- SENATOR'S STATEMENT
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Budget 2015
- The Senate
- Budget 2015
- Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group
- U.S. Congressional Meetings, February 24-26, 2014—Report Tabled
- Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance Conference, May 4-6, 2014—Report Tabled
- Annual Summer Meeting of the National Governors Association, July 10-13, 2014—Report Tabled
- Annual Meeting of the Council of State Governments Midwestern Legislative Conference, July 12-16, 2014—Report Tabled
- Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association
- Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker pro tempore in the chair.
Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, when Canadians are asked about their country's contribution and sacrifice during World War I, they are most familiar with the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, when the entire Canadian Army fought together for the first time under Canadian command. It was an event that is deservedly considered a watershed moment in our evolution as a nation.
But Canadian valour on the battlefields of Europe was evident throughout the Great War and established early in the conflict. On April 22, 1915, 100 years ago to this very day, a five-week series of military engagements known to history as the Second Battle of Ypres began. That battle is commemorated here on the east wall of the Senate, the third painting from the Speaker's left, showing Ypres destroyed by artillery fire, identifiable only by the ruins of the famous Cloth Hall, one of the great medieval buildings of Europe. The last major Belgian town in Allied hands in 1915, Ypres provided the defensive position necessary to protect the supply lines to French ports on the English Channel. It had to be held.
In the fall of 1914, the initial members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force had sailed for Great Britain. Recruited from across the country, they were an eclectic mixture of military men and erstwhile patriots — farmers, sailors, lumberjacks, university graduates, bank tellers, merchantmen — some with militia background but many without. In the spring of 1915, after a few months of training, the nearly 18,000-strong 1st Canadian Division was moved towards the war zone and into the trenches. Although the area around Ypres had been relatively quiet for months, that would soon change.
Ypres would prove to be one of the great theatres of conflict during the entire war, and the Second Battle of Ypres had many elements that distinguish it. Militarily, it accounted for the only German offensive on the Western Front in 1915. For the Canadians, it would be the great baptism of fire. And it was here that the horror of chemical warfare was first introduced to the world. Targeted were the Allied troops within the Ypres Salient, the large bulge in the enemy line surrounding Ypres, which was the last line of defence for the town. Included in that line, having just been sent to the front, was the 13th Battalion of the 3rd Brigade, the Royal Highlanders of Canada from Montreal, given the task of protecting the French flank to their immediate left.
At 5 p.m. on April 22, over 160 long tons of chlorine gas was sent drifting towards the Allied lines. The brunt of it was received by the French defenders, including many colonials from North Africa, and the results were devastating. Thousands of dead littered the landscape, with the gasping survivors, many of whom would later die, understandably running for their lives. A huge four-mile hole opened up the middle of the Allied defences. Over the next few hours, the enemy would move up to an oak plantation known as Kitcheners' Wood in preparation for the final assault on Ypres.
The 10th and 16th Canadian Battalions were then ordered to counter attack and drive the enemy out of Kitcheners' Wood. At quarter to midnight, these young Canadians plunged into the darkness, into the lingering gas and into relentless machine gun fire. When they got within 200 yards of the enemy, they fixed bayonets, charged and engaged in unimaginable hand-to-hand combat.
But when the dust had settled, the Canadians had won the day and forced the enemy to withdraw from Kitcheners' Wood. Then the Canadians helped fill the four-mile gap that had opened in the lines. Two days later, the second gas attack was launched, but this time the Canadians were the target. Protected only by urine-soaked hankies, the Canadians held the line again, frustrating the enemy advance. Finally, on April 25, French and British reinforcements arrived to relieve the Canadians from their ordeal.
There were 10 Victoria crosses given out during the Second Battle of Ypres and four of them went to Canadians. Of course, it was during a lull in the fighting at the Second Battle of Ypres that a doctor from Guelph, Ontario, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, wrote his immortal poem, In Flanders Fields.
After the war, the great French General, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander, remarked that the single greatest act of the war was the assault on Kitcheners' Wood by the 10th and 16th Canadian Battalions. High praise indeed.
Honourable senators, tonight when we go to sleep, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice of these men 100 years ago today.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I remind honourable senators that the chair tries to be benevolent when it comes to Senators' Statements but we have to try to respect the three-minute period allocated.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Jinah Kim, Senator Martin's sister, Nancy Falcone, visiting from British Columbia and Lana Sam, visiting from Calgary. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Martin.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of representatives from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Foundation; the Chairman, William M. Duron and Hope Deveau-Henderson, President and CEO.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, Budget 2015, entitled: Strong Leadership: A Balanced-Budget, Low-Tax Plan for Jobs, Growth and Security.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate, and notwithstanding rule 5-5(j), I move:
That photographers and camera operators be authorized in the Senate Chamber to photograph and videotape the next Royal Assent ceremony, with the least possible disruption of the proceedings.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That when the Senate next adjourns after the adoption of this motion, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 2 p.m.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the budget entitled, Strong Leadership: A Balanced-Budget, Low-Tax Plan for Jobs, Growth and Security, tabled in the House of Commons on April 21, 2015, by the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P., and in the Senate on April 22, 2015.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the U.S. Congressional Meetings, held in Washington, D.C., United States of America, from February 24 to 26, 2014.
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance Conference, held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, from May 4 to 6, 2014.
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the 2014 Annual Summer Meeting of the National Governors Association, held in Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America, from July 10 to 13, 2014.
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Sixty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the Council of State Governments Midwestern Legislative Conference, held in Omaha, Nebraska, United States of America, from July 12 to 16, 2014.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the Bilateral Mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of Malawi, held in Maseru, Lesotho and Lilongwe, Malawi, from January 19 to 22, 2015.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the Bilateral Mission to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Republic of Djibouti, held in Amman, Jordan and Djibouti, Djibouti, from October 13 to 17, 2014.
Hon. Ghislain Maltais: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the fall meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly, held in Geneva, Switzerland, from October 3 to 5, 2014.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: My question today is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. He is probably surprised to know that it is to do with the budget.
Mr. Leader, in the aborted first attempt at a budget two months ago, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance cited uncertainty in oil prices and went back to the chalkboard to come up with a new budget. The new budget is based on a change in how the Department of Finance predicts oil prices. We know that the government is predicting an increase in oil prices each year for the next five years, while the previous practice was to set a price for the cost of oil for the coming five years.
Can you explain to Canadians how the Department of Finance arrived at these new numbers, especially when two months ago they had no idea what the future cost of oil would be?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Senator, as you know, budgets don't balance themselves. Yesterday, the minister tabled Economic Action Plan 2015, which as we promised is a balanced budget. We're extremely proud of the fact that the government has managed to reduce the tax burden for Canadians, the middle class and small businesses, create growth and balance the budget, all while cutting taxes. This budget represents tremendous work, phenomenal really, on the part of the Minister of Finance, who did what had to be done to achieve the objectives. We should be proud of this and congratulate him. We will continue to build on that work for all Canadians.
Senator Moore: Well, I didn't hear in your response, leader, the explanation as to how the Department of Finance arrived at these new numbers given the turmoil in the international price of oil per barrel.
The dollar increase in the price of oil per barrel results in $150 million more in tax revenues for the federal government. Every decrease in the price of oil per barrel obviously will decrease revenues in that amount.
This, of course, means that Budget 2015 is built upon merely a roll of the dice regarding the price of oil. So can you explain to Canadians how this gamble is sound fiscal management by the government?
Senator Carignan: As you said, Senator Moore, a budget doesn't balance itself, nor does a roll of the dice have anything to do with it. Economic Action Plan 2015 will stimulate job creation and support long-term growth and prosperity.
As promised, this budget is balanced and lowers taxes for hardworking individuals and families. Indeed, the government balanced the budget while keeping the federal tax burden on Canadians at its lowest level in more than half a century.
A two-earner Canadian family of four will receive tax relief and increased benefits of up to $6,600 in 2015 thanks to the measures taken by the government.
The budget stimulates job creation and growth by making Canada more competitive, allowing job-creating businesses to prosper, and making new innovative investments that build on the government's record in supporting infrastructure and developing a highly skilled workforce that meets the needs of employers in a changing job market. That is how a budget is balanced, senator. Budgets do not balance themselves.
Senator Moore: I don't think that we on this side have to take any lessons from your government in terms of how to balance a budget.
Senator Plett: I think you do.
Senator Moore: Take a look at the record, senator.
The minister said that he didn't know exactly how oil prices would be estimated, but his numbers are counting on a rebound in prices.
The world knows that, as a result of the recent Iranian-U.S. nuclear program agreement, Iranians are sitting on 20 million barrels of oil which are going to be coming onto the market. We also know that the Saudi Arabians have said that they do not intend to reduce production, and they do not intend to give up their share of the world market in oil.
What I want to know from the government is how do you expect to arrive at this necessary rebound in order to get the revenues to pay for what you are talking about?
Senator Fraser: Right.
Senator Carignan: As you know, the Minister of Finance set targets and parameters based on extensive studies and an in-depth analysis. The result is an action plan that will stimulate job creation and that has been highly praised by all Canadian stakeholders, including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which said, and I quote:
CFIB gives 2015 budget an "A": Big tax cut for small business. . .. [S]mall business owners across the country will be thrilled to see several small business friendly measures in the 2015 budget, particularly the 18 per cent reduction in the small business corporate tax rate over the next four years. This builds on earlier announcements of Employment Insurance premium relief, new measures to address credit card fees and balanced budget legislation.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities also had good things to say about the budget, particularly with regard to investments in public transit. It said, and I quote:
The transit investment in this budget is good news for Canadians and marks an important achievement on a key issue they face every day. . . .This level of permanent, ongoing funding has the potential to be transformative for public transit across the country.
The Mayor of Toronto, whom I know you like a lot, had this to say:
. . . a major step forward for Canada and for Toronto.
Good news for Toronto and good news for cities across Canada.
. . . the federal government committed to establishing a dedicated national fund to invest in public transportation.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Carignan: The Canadian Taxpayer Federation "applauds the government's 2015-16 federal budget. Credit where due. The Harper government has shown the necessary discipline to get the books back into the black."
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Carignan: I do not want to quote all of the good things that have been said about this budget, but I hope that you will take note of them and decide to wholeheartedly support the 2015-16 budget. I am trying not to be partisan, but I do not see how you could vote against this budget.
Senator Moore: Honourable senators, nowhere in all of that did I hear the answer to my question. In the course of its work, the government used the phrases "uncertain economic times" and "fragile world economy for almost a decade" to describe the economic times that we live in. Yet in this budget the same government has chosen to reduce the $3-billion contingency fund to be used in such a dire economic climate by $2 billion in the coming year and another $1 billion in the next year, which will wipe it out.
Can the Leader of Government explain to Canadians why, on the one hand, we need to exercise such caution fiscally due to economic realities but, on the other hand, the contingency fund is slashed in a manner which contradicts your own fiscal caution?
Senator Carignan: Senator, the contingency fund will remain in place to deal with unforeseen situations. As promised, Economic Action Plan 2015 is a balanced budget. It is a budget that stimulates job creation and growth. It will make Canada more competitive by helping job-creating businesses prosper through new investments in highly skilled jobs that will meet the needs of employers.
Senator, drafting and passing a budget requires team work. This is not the work of one individual. A budget, senator, does not balance itself.
Senator Moore: I hear repeated non-answers, Your Honour.
Let's talk about the balanced budget and the fiscal management skills of this government. Under Mr. Harper's leadership, the federal debt has been increased by $150 billion, compared to a decline of $90 billion under the Chretien-Martin governments. The Minister of Finance is so desperate to assert the government's fiscal bona fides that he claims that under the Conservatives the federal debt was reduced by $37 billion prior to the global recession.
However, in coming to that number, he didn't tell the public that he included the 2005-06 budget debt reduction of the previous Liberal government.
So, you talk about a shim sham —
Senator Tkachuk: "Shim sham;" what is that?
Senator Fraser: That's a good word.
Senator Tkachuk: We didn't spend it.
Senator Moore: So, leader, in view of that untrue fact —
Senator Tkachuk: It is a true fact.
Senator Moore: — and the so-called current surplus, with an asterisk, it is less than 1 per cent of the debt that this Prime Minister has accumulated since coming to power. I note that the accumulated debt was done without the approval of the people of Canada. You will remember that the government took that out of the Statutes of Canada.
So the supposed surplus resulted in the government selling off its shares of GM at a loss, selling broadband spectrum, selling government properties and even selling off parliamentary silverware.
Can the leader explain to Canadians how this policy of selling assets — sometimes at a loss — constitutes sound fiscal management?
Senator Carignan: Budget 2015-16 is a balanced budget that obviously covers the entire business of government and also announces significant investments. I would just like to remind you that, under the action plan for community infrastructure, we will continue to allocate an average of $5.35 billion a year for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure. There is also an additional $750 million over two years and, starting in 2017-18, $1 billion every year will be allocated to a new and innovative public transit fund to invest in public transit infrastructure that will be affordable for taxpayers and efficient for users. The action plan also provides for the creation of a new infrastructure fund for the renovation, expansion and improvement of existing infrastructure in communities across Canada in order to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. Furthermore, community safety will be enhanced thanks to new funding to increase the security of federal courts, administrative services buildings and courthouses across Canada.
We will also continue to build and renew federal infrastructure, including on-reserve schools, specifically through $5.8 billion in investments over six years. The budget also provides $210 million over four years, beginning in 2015-16, for activities to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Honourable senators, the budget is a comprehensive package. It includes other measures, specifically to help Canadians with disabilities, to help seniors make the most of their RRSPs and to help Canadian families through provisions already announced regarding income splitting. The budget is therefore a whole package. It is a significant piece of work and not something that will balance itself. We should be very proud of our Minister of Finance.
Senator Moore: Indeed it is a series of measures and team work, but I don't think it includes the Minister of Finance using figures and saying that the debt was reduced by $37 billion prior to the global recession and taking credit for that. That happened before your government came to power, so where's the integrity? Where's the accountability?
When I hear you speak about these programs — first of all, the balanced budget on money that wasn't there, that you didn't do, really. Second, you're spending money that you don't have; you're hoping you're going to get it, but you don't have it.
So with this reduction in assets, the lack of a balanced budget, a financial statement based on the unknown — on the international price of oil somewhere down the road — I think any wise, reasonable Canadian would wonder what the financial markets would think of Canada, of our fiscal house.
And what will we have to pay? What will we have to pay for the money you're going to have to borrow to do this? What are Canadians going to have to pay? What are the interest rates going to be? You don't know that, because this is built on a shell game.
Explain to Canadians and to this house the nature of the fiscal responsibility that you're attributing today.
Senator Carignan: Senator, I hope you will wholeheartedly support the balanced budget legislation, which turned the $55.6 billion deficit, at the height of the great recession, to a projected surplus of $1.4 billion in 2015-16.
We paid down $37 billion in debt before the great recession. That is one of the main reasons why Canada's net debt load is the lowest in all the G7 and G20 countries. People from other countries will be saying that we are champions, that we are performing the best, that we are an example to be emulated. They will say the same thing as the International Monetary Fund, the Bank of Canada and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which predicts that Canada will have the highest economic growth rate in the G7 in the coming years. They will say that Canada is one of the few G7 countries that have a solid AAA credit rating with a stable outlook granted by the major credit-rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's.
People outside Canada will be saying that we are the best country in the world and they'll surely want to come here in droves.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: I would like to get back to the aspects that have to do with the budget but are not directly related to the issue of a balanced budget.
For several years now, leader, Canadians have been trying to get their lives back together since the recession of 2009. One of the government's first efforts to help Canadians, under pressure from the opposition, was a massive stimulus program that targeted several key areas; it was called the "action plan." You've probably heard about it.
In one of these reports, your Conservative government provided a multiplier index, a list of numbers that tells us the effect of the government's spending — simply put, how much bang we will get for every dollar spent. In the government's own document in 2010 — and I urge you to go and consult it — the least effective ways to stimulate the economy were identified by the Harper government as personal income tax measures and corporate income tax measures. This is a government document. This means that tax cuts were the least effective method to stimulate and grow the Canadian economy. And yesterday, the Harper government announced a budget that focused primarily on tax cuts.
Can you explain why the government, having published its "bible," I would say — or principle — is using tax cuts to grow the economy when it knows, and also published about it, that tax cuts will not be as effective as any other avenue of spending?
Senator Carignan: The reason is simple. We do this because it works. We opted to leave money in taxpayers' pockets so that they can spend as they see fit and not how a Liberal government sees fit. The Liberals impose more taxes on taxpayers and put more money into bureaucracy. We leave money in Canadians' pockets. That's what Canadians want and that's how we do things, senator.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Let me go back to the same document that was prepared by the Harper government. On the same index list, infrastructure spending was identified as the most effective means of growing the economy. Now, the government did announce some spending yesterday for infrastructure — and we're happy about this — but in Canada, we have an infrastructure deficit of $123 billion, and it's growing every year by $2 billion. Given the problem, the $1 billion assigned by yesterday's budget looks like some small potatoes, since the infrastructure deficit will still grow by $1 billion this year.
So why is the government not investing more into infrastructure, which creates jobs, knowing that this is the most effective way to grow the Canadian economy, rather than just distributing Christmas gifts from the money they took from taxpayers' pockets?
Senator Carignan: Your questions are very amusing, senator. You put this question to a representative from a government that adopted the biggest infrastructure investment plan in this country's history.
The amounts set out in Economic Action Plan 2015 are in addition to the investments. The $1 billion per year for public transportation, for example, is in addition to the billions of dollars already allocated to the Building Canada Fund. I remind you that the Building Canada Fund is the longest and most significant federal commitment to infrastructure in this country's history. It puts $53 billion towards provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure projects. That is additional funding.
Your question implying that the government doesn't invest in infrastructure is just shameful.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: I'd like to move on to another topic that has to do with the same issue.
A month ago, Canada's economic performance for the beginning of this year was described as "atrocious" by the Governor of the Bank of Canada. In fact, the federal government lost about $6 billion of tax revenue due to the collapse of the price of oil.
The Bank of Canada lowered the interest rate again in order to stimulate the economy due to our struggling economy. Yet yesterday's budget was smaller than usual, which was done in order to balance the budget.
Does the Harper government believe that balancing the budget is more important than stimulating the economy at a time when the Bank of Canada is worried about growth?
Senator Carignan: The nice thing, senator, is that this economic action plan, a budget that has taken a lot of work by an entire team of people, is applauded by many organizations.
When you talk about stimulating the economy, would you agree that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has the economic interest of Canadians and small businesses at heart? The CCC wrote, and I quote:
The measures to support Canada's manufacturing sector are timely. This sector is evolving rapidly and set to seize new opportunities. The budget will have a positive impact in a sector poised for new growth.
We also appreciate the fact that the government took the needs of small business into account in this budget.
The Retail Council of Canada stated that it:
. . . welcomes today's federal budget, which continues to reduce taxes on Canadian merchants. "The proposed measure boosting the small business deduction will help make Canada's independent retailers more competitive in the face of strong Global competition . . . This budget builds on the government's overall record of lowering the corporate income tax rate from 22 per cent to 15 per cent."
The Canadian Steel Producers Association stated:
Budget 2015 includes commitments that our industry has strongly supported as essential to strengthening our market and investment prospects . . . The Budget projects an imminent return to fiscal balance, an overarching feature that strengthens competitive basics for Canadian manufacturing. In addition, it includes a number of more specific measures that are of special significance to the Canadian steel industry.
Senator, I could go on like that. Since I've been here I've rarely seen so many organizations congratulating the government on its budget presentation. Praise is coming from all directions, from families, infrastructure representatives, seniors' advocates and commerce associations. We are even getting praise from copyright and intellectual property representatives.
Senator, if you do not vote in favour of Economic Action Plan 2015, then I don't know what would make you happy.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Let me repeat exactly what the government said in 2010:
The least effective ways to stimulate the economy were identified as personal income tax measures and corporate income tax measures.
When you give gifts to people, I know that they will certainly be very nice to us.
We have to stimulate the Canadian economy and create jobs for young people. An eminent economist, Mr. Stiglitz — you can read his latest book — believes that the United States has come out of its recession and has a much more dynamic economy than ours because it invested in its economy instead of giving its people gifts. The same goes for the European Parliament, which recently changed its position and was for some time — especially under the direction of Ms. Merkel — disinclined to invest further in the economy. Today, the European Parliament is taking that direction.
My question is the following —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, unfortunately the time allotted to Question Period has come to an end.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 4-13(3), I would like to inform the Senate that as we proceed with Government Business, the Senate will address the items in the following order: Second reading of Bill C-2, followed by Motion No. 98, followed by third reading of Bill C-32, followed by all remaining items in the order that they appear on the Order Paper.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Dagenais, seconded by the Honourable Senator Maltais, for the second reading of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise to speak on Bill C-2, An Act to Amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The summary of this act states:
This enactment amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to, among other things,
(a) create a separate exemption regime for activities involving the use of a controlled substance . . . that is obtained in a manner not authorized under this Act;
(b) specify the purposes for which an exemption may be granted. . . and
(c) set out the information that must be submitted to the Minister of Health before the Minister may consider an application for an exemption in relation to a supervised consumption site.
Honourable senators, I would like to first of all thank Senator Campbell for his very articulate and passionate presentation yesterday. Senator Campbell is a very knowledgeable person on these issues, so when he was speaking, he came from a place of having first-hand experience.
My experience on this issue is from people who use it, and I would like to share that with you.
We live in a very rich country. I come from the very rich city of Vancouver, probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world; of course, I'm biased. I am very embarrassed today to stand here and say that I also come from a city where the homeless population is increasing. No Vancouverite can be happy about that. In fact, I'm very embarrassed about that.
On very cold nights, I walk on the streets with outreach workers to find out how we can find shelters, or help to find shelters, for homeless people. I see homeless people sleeping almost on the road, a dirty road, with very few belongings. Many suffer from addictions. When I have observed them using an injection to deal with their addictions, the one thing that I have seen outreach workers do is try to convince that person to go to a clean site, a clean place, so that at least the injection would not infect them.
Honourable senators, we live in one of the richest countries in the world, and if we cannot look after the most desperate people in our communities, then we all have a lot to answer for.
I work closely with Pivot Legal Society, whose tagline is equality lifts everyone. This is an organization that works very closely with the homeless, and they are a very respected organization in the city. They have set out what a safe injection site is about. They say that supervised injection services are specialized health care facilities where people who inject drugs can access harm-reduction services, get connected to other health care services, including detox, be supported by nurses who are trained to detect the symptoms of narcotic overdose and can treat it.
There are over 70 such health care facilities around the globe, but only one in Canada. At Vancouver's Insite, there were 1,418 overdoses between 2004 and 2010 without a single death. Many of these overdoses could have been fatal had they occurred outside the facility.
Insite was established in response to a public health emergency. A decade's worth of research during that time, as well as ample evidence from international facilities, have confirmed that supervised injection services are both effective and necessary.
By way of background, senators, Insite is a health care facility in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, where people who use IV drugs can access harm-reduction services, be connected with other health care services, including detox, and where nurses are trained to detect the symptoms of narcotic overdose and to treat them.
As I have already stated, there have been 1,418 overdoses at Insite between 2004 and 2010.
Honourable senators, Insite is a place where people can have a chance to live. The effect at Insite is to insulate clients, called "participants", and staff from the functioning of the CDSA, which would otherwise expose them to criminal sanction for possession or possession for the purpose of trafficking of illicit drugs while they are inside the facility. The criminal prohibition of drugs continues to function normally outside the facility, as it does in the rest of Canada.
This section of the bill and the minister's discretion to use exemptions under it were the subject of a 2011 Supreme Court of Canada case called Canada (Attorney General) v. PHS Community Services Society. The court ruled in the Insite case that the minister's discretion was limited by section 7 — life, liberty and security of the person — Charter rights of IV drug users and that exemptions would be granted in all but exceptional circumstances. The court also set out some factors the minister could consider in the future.
Honourable senators, I am not going to comment on what this bill is about because we are going to be studying it. It would be better to comment once we have heard from people, but I will set out for you what Insite does. It saves lives.
Insite has been operating since 2003. The scientific evaluation of Insite has been carried out by researchers at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. The results of the evaluation research have been published in more than 30 articles in the world's leading peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals.
Insite decreases activities related to HIV transmission, it reduces overdose risk, it increases access to addiction treatment, it increases public order, it increases medical care for injection-related infections, it increases safety for women who use drugs, it does not increase drug use or related crime, it saves taxpayers money and it saves lives.
Honourable senators, if you were from my city, you would all appreciate the work that Insite does.
I gave a lot of thought as to what I could say about Insite. I am not a medical person, so I am turning to people who have medical knowledge, who have set out what Insite is doing.
Dr. Perry Kendall is provincial health officer of British Columbia. Dr. Patty Daly is chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health. Dr. John Carsley is a medical health officer for Vancouver Costal Health. This is what they had to say about Bill C-2 in an article entitled Supervision, not contempt:
If it becomes law, this legislation may cause the closing of Vancouver's Insite and prevent other sites - we fear the worst for addicts and our cities . . .
Honourable senators, this is what they had to say on March 31, 2015:
On March 23, federal Bill C-2 — the "Act to Amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act" — passed in the House of Commons. Vancouver's supervised consumption site, Insite, was recently granted a one-year extension under the existing legislation, but if Bill C-2 eventually becomes law, then it may well cause the eventual closure of Insite and make it almost impossible for new sites to open in other communities. The Conservative government has labelled this law the "Respect for Communities Act," but "Contempt for the Health of Communities" would be more accurate.
The act lays out the requirements for an application to the federal Health Minister for an exemption to operate a supervised consumption site such as Insite or the injection room at The Dr. Peter Centre, both in Vancouver. It's short, as legislation goes. Once you strip away the definitions and explanatory notes, you are left with more than 25 clauses listing the information an applicant must provide.
Based on our clinical experience of more than 10 years and the results of numerous peer-reviewed studies on Insite published in prestigious medical journals, we can say with absolute confidence that virtually all these requirements are unnecessary and excessively onerous. The requirements of the act are oriented toward building a case for denying exemptions rather than approving them.
For example, if there is a demonstrated need for this public health service, it's not clear whether opposition by a single group could prevent the granting of an exemption, or whether scientific evidence of clear benefit and lack of societal harm for such services carry greater weight than such opposition.
To give another example, for any staff working in the facility, the applicant must provide police records going back 10 years showing that the potential worker has not had a conviction for a drug offence, conspiracy, money laundering or terrorism. While most staff will be registered nurses who have already passed police checks just to work as nurses, others may well be recovered addicts who have succeeded in treatment. Scientific literature shows that such people are among the most successful peer educators — is it the intent of this bill to bar them from this work?
The act is also inconsistent with the Supreme Court of Canada's 2011 ruling that the Health Minister's failure to extend Insite's Section 56 exemptions was not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, and violated Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court ruled that on future applications for such exemptions, the minister must exercise discretion within the constraints imposed by the Charter, and "aim to strike the appropriate balance between achieving public health and public safety goals."
They go on to say:
Further, the minister should generally grant an exemption where "the evidence indicates that a supervised-injection site will decrease the risks of death or disease, and where there is little or no evidence of an impact on public safety."
Our experience in Vancouver shows these sites do not increase crime, do not divert drugs and do not threaten the safety of their neighbourhoods. These are health services. They prevent overdose deaths, open a door to drug detox, keep HIV and hepatitis from spreading and used needles off the streets, treat wounds and infections, and decrease the use of police, ambulance and emergency medical services.
This law is a thinly veiled attempt to end supervised injection services. Period.
If any legislation at all is required, it needs very few elements: applications endorsed by local and provincial public authorities, the municipality, local police, provincial health and justice ministers. If these approvals are in hand, the federal minister should be granted an exemption. It's that simple.
At present, a number of Canadian cities are considering seeking exemptions for supervised consumption sites. The passage of Bill C-2 would effectively curtail these needed services. We fear the worst for the health of our cities.
Last October, there was a brief but intense surge in injection overdoses in Vancouver when fentanyl, the powerful prescription narcotic, was sold as heroin. While deaths occurred in the community, all those who overdosed at Insite were successfully treated and survived. We can only imagine the death toll among some of our most vulnerable citizens if Insite were closed. Do we really want our alleys and hotel rooms to fill up with bodies again?
Honourable senators, these are not my words. These are words of people who work with people who suffer from addictions.
Honourable senators, Senator Campbell spoke of the plight of sexual workers. Let me share with you one experience I have had. Many times I walk on Fridays with sex worker outreach people. I have learned so much about my city when walking with these people. I have seen homeless sex workers walk into closed ATM machines, and when they walk in, they are dirty, they have very little makeup on, and you just are overwhelmed with how somebody like that could live in my city. I have observed in that small facility how they clean themselves up — I don't know how they do it because there's no water there — how they put on makeup, how they dress up and how they get ready to carry out their trade. Once they are ready, I have observed outreach workers go up to them and convince them to go to Insite to have safe injections before they carry out their work.
What this bill will do is stop the people who are most vulnerable in my city from getting the help they need to deal with their addiction.
May I have five minutes, please?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Will honourable senators grant Senator Jaffer five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I want to remind you again. We are very lucky. We live in one of the richest countries in the world. We have a lot of resources in our country. We have the power to keep the most vulnerable in our society safe. Let us not forget those who need our help.
Thank you very much.
(On motion of Senator Hubley, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government), pursuant to notice of April 21, 2015, moved:
That, pursuant to rule 7-2, not more than a further six hours of debate be allocated for consideration at third reading stage of Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts.
She said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the motion for time allocation. Motion No. 98 will ensure once again an efficient and timely debate on third reading of Bill C-32, an important government bill that aims to put victims at the centre of the judicial system and ensure they are treated with the respect and fairness that they deserve. There is no better time than this week, which is during the National Crime Victims' Rights Week, to recognize the tireless work and effort of the victims and victims' advocates who have fought for change in Canada for so many years.
First reading of Bill C-32 occurred in the House of Commons on April 3, 2014, by Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Peter MacKay. Second reading concluded on June 20, 2014, and the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The committee report was presented on December 3, 2014. Concurrence at report stage was on February 4, 2015, and the bill received third reading on February 23.
First reading of Bill C-32 occurred in the Senate on February 24, 2015, and second reading on February 26, two days later. The bill was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, where it was studied in depth over four meetings.
During discussion at scroll this morning, an agreement on the allocation of time for Bill C-32 was not reached. Therefore, this motion to allocate a maximum of six hours of debate for Bill C-32 at third reading is an important step we are taking today to avoid further delays while still providing a maximum of six hours' debate at this time. Therefore, I urge all honourable senators to adopt this motion.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Frank Sinatra had a song, "Here We Go Again."
This is, by my count, and who knows, I may have missed some, the fourteenth time in this session of Parliament that the government has seen fit to give notice of motion for time allocation, most of the time unnecessary and most of the time ill-advised.
I have not heard an explanation that persuades me of the urgency of doing time allocation on this bill now.
It is true that this is victims' rights week, but that is a week that is a calendar day. I did not say it was not an important week, in terms of recognition of victims, but if what we are purporting to do with legislation is do more than give symbolic recognition to groups of people, that is a different matter and one that, I suggest, should not be rushed through.
Time allocation was imposed on this bill two days after we got it, I think you said, Senator Martin, before the critic had even had a chance to speak to it. Yes, the committee did look at it, and I attended those committee meetings. There was a great deal more that the committee could have done, but the opportunity was not made available.
Why are we doing it this week? I submit we're doing it essentially for the government's public relations purposes, and I don't think that is a good reason to play hog with the practices and fundamental responsibilities of this chamber of Parliament.
We know this motion will pass. We know how the numbers add up here. But on this occasion, it is, as I suggested, ill-considered, unnecessary and, indeed, embarrassing.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Martin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Marshall, that pursuant to rule 7-2, not more than a further six hours of debate be allocated for consideration at third reading stage of Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts.
All those in favour, please say "yea."
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: All those against, please say "nay."
Some Hon. Senators: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: The yea side has it.
Senator Fraser: On division.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: On division.
(Motion agreed to, on division.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Boisvenu, seconded by the Honourable Senator Runciman, for the third reading of Bill C-32, An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts;
And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Ringuette, that Bill C-32 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended
(a) in clause 2, on page 8,
(i) by adding after line 7 the following:
"(2.1) The authority referred in subsection (2) must have power
(a) to compel the federal department, agency or body to produce information and documents relevant to a complaint; and
(b) to make recommendations and orders to remedy specific or systemic infringements or denials of rights under this Act.", and
(ii) by deleting lines 31 to 36; and
(b) in clause 24,
(i) on page 22, by deleting lines 38 and 39,
(ii) on page 23, by deleting, lines 1 to 7.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I'm sorry. I have prepared for more than one intervention. That's why I wanted to use our time properly.
In fact, I did not bring the more than 600 pages of documents provided by the Department of Justice that explain the bill because I would have had to do more weightlifting. I have to say that no federal budget has been backed by such copious literature. I find it rather appalling that the government is trying to sell a policy that, as my colleague was saying earlier, is ultimately an exercise in public relations. I will have an opportunity to speak in more detail about specific elements later on.
Even if I had spent all my nights reading the 600 to 700 pages, I don't think that I would have come to a different conclusion because the bill itself does not have an extraordinary number of articles. However, it does contain measures that encroach significantly on provincial jurisdictions.
I would remind my colleagues who are somewhat familiar with Canada's legal system that the administration of justice is first and foremost a provincial responsibility. Although the federal government currently provides the provinces with an amount that I would call modest, the provinces contribute the most to mitigating the difficulties that victims may encounter.
I have been in contact with some provinces, and I have also looked into what happens in other countries. I must say that I had hoped that this bill would be a huge leap forward because I share the objectives of my colleague, Senator Boisvenu, and accept the underlying principle of more generous assistance for victims to address the negative consequences of events that affect people of all ages and circumstances. This bill — and even less the government — does not take into account these objectives. I did not see any significant amounts for compensation in the budget tabled yesterday.
As for compensation, criminals usually don't have any money. The wealthiest criminals work in the financial sector, a sector I am quite familiar with. Sometimes money gets misappropriated, as we have seen in some well-known cases in Quebec. However, most cases involve physical attacks, and the victims are often unable to work. We are talking about work-related compensation, compensation for all the turmoil that disrupts the lives of these individuals and that can last for years.
If we were to compare our legal system with that of the United States, I can assure you that we would look like the poor cousins when it comes to compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life as a result of an assault or other crime in Canada. It cannot be said that we put the same value on life in Canada as they do in the U.S.
My colleagues and I were prepared to study this bill very carefully. Prestigious organizations, including the Canadian Bar Association, whose sole purpose is to ensure the quality of our legal system and the quality of our laws, found several shortcomings, and they did not go into any detail regarding compensation.
Honourable senators, it is inconceivable that we are being forced to limit debate on this bill, when this bill is crucial for victims. Victims will be disappointed if the bill passes in its current form. I support the amendments proposed by Senator Joyal, who immediately moved to at least deal with what was most urgent, saying that, in some cases, things need to be done lawfully. That is also pretty much what the Canadian Bar Association said. No one wants this bill to become the subject of another legal challenge.
Bill C-32 is a government bill. I find it rather strange that the constitutional aspect isn't being taken more seriously. Witnesses spoke a lot about victims. We didn't discuss that aspect at length, but I think that comparing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the Victims Bill of Rights amounts to ignoring the very foundations of our rule of law; above all, this is certainly a misrepresentation for victims, who have already been hurt, both morally and physically in many cases.
I would have liked to study this bill in more depth with my colleagues. The bill was passed very quickly in the House of Commons. I saw the comments from my Liberal colleagues. We don't all share the same philosophy because we don't participate in caucus.
In short, at the very least, the proposed amendments should be passed before the bill is sent back to the House of Commons, because as is this bill doesn't work, and it will seriously disappoint the victims who are expecting this to be the remedy they are entitled to.
Dear colleagues, I will certainly oppose this six-hour time allocation motion. It's shameful. Even though there will be an election in six months, there is no justification for passing a bill that is essentially a smokescreen.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise to speak on the amendment to the Victims Bill of Rights. As I said yesterday and want to say again, I wish to acknowledge the work of one of our colleague's on this issue. He has, for many years, worked on this issue of victims' rights, and my comments are in no way meant to take away from his work on this issue. I want to acknowledge Senator Boisvenu's work for victims' rights.
When there was first talk about the Victims Bill of Rights, I was very excited because I felt that it was time that we looked at the challenges that victims face in the criminal system.
Having studied the bill, I am truthfully very disappointed because we have raised expectations. We have raised expectations with Canadians who are vulnerable, who are victims of crime, that they will, at the end of a criminal trial, have some kind of relief, that they will have some kind of acknowledgment of their pain.
After having studied the bill and given a lot of thought to this, I have come to the conclusion that, once again, we will raise expectations without resources.
I would like to look at a number of things — the length of trials that will happen as a result of this legislation and the issue of restitution.
The charter speaks about rights, and it sets it out well. It talks about the right to information about the criminal justice system, the right to information about the status of the investigation, the right to have their security and privacy considered, the right to protection from intimidation and retaliation, the right to request testimonial aids, the right to convey their views about decisions, the right to present a victim impact statement, the right to have the courts consider in all cases making a restitution order, and it goes on.
The charter creates all these rights, but what about the obligations? Because, as we know, the federal government passes legislation, but the operation of the court system is carried out by the provincial governments. We are creating all these rights. We are giving no resources to the provincial governments to carry out or to make sure these rights are carried out.
I can't speak for any other province, but I can tell you that in my province the courts are absolutely chockablock with all this legislation that is coming down from Ottawa. The chief judges are really at their wits' end as to how they can make the courts operate with the resources they have.
Now we have created all these rights. All these rights will mean that there will be an increase in the length of time before people's cases are heard.
We had many people testify, and I will read in the testimony of Michael Spratt, who often appears in front of our Committee on Legal Affairs. Michael Spratt is a criminal defence counsel and a member of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, and this is what he had to say:
I'm here representing the Criminal Lawyers' Association. We are a non-profit organization comprising over a thousand criminal defence lawyers. We've been granted standing to participate in many significant criminal appellate cases and other judicial proceedings, and we are routinely asked to provide input by various parliamentary committees, such as this one . . . .
We support legislation that's necessary, modest, fair, constitutional and supported by the evidence. Let me just say at the outset that victims aren't an abstract concept to criminal defence lawyers. We know that victims are real, and indeed we see their struggles in our criminal justice system first hand. For this reason, the CLA does not take issue with many aspects of this bill. Indeed, many of the rights set out in this bill simply codify what are already practices that we see in our courts, and there can be no dispute that that is a good thing. That said, there are aspects of this bill that cause us great concern, and it's for those reasons that the CLA is unable to support what could have been — and can be, I suppose — a very useful piece of legislation.
It's clear from prior testimony, and indeed from my interactions with victims, that one of the main concerns that victims have is the glacial pace of the criminal justice system. One of the most conspicuous features of this bill is the increased participation for witnesses and complainants by being able to personally bring a variety of applications in the course of the criminal proceeding. These applications currently are generally brought by the Crown, when reasonable.
The concern I have about adding additional procedural steps to what we already know is a strained judicial system is that it will simply delay matters — trials and pleas — by days, weeks or months. Delay is already real; it's already a problem. Just yesterday, a Brampton Superior Court judge blasted the ridiculous delays in that jurisdiction. Trials, we know, can take years to complete, and we know that puts an extraordinary strain on witnesses, victims, complainants and, indeed, on accused people who live under the shadow of the criminal proceeding.
The reason for this is not because accused people have too many rights or that trials are somehow too fair. Courts and litigants struggle to do the best they can with the constraints of the justice system as it currently stands. What we suggest is not more laws but more funding, more funding for courts, for litigants and for victims. I suggest that would benefit everybody, and the legislative downloading of costs doesn't help anyone.
The second and most important point I would like to make today is about clause 17 of this bill. I have no doubt that everyone here believes in fair trials, and yet this provision will result in unfairness. This provision, of course, adds a new section to the Criminal Code which allows witnesses to testify anonymously, and not just anonymously. Importantly, it allows for the non-disclosure of information that could lead to the identification of that witness. This is another application that a witness can bring. This is an application that can be brought at any time during the proceeding . . .
The characterization of this section by the government has been a little bit misleading.
Honourable senators, Mr. Spratt goes on to speak about how the trials will get delayed if all these rights are put in place without the funding.
Nana Yanful, a representative from the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, also stated this:
First, I should preface my comments by saying that the CCCDL acknowledges that an effective criminal justice system requires thoughtful consideration of the interests of complainants and accused persons. Victim services programs across the country require more funding for services, not only at the front end, but at the back end for counselling, education, support and consultation.
We acknowledge that the criminal justice system can be a difficult and intimidating space for complainants, witnesses and victims, and we believe it assists the defence — it assists us — to have well-informed victims.
Senator Baker, who is the vice-chair of our committee, asked this question:
I get the picture that the three of you are . . . concerned about . . . trial delay . . . lengthening out the provisions here for witnesses to make applications to the court.
The reason why that is so important is there is an increasing number, in every province in this country today, of the application of Askov, the application of section 11(b) of the Charter, trial within a reasonable period of time. You get people who are alleged to have committed the worst of crimes. The RCMP spends all their time, as Chief White would tell you, researching crimes, to have them appear before a court, as Ms. Walker pointed out from the very beginning, and have a trial take two or three years, and then all charges are just thrown out. The accused is then free — acquitted of everything — because the trial took too long. It's established in law in Canada — and, Mr. Spratt, I wonder if you could verify this — that, from the point of charge to the point of the first appearance to the point of the trial beginning, there are time periods laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada, and if you violate those in any serious manner — and it's the fault of applications, not the fault of the accused — if you don't meet these deadlines, one could end up being acquitted of everything. Is that not correct? There are established guidelines, and this bill will lengthen now the period of time. Is that correct?
Mr. Spratt responded:
That is right. It is not the fact that the charges could be stayed at the end of the day, but the fact that witnesses' memories can diminish over time and complainants have these matters hanging over their heads. Or, if the accused is found not guilty, he might be living under restrictive bail conditions during that period of time. Delay is not good for anyone, and it's not sought out by any party, but it's a reality.
Honourable senators, what we are doing here is passing a bill that will only cause more issues for the victim.
The second issue I would like us to look at is restitution. Senator Baker asked many questions on restitution. I could go on and on reading to you the testimony from various witnesses, but what I understood is that restitution will only be where there is a financial damage, for example, as Senator Batters said yesterday, a window is broken or there is an issue of transportation.
The judge will not have the ability to look at whether that person can pay. So at the end of the trial of the person who is convicted, the judge can order restitution. This does not mean that the victim walks out with money. The victim has to register that restitution claim in a civil court. Those of us who have done those cases know that you would not go if you had a few thousand dollars to try to get restitution in a civil case because not only would you have to register it but also you would have to hire a collector to collect the money. And at the end of the day, there may not be any money. The victim would be out-of-pocket.
Honourable senators, we talk about protecting the rights of victims and about creating restitution without proper funding or properly thinking about how the victim will collect this money during a week when we are celebrating victims' rights. Do not give them false hope. That should not be our role.
Hon. George Baker: Honourable senators, I didn't intend to say anything regarding this bill, but I listened with attention to the previous speaker who mentioned a particular subject under the bill that we should put on the record so that victims' rights groups who are dealing with the matter in the future would be alert to a particular problem.
I congratulate the mover of the motion who's done an excellent job on behalf of the government — outlined what the bill seeks to do and performed his duties as the government requested and under the guidelines of the law. However, when you listen to Senator Joyal's and Senator Jaffer's points on this bill, it bears repeating not that the bill should be defeated but that certain warnings should be put on the record — the one recently broached regarding restitution.
All of the witnesses were very happy because of the heading "Restitution." Some witnesses said, "It's wonderful that I've suffered all of these damages and now we will have in law restitution." The word "damages" were exchanged with the word "restitution." The bill says at clauses 16 and 17:
16. Every victim has the right to have the court consider making a restitution order against the offender.
17. Every victim in whose favour a restitution order is made has the right, if they are not paid, to have the order entered as a civil court judgment that is enforceable against the offender.
Here's the problem with that: If you enter the judgment in a civil proceeding as a civil order of the court for damages, what do you expect? Under damages, for those of you here who are familiar with civil proceedings on damages, when you have personal injury, four main headings come to mind.
First, non-pecuniary or general damages include pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life — you're not able to do the things you used to do prior to your injury. It also includes psychological damage. The headings for damages under what is commonly referred to as general or non-pecuniary damages goes up to about $380,000. It used to be $180,000, 40 years ago, when I remember very well looking at some judgments. Now it's up to $380,000 for the maximum amount. Normal settlements under general or non-pecuniary damages are about $40,000 to $50,000 without having to go to trial.
Second, pecuniary damages include loss of income from the moment that the incident happened until the trial. Then the loss of income into the future is projected, but on what? It's not even on a balance of probabilities but on simple probability. An assessment is done sometimes when you have what are called "global figures" whereby you have been damaged such that your income would be affected to about 10 per cent of your expected earnings into the future until the age of 62 or 65. Add all of that up and the average that you see ranges without going to trial. If the person is a professional who has a large income, then you're looking at $1 million sometimes.
The third element of damages is future health care costs, such as chiropractic services, massage therapy, over-the-counter drugs and all of those different components projected into the future.
The fourth element is prejudgment interest on your damages up to the point of payment.
Those four headings fall under damages. Unfortunately, some witnesses thought that under "Restitution," which is a major part of the bill, they would receive damages. Well, as you know, honourable senators, you can't receive damages unless you have either an agreement between parties or something goes to trial and each segment of damages is examined carefully.
One that's important, for example, is housekeeping, such as putting out the garbage or shoveling snow or whatever, and how that has influenced housekeeping capacity. Those things usually range from $1,500 to $2,000 without going to trial.
Now, I say all of that because the restitution we're talking about in this bill has nothing to do with that. This restitution is done under, I believe, section 738 of the Criminal Code, but I could be wrong. It triggers what is under the restitution provision of the code. In other words, in fraud cases, there's a trial held. During the trial, an essential element of fraud is the proof that somebody has had a loss. A loss is determined, the judgment made and then a restitution order in the amount of the fraudulent action that caused damage. That is the amount of restitution. It is Form 14 under the Criminal Code — the very form that is used in this bill. It's four lines — that's all it is. It's simple in that you go back to the trial and you find out what the damage is.
The other part where it's used in the code is if somebody breaks into a business and in the process of stealing something does damage to the business. Restitution is ordered by the judge, say for $14 or $15 to replace a window. It's readily available because it has resulted either from a trial or from the receipts of the damage done to the institution. Four lines under "Restitution."
Form 14 is, I believe, under section 738. When you trigger that section, that's what you're triggering under "Restitution."
It can pay for your bus passes or tickets for going to trial. It can pay for things that are readily available in receipt form. But here's the problem, and I'll sit down after this. I've been going on too long about this.
Here's the problem with it, honourable senators. If you accept a restitution order and file it with the civil court as a restitution order, and the person against whom that order has been filed goes to a lawyer and says, "What am I going to do? There's $10,000 filed against me." The lawyer will say, "Okay, you get $10,000, or come up with it, or $2,000. Let's give the $2,000, there's an order of the court." What happens? A cheque is passed over and a release order is signed. What's the release order? You're released from all damages that could occur in a civil proceeding. That's normal. You don't pass over a cheque without a release order, and that's the problem here.
If you have organizations that are promoting the restitution order in this bill, they should be very careful that if they decide to go that way, they may be throwing away an opportunity down the road that would truly reflect the damages that have been done to that victim. It could be physical. It could be mental. But by accepting that restitution order and that release that you have to sign, under normal circumstances — the release order is there, as the lawyers would know — down the way, you would be giving up your right to prosecute the case in the future. I think that's important to put on the record. So that the victims' rights organizations, which are helping out victims, will be well aware of the fact that if you go that route then you also run the risk, if you sign a release order, of not being able to pursue the true damages that should be awarded all victims.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, like Senator Jaffer, I will begin by expressing my very great respect for the work that Senator Boisvenu has done for the cause of victims for many years now. It is always humbling to see someone who can turn grief from personal tragedy into tireless work for a good cause. There are other examples among us, such as Senator LeBreton, Senator Batters, Senator Dallaire and undoubtedly others. In each case, it takes tremendous strength and lasting dedication to do what they do, to fight for what is right. They deserve and have our respect and gratitude.
This bill is something for which I know Senator Boisvenu has fought for a long time, even before he came here. I admire his tenacity in that cause.
There is something, however, that Senator Boisvenu said yesterday that I take strong issue with. He said, "Honourable senators, by adopting Bill C-32, you will be honouring victims' rights over criminal's rights."
As legislators, we can never honour one set of rights over another set of rights. It is our most profound principle that all Canadians are equal before the law and, in particular, that the Charter of Rights applies equally in all of its parts to every Canadian. No simple bill passed by Parliament can change that. Our sympathies may align more with victims, but in law, we do not honour one set of rights over another set of rights.
But then there's the fact that this is really a very strange bill. In a sense, the strange quality of it is exemplified, to my eye, by the difference between the English and French titles of this bill. The English title is An Act to enact the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and to amend certain Acts. In French, it's Loi édictant la Charte canadienne des droits des victimes et modifiant certaines lois. As Senator Joyal said so eloquently last day, a chartre, which we would normal think means a charter, involves actual, enforceable rights.
In fact, absent the amendments to the Criminal Code, the portion of this bill that carries the most resonance with many victims, as far as I can see, is the part purporting to give them a series of rights. But it reminds me less of a true charter of rights than of the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights. In its day, the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights was a great step forward, I don't deny that. But it had, in fact, very little legal weight and impact. It did have some, but it did not have anything like the legal weight that its supporters so earnestly hoped that it would have. I fear that that will be the case with this bill precisely because of the absence of so many elements that would give it the weight and the power that we believe a charter should have. Senator Joyal explained eloquently to us the impact of the fact that there is no legal recourse from decisions under this bill, and I strongly urge all senators to support the amendment that he has brought because without that amendment, this bill is almost an empty shell.
But, you know, there are other things that can be done as well with this bill. If the government was serious about actually wanting to help victims, to have institutions that truly defend the rights of victims, there are things they could have done. I was particularly struck, in committee, by a session we had with several witnesses, but with two in particular: the first was Sue O'Sullivan, who is the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, a tireless worker for and with victims, who is greatly respected for her work; and the second was Sharon Rosenfeldt, who is the President of Victims of Violence Canadian Centre for Missing Children.
I expect that there is no advocate for rights of victims in Canada who is indeed more respected and trusted than Ms. Rosenfeldt. Her son was one of Clifford Olson's victims and she has been working for victims for many years. She is a smart, compassionate and dedicated woman.
Ms. O'Sullivan, in her brief, made a number of recommendations and here's one of them:
I recommend that any authority with jurisdiction to review complaints . . .
Ms. O'Sullivan is speaking about victims' rights under this bill.
. . . have investigative powers to compel federal government departments and agencies to produce information and documents relevant to a complaint and to recommend remedies on specific complaints, as well as systemic issues.
She doesn't have that power. She's our "ombudsman" but she doesn't have the power to compel the production of documents by the departments against whom a complaint may have been laid.
Now, you don't have to be a complete cynic or paranoid to say it is the nature of bureaucracies, including departments of our very own federal government, to protect themselves. So if they don't have to produce damaging documents, there is at least a certain chance that they will not do so, and she can't make them do so. Ms. O'Sullivan is a very persuasive person, and she said that she manages to get basically most of the information she needs in discussions with departments, but she doesn't have the right to it. She doesn't have the power to compel the production of information. I suggest to you that the more serious the complaint, the greater the likelihood that somebody in the department will find a way to conclude that that information should not be produced, even if Ms. O'Sullivan or her successors wish to have it.
She also says that her office should have the power to recommend remedies on specific complaints. Can you imagine? She doesn't have the power to recommend remedies on specific complaints. A Canadian citizen, a victim, comes to her with the most legitimate and serious complaint, and she finds if it's justified. She can't recommend a remedy. She can only recommend systemic remedies in generalities.
It wouldn't cost the government very much to give her the power to do these things. It wouldn't cost anything at all to give her the power to recommend specific remedies. It wouldn't cost very much to give her the power to compel the production of documents. I would bet a significant sum that it wouldn't cost as much to compel the production of documents as it will cost for the government's public relations campaign to brag about this bill.
When we asked her in committee about this, Ms. O'Sullivan said:
In other countries, they actually have a parliamentary ombudsman who has the ability to make recommendations and to give financials.
I think she meant financial compensation. When you look internationally, one of the issues is always the strength of the ability to seek remedy for the victim. Here in Canada, Ms. O'Sullivan, who is nothing if not diplomatic, simply says, well, these are ongoing discussions.
In the context of this bill, those discussions shouldn't be ongoing; they should have been concluded and the results of them inserted in the bill. When is a better time to insert those powers into legislation than now, when we're passing a so-called charter of victims' rights? There is something very strange here. Ms. O'Sullivan was really not beating the drums, preaching for her own parish. This was just one of a series of recommendations, and it was only when queried that she responded to questions about that.
Ms. Rosenfeldt leaped into the breach and said:
As a crime victim advocate organization . . . that is what we have been asking for for a long time. Let's put some teeth into our ombudsman and make it similar to the Correctional Investigator.
The Correctional Investigator is one of our more effective officers in this country.
Ms. Rosenfeldt said, and I found this so touching:
Hopefully she will have that power once the implementation stage comes about.
We're keeping our fingers crossed.
Well, she won't have that power if she doesn't get it in law and, if she doesn't get it now, I don't know when she's going to get it.
This bill should serve a noble cause and it does make some progress but, in general, it is a massive failure, one which would be so easy to fix and which is almost embarrassing to support if we don't fix it. As Senator Jaffer and Senator Baker have suggested, we are raising hopes and expectations with this bill that, as drafted, it will not meet. We are laying the ground for terrible disappointment among people who do not deserve any more disappointment.
I urge us all to support Senator Joyal's amendment.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, we've heard a number of issues raised by Senator Joyal yesterday, by Senator Baker and by Senator Fraser. I wonder whether our colleague Senator Boisvenu, who is the sponsor of this bill, might deal with those concerns and explain if there is another side to the story. Before we vote, perhaps he could take this opportunity to give us his views on those issues that have been raised by my colleagues.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Boisvenu, do you wish to exercise that right?
Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: With pleasure, Mr. Speaker.
I think that our perspectives on the needs of victims differ depending on whether we are sitting on this side or that one. I understand that those people might be opposed to passing such an important bill. That is their job, and they are doing it well.
However, having listened to victims in committee, I get the impression that we were not at the same meetings. Victims support the Victims Bill of Rights, but they say it can be improved. Basically, we have a choice between two options: a Cadillac that we won't have the money to run or a decent sedan that we can cover a lot of ground in because we can afford to drive it.
The amendments you proposed might be possible in a perfect world. During the three years we spent drafting this bill of rights — we didn't just dream it up 24 hours ago — we sat down with officials from the Department of Justice and Public Safety Canada, and we talked about how we could integrate rights that everyone would be comfortable with into the existing system. We talked about designing a victims' bill of rights that could be integrated into the justice system even though there is a lot of resistance to integrating victims' rights and giving them a place and a voice. I know this, because I have spent 10 years fighting to give victims a voice in the justice system.
Yes, we could have created a wonderful piece of legislation, but it would not have been accepted by the people who administer the justice system. They would have told us that we were asking too much, that we were inconveniencing them too much. If the bill of rights that you hoped for was an inconvenience to everyone in the system, it would have taken us 10 years to get it.
The strategy that we took was to develop a bill of rights that would evolve over time. We will not make the same mistake that we made in 1982 when we entrenched the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian Constitution. Just try to make changes to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms today. It is nearly impossible. It requires a consensus all across Canada of 50 per cent of the population. It is complex. That is why we did not choose that option. We elected to do things differently. We decided to come up with a bill of rights that would change over time, and that we would go from point A and eventually end up at point Z. That's my first point.
My second point is about the complaints process. First, I would like to inform you that this process is included in the bill, but it is not yet defined. Will the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime be given that power? I hope so. That office already deals with complaints related to the correctional system and the parole system, as well as complaints lodged with the National Office of Victims. This means that, tomorrow, once the bill has been passed, we will have to develop regulations. You are familiar with the process. I worked for the Government of Quebec for 34 years. First the law is passed, next comes the legal framework, and then the regulations are adopted.
I hope the complaints process will be very rigorous, since it will be entrusted to an institution — I hope to the ombudsman — because over time these complaints will be used to help us pinpoint any shortcomings. These shortcomings will be documented. How are victims' complaints documented at present? They aren't. There is nowhere to document them and ensure that in a year or two, we can change the bill of rights by adding an item that could satisfy the victims. That is the second point.
The third point is that essentially — and I will close on this — I was saying from the outset that the victims support this bill of rights.
What victims want is to enter the justice system. They do not want to be a third party that is represented in the process, as is the case in the French system, where the victims are represented, the offender is represented and the state is a participant. Victims do not just want to be integrated into the process, they want to be able to speak, participate, and have their say, instead of being passive parties. That is what victims want.
The bill of rights says to victims that we are giving them a tool so they can begin participating in the system. That is what victims want, and I believe that this bill meets that objective.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?
Some Hon. Senators: No.
Some Hon. Senators: Yes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: All those in favour of the motion in amendment please say "yea."
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: All those opposed to the motion in amendment please say "nay."
Hon. Senators: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: In my opinion, the nay side has it. I see a number of senators rising.
And two honourable senators having risen:
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: There is agreement for a 30-minute bell. There will be a vote at 4 p.m.
Call in the senators.
Motion in amendment negatived on the following division:
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, we are now resuming debate on the main motion. On debate, the Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Earlier in the discussion, I lamented the fact that debate on this bill was being limited. In an effort, as the official opposition, to do the work we have been tasked with under the Canadian Constitution, namely that, as parliamentarians, we must work in the best interest of Canadians and ensure that —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Order. Please, we're resuming debate on the main motion. I ask senators who wish to leave the chamber to do so quietly, respecting the fact that a senator is addressing the chamber.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: In my efforts to simply fulfill my duty as a member of the official opposition, in other words, to work on improving government bills, to work in collaboration with my colleagues on improving the situation of victims, I had no problem with the substance of the bill. However, there are shortcomings in this bill that could tarnish Parliament's image. When we legislate, we must do so by taking all aspects into account. The aspect I would like to call to my colleagues' attention is that we have overlapping jurisdictions here.
In this case — and I'll talk more later about the mechanisms put in place with the provinces — one of the most obvious things during our study of this bill is how confusing it is for victims to figure out who to talk to where and when if they want to get information. Nowhere and at no point have I seen a single mechanism that would enable victims to contact one person who can guide them through the process for their specific case.
I would like to read a message that Quebecers sent me because I am from that province. They wrote:
Quebec has exclusive jurisdiction in matters of administration of justice and services to victims. The provinces and territories are responsible for taking appropriate action in regard to the administration of justice to support victims. Accordingly, all of the provinces and territories, including Quebec, fulfill their responsibilities and have laws setting out victims' rights. Quebec is a staunch defender of victims' rights and is fully committed to fulfilling this responsibility.
Quebec is concerned that the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights could result in additional costs and obligations with respect to its justice system and its correctional system. The province would like to remind the federal government —
Here I'm speaking on their behalf.
— of its commitment to provide funding to implement Bill C-32.
As I said earlier, I did not see significant money in the budget speech for implementing this bill. Therefore, in my opinion, the state of the law, as described by the Province of Quebec, is what we need to focus on with respect to achieving the goals of Bill C-32.
The people from the Government of Ontario answered my questions and responded to my request.
The Ontario government supports the federal government's effort to promote victims' interests within the criminal justice system.
We have been leaders in victims' rights with an Ontario Victims' Bill of Rights in place since 1996. Our approach reflects a careful balance between addressing victims' needs and promoting the effectiveness of the justice system.
Many of the principles in the federal bill are similar to those already in place in Ontario. Since 2003 — and I want to stress that — the Government of Ontario has invested over $1 billion on vital services to support those who have been harmed by crime. Ontario offers a broad range of support and services to address the needs of those who have been victimized or affected by trauma arising from a crime.
The proposed changes could likely be implemented within existing resources for serious offences, but since the bill would apply to all victims of crime, including those who have suffered property damage or economic loss, there may be pressure to increase the scope of services in other cases.
The cumulative effect of the revised procedures could cause many proceedings to take longer, leading to some overall delays in the system and some resource implications.
Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasize that the largest provinces that make up nearly two thirds of Canada's population shared these remarks with me regarding the bill. As the Government of Quebec said, given that services to victims are strictly a matter of provincial jurisdiction, I think we need to take that into account and, above all, ensure that victims understand that there can be only one door for them to access services, and they should not have to run all over the place. Victims have told us that they want to be informed at every stage, that is, during the preliminary hearing, trial, sentencing and parole. However, it is important to know where that information comes from, who has it and how victims can access it.
I would like to give a brief overview of the situation in the other provinces. In Yukon some services are available online, for instance. However, when it comes to compensation, there is none. Some services are offered to victims in the Northwest Territories, but there is no compensation. That also goes for Nunavut. There are some basic services, but no compensation. In British Columbia, there are more services, but there are no overall limits on compensation granted to a claimant, although certain types of compensation can be limited to a certain maximum based on provincial legislation. Compensation exists, but there are no specific amounts, other than for certain types of claims.
As for Alberta, there are some indicators regarding compensation. Alberta has a $12,500 death benefit, and payments for bodily injury vary between $500 and $110,000. That is by far one of the most generous contributions.
In Saskatchewan, there is an assistance fund, but when all is said and done, it comes from the collection of certain taxes, and there is no cap. There is a certain amount that is not included.
Services for victims in New Brunswick are minimal. There is an ombudsman and the total amount of compensation that can be awarded is $5,000.
In Prince Edward Island, a few services are available to victims. However, they can be awarded up to $15,000 in compensation only.
Nova Scotia does not offer any money, but it provides counselling services and other programs. However, there is no compensation to cover other expenses.
Finally, in Newfoundland and Labrador, as we already know, victims are not offered any compensation.
After looking at the situation across the country, it seems to me that the federal government, which according to our colleague has been working on this bill for years, should have held a federal-provincial conference. How is it that the government did not come up with an overall plan to align the measures in all of the provinces? In my opinion, victims in every province should be offered the same amount. When we talk about a victims bill of rights, those rights must be identical in every province. If some provinces give victims up to $110,000 while others do not give victims anything, it will be rather difficult to administer the bill. That is one of the bill's major shortcomings. Victims want information. No one on the committee was opposed to victims being allowed to follow what is happening or to adding measures to allow them to participate in the legal process, but the fact remains that, at its core, this bill is related to compensation for victims. As my colleague from Newfoundland mentioned earlier today, there are sometimes problems when it comes to enforcing legislation. It is also important to note that, when victims have to appear before the civil courts, they need to be able to get the money to which they are entitled.
In my opinion, that is the most negative aspect. It is a shame for my colleague, Senator Boisvenu, that, because of the current situation, we will not have the chance to fix the bill to ensure it is able to achieve one of its main goals.
Since my colleague submitted specific questions, I would also like to talk about the position taken by the Canadian Bar Association. The Bar Association has no stake in the bill. What it does is select some of its members who work in this field to sit on volunteer committees. No experts are hired. These are people who practice law and know the system well.
In its submission, the Bar Association concludes that it appreciated the opportunity to provide its views, but that it recommended changes to improve the bill and make the bill:
. . . more likely to withstand constitutional scrutiny . . .
— and I just referred to the bill of rights, which will differ from one province to the next —
. . . safeguard prosecutorial independence and ensure that the criminal justice system is actually able to deliver on the additional rights promised to victims of crime.
It is nevertheless important to point out that according to the Canadian Bar Association, which made nine recommendations — their submission is in the government's archives — we should focus on certain measures. With respect to the right to information, the Bar Association states that the clause providing for the right to information is not clear, does not stand up to scrutiny and could mean different things. It should be clear and precise, and the Bar Association believes that it is not and that it does not expressly grant the right to access investigative materials. We must not lead anyone to believe that certain things will be accessible by using vague language, because people will have to go before the courts to challenge the interpretation of the law.
Foreign victims have almost no rights, and it's rather strange that a Canadian could commit a crime and that a foreign victim who is here visiting with their family could be seriously wounded or that one of the visitors could lose their life. In a democratic country, there are rights that are recognized under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for people here on Canadian soil. There is a serious issue here.
I won't go through all of the other conditions, but community impact statements are addressed on page 8 of the submission, as though everyone knew what a community is, in law. There's no definition. The Canadian Bar had reason to say, and I quote:
. . . recommends for the purpose of introducing "community impact statements", the Bill contain clear definitions of what constitutes a "community" and strict criteria for how a community representative is to be selected, as well as the appropriate type of content to be included in such statements.
They examined the bill and told us that there were some problems. We were open to making recommendations and we narrowed it down to two important amendments that the government party did not accept. As a result — and based on the fact that we could end up in a big mess — this bill wasn't ready to be passed. It will give people the illusion of legislated rights, but it will not deliver. This bill will make people believe that they have rights, but it has a number of shortcomings. That is why I will abstain from voting on this bill.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable senators ready for the main motion?
Hon. Senators: Yes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It is moved that the bill be read the third time.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
(Motion agreed to and bill read the third time and passed, on division.)
(The Senate adjourned until Thursday, April 23, 2015, at 1:30 p.m.)