Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the
Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh, Minister of Health, along with the Honourable Carolyn
Bennett, Minister of State (Public Health) and the Honourable Aileen Carroll,
Minister of International Cooperation yesterday and today are the hosts at an
international meeting of ministers of health to address pandemic influenza.
Representatives of some 30 countries and five multinational organizations are
meeting in Ottawa to discuss global collaboration and cooperation in light of
the possibility of an influenza epidemic.
Later today, a communiqué is expected to outline priority areas for action
through international cooperation. Four main themes are the subject of concern:
the relation of avian flu to human and animal health; surveillance in developing
countries; vaccine and anti-viral development and access; and risk communication
and risk assessment.
Canada's initiatives in pandemic preparedness take into account U.S.
proposals for a formal international partnership to increase global
collaboration; World Health Organization work for a strategic plan for pandemic
preparedness; the Food and Agricultural Organization strategy for control of
avian influenza; World Health Organization plans for a donors meeting and a
pledging conference later this year; and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation,
APEC, symposium on avian influenza. Also taken into account are European Union
plans for a pandemic preparedness workshop; bilateral efforts by countries to
build capacity in Southeast Asia; and the appointment of an expert panel to the
director general of the World Health Organization.
Over the last few years, Canada has worked closely with the World Health
Organization. The Public Health Agency of Canada has sent a mobile lab to
Vietnam and provided epidemiologic/public health expertise to Thailand, Vietnam
In the last budget, Bill C-43, Canada provided $34 million over five years to
assist with the development and testing of a prototype pandemic influenza
vaccine. We have also contributed $24 million toward the development of a
national anti-viral stockpile for preventing and treating a newly emergent
strain of avian influenza. To increase surveillance in Southeast Asia and China,
the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, is funding a $15 million
project that will be delivered through the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Canada will continue to be a leader in meeting the challenge of an avian flu
pandemic. The World Health Organization continues to acknowledge Canada's
leadership and to support Canada's initiatives. Let us wish today's conference a
total success in cooperation and coordination while keeping in mind that this
conference is only one step to meet the challenges that may lie ahead of us.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, as we mark what is known
around the world as United Nations Day, the UN's sixtieth anniversary, I rise to
congratulate the many wise men of that day for creating a world body that has
contributed to peace and stability in our world.
Born in the ashes of the League of Nations, which sought to correct its
inefficiencies and reinvent itself as the Second World War raged on, the UN has
aimed to become a body of peace and cooperation for all the peoples of the earth
— and mostly, it has achieved its objective.
Unfortunately, I am not as confident of its future, for I fear it has become
overly bureaucratic and often dysfunctional and that it is now burdened by too
many competing forces within its membership.
There is no doubt we need an effective world body to ensure future peace,
cooperation and stability — "effective" being the operative word. My hope is
that serious reform of the UN and its agencies will continue to take place to
avoid any more cases of abuse and misuse such as we have seen.
Colleagues, birthdays serve not only to mark time, but also as a time to
pause and reflect on our actions, objectives and future plans. I urge the UN and
all of its membership to do just that. The UN is an organization whose intended
purpose was to offer a forum where nations could come together to help people
live better lives by eliminating poverty and disease, and to put an end to the
madness of war and to foster respect for each other's rights and freedoms. The
UN needs to reassess its performance on all levels and, as the League of Nations
did, admit that it must now embrace serious reform so it can better represent
the world's nations and help them reach the honourable objectives of peace and
Honourable senators, I am pleased to join others in wishing the UN a happy
birthday and Godspeed in its reform. I urge Canada to take a strong leadership
role in defining the UN of tomorrow.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw to your
attention the presence in the gallery of a delegation from Cameroon. We have
Martin Mpana, Acting High Commissioner for the Republic of Cameroon in Canada,
Mr. Ename Ename Samson, Secretary General of the National Assembly, the
Honourable Matta Joseph Roland, Member, and Ahmadou Ndottiwa, Chief of
Ceremonies and Missions.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, last week, during
Small Business Week, I had the pleasure to attend the sixth annual Women in
Business Symposium held in Mill River, Prince Edward Island. The conference was
hosted by the P.E.I. Business Women's Association, one of the most influential
business associations on the Island, in conjunction with the Atlantic Canada
Opportunities Agency and the P.E.I. Business Development Initiative. This year's
symposium, with more than 135 delegates, offered a variety of workshops, panel
discussions, keynote speakers and more to assist new women entrepreneurs who are
thinking of starting up a business and to expand the knowledge and skills of
established women entrepreneurs on Prince Edward Island. The event was a real
During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Melody Dover, an
Island graphic designer who last week earned the Business Development Canada
Young Entrepreneur Award for Prince Edward Island. I should like to offer my
congratulations to Melody and to the other provincial and territorial winners of
this distinguished award. These young Canadian business people are the future of
business in this country.
Honourable senators, we all know the great impact that small and medium-sized
businesses have on Canada's economy. Entrepreneurs and their successes are the
key to this country's economic growth. It is only fitting that a week be set
aside to recognize these entrepreneurs and their contributions, and to encourage
and to assist others in making their business dreams come true. In recognition
of Small Business Week, I should like to congratulate the entrepreneurs and the
small-business owners across Canada whose hard work, determination and
innovative thinking add so much to our national economy.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, last Monday, October 17, I
attended the launch event in Halifax for Halifax Humanities 101, a Clemente
Humanities Course. The Clemente course, founded by Earl Shorris in the United
States, seeks to break the cycle of poverty through education. It has spread
throughout the world. All Halifax universities donated their professors'
teaching time, and donations were received from the McLean Foundation, the
McCain foundation, the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation, the Rotary Club of
Halifax and individuals to support rooms, teaching materials, supplies and food.
There was even daycare support for those who needed it.
Poverty is neither easy to live with nor to overcome. These students want a
hand up not a handout. The goal of the Clemente Course is to provide instruction
in history, art and culture but, most importantly, to open up peoples' minds to
new ideas, themes and goals. Students in this course have gone from living in
the street to teaching in schools, even becoming dentists, counsellors and
Honourable senators, St. George's Parish and the Reverend Canon Dr. Gary
Thorne spoke with me last year to seek my advice on how to put this project in
motion. The St. George's Church Friends of Clemente Society have worked
tirelessly to turn this dream into reality. I commend them for their efforts and
look forward to seeing firsthand the results of their work.
I have always believed that education is the one true path for eliminating
poverty. This new course in Halifax is well on its way to accomplishing that for
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, this afternoon, I want to
remind you of a very special anniversary that took place during our summer
recess. I am talking about the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Terry Fox
Marathon of Hope. Almost every day that I am in Ottawa, I pass by the monument
dedicated to Terry Fox's life and vitality. It is located on the other side of
the street, just opposite the Senate chamber.
I am always very proud to note that the artist who created this statue, John
Hupper, hails from my home town of Hampton, New Brunswick. I am also extremely
proud, as a Canadian, that Terry Fox chose to give us such an extraordinary gift
in such a sincere and public manner: the gift of hope.
Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and raised in Port Coquitlam,
British Columbia. An active teenager involved in many sports, Terry was only 18
when he was diagnosed with bone cancer and, in 1977, he was forced to have his
leg amputated six inches above the knee. While in hospital, Terry was so
overcome by the suffering of other cancer patients, many of them young children,
he was driven to do something to help. He decided to run across Canada to raise
money for cancer research. He would call his journey the Marathon of Hope.
Preparation took 18 months, during which he ran over 5,000 kilometres. On
April 12, 1980, 21-year-old Terry Fox started his run in St. John's,
Newfoundland, by dipping his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean. Although it
was difficult to garner attention in the beginning, enthusiasm soon grew, and
the money collected along the route began to mount. He ran at least 42
kilometres per day, further than a marathon, through Canada's Atlantic
provinces, Quebec and Ontario. It was a journey that Canadians never forgot.
However, on September 1, 1980, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres, Terry was
forced to stop running outside Thunder Bay, Ontario because cancer had appeared
in his lungs. An entire nation was stunned and saddened. Terry died on June 28,
1981, at the age of 22. This heroic Canadian was gone, but his legacy was just
beginning. To date, more than $360 million has been raised worldwide for cancer
research in Terry's name through the annual Terry Fox Run held across Canada and
around the world.
I am sure honourable senators will join me in thanking the hundreds of
participants and volunteers who have helped to make the Terry Fox Run an
overwhelming success again this year on its twenty-fifth anniversary.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, Dame Cicely Saunders,
founder of the modern day hospice palliative care movement, died earlier this
year in London at the age of 87. Dame Saunders was a British nurse and physician
who founded St. Christopher's Hospice in 1967 in London, England.
While the concept of hospice care dates back to medieval times, there was no
real effort to update its procedures for the terminally ill in the latter half
of the 20th century. When Cicely Saunders founded St. Christopher's, she used
the term "palliative medicine" to describe a method of treating terminally ill
patients with dignity while easing their pain with drugs such as morphine. Her
methods began to be adopted around the world. Dame Saunders taught and wrote
extensively on palliative care around the world, impressing others with her
passion for alleviating suffering.
In the early 1970s, Dr. Paul Henteleff and Dr. Balfour Mount, Canadian
physicians who had visited and worked at St. Christopher's, decided to bring
this model of end-of-life care to Canada. In 1974, the first palliative care
unit was opened in Winnipeg at the St. Boniface General Hospital, followed one
month later by the opening of a palliative care unit at the Royal Victoria
Hospital in Montreal.
Earlier this month, on October 8, we celebrated World Hospice and Palliative
Care Day — a new, unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and
palliative care around the world and to raise awareness and understanding of the
need and importance of hospice and palliative care. Through activities such as
this and the Hike for Hospice and National Hospice Palliative Care Week, Dame
Saunders' voice will continue to be heard as we work to ensure that all
Canadians and people around the world have access to the best quality
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, pursuant to rule 131(3) of the Rules of the Senate, I have the
honour to table two copies of the government response to the recommendations of
the eleventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance.
The Honourable Lise Bacon: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at
the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Wednesday, April
13, 2005, the date for the presentation of the final report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on the petitions tabled
during the Third Session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament, calling on the
Senate to declare the City of Ottawa a bilingual city and to consider the
merits of amending section 16 of the Constitution Act, 1867, be extended from
October 27, 2005 to June 30, 2006.
The Honourable Lise Bacon: Honourable senators, I give notice that at
the next sitting of the Senate I will move:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Wednesday,
November 3, 2004, the date for the presentation of the final report of the
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on the
implications of including, in legislation, non-derogation clauses relating to
existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada,
under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, be extended from October 31,
2005 to June 30, 2006.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I give notice, in the name of
Honourable Senator Kenny, that, at the next sitting of the Senate, he will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be
permitted, notwithstanding usual practices, to deposit any report with the
Clerk of the Senate, if the Senate is not then sitting; and that the report be
deemed to have been tabled in the chamber.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. He will
no doubt know that some questions have been raised in the media concerning the
application of section 31(2) of the Constitution Act. In order to assist all
senators, both current and those who might follow us, will the minister tell us
whether he might be seeking legal advice from the law officer of the Crown? If
so, would he be able to share that information?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I
thank Senator Kinsella for raising this question and for doing so in a factual
As the honourable senator says, this issue was the subject of media articles
yesterday, including an article that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen under
the byline of Jack Aubry. Questions of a constitutional nature are usually quite
complex, and when citizenship matters are added to the complexity, they may be
somewhat more difficult for the general public to understand. This matter
involves both constitutional questions and citizenship issues.
We all know the constitutional requirements for being summoned to the Senate
in section 23 of the Constitution Act, 1867. They include being at least 30
years of age, being a resident of the province for which one is appointed,
having property in that province of a value of at least $4,000, and being a
natural-born or naturalized subject of the Queen.
Section 23 does not require that a senator not be a natural-born or
naturalized subject of any other country; it only requires that a senator be a
natural-born or naturalized subject of the Queen. It makes no reference to dual
Honourable senators are also aware of the provisions in sections 30 and 31 of
having one's place in the Senate vacated. Section 31 provides that:
The Place of a Senator shall become vacant...
(2) If he takes an Oath or makes a Declaration or Acknowledgement of
Allegiance, Obedience, or Adherence to a Foreign Power, or does an Act
whereby he becomes a Subject or Citizen, or entitled to the Rights or
Privileges of a Subject or Citizen, or a Foreign Power.
A plain reading of this provision indicates that in order for a senator's
seat to be vacated the senator must take a future action — in particular, take
an oath or make a declaration or do an act to obtain other citizenship.
The wording of subsection 31(2) does not make vacation of office contingent
on an ongoing status held by a senator. Rather, the wording of subsection 31(2)
makes vacation of office contingent on the doing of an act whereby the senator
becomes a subject or citizen of a foreign power.
It is clear to me that if a senator already had dual citizenship prior to
appointment as a senator, the senator's seat would not be vacated solely by
reason that the senator had prior dual citizenship. Rather, my reading of the
provision would be that the intent is to vacate the office only if a person
becomes a subject or citizen of a foreign power after having been summoned to
As honourable senators will know, the rules governing citizenship in other
countries cover a broad range of possibilities. For example, children who are
born in Canada to a parent who has citizenship with another country may be
either eligible for citizenship or, under the laws of that foreign country, a
citizen. In some cases, children born to a parent who has citizenship of another
country may automatically become citizens of that other country.
I also understand that some countries have restrictions on the voluntary
renunciation of citizenship. Thus, even if one chose to read subsection 31(2)
inaccurately, as requiring the renunciation of foreign citizenship, this
renunciation might be difficult to do in some cases.
There are a number of hypothetical issues that could arise because of prior
citizenship. For example, if a senator who has dual citizenship receives a
pension from a foreign country, which is a general benefit for its citizens
and/or residents, does receiving that pension imply doing something to become
"entitled to the Rights or Privileges of a Subject or Citizen, of a Foreign
Power"? This could happen where, for instance, a young Canadian person served
in the Armed Forces of another country, such as the United States.
This issue has been with us since Confederation. The application of the
Constitution in this area has been the sensible one; namely, that prior holding
of dual citizenship does not require vacation or renunciation of that dual
While I am not aware of any honourable senator becoming a dual citizen after
being summoned to the Senate, we are all aware of honourable senators who were
summoned to the Senate with prior dual citizenship. There are 12 senators
serving in the Chamber today who were not born in Canada.
I am not aware that any honourable senator is suggesting that this has in any
way presented an issue for the conduct of business in this chamber.
I also note that because there are a growing number of persons in Canada who
were born outside Canada, the matter of dual citizenship is likely to be an
increasing feature of those summoned to the Senate in the future. This feature
is a reflection of the diversity of Canada, which is one of our strengths as a
nation. I believe that the Senate will continue to be enriched by the
appointment of persons to the Senate who are summoned from the breadth of our
Honourable senators are aware that citizenship is not a criterion to claim
the benefits of the Charter of Rights.
Finally, section 33 of the Constitution Act, 1867, provides that questions
regarding the qualifications of senators and vacancies are to be "heard and
determined by the Senate." As far as I know, no facts have been alleged against
any senator that would bring section 33 into play.
The assertion in news stories seems to be that dual citizenship requires
disqualification. This is not legally or constitutionally true. I very much
regret a headline in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday: "Senators with dual
citizenship break rules." That is simply not the case. I very much regret an
editorial in today's Calgary Herald that starts, "Ignorance of the law
is no excuse." I think the writers better examine their own understanding of
I thank Senator Kinsella for the opportunity to make this statement.
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, my question for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate concerns the outcome of a meeting held this
weekend between the provincial and federal ministers of health regarding
benchmarks for wait times.
As honourable senators know, I had the privilege of attending the portion of
the meeting that related to mental health. I am unaware of the exact details of
the agreements on benchmarks.
As far as I can tell, it was agreed to provide a first set of evidence-based
benchmarks by the end of this year, meaning that they could provide a benchmark
for only one type of treatment in each of five priority areas that were laid out
in the health accord. This agreement seems to translate into defined wait times
for five procedures or tests.
Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us if there is any
indication when this information will be translated into action? In other words,
will this agreement be accompanied by an implementation plan when the benchmarks
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I
know from comments made by the Minister of Health, the Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh,
that the meeting made progress with respect to establishing the scientific
criteria to establish benchmarks. I understand that the provinces are not
reluctant to move forward with their agreement as established by a first
ministers' meeting on health last year to put benchmarks in place, but they are
concerned that benchmarks be established in an objective fashion based on
science. There are a number of experts in the field, and we discussed the
opinion of one expert last week who believed that some of the benchmarks in some
of the health categories could be put in place before the end of the year.
Senator Keon: Honourable senators, a communiqué from the health
ministers meeting does not indicate how many wait-time benchmarks will be
included in the first set or when a full set is expected. Could the Leader of
the Government in the Senate make inquiries in this regard? I fully appreciate
that he cannot have this answer today, but would he make inquiries and tell us
how long the federal government believes it will take until there is a full
suite of wait-times benchmarked, and if there is now another target date for
Senator Austin: I take it that Senator Keon is speaking about
wait-times in the five priority areas that are being discussed. I will make
inquiries and hope to have better information for the honourable senator.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, my question is to the
Leader of the Government in the Senate and it deals with softwood lumber. The
question has three separate parts.
First, when will the Prime Minister stand up for Canada with respect to the
softwood lumber dispute in ways that will yield real results?
Second, when is Prime Minister Martin prepared to cultivate the kind of
influence with our largest trading partner that former Prime Minister Brian
Finally, could the leader please comment on the reported statement of
Minister Jim Peterson in today's National Post that the government would
like to find ways to link energy exports to the United States as a means to
resolve the softwood lumber dispute?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the
questions asked by the Honourable Senator Oliver are an entirely political
representation. The assertions in the questions are inaccurate. The Prime
Minister stands up for Canada like no Prime Minister in recent times has done.
Senator Oliver is not paying attention to public affairs or may have been out
of the country because the Prime Minister has made it clear that he represents
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Oliver: Another cheap shot.
Senator Austin: Even yesterday the Prime Minister said that it does
not affect bilateral relations with the United States to stand up for Canada;
that is his job.
I will not comment on the relationship between the former Prime Minister
Mulroney and the United States because that simply invites comparisons that are
not relevant today.
With respect to Mr. Peterson, he has not linked trade and energy to the
softwood lumber industry issue.
Senator Oliver: That is precisely what the quote said, but I did not
expect the leader to accept it.
My supplementary question is: When Prime Minister Martin appointed Frank
McKenna from New Brunswick as Ambassador to the United States, Liberals heralded
it as the dawn of a new era in Canada-U.S. diplomacy, but McKenna has not
delivered. In fact, as time goes by, his tenure as Canada's Ambassador to the
United States is very much becoming one of diminished returns.
My supplementary question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate
partly concerns the ambassador's recent comments when he called the American
political system dysfunctional. In view of the failure of Mr. McKenna to
cultivate any real influence in his current role, as illustrated by the
frustration evidenced in his recent verbal miscue, would this government
consider the Conservative Party's highly sensible suggestion to appoint a
special envoy exclusively dedicated to resolving the softwood lumber dispute?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, it is really entertaining and
amusing to listen to the political fantasies of Senator Oliver with respect to
his question. The reality, however, is that Ambassador McKenna is performing an
outstanding job in representing Canada in the United States.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Austin: I think Senator Oliver and some on that side may be
confused between the integrity and the vigour of representing Canada and the
bowing to dictates of the United States, thinking that this is the best way to
represent Canadian interests in the U.S. One might only reflect on the Leader of
the Opposition in the other place and his statements with respect to Canadian
interests, particularly his interest in supporting the United States in its
policies directed toward Iraq.
Honourable senators, I do not want to become tendentious about the role of
Ambassador McKenna, but I do want to say that the U.S. Secretary of State, the
Honourable Condoleezza Rice, has been in Ottawa since yesterday for bilateral
discussions on a number of issues in Canada-U.S. relations. Ambassador McKenna
is involved, as is the American ambassador, and these talks are proceeding in a
businesslike and positive way. It is not in the Canadian national interest to
ask the types of questions that Senator Oliver is asking, unless he has
something of a specific character with which to charge Ambassador McKenna.
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, the minister made
reference to the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State. If it is true that the
honourable Prime Minister is defending the interests of Canada to the United
States, can the minister right now, in a concrete way, in order to illustrate
how well the Prime Minister of Canada is defending the interests of Canada,
confirm that Ms. Rice has given the Canadian government the $3 billion or $4
billion the U.S. owes Canada under the free trade agreement in the softwood
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I would love to confirm that the
results of the talks between the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister and our
Minister of Foreign Affairs had a complete capitulation on the part of the
United States on softwood lumber. I do not think anyone here realistically
expects that I will be able to do that.
As to the first part of the honourable senator's question, I wonder if he is
aware that the Prime Minister spoke to the Economic Club of New York in the last
three weeks and delivered a clear message about Canada's views of NAFTA, of the
softwood lumber issue and the obligations of the United States under NAFTA.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I go back to Senator Oliver's
query. It did no good to demean Senator Oliver's characterization of Canada's
attitude to the United States. It does this place no good for the leader to
imply that acid rain was not a victory for Canada and that Prime Minister
Mulroney did not stand up for Canada's interests, because he always did. On the
issue of South Africa Prime Minister Mulroney stood up to the United States. He
stood up to Great Britain and he stood up to other conservative leaders
throughout the world on that issue. He stood up to them on the missile defence
shield and on Arctic sovereignty.
Everyone on this side has Canada's interests at heart, not the Liberal
Party's interests at heart. Prime Minister Chrétien and Prime Minister Martin
have not dealt in a forthright manner with the Americans on many occasions. I
remember the former Prime Minister on the question of Iraq. It was not the
question that we differed with them on Iraq that was the big deal, but the fact
that he said that they could hear about it on CNN. That is not how you treat
neighbours. That is not how I would treat a neighbour. That is not how people on
this side would treat a neighbour. The Prime Minister can continue to do that
and think that somehow he will get ahead on this matter, but he will not.
Senator Austin: Is this a question or is this a speech?
Senator Tkachuk: I am trying to make a point that you started.
Senator LeBreton: You make speeches all the time.
Senator Tkachuk: You have made your speech and I will make mine.
Senator Austin: You are only asking questions and I am answering them.
Senator Tkachuk: You may comment on it if you wish.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Thank you. I leap to my
feet to comment on Senator Tkachuk's speech.
First, I want to say that I admire his ability to make a speech in Question
Senator LeBreton: You are the expert at it!
Senator Austin: As well, I admire his ability to outline in his speech
a series of policies followed by the Mulroney government. In fact, there was no
basis in what I said for the speech that the honourable senator started. I said
that I did not intend to speak to the question of a reference to Prime Minister
Mulroney because these times are different circumstances from his times.
Senator LeBreton: Check the blues!
Senator Tkachuk: Do not change them.
Senator Austin: That was all I said about Prime Minister Mulroney.
I understand the role of Senator Tkachuk is to keep justifying the past.
Senator LeBreton: You have dined off it for years.
Senator Austin: I am not being negative about any of the policies to
which the honourable senator made reference. One way or the other, history will
decide on the accomplishments of the Mulroney government.
Senator LeBreton: They already have.
Senator Austin: The editorial comments in this chamber will not add or
detract from that judgment.
I want to make clear to honourable senators that in the era in which we are
now living, Canada and the United States have an excellent relationship. Senior
level talks are being conducted on a wide range of issues. However, I want to
make clear, too, that the United States Congress is reacting in ways that deal
with their view of globalized issues. They have policies with respect to trade.
They have policies with respect to the transfer of manufacturing activity. There
are domestic politics in the United States. This is not the Mulroney; it is a
different era. We have to deal with the differences, and we have to ask the
United States to stand up to their obligations when a final NAFTA panel provides
a judgment. That is the position of the Canadian government on softwood lumber
and that is the position from which we want to start in our negotiations with
the United States.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
my question is for Senator Oliver, Chairman of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance. It is my understanding that the National Finance Committee
will be continuing its study that will take it to Ireland and the United Kingdom
in the next few days. It is my understanding that a happy occasion has presented
itself where the Canadian High Commissioner to the Court of St. James has
extended an invitation to the honourable senator, which brings honour to this
chamber, to give a public speech on diversity. Is that true and is the
honourable senator receiving support?
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: I thank the honourable senator for his
question. Yes, it is true. I am deeply honoured to have been asked. I would like
to read the notice that was sent out by the Canadian High Commission under the
hand of Canada's distinguished High Commissioner in London:
The Canadian High Commission in London in conjunction with Operation Black
Vote would cordially like to invite you to attend a round table discussion
with the Hon Senator Don Oliver on Monday 7 November at 1800 hours at Canada
House, Trafalgar Square, London.
Senator Oliver has been instrumental in challenging Canada's big business
for its lack of senior "visible minorities" in the work place.
His ground breaking report, "Maximizing the Talents of Visible Minorities,
An Employer's Guide", is already having a big impact within business circles.
As part of the round table discussion Senator Oliver will give an outline
of his report, and take questions, but is also keen to listen and learn from
the BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) experience here in the UK. It will also be
an opportunity for activists, politicians and those in business to build
greater links with potential partners in Canada.
The meeting should last no more than 1.5 hours. Snacks and drinks will be
I have been informed that the Leader of the Government in the Senate is
opposed to my giving such a speech.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Might I ask Senator
Oliver where he heard such a thing?
Senator Oliver: Is the Leader of the Government denying that he has
been attempting to prevent the speech?
Senator Austin: Absolutely. Why would I want to prevent any speech the
honourable senator wants to make? Who told you such a thing? That is an absolute
Senator Rompkey: Withdraw.
Senator Stratton: He is calling you a liar.
Senator Rompkey: Withdraw.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are we ready for Orders of the Day?
Hon. Terry Stratton (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): No, no, no. I
cannot let this pass even if Senator Oliver can. I would ask the Leader of the
Government in the Senate to withdraw that statement until this matter is checked
Senator Austin: Not at all. There is no evidence of any kind whatever
that I have reflected that Senator Oliver should not make a speech any place he
wishes to make a speech and on any topic he wishes to make a speech. That is an
Senator Stratton: It appears that you are content to call him a liar.
Senator Austin: I said what I wanted to say, and if you want to carry
this dispute further, by all means, you carry it further in any way you want to
I want to put on record that Senator Oliver and I have never had a
conversation on this subject of where or when or on what topic he would ever
make a speech. That is outrageous.
(Response to question raised by Hon. David Tkachuk on October 20, 2005)
The Department, based on the work conducted by external auditors,
determined that the company was in breach of certain of its obligations under
its TPC contribution agreements. As a result of that determination, the
Department issued a notice of event of default to Bioniche.
The Government and Bioniche have subsequently agreed on the rectification
of this matter.
A Status Report, released this September, confirmed the existence of
company non-compliance issues with terms dealing with the payment of
contingency fees and the use of unregistered lobbyists. This is prohibited,
and the department acted immediately.
When companies have been found in breach of their contracts, we have sought
and received remedy payments equivalent to the amounts paid or payable by the
company to its lobbyist, plus the cost of conducting the audit. The Auditor
General agrees with our approach. The taxpayer's interest is protected.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Lowell Murray on October 18, 2005)
The CBC/Radio-Canada is a Crown corporation that operates at arm's length
from the Government and is responsible for its own day-to-day management,
including contract negotiations with unions.
The issue the Honourable Senator raises as to the relationship between the
CBC/Radio-Canada Board of Directors and Senior Management with regard to the
recent labour disruption is within the purview of the CBC/Radio-Canada.
The labour dispute was resolved through collective bargaining between the
Canadian Media Guild and the CBC/Radio-Canada with the assistance of the
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service as appointed by the Honourable
Joseph Frank Fontana, Minister of Labour and Housing. It was not and would not
be appropriate for the Government to intervene otherwise on this issue.
A copy of the profile of the CBC/Radio Canada Board of Directors is
Hon. David P. Smith moved second reading of Bill C-11, to establish a
procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the
protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings.
He said: Honourable senators, Bill C-11, which is captioned "An Act to
establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector,
including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings," has been
abbreviated to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. In a nutshell,
this bill is all about transparency, accountability, financial responsibility
and ethical conduct in the federal public sector.
Honourable senators, every now and then a piece of legislation arrives that
ends up representing consensus. I believe that this bill falls into that
category. I am not suggesting that the bill started off reflecting consensus,
but I do believe it wound up there. It does not happen too often. When it does
happen, it is not because the government that presents the bill, regardless of
what party might form the government, is the fount of all wisdom on the subject,
although that might be nice. However, I do not think that is the case. I
believe, though, that there are several dynamics necessary for a bill to wind up
achieving the consensus benchmark.
First, there must be a genuine need for the legislation on the subject
matter. Whistle-blowing protection is hard to argue with. Second, basic elements
of the bill need to be strong, not necessarily perfect when it starts off, but
strong. I would suggest that those elements are the following: a rationale,
objectives, and reasonable and practicable mechanics to achieve those
If we start off with a bill that fits that definition of being strong but not
perfect, what else is necessary to reach consensus? First, there is input from
other parliamentary parties and input from non-parliamentary parties. I would
suggest that in this particular instance, that did occur. Second, listening with
open minds on both sides of the house is necessary, and I would emphasize the
phrase "with open minds." How do we know when these four dynamics — the need
for rationale for the bill, a strong framework, bona fide inputs and open minded
listening — occur?
Let me suggest a few litmus paper tests. By way of background, it is
important to understand that there was a predecessor bill to Bill C-11, known as
Bill C-25. Senator Kinsella also had a bill that he sponsored which dealt with
the same subject. Both government bills were introduced in 2004, one before the
election and one after the election. The numbers that I will cite relate to both
bills, but they were both introduced in the same year.
First, on the subject of hearings, the House of Commons Standing Committee on
Government Operations and Estimates had 33 meetings on the whistle-blowing
subject. Of those, 27 were on Bill C-37, the current bill, and six were on Bill C-25,
its predecessor, for a total of 33 meetings.
One hundred and thirteen witnesses testified on the subject of
whistle-blowing. Eighty-two spoke to Bill C-11 and 31 spoke to Bill C-25, for a
total of 113. The witnesses included representatives of 76 organizations, with
37 witnesses appearing as individuals.
Fifty-two amendments were adopted, including amendments proposed by members
of the opposition, some of which were of fundamental significance.
Twenty amendments were voted on but not adopted. We can assume there was
lively debate. That figure does not include those that were withdrawn. Six were
not formally moved and one was deemed not admissible. The bottom line is that 52
amendments, which were put forward by various parties, were adopted.
This process is not unprecedented but is certainly not routine. The criteria
I have identified as relevant — the need, the sound basic elements, the input
and everyone listening with an opening mind — did occur. How do we know that it
passed that threshold? It passed with a unanimous vote in the House of Commons.
That does not happen often. At the outset, unanimous agreement would not have
been possible. It occurred as a result of the process that was outlined here.
I might mention that nothing I have said comes from any department of
government. These are my own perceptions on how this controversial bill which
deals with an important subject matter was passed unanimously.
I should now like to touch on the basic elements of the bill.
Bill C-11 is important, both for its content and for the democratic process
by which it has been developed. If passed, Bill C-11 will give Canada one of the
world's strongest legislative frameworks in support of ethical conduct in the
federal public sector. It will help build a public service climate in which
employees can honestly and openly raise concerns about potential wrongdoing
without fear or threat of reprisal. It will encourage public servants to
disclose possible wrongdoing, but it will also ensure a fair process for those
against whom allegations are made.
It is crucial that people understand that the protection of whistle-blowers
does not work if complaints are not made in good faith. A complaint may be
founded on erroneous facts, and that is all very well but, if a complaint is
made for mischievous, malicious or defamatory reasons, then the protections
outlined in the bill are not guaranteed, nor should they be. It is important
that what we do has balance.
The bill before is the outcome of open and vigorous public debate. As I
mentioned, there was a great deal of input from all the parties.
Let us go through some of the features of this bill. First, it applies not
just to the core public service but to the entire federal public sector,
including departments, separate federal agencies and Crown corporations. It
applies equally to members of the RCMP. I might point out that that amendment
was moved by a Conservative member and seconded by a Liberal member. It is fair
to say that this is one instance when members put aside partisan differences.
Organizations excluded from specific application — the Communications
Security Establishment, CSIS and the Canadian Forces — are not completely exempt
from the provisions of the bill. Each of these organizations must establish its
own disclosure and reprisal protection regimes similar to those set out in this
bill and satisfy Treasury Board that it has done so.
Second, the bill defines wrongdoing broadly, to include activity in or
relating to the public sector. It is not restricted to activities carried out by
public servants. Wrongdoings include any violation of the law, any misuse of
public funds, gross mismanagement, a danger to the life, health or safety of
Canadians or the environment, and a serious breach of a code of conduct.
Furthermore, any reprisal — and this is most important — taken as a result of a
disclosure is also considered to be an act of wrongdoing. This is one of several
important protections contained in the bill for those who would make a
disclosure, protections that I will now discuss in detail.
Third, the bill allows for the disclosure of information about a possible
wrongdoing. In other words, public servants do not require absolute certainty
about whether or not a wrongdoing has occurred or is about to occur before
making a disclosure. I would again point out, though, that this is assuming that
they are doing so in good faith because, if they are not doing so in good faith,
they do not have that protection.
Fourth, while the proposed legislation is aimed at public servants, the
public sector integrity commissioner will have the discretion to commence an
investigation as a result of information received from a person other than a
public servant. If information comes into his or her hands, an investigation can
This brings me to one of the key features of the bill, one about which
honourable senators may have already heard. This is, of course, the proposed
establishment of a new public sector integrity commissioner as the neutral third
party to receive disclosures. I do not think that provision was contained in the
bill sponsored by Senator Kinsella He was unable to include that provision since
it such an appointment would have required Royal Consent.
Of course, Senator Kinsella's can speak for himself, but I believe that he
will agree that the end result of the process we embarked upon is a satisfactory
one, in that we now have a provision which will provide for the appointment of a
public sector integrity commissioner.
The public sector integrity commissioner would receive, investigate and
report on disclosures of wrongdoing in the federal public sector. The
commissioner would exercise investigative and other powers equivalent to those
of other officers, such as the Information and Privacy Commissions and the
Auditor General. He or she — and I cannot resist pointing out that some of the
original draft notes referred to "she", which, I am sure was not a slip of the
pen — would report directly to Parliament on an annual basis and could also make
a report to Parliament where an issue warrants a special report, that is, if an
issue arises must be dealt with in a timely fashion.
While the establishment of an independent officer of Parliament for
disclosures is an important part of the bill, if the legislation is to work,
public servants must feel confident that they will not face reprisal for making
A key challenge with this type of legislation is determining the appropriate
balance between openness and transparency and the protection of persons who make
disclosures. Over the past few months, this issue has been the subject of much
debate. Refinements have been made to the bill to achieve the correct balance. I
believe this bill has succeeded by providing for release of records relating to
disclosures under access to information legislation within a reasonable time
frame, namely five years, but in the shorter term, protecting the
confidentiality of the disclosure and investigation process and the identities
of persons involved in the disclosure process so that they will feel safe and
have the confidence to make disclosures.
Bill C-11 includes strong confidentiality and reprisal protections for public
servants who make disclosures. First, employees are free to choose between
whether they make disclosures within their own organization or to the public
sector integrity commissioner. They have a choice. Second, the identity of a
person making a disclosure must be protected to the extent possible. Third, if,
despite best efforts, the identity of a discloser should become known, the bill
allows for the temporary reassignment of employees involved in the disclosure
process, should there be concerns about possible reprisals.
Should employees believe they have suffered reprisal in spite of the above
measures, they could then make a reprisal complaint to labour boards that have
the authority to remedy the situation, including the payment of compensation.
They also have a reasonable time frame in which to make such complaints to the
boards. All these provisions are aimed at giving public servants more confidence
to come forward.
I would also like to clarify a few points that have been raised in public and
parliamentary debate. I would like to underline again unequivocally that public
servants can go directly to the commissioner with their disclosure of
wrongdoing. As I have said, they also have the option of using an internal
mechanism if public servants prefer to raise that issue within their own
I also stress that this legislation is intended to help prevent wrongdoing
from occurring in the first place and to address the situations of wrongdoing or
potential wrongdoing as quickly and as expeditiously as possible. I think this
bill is all about establishing a culture.
For example, the purpose of the commissioner's investigations under this
proposed act, Bill C-11, is to bring the existence of wrongdoing to the
attention of chief executives and to make recommendations so that corrective
measures can be taken by the chief executives who are responsible for managing
Regarding the argument that this bill is not strong enough, it is important
to note that if the commissioner is not satisfied with a chief executive's
response to his or her recommendations, the commissioner can elevate the matter
to the minister or the governing council of a Crown corporation. As I said
earlier, the commissioner can also make a special report to Parliament, if
necessary, apart from their annual report. This process does not in any way mean
that there are no punishments or consequences to wrongdoing.
In addition to all existing legal sanctions or breaches of any acts or
regulations, all current administrative sanctions available through the regular
disciplinary process can apply to public servants up to and including dismissal.
Some have also called for rewards to persons who make disclosures of
wrongdoing, and they have pointed to the U.S. system as an example. There has
been talk about this, but it is a myth that public servants in the United States
are rewarded financially for whistle-blowing. I will repeat the word "myth."
No such awards are provided by the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Citizens may sue on behalf of the government, individuals or corporations for
defrauding government, and they may retain a portion of the proceeds under the
False Claims Act. U.S. public servants do not receive financial rewards for
whistle-blowing. I think we in Canada do not want to go down this road.
Honourable senators, it would be contrary to our values to do so.
While one should never suffer for trying in good faith to protect the
integrity of public sector institutions, neither do we want to live in a society
that must provide financial incentives for people to do the right thing.
This brings me to the larger overall purpose of the Bill C-11: Building a
positive environment for the demonstration of public service values. The goal is
a public sector environment that promotes and supports positive behaviour and
sets those behaviours as the norm; an environment in which employees are
comfortable talking about problems and supervisors are comfortable dealing with
them before they grow into a major situation.
That is why the bill requires the minister responsible for the Public Service
Human Resources Management Agency of Canada to promote ethical practices in the
public sector and a positive environment for disclosing wrongdoing. It is why
the bill also commits the government to establishing a charter of values of
public service setting out the values that should guide public servants in their
work and professional conduct.
Finally, it is why the Treasury Board must establish a code of conduct for
the public sector and why heads of public sector organizations must also
establish codes of conduct specific to their organizations and in keeping with
the Treasury Board code.
These are the main features of the proposed Public Servants Disclosure
Protection Act. The bill sets out a broad regime for the disclosure of
wrongdoing, a regime broad enough to meet every potential situation that could
arise. The bill is underpinned by strong protections and other provisions to
encourage public servants to report potential wrongdoing, and it is set into a
legislative framework that supports these strong values of service, integrity
and honesty that hundreds of thousands of Canadians have demonstrated as public
servants since this country was born.
The origins of Bill C-11 date back to 2003. It is an evolution of a previous
disclosure bill that received much input, committee work and debate in the other
place but did not progress through Parliament due to the election call in the
spring of 2004. That previous bill was, of course, Bill C-25.
The bill was revised to take into account the input received during its
sojourn in the other place and was reintroduced there in October 2004.
I also want to underline to honourable senators that if and when this bill is
passed, our involvement in the disclosure legislation will not end. We will have
the opportunity and the responsibility to keep tabs on how the legislation is
For example, as I said a moment ago, the bill requires the Treasury Board to
establish, in consultation with employee unions and bargaining agents, a code of
conduct for the public sector. The importance of this code cannot be
underestimated. A serious breach of the code is considered a serious wrongdoing
under the proposed act. Once the code is developed, parliamentarians will have
an opportunity to review it, as it will be tabled in each House for at least 30
days before it comes into force.
In addition, if the bill passes, a public sector integrity commissioner will
need to be selected and appointed. The appointment will be approved in both
Houses — I repeat that phrase, in both Houses — thus giving us a participatory
role in the process of selecting the right candidate for this important
Of course, as an Officer of Parliament, the proposed new commissioner will
not be accountable to a minister but will report directly to us here in
Parliament. The commissioner will report annually to Parliament and, as I have
said before, will be free to make special reports when appropriate.
Finally, Bill C-11 also requires a review of the proposed act five years
after its implementation. That requirement is built in. This review will allow
Parliament to assess how well the legislation is functioning, whether it has had
unintended consequences and whether any changes need to be made.
In conclusion, if and when this bill passes, we in this house will still have
an important role to ensure that it is implemented well. We will have a
responsibility to ensure that it lives up to its potential to help restore the
confidence of Canadians in their public institutions by making public sector
management more open and accountable.
Honourable senators, Bill C-11 is about setting aside partisan differences.
All four parties obviously were able to do that in the house, which was
refreshing to see. Bill C-11 is also about getting down to the tough but
rewarding job of working collaboratively and creating the best possible
legislation for Canadians.
Bill C-11 is even more about valuing the important role that the public
service plays in our democratic institutions. It is about creating a public
sector climate — I like the word culture — that allows and encourages the vast
majority of honest and committed public servants to continue to be the best that
they can be in the service of government and Canadians.
The Hon. the Speaker: Will you take a question, Senator Smith?
Senator Smith: Yes.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): First and foremost,
honourable senators, I wish to congratulate Senator Smith for his explication of
the principle that is contained in Bill C-11. This chamber is familiar with the
file, having examined it in principle. The Standing Senate Committee on National
Finance has also examined the Bill C-11 in great deal and heard witnesses on a
couple of other whistle-blowing bills before us. I appreciate the progress that
has been made, and I am sure that the work of all honourable senators has helped
move this proposed legislation, under various drafts, to the stage it is at now.
Senator Smith did allow that the bill was not perfect in that there may be
some flaws. As senators, our business is to determine if proposed legislation is
flawed and to suggest amendments to correct those flaws.
Senator Smith has a wealth of experience and knowledge of parliamentarians,
and I am sure he will recall the red book promise of 1993 and the correspondence
of his leader at the time. Why does he think it has taken all these years to
pass a bill through the House of Commons on whistle-blowing when a commitment or
a promise was made by then Liberal leader Mr. Chrétien that that would be one of
the first bills introduced by his party if they formed the government back in
the early 1990s? As a historian, I am curious about why has it taken so long.
Senator Smith: Honourable senators, I am certain that question was
asked objectively and in good faith, so I will try to answer it objectively and
in good faith. The answer is: I do not know.
Senator Di Nino: An honest answer. That is good.
Senator Smith: I suppose on any given day there were, perhaps, more
pressing issues. Yes, I admit that it would have been better if it had been
dealt with earlier. I also believe that Senator Kinsella's private bill helped
to develop a receptive consensus on the Hill that it was time to move on this
issue. When it was voted on in the Commons — and I spent quite a bit of time on
that today — it did receive unanimous consent. That is a pretty high threshold
to achieve. However, I admit it probably took them too long.
Senator Kinsella: My second question to Senator Smith is this: The
honourable senator accurately traced the debate, and I must confess that I did
not follow it every day in the House of Commons or in the committee of that
House. As described, a large number of amendments were put forward, many of
which were proposed by colleagues in my own party in the other place. Therefore,
in a sense, the bill that comes from the other place is a consensus bill.
After a large number of witnesses appeared before the House of Commons
committee, amendments were proposed. Many of those witnesses probably would not
recognize the present bill as the bill that they spoke to when they appeared
before the committee. Am I correct in reading the record from the other place
that those witnesses — many of them are to use the terminology of the town,
particular stakeholders — have not had a chance to comment on Bill C-11 as it
has been sent to us from the other place?
Senator Smith: Honourable senators, I would have to go through the
list thoroughly to give an accurate response to that question. I believe, in
some instances, the same witnesses spoke to both Bill C-25 and then, after the
election, Bill C-11.
To go back to the honourable senator's earlier question, I cannot resist
observing that this is a opportunity for this institution to show how we can do
the right thing expeditiously without abandoning due diligence.
Senator Kinsella: This brings me to what I consider to be a terribly
important point and, hopefully, a point upon which we will have agreement in
this house. Those many witnesses have loads of experience to share on this whole
area of whistle-blowing, including the experience of individuals who were
victimized by retaliation when they courageously blew the whistle on apprehended
wrongdoing. Senators in our committee will carefully study the bill, in the
course of which we will hear from those witnesses. We will not be rushed in our
study of this bill. We will conclude a serious study. In particular, we will
hear from those many witnesses who have not had the opportunity to express their
views to Parliament on the bill as it is now before this chamber. The bill was
amended significantly during the committee process in the other place.
Does the honourable senator know whether a draft document dealing with
Charter issues as they may affect public servants has been prepared and, if so,
has he seen such a document?
Senator Smith: I understand there has been a great deal of discussion
on this subject, but I have not seen such a document.
I agree with the honourable senator's earlier comments. I also believe that
most senators would hope that this bill would be passed before we go to the
polls. If we put our shoulders to the wheel, we can make that happen, with due
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I am pleased to
participate briefly by asking a question. As every senator should, I listened
attentively to the honourable senator's comments. When the bill is being dealt
with in committee I will give careful consideration to the exception in the
bill. Would the honourable senator care to comment on that exception?
Senator Smith and I have known each other for a long time. We knew each other
45 years ago as young Liberals, as well as Senator Grafstein and a few others.
We are still here.
CSIS and the RCMP have been excluded from the provisions of this bill.
However, they will have to establish disclosure and reprisal protection regimes
which satisfy the Treasury Board. I am not one of those who trembles in his
shoes at the thought of touching CSIS and the RCMP, having dealt with both at
different times. However, I should like to be sure of what we are proposing to
do. I will attend the meetings of the committee that will be studying this bill
to learn why these organizations are excluded. Will the response of Treasury
Board simply be say that they are satisfied because the RCMP and CSIS have
assured them that whistle-blowers will not be punished? If there is a place
where whistle-blowing is prevalent these days, it is CSIS. Yet, they are
excluded from the provisions of this bill.
Senator Smith: Originally, the RCMP was not to be excluded but, as the
result of an amendment proposed by a Conservative and supported by a Liberal in
the other place, the RCMP is now included. The organizations excluded are the
Communications Security Establishment, CSIS and the Canadian Armed Forces. They
are obliged to establish their own disclosure and reprisal protection consistent
with the requirements of Treasury Board. The RCMP are included. I am sure the
honourable is familiar with the mindset of the military and the security
establishments. They will have to come up with their own compatible systems.
Senator Prud'homme: Because of their mindset, I think we should look
into that when it goes to committee.
Hon. Serge Joyal: May I ask an additional question?
Senator Spivak: I would like to adjourn the debate and speak on it
Senator Joyal: The honourable senator has referred in his presentation
of the bill to the fact that the public sector integrity commissioner would be
an officer of Parliament. If I remember correctly, he used that term.
In reading the bill quickly — and I thank Senator Robichaud for having given
me a copy — at sections 38 and 39, there seems to be a confusion on the concept
of "officer of Parliament." I will explain my point.
The honourable senator will remember well when we adopted the bill recently
establishing a Senate Ethics Officer, it was clearly stated in the bill that the
SEO was an officer of Parliament. Not only that, he was exercising his
responsibility within the institution of the Senate and, moreover, he enjoyed
the privilege of the Senate and the senators individually. To me, that bill is
clear. There is no question or any doubt in my mind that the SEO is an officer
of Parliament, meaning the SEO is an extension of the Senate. The SEO exercises
a power of the Senate and the power is the disciplinary power that the Supreme
Court has recognized as being a power of this chamber. It is within this chamber
that the SEO exercises his or her role and responsibility.
When the honourable senator uses the same expression, "officer of
Parliament," in relation to the public sector integrity commissioner, I
recognize that the integrity commissioner is appointed after the approval of
appointment by resolution of the Senate and the House of Commons in section
39(1). I recognize, at section 38(5), that the integrity commissioner tables a
report to Parliament each year, to the Honourable Speaker. However, when you
read the other sections of the bill — section 39(1), the commissioner has the
rank and all the powers of a deputy head of a department; and 39.2(3), the
commissioner is deemed to be employed in the public service for the purpose of
the Public Service Superannuation Act — It seems there are two kinds of
references at the same time.
The honourable senator concludes in his presentation that the new
commissioner is an officer of Parliament, so we have to see him or her as an
extension of the Senate's power. The new commissioner exercises the Senate's
power, probably with the protection that entails; but at the same time, the
commissioner seems to be a position within the public administration, which
means not the Senate but the administration. It might seem arcane as a
distinction, but it is important for the duty that the person will have to
perform on behalf of the Senate, if the commissioner is to be an officer of
When he or she performs his or her duties according to the act, the way that
the act defines those duties is that the commissioner is acting on behalf of the
Senate and not on behalf of the administration. There is a slight distinction
between the two, honourable senators. I know you might not want to answer in
detail, but I think the committee will have to look into that. We really need to
understand what that position means in terms of its independence with the
administration versus the commissioner's responsibility, which is the
responsibility of the Senate, to make sure that the Senate can protect somebody
in the administration that might be the object of recourse by his or her
superiors in the performance of his duties, and his responsibility to report
I think there is a slight difference between the two, but I do not see that
difference in the bill unless I have not read it correctly. There is a little
Senator Smith: That is a precise question, which probably warrants a
I understand what the honourable senator is getting at. I do not think
establishing the rank officers of Parliament are equal to is incompatible with
the officer of Parliament designation. I believe the SEO has a similar rank, so
there is certainly a pattern there. Of course, officers of Parliament can also
be removed by joint address.
These questions are legalistic, but of serious importance. I am sure they
will be addressed at committee and I welcome that.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I was listening to the debate
with some interest. I have done a fair amount of research on the history of
officers of Parliament and I have discovered that the constitutional creature
called an officer of Parliament, is a novel animal and one that was quite
The literature is replete with officers of the House of Commons and officers
of the Senate. For example, our clerk, Mr. Bélisle, is an officer of the Senate;
and with due respect to Senator Joyal, I believe our Senate Ethics Officer is an
officer of the Senate. He is not an officer of Parliament only of the Senate.
I want to make the point because I take Senator Joyal's point well — that the
Senate committee has to give this matter ample study and consideration to
satisfy itself that the appropriate constitutional tool is being used to
constitute the position that is required. I urge the committee members — I do
not see the chairman here at the moment — to study this particular point
I believe that when we were studying a bill or some other issue some years
ago, we had a witness before us — I think his name was Professor Smith — who
reported in his testimony that he could find very little on the officers of
Parliament. I believe that the term "officer of Parliament" makes its entry
into Canadian constitutional history — I am not sure, I would have to look this
up — with the creation of the new Auditor General Act, many years ago following
that whole crisis with Auditor General James MacDonnell and the subsequent
creation of the new Auditor General Act.
I am not totally convinced that this is an appropriate or a desirable
constitutional instrument to use for this so-called whistle-blower act. It may
well be that the committee investigation and study may convince me that it is a
desirable way to proceed. However, I am making the point to emphasize the
constitutional importance of this position.
It is not my way to use the slang, "whistle-blowers." However, we must be
sure that we are proceeding in a proper way; otherwise, we will end up with
another creature that will be a novel constitutional creature, unknown to the
Constitution. It will undoubtedly present a host of problems and mischief that
none of us are yet able to contemplate or even consider.
My question to the honourable senator has to do with precisely the point I
raised, bearing in mind the brevity of the constitutional existence of these
officers of Parliament. Perhaps the honourable senator could tell this house why
it was determined that an officer of Parliament could fulfill the particular
task intended in the bill.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I advise Senator Smith that
his time has expired. Does the honourable senator wish leave to continue?
Senator Smith: Yes, I am happy to attempt to answer the question of
the Honourable Senator Cools.
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): This side agrees
to leave to continue for five minutes.
Senator Smith: It is my understanding that the other place chose an
officer of Parliament because they determined that the role and function should
be carried out by someone who reported to Parliament rather than to the
administration only. I agree with that logic. I would confirm that the witness
to which Senator Cools referred is the distinguished Professor David Smith from
the University of Saskatchewan.
Senator Cools: It seems to be a little known fact that the Queen is
the head of Parliament. Parliament has no power to create its own officers. This
is one of the reasons I raise this oddity. It is a characteristic of each house
of Parliament that its officers are appointed under the Royal Prerogative of Her
Majesty the Queen. The House of Commons and the Senate have no power to create
or appoint their own officers or their clerks or law officers, so I do not
understand how Parliament can expect to do this. I have done much research and
would appreciate help on the issue. Is the Honourable Senator Smith aware
whether the government side, in proposing this legislation, contemplated any of
these thorny constitutional questions? I understand that the government has a
way of saying "it is so" and, therefore, the law is whatever the government
says it is. Frequently I disagree with that view. Did the government contemplate
the thorny issue of creating such an officer of Parliament to work in this kind
Senator Smith: The short answer is, yes, government did contemplate
the issue. I might give Senator Cools comfort by saying that I believe in and
support the monarchy system, but if it were to put government in a straitjacket
such that it could never do anything, then I might have to rethink that. I do
not think that it does put us in such a straitjacket. When an approach
represents good public policy and there is a will, then there is a way. I
believe those in the other House have found an appropriate way.
Senator Cools: I understand that the honourable senator has his
beliefs, which he has articulated, but I believe that the law is greater than
beliefs. What is the constitutional authority for bringing forth this position
as an officer of Parliament?
Senator Smith: Those matters are studied quite thoroughly by the
appropriate authorities in the Privy Council, in whose qualifications you might
not have great comfort. However, they are quite sensitized to the issues raised
by the honourable senator. The approach spelled out in the bill is appropriate
for putting sound public policy in place.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer moved second reading of Bill C-49, to amend
the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).
She said: Honourable senators, it is with great pleasure but also with some
sadness that I rise today to speak in strong support of Bill C-49, to amend the
Criminal Code in respect of trafficking in persons. I am very happy that
Canadians are taking the necessary steps to stop the heinous crime of human
trafficking, but I am very sad that these kinds of deplorable acts happen
anywhere in the world, let alone right here within our borders.
Honourable senators, last week I was Abuja, Nigeria, where I met with
officials of the Nigerian National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in
Persons, NAPTIP. I also met with nine girls from the ages of 12 to 15 who had, a
few days ago, been rescued in a bus station. These girls were with a woman — in
Nigeria they call them "Madams" — who was preparing to traffic them as house
girls in Lagos and later, when they were a little older, as sex objects in
Italy. All these girls were in school, but their parents had sold them to a
While talking to the girls, I really bonded with a young 12-year-old who was
so innocent. There are many girls like her who will not be rescued. I am so
privileged to speak in support of Bill C-49 because it is for girls like my
little friend in Nigeria.
Honourable senators, Bill C-49 is important not only because it proposes new
protections against human trafficking but also because of what it represents at
It is a reflection of Canadian ideals and values in that it seeks to protect
against criminal violations of fundamental human rights. It is a reflection of
the Government's commitment to these fundamental values. It is a realization of
the Government's Speech from the Throne commitment to introduce criminal law
reforms to better protect against human trafficking.
To understand how important this bill is, honourable senators must understand
the devastating consequences that human trafficking has on people. I will read a
human trafficking experience from the U.S. 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report of
a woman called Neary.
Neary grew up in rural Cambodia. Her parents died when she was a child,
and, in an effort to give her a better life, her sister married her off when
she was 17. Three months later, they went to visit a fishing village. Her
husband rented a room in what Neary thought was a guest house. But when she
woke the next morning, her husband was gone. The owner of the house told her
she had been sold by her husband for $300 and that she was actually in a
For five years, Neary was raped by five to seven men every day. In addition
to brutal physical and sexual abuse, Neary was infected with HIV and
contracted AIDS. The brothel threw her out when she became sick, and she
eventually found her way to a local shelter. She died of HIV/ AIDS at the age
Neary was a victim of human trafficking. Although she was from Cambodia, she
could just as easily have been from anywhere else in the world, including
Canada. Bill C-49 is for people like Neary, my young Nigerian friend, and many
This is a bill about people. It is about protecting the fundamental values of
human security and human dignity that we value as Canadians. On third reading
debate on this bill in the House of Commons, the Minister of Justice said:
...the true measure of a society's commitment to the principles of equality
and human dignity is taken by the way it protects its most vulnerable members.
This is what Bill C-49 is all about. It is about more clearly recognizing and
denouncing human trafficking as the persistent and pervasive assault on human
rights that it is.
These are the basic principles that serve as a starting point in discussing
Sadly, human trafficking is not new. Throughout history, people have been
bought and sold, traded as though they were commodities in flagrant violation of
their worth as individuals and for the sole benefit of those who would seek to
Today's human trafficking has many parallels to these historical experiences
which explain why it is often described as the "contemporary global slave
While countries around the world continue to struggle to fully understand the
pervasiveness of this clandestine activity, what we do know is staggering and
In a report released in May 2005, the International Labour Organization
estimated that at any given time a minimum of 2.45-million people are in
situations of forced labour as a result of human trafficking. The United Nations
has suggested that each year as many as 700,000 persons are trafficked across
international borders. Similarly, the United States, in their annual report on
trafficking in persons, has placed the number between 600,000 and 800,000
When we hear numbers in the millions, it is difficult for us to remember that
each one represents a real life. Who are these trafficking victims? They are the
marginalized and the disenfranchised — the most vulnerable persons in our
This is a crime that disproportionately affects women and children. They are
the ones who routinely face the greatest legal, social, economic and political
inequality around the world. Human trafficking is very much a crime that
exploits inequity and is fuelled by the greed of its perpetrators.
Human trafficking exists in as many forms as its perpetrators can devise. The
International Labour Organization estimates that 43 per cent of all labour
extracted as a result of human trafficking involves commercial sexual
exploitation, that 32 per cent involves economic exploitation, and that the
remaining 25 per cent of persons trafficked into forced labour are subjected to
both economical and commercial sexual exploitation or are trafficked for
purposes that cannot be determined.
Those who are exploited in the sex industry are forced to provide sexual
services in massage parlours, brothels or on the street. This area of forced
labour is especially pronounced in industrialized countries where the sex
industry is big business, exceeding $12 billion a year.
Demand is at its greatest in the industrialized world. The ILO estimates that
as much as 72 per cent of forced labour in industrialized countries is sexual
Honourable senators, I recently spoke at a conference on human trafficking
held by the European Women's Lobby in London, England. They focused on the
demand side of trafficking and were preoccupied with the way in which major
sports and cultural events within the industrialized world have fuelled the
trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation in the industrial world.
For instance, next year, when Germany hosts the World Cup of Soccer in 2006,
it is estimated that there will be an influx of 30,000 to 40,000 women in
prostitution to the city of Cologne during a four-week period. An increase of
this magnitude would almost certainly require women who have been trafficked.
Economic exploitation can include forced labour as a domestic worker in a
private household or in the agricultural, construction, garment and food
processing industries. It can also include forced begging or involvement in
illicit activities such as couriering drugs.
In addition, the forms of labour and services which are extracted will vary
depending on where in the world the person has been trafficked.
So, for example, forced labour involving commercial sexual exploitation is
more prevalent in industrialized countries than it is in transition or
developing economies where forced labour for economic exploitation is more
As well, in some parts of the world children are at risk of being trafficked
as child soldiers. One need only think of the terrible practices of such groups
as the Lord's Resistance Army, which operates in Northern Uganda and abducts
children, forcing them to serve in their rebel army, to realize how far reaching
the negative consequences of this crime are.
I met with some of the children who were abducted in Northern Uganda and
later placed in detention centres in Gulu. The hardship to which they have been
subjected is unimaginable. They have been brainwashed into harming their own
families. They have cut off the lips or ears of their mothers and sisters.
Today, they are in detention centres, as even their mothers and parents do not
want them to return home.
Women and children are most often victims of this crime. It has been
estimated that half of all victims of human trafficking are children — as many
as 400,000 each year. The ILO report estimates that 98 per cent of those forced
into commercial sexual exploitation are women and girls. Children who should be
in schools and playing with their friends are instead subjected to terrible
crimes that we can hardly comprehend. Women and girls also comprise 56 per cent
of those forced into economic exploitation.
In a country that prides itself on its efforts to protect the vulnerable,
these statistics are a clarion call to action. I believe, honourable senators,
that Bill C-49 clearly answers that call and reflects the government's
commitment to protecting the vulnerable.
Bill C-49 proposes to amend the Criminal Code to create three new indictable
offences to better protect against human trafficking.
These new offences will more clearly define and denounce this criminal
conduct and they will impose increased accountability on those who seek to
perpetrate this crime.
Although it is our Canadian values that demand that we respond to human
trafficking, we must always remember that Canada does not exist in a bubble.
Canada is part of the international effort to combat human trafficking, of which
Bill C-49 represents a significant part.
In particular, Bill C-49 is consistent with the comprehensive international
framework in the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish
Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Canada was one of the
first countries to ratify the trafficking protocol, having done so in May 2002.
Bill C-49 will enable Canada to remain among those countries that continue to
demonstrate international leadership in the fight against this terrible crime.
Bill C-49's proposed main offence of trafficking in persons would
specifically prohibit anyone from engaging in specified acts, including
recruiting, transporting, harbouring or controlling the movements of another
person for the purposes of exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of that
person. This offence would carry a strong penalty of life imprisonment where the
offence involves kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault or
the death of a victim. In all other cases, the penalty would be imprisonment for
In addition to the main offence, Bill C-49 proposes the creation of a second
indictable offence to deter those who would profit from the exploitation of
others. This offence would specifically prohibit anyone from receiving a
financial or material benefit knowing that it results from the trafficking of
another person. This new offence would carry a maximum penalty of 10 years
It is very important that we include this offence. It addresses several key
elements of human trafficking that may not be as obvious as those in the main
offence but without which trafficking in persons would not be as widespread as
it is now.
First, it enables law enforcement to better target those who would benefit
from the crime of human trafficking even where they do not engage in the
physical acts involved with trafficking.
Second, it goes to one of the main reasons that trafficking not only
persists, but also that it is growing; namely, it is a major revenue generator.
Indeed, recent international estimates put the profits from this activity in the
billions of dollars, placing it among the top three money-makers for organized
The final new offence proposed by Bill C-49 is also important because it
addresses behaviour that is known to help perpetuate the crime of human
trafficking. Traffickers often withhold or destroy the personal documents of
their victims such as passports, visas and other identification. This is just
another way in which the lives of victims are controlled and dominated by those
who engage in this heinous crime.
The third office proposed by Bill C-49 would prohibit the withholding or
destroying of travel or identity documents in order to commit or facilitate the
trafficking of persons. This new offence would carry a maximum penalty of
imprisonment for five years.
The offences proposed by Bill C-49 are an attempt to strike at the very root
of human trafficking and the reason that it is so sickening — the exploitation
of its victims. Perhaps more than anything else exploitation is at the heart of
this criminal conduct. While it may be part of what we are talking about, human
trafficking is more than just recruiting and moving individuals unlawfully; it
is really all about engaging in that conduct for the purpose of exploiting the
victim. It is exploitation from which those involved in human trafficking draw
their profits, and it is exploitation of the victim that makes it such a
To paraphrase the work of the European Union's Experts Group of Trafficking
in Human Beings, it is the forced aspect of labour or services, including forced
prostitution, which is the key element to the definition of trafficking as
reflected in the trafficking protocol. I would say it is the key element of Bill
C-49, and that, in my opinion, is especially welcomed.
"Exploitation" is defined in Bill C-49 to mean causing another person to
provide or offer to provide labour or services by engaging in conduct that can
reasonably be expected to cause that person to fear for their safety or someone
known to them if they fail to provide labour or services. It also includes
causing them, by means of deception or the use of threat of force or any other
form of coercion, to have an organ or a tissue removed. This definition is
broad, and rightly so, because we know that human trafficking can take many
The proposed new offences would carry significant penalties — penalties that
are not only consistent with the Criminal Code itself but that are also
consistent with those enacted by other countries as part of their
Human trafficking is, after all, a global program. As César Chelala, an
international public health consultant, noted in yesterday's Globe and Mail:
Every year, thousands of Vietnamese women and girls are transported to
China. Most are made to believe they will find good jobs and marriage
prospects there. Once they reach China, however, many end up as beggars,
forced labourers or prostitutes.
It is worth pausing again to note that Bill C-49 will not operate in a
vacuum; it must be seen as part of a larger legislative framework that Canada
has in place to protect persons from exploitation. For instance, in 2002, a
specific trafficking in persons offence was created in the Immigration and
Refugee Protection Act, or IRPA. This offence addresses human trafficking that
involves organized, illegal cross-border entry of persons into Canada. The first
charges under the IRPA trafficking in persons offence were laid in April of this
year by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police against a Vancouver massage parlour
Existing Criminal Code offences are also being used to address various acts
often related to human trafficking, such as kidnapping, assault, sexual assault
and offences involving organized crime. Bill C-49 supplements these provisions,
ensuring that the various ways in which these crimes can be committed are
properly addressed including, most notably, trafficking that occurs wholly
within our borders.
In other words, Bill C-49 will provide police and prosecutors with welcome
new tools to ensure that no matter what form human trafficking takes or for what
purpose human trafficking occurs in Canada, our laws can fully and properly
address this criminal conduct.
Human trafficking victims will also be able to benefit from other recent
criminal law reforms. Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of
children and other vulnerable persons), received Royal Assent on July 20, 2005.
It will be proclaimed into force on a date to be determined. This bill enacted
criminal law reforms that seek to make the criminal justice process more
sensitive to the realities of vulnerable victims.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (The Hon. the Acting Speaker): Honourable
Senator Jaffer, I regret having to interrupt you, but the Blackberry mobile
devices seem to be interfering with the sound system. I ask therefore that those
senators currently using them to turn them off so that we can better hear the
Honourable Senator Jaffer.
Senator Jaffer: As a result, trafficking victims may now be able to
provide their testimony with the assistance of testimonial aids such as screens,
closed-circuit televisions or with the assistance of support people.
Honourable senators, Bill C-49 is an important part of Canada's on-going
efforts to combat human trafficking. Having said that, we know that legislative
reforms alone cannot fully address the scourge that we know human trafficking to
That is why I am pleased to know that Bill C-49 is part of a broader Canadian
initiative to prevent trafficking, to protect its victims and to prosecute the
offenders. The Minister of Justice has referred to this approach as the three Ps
— prevent, protect and prosecute — dovetails with the international community's
response to this crime.
The government has undertaken measures in support of the three Ps, including
increasing public awareness through a website, posters and a pamphlet that is
available in 14 languages and that has been widely distributed within Canada and
abroad, through Canadian embassies, to warn persons who may be vulnerable to
this form of criminal conduct.
The government has also supported public forums and professional training for
law enforcement, again with a view to raising public and professional awareness
of and responses to human trafficking.
I understand that the ongoing federal efforts to combat human trafficking
continue to be coordinated by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking
in Persons, which is co-chaired by the Departments of Justice and Foreign
Affairs and is currently developing a federal anti-trafficking strategy.
In summary, I urge all honourable senators to support this bill. It will
clearly and strongly denounce this crime, it will provide increased protection
to vulnerable persons and it will increase accountability for those who engage
Honourable senators, I believe that Bill C-49 affirms the fundamental values
for which Canada is respected the world over. Those values are liberty, equality
and justice. I hope that all honourable senators will join with me and strongly
support the quick passage of this bill into law.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Would Senator Jaffer consent to a
Senator Jaffer: Of course.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I consider this to
be an excellent bill. We, who have been active at the Organization for the
Security and Economic Cooperation in Europe, which includes Canada and the
United States, have been tracking this issue for over five years and we are
delighted that our efforts and the efforts of the United Nations has finally
brought this to fruition in this particular bill.
I have a couple of questions for the honourable senator about the bill to see
whether or not the scope of the bill — not in terms of enforcement but in terms
of protection — is adequate.
As honourable senators know, one problem with trafficking is that the victim
becomes the double victim. Victims are brought into the process — a person, male
or female, mostly female, sometimes with children, sometimes without — are
trafficked from the four corners of the earth and the target market is Europe,
Canada or the United States. Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people are
trafficked through Canada every year. Obviously this bill not only deals with
the international but also the domestic scope.
When a person — a woman in particular who is vulnerable and young — is
dragged into this process, to break loose of this economic pipeline that she has
been injected into, her personal protection is a problem. She is without papers
and the question is this: If she challenges the system and those who put her
into this bondage, into this slave trade, does this bill satisfy her needs in
terms of protecting her, not only as a victim who will blow the whistle, in
effect, but also ensure that she will be fairly treated under our immigration
process once she is here?
Senator Jaffer: When I was at the European Women's Lobby, there was a
lot of talk about the fact that in Europe, North America and Canada sometimes
trafficking and migration are confused. I have had a number of these cases
already. Under the Immigration Act and under our humanitarian and compassionate
category in our immigration legislation we have been able to make a case for the
women who get out of this bondage. However, there is a lot more work we can do.
I am sure this will be explored in the committee. Besides it being explored in
the committee, this is the first stage. It is the foundation. The next stage is,
we must ensure that the women are protected under our immigration system.
Senator Grafstein: I am glad to hear that. I hope the committee will
look at this issue and bring national and international evidence to bear,
because the broad powers will not work if the women or children who are in the
pipeline do not feel that they will be fully and completely protected as
witnesses and in terms of their status. Without that protection, the broad
powers will not work because of the confidentiality and fear that is injected
into these victims.
I hope the government will be open to broaden this bill to provide adequate
protection to those people who are victims. I am satisfied that the learned
senator will make sure that this aspect is fully explored in the committee.
The University of Chicago had a seminar on this subject. It was excellent. I
was one of the speakers there. I would be glad to send the honourable senator a
copy of the speech that dealt with all these issues.
Senator Jaffer: I thank the honourable senator for that submission. It
is not just of women who are trafficked but even, under our immigration bill,
women who are brought here under the live-in care program. Also, women who come
as mail order brides or for arranged marriages sometimes suffer a lot of abuses.
Those are all of the challenges and this will help us look at the next steps.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Would the honourable senator entertain another
Senator Jaffer: Yes.
Senator Joyal: Honourable senators, I was one of those who thought
that the infamous program of the exotic dancers was a shame on Canada's
reputation. It occurs to me that most of those persons were recruited under the
false pretext that they were coming to Canada to work in the hotel and tourism
industries, and of course under the lure of high wages and even the prospect of
getting married and establishing a family on a permanent basis in Canada. It is
one of those horrendous initiatives whereby to meet the need of "labour
markets," Canada was in fact complicit in the sex trade. Once they were in
Canada, it was as if it were no longer anyone's responsibility to assume the
plight of those women.
I hope, honourable senator, that the amendments brought to section 279.01 of
the Criminal Code by this bill has wording broad enough to catch that awful
program in its net. It should never have existed. If no Canadian women want to
fill those jobs, there is a reason: It is because they feel shame in occupying
those positions. Why should a foreign woman be mistreated for doing something
that a Canadian woman does not want to do? They are brought here and left on
their own and they fall into the blackmail of their employers.
I believe, honourable senators, that if Bill C-49 can answer the situation
denounced by Senator Pépin in one of her Senators' Statements a year ago, I
think that this bill must be supported wholeheartedly.
Senator Jaffer: We can learn from that situation and be humbled by
what happened with exotic dancers. That kind of situation happens even in our
country and we should not become complacent in thinking that it only happens
elsewhere in the world.
One challenge women face in coming to our country is the points system we
have, which is unequal. Sometimes the only way women can come into this country
is through such terrible trafficking programs. Once this bill has been given
consent in the future, we will have to look at how our Immigration Act is
unequal when it comes to women.
Hon. Gerard A. Phalen: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in
support of Bill C-49, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in
The Hon. the Speaker: Before I give the floor to Senator Phalen,
because this is the time for the second speech to be made at second reading, the
normal procedure would be to look to the other side because there is a 45-minute
time allocation for the second speech, which is not automatically given. It is
only given to the second speaker. Usually when that happens we make a special
arrangement and someone would rise to adjourn. We would then clarify that by
consent and I could then see Senator Phalen.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, we agreed that we would
allow Senator Phalen to speak on the proviso that Senator Andreychuk's 45
minutes would be preserved.
The Hon. the Speaker: It is agreed that I will go to Senator LeBreton
for the adjournment afterwards.
Senator Phalen: Honourable senators, I would like to start out today
by reciting a few verses of a poem that was published on the Internet by a poet
named Munda, who has visited our glorious country.
Canada, oh Canada
what hast thou done with me
whenever I do close my eyes
my heart is there with thee...
Golden fields of waving grain
whisper a lullaby
the sunset slowly fades
beyond your endless sky
Canada, oh Canada
what hast thou done with me
I feel thou whispers in my
I wish to be with thee...
I see your children playing
out on a frozen pond
at snowball fights and
a magic way beyond
Mem'ries of the days gone by
engraved into my soul
return to you I will some
it's always been my goal
Canada, oh Canada
what hast thou done with me
thou temptress of my craving
I long to be with thee
This poem clearly shows the magnificent Canada that this visitor to our
shores experienced. Unfortunately, not everyone who comes to Canada's shores is
fortunate enough to see our country as such a wonderful place.
I would like now to read you a bit of a story that appeared in Maclean's
magazine. It is one of the many such stories but seems to say it best. This
story is of a young woman who came to Canada from Hungary a number of years ago.
This young woman, university educated but out of work, responded to an
advertisement in a popular Budapest employment magazine. The ad said a Canadian
family was looking for a Hungarian-speaking nanny. "I met with this woman in
Budapest who said her company wanted to hire me," said Terri. "She knew exactly
where to take the conversation. She asked me for information about my life, like
what does my mom do and can we take her address in case of an emergency. I was
very naive and open."
Upon her arrival in Toronto, Terri's job description changed dramatically.
There was no nanny position. Instead, the diminutive redhead was whisked off to
a west-end strip club and asked to perform risqué dances on stage and illegal
acts in the VIP private rooms. Her employers took her passports and work permit
so she could not leave the country and held back her tips and wages, saying she
owed them $1600 a week for securing her employment. A bodyguard escorted Terri
from the club to the hotel room she shared with other Eastern European women.
She was fed nothing but egg salad sandwiches and raped by one of her bosses who
threatened to harm her family in Budapest if she did not comply.
After six weeks of this existence, Terri ran away with the help of a strip
club DJ and now works as a waitress while she waits to testify in court against
one of her former bosses. "Do I live in fear," she asks? "Not anymore. Now I
live with depression. My life has been taken away and I can never get it back."
This young woman, along with hundreds and perhaps thousands of others, has
not experienced the same wonderful Canada as the poet I quoted earlier. That
poem spoke to me because it beautifully describes the wonderful country that I
have been fortunate enough to live in. I am sure Terri does not see this poem
describing Canada the way she experienced it, and that, honourable senators, is
why this legislation is so important.
Bill C-49 is a three-pronged approach to the horrific problem of trafficking
in persons. The United Nations estimates that over 700,000 people, mostly women
and children, are trafficked annually. Bill C-49 would prohibit anyone from
exploiting or facilitating the exploitation of a person and would carry a
maximum penalty of life imprisonment where it involves kidnapping, aggravated
assault, sexual assault or death.
In Canada, there are virtually no reliable statistics on the problem, and the
estimates vary from 800 people annually that the RCMP believe are trafficked
into Canada to estimates from NGOs that up to 16,000 people are trafficked.
Regardless of the numbers, human trafficking starts in countries where people
are desperate for economic opportunities. We as Canadians find it almost
impossible to understand the vulnerability of people in poor and desperate
countries. For instance, up to 400,000 Ukrainian women have been trafficked for
sexual exploitation in the past decade. In the Ivory Coast, a girl can allegedly
be bought as a slave for $7, and a shipment of ten children from Mali for work
on the cocoa plantation costs about $420. Up to 90 per cent of girls in rural
Albania do not go to school for fear of being abducted and sold into sexual
Criminal organizations charge these desperate people thousands of dollars to
bring them into countries like Canada, often with promises of jobs that are not
there. Instead, they get turned over to pimps in massage parlours, where they
are expected to work off their debt. The methods employed by these traffickers
to force victims into compliance range from confinement and beatings to threats
to their families.
In other countries, like Nigeria, traffickers have gone so far as to force
young women to swear oaths to repay debts to witch doctors who take a lock of
their hair or toenail clipping and warn they will die if they break the oath.
Bill C-49 would also prohibit anyone from receiving financial or other
material benefits resulting from the commission of a trafficking offence.
Trafficking in human beings is so profitable that a 1999 report by the RCMP
concluded that smuggling migrants is so lucrative in Canada that rival criminal
gangs set aside their differences to share safe houses, illegal travel documents
and ways of sneaking people into the country.
Smuggling people is more profitable than drugs. According to one UN
immigration official, the situation is as follows:
We're seeing a global transition of organized criminals that deal in drugs
and arms smuggling now turning to this new area of human smuggling. Some say
the illegal immigrant business has become more attractive to syndicates
because the penalties for human smuggling are less severe than those for drug
The recently released United States Trafficking in Persons report says that
according to the FBI human trafficking generates an estimated $9.5 billion in
The third objective of Bill C-49 is to prohibit destroying or withholding
documents such as identification or travel documents for the purpose of
committing or facilitating trafficking.
In almost every case, step one for human traffickers is to withhold
passports, visas or other travel documents. A recent federal intelligence study
obtained by Canadian Press showed 12 per cent of people who arrive in Canada
without proper documents are associated with a smuggler or escort. It is also
interesting to note that in the year 2000, the RCMP seized 966 counterfeit
travel documents with a street value of $13 million.
Honourable senators, Bill C-49 is an excellent step towards punishing those
who would traffic in human beings. The federal government website on trafficking
in persons as well as the distribution in foreign missions and through NGOs
abroad of anti-trafficking pamphlets and posters in up to 17 languages are also
welcome steps in the battle against trafficking.
According to the 2005 U.S. report, the dangers of becoming a trafficking
victim can lead vulnerable groups such as children and young women to go into
hiding, with adverse effects on their schooling and family structure. The loss
of education reduces their future economic opportunities and increases their
vulnerability to be re-trafficked in the future. Victims who are able to return
to their communities often find themselves stigmatized or ostracized. It is a
That is why I believe the battle against this scourge of human trafficking
must also include support for the victim. The RCMP says that only one in 10
victims of trafficking report the crime to the police. Without adequate
processes in place to protect the trafficked victims, Canada will continue to
see a low rate of victims reporting offenders.
Honourable senators, for one moment, put yourselves in the shoes of persons
who have been trafficked into Canada and are being forced to work or prostitute
themselves: They do not speak the language; their level of education may be
almost non-existent; they have no family or social support structure; they may
be physically or mentally abused; their loved ones back home are threatened;
and, they have been told that they will be deported if they report to the
authorities. These poor souls probably even do not know how to take the local
bus, yet our legal system counts on them reporting their traffickers.
Honourable senators, we need a victim-centred approach to the problem.
Ironically, women who have been charged criminally for illegal immigration or
prostitution are not eligible for refugee status in Canada.
It is my hope that our government will continue the good work of Bill C-49 by
introducing a bill which contains provisions similar to those contained in the
U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act. That act enables victims of trafficking
who cooperate with law enforcement efforts to prosecute traffickers to apply for
special victim visas and therefore receive refugee benefits including medical
coverage, employment programs, cash assistance, counselling and legal
Honourable senators, I encourage you to support Bill C-49 and to continue the
fight against human trafficking.
On motion of Senator Andreychuk, debate adjourned.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved second reading of Bill S-42, to
amend the Food and Drugs Act (clean drinking water).—(Honourable Senator
He said: Honourable senators, here we go again. Just over four years ago,
Canadians awoke one morning to discover a wave of tragic events cascading across
Canada, first in Walkerton, Ontario; then North Battleford, Saskatchewan; and
then Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Clean drinking water became a national
hot button item. Suddenly, the national media woke up and began to report local
water advisories sprouting up in every region of the country, from Quebec to
Newfoundland, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Aboriginal
communities across the North and across Canada. Every region of Canada was
affected. How could this be?
We were taught in school that Canada inherited and possessed the world's
greatest supply of clear, fresh drinking water. Yet, we discovered that Canada's
capacious fresh water, this precious resource and common heritage, was not only
in danger but pollution was deteriorating our fresh water supply daily.
What to do when faced with a national public health crisis in every region of
Canada based on our most precious commodity, drinking water? Just where was the
national media? After a careful review, it became clear that this problem of
drinking water had escaped national attention as bad water problems were
reported locally. Drinking water was a local issue. The national media would
rarely aggregate the numerous local drinking water problems, and it only did so
after an outrageous incident that scorched public conscience across the country.
Unhealthy drinking water as a national crisis lurked and continues to lurk
beneath the national media screen. After all, even though drinking water is the
staple of the daily diet of each Canadian, and we are told by medical experts to
drink at least eight glasses of clean drinking water a day, the crisis was
undetected and uncovered.
National statistics were hard to find and harder to accumulate. The federal
and provincial authorities and their many statistical based agencies did not
coagulate or aggregate the scope of the drinking water problem or the cost to
our public health budgets either municipally, provincially or federally. We
could not dig out the information and put it all in one place.
Therefore, at the urging of our Aboriginal colleagues here in the Senate, I
set about, as a senator from the region of Ontario, to study the problem. The
results I discovered were surprising and of deep concern. In the process, I
introduced Bill S-18, which is identical to Bill S-42 which is now before you,
The first reading of Bill S-18 took place back on February 20, 2001. Second
reading was given, and the bill was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, Environment and Natural Resources on April 24, 2001. The committee
reported the bill without amendment on May 10, 2001, all to the good. Then, on
third reading, the bill was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal
and Constitutional Affairs on June 13, 2002, and then it died on the Order
I was told that the government would bring in a dynamic water policy to
remedy this situation; that I should keep cool and await this new policy.
Regretfully, honourable senators, that has not happened in four years.
As I said, Bill S-18 which was introduced four years ago, was identical to
this current bill to amend, Bill S-42. I have reintroduced the amendment, and
that is what I am speaking to today.
If honourable senators are interested in the historical background of this
amendment, I would direct them to the Hansard debate on Bill S-18. They
will see how little has changed in four years, except that public health has
The government of that day was against the measure. This was a remedial
measure and, in its scope, it was simple and clinical. It was to amend the Food
and Drugs Act by adding clean drinking water as an objective so that the federal
agency already mandated to regulate drinking water in bottles, ice cubes and
soft drinks, would also regulate community drinking systems.
Bill S-18 encountered delays in third reading by supporters of the government
who were against the bill. A foremost advocate against the bill was our former
colleague, the learned Dr. Morin, who articulately supported the government
position, arguing in third reading that, in his medical opinion, since water did
not contain nutrients, it could not be considered a food under the Food and
Drugs Act. Thus, community drinking water, he argued, was beyond the scope of
the Food and Drugs Act.
Shortly before he left the Senate, Senator Morin told me he would now support
the bill if it were reintroduced. It was clear to me then, and it is clear to me
now, that drinking water contains nutrients. I was so advised by doctors and
scientists outside this chamber. Thus, the learned doctor's objection is not
based on a scientific fact. Meanwhile, the damage to the health of thousands of
Canadians in every region of the country has continued unabated.
The former government raised constitutional objections and, thus, the bill
was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs. The present government is also concerned about whether the bill would
be considered an incursion into provincial jurisdiction.
It is clear that the federal government has regulatory oversight of water:
bottled water, drinking water in National Parks, on planes, on trains and, of
course, the water in all of our non-urban Aboriginal communities. In fact, the
food and drug authorities, with the cooperation of the provinces, issued a
voluntary drinking water guideline that is used by some of the provinces.
Mr. Justice O'Connor of Ontario, in his landmark report respecting the
drinking water which was the subject of the Walkerton tragedy, clearly outlined
the scope of the federal jurisdiction. No one challenged Mr. Justice O'Connor's
constitutional view that the federal government had and has jurisdiction.
The federal government as well has an overriding responsibility under the
Constitution to ensure matters of public health affecting the nation as a whole
The government further objects that this bill might trigger additional
federal costs to infrastructure associated with water treatment. The federal
government's recent budgets already designate substantial allocation toward
drinking water infrastructure for the provinces.
There is a long list of areas where the federal government makes frequent
infrastructure investments in matters traditionally considered within the
provincial scope of activities when it affects the health of Canadians or the
economy of the country as a whole. The fact that the federal government could
save billions in preventive health costs if community drinking water supplies
were no longer a threat to the public health and to thousands of Canadians
daily, is now, I believe, beyond question.
The government and the Senate did not agree with this measure when it was
first introduced. The government's objections to the bill continue. Let me state
what those objections are in a little more detail.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA, responsible for the regulatory
enforcement of the Food and Drugs Act, would become responsible for inspecting
community drinking water systems as defined in the amendment. The government's
officials believe, however, that this would be an "incursion" into areas where
the provinces and the territories are presently exercising their jurisdiction
and that this might be criticized by them. Don't you love the word "incursion"
as an answer to bureaucratic inaction? The adoption of this bill by Parliament,
it is argued, would jeopardize longstanding federal-provincial-territorial
collaborative relationships in the area of drinking water quality.
The federal government, we are told, already has a water drinking strategy
for First Nations. Additional regulations and compliance would be necessary,
government officials argue. Of course, I agree. Now we have independent evidence
that the current water drinking strategy for First Nations is just not working.
What has happened since Walkerton, Ontario, in 2002, and North Battleford,
Saskatchewan? Let me quickly sum up the current situation.
While provinces have started to move on improving community drinking water by
legislation and by investment, not one province, not one community, has fully
implemented Mr. Justice O'Connor's 93 recommendations, especially water
standards testing with daily right to information about safe drinking water in
each of our communities across Canada — not in Ontario, not in any province, not
in any territory. Provinces, always stretched for resources and left discretion,
too often lag behind, absent public pressure for public health. Because of the
lack of current statistics, there is little or no accountability or public
pressure points to galvanize provincial action.
There is also no coherent correlation between bad drinking water and the
impact on the health budgets in each province or territory. We can guess and put
together statistical models, but we just do not know. I ask honourable senators,
why have our health officials not correlated these water statistics?
Statistics Canada indicated that in the year 1999-2000, over 2,150 out of
100,000 children reported cases of giardiasis, a water drinking disease. It
appears that even those numbers at that time were seriously underestimated.
In Alberta, one-quarter of drinking water contains traces of pesticide. In
British Columbia, Sierra Legal recently issued a report entitled "Watering
Down" concerning 28 waterborne disease breakouts in October 2003 and estimated
that 10 per cent of British Columbia's water systems were under a boil water
advisory. In 2002, Manitoba passed a Drinking Water Act. Since then, it was
discovered that in the city of Winnipeg, the home of our former leader, there
are concentrations of disinfectant by-products —
Senator Rompkey: The home of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Grafstein: Senator Stratton should listen to this. It was
discovered that in the Winnipeg drinking water supply there are concentrations
of disinfectant by-products considered to be carcinogenic. In Portage la
Prairie, lead concentrates exceeded Canada's voluntary guidelines. I wonder
sometimes if the increase in cancer in Manitoba, in Winnipeg, is directly
related to bad drinking water. We do not know.
In New Brunswick and Quebec, particularly in rural Quebec, and throughout
Newfoundland, particularly the outports, there continues to be a lack in
maintaining even the minimum federal guidelines in a large number of
communities. Many small communities across Canada regularly use boiled water for
everyday use. Imagine, as I said in 2001, a woman with seven or eight children
living in an outport in Newfoundland who has to boil her water every day to
ensure that her children and family are safe and sound — in Canada, in the 21st
Regretfully, honourable senators, little has changed since my bill was
introduced over four years ago in terms of substantive improvement. Yes, there
have been improvements. Yes, the provinces have moved. However, we still have an
invisible public health crisis. Canadians continue to drink unhealthy water
daily in many communities and in every region across Canada.
The Americans, at least, passed their Clean Water Act back in 1972 to allow
federal regulatory oversight of clean drinking water. Even the Americans did
that. One positive outcome of the U.S. act is that U.S. citizens, by tapping
into the U.S. federal government's website, can obtain the last water advisory
in each community in every region across the United States. They can punch in
their telephone numbers and regional code and find out the last water advisory
in their community.
I believe, honourable senators, as my late mother taught me, that an ounce of
prevention is worth a pound of cure. The cost to our public health is far
outstripping the cost of prevention. Let us, as senators from each region of
Canada, support this rather "septical" solution to one of Canada's greatest
and invisible health hazards — bad drinking water.
Finally, honourable senators, let me turn to the evidence of Johanne Gélinas,
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, before the Standing
Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources last week, on
October 18, 2005. She is a member of the Auditor General's agency, thus an
officer of Parliament. Let me quote some bullet points from her statement to
that Senate committee:
One of the essentials of daily life is access to safe drinking water. In a
country like ours, we all assume that the water we drink is of high quality.
But the truth is, in some areas where the federal government has
responsibilities, not all Canadians can be sure their drinking water is safe.
This includes the nearly a half million Canadians living in First Nations
The government has known for years that an overwhelming majority of water
systems in First Nations communities pose health risks. Between 1995 and 2003,
almost $2 billion was spent to build and operate drinking water and sewage
systems on First Nations. Between 2003 and 2008, a further $1.8 billion will
be devoted to these projects.
Unless strong action is taken, it is unlikely that this money, including
$600 million invested in the First Nations Water Management Strategy, will
result in safer drinking water in the future.
Those are her words.
The major problems include the lack of laws and regulations on drinking
water in First Nations communities and inadequate support given to First
Nations for operations and maintenance.
She says no regulations and no operations or maintenance. She continues:
The federal government is also responsible for making sure that drinking
water is safe at federal sites, including military bases, national parks and
Guidelines produced by the federal government, in partnership with
provinces and territories, set the mandatory standards for drinking water at
these sites. Provinces also use these guidelines in different ways, ranging
from general guidance to legally required standards.
We have a quilt work of regulatory practice across Canada on drinking water.
Although a sound process is in place to develop guidelines for allowable
contaminant levels in drinking water, it takes too long to develop and update
The government has argued that we have voluntary guidelines. The problem is
they are not kept up to date and they take too long to develop. Even the
voluntary ones are not in place as fully as they should be.
A process that should take two or three years often takes four to eight
The question I have for honourable senators is this: What happens in between?
Our public health, the health of our children, diminishes.
A backlog of guidelines on water contaminants may take 10 years to work
through. This is not helped by a 20 per cent budget cut between 2002 and 2005
affecting the Health Canada unit tasked with developing the guidelines.
We have chopped back on even the budget for that.
Federal responsibility also includes passenger trains, aircraft and cruise
ships that travel between provinces or internationally.
Health Canada inspects water on cruise ships and passenger trains, but not
on an aircraft. This means that the Canadian travellers do not know for sure
that the water used for drinking and food preparation on aircraft is safe.
In my five years as Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable
Development, I have seen uneven performance by the federal government in
creating and implementing a sustainable development approach.
In response to her statement, Chief Phil Fontaine concurred and stated that
at least 100 reservations had bad drinking water and were under a boil-water
Last week, another breakout of E. coli hit the province in the Kashechewan
reserve in Northern Ontario. The federal government rushed to remedy the
situation, shipping 26,000 litres of bottled water. The chief of that reserve is
reported to have said that was not enough to reopen schools or even bathe the
Let me quote briefly from yesterday's The Globe and Mail, from Dr.
Murray Trussler, chief of staff at Weeneebayko General Hospital in Moose
Factory, who is responsible for this particular reserve. There is somewhere
between 1,200 and 1,900 people on this reserve; I am not sure of the numbers
because they jump around.
The article states:
... because of the problems of E. coli, the level of chlorine in the water,
which is routinely extremely high, had to be jacked up to "shock levels."
This has aggravated skin diseases, which are endemic at Kashechewan.
Dr. Trussler is quoted as saying that high chlorine
just irritates and dries the skin further, so there is more itching and
scratching, which just spreads things like scabies and impetigo.
Further, the article stated:
He said that he had examined children who, for more than a year, have had
impetigo, a bacterial skin disease that can cause the formation of pustules
and a thick yellow crust on skin, commonly on the face.
He also said that he had seen cases of gastroenteritis, probably due to E.
coli, but this cannot be confirmed until testing is completed.
In Dr. Trussler's words:
We ran across a lady who reportedly had hepatitis A. This is a virus. We
don't normally screen for that. When we do a water sample, we look at E. coli
and coliform counts, but we don't look for viruses.
The article continues:
He said that when he asked about protecting people from hepatitis A,
Ontario offered to provide 100,000 doses of a vaccine against it, but the
federal government turned it down, saying there was no hepatitis A problem in
The doctor responded:
This is absolute rubbish. There's 100 native communities in Canada
currently under a boil-water advisory. Any time you are under a boil-water
advisory, there's probability you are going to run into hepatitis A sooner or
Apparently, the reserve and many others have had boil-water advisories for
over two years. Imagine — boil-water advisories on federal reserves for over two
Honourable senators will recall I gave this example of the Grassy Narrows
reserve in Northern Ontario four years ago when I spoke up there. I discovered
that women who lived on that reserve who wanted to have healthy babies decided
they had to leave the reserve in Ontario in the 21st century because they were
concerned that if they did not cleanse their wombs over a two- or three-year
period, they would not have healthy babies.
I urge honourable senators to support this amendment on second reading to
allow a Senate committee to examine the details, the cost benefits of a remedial
measure, as soon as possible. The health of thousands of children and Canadians
depends upon it.
I am delighted that the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy,
Environment and Natural Resources — our great colleague, Senator Banks — has
already invited witnesses on the state of drinking water in Canada.
Honourable senators, is it not ironic that we can transport clean drinking
water systems to stricken areas around the world but we still have not been able
to solve the problem of bad drinking water across all regions of Canada,
particularly in our own First Nation reserves? Is that not ironic?
I am indebted, honourable senators, to Sierra Legal Defence Fund, and the
program on water issues at the Munk Centre for International Studies, Trinity
College, University of Toronto and the Library of Parliament for their
assistance in clarifying these issues for me. All the conclusions that I have
stated in this speech are, of course, my own.
Honourable senators, I hope I have been able to convince you that there is a
health crisis in each region of the country that each senator in this chamber
represents. The onus, I believe, is now on officials of the government to
disprove these startling statements of facts. Let us refer the bill quickly to a
Senate committee as soon as possible and so we have an opportunity to get at the
facts and, if we can, defuse this national health time bomb.
Let us get on with the job. I ask for your support in speedily approving this
amendment on second reading, honourable senators.
Hon. Madeleine Plamondon: I would like to ask a question.
The Hon. the Speaker: Will you take a question, Senator Grafstein?
Senator Plamondon: Honourable senators, does Senator Grafstein believe
that Canada should recognize safe drinking water as a human right, and not a
commodity, that is something that must not be paid for? Should Canada recognize
this as a universal human right?
Senator Grafstein: I thank the honourable senator for her question, if
that is the question.
Senator Plamondon: That is the question. Do you recognize that Canada
should say it is a human right instead of a commodity?
The Hon. the Speaker: I will give the senator the floor to respond.
Senator Grafstein: Honourable senator, I have been here for over 20
years now and I have been involved in one of the great constitutional debates of
all time on the Charter of Human Rights. Frankly, it was an arduous and
difficult decision to amend our Constitution to deal with rights. I am concerned
at this time about remediating our existing law to clean up what I consider to
be a serious health problem.
Yes, I believe that drinking water is a human right. Yes, I do not believe
that drinking water is merely a commodity because we require it every day. Every
Canadian requires eight glasses of clean drinking water every day to be healthy.
Having said all that, yes, I believe it is a human right. Yes, I do not
believe it is a commodity. Our problem, honourable senators, is to convince the
federal government and the provinces to address this problem in a quick, astute
and cost-effective way.
We worry so much about the burgeoning health costs, but we increase them by
not paying proper attention to preventing bad health. To my mind, this
prevention would save money and, in those terms, make every Canadian entitled to
what I consider to be their right, which is eight glasses of clean drinking
water each and every day.
Senator Plamondon: I am glad that the honourable senator recognizes
that clean drinking water is a human right, because Canada has not recognized it
on the international scene.
Does the honourable senator think there should be an enquiry into the bottled
water industry, which is owned by four major companies — Nestle, Pepsi Cola,
Coke and Danone? Do you think it is appropriate for Canadians to buy water from
a bottle when bottled water makes so much money for these companies?
Senator Grafstein: We are now getting into deep economics. The
honourable senator is right. I find it amusing that we import bottled drinking
water from Fiji.
I was at an event a couple of nights ago and there it was, Fiji water on the
tables in Toronto — and Toronto drinking water is better than that water. We
have good drinking water in Toronto.
The reason why the bottled water industry has accelerated so quickly in
Canada is precisely because of these boil-water advisories. Honourable senators
will recall that 30 years ago we took pride in the fact that we could drink
water from our taps, while in Europe we had to drink bottled water. Today when
we go to a restaurant, the first thing a server provides is a bottle of water,
not a bottle of wine or a glass of scotch. The reason for growth in the bottled
water industry has nothing to do with them but has everything to do with the
lack of our right to protect our precious commodity.
Senator Plamondon: Is one goal of the bill to ensure fresh, potable
tap water, or is the goal to expand the bottled water industry and export water
to the Americans?
Senator Grafstein: Clearly, the amendment is to amend the Food and
Drugs Act to include community drinking water under the definition provided
under the Food and Drugs Act so that the federal regulatory authority will have
regulatory oversight of community drinking water. This is not an attempt, either
directly or indirectly, to invite provinces or municipalities to charge anything
that they would normally do for water. This is not an attempt to help the
bottled water industry; it is quite the opposite. When people turn on their taps
at home in Newfoundland, Northern Quebec, Northern Ontario, Manitoba or British
Columbia, they should have clean drinking water. That is a common right of
Hon. Terry Stratton (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Briefly, to
clarify one point, the implication I here is that Winnipeg does not have safe
drinking water. I would dispute that and say that it does have safe drinking
water. I drink Winnipeg tap water all the time, not bottled water. Winnipeg has
safe drinking water.
Senator Grafstein: Let us refer that to committee for determination.
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Callbeck calling
the attention of the Senate to the present inequities of the Veterans
Independence Program.—(Honourable Senator Di Nino)
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, the inquiry of the
Honourable Senator Callbeck has a great deal of merit. I have been talking to
her about this issue over the past two to three weeks.
Last week, when I was unable to be in the house due to travelling with the
Foreign Affairs committee, there was some confusion about whether a senator on
this side was to speak to Senator Callbeck's inquiry. Apparently the item was
not spoken to. However, I should like to speak to it, although I am not prepared
to do so today. Therefore, if it pleases the house, I would ask to rewind the
clock so that the item is not dropped from the Order Paper. I will be
prepared to speak to it next week.
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin rose pursuant to notice of October 18, 2005:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to the issue of public
broadcasting in Canada, with a view to initiating discussion on its role as a
She said: Honourable senators, I would like to draw to your attention the
need for Canada to have a national public broadcasting system that is strong,
vigorous, diversified and self-sufficient. In the aftermath of the CBC labour
dispute, I feel this is an opportune time to discuss the future of the public
radio and television networks — this is nothing new.
Since CBC — Radio Canada was created 70 years ago, public broadcasting has
undergone more than one cycle of introspection. Changes have taken place, new
policies have been adopted. Amendments were even made in the enabling
legislation in 1991 in order to redefine our public broadcaster, but none of
this occurred in a media context as exceptional as we see today.
We live in a time of the Internet, fibre optics, advanced technology,
multiple channels and a vast industry of information and entertainment that is
fundamentally changing culture as we know it.
My comments today do not appear out of the blue. These thoughts have been
brewing for a number of years and the recent labour dispute at CBC crystallized
them in the minds of Canadians. During the seven-week labour dispute, most
Canadians in Ontario and in the western provinces could turn to private sector
broadcasters, but some regions were kept in total silence, like the Arctic
region, which depends entirely on the public radio and television network.
The dispute inspired a public relations professional from Calgary to write to
me. He asked me a very important question and I will read it as it was sent to
Do you think the CBC will ever finally find its true place in the Canadian
sun or just wither away in the glare of the growing multi-channel universe?
That is the question a good many Canadians are asking.
Let us look at the facts. Broadcasting has played a prominent role in
Canada's history. The very first transatlantic wireless telegraphic signal from
Cornwall, England, was received in Newfoundland in 1901. The following year, the
first radio telegraphy station was set up in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. In the
1920s, CN began providing a railway radio service and, under the CN Radio
banner, produced the first national broadcast on July 1, 1927, for the diamond
jubilee of Confederation. From these humble beginnings CBC/Radio-Canada was born
and became a crown corporation in 1936. Over the years, the corporation has
carved out an impressive journalistic, cultural and technological path.
Today, CBC/Radio-Canada brings Canadians together through its regional radio
and television stations from Vancouver to St. John to Iqaluit, and through its
affiliates, its eight national radio and television networks and its
full-service Web sites.
CBC/Radio-Canada has formed alliances with other public broadcasters and
provides specialized private services. For example, Radio-Canada is part of a
consortium of public broadcasters providing French programming to the
international Francophonie. This consortium is called TV5, as you may know.
CBC/Radio-Canada has therefore become an international communications giant,
which is very good, because Canada is a vast country. We are the second largest
country in the world, in terms of area, but we have a small population; of the
approximately 32 million inhabitants, most live in the major urban centres and
the rest are scattered over nearly 10 million square kilometres.
To put things in perspective, Canada has a population density of about three
people per square kilometre compared to 29 in the United States and an amazing
387 in the Netherlands. So it is absolutely essential for Canadians to have a
national public broadcasting system, if only to stay in touch with their own
country, whether they live in Vancouver, Calgary, Sudbury, Chicoutimi, Moncton,
Toronto or Montreal, and its existence in no way diminishes the role of private
broadcasters and cable broadcasters operating in their own niche markets. They
add variety to programming, but without duplicating the services provided by
public broadcasters. They do not have the same mandate as CBC/Radio-Canada, nor
can they provide the full range of daily television and radio information shows
that must take into consideration regional, provincial, Canadian and
Although 60 per cent of Canadian households subscribe to cable television,
many do not, whether by choice, because of the cost or because they live outside
the areas serviced by cable providers. In other words, these people rely on
traditional broadcast technology and, for the most part, the only television
stations they can receive are the CBC and Radio-Canada.
Fortunately, CBC/Radio-Canada has, over the years, put in place a
telecommunications structure of hundreds, if not thousands, of transmitters in
order to reach the Canadian population with radio and television programming in
French, English and eight Aboriginal languages.
Honourable senators, in a world where many of us can access radio and
television with a little gadget that fits into the palm of our hand, the
question is: does Canada need a public broadcasting system?
Solid social arguments have been used to justify its raison d'être since its
inception in 1936. The public broadcasting system is the thread that links
Canadians day in and day out. It provides an essential service to communities
where private broadcasters would never survive, be it an anglophone community in
the Gaspé or a francophone one in Edmonton.
This is a public service providing programming and journalism of the highest
quality. The enabling legislation, the Broadcasting Act, sets this out clearly.
It defines the very essence of the CBC/ Radio-Canada: information, enlightenment
More specifically, one of the basic objectives required of CBC/ Radio-Canada
in its enabling legislation is to reflect Canada and its regions to national and
regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions. That is
key objective that must never be lost sight of.
There are other essential aspects of the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada
included in its enabling legislation: to actively contribute to the flow and
exchange of cultural expression and to contribute to shared national
consciousness and identity.
Honourable senators, I feel that, in this era of globalization, it is more
important than ever to value those objectives, to preserve those principles, and
to translate them into quality radio and television programming in English and
in French, thereby providing an essential public service to Canada.
Canada is at a turning point in its history, one where we need to be firmly
anchored, knowing who we are, where we have been, and where we are going. Last
week, Carole Taylor, former chair of the board of directors of CBC/Radio-Canada
and now Minister of Finance in British Columbia, wrote the following in The
Globe and Mail:
A public broadcaster must be relevant. It must be involved. It must not
compete for ratings, it must compete for ideas. It must not get comfortable or
self-satisfied. It must test, push, ask and listen to the voices of Canada.
CBC/Radio-Canada must take risks and not be afraid of controversy.
Honourable senators, let us think about the key role CBC/ Radio-Canada must
play for future Canadians, immigrants who want to learn about their adopted
country, about our history, customs, regional differences, sports, music,
singers, our current events, political life, and so on.
Public radio must reflect the very essence of our identity. CBC/ Radio-Canada
must not only present our opinions and our values, but also make our voices
heard in the international community.
Canadians deserve to be heard. We must make an effort to listen to them and
find out what they think and what they do in their respective regions.
CBC/Radio-Canada must do everything it can to promote the talent of our authors,
performers and producers so that they can contribute fully to writing the
history of Canada.
We must go back to a golden age when children's programming was so dearly
appreciated: our future prime ministers, ministers, politicians, doctors and
teachers were glued to those shows.
I am pleased to see that in the funds granted this year by the government,
$60 million is allocated expressly for this purpose and that the emphasis is on
dramas, documentaries, and cultural and artistic programs.
However, we must consider new alliances with agencies such as the National
Film Board, the National Arts Centre, our concert halls and our theatres
throughout the country.
I am certain that Canadians will gladly welcome such initiatives even if it
costs them a few extra dollars a year.
Honourable senators, the question is not whether can afford CBC/Radio-Canada,
but whether we can afford to live without it.
Some Hon. Senators: Bravo!
Senator Poulin: This leads us to the question of the money required.
In 2004-05, advertising and program sales brought in $332 million, equal to
about one-third of parliamentary appropriations ($996 million), with the rest of
CBC/Radio Canada's nearly $1.4 billion coming from other sources.
Given my experience in both the private and public broadcasting sectors, I
think there is a contradiction between the concept of being a public broadcaster
and the fact that a large part of its revenue comes from commercial advertising.
One possible solution would be the increased appropriation of public funds
recommended by the House of Commons Finance Committee. I say this because the
supporters of public broadcasting feel it is not merely a matter of money, or to
put it another way, that the issue goes far beyond the $30 that CBC/ Radio
Canada costs every Canadian annually.
It is interesting to revisit the results of a survey carried out in the
spring of 2004 by the Friends of Public Broadcasting. It reports that 71 per
cent of Canadians feel that the CBC is making good use of the taxpayers' money.
As well, 85 per cent feel that CBC/Radio Canada helps distinguish Canada from
the United States and that its regional role everywhere in the country should be
The federal government's responsibility to CBC/Radio Canada is to provide a
legislative framework for its activities through enabling legislation and to
allocate funds to it. The corporation's board has the responsibility for
developing the strategy that will enable it to meet the objectives set out in
that enabling legislation.
The key stakeholders however, in the end, are the people of Canada. It is
their tax dollars that permit the very existence of a national public
I would also point out that its national network of transmitters, stations
and staff is what enables CBC/Radio Canada to play its pivotal role as far as
national security and civil preparedness are concerned. The public broadcaster's
signals are received even in the most remote reaches of Canada, and can
therefore be used to alert and guide Canadians in the event of a disaster.
Honourable senators, CBC/Radio Canada is a public body which, throughout most
of the 20th century, reigned as a symbol of our country. It reflected the dreams
and ambitions of a growing nation.
Honourable senators, our country deserves to have a revitalized, strong and
independent CBC/Radio Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Some senators are rising to put questions. Will
you take questions, Senator Poulin?
Senator Poulin: I will.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are you requesting more time? You have one
Senator Poulin: Would my colleagues allow more time?
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Rompkey: Five minutes.
Senator Kinsella: Six minutes.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Millions of Canadians work and travel outside
For many years, I was one such example, and, often, we feel isolated from
Canada because of a lack of communication by the media. I remember feeling cut
off from Canada during my year at Harvard, in Boston. Communication from Canada,
whether by satellite, cable or the newspapers, was non-existent.
As an entity, Radio Canada International plays a key role in keeping people
travelling outside Canada informed about what is happening in Canada.
Radio Canada International should have a very specific role, in other words,
to operate in the context of this public instrument of the Canadian government.
Senator Poulin: You are quite correct, Senator Dallaire. Currently,
Radio Canada International broadcasts in over 25 languages around the world to
bring Canada not only to Canadians living abroad but also to people who want to
learn about Canada.
I briefly mentioned TV5. It would be wonderful if CBC could form a consortium
in order to create an international English-language television station similar
You are correct when you say that Radio Canada International plays a key role
around the world.
Hon. Jean Lapointe: Honourable senators, I must say that I quite
enjoyed Senator Poulin's speech. If I understand correctly, she is in favour of
increasing the budgets for CBC/Radio-Canada. I must say that I am totally
As far as the CBC is concerned, I totally agree. However, for Radio-Canada,
the honourable senator said she is prepared to increase the budgets, but Radio-Canada
and RDI keep badgering us on a daily basis.
Take for example three or four of their shows, or the show Tout le monde
en parle, where the two hosts are declared separatists and inveterate — or
invertebrate, to use another term — indépendantistes and tried to find three
Radio-Canada or RDI hosts who are not indépendantiste. If you can manage, then I
will applaud you and agree with you, but I challenge you to name at least three.
There are very few federalists there and the indépendantistes do not hide
their convictions, except for Mr. Maisonneuve. We know he has indépendantiste
leanings, but he does not broadcast it. However, the court jester and his boss
make no bones about it and invite like-minded guests.
If the honourable senator is prepared to give budgets and subsidies so that
they can spit on Ottawa, on the Liberal Party in particular, and others — they
are anti-federalist through and through — I am sorry, but I am totally against
I know we do not have the authority to increase budgets in the Senate, but I
think we have the means to decrease them and that is what I will aim to do.
Senator Poulin: I thank Senator Lapointe for his question. I think it
is extraordinary that he has just showed us through his speech that we will be
having a very interesting debate on the issue of public broadcasting. I cited
the enabling legislation many times in order to remind us of the mandate and to
remind the board of directors of its responsibility.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, Senator Lapointe has
raised a good point about the mandate. Employees must comply with this mandate.
The mandate reads: "contribute to shared national consciousness and
identity". So there is a mandate. We must note, however, that this mandate was
amended in the 1980s. I think that Senator Poulin is an expert in public
broadcasting and that she can no doubt explain the changes to the mandate and
how it relates to Senator Lapointe's question.
Senator Poulin: Honourable senators, when I was preparing my remarks
today, I researched the enabling statutes. I noted that there had been an
evolution or a change in the wording used in legislation. You are correct in
saying that, since 1991, section 3(m)(x) reads: "contribute to shared
national consciousness and identity", whereas in the enabling statute of 1985,
prior to being amended, section 3(g)(iv) read: "contribute to the
development of national unity and provide for a continuing expression of
Honourable senators, we would have to know what the intentions were when the
changes to the legislation were introduced. This would require a reading of the
speeches given in the House of Commons and in the Senate, as well as some
thorough research in order to understand properly. It is, however, still the
responsibility of CBC/Radio-Canada and its board of governors to meet these
objectives, which are so clearly set out in the enabling legislation of 1991.
The Hon. the Speaker: I am sorry, Senator Poulin, but your time is up.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition), pursuant to notice
of September 28, 2005, moved:
That the Senate urge the government to implement assistance through the tax
system to ensure that excessive fuel costs are not an impediment for Canadians
travelling to and from their place of employment, including a personal travel
tax exemption of $1,000;
That the Senate urge the government to take measures to ensure that rising
residential heating costs do not unduly burden low and modest income earners
this winter and in winters to come;
That the Senate urge the government to encourage the use of public transit
through the introduction of a tax deduction for monthly or annual transit
That a message be sent to the House of Commons requesting that House to
unite with the Senate for the above purpose.
He said: Honourable senators, I moved this motion standing in my name at a
previous sitting. I would like to canvass the house on support for this motion.
If I see support for this motion from the house, it would not be necessary for
me to use the 45 minutes to which I am entitled. We would have to not see the
clock. Therefore, in the spirit of the last debate on the other item, I would be
happy to call the question. However, I do not want to risk the opportunity of
sharing with honourable senators some thoughts of explication as to why this
motion is a solid motion that all senators ought to embrace. In the motion, the
Senate is inviting the government to do three things.
Honourable senators, we all know what has happened with energy prices over
the past little while and energy prices represent a real hardship to many
Canadians, notwithstanding their economic situation. Throughout much of our
nation, service stations were already asking $1 per litre in the days before
Hurricane Katrina struck. Late last spring, the cost of furnace oil was already
27 per cent higher than the previous year.
The government's response has been far from adequate. The Minister of
Finance, unfortunately, is content to collect tens of millions of dollars in GST
each time gasoline prices go up by a cent but is reluctant to ease the financial
pain that many are suffering.
It was interesting for senators who have been on parliamentary delegations to
notice the price of gasoline per litre on the continent in Europe. There used to
be a large spread between what we pay for a litre in Canada and what we
considered to be the high price paid for a litre of gas in Europe. Now that
spread has narrowed and, unsatisfactorily, we are paying almost the same amount.
In this motion, the Senate urges the government to do three things. First,
implement assistance through the tax system to ensure that excessive fuel costs
are not an impediment for Canadians travelling to and from their place of
employment, including a personal travel tax exemption of $1,000. I would have
brought in a bill, but of course that would have required a Royal Recommendation
because it would have been a money bill.
Therefore, we have to bring forward a motion calling upon the government to
introduce a bill that would give a $1,000 exemption in addition to our basic
personal exemption. The reason for doing that is to compensate the increased
costs of people travelling to and from work. All honourable senators know of
Canadians who do not live close to their place of work. Often the place of work
is in urban centres but the cost of living in urban centres is too expensive for
people who are earning near or slightly above minimum wage levels. Therefore, if
they have to travel farther to work and they are making marginal wages, their
need for assistance to get to work in their car is absolutely critical. It would
have the effect of using the Income Tax Act to provide some compensation for
this increase in fuel costs.
The second element is to take measures to ensure that rising residential
heating costs do not unduly burden low- and modest-income earners this winter
and in winters to come.
The third element of the motion is that we are calling upon the government to
encourage the use of public transit through the introduction of a tax deduction
for monthly or annual transit passes.
The motion also calls for a message to be sent to the House of Commons
requesting that the House unite with the Senate for that purpose.
I moved this motion because in the past several months we have witnessed
sharply rising energy costs that are having a real impact on individual
Canadians as they go about their daily business of living, working and raising a
family in a northern country where 32 million people populate the world's second
largest land mass.
As to a response, the government recently announced its own package — a
package without vision that falls far short of providing meaningful relief from
high heating costs, offsetting the impact of gasoline prices on working
Canadians and their families, or encouraging Canadians to make greater use of
public transit. The government's response boils down to three communication
The first is assistance to low-income earners that, unfortunately, benefits
far too few, excludes some of the poorest among us and offers nothing to
The second concerns assistance to make homes more energy efficient and
fast-tracking money already announced for public transit. The program to make
homes energy efficient comes with a catch, of course. Many Canadians, especially
those with low and modest incomes, may not be able to afford a new energy
efficient furnace, even with a government grant, after they finish paying off
this year's heating bill.
Is the government asking Parliament, through Bill C-66, to appropriate a
five-year block of funds for this program because a great rush of people is not
expected to use it this winter?
Part of the solution, honourable senators, is to encourage more Canadians to
use public transit, and a tax credit for public transit would be a positive way
to encourage more Canadians to use that service. I will speak to this shortly.
However, honourable senators may wish to take note of one indirect result of
the announcement that the money set aside for transit in the NDP budget would be
advanced. The government will now be in a position to make a string of
announcements this March without waiting to see if the surplus conditions of
Bill C-48 have been met. Would I be cynical to wonder if the real goal is not to
advance the development of public transit but to speed up the development of
photo opportunities in the pre-writ period?
Third, there are measures that the government describes as "enhancing market
transparency and accountability" — a wonderful phrase. I will resist the
temptation to spend the next 20 minutes reminding the chamber of this
government's complete aversion to transparency and accountability. This
transparency and accountability media bullet boils down to beefing up fines
under the Competition Act, even though there has never been a successful
prosecution under that law, and setting up a government agency to monitor prices
and profit margins. This new agency is already being widely criticized as being
I will not hold my breath waiting for any of these measures to reduce prices,
and I doubt that anyone on the government side will, either. Exactly how will
this new agency deal with the two main factors that have driven up gasoline
prices in the past year?
First, the world price of crude will not fall because some Canadian
government agency is monitoring prices at the pump. Second, this new monitoring
office will do nothing to address the lack of refinery capacity, the major cause
of the sharp spike following Katrina. Simply, gas prices will not fall because
some government agency posts them on a website. If you want to regulate the
industry and accept the costs that come with regulation, that is fine. Go out
and do it, but good luck getting the provinces onside, and good luck avoiding
the kind of meltdown that followed the National Energy Program, the very mention
of which still makes the blood of Western Canadians boil, a quarter of a century
later. Moreover, this new agency will not reduce the federal government's take
at the pump, which is currently about 17 cents per litre, or end the practice of
imposing a tax on the tax.
If the objective of this agency is somehow to shame the oil companies into
lowering their prices, perhaps it could publish regular figures on the
government's fear of the price at the pump and shame the government itself into
helping modest-income Canadians cope.
Against the background of the government's sudden urge to monitor fuel
prices, we have seen its own members setting out a vision, not of energy prices
that are affordable to low- and modest-income Canadians but of even higher
prices. The Calgary Herald of August 24, 2005, has Environment Minister
Stéphane Dionne saying that high gas prices are actually good for Canada in the
medium and long term. From the August 17 Hamilton Spectator we have a
quote by then Natural Resources Minister John Efford saying that people have to
become accustomed to the high cost of fuel.
This vision of rising energy prices comes from the government side, and it
extends to the back benches. From the Toronto Sun of September 11 we have
the Ajax Pickering Member of Parliament Mr. Holland saying:
This has had a major impact on people, but we have to realize the days of
cheap oil, for the most part, are a thing of the past... A lot of analysts say
gas at a $1.50 a litre is well within sight.
Honourable senators, what is my case for proposing income tax relief? The
Toronto-area cabinet minister John Godfrey was quoted by the National Post
of September 8, 2005, as saying that the solution to soaring gas prices is more
More public transit is part of the solution, and I will make the case for a
tax credit for transit passes shortly. However, I will not pretend for one
minute that public transit will fill the fuel tanks of the independent truckers
who haul lumber from the B.C. interior to Vancouver, or auto parts from Brampton
to Oshawa, and milk from the dairies in the Eastern Townships to grocery stores
in Montreal. I will not pretend it will help prairie farmers fuel their combines
this fall and bring their grain to market. I will not pretend for one minute
that it will get Mary MacDonald from her farm near Skinner's Pond to her medical
appointment in Charlottetown.
Does this government care one iota about the damage that soaring fuel prices
are inflicting on truckers and rural Canadians? In The Toronto Star of
September 24, we have the same Mr. Godfrey stating:
The only way were going to get ahead of the curve is a combination of
offering people decent public transit and encouraging them to live in
developed places which are close to that transit in a much more compact form.
Is that the government's answer to rural Canadians who have no transportation
choices other than their car; move to Toronto and live in a more compact form? I
would hope not.
Honourable senators, the impact on ordinary Canadians is real. Not all
Canadians live in Toronto or want to live in Toronto. Even those who live in
larger cities rely heavily upon their cars as they go about their daily business
of raising a family.
Consider for a moment Joe LeBlanc, who lives about 30 kilometres outside of
Moncton, New Brunswick. He used to be a full-time farmer, but he could not make
ends meet, so he continues every day to work in Moncton and does his best to
farm on the weekend with a bit of help from his spouse. Public transit is not
now and never will be an option for Joe, for the same reason as it is not an
option for most rural residents. There will never be enough passengers to cover
the tiniest fraction of the costs of servicing areas where houses are half a
We will not talk about the fuel Joe uses on his farm, but it is also costing
him considerably more than in the past. Joe puts 60 kilometres on his car per
day driving to work each day, every day. His employer is open until 6 p.m. to
service customers, so Joe's hours of work do not give him the option of
carpooling with neighbours who finish work an hour earlier.
Sixty kilometres per day is 300 kilometres per week. He burns about 10 litres
of gas every 100 kilometres, or 30 litres per week. Joe is paying about 20 cents
a litre more for gas than he did a few years ago. That translates into an extra
$6 a week if Joe works 48 weeks. That extra $6 a week is going to cost him an
extra $288 per year. At a dollar a litre, Joe is spending $1,440 a year in gas
to get to and from work.
This scenario does not even begin to include all of the other driving that is
done when you live in a rural community. The local Sobeys or Co-op is probably
10 miles away. You may have to go to more than one town to get everything on
your list. Your teenagers cannot bus to the mall; you have to drive them. If
your child becomes ill at school, it may be a 30-minute drive to get her.
The LeBlanc family probably does as much driving after work and on weekends
as Mr. LeBlanc does driving into work. An extra 20 cents a litre in gas prices
will probably cost them at least $500 per year, part of an overall gas bill that
is likely to exceed $3,000. My friend Joe is being squeezed by an uncaring
government that has no concern for modest income working families in rural
This may come as a shock to the Minister of Infrastructure and to the
Minister of the Environment, but even those living in urban areas with access to
public transit still need to use their car. It is not uncommon for a commuter to
get off a bus at the end of the work day and then spend their evening and
weekends using their cars to go about the business of being responsible parents.
Consider the example of the Smith family here in Ottawa, the nation's fourth
largest urban centre and a city that is better served by public transit than
many smaller communities. Let us suppose that the Smiths begin to take the bus
to their jobs in downtown Ottawa.
Honourable senators, busing to work during rush hour is one thing; getting
the Smith children to Guides, Scouts, piano lessons and hockey practice on
evenings and weekends is another matter entirely. You need a car because you
cannot be in two places at the same time. They need a car if the Smith children
want to have a sit-down supper with the family or get to bed at a decent hour on
activity nights because there are not enough hours in an evening to do it any
Mr. Smith drives his daughter to skating lessons because if he did not, it
would be impossible to pick up his son from a hockey practice scheduled for the
same time five miles away in a different direction.
On weekends the Smiths drive to their place of worship, which is several
miles away. I do not think that even the Minister of Infrastructure would expect
the Smiths to convert to another faith so that their place of worship aligns
with the local bus service.
Mr. Smith is finishing the basement so that the Smith children can have their
own space in the house, and that means trips to Home Depot or Rona for building
materials, and you need a car to carry them home. Drywall does not travel
particularly well by bus.
It is not terribly practical to transport a week's worth of groceries for a
family of four by bus. Once a week Ms. Smith has a ladies' night out with her
friends, and like many women, she does not feel comfortable about waiting for a
bus at midnight. I do not blame her.
Ms. Smith's mother lives outside the city and is in failing health, so she
drives a fair bit each week to see her and do what she can to help.
The bottom line, honourable senators, is that even though they take the bus
to work, the Smith family still puts another 20,000 kilometres on the family
vehicle each year, every year. They burn about 10 litres of gasoline for every
100 kilometres and 2,000 litres per year. Assuming that gas settles in the range
of a dollar a litre, that is $2,000 per year in fuel costs. An extra 20 cents at
the pump translates into an extra $400 per year for this modest income family
even though they bus to work.
The federal government has no problem taxing gasoline but has serious
problems when asked to reduce those taxes or to at least stop the practice of
putting a tax on a tax or to provide income tax relief to offset those higher
Honourable senators, higher energy costs are crushing modest income
Canadians, the very people on whose backs the government built its string of
surpluses. They have more than paid their dues to a government that has no
desire to help them cope with rising fuel costs and that evaluates proposals in
the context of how many photo opportunities it may generate.
Canadians are already hard-pressed and falling deeper into debt. The growing
cost of gasoline, the growing cost of heating their homes and the expected hike
in mortgage rates will combine to deal a major blow to many modest income
Indeed, the Conference Board of Canada reported last month that soaring
energy prices and interest rate fears were already rattling consumer confidence.
Faced with the challenge of meeting these costs, many Canadians will spend less
on other things and postpone major purchases.
Too many low and modest income Canadians are already stretched too thin. We
cannot do anything about the world price of oil, but we can help to offset this
by using tax relief to restore lost purchasing power.
There is a case to be made for heating cost relief, and I am sure that other
honourable senators who participate in this debate will speak to that issue.
The case for public transit passes is an easy one to make, particularly for
the major urban areas.
Honourable senators, the motion before this chamber is a very reasonable
request. We are proposing that this honourable house ask the government to deal
in an upfront way with the crisis we are experiencing as a result of increased
In conclusion, honourable senators, the current government has been in office
for a dozen years but has yet to provide a comprehensive Canadian energy
framework. It has become very clear that it does not care about modest income
Canadians as they struggle to cope with rising energy costs. The best this
government can offer is an ad hoc approach based more on an eye for media
relations than on any real desire to find solutions. It is time to stand up for
the interests of modest income Canadians as they face the increased cost of
higher heating and gasoline bills.
In fact, when the average Canadian consumer of oil, the person who uses it to
fill their gas tank to drive to work and to heat their home during the winter,
pays excessive prices at the pump, it is because this government's policy of
gorging them is allowed to continue.
Canada's Kyoto Protocol commitment, without a workable plan that outlines
clear initiatives to find cheaper and cleaner forms of fuel that would replace
the millions of barrels of oil that we use daily to run our cars, heat our
houses and create electricity, needs to be ratcheted up.
The government has earmarked money, allowing it to boast about how much it
plans to spend over the next few years on the environment. It has yet to map out
a strategy —
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, I now see that it is
6 p.m. Unless there is agreement for the Speaker not to see the clock, I must
leave the chair and come back at 8 p.m. Is there agreement?
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): There is
agreement not to see the clock, Your Honour.
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, I urge the Senate to support
this motion that would send a clear message that this chamber believes in tax
relief to help Canadian families cope with higher energy costs and adequate
measures to ensure that Canadians can afford to heat their homes, not just this
winter but in winters to come. The motion also states that this chamber believes
that positive incentives such as tax credits for transit passes ought to be used
to encourage greater use of public transit.
Hon. Serge Joyal, pursuant to notice of October 20, 2005, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators
have power to engage the services of such counsel and technical, clerical, and
other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of its examination and
consideration of such matters as are referred to it by the Senate, or which
come before it as per the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.
Motion agreed to.
The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, October 26, 2005, at 1:30 p.m.