- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Study on Issue of Cyberbullying
- Economic Action Plan 2013 Bill No. 1
- Canada-China Legislative Association
- Canada-China Legislative Association
Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Canada National Parks Act
Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act Canada Shipping Act, 2001
- Criminal Code
- Medical Devices Registry Bill
- National Strategy for Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) Bill
- Conflict of Interest for Senators
- Fisheries and Oceans
- Appendix - Senators Lists
- Canada National Parks Act
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Honourable senators, it is with great pride that I rise today to speak on this very first day of May. May is Asian Heritage Month. It is a month to celebrate all the contributions from Canadians of Asian descent to Canada's prosperity and cultural richness.
This chamber is a testament to the distinguished service that men and women of Asian heritage have done for Canada. Senators of Asian heritage, past and present, show the diversity of Asia's ethnic and cultural multiplicity. Today, we are from China, Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper added the Philippines to that list when he nominated me as the first Canadian-Filipino senator in Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Enverga: Honourable senators, the national celebration of Asian heritage originated in this very chamber. The Honourable Vivienne Poy moved the motion that was adopted on December 6, 2001. The intent was to recognize, as the motion states:
... the important contributions of Asian Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, the diversity of the Asian community, and its present significance to this country.
The government followed suit with an official declaration the following year. As a former co-chair of the Asian Heritage Month celebration for the Greater Toronto Area and former director of and now an adviser to the Canadian Multicultural Council - Asians in Ontario, this month-long celebration is close to my heart.
Honourable senators, throughout May there will be festivities and events marking our diverse, yet shared, historical and cultural backgrounds. Although celebration is emphasized, Asian Heritage Month allows us to contemplate and remember the vital influences that people from Asia have had on this great nation, as well as the increasing role we play today.
Honourable senators, Canadians of Asian descent have made great contributions to Canada, from building the Canadian Pacific Railway until the present. In 2011, 48 per cent of the immigrant labour force was born in Asia, and almost 60 per cent of permanent residences granted were to people from Asia. According to the 2006 Census, of the 3.9 million first-, second- or third-generation members of a visible minority, over 75 per cent were from or had roots in the Asian continent. In my home city of Toronto, where visible minorities make up 43 per cent of the population, 74 per cent of these are of Asian descent.
It is clear that Asian heritage is a vital aspect of Canada's ethnic and cultural mosaic. In my view, that is one of the reasons why Canada is the number one country in the world.
Honourable senators, May is also a time to reflect upon Canadian contributions to Asia. It is a two-way relationship.
I urge honourable senators to join with colleagues of Asian backgrounds and celebrate May this year. Happy Asian Heritage Month.
Hon. Diane Bellemare: Honourable senators, I rise today, May 1, on the occasion of International Workers Day to speak to you about a subject that is dear to my heart and that is also important to you, and that is the opportunity for everyone to be able to hold a paid job in the field of his or her choice.
Since the end of the 19th century, May 1 has been known mainly as a day to recognize the demands of workers. However, in order to demand better working conditions, people need to have paid employment.
Since the 2008 crisis, there has been a lack of jobs in many countries. The crisis hit a number of European countries particularly hard, and they now have unemployment rates that sometimes reach over 20 per cent. Right now, there are over 200 million people worldwide, often young people, who are looking for jobs. It is important to note that this number does not take into account the underemployed or those who are not looking for work because they are convinced that there are no jobs available. In Canada, nearly 1.4 million people are actively looking for work. A decent job has therefore become a demand.
Meanwhile, businesses in Canada, the United States and a number of European countries are complaining about a shortage of skilled workers. Despite the apparent contradiction, these problems are related in part. Before investing, a company always asks itself whether it will be able to hire the skilled workers it needs to grow. If so, the company will invest and jobs will be created that require workers in
various fields with a variety of different skill sets. Our government has clearly understood this, which is why it has made skills development a priority.
Nevertheless, the job shortage is a major problem that is affecting most industrialized countries and many developing countries. Many areas of Canada are also experiencing job shortages. When people cannot hold paid employment, they cannot fully integrate into society. Career plans and social mobility are blocked. Employment is not only an essential condition of self-fulfillment, but it is also an essential condition of economic health and social justice for society as a whole.
In its World Development Report 2013: Jobs, the World Bank says that jobs are the priority of all priorities. The organization goes even further, arguing that jobs are the lens through which all public policies should be conceived and measured. According to the Bank, and I quote:
Jobs are the cornerstone of economic and social development. Indeed, development happens through jobs.
The Bank is urging governments to do things differently and to put jobs at the heart of their skills development macro-economic policies, income support policies, industrial policies and so on. Admittedly, this perspective flies in the face of conventional teachings. Nevertheless, it is pragmatic and tangible, adapted to the realities facing various labour markets and results-oriented.
Honourable senators, I invite each and every one of you to put jobs at the top of your list of concerns, for that is how, as a society, we will achieve the goal that we are all so committed to: prosperity for all.
Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: Honourable senators, I would like to take a few minutes today to pay tribute to all Canadian police officers who help fight terrorism.
The arrests made last week in Toronto and Montreal serve to remind us that Canada is not immune to a terrorist attack. They also remind us to appreciate the effectiveness of our police forces.
Partial information released by the RCMP was enough to illustrate the scope of the act that was being planned. The perpetrators planned to attack a VIA Rail passenger train travelling between Toronto and New York.
On top of the deaths and injuries this would have caused, we can only imagine the damage that a terrorist attack on Canadian soil would have done to our country's international reputation.
I think it is important to publicly thank our police officers, in all our police forces, for their work in combatting terrorism and protecting the public.
I will name them individually. In addition to the RCMP, the Toronto and Montreal police forces, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Sûreté du Québec all worked together. Officers from York, Peel and Durham and from VIA Rail and CN also participated in the investigation, as did the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency. I also want to mention the FBI, which is an important partner, since Canada could be home to sleeper agents from various terrorist groups.
This was some excellent teamwork.
We can be proud of the work these people did.
As a former policeman, I want to say how proud I am to see the result of their teamwork to fight terrorism and secure their country. I want to thank all of them for this operation.
Combatting terrorism is precision work for police forces. They have to identify the suspects, observe them without being detected, decipher their habits and language, collect evidence and neutralize them.
In this case, our police officers spent a year observing the people who have been charged in this case. One year of work to collect enough evidence in order to lay charges in our courts.
One year waiting for the right time to intervene, before these individuals had a chance to carry out their plan and kill innocent people.
For some people, terrorism has been on the back burner in recent years. Some security measures put in place after the September 2001 attacks in New York were starting to be relaxed because some travellers found them too restrictive.
The events at the Boston Marathon quickly brought back terrible memories.
However, we had no idea that, just days later, Canadian police would foil an equally serious plot that was in the works here in Canada.
I have served on the Senate Anti-terrorism Committee since I came to this chamber. The witnesses we have heard tell us that we need to remain vigilant at all times.
I am sure honourable senators have remarked that time is of no importance to terrorists. They move here, study, work and are often seen as good neighbours.
We cannot resort to profiling, but we must remain alert and the public must work with police to thwart terrorist ambitions.
Our quality of life depends on it.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 12-24 of the Rules of the Senate, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government response to the ninth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, entitled: Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, in accordance with rule 10-11(1), the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be authorized to examine the subject-matter of Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures, introduced in the House of Commons on April 29, 2013, in advance of the said bill coming before the Senate.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-China Legislative Association respecting its participation at the Fifteenth Bilateral Meeting, held in Beijing, Xiamen, Hangzhou and Shanghai, People's Republic of China, from April 7 to 14, 2012.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-China Legislative Association and the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Twenty-first Annual Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF), held in Vladivostok, Russian Federation, from January 27 to 31, 2013.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-China Legislative Association and the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Thirty-third General Assembly of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), held in Lombok, Indonesia, from September 16 to 22, 2012.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence, I will move:
That the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism be authorized to examine and report on the creation, role and mandate of a potential National Security Committee of Parliamentarians;
That the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism be authorized to examine and report on the role of women in the process of deradicalization in Canada and abroad; and
That the Committee submit its final report to the Senate no later than December 31, 2013, and that the Committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until March 31, 2014.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I want to pursue the question I put to her last Thursday with regard to cyberattacks on Canada, our infrastructure and our military. The leader said to me, in answer to my question, that the protection of our nation from these cyberattacks falls under the purview of Public Safety, CSIS, RCMP, border security and the Department of National Defence.
She said there was a recent significant investment of $245 million in the cybersecurity strategy. I would like to know if that money was in the last budget or in this budget, to which agency will the money go, and in what amounts?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I will have to take that question as notice, honourable senators. I believe it was the last budget, but I cannot be absolutely sure, so I will take the question as notice.
Senator Moore: I thank the leader for her response.
I want to bring the attention of honourable senators to some pretty sweeping attacks that we have experienced in the recent past. On September 10, 2012, the Calgary-based energy company Telvent advised its customers that hackers had managed to penetrate its computers and access some customer files. This also leads to being able to infiltrate files or computers dealing with the operation of pipelines and so on. However, no one told the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre, which, apparently, is the federal agency set up to respond to cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. It is interesting that it took more than 24 hours to determine that the Canadian company that was hit was Telvent.
Part of the problem was that the federal response centre — the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre — was not open to respond to anything on weekends. In fact, it was only staffed during bankers' hours, eight hours a day, five days a week.
I expect that the leader would have heard about this around the cabinet table. This situation got a bit worse. On January 31, 2011, emails of that date indicate that both the Department of Finance and Treasury Board were being slammed with severe cyberattacks. It was not until three days later that all the computers at Finance, Treasury Board, and Defence Research and Development were also hit and were finally disconnected from the Internet to prevent further loss of data.
There is so much to this that I do not know what to ask the Leader of the Government first. Could she please tell us if she is familiar with the Telvent incident, and whether or not the hours of operation of the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre have been fixed so that they are now 24/7? Clearly, the people who are trying to disrupt our economy and steal our intellectual property are not working just bankers' hours.
Senator LeBreton: With regard to the specific incidents that Senator Moore cites, of course I cannot comment, honourable senators.
With regard to the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre, I can assure honourable senators, as we have been assured, that at all times experts from the response centre are available to deal with all and any emerging situations.
Senator Moore: Honourable senators, should I assume that means that the centre is now operational 24/7?
Senator LeBreton: The previous questions were as a result of this being brought to our attention, I believe by the Auditor General. We have been assured that experts from the response centre are available to deal with all emerging issues of cybersecurity at all times.
Senator Moore: Honourable senators, I have a further supplementary question. Two days ago it was reported in The Register, which is an online news sheet that reports on cyberattacks and so on, that the widely feared Chinese cyberespionage crew known as APT1 is back in business — it is in a building in Beijing; one can go online and see a picture of it — two months after a high-profile report that lifted the lid off its activities.
That country in its cyberattacking has a huge detrimental effect on our economy and on the stability of our commercial systems, defences and infrastructure. It is interesting that The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday that their computer systems had been infiltrated by Chinese hackers, which has caused the U.S. government to eye more pointed diplomatic and trade measures. The U.S. sees this as such a threat that it is seriously considering taking action against the Chinese, perhaps cancelling certain visas or putting major purchases of Chinese goods through national security reviews.
Is our government considering the impact of these cyberattacks on Canada, on the infrastructure that I mentioned earlier, and have these issues been raised with the Chinese government by the Prime Minister or other ministers when they have visited China?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, first, the issue of cybersecurity strategy was brought in by this government. Second, as I mentioned, I cannot comment on the actions of others or particular cases, but we do take this emerging and ever-changing issue extremely seriously. Our government relies very heavily on the advice of security experts. However, inasmuch as they are able to shed further light on Senator Moore's questions, I will send this latest inquiry with the others for a written response.
Senator Moore: I have one final point, honourable senators. I know the government took the initiative to try to set something up with regard to cyberattacks. I do not know how we stay ahead of the bad guys, but we have to try to do that.
It is interesting that one of the leaders in this task is the Communications Security Establishment Canada, a little-known branch of National Defence and Canada's only electronic eavesdropping agency. I hear all these names of agencies and I wonder where it is being coordinated and who has the final call.
Are we considering seriously making the case to China — and I understand now that Iran and Russia are also at this, with what little we know about it — in terms of letting them know that we take this so seriously that we would consider economic sanctions of some sort if they do not cease it?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, without commenting on what actions may be taken, I agree with Senator Moore and he is quite correct that these are very serious issues and require serious answers. As much as possible, I will forward his comments and questions and respond by written response.
Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, I have a question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It has been six weeks since I gave her notice and asked a question regarding membership and recruiting in the RCMP. Could she please advise us when she may have an answer?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I do not have an answer to Senator Kenny's question at this time, but, in view of his earlier question and the reminder today, I will seek to find out.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is threatening to block imports of some generic prescription drugs produced by Canada's largest supplier after investigators raised questions about quality control at two of its manufacturing plants. FDA inspectors have found repeated deficiencies in the quality control systems at Apotex Inc.'s facilities. They found that Apotex released batches of drugs into the U.S. market despite defects discovered in parts of the same batch. They also found that the drug maker did not adequately control or detect microbial growth that could compromise safety.
Health Canada has responded by saying it is not concerned by the U.S. warnings, even though Canadian inspectors have not been there to inspect the Apotex facility since 2011.
According to Professor Amir Attaran from the Faculty of Medicine here at the University of Ottawa, Health Canada has one of the poorest records in the developed world when it comes to overseeing drug manufacturing. About this very issue, he said:
Today, history repeats itself. The FDA has caught what are apparently very serious problems, potentially life-threatening problems...
— at the Apotex plant —
... and Health Canada appears once again, second.
Honourable senators, the FDA's findings clearly show the disparity between the American and Canadian regulatory systems. Why should Canadians have to find out from the Americans that there is a problem with a manufacturing plant here in Canada?
Will the government move quickly to increase the number of inspectors that it needs to conduct investigations at these drug facilities?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, in answer to the honourable senator's question, Health Canada, after inspecting the facility and receiving independent analysis, has advised the minister that they have no evidence of any impact on health products destined for the Canadian market. The Canadian regulatory system insists that all manufacturers comply with our strict rules. Regulators will not hesitate to take action if there is any risk to health at all.
Senator Eggleton: I am sorry, but I do not think that is very believable at all.
This is not the first time this has happened. It is not the first time Apotex has run into problems in recent years. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration imposed a two-year ban on Apotex products after they found major problems in their manufacturing process. What did Canada do? Nothing.
Earlier this month, Apotex and Health Canada were both roundly criticized for their handling of a massive birth control recall. A dosage problem that could significantly increase the risk of pregnancy was identified on April 3 by the Americans, but Health Canada did not issue an urgent public warning until April 8.
Honourable senators, the lack of action on the part of Health Canada when it comes to the regulation of drug manufacturing raises real questions about the safety of the drug supply in Canada. At our hearings at the Social Affairs Committee, we have also heard they have been inadequate in terms of the number of inspections they carry out, and they have been criticized by the Auditor General. I do not see how one could buy the stuff the leader just talked about.
Health Canada has the responsibility to protect the public from undue safety risks related to the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Will the government commit to a full review of Health Canada's operating practices with regard to the prescription drug industry?
Senator LeBreton: Not only did Health Canada assure the government, but they also used independent analysis. I know that is not the answer the honourable senator wants to hear, but that in fact is the advice of Health Canada that was given to our government and to the minister. I am assured not only by the expertise of Health Canada but also by the independent analysis.
We do have regulations in this country, and Health Canada will not hesitate to use these regulations if there is any evidence whatsoever of any risk to Canadians.
Senator Eggleton: Where is the evidence? There is no evidence that is happening at all. Those are just words, honourable senators. Why do the Americans have to keep coming up and telling us there is something wrong with our quality control?
In this latest incident I referred to in my initial question, some of the same batch was still distributed by the manufacturer, even though the Americans said, "No, it does not meet quality control tests."
I do not know what the leader means by "independent analysis," but certainly there is a sufficient track record here to warrant further investigation. I would hope the government does some investigation regarding Health Canada carrying out its responsibilities to keep the Canadian public safe.
In addition, look at the words of the Auditor General, our own Auditor General; there is independent advice. How about that one?
Senator LeBreton: Again, the Auditor General plays a very significant role in bringing to the attention of the government issues within the various departments of government that require attention.
I can only give the honourable senator the answer that I believe to be the answer, and that is that Health Canada, which does have a very — I think the honourable senator is being a little harsh on Health Canada. We have a very safe and healthy population thanks to the work of many of the agencies of the government and many of the agencies of Health Canada, including Health Canada itself. They have assured us that they have inspected the facility, have gotten independent advice and that there are no risks.
The honourable senator seems not to accept that answer. I will therefore refer his question to Health Canada, to the Minister of Health, to see if there is any further information they could provide to assure the honourable senator that the actions of Health Canada are appropriate.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Prior to asking it, I want to assure all honourable senators that this question in no way reflects on the good work being done by all members of the Finance Committee.
However, honourable senators, the Auditor General released his spring report yesterday. It was made available to parliamentarians, and the report raises some very serious questions about mismanagement and leadership with regard to Treasury Board.
When examining government spending on the Public Safety and Anti-terrorism Initiative, the Auditor General found that of the $12.9 billion that had been allocated to 35 different departments and agencies to fund activities related to public security and anti-terrorism, only $9.8 billion has been properly accounted for.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate please explain to this chamber what her government plans to do to find the missing $3.1 billion?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): First of all, I think the honourable senator's question misstates the facts. To be clear, the Auditor General stated in his press conference yesterday: "We didn't find anything that gave us cause for concern that money was used in any way it should not have been."
This matter relates to categorization of expenses by Treasury Board between 2001 and 2009. Again, I am pointing out 2001 and 2009. That is in this particular file. Of all the efforts by the previous government and this government to deal with public security and terrorism, four and a half years were under the previous government and four and a half years have been under this government.
With that said, all of the funds in question are accounted for by Treasury Board between 2001 and 2009. All of these funds are accounted for in the public documents presented to Parliament, including public accounts, which the honourable senator is almost an expert in going over with a fine-toothed comb.
There is no indication that any dollars are missing, misappropriated or misspent. Treasury Board Secretariat has accepted the Auditor General's recommendations. The first job of any government is to keep its citizens safe from harm, and obviously, Treasury Board will be looking at the recommendations and responding.
However, again, our government's responsibility is the safety of Canadians by keeping Canada safe from terrorism and, of course, that is why we recently put the anti-terrorism bill through the Senate, Bill S-7, and that is why it passed and is now a law of the country.
Senator Day: I have a supplementary question. The report by the Auditor General points out that there was a review in 2010 of this initiative on anti-terrorism, and as a result of that review, the Treasury Board decided to cease requiring the Treasury Board Secretariat to provide the information that parliamentarians could follow and understand in relation to what is going on. That was in 2010.
We know as well that this report by the Auditor General would have been made available some time ago. It was concluded in the fall of last year, so I would like to know — and I think honourable senators would like to know — what steps the government plans to take to ensure this type of mismanagement does not continue in the future.
Senator LeBreton: I will have to read into the record once again the quote of the Auditor General. He said: "We didn't find anything that gave us cause for concern that money was used in any way it should not have been."
As for the question about the Treasury Board, I have answered that. The Treasury Board Secretariat has accepted all the Auditor General's recommendations and will be responding to them in an appropriate way.
Senator Day: I had the opportunity to watch on television this morning the President of the Treasury Board. He indicated that we just do not know what happened to that $3.1 billion, but there are a bunch of boxes in the basement at Treasury Board and he is down there looking in those boxes to find out if that $3.1 billion is hidden away.
Can the leader assure us that no gazebos or fake lakes were paid for with that $3.1 billion?
Senator LeBreton: I am surprised by that question from Senator Day; he is usually more professional than that.
The fact is that the President of the Treasury Board said no such thing.
The Auditor General said no such thing. He made it very clear, and I will quote him again:
We didn't find anything that gave us cause for concern that the money... was used in any way that it should not have been.
Period, full stop: That is the quote of the Auditor General.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, if one does not know where the money was spent, how does one know whether it was misspent or not?
Senator LeBreton: All I can do is tell honourable senators what the Auditor General said: He found no evidence.
This started back in 2001. In defence of the government, in 2001 we were dealing with a horrific terrorist attack. Obviously, many agencies and departments of government were trying to respond as best they could with a number of measures. The Auditor General pointed out that these funds were in various departments.
Again, the Auditor General found no cause for concern. I am quite certain that Treasury Board, as a result of the Auditor General's report and in view of the fact that they fully accept the findings of his report, will be working very hard to respond to our questions in this regard.
Senator Cowan: Last week we had a discussion about the necessity or the repeated recommendations of committees in this house and in the House of Commons to bring Canadian practice in line with that which exists in most other countries in the world, at least our allies around the world, and the need for a parliamentary oversight committee.
Does the report of the Auditor General and this issue of $3.1 billion — where it was spent, how it was spent, whether we received appropriate value for that money and whether our security systems are providing the kind of protection that the leader has said Canadians are entitled to expect from their government and from their Parliament — not convince the leader of the need to have a parliamentary oversight committee in place in Canada?
Senator LeBreton: The answer I gave last week stands this week.
I should point out once again with regard to the Auditor General, and as I pointed out earlier in my response to Senator Day, that all of the funds in question are accounted for in public documents presented to Parliament, including public accounts. There is no indication, none, that any dollars are missing, misappropriated or misspent.
As I pointed out, this issue relates completely to the categorization of expenses by Treasury Board between 2001 and 2009. Treasury Board accepts these findings and recommendations of the Auditor General. I expect Treasury Board will respond in due course.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I listened carefully to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and I would like to remind her of what Mr. Ferguson mentioned yesterday in his report:
We believe that the government missed an opportunity to use the information it collected to generate a picture of spending and results under the Public Security and Anti-Terrorism Initiative across departments.
Yesterday the President of the Treasury Board mentioned the lack of a "whole of government" approach to the spending because the departments involved in the anti-terrorism initiatives were allowed to report individually.
Both of them have identified what is missing, which is an oversight of the whole picture. That is essentially what the mandate of the Anti-terrorism Committee, which we are praying the government will establish, would answer.
Why does the leader mistrust members of the Anti-terrorism Committee? The government has a majority on the committee. It is composed of seasoned senators: Senator Marshall, Senator Tkachuk, our friend Senator Nolin, and Senator Andreychuk. That committee, since its inception in 2001, has never acted on partisan grounds. It has always aimed for the best protection of the interests of all Canadians.
What is missing to respond favourably to the motion the Honourable Senator Dallaire has put forward today to give that mandate to the committee?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator did properly quote the Auditor General and the President of the Treasury Board. As I pointed out, the funds are accounted for in public documents. There is no indication of any funds that have been misappropriated, misspent or missing. The President of the Treasury Board, as was indicated in the quote that the honourable senator used, is seized of this issue.
I heard Senator Dallaire's motion that he tabled earlier today. Again, I point out to honourable senators that the committee that was established by this chamber was established for the purposes of dealing with legislation. That was the way the committee was set up.
These are not decisions for the government or for my position as Leader of the Government in the Senate. We will have a debate on this issue and in due course the Senate will make its recommendation based on the business before it.
I, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, can answer for the operations and running of the Senate.
Senator Joyal: Honourable senators, may I bring to the leader's attention the "Stand Up for Canada" Conservative Party platform of 2006 in which she was instrumental? I will quote text under the heading of "Securing our borders." The plan of the Conservative government will:
Create a National Security Review Committee to ensure effective oversight and a greater degree of accountability and transparency regarding Canada's national security efforts.
Why does the government not give effect to that promise made in 2006 and that the leader contributed to in that platform?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I would argue very strongly that with the introduction of many initiatives, including border security and all the others the government has brought in to ensure the safety and security of Canadians, we have lived up to that proposition 100 per cent.
Canada National Parks Act
Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum
Resources Accord Implementation Act
Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Hon. Michael L. MacDonald moved third reading of Bill S-15, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, as amended.
He said: Honourable senators, I have already spoken at length about this bill, and there is fairly broad consensus. Its intention is to turn Sable Island into a national park reserve, and there is a lot of support for this. There are some small amendments to land transfers in national parks out West. There is a broad consensus on doing this and there are some adjustments with regard to the companies that are drilling off Sable Island. I have nothing comprehensive to add to this, no prepared text.
I believe this bill is ready to go. There is broad support for it. I ask honourable senators to support it.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I spoke in some detail about this bill at second reading, and I will not repeat today the points that I made then.
We on this side of the chamber support this bill. Designating Sable Island as a national park reserve is the right thing to do.
Sable Island holds a special place in the hearts of Nova Scotians and indeed of many Canadians across the country. The purpose of Bill S-15, as the Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Peter Kent, told our committee, is to ensure that Sable Island receives legally enforceable protection. In his words:
The bill will ensure that an iconic and valued Canadian landscape, fabled for its wild horses, shipwrecks and one of the largest dune systems in Eastern Canada, will be protected as a national park reserve for the benefit of Canadians now and far into the future.
Is the protection afforded under this bill going to be as complete and perfect as everyone who cares about this island would wish? The answer to that question is no.
Compromises were made, primarily because Sable Island happens to be located in an active petroleum field.
I raised a number of concerns about this when I spoke at second reading. My concerns have not all been allayed. However, I am satisfied that a reasonable balance has been struck which, while not perfect, has been found overall to be acceptable to the province and people of Nova Scotia. The substance of the bill before us is the result of extensive work and agreement between the federal government and the Government of Nova Scotia, and I have a great deal of respect for that.
One issue that I raised at second reading concerned the status of claims on Sable Island by the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia. Honourable senators, I was pleased to hear that the Mi'kmaq are in support of the national park reserve designation. However, it has become clear that the consultation process has not been as extensive as the Mi'kmaq expected or believe is appropriate in the circumstances.
Minister Kent told our committee that there had been extensive consultation, yet Gerard Julian, co-chair of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs, testified that, in their view, the consultation was too late — it was, in his words, "after they," the government, "have made decisions and after the bill has begun to be drafted. It is like things stand now; it is as an afterthought."
Honourable senators, we have seen this too many times. I appreciate that opinions may differ as to whether there has been adequate consultation on a given proposal. However, there have been and continue to be too many instances where First Nations object that they have not been adequately consulted. This is wrong, honourable senators. It is not how legislation affecting First Nations should be put forward.
Chief Julian made several recommendations when he appeared before our committee. I believe they have merit as a means to move forward. He said:
We recommend that the appropriate next steps be to re-engage with the Mi'kmaq Nation of Nova Scotia in formal consultations and to involve the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia in Parks Canada's information gathering about the archaeology, history and ecology of Sable Island.
We recommend that you engage the Mi'kmaq in the development of a management plan for the island and also that you insist that all departments engage in formal consultation with the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, under the consultation terms of reference.
A major issue that I raised at second reading concerned the proposed amendment in the bill to the so-called "dedication" clause in the Canada National Parks Act. To refresh your memory, let me read to you that clause as it now appears in the act. Section 4.1 reads:
The national parks of Canada are hereby dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment...
And these are the operative words:
... subject to this Act...
That is, the Canada National Parks Act.
... and the regulations, and the parks shall be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
Bill S-15 as originally tabled here in this chamber would have amended this to change "subject to this Act and the regulations," that is, the Canada National Parks Act, to read "subject to any Act of Parliament." We on this side — joined by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society — objected to that proposed change. I am pleased to say that the government agreed that our objections had merit, and an amendment was passed in committee that restored the original wording of this clause. The French version was amended to clarify the language, and in particular to ensure that the French version provided the same protection as the English version of the dedication clause that I just read.
Senator Neufeld provided us with a clear explanation of these points in his speech yesterday afternoon.
Before I close, I want to repeat an idea that I raised at second reading that was originally proposed by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and reiterated by Ms. Alison Woodley, Director of National Conservation of the society, when she appeared before our committee. That is, that Parks Canada take a creative approach to telling the Sable Island story, specifically by building a state-of-the-art visitor facility on mainland Nova Scotia where people can learn about the island without risking disturbing the delicate ecosystem by having many people travel to the island itself. In Ms. Woodley's words, "bring Sable Island to the people," rather "than to bring the people to Sable Island."
Honourable senators, as I said at the beginning of these remarks, designating Sable Island as a national park reserve is the right thing to do, and I am pleased to support third reading of the bill.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question? Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to, bill read third time and passed.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Runciman, seconded by the Honourable Senator White, for the third reading of Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).
Hon. Don Meredith: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill C-290, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting.)
It is a great privilege to continue the debate on single-event sports betting. To date, the debate has centred on increasing revenue, consumer demand, and government regulation of a gray-market activity. I would like to add my perspective as a faith leader, counsellor and youth advocate who has seen first-hand the pain and detriment that problem gambling causes to individuals and to families.
While increasing the revenue may be tempting during these uncertain economic times, the question I pose today, honourable senators, is at what cost? I fear the bill has not received the due diligence it deserves. The social ramifications for at-risk individuals and their families deserve our full attention. I hear my brother over there quoting with me. Proverbs 4:7 tells us "wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom." I would like for us to be more informed about Bill C-290, myself included.
Certainly not all gamblers are problem or addicted gamblers, but for at-risk individuals, increased access is a very real concern. Problem gamblers are unable to recognize their limits at great detriment to themselves and, perhaps more important, their family members. Having the opportunity to bet on a single game and not having to correctly predict several outcomes may be very tempting to problem gamblers.
Gary O'Connor, Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and told us this:
...research has confirmed that accessibility and proximity to gambling, particularly land-based opportunities, have a significant influence on the rate of problem gambling. Therefore, the easier it is for you to access, the more people will gamble and the more you will have a problem gambler. It supports the predictions of, as we expand, new forms of legalized gambling. There will be an increase in gamblers and an increase in people experiencing problems with gambling, and there will be considerable public health costs.
Honourable senators, while sports betting may seem perfectly innocent, this is how many gamblers start out, by betting a few dollars on a sports game. No one sets out with the mentality that they will become an addict.
In the last 30 years, gambling has lost the stigma that was once attached to it. This is a generation of youth who does not know that at one time gambling was illegal in all forms. Today, it is not uncommon for parents to slip a lottery ticket into an adolescent's birthday card with little or no regard for the potential consequences.
Gambling's philosophy of getting something for nothing undermines the virtues of work, industry and service to others. This money, I believe, could be better spent on fellow citizens who are in need. Gamblers Anonymous, a support group for friends and family of addicted gamblers, can attest to the countless stories of ruined lives, broken families and failed businesses that always accompany gambling addiction.
Honourable senators, in December I had the opportunity to meet with a delegation from the MY Canada association — and I am sure some of you did as well — a network of over 5,000 youth from across Canada. One participant, in particular, commanded my attention. His story continues to weigh heavily on my mind as I deliver this speech today.
A bright and vibrant young man named Andrew from North York, Ontario, shared with me his very personal connection with an addicted gambler. Andrew's father had severe gambling problems, which took a toll on their family's finances and ultimately ended his parents' marriage. Andrew is now studying social work at York University and is concerned that this bill will cause more hardship to many families like his. As a pastor and counsellor, I have witnessed the trauma and pain endured by many families like Andrew's.
The sad reality, honourable senators, is that this problem extends further than the addicted individual. Research from Australia estimates that the problem gambler adversely affects 10 to 15 other people, including spouses, children, friends, relatives and employers.
As indicated by the Honourable Senator Vernon White:
...problem gamblers are six times more likely to be divorced... four times more likely to have problems with alcohol and four times as likely to smoke daily than non-problem gamblers....
Studies have indicated that family conflict is up 50 times higher among families of problem gamblers...
The severe effects of gambling are too costly for Canadian families. Honourable senators, let us stop the pain, let us stop the hurt, let us stop the devastation of the lives of more Canadian families by opposing this bill.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Meredith: Honourable senators, gambling becomes problematic when a person continues to engage in the activity despite the negative consequences that arise from this behaviour. The gambler becomes preoccupied with the thrill of a win and, in some cases, the need to gamble becomes excessive and out of control. Addicts often neglect other responsibilities, such as family commitments and employment commitments, and become unable to manage the amount of time spent playing and struggling with their own personal financial limits. Gambling has the potential to affect all individuals regardless of age, race or social status.
Many of the provinces have been very transparent in their desire to boost revenues through increased gambling. This is a fact, honourable senators, but what is more alarming is that the revenue comes out of the pockets of the gamblers and their families. It is undeniable that a problem gambler leads to economic hardship for families. Increasing government revenue by encouraging gambling is not the solution to an overstretched provincial budget.
Economic hardship is not the only impact on families, as indicated by our colleagues Senator Ngo and Senator Plett. Research shows that suicide is linked to problem gambling. The Canada Safety Council confirms this, estimating that over 200 Canadians commit suicide every year due to gambling-related problems.
Daniel Naudi, a 47-year-old man, committed suicide in the parking lot of a Montreal casino in despair over his gambling addiction.
Did-Tafari Belizaire, a recovering gambling addict, jumped from the Jacques Cartier Bridge in 2003 after a night of heavy losses at a nearby casino. Mr. Belizaire survived. He severed his spine and broke his spinal cord. He was confined to a wheelchair until, sadly, he took his own life in 2011.
Honourable senators, let us save lives, not provide the means by which Canadian families are further torn apart. Let us unite in our stance against Bill C-290 to end the cycle of broken lives.
Permit me to address the comments made before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee by Mr. Brian Masse, the member of Parliament who is seconding this bill. In response to a question on whether or not this bill would encourage more gambling and more poverty, he talked about his experience with vulnerable groups before stating:
You worry about the vulnerability all the time, and you also see people that are making decisions with limited resources, and sometimes you question that. At the end of the day, it is their decision.
Honourable senators, at the end of the day, the decision is ours. The decision not to let this bill become law is the God-given right of this chamber.
Our duty as parliamentarians should always be to help Canadians overcome evils and not to lead them into temptation through damaging legislation. Our job is not to put these vulnerable groups in harm's way by supporting poor choices, but to make laws that strengthen families and the fabric of our country — laws that uplift and promote the quality of life for all Canadians. I am getting a little passionate here right now, so help me.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada's largest and most reputable mental health, addiction, teaching and resource hospital, sent a letter to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to address their concerns about the passage of this bill. CAMH has significant experience in research, treatment and health promotion of problem gambling. In response to Bill C-290, they stated:
We are particularly worried about males aged 18-45. This population has a higher tendency to wager on sporting events and to engage in risky behaviour more generally. These characteristics make it likely that this bill will lead to increased rates of problem gambling in this demographic.
Honourable senators, the fact that gambling is aggressively marketed as glamorous entertainment and is socially accepted makes this an especially dangerous trap for our youth. Adolescents are particularly attracted by the excitement and the prestige often associated with gambling. Unfortunately, youth are being reached in an overwhelming number.
According to results from The Alberta Youth Experience Survey, 41.2 per cent of students aged 11-19 are currently gamblers.
Last year the Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario co-authored the Ontario Youth Gambling Report with York University's Institute for Social Research. They found that 2.8 per cent of the students surveyed were problem gamblers. This suggests there are approximately 29,000 Ontario students with a gambling problem. Not surprisingly, of the total group, 12.6 per cent were involved in sports pools and 5.1 per cent were purchasing sports lottery tickets.
These survey results suggest that students perceive gambling as socially acceptable, with little or no consequences. Let us lead our youth by example and not let them fall victim to dangers of gambling.
Many teens are using gambling as a way of escaping peer and social pressures. Being a teenager is not easy. Balancing work, school, family and social commitments can be overwhelming and stressful. The propensity of youth to gamble may be increased due to accessibility, social acceptance, peer pressure, advertising and an innate preference for immediate gratification, all of which contribute to youth's casual perception of gambling.
While problem gambling may not be a concern for youth, many other groups, such as the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Region of Waterloo Public Health, are certainly taking notice of the adverse effects that this addiction can have. In particular, youth who have been classified as problem gamblers have been made a priority at the McGill University, which runs the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours. For over 20 years, this centre has addressed the burden of problem gambling among youth. Research from Alberta Health Services found that teens and young adults are two to four times more likely than adults to experience gambling problems. McGill University warns that gambling problems have long-term severe consequences on a teenager's life and on the lives of those close to the addict. The most frequent problems reported by teens include financial difficulties, poor academic results, anxiety, depression, mood swings and conflict with family and friends.
On a personal note, honourable senators, I have counselled some young people who have dropped out of school. It is what our program is doing in the GTA to get them back in school.
Finally, honourable senators, research from the Journal of Gambling Studies links adolescent gambling with delinquency, suicide and criminal behaviour. We warn our children about the dangers and the side effects of drinking, smoking and experimenting with drugs, but for many parents, gambling addiction has slipped under their radar. I believe that defeating Bill C-290 will send a strong message to youth about what is acceptable behaviour.
In a documentary entitled Gambling Boys aired by CBC in 2010, one teen addicted gambler states that he "never felt more alive than while gambling." What does it say about our society when our children must take risks to feel important, to feel noticed and to feel recognized by their peers? As parents, as parliamentarians and influential leaders, we need to find other ways to instill confidence, love and acceptance in our youth.
Through my work in the Greater Toronto Area, I have been witness to how the accessibility to vices, be it guns, drugs, alcohol or gambling, can seduce people into addictive and destructive behaviours. It has been suggested that funnelling money into treatment programs will address the problem of gambling addicts. People who have successfully completed treatment programs will attest that addiction is a lifelong struggle, and many people seek treatment several times. Treatment comes at a high price, both to the individuals and to Canadians. Jon Kelly, Chief Executive Officer for the Responsible Gambling Council, told us that "$117 million is invested in problem gambling prevention, treatment and research in Canada each year." That money could be better spent. Funds could be diverted into health care, housing strategies, youth programs and countless other social services that struggle to provide services to Canadian families.
The Hon. the Speaker: Order.
Senator Meredith: Will honourable senators permit me to continue for five minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Meredith: I strongly believe that it would be irresponsible for us to pass this bill knowing that it will increase the rates of problem gambling for our youth. Our job as parliamentarians and parents is to protect our children, not to contribute to a lifelong struggle with addiction.
Honourable senators, our youth are not only 20 per cent of our population; they are 100 per cent of our future. If we adopt this bill, we are contributing to an inevitable increase in the pain and demise that accompany problem gamblers and their families. As responsible senators, we simply cannot allow that to happen. Now is the time to do more than simply rubber-stamp this private member's bill. Now is the time to stand up for those individuals and families who live with gambling addiction. The Senate was created as a chamber of sober second thought. Let us take this opportunity to defeat this bill before it destroys more families and more lives in Canada.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, that was a fine speech, or sermon, whichever way you want to look at it. It was well done. It contained many facts and was delivered with much passion. I congratulate the honourable senator for it.
It is too bad the NDP, who sponsored this motion in the other place, did not think about all the social consequences of proceeding with it.
I want to ask the honourable senator about another matter relevant to gambling. He is a Toronto senator, as am I, and I wonder whether he might use his influence with some of his Conservative colleagues on Toronto city council — I think the Ford brothers are probably a lost cause — to oppose the casino in that city, which would have the same devastating effects that the honourable senator talked about with regard to this bill.
Senator Meredith: Honourable senators, that is an ongoing debate. Hopefully the statistics that I have outlined will be noted. We need to find ways to continue to grow our economies without putting vices in people's way. With casinos come more drugs, more prostitution and so forth, and we do not want at-risk youth in our urban centres being dragged into these negative behaviours.
I clearly hope that city councillors are taking note and will ensure that the right thing is done for the city of Toronto.
Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: Honourable senators, I really appreciate Senator Meredith's speech. I do not believe that we have had a proper dialogue on this bill. Does the honourable senator feel that the committee review of the bill in the House of Commons and the debate that took place there were sufficient to deal with such a big change in how gambling and gaming are regulated in Canada?
Senator Meredith: I thank the honourable senator for the question. When we received this bill in the Senate, the sponsor of the bill highlighted that due diligence was not done on this bill in the other place. To assume that it would be pushed through this chamber without due consideration was premature on their part. This chamber was created to look at the ramification of legislation coming from the other place to ensure that the impacts it will have on the lives of Canadians are taken into account. We as legislators are responsible for ensuring that we pass bills through this chamber that impact positively on the lives of Canadians.
In my humble opinion, due diligence was absolutely not done, but senators here have the opportunity to weigh in on this bill, along with the members of the Legal Committee. Some were not even advised about the sports organizations that Senator Frum spoke of, such as the Blue Jays organization and other large sports organizations in Canada.
Due diligence was not done on this bill, and we need to have a frank and open discussion about it. I hope that this bill comes to a vote in this chamber so we can defeat it and ensure the respectability of this chamber.
Hon. George Baker: I wish to congratulate the honourable senator for his address. He has served on the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs with distinction since he became a senator.
Everyone here must realize that everyone in the House of Commons voted for this bill — every single elected member who was there at the time —
An Hon. Senator: Twenty-two of them.
Senator Baker: — approved of this bill. I have spoken to the honourable senator about this. It is not that he or any other member of the Senate takes this lightly.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, Senator Meredith's time is up. Is Senator Baker participating in the debate at this time?
Senator Baker: I was posing a question.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Meredith has run out of time.
Is it agreed that the item remain adjourned in the name of Senator Baker?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Baker, debate adjourned.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the twenty-third report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill S-202, An Act to establish and maintain a national registry of medical devices, with a recommendation), presented in the Senate on April 30, 2013.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie moved the adoption of the report.
Hon. Asha Seth: Honourable senators, Bill S-202 proposes that the Minister of Health establish and maintain a national medical devices registry. The registry would be voluntary and would contain the names and addresses of people who have implantable or prescribed home-use medical devices. It is intended that this registry would be used as a risk communications tool.
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology carried out a thorough study of Bill S-202, and, as a result, the committee recommends that the Senate not proceed further with the bill.
As honourable senators may recall, the first version of this bill was Bill C-390 in the Second Session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament, when Senator Harb was the Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre. Since that time, there have been five other bills introduced in this chamber calling for a medical devices registry: Bills S-221, S-222, S-243, S-217 and the current Bill S-202.
Each time a bill of this nature has been introduced in Parliament, Health Canada has carefully reviewed the issues of establishing and maintaining such national registries, weighing the potential benefits against associated costs and significant concerns.
We as parliamentarians are also obliged to weigh and consider both the costs and the benefits to society of any piece of legislation that we have before us, including Bill S-202. For each bill that has come before Parliament recommending a medical devices patient registry in Canada, the very same concerns have been raised. These concerns, highlighted by witnesses who testified before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, formed the basis of our committee's decision to recommend that the Senate not proceed further with this bill.
Honourable senators, it is important to note that Health Canada currently has the necessary authorities in place to adequately regulate the importation and sale of medical devices through the Medical Devices Regulations under the Food and Drugs Act, which came into force in 1998. Health Canada has also continued to make improvements over time to make this regulatory system as efficient and effective as possible to ensure the health and safety of Canadians.
These regulations provide Canadians access to medical devices that are safe, effective and of high quality. The fundamental principle of the regulations is that safety and effectiveness of a device can best be assured through a balance of quality management system requirements, pre-market scrutiny and post-market surveillance.
In fact, I would like to note that our committee was told by Barbara Sabourin, Director General of the Therapeutic Products Directorate at Health Canada, that Canada's pre-market evaluation requirements are fairly rigorous and are in line with those of other regulators in other jurisdictions, such as the United States and the European Union.
Additionally, manufacturers are required to maintain a registry of devices they have sold, which is linked to a unique hospital identifier number, which is linked to the patient. These devices are high-risk implantable medical devices that do need to be monitored.
I would also like to point out that there are mandatory problem-reporting requirements imposed on manufacturers. Manufacturers are required to issue recall notices, which are then posted on Health Canada's website and distributed to hospitals on behalf of companies to ensure Canadians have access to the information. Together, these two important elements of the current regulatory regime support the timely communication of risks to all Canadian hospitals, physicians and the general public.
Our committee heard from Klaus Stitz, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for MEDEC, who stated quite simply that a national registry of medical devices as proposed by Bill S-202 will not perform better than the existing, all-encompassing, robust system of internationally aligned post-market surveillance and vigilance provisions of the Canadian Medical Devices Regulations.
Honourable senators, when considering Bill S-202, we must remember that the safety of medical devices in Canada is a shared responsibility. As highlighted by Ms. Sabourin when she appeared before our committee on March 27, 2013, the federal government is responsible for regulating the sale and importation of medical devices, and the provinces and territories have the responsibility for the delivery of health care services. The provinces and territories regulate physicians in the practice of medicine, including direct dealings with patients.
Several problem-reporting mechanisms exist at the provincial level regarding the provision of medical services and physician care. Any requirements for physicians to maintain or provide patient data to a registry have to be supported by the provincial and territorial governments.
In addition, Karima Velji of the Canadian Nurses Association stated that the CNA believes the legislation raises critical questions about patient-centredness and patient safety concerns, which they believe are issues of shared responsibility for all health care professionals, health care organizations and, importantly, all governments.
The privacy of Canadians is an important consideration when examining this particular bill. A national medical devices registry containing names and addresses of patients, as proposed in Bill S-202, would pose significant privacy concerns. While the voluntary nature of the disclosure addresses some of the privacy concerns, it would at the same time greatly limit the impact and effectiveness of the proposed registry.
In a written submission dated April 22, 2013, Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, said personal information should be accurate, complete and up-to-date. The fact that the proposed bill would rely on users to update their address information with the registrar might prove to be a challenge in ensuring accurate and up-to-date information. The Privacy Commissioner also stated that setting up and operating a registry in a manner that respects privacy are both essential duties and complex endeavours. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has a long-standing position that the creation of a registry should be assessed with great caution as it opens the way for the state to access large databases about many of its citizens.
Ms. Stoddart further explained that, given the privacy challenges that a national medical devices registry could entail, an open reflection should be made on whether the benefits of creating such a registry would outweigh the potential costs to the privacy of Canadians.
In addition to the concerns outlined above, the implementation of Bill S-202 would also represent a significant cost to the taxpayer. It would be a costly and complex undertaking for Health Canada to identify the needs of physicians and patients across Canada and to perform a thorough consultation on a national scale.
An effective registry would need to be maintained around the clock and appropriately staffed in order to monitor, detect and ensure immediate response to safety signals by contacting each affected patient in the registry.
In terms of comparable jurisdictions around the world, in the United States, the FDA came out with a report in September 2012 that said very clearly that they are not seeking to develop a centralized repository of registry data. They cited many reasons, including privacy concerns and enormous cost issues. Additionally, the U.K. recently published a report stating that there is no way they can go forward with a national registry as the costs are simply too great. Australia has done the same.
The proposed voluntary registry in Bill S-202 would not represent the best approach for providing a patient warning system. We already have a robust regulatory system in place, and it would be more effective to focus on making continuous improvements to the existing framework rather than creating a new regime that would not necessarily be effective. Ultimately, the success of a voluntary registry relies on the cooperation of hospitals, physicians and patients.
Honourable senators, I would like to conclude by reiterating that establishing a national medical devices registry raises a number of concerns that simply outweigh the benefits. As parliamentarians obliged to consider both the costs and the benefits to Canadian society of all legislation before us, we simply cannot proceed with Bill S-202.
It was clear to our committee throughout our consideration of Bill S-202 that the mechanisms currently in place adequately regulate medical devices in Canada while protecting the privacy of the patient, acknowledging the role of the physician and respecting the jurisdiction of provinces and territories to regulate the practice of medicine.
Canadians can be confident that medical devices sold in this country are safe, effective and of high quality. The Medical Devices Regulations are, in fact, sufficiently robust to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Would the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Seth: Yes.
Senator Mercer: I do not necessarily agree with it, but, in the honourable senator's research, did she discover how many devices might have been involved in septic poisoning cases in Canada over the last number of years?
Senator Seth: From what I understand, not a very large number of cases have been reported in the past. There are very few. The post-surveillance cases are not enough, because 60,000 medical devices are there from one degree. "One" means already on the market. I do not know the exact number, but it is not a very concerning problem, as far as I understand.
Senator Mercer: Was the honourable senator able to discuss this bill with orthopaedic surgeons and the society that represents them?
Senator Seth: It has been seen that the main matters of concern are the pacemaker or the drug pump. I am not aware that too many concerns have been reported for the knee replacement or hip replacement. I do not have the database, so I am not able to explain here.
Senator Mercer: I can certainly think of one person who has some concerns about implants in their body — me.
There was no consultation with orthopaedic surgeons or the orthopaedic surgeon community on this issue. I know from my discussions with my orthopaedic surgeon and other orthopaedic surgeons I have encountered that they certainly support the argument that we need some type of registry.
Senator Seth: We have an existing system, where we have identified when surgeries, like hip replacements and knee replacements, are done. Already, the number of the registry and the name are written on the patient's card, so it is already in order. I do not understand what the honourable senator is concerned about.
Senator Mercer: I will tell the honourable senator what I am concerned about. I am concerned about the 35 days I spent in the Queensway Carleton Hospital, 14 of them in intensive care, in an induced coma, because my artificial knee went septic. I am also concerned about other people who may have had similar things.
My question really is this: I happened to get sick right here in Ottawa, where I had had the original surgery, so my doctor knew everything about my knee. What if I were in Vancouver on business, suddenly became ill and had to go to the hospital there? My hospital records are not in Vancouver, and, in this country, we do not have good enough electronic records kept by doctors or hospitals so that they can access my records at the Queensway Carleton to know where the knee came from, who manufactured it, et cetera. Does the honourable senator not see an issue there?
Senator Seth: The honourable senator had knee surgery and was given a card with the registration number of the knee on it. The same would happen with a hip replacement. The number identifies the device. If there is a problem, a doctor can call from Vancouver, for example, to have the medical file transferred. That is not a major problem. That is done all the time.
Senator Mercer: Honourable senators, I have had four or five knee surgeries. I have had three knee replacements because they had to replace the one that became septic. I have never been given a registration card by any of my two or three orthopaedic surgeons, so I am confused by the honourable senator's response.
Senator Seth: Most often, the physician or orthopaedic surgeon can be called to provide all the information from the hospital. There should be no problem. This is the practice in Canada.
Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I have one question, after which I would move adjournment of the debate.
The committee report to the Senate recommends that as an alternative to a registry of medical devices a comprehensive national integrated electronic health records system would be a more useful vehicle.
Three of four witnesses who appeared before the committee were representatives of the Patients' Association of Canada, the Canadian Nurses Association and the medical community of Canada. Three organizations of four supported the establishment of a national registry. Could the honourable senator tell me which witnesses spoke to the recommendation of the committee? The Rules of the Senate of Canada state:
12-23. (5) When a committee report recommends that the Senate not proceed further with a bill, the report must state the reasons for this.
Could the honourable senator elaborate on that?
Senator Seth: Honourable senators, we are in the process of developing a comprehensive integrated electronic health record system. This is what I have been talking about here. A process exists, and we will continue to improve upon it. Certainly, that will be a better approach. We have a partially electronic data system, but the next step will be to have an integrated comprehensive electronic system, which would probably solve the problem. When such an electronic data system is fully up and running, perhaps a devices registration can be included. Why does Canada need this proposed registry, which will be very expensive and will raise privacy concerns?
(On motion of Senator Harb, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ogilvie, seconded by the Honourable Senator Wallace, for the adoption of the fifteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill S-204, An Act to establish a national strategy for chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), with a recommendation), presented in the Senate on November 22, 2012.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, Senator Cordy wishes to speak to this report and has requested that I take the adjournment in her name for the remainder of her time.
(On motion of Senator Tardif, for Senator Cordy, debate adjourned.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators, (budget—mandate pursuant to rule 12-7(16)), presented in the Senate on April 30, 2013.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk moved the adoption of the report.
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the ninth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (budget—study on the regulation of aquaculture in Canada and future prospects for the industry—power to hire staff and to travel), presented in the Senate on April 25, 2013.
Hon. Fabian Manning moved the adoption of the report.
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Callbeck, calling the attention of the Senate to the importance of literacy, given that more than ever Canada requires increased knowledge and skills in order to maintain its global competitiveness and to increase its ability to respond to changing labour markets.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the debate was adjourned in the name of Senator Lang, who has not yet spoken.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, Senator Lang told me that he no longer wishes to speak to this inquiry. However, Senator Bellemare informed me that she would like to speak.
(On motion of Senator Bellemare, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until Thursday, May 2, 2013, at 1:30 p.m.)