors who live in low-income circumstances; and many things the government has done for women.
Honourable senators, it is fair to point out that in this country, although we have our problems and there are many people who deserve the assistance of the government and get assistance from the government at various levels, many people do everything possible, whether it is government or charitable organizations, to assist people who are not as fortunate as we are. As I mentioned to Senator Jaffer, this government has many programs, from removing low-income people from tax rolls to providing for child tax benefits for families. Of course, many of these women are mothers. As I said to Senator Jaffer, there is a long list of various programs in various departments through HRSDC, through Status of Women Canada, through the Department of Health, and even through the Department of Public Safety, that are designed to assist people who are not as fortunate as we are.
I will be happy to provide that list to Senator Eggleton. Whether we are in government or whether we are involved in a social agency or charity, no one likes to see anyone living in conditions that are not optimum. I will be very happy, as I said before, to provide him with all the details, because they are significant.
Senator Eggleton: There are two things about that. One is that I simply asked her to advocate one particular program, Employment Insurance, which is a government program, particularly in regard to the challenges of women who find themselves in that program. I ask her to advocate for that kind of a change.
Yes, the leader frequently talks about the things the government is spending money on, and that is fine. It would be good if we got an answer sometime that said what the impact of that spending is and whether it really is making a difference. We get these statistics year after year that say things are still pretty bad. I am more interested in impact statements than I am in spending statements, per se.
I will ask a supplementary question. Another major reason women slide into poverty is the lack of access to affordable early learning and child care. We know that if affordable early learning and child care is available, it enables parents to work or, if unemployed, to enter training programs to upgrade their skills. It also provides children with early childhood education that will help them succeed in the future. In fact, a Canadian cost-benefit study showed it would produce a $7 social and economic return to our society for every $1 spent. That sounds like a good investment.
When the government cancelled the provincial child care agreements in 2006, the reason, they said, was to add choice to the system. Thousands of child care spaces, however, were lost. Lost spaces limits choice, does it not?
Let me ask her again if she will act as an advocate with her cabinet colleagues to the government to implement a dedicated funding plan for early learning and child care spaces in the 2012 budget.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, this is universal child care the senator is talking about, something that was advocated from 1993 until 2006 by the government that Senator Eggleton was a part of. It was always talked about and never delivered. In our case, we made it very clear we did not support that program.
In our case, honourable senators should know that the provinces and territories receive $250 million a year to support the creation of child care spaces. They have announced 102,000 new spaces since March 2007. The provinces now have predictable and growing funding through the Canada Social Transfer, $1.28 billion for early learning and child care in 2010-11 alone and growing at 3 per cent a year.
We are investing, honourable senators, three times more than the previous government on early learning and child care, $6 billion altogether in 2011-12, which is the largest investment in Canadian history.
As we are rolling things together here, the senator asked for results. On the issue of violence against women, we have approved over $42 million in funding for projects to end violence against women. I do not know how one actually gauges this, but it is to be hoped that this $42 million investment has in fact made a considerable dent in the problem. I do not know whether there is any way of gauging the success of some of these programs, but on all these fronts this government has been very vocal and very much in the forefront in addressing all of these issues.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Why is it that married and widowed women between the ages of 60 and 64 living in poverty are eligible for the OAS supplement, while women who are divorced or never married — otherwise in the same circumstances — are not eligible for that special OAS supplement? How fair is that?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I actually think that is incorrect. Thanks to our government, they only have to apply for the Guaranteed Income Supplement one time. It is based on their income. The honourable senator would have to give me a precise example.
The Guaranteed Income Supplement is exactly what it is. It is a guaranteed income supplement for those people who, based on their income tax, are eligible. I do not think whether they are single or divorced or married enters into it. Unless he can show me a specific case where this has happened, I think he is probably wrong with his facts.
Senator Mitchell: The Guaranteed Income Supplement applies to people over the age of 65. The honourable senator should know this because she was the minister responsible for seniors, for crying out loud.
This is a special OAS supplement that is given to women who are married or widowed between the ages of 60 and 64, but is not given to women who are between the same ages, who live in the same poverty, but are divorced or never married. Maybe she should check into it and find out, because that is something she should know.
Senator LeBreton: I must have been looking the other way when I brought that program in.
The honourable senator talked about the Guaranteed Income Supplement. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is available to all people, and it is what it is. It supplements their old age pension. I would appreciate it if Senator Mitchell dropped me a note and gave me a precise example of what he is talking about.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I have a question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. This refers to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, an organization that is hardly a representative of the "loony left.''
Each year, the World Economic Forum publishes a global gender gap index. What that index does is measure the gap between men and women in 114 countries in terms of their access to resources and opportunities on four criteria: political, education, health-based and economic.
When the index was first published in 2006, Canada ranked fourteenth, which perhaps was not quite as good as we might have hoped, but not as bad as all that.
Three short years later, in 2009, we had dropped from fourteenth place to thirty-first place in terms of the gap between men and women in Canada in terms of access to those resources and opportunities that I mentioned. Someone may have realized that something was going wrong because we started to claw our way back in the rankings, and by last year we were back up to eighteenth — still not where we had been in 2006, but a lot better than thirty-first. However, we had lost five precious years. Why?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I imagine the global economic downturn probably had some bearing on this, although I cannot be sure.
The fact of the matter is I can only answer for what the government has done. This is a broadly based study that takes a lot of factors into account: industry and business, private sector and public sector. I can only answer for what the government has done. I think if one is to be fair and look at the number of women who are now serving at the senior levels of the public service, it has increased — and Senator Losier-Cool will call me up on this, I am sure. We are making every effort to increase the number of women in our judiciary, including for the first time ever naming a woman as the Chief Justice of Quebec's Court of Appeal.
Through the order-in-council appointments process, we bring women into the government. I do have knowledge of this because, when I took over this file in 1986, less than 13 per cent of the whole order-in-council population were women. They were in stereotypical roles like pension review boards and the Status of Women. In seven short years, I moved that number from less than 15 per cent up to 33 per cent. We had women as heads of the Export Development Canada and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, and vice-chair of the Canadian Transport Commission, among others.
Now, we are very careful as a government to make sure we have women well represented in the appointments process and in the promotions process in the public service. I would have to get a full briefing on the conditions and who was involved in the survey, but I can only answer for the government. I can say that, as a woman serving in this government, I have never been more comfortable in my life in politics.
Senator Fraser: I expect it was modesty that prevented the leader from mentioning that the Leader of the Government in the Senate is a woman. Not the first, but a woman nevertheless.
Interestingly, of the four criteria this index measures, in the private sector — the one where she says the government has the least influence — economic participation and opportunity is where Canada ranks best: tenth out of 114. On educational attainment, we rank thirty-first. On health and survival, we rank forty-ninth. On political empowerment, which the leader has just been talking about with pride, we rank only thirty-sixth.
The countries that stand ahead of us in these rankings include, predictably, Scandinavian countries, places where we know that the status of women is extremely advanced, but also include the Philippines, Lesotho and South Africa. On political empowerment, we rank behind Burundi, Costa Rica, Mozambique, Argentina, Uganda, Austria, Guyana, Ecuador, Chile and many others.
I ask again, political empowerment is squarely within the ambit of the government. Why are we doing so badly?
Senator LeBreton: First, Senator Fraser is asking me to speak to a report. I do not know its methodology. I do not know what the questions were. I will have to familiarize myself with what this report says.
Honourable senators, as women we really do ourselves a disservice to somehow paint a picture that in this country there are diminished opportunities for women. I can think back to when I went to school. Women were never even considered for university. We were going to be homemakers, teachers, secretaries or nurses. I actually thought I was going to be a nurse, believe it or not. That is what I wanted to be, initially.
The fact of the matter is, honourable senators, and Senator Fraser knows this as well as I, right now in our universities in medical schools and legal classes, women outnumber men. As honourable senators know, I am involved in a large scholarship program at the University of Ottawa and there are far more women coming out of the law program. Evolution is taking place. As opposed to when I was a young woman, there is now a much bigger base and these young women they will make their way into politics, if they so choose.
Senator Fraser also knows — and I know this from experience — that there are far more choices for women. I know as well, having tried to attract women into politics and even into government order-in-council appointments, that women consider the whole picture. They consider their families, peers and the people they work with. When one approaches a woman to either serve in the government or run for a political party, they consider all of these things. Often they will make the choice, which is their right, not to enter into public life at various levels.
When I was doing this, especially the order-in-council appointments, I would call up a gentleman and ask if he was interested in such an appointment, and he would say yes without even considering talking to his family.
There are many factors in trying to attract women into politics. However, I dare say that we have a fairly good record here in the Senate. I do remember a time when there was only one, and then two, members of the House of Commons who were women. We have a long way to go, but do not diminish the great strides we have already made.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, yesterday a point of order was raised by the Honourable Senator Kenny. His objection related to remarks made in the chamber earlier in the week. Among other things, it was alleged that these remarks touched on proceedings of an in camera committee meeting held several months ago in a previous session. Little was said during the discussion of the point of order to assist the chair in identifying what might have actually happened. It is not the role of the chair to delve into what may or may not have been in a meeting held so long ago. Nonetheless, I do wish to take this opportunity to remind honourable senators that they should be careful to avoid referring to proceedings or documents from in camera meetings. This limitation must be kept in mind. I consider the matter closed.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 27(1), I would like to inform the Senate that, as we proceed with government business, the Senate will address the items in the following order: Bill C-19, Motion No. 32, Bill S-7, and Bill S-8.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Lang, seconded by the Honourable Senator Stewart Olsen, for the second reading of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, today is a rather sad day for me because, as opposition critic, I must discuss Bill C-19, despite the fact that it is International Women's Day.
I come from a province where women have been the victims of gun violence, but where they also waged an extraordinary campaign to ensure the passage of the legislation that the government wants to abandon today. The abandonment of this bill will prevent victims' families and friends from having the satisfaction of knowing that the loss of their daughters and friends was not in vain.
I would like to give an overview of the situation in order to help my Conservative colleagues understand that the changes made to this legislation are measures that will certainly not help to move Canada forward on the international front and will certainly not help to further the cause of women's rights.
That being said, I would like to clarify the issue by reading the dictionary definition of a firearm:
A weapon, especially a portable gun or pistol, from which a projectile can be discharged by an explosion caused by igniting gunpowder, etc.
In recent centuries, since the late Renaissance, firearms have become the predominant weapon used by mankind, and this has led to tremendous changes in the art of war.
Today, I would like to remind honourable senators that firearms can be found throughout the entire world. I will give some statistics later. The proliferation of firearms has certainly not helped to improve the human condition, nor the condition of women and children in our country. In fact, the purpose of passing the Firearms Act in 1995 was to reduce the number of victims killed as a result of the misuse of firearms.
This is not a condemnation of the use of firearms by farmers or hunters. My father was a very good hunter and my appetite for venison surely comes from the fact that, when he was living, I was able to eat deer, caribou, moose and rabbits quite regularly. This shows that I am not ideologically opposed to this bill. I think the government has a responsibility to regulate firearms so that they are used for the right purposes.
I want to show that, as senators, we should reflect on the use of firearms, which are dangerous weapons that kill people all over the world.
When this legislation comes into effect, firearms will no longer have to be registered, except prohibited or restricted firearms. This is a huge step backwards. In fact, there will be fewer obligations than there were before the act was passed in 1995.
By eliminating the mandatory registration of firearms, the Harper government is going against the teachings of the Supreme Court in the Reference Respecting the Firearms Act, which provides that registration is "integral and necessary to the operation of the scheme'' whose purpose is "promoting safety by reducing the misuse of any and all firearms.''
As stated by the Coalition for Gun Control in its 2011 brief, this bill will first make licensing verification optional when non-restricted firearms are bought, thus making access to legal firearms easier for individuals who do not have a proper licence, or who have lost the privilege to own and use firearms, following a prohibition order issued by a court.
Second, the data on the 7.1 million non-restricted firearms that have already been registered will be destroyed, despite the fact that such data could be useful to police investigative work to trace firearms used to commit crimes. Several international treaties require countries to keep track of firearms sales, in order to trace firearms more easily. This goes beyond the frontiers of Canada and, of course, beyond those of the continent.
Third, the bill does not include provisions to restore the obligation for businesses to keep sales records for firearms. That obligation, which had existed since 1977, was abolished to harmonize it with the 1995 act, since that information would then be in the registry. By abolishing the registry, we are abolishing the 1977 obligation.
Without that information, there will no longer be any way for police officers to find out where the rifles and shotguns used in crimes came from or to confiscate such weapons from suspects.
Fourth, the government is destroying a tool that police use to get guns out of the hands of dangerous or suicidal people, enforce prohibition orders and take preventive measures.
That is the scope of Bill C-19.
Last week, Conservative Senator Daniel Lang told the Senate that his government, through Bill C-10 in particular, would impose harsher but fair sentences and develop a corrections system designed to correct criminal behaviour.
The Canadian Bar Association disagrees, providing tangible evidence that Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act that was passed last week, poses a threat to Canadian public safety. Bill C-10 will result in new prisons, impose jail time for minor, non-violent offences, justify mistreatment of prisoners and interfere with the transition of inmates back into society. Add Bill C-19 into the mix, and we find ourselves at an impasse.
The Canadian Bar Association is also concerned that, if Parliament passes this bill, which is just as ideological as Bill C-19, the safety of communities in general and police officers and family members in particular will be compromised.
Senator Lang also said that in order to reduce crime, the Harper government has made sure to put more police on the streets. Why then is the government not listening to the police when it comes to Bill C-19? The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Quebec's police associations, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police all advocate maintaining the firearms registry, because they feel that it saves lives and allows them to do their work more safely.
The Conservative government insists on abolishing a registry that the RCMP considers to be very useful for judicial and police services. In a recent assessment of the Canadian Firearms Program, the RCMP reported three things to confirm that the firearms register is critical to the safety of Canadian citizens. First, it improves the safety of officers on duty. The RCMP found that the existence of the registry allowed its officers to better prepare for a raid on a residence by assessing potential threats and knowing how many weapons were there. The benefits are obvious.
The RCMP also feels that investigations are supported by this registry. It helps in tracing weapons. The automated and centralized registry allows police forces to speed up searches directly on the premises where they need them. In addition to enhancing public safety, the registry helps police officers seize firearms in cases involving family violence or mental illness.
The goal of maintaining the firearms registry is clear and obvious, and respects this idea of public safety. Abolishing the registry will make it harder for the police to anticipate the presence of firearms when they are called to potentially violent crime scenes.
In Quebec, the provincial government's position is unequivocal. The authorities believe in a universal firearms registration system as a valuable tool that promotes crime prevention and supports the work of the police, prosecutors and health care providers.
Unlike the federal government's position, that of the Quebec government is supported by many agencies, health and public safety experts and police organizations in Quebec.
Last week, Conservative Senator Daniel Lang claimed there is nothing to prove that getting rid of the registry will change matters when it comes to suicides and homicides. How can the honourable senator say such things without providing us with any data?
Statistics and scientific facts show that much of the progress in terms of public safety can be attributed to the creation of the firearms registry in 1995. The Polysesouvient organization said so in its submission to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in 2011. The organization's researchers came to the following conclusions.
First of all, the number of firearm-related deaths decreased by 34 per cent between 1995 and 2008.
Second, the number of homicides committed with long guns — shotguns and hunting rifles — fell by 41 per cent between 1995 and 2010. In 2009, the number of homicides with long guns reached its lowest level since this type of data started being collected in 1961.
Third, according to Statistics Canada, much of the decline in firearm-related homicide since the early 1980s can be attributed largely to a decrease in homicides involving a rifle or shotgun.
Fourth, before the adoption of the Firearms Act, in 1991, long guns accounted for about 60 per cent of firearms used to commit murder, compared to 30 per cent with handguns. In 2010, it was 23 per cent. Although the majority of gun murders are committed with handguns today — 64 per cent in 2010 — it is not because long guns are less dangerous, but because the law had the intended effect on the weapons newly covered under it, that is, long guns, the very type of firearms that were previously most often used for hunting or to kill animals disturbing farms.
Fifth, the number of women murdered by their partners with guns dropped by 64 per cent between 1995 and 2007. Such a decline is hard to ignore. From 2000 to 2009, almost a quarter — 23 per cent — of intimate partner homicides were committed with guns. This proportion was second only to knives.
Sixth, the number of armed robberies using firearms fell by 56 per cent between 1995 and 2010.
Seventh, suicides by firearms fell by 48 per cent between 1995 and 2008.
Eighth, maintaining the long gun registry is cost-effective. According to the latest information, it costs only $4 million a year. The money already spent to establish the registry certainly cannot be recovered and represents an investment in public health and safety. I will give you some statistics on that a little later on. In the administration of this legislation, we must consider not only the registry, but also all the other departments involved, including the RCMP.
It is not surprising to hear Senator Lang say that the statistical data have shown no correlation between the implementation of the long gun registry and a decline in the criminal use of firearms. After all, since when does the Conservative government place any stock in scientific fact or statistical data, especially after what it did to Statistics Canada?
Senator Daniel Lang added, in his speech to the Senate, that the government can "reduce crime by spending taxpayers' money effectively.'' I would remind Senator Lang and his Conservative colleagues that the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, has just tabled a report on the fiscal impact of the changes resulting from just one aspect of Bill C-10. He seems to present a perspective that is diametrically opposed to that of Senator Lang. To date, at least in the Senate, no serious government study has provided Canadians with the cost of implementing the bill, and I am referring to all aspects of the bill. Mr. Page has estimated that it will cost billions of dollars.
In his report presented on Tuesday, February 28, Kevin Page stated that amending just a single section, namely section 741.2 of the Criminal Code, with Bill C-10 could result in additional expenses amounting to tens of millions of dollars for Ottawa and the provinces.
The Conservatives talk about costs. I am talking about the lives of women that have been sacrificed because someone wants to get rid of gun control and eliminate the registry.
I would really like to ask Senator Lang, when he claims that the government intends to spend taxpayers' money effectively, if we should include the additional cost arising from a single measure in Bill C-10, which amounts to $8 million dollars a year for the federal government and $137 million dollars a year for the provinces.
The Conservative government's intention to abolish the registry is a stunning, if not deplorable, paradox.
The Barreau du Québec reminds us that the Conservative government set itself the goal of "making streets and communities safe,'' which led when the introduction and first reading of Bill C-10 on September 20, 2011.
Given this self-proclaimed desire to ensure the safety of Canadians, the legislative choices to remove the obligation to register long guns and to destroy the existing firearms registry are counterproductive when the objective is protecting the public, which the government claims to want to achieve though these choices.
I would also like to refer to Senator St. Germain's statement, which mentioned an amount of $2 billion. It is always easy to talk about costs that are spread over a period of 17 years. Honourable senators, I am a member of the Finance Committee and, the last time I checked, the estimates have never referred to budgets presented over a period of 17 years. Generally speaking, the estimates refer to the current budget and, if there are additional expenses, they are included in the Supplementary Estimates. Nonetheless, they are talking about a period covering 1995 to 2012.
According to the Auditor General, in 2001 the annual cost of administering the program was $200 million. The Auditor General of Canada has also said that the annual funding for the program is currently set at $82.3 million. She was taking into account the fact that several departments and provincial governments participate in the program but that the primary responsibility belongs to the Canada Firearms Centre.
The federal partners that incur costs are the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency, Correctional Service Canada, the Parole Board of Canada, the Department of Justice and others.
There is no need to cause a fuss by saying that the registry itself costs $100 million. The figures speak for themselves, and we can see from the government's official data that all these organizations contribute not only to administering the program but also to ensuring the safety of Canadians.
I would like to talk about the firearms industry. Even if I do not succeed in convincing honourable senators of the importance of keeping the registry, it is still important to look into the situation a little. I would like to make a comparison between Canada and the United States.
According to the most recent data I consulted, from 2010, there are currently 270 million firearms in the United States. There are on average 10,000 gun-related deaths every year. Out of the 32,000 suicides that occur every year in the United States, 17,000 people commit suicide using a firearm. This means that over half of all suicides in the United States are committed using a firearm.
As for accidents caused by the mishandling of firearms, there were 789 deaths in 2010. Every year, the United States — despite the fact that the country produces and exports huge numbers of firearms — imports $1,585,242,738 worth of firearms. As you can see, it is a very lucrative business that puts a lot of money into the pockets of those who engage in it.
I will now summarize the situation here in Canada. It is estimated that there are 9,950,000 firearms owned by individuals in Canada. In other words, one out of three Canadians owns a firearm. As for the number of firearms in Canada, we rank 13th among various OECD countries. In the United States, about 88 per cent of Americans own a firearm. So, Canada ranks 13th with 30 firearms for every 100 people, and is among a group of similarly ranked countries like Sweden, Norway, France and Australia, where approximately one-third of the population owns a firearm. I would remind honourable senators that in Canada, 80 per cent of the population lives in an urban setting and only 20 per cent lives in a rural environment.
There are 7,514,385 registered firearms. We talk about guns, but who are the owners? A total of 3,500,000 owners participated in the program and registered their firearms. This means an average of three guns per person.
I am going to provide other numbers to give a clear idea of the situation in our country. Canada exports $90,237,690 worth of firearms to the United States. We are a small exporter. However, we legally import $154,645,493 worth of firearms, which are registered.
If we take a close look at the situation, we realize that a registry legally exists. We are talking about millions of users, about millions of firearms, about a system developed by Canadians for Canadians, and paid for by Canadians across the country. That system works, despite initial difficulties.
When we read the Auditor General's report, we note that there were problems at the beginning. They were related to the registration process, the interaction between departments, and also the use of computers to collect and process all this data. Today, I am not going to blame the public servants and the experts who devised this system. When we develop a new system — such as, for instance, the SAP management system and its implementation — we know that it is a costly process.
I now come to the concerns of two groups that are very dear to me, namely the Fédération des femmes du Québec and the Fédération des ressources d'hébergement pour femmes violentées et en difficulté au Québec.
They say that this bill, which seeks to abolish gun control in Canada — despite the fact that the existing legislation has proven its value and is considered an essential tool for police officers — basically ignores the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides that "everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person.''
The gun registry is a means to protect the life and security of Canadians. The two federations add that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.
The idea is not to set people who live in the North, in the Prairies or in large urban centres against each other. When it comes to protecting citizens, the law of the land applies equally to everyone. I think the federations are absolutely right.
They add that Bill C-19 is completely at odds with the spirit and letter of a recent statement made regarding violence against women and adopted by the members of the International Organization of la Francophonie during a session chaired by the Government of Canada. That session was chaired by our colleague, Senator Josée Verner, when she was the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
I remind honourable senators that we have a past history and that we are here to work together, to find and apply the best solutions. We are not here to fulfill the wishes of a thriving industry.
Today I would like us all to remember not only the École Polytechnique tragedy, but other incidents that happened in Quebec: Dawson College, Concordia University, and the armed attack on Quebec's National Assembly. Quebec's past includes many incidents involving the malicious use of firearms. Gun control is one way to prevent such tragedies.
Not long ago, Canada sought membership in the United Nations Security Council. As part of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, Canada worked on the firearms protocol, which was adopted on May 31, 2001, by the General Assembly and came into force on July 3, 2005, once the required number of countries ratified it.
Unfortunately, even though the United States worked on drafting the protocol, it decided against signing it. In a few minutes, I will explain why the United States backed away. For its part, the European Community signed the protocol on January 16, 2002, and in 2010, the European Community proposed a legislative measure to align the European Union's legislation with the provisions in article 10 of the protocol. Article 8 of the protocol covers the marking of firearms for purposes of identification, article 7 calls for records to be kept for at least 10 years, and article 10 details general obligations concerning the licensing and transit authorization system.
The protocol also defines the confiscation, seizure and deactivation of firearms and requires states to adopt legislative measures to criminalize certain activities. It calls for cooperation, the regular exchange of information between states and measures to regulate brokering.
Honourable senators, if Bill C-19 passes, Canada will never be able to comply with the spirit and the letter of the protocol that it helped draft, but that the Conservative government did not ratify. It is a shame that Canada has chosen to side with the countries that refuse to comply with international rules instead of with the 57 countries that have ratified the protocol.
In contrast, I want to give you a brief overview of the situation in Europe because there are some countries that do not belong to the European Union. We realize one thing when we analyze the arms and munitions legislation of six European countries, namely Germany, Denmark, Spain, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland: Each of these countries has carefully studied the conditions for acquisition, possession, use and carrying and transporting firearms by individuals.
Of these countries, Denmark and the Netherlands are the only countries to have opted for a general prohibition. In other words, in general, people cannot purchase firearms, for instance, for hunting or for killing harmful animals, but there is an exception that allows them to obtain a firearm when they prove that they need it. They have a general prohibition, but there is an exception.
The other four countries authorize the acquisition and possession of certain types of firearms. I cannot say whether the same guns are authorized in all countries, but, in general, handguns are obviously prohibited, as well as rifles, because recreational hunting is commonplace in Europe. It is important to remember that firearms are subject to severe laws and people must register their guns.
In certain cases, guns are registered with local authorities. Nevertheless, all these countries have gun registration. For countries that have gone through wars, this measure allows them to guarantee the safety of their people.
I tell myself all the time that my colleagues opposite are intelligent people. Why do they support the abolition of the gun registry? In doing my research I discovered the reason.
You will not be surprised to learn that the National Rifle Association is behind it all. It is a very powerful lobby in the United States and it does not want any controls on any type of firearm. It has been working to abolish the registry in both the United States and Canada for a long time. We now know that — and I will quote Tony Bernardo, a well-known Conservative who is a fervent defender of firearms and the executive director of the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action, the CILA.
The NRA has provided logistical and tactical support to organizations such as the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action (CILA), established in 1998 to lobby Ottawa to shut down the registry.
He also wrote in the Canadian Firearms Digest:
The NRA provides the Canadian gun lobby group with tremendous amounts of logistical support, and while the NRA's constitution prevents them from providing money, they freely give us anything else. . . .
Moreover, in 2000 the NRA paid $100,000 for an infomercial about what is called "the Canadian situation.'' The infomercial aired on the national network in the U.S., according to Bernardo, who appeared in the video. That means they provided some material to ensure that the information was transmitted, and we know there is no barrier or frontier between Canada and the U.S. when it comes to television.
Bernardo is a frequent guest of the NRA chat shows updating U.S. gun owners on the fight to kill the Canadian registry. The NRA was instrumental in helping him set up his Canadian lobby group, and they gave him all the technical support so that Bernardo could do the work here and make sure that the registry would be abolished.
I will now quote someone from Ontario. I read in a report that Michael Bryant, the former Attorney General of Ontario, said: "The NRA has been agitating in Canadian political backrooms for years.''
I am talking about an organization that paid and is supporting a Canadian organization. I would like to remind my colleagues that when we talk about the environment it is a sin to talk about supporting a cause with money from the United States, but when it comes to the gun registry it is not a sin anymore and they do not consider that a barrier. I have not heard any of the Conservatives mentioning the fact that the NRA has been a big help in supporting the abolition of the gun registry.
We also have some other people who were in fact very much involved, and I am referring to the Conservative MP by the name of Garry Breitkreuz. I do not know him, but I know he was very supportive of and supported by the NRA. There is a direct link between the NRA and the Conservatives. I have ample evidence from all the reports that I could consult. There was also Candice Hoeppner, who attended the CSA 2010 annual meeting. She attended the meeting with the NRA, which means that you have people who were involved, who were supported and are part of it.
Another person who has worked very closely with the NRA is Gary Mauser, a retired marketing professor and a long-time active Conservative Party member and past director of the New Westminster-Coquitlam Conservative Riding Association. In 2006, Professor Mauser was chair of the party's nomination committee in the riding. He personally donated in excess of $11,000 to the Conservative Party and its predecessor parties.
An opponent of the registry since inception, Professor Mauser has written extensively in support of arming for self-protection — it must be dangerous in that place — and his early research was partly funded by whom? The National Rifle Association. He is also a good friend of someone we know very well who is against the registry: Stockwell Day.
This is just to say that there is a direct connection between the NRA and the Conservative Party.
How sad it was to read that two days after the September 13 Dawson College shooting, Tony Bernardo was quoted as saying the Beretta CX4 Storm — the gun used in the rampage and which he also owned — was "a lot of fun to shoot.'' This was two days after people were killed. I find it quite strange that one would think that person very normal.
I want to conclude on the NRA to say that they have established a foundation which is tax-exempt in the United States. Of course its activities are designed to promote firearms. Listen to their mission statement, which states:
. . . to educate the general public about firearms in their historic, technological and artistic context.
I would need to take a course to understand where they think there is some artistic context related to guns. As far as I am concerned, there may be some artistic context with guns that are in our museums, but as for the semi-automatic guns we are talking about here, I do not think there is anything artistic about them.
I have found more or less that this is all about money, business and lobbying. In the United States, year after year, $15 million and more is given to candidates who support, of course, the position of putting fewer restraints on the use of firearms in the United States. As I mentioned, they are three times more likely than any other country in the world to own a gun.
I would certainly not fulfil my duty if I did not speak on behalf of my province.
I would like to remind honourables senators of what Quebec's public safety minister, Robert Dutil, said. We often heard that the Harper Conservative government was a government that would work hand in hand with the provinces, that there would be no more scuffles, and that there would be ongoing consultation. So far, that type of consultation has been elusive.
Minister Dutil said that in Quebec, the firearms registry is consulted 700 times every day. Considering that there are 24 hours in a day, that makes quite a few times per hour. The firearms registry is an essential tool in police work in Quebec. Enquire about it in your respective provinces.
The minister added that spousal abuse is a problem that is known and deplored in Quebec. However, he noted that the registry contributes to preventing crimes against the person. Mr. Dutil mentioned that in Quebec, between 2006 and 2010, 264 spousal abuse incidents involving rifles and shotguns were documented. Statistics show that hunting guns were used more often than handguns in spousal abuse cases, obviously because it is much harder to procure a handgun. The statistics prove it. The number of homicides involving a rifle in cases of spousal abuse has decreased significantly.
I want to shift to another serious matter related to the use of firearms, and that is suicide. Statistics from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec show that out of the 650 reported suicides committed with a firearm in Quebec over a period of four years, 565 were committed with an unrestricted firearm, a rifle or shotgun.
Thus, the firearms registry is a very important suicide prevention tool. The purpose of having unrestricted firearms registered is to make them less accessible to people who are likely to misuse them, such as people with depression. The registry also contributes to protecting people with mental illness and their loved ones.
Universal registration enables the chief firearms officer to determine whether the weapons are in the possession of people under an order that would confine them to an institution or require a psychiatric assessment. Under Anastasia's Law, the chief firearms officer is systematically informed of these applications. Between January 1, 2008 and November 1, 2011, 18,661 applications for orders were reported to him, and consultation of the registry made it possible to conduct over 1,000 interventions to ensure the safety of persons.
When someone in a couple or a family, whether it be a child or a spouse, is perturbed, has behavioural problems or suffers from a mental illness, the chief firearms officer can be called upon to intervene in order to ensure that the firearm is removed legally. The government does not intervene with the family; it is the family that asks for help from the government. Bill C-19 will prevent this type of intervention, and it is the federal government's responsibility to stay out of it.
The minister concluded by saying that, if the registration of non-restricted firearms were to save just one life, from a moral standpoint, its maintenance would be justified.
We know that the registry has saved many lives. As far as I am concerned, those who help to abolish the registry will certainly have the increased number of suicides and murders on their consciences.
I would like to close by looking at what the various police organizations in Quebec have to say. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is clearly against the bill. The same is true in Quebec. We are often mocked by people who say that organized criminals do not register their weapons. No one ever thought they did. We have known for a very long time that there are places where firearms are crossing the border in both directions. That is the criminal world; the registry is for honest people.
Could I have five more minutes?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, is leave granted for an additional five minutes?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: The honourable senator has five more minutes.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: I would like to conclude with two messages I received from mental health workers. In one, the Association pour la santé publique du Québec says that there has been a significant decrease in the number of shooting deaths in Canada. The association strongly supports our position that this bill is completely useless and counterproductive.
However, what really struck a chord with me was a message from public health service directors from all regions of Quebec. I would like to read part of it. The doctors said:
In Canada, suicide is by far the leading cause of firearm-related death, representing 73 per cent of such deaths. In 2008, in at least 43 per cent of these cases, the weapon was an unrestricted firearm or a long gun.
In 2010, this class of weapons, which includes rifles and shotguns, represented 23 per cent of homicides committed with a firearm. It has been shown that firearm-related deaths generally involve people struggling with personal problems.
In closing, I would add that saving hundreds of lives saves an estimated $400 million per year, according to the Institut national de la santé publique in 2010. The operating costs associated with registering firearms are approximately $9.1 million per year. That cost is minimal compared to the costs associated with firearms related deaths and injuries, which were $6.6 billion in 1991, or approximately $9 billion in 2009 dollars.
Honourable senators, in order to avoid reading the names of all 298 organizations, with leave of the Senate, I would like to table a document entitled Canadian experts opposed to the abolition of the long gun registry, Bill C-391, 2009-2010. They have authorized me to share this list and I would rather not read it out in public. May I do so?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators, for the tabling of this document?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Carignan: No.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Leave is not granted.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: I would like to conclude simply by saying that, as a woman, a Quebecer and a Canadian, I was proud to support the firearms registry. I am not one of those people who said that it was perfect from the start. However, the legislation accomplished what it set out to do: it made Canada one of the countries with an advanced system of justice. I believe it contributes to the protection of the fundamental right to life and security of all Canadians, as provided by Canada's Constitution.
This is in contrast to the American Constitution, which allows everyone to bear arms. Who protected the Americans when the North fought the South in the nineteenth century? I believe that in Canada there will be no battles between East and West, North and South or cities and rural areas. All Canadians must be protected and all Canadians have benefitted from the gun registry. I beg my colleagues to study the bill seriously and to reject it.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, as I rise today to speak at second reading of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, I would like to take a moment to remind all honourable senators why this bill was initially introduced and reflect on the reasons why it is important that we, as a country, remain vigilant about gun control.
December 6, 1989, was an incredibly sad and horrific day in Canadian history. It was on this day that an enraged gunman armed with a .22 calibre rifle invaded the halls of Montreal's École Polytechnique on a mission to kill any woman in his path. For 45 minutes this man roamed through the corridors of the university yelling, "I want women; I want women'' and "I hate feminists.'' Upon entering a classroom filled with 60 engineering students, the lone gunman separated the men from the women. After ensuring that all the men present had left the room, the gunman opened fire. He then stepped out of the classroom and went on another shooting rampage, this time in the hallways. Fourteen women died on this day in one of the largest attacks against women in Canadian history.
As parents grieved the loss of their daughters, as husbands mourned for their wives, women across the country worked hard to raise awareness surrounding all forms of violence against women.
What has come to be known as the École Polytechnique massacre elicited indignation across the country. Canadians from all provinces and territories joined forces and urged the Government of Canada to strengthen Canada's gun control system.
In response to the public protests, the government passed the Firearms Act in 1995 in order to strengthen gun control regulations.
Broadening the registration system to include previously unregulated firearms, such as rifles and long guns, was one of the main measures of this new legislation. Under the new act, .22 calibre rifles, such as the Ruger-Mini-14 used in the École Polytechnique massacre, were governed by regulations.
Many people who criticize the gun registry, including my esteemed colleague, Senator Lang, the sponsor of this bill in the Senate, have said that the registry discriminates against all those living in the North, for whom a long gun is a necessary tool in day-to-day life.
Honourable senators, from 1992 to 1994, I was appointed by Prime Minister Mulroney to be a member of the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women. I, along with eight other panel members, visited communities across Canada, including those located in Northern and Western Canada, to study the causes of violence against women and make recommendations on how this violence could be prevented.
Our panel's first meeting took place in Montreal where we met with families of the 14 young women who lost their lives at the École Polytechnique massacre. The room was filled with grief and pain, and our panel found it extremely difficult to find words to convey our condolences for the senseless act. At this meeting, we heard from Ms. Suzanne Edward, who lost her daughter as a result of this massacre. It was here that Ms. Edward spoke about introducing a gun registry, which she hoped would help ensure that no other mother would have to endure the pain of losing their child to a long gun.
During our panel's study, we also learned that when it comes to domestic violence, a long gun is regarded as a weapon of choice. In fact, 75 per cent of the time a woman is murdered with a gun, she is killed with a long gun, not a handgun.
It is incredibly unfortunate that the debate surrounding the long-gun registry has been framed in a way that places Canadians living in rural areas of Canada against Canadians living in urban areas. The gun registry is not about taking away the rights of farmers and hunters; it is about providing a tool to the police that will help them protect women. Rates of death with guns are in fact higher in rural and northern areas. It is women living in rural areas who benefit from the added protection that the gun registry provides as it is these women who are disproportionately affected by domestic violence and spousal abuse.
The report that was the result of our panel's study, entitled Changing the Landscape: Ending Violence — Achieving Equality, profiles several women living in rural areas of Canada. One woman cited in this report made the following statement:
I hope that the hell is over. I live in a rural area with my two young children. The Ontario Provincial Police have told me that the fastest they can get to my house in an emergency is one hour. Between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., there is no one available at all.
Honourable senators, given that women living in rural areas often live in isolation and experience challenges accessing safety mechanisms, it is increasingly difficult for them to leave violent situations.
In 1994, the same year the gun registry was introduced, a total of 91 women across Canada were killed by guns as a result of spousal abuse. In 2008, after the gun registry was in place, a total of nine women were killed as a result of spousal abuse.
Every year in Canada, more than 100,000 women and children leave their homes to seek safety in a shelter. Gun violence is present in the majority of these cases, leaving women intimidated and vulnerable. In fact, research has indicated that rates of homicides in domestic violence situations increase significantly where there is a firearm in the home. Once again, long guns — not handguns — are the weapons of choice.
What puzzles me is that the control of guns is quite similar to the control of cars. Canadians must obtain a licence to drive and they must register their vehicles. Similarly, one needs to have a licence to own, borrow or obtain firearms. One must also register their firearms.
Honourable senators, we register our cars, we register our pets, we register our marriages, we register our births, we register our deaths, and we register our short guns. Why is it such a great inconvenience to register our long guns?
Today, I feel as though I am pushing a very large rock — one that is much bigger than myself — up a hill. I am aware that what I say today may not make any difference, as the fate of the gun registry has already been determined. I recognize that I may not change anyone's mind. Then I think of Jane.
Prior to my participation on the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women from 1990 to 1992, I was the chair of the British Columbia Task Force on Family Violence and I produced a report entitled Is Anyone Listening?. I heard from a number of women who were victims of violence. One woman who stands out in my mind is Jane.
I met Jane when the Task Force on Family Violence was visiting a rural community in British Columbia. As soon as I saw Jane, I noticed that her face was severely disfigured. Jane explained to us what had happened to her and our task force listened helplessly with heavy hearts. She explained that her partner returned home one day extremely unhappy. Everything Jane did, he criticized: The children were too noisy, the house was too messy, the supper was too bland, and she was too ugly. Jane knew from experience it was best if she kept quiet and endure the emotional abuse. She knew by speaking up, matters would escalate.
Unfortunately, her daughter Elizabeth came to her mother's rescue and stood up to her father. Suddenly, Jane saw her husband pick up his long gun and aim it at her daughter. Jane panicked and quickly pushed her daughter to the ground, intercepting the bullet that struck Jane in the face. Jane's partner left that evening, never to be seen again.
It took an ambulance and police one hour to arrive, at which point Jane had already lost a lot of blood. Jane went through extensive treatment and several surgeries. However, she told our task force that, although her face might one day heal, her emotional wounds would be there forever. Her final words to us were that no woman should have to endure this kind of pain. "You are my last hope; do something to protect our children.''
Since I met Jane, I have been working actively to help prevent violence against women. I have spent years working with organizations to establish the gun registry, and it pains me to know that in the near future this registry is likely to be abolished. In the event this is the case, we will have let down Jane and thousands of women just like her living across Canada.
I am sorry, Jane.
Having worked very closely with many women who live in rural regions of Canada, I can confirm to all my honourable colleagues that spousal abuse is a very sad reality for many women in those regions.
Therefore, it is wrong to say that the firearms registry is simply a tool that oppresses Canadians who live in rural regions.
The firearms registry is a public safety tool that protects all Canadians, whether they live in a rural region or an urban centre.
Honourable senators, I have studied the previous versions of Bill C-19 closely and I have listened very carefully to the debate surrounding this issue.
I have read testimonials published by the Coalition for Gun Control made by a number of outraged women, who have spoken out against this particular piece of legislation, and I would like to share some of those words with honourable senators today.
Karen Vanscoy, a psychiatric nurse whose 14-year-old daughter Jasmine was shot and killed in St. Catharines, stated:
From the moment I learned that my daughter had died until now, I have been living with the devastating impact of gun violence. Nurses are on the front lines of dealing with gun violence in all its forms. I deal on a regular basis with people who are suicidal and I understand the importance of having controls in place to reduce suicide. Studies have shown that there have been 250 fewer suicides annually since the implementation of Canada's gun control laws. The proposed weakening to the licensing requirements will make it easier for suicidal people to acquire firearms. It is incomprehensible that on the same day MPs will vote for the Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act, they will be voting to end the long-gun registry.
Pamela Harrison, Coordinator of the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, stated:
The divisiveness of the gun control issue is fueled by misinformation. Because of their relatively easy availability, so-called "hunting guns'' — non-restricted rifles and shotguns — are the firearms most often used in domestic violence to threaten and intimidate women and children. Threats made with these guns are not counted in the statistics, but the damage they do is very real. Scrapping the long-gun registry will save the RCMP less than $4 million per year but how much is it going to cost Canadians? The government has conservatively estimated the value of one lost human life at $5 million.
Alexa Conradi, president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, said:
The safety of women must prevail over simple administrative red tape.
Firearms are registered just once at no charge to the owner. The government's decision to destroy the existing data is a punitive measure that has absolutely nothing to do with privacy and everything to do with ideology.
May I have five more minutes, please?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted for an additional five minutes?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Jaffer: Taxpayers have made a considerable investment in the gathering of the data in this database, and the provinces should be able to recover it in order to ensure the safety of their communities.
Honourable senators, the voices of these women must not fall on deaf ears. Their concerns are real and demand our attention.
Last week, I heard a number of my colleagues draw attention to the cost of the firearms registry. Setting up the registry cost more than a billion dollars in 1995, but today, administration of the firearms registry costs roughly $4 million a year.
That might seem like a lot of money, but economic studies show that preventive interventions like the firearms registry, for preventing interpersonal violence, save more than they cost.
Let me repeat that the cost of maintaining the gun registry is roughly $4 million per year. In a 2008 report entitled Costs of Crime produced by the Department of Justice, the proposed value of a lost human life is $5 million. Therefore, if the gun registry saves just one life, then the registry would save Canadians more money than it costs them.
Several of my colleagues have called into question the effectiveness of the gun registry, expressing concern that it is not a valuable public safety tool. I find this to be very interesting, considering that police officers have stated that they use the registry 16,000 times a day — 16,000 times every day — and that it is a valued public safety tool.
According to a 2010 program evaluation conducted by the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program, the firearms registry is cited as being a useful tool for law enforcement, providing officers safety, investigative support and public safety.
Honourable senators, as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, I closely studied Bill C-10, the proposed Safe Streets and Communities Act. Throughout our study, we heard on several occasions that we need to utilize whatever tools we have to ensure that our streets and communities are safe. Last Thursday, I heard many of my colleagues emphasize the importance of keeping our streets and our communities safe.
Saving the gun registry would do just this. It will keep our streets and our communities safer and, most important, it will protect women who are too often victims of gender-based violence.
The Coalition for Gun Control, which was founded in the wake of the Montreal Massacre, made an incredibly profound statement upon which I think we should reflect. They stated: "The gun registry never killed anyone. Ending it may.''
Honourable senators, I urge you all to keep in mind the challenges that women across the country continue to face and the vulnerable positions they are too often placed in. Save the gun registry; save lives.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It has been moved by Honourable Senator Lang, seconded by Honourable Senator Stewart Olsen, that Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, be now read the second time.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: On division.
(Motion agreed to, on division, and bill read second time.)
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.)
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government), pursuant to notice of March 6, 2012, moved:
That a special committee of the Senate be appointed to consider, after second reading, such Government legislation as may be referred to it during the current session, including Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act;
That, notwithstanding rule 85(1)(b), the special committee comprise nine members namely the Honourable Senators Andreychuk, Dagenais, Dallaire, Day, Frum, Joyal, P.C., Segal, Smith, P.C. (Cobourg), and Tkachuk, and that four members constitute a quorum;
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to examine witnesses, and to print such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;
That, pursuant to rule 95(3)(a), the committee have power to sit from Monday to Friday, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week;
That the committee be authorized to permit coverage by electronic media of its public proceedings with the least possible disruption of its hearings; and
That the committee have power to retain the services of professional, clerical, stenographic and such other staff as deemed advisable by the committee.
(Motion agreed to.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Frum, seconded by the Honourable Senator Ogilvie, for the second reading of Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act, known as the Combating Terrorism Act.
Senator Frum, the bill's sponsor, has already provided this chamber with a technical overview of the bill's contents and background. It is a piece of legislation with which many of us are familiar, as it was introduced in the three previous parliamentary sessions. Senator Frum provided a good description of the bill's history in her speech.
My objective today is to outline a number of concerns I have with this bill, including highlighting a number of unfulfilled recommendations, questioning the necessity of this bill and analyzing Bill S-7's impact on youth.
I am also rising to encourage the soon-to-be-struck Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism to study its provisions and implications assiduously, in great detail and with the time required to do a thorough job, as new information has been brought to this legislation.
When this legislation was drafted, the Minister of Justice stated in his department's press release that "terrorism will continue to be a threat for the foreseeable future.'' He is correct. The nature of conflict in our era has changed. Conventional conflict and warfare are things of the past. Terrorism will continue to play a role in conflict in the future.
There exists in the world international law, of which the spirit of the law is based on the practitioners of war, hors de combat, and the world at large is required to respect these laws. The written obligations are found in the Law of The Hague, the Law of Geneva, the Genocide convention of 1948, the Charter of the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and the international war crimes tribunals.
We are in an era not of conventional warfare such as we have known for decades through the Cold War and previously in classic wars such as World War II, but we have entered a new era where we are in not war, nor in a state of peace in the classic sense of peacekeeping, but we are in everything in between — that is to say, from Haiti to Afghanistan and, God knows, potentially, Iran.
In those contexts of conflict, what has come to the fore is the fact that the threat or the opposition is not a nation state as such nor even a structured force; on the contrary, it is often an out-of-force, out-of-government structure, or in fact a completely rebel or terrorist structure. These unconventional forces do not respect any of the laws or conventions that I described by name earlier. We are in an era where the opposition does not play by any of the rules.
The question is, will we, in order to guarantee our security, go down a similar route? That is to say, will we continue to play by the rules and guarantee our success within that context, which includes human rights, rights of the individual, humanitarian law, civil liberties and, of course, the international conventions, or will we in fact move, as we have tended to move after 9/11, down a track that would fiddle with these fundamental laws? Would we fiddle with our civil liberties by introducing legislation that would amend and curtail them? Would we fiddle with international human rights by permitting things like torture in order to establish sources of information? Would we even fiddle with the international conventions, such as the Geneva Convention, by creating and supporting entities like Guantanamo Bay?
The answer is no, we do not want to go down that route, and far be it from us to establish our security by going down that route. On the contrary, what we are looking for is how we can guarantee the security, all the while not putting at risk any of those fundamental laws and precepts that have taken, not decades, but centuries to build.
This law, this anti-terrorism legislation, is within that realm of debate of whether or not we are responding to the needs of our security or whether we are overstepping our bounds and simply lacking imagination in trying to achieve that. The debate is worthy of us. The debate is essential. It must be debated and discussed and brought to the fore of chambers like ours so that the legislation does not impede on the civil liberties of the individual for the security of the group, but, on the contrary, that we guarantee that balance.
As we recognize that domestic and international terrorism is unfortunately part of the reality we live in, we must also recognize that we cannot continue to rely on extraordinary temporary measures to combat a long-term reality, but a reality of our era into which we have stumbled, and not that we have predicted, nor have we been particularly innovative in bringing proactive anticipatory solutions to prevent conflict, prevent mass atrocities and, in fact, prevent the rage that has turned into this spiraling terrorism or extremism.
In order to properly debate the merits of this bill, we need to understand why this bill has been deemed necessary. The first step in any operation is to analyze the intelligence we have gathered on the particular threat. After my honourable colleague's speech on the bill, I asked her if she had had access to the classified threat assessments, on which, presumably, this legislation is based. She answered that she had not and that "as a regular citizen reading the newspaper, [she is] aware everyday that somewhere in this world there are terrorist activities that are going on and there is no reason to assume that Canada will be exempt from these.'' I believe this argument has some merit.
Rage exists in the world as a result of poverty, the refusal to share rights and the extremism imposed by dictators in developing countries. I agree, as I am sure everyone here does, that it would be irresponsible to assume that Canada will not be threatened by terrorism.
Although, if one looks at an American weathermen's map, we can maybe think that people would not consider us a target. Why? There is nothing north of the United States on an American weathermen's map. We might get away with the principle that we have had for so long that no one would really want to attack us. As we build our infrastructure in this country based on that fact, we find ourselves significantly deficient in fundamental protection of critical resources that are essential to the evolution of our country.
While commanding the Quebec region and visiting all the hydro capabilities of that province, it was evident that we did not even have octogenarian commissionaires or World War II veterans guarding the massive hydroelectric places and, in so doing, the vulnerability of those installations was blatant.
We will not necessarily be protected by the fact that we are not one of the prime targets of terrorism. However, when it comes to legislating in the name of national security, newspaper reports are not an adequate basis on which to make major decisions regarding the position in which we find ourselves. Nor is it enough for the government to merely tell us that we need extreme measures, such as an investigative hearing or recognizance with conditions, in order to guarantee our security. As parliamentarians, we must be able to anticipate the threat in order to determine whether this bill is not only necessary but essential to our country's security.
We, as parliamentarians, need to be able to assess the security threats at a higher level. Currently, we are absolutely blind and even deaf to these threats. This makes it difficult to gauge the actual necessity of Bill S-7. That is why I am calling for the creation of a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians to be considered within the context — seriously within the context — of the essentiality of this legislation. Such a committee was proposed in 2005 in Bill C-81. This proposal was put forth a second time in 2007, in this era where we feel the essentiality of increasing the capabilities of our security forces in order to guarantee our security.
The House of Commons Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act, in recommendations 58, 59 and 60, in the report Rights, Limits, Security: A Comprehensive Review of the Anti-terrorism Act and Related Issues, in fact acquiesced to that requirement of establishing a national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians to have parliamentarian oversight on the whole structure of intelligence gathering and the security of our nation. Recommendation 58, in particular, states:
The Subcommittee recommends that Bill C-81 from the 38th Parliament, the proposed National Security Committee of Parliamentarians Act, or a variation of it, be introduced in Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
Honourable senators, let us take this opportunity to bring it forward with the advancement of this bill. A national security and intelligence committee would be composed of a select number of parliamentarians, both government and opposition, from both chambers. They would be sworn to secrecy and this oath would provide them access to confidential and sensitive information relating to Canada's national security situation and to provide intelligence oversight. Such a committee has existed in the United Kingdom since 1994 and in the United States Senate since 1976.
As a serving general officer, the security access I had at that time is at least 100 times more than what I have to work with in the Senate and on committee. It does not make any sense that parliamentarians — at least some of them — do not have a possibility of oversight into classified material that is based on the essentiality of security of our nation, for which we are responsible for introducing the legislation to guarantee that and putting it into law.
In 2005, a multi-party consensus emerged in support of providing parliamentarians and Parliament with an important means for overseeing the Canadian security and intelligence community. It is time that we take up this matter once again and give serious consideration to this proposal as we work our way, particularly in committee, with advancing the essentiality — I argue the "essentiality'' and not the "necessity'' — of this legislation in Bill S-7.
Again, without such an infrastructure, it is difficult to assess the necessity or essentiality of the current bill. Why are the measures included in the Criminal Code not enough to prevent the threat of terrorism? In recent cases, including those of the Toronto 18, Mohammad Momin Khawaja and Saïd Namouh, and in the current case of Mohamed Hassan, it has not been necessary to resort to investigative hearings, recognizance with conditions or extraordinary measures to prevent acts of terrorism and prosecute people. The charges were laid under the provisions of the Criminal Code.
Finally, even before they sunsetted, the previous provisions had never been used. When a threat surfaced in Canada, on four occasions, we were able to intervene proactively. In fact, we are currently prosecuting the individuals involved under the existing provisions of the Criminal Code.
It has been argued that, even though these provisions were not used between 2001 and 2007, this does not mean they will never be necessary. I can understand that logic. We hope and suppose that if we had used them, it would have been in very rare cases. However, let us not forget that investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions were meant only to be extraordinary measures.
Such powers cannot be a long-term solution to the fight against terrorism. The balance between civil liberties, respect for privacy and national security is too delicate. In any case, there is some doubt about the need to fill a legal void. That case has not been made. When these extraordinary powers and instruments were demanded, the threat was not defined. Without the possibility to assess the threats to security, I find that, as a senator and parliamentarian, I can only ask for proof that these measures are not only necessary, but essential. Perhaps the committee can demonstrate that it is indeed the case. However, until then, I have my doubts and I will continue to do so until that proof is well established by the committee which, I hope, will work diligently and thoroughly.
Preventing terrorism has to be about more than the possible power of preventative detention. I see that some efforts are being made in this regard, as described in the government counterterrorism strategy published in February, entitled Building Resilience Against Terrorism. Well done to them for having produced it and for its outstanding title.
"Building resilience'' means we want to also be proactive, anticipatory. We want to prevent these acts of terrorism. This, as I stated last week in response to the introduction of this bill, falls very much in line with the new concept in police operations called intelligence-based policing, in which police seek to prevent crimes from happening and, in so doing, to be far more effective in preventing casualties and people's suffering because of that.
However, I would like to expand upon this further and discuss the linkages between anti-terrorism policies and youth. We know that terrorist groups such as al-Shabab, which means "youth,'' are recruiting Canadian youth to join their ranks. Senator Jaffer has had the opportunity to encounter such youth en route to Somalia, in her travels to Kenya. I, in the work that I am doing in my research on child soldiers, have discovered that children are being recruited to be child pirates. In fact, the bulk of the pirates, in the places where our forces are deployed right now to protect against them, are youth under the age of 18.
In a question last week, Senator Jaffer said:
I have asked them why they would leave our great country and do what they are doing. One of the things they said was that they have not felt included in our great country's fabric.
They have "not felt included in our great country's fabric.'' That is not a legal problem; that is a social problem; that is a multi-ethnicity problem. That is the nature of the fabric of us being able to inculcate our values and our beliefs in people in order to stabilize them and introduce them to a better life in this extraordinary country of ours.
Honourable senators, I have long believed that disenfranchised youth, especially from Canada's Aboriginal and immigrant populations, can grow to present a national security threat. I have argued that in the Aboriginal Peoples Committee and, in fact, it was taken up not long ago in the media. It is, potentially, a growing threat. We see now, with Canadians among the ranks of Somalia's al-Shabab, that they might present a global security threat. We are actually introducing new recruits to the terrorism entities that are out there. Whether they threaten our country or simply the international community, that can have an impact on our interests by affecting business and access to precious metals, and even by creating instability in those countries and refugees and pandemics coming from those great internally displaced camps and refugee camps. This could even influence our diasporas in our country. This is unacceptable. This is bigger than law. This is the way we actually keep this country as a cohesive entity in order to continue to thrive into the future and not just survive.
The question is, are we introducing legislation to survive, or are we bringing about legislation and other programs in which we will be able to thrive and to maximize these youth to their full potential?
I am concerned about the prosecution of youth under Bill S-7. Bill S-7 provides no age limit for its provisions. It is not clear to me, nor clearly articulated anywhere, how the Youth Criminal Justice Act would interact with the bill before us. I understand that Bill S-7 is not meant to be an exception to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. However, there is sufficient nebulous articulation around the crime of terrorism, particularly in regard to the new offences created in this legislation, to raise a red flag for me and for us when we want to guarantee that even the youth are allowed protection and their civil liberties, of course.
If we do not clarify the distinction between adult and youth in the context of this bill, then we run the risk of creating another situation like Omar Khadr's, which has been embarrassing for Canada and quite troublesome for our legal system. It is still hanging out there.
I have explained that the nature of conflict in our era is no longer conventional. We know that the majority of modern armed conflicts are internal and often involve multiple armed groups that frequently recruit children. We are in an era of imploding nations and failing states where we see, through revolutions or non-state actors, crises that turn into conflicts that create not only victims but also extremism. That then interprets itself into terrorism beyond the borders of those countries that are failing. Some of these armed groups can resort, of course, to the terrorist tactics that we are concerned about and that we have seen over the last couple decades.
Canada is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocol on children in armed conflict. We led the charge. Those who supported us the most were the Americans. Both of us led the charge on the optional protocol on child rights which clearly defines child soldiers and youth in conflict. The optional protocol prohibits armed groups from recruiting children. It also calls on state parties to prevent such recruitment and use through all feasible measures, including through legal measures such as criminalization. Bill S-7 does not criminalize the recruitment of child soldiers, but it does criminalize the act of leaving or attempting to leave Canada to participate in a terrorist activity. This is a whole new angle to this legislation that has never been introduced previously and it is worthy of particular attention and study.
I am concerned about the definition of terrorist activity in this regard. If Canadian children are being recruited abroad to join rebel forces or state or non-state armed groups, could these activities be cast in the light of terrorism and prosecuted as such?
The optional protocol defines child soldiers as "any person under 18 years of age'' and speaks of "compulsorily, forcibly, or voluntarily,'' although "voluntarily'' in a theatre of conflict really does not exist. I remember clearly, in my command during the war, when there was fraternization that I completely condemned. I condemned fraternization because there is no such thing as people falling in love in a theatre of conflict. The women who had fallen into the hands of those soldiers who were present were there because they needed protection. They may need money and food for their families; they are not participating voluntarily as adults in such acts.
The optional protocol says:
. . . or voluntarily recruited or used in hostilities by any kind of armed forces or groups in any capacity, including but not limited to soldiers, cooks, porters, messengers and those accompanying such groups. It includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and forced marriage. It does not, therefore, refer exclusively to a child who is carrying or has carried arms or weapons.
This definition, to me, opens the possibility for youth recruited into terrorist activities to be considered child soldiers. The potential of that deduction and analysis is there. We have to examine what this means within the context of Canada's legal system and obligations under international law. The optional protocol contains no provision that sanctions liability or holds child soldiers accountable for their engagement in hostilities. It seems, however, that Bill S-7 has the potential to do just that even before they get there. We would then be able to prosecute them.
Our laws are framed with adult sanctioning in mind and not necessarily relevant or appropriate sanctioning for children, whose culpabilities and physical and mental states are not that of adults. The optional protocol does require state parties to cooperate and assist in the demobilization, the rehabilitation and the reintegration of child soldiers. Hence, in the absence of criminal liability, the protocol does emphasize the special status of children and recognizes them as victims in need of rehabilitation. We signed it. We produced it. We led the charge for it. I now believe it is being tested once again with this proposed legislation.
Jailing youth may not always be the answer. Ensuring that they are fully integrated and availed of all the educational and economic opportunities Canada has to offer is fundamental to responding to and preventing youth radicalization. We believe this government has also articulated that we want to leave none behind.
The distinction between child soldier and terrorist remains unclear. I look forward to clarifying this matter in committee and ensuring that this bill is consistent with Canada's domestic legal instruments and our international treaty obligations or conventions that we have signed and that we have written and brought the world on board to agree to.
While attempts may be made to expedite passage of this bill based on considerations from previous parliamentary sessions, that is, from previous incarnations of the bill, I would remind honourable senators that this bill introduces brand-new provisions that I talked about but that have never been introduced in previous incarnations of this legislation. These provisions include the recruitment of individuals who are deployed or who voluntarily or involuntarily find themselves involved in so-called terrorist organizations for training and even jobs.
Bill S-7 proposes new terrorism offences of leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of committing certain terrorism offences. Clauses 6, 7 and 8 of the bill must be studied particularly closely and with due diligence to clarify this situation so that we do not violate other rights or other conventions that we have agreed to be a party to or even helped draft and that have been passed by the United Nations and member countries.
Given that committee is the place to conduct an in-depth analysis of legislation, I would like to highlight for my colleagues a number of additional concerns that I have that I would like to be discussed and studied. In addition to my request for evidence on the necessity of the bill, the bill's impact on youth and the creation of a national security and intelligence committee require further discussion and must be pursued.
Other aspects must be examined, like the parliamentary review of anti-terrorism legislation, the need for a special advocate, who could serve as an intermediary if ever we wanted not to give parliamentarians access to security documents. We could have this intermediary, between the judge and the individual in question, to have access to security information and serve as an intermediary to give the individual recourse to that would do an independent analysis of the security information that could serve as a basis for charges against the individual.
This does not exist, because the government is not obliged to provide the classified information used to apprehend the individual, under this legislation, to seek the information and, eventually, pursue criminal proceedings against this person for terrorism.
Now, I would like to speak about some other concerns, including racial profiling and the use of information obtained through torture. Racial profiling has been a consideration each time this bill has been introduced. This new dimension was mentioned by the public safety minister as it pertains to torture, which is public a fundamental affront to human and individual rights.
If Canada is prepared to receive information obtained through torture, which goes against a convention we have signed, we must conduct a more detailed analysis of the impact of this source of information and the need to use it, and even of the basic legality of our country's actions if, one day, we should be called to appear before the Supreme Court of Canada to determine whether it was legal to acquire the information in question through torture.
Finally, I would like to speak about the primary importance of the threat of terrorism compared to other factors that must still be considered essential needs.
I am repeating myself but, so far, we have not needed to use anything this extraordinary to prevent the four terrorism scenarios attempted in our country since 2001.
I look forward to working with Senator Frum and honourable senators on both sides of the chamber on this matter, in particular in committee. The dynamic committee, I am sure, will be looking at all of the nuances of this significant piece of proposed legislation, which is essential to our security and to ensuring Canada's national security through thoughtful, balanced and necessary measures.
Honourable senators, I recommend that we move this potential legislation to committee so that we can proceed with the essential work of dissecting it and proving that it is essential to our needs and that it will protect the rights of the individual for the security of the whole.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It has been moved by the Honourable Senator Frum, seconded by the Honourable Senator Ogilvie, that Bill S-7, an Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act, be now read a second time.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to, on division, and bill read second time.)
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Frum, bill referred to the Special Senate Committee on Certain Government Bills.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (Senate budget for 2012-2013), presented in the Senate on February 29, 2012.
Hon. David Tkachuk moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, as Chair of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, I am pleased to present you with the Senate's Main Estimates for 2012-13. We had planned to do this today, and I know our deputy chair is not here, but I believe he has a great stand-in to offer his comments. The budget amounts to $92,215,846, which represents a decrease of $1,740,336 or minus 1.85 per cent over the 2011-12 Main Estimates.
While Parliament was not obligated to cut costs under the federal government's Strategic and Operating Review, we felt it necessary for the Senate to do its part, and no programs or expenditures were spared when doing our review. Senators' offices and Senate administration were given the mandate to streamline operations and realign activities. The Senate is continuously striving for greater fiscal responsibility and accountability.
It affected a number of items. It affected sort of the total research and office expense budget, but not individual senators; it affected miscellaneous office expenditures, account budgets for senators, caucus budgets, political officers' budgets, committee budgets, inter-parliamentary affairs budgets and the Senate administration budget.
This process was started last spring, honourable senators. It was a joint effort by both sides. Senator Furey, I and the clerk started a work plan last spring, well before most other departments were doing their bit. We had a plan and we stuck to it. We rarely had too many disagreements, either in steering committee or as a committee ourselves. This budget was passed unanimously in the Internal Economy Committee by both sides.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow members of the committee, the administration and senators' staff for their hard work in complex and challenging times. I urge all honourable senators to adopt the report.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I have a 30-minute speech. Oh, that is the wrong one! George Baker, where are you when we need you?
Honourable senators, on behalf of the Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, I too am pleased that the Senate's Main Estimates for 2012-13 have been tabled for acceptance. The work that was put into the preparation of this report was long and comprehensive. I would like to thank Senators Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen for their prudence, effort and contribution. It was not always easy making sure that reductions were made while at the same time ensuring proper services are provided to senators to help them accomplish their parliamentary work; it is quite a task.
I would also like to thank our clerk, Dr. O'Brien; the director of finance, Nicole Proulx, and her staff; and all of the senior managers who contributed to the presentation of this budget. There are still a few years ahead that will provide us with challenges, but I am confident that we can meet these challenges. I ask colleagues on both sides to support the adoption of this report.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It has been moved and seconded that this report be adopted.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
Hon. Fabian Manning, pursuant to notice of March 7, 2012, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans be authorized to examine and report on the lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec;
That the papers and evidence received and taken and work accomplished by the committee on this subject since the beginning of the Second Session of the Fortieth Parliament be referred to the committee; and
That the committee report from time to time to the Senate but no later than March 31, 2013, and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until June 30, 2013.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at 2 p.m.)