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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 32

Thursday, September 28, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


THE SENATE

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Spending Cuts to Literacy Programs

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, as part of the Conservative government's spending cuts announced on Monday, $17.7 million for literacy and adult learning programs will be slashed over the next two years.

At a time when there is a tremendous need for funding to assist with upgrading literacy skills in Canada, this decision is unbelievable, especially considering the federal government's $13.2 billion surplus. According to Statistics Canada and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, four out of 10 adults — that is 9 million Canadians of working age — have serious difficulties because of low literacy skills. If our local and regional literacy programs are no longer federally funded, that will have a devastating effect on our communities.

As we all know, the level of literacy skills among the people in our workforce has a direct link to this country's economic welfare. Increasingly, we find ourselves in a knowledge-based economy, with educational levels rising around the world. A shortage of skilled workers is felt across the country. In this environment, it is disheartening to know that about 42 per cent of Canadians lack the basic reading skills that we all take for granted.

The elimination of this funding for literacy and adult learning will have a negative effect for many Canadians across the country. It will deny them equal access to our labour market and prevent them from reaching their full potential. It will also prevent them from achieving a higher standard of living and from being a full partner in their communities.

The role of the federal government is to help Canadians excel in their lives. The government should not cut these programs and hurt the people who need them the most. In fact, the government should create more of these programs, not eliminate them.

These federal adult learning and literacy programs are well regarded. The programs enable people in our communities to work with their fellow Canadians, helping others to achieve a better quality of life. This is the Canadian way.

The elimination of these worthy programs is short-sighted and contrary to the needs of Canadians. I call on the government to reconsider this decision. I urge the Conservative government to assist rather than to hinder Canadians as they strive to help themselves.

Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, the anxiety that has been expressed this week in this chamber and well beyond over the federal cuts in literacy programs has now spilled over from the national associations, which have been at the heart of designing and delivering help in learning to those in our society who need it most. I would like to share some thoughts that were expressed to me.

The Movement for Canadian Literacy gave me the following information. In Nova Scotia, seven major programs dealing with family literacy and a multitude of agencies and programs for training community-based organizations will not be funded.

In Prince Edward Island — you have heard our senator from Prince Edward Island, and I have heard her too — that funding is at risk for broad programs to foster plain language in public communication work with community groups, and the successful Story Sacks program used with success in the Provincial Correctional Centre.

In Alberta, programs on the edge are Building the Database for the Literacy Help Line, as well as partnership in an electronic conferencing system for online teaching and learning and tutor training.

In New Brunswick, a program at risk is the world-renowned National Adult Literacy Database developing learning material and research development shared throughout every corner in Canada, built on a 50 per cent sharing basis with the federal government.

Also, Laubach Literacy Canada, Canada's longest-standing program, is in anxiety that it may no longer be in a position to serve as a national organization, operating in both rural and urban societies.

In Nunavut, the culturally-based literacy pilot programs of the Nunavut Arctic College are gone, the co-ordinator's program is in jeopardy and the training for adult educators and the practitioners running the literacy program is gone.

In the Northwest Territories, programs at risk are the Family and Community Literacy Development Program, as well as all the cost-shared programs. Outreach programs at Aurora College will be gone.

At Le Fédération canadienne pour l'alphabétisation en français, the cuts will directly affect thousands of persons who are benefiting from programs that will close.

(1340)

The National Indigenous Literacy Association, which took years and years to build and has been on a roll for the past two years, is keeping its doors open with loyal volunteers, trying to keep alive a hope that will assist some of our citizens who are most in need.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, in the words of Premier Danny Williams, the current changes show ''the difference through the right-wing conservatives and the Progressive Conservatives.''

Honourable senators, we have an extremely difficult issue rolling across this country. I know that this chamber appreciates that; I am not sure about the other one. We must get on the bandwagon, from wherever we come, and try to help keep this discussion alive and kicking in every corner of Canada.

[Translation]

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Apology to Maher Arar

Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, I would like to draw the Senate's attention to the Maher Arar affair and the testimony given this morning by the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police before a parliamentary committee of the other House.

All senators should be shocked that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police waited so long before publicly admitting its error in Mr. Arar's case. As a senator and as an ordinary Canadian citizen, I wonder why a police force as respectable and respected as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was incapable of recognizing its error before the commission of inquiry stepped in to point it out. This is all the more shocking given that, if I am not mistaken, the RCMP commissioner told members of the House of Commons that he had informed the American authorities that the RCMP had provided false information. He said that, unfortunately, Mr. Arar was in New York at the time and the Americans did not take the information into account.

The error committed by the RCMP could have happened in any police force. However, members of Parliament should demand, or at least suggest to police officials — whether it is the RCMP or any other police force in Canada — that when they make a mistake concerning a Canadian citizen, they should stand up and admit it rather than wait for millions of dollars to be spent on public inquiries.


ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

2006 Annual Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons for the year 2006.

[English]

Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

Sixth Report Presented

Hon. George J. Furey, Chair of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, presented the following report:

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration has the honour to present its

SIXTH REPORT

The Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure (Steering Committee) met during the summer adjournment. Your Committee wishes to report to the Senate the following decisions taken.

Economic Increase for the Senior Executive Group and Managers of the Senate Administration (SEG and MMG-2)

It was agreed that, Senate SEGs and MMG-2s receive a 2.5 per cent increase to salary ranges, effective April 1, 2006, as well a 1.1 per cent increase to at-risk pay for 2006-2007, parallel to increases adopted by the Treasury Board for Public Service executives and Deputy Ministers.

Budget Increases

It was agreed that the budget of the Opposition Whip be increased by $10,000, for a total of $50,000, and that an additional amount of $75,000 be allocated to the Leadership of the Opposition

Respectfully submitted,

GEORGE J. FUREY
Chair

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

On motion of Senator Furey, report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.

(1345)

Foreign Affairs

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Evacuation of Canadian Citizens from Lebanon

Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs be authorized to examine and report on the evacuation of Canadian citizens from Lebanon in July 2006; and

That the Committee submit its final report no later than March 30, 2007, and that the Committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until April 30, 2007.

Agriculture and Forestry

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate

Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry have the power to sit at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 3, even though the Senate may then be sitting and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.

[Translation]

The Senate

Notice of Motion to Urge Government to Reconsider Decision to Discontinue the Court Challenges Program

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Senate urge the Government of Canada to reconsider its decision to discontinue the Court Challenges Program, which has enabled citizens to seek redress and assert their rights guaranteed under the Constitution and particularly the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

That the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages be authorized to study and report on the benefits and results that have been achieved through the Court Challenges Program;

That the Committee submit its final report no later than December 22, 2006; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons informing it that the Senate regrets the government's decision to terminate the Court Challenges Program and urges it to take action to persuade the government to reconsider that decision.

First Nations Involvement in National and International Affairs

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Aurélien Gill: Honourable senators, I give notice that, on Wednesday October 4, 2006:

I will call the attention of the Senate to the Government of Canada's position on the First Peoples on the national and international level.


[English]

QUESTION PERIOD

Foreign Affairs

Pakistan—Comments by President

Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, Canadians have reason to be disturbed by the recent comments by the President of Pakistan to the media. The lack of knowledge and sensitivity demonstrated by the leader of one of Canada's close allies in the fight against terrorism raises grave concerns. I believe Canadians are disappointed that their government has yet to come forward with a response to these disturbing comments.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us whether the Prime Minister or a member of the government has raised this matter with President Musharraf?

(1350)

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I am aware of the comments of the President of Pakistan. I read them and the government has taken note of his comments.

As the Prime Minister mentioned yesterday when he was attending the summit of la Francophonie, he had not seen the full context of President Musharraf's remarks. However, it is important that governments of all countries cooperate with each other in dealing with the terrorist threat that is predominant along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Senator Hays: I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and I must agree about the gravity of the situation in which we find ourselves — in particular, in this theatre. However, I think Parliament, on behalf of Canadians, is obliged to raise this matter. I would be very surprised if this matter rests where it is. I say this after discussing this issue with some people and as a parliamentarian with a responsibility to seek information from the government. What is going to be done? The honourable senator has not indicated whether anything has happened or what is planned. To the best of our knowledge, nothing has occurred yet, but I ask again.

I assume the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs has contacted President Musharraf, but something must be done, in my opinion. I ask on behalf of Canadians, what are the government's plans?

Senator LeBreton: It is natural that people would be concerned about some of the comments that the President of Pakistan made in his interview. I was certainly concerned about the lack of knowledge about how many Canadian soldiers were killed.

I will not escalate the situation other than to say that Canada recognizes that Pakistan is a very important country in the shared goal of rooting out international terrorism. We acknowledge that Pakistan has suffered many casualties as well.

I do not know whether there is anything to be gained by anyone escalating the situation. I am sure, at the appropriate time, that the Prime Minister and/or the Minister of Foreign Affairs will have meetings with their Pakistani counterparts and they will inform us, once these meetings have taken place, what transpired.

Senator Hays: It is not a matter of escalating; it is a matter of de-escalating. I think de-escalating can only occur if the point is made on behalf of Canada that President Musharraf is not well informed on the topic.

I am pleased that the honourable senator indicates that the Prime Minister and the appropriate ministers, presumably the Minister of Foreign Affairs, will be contacting their counterparts so I will leave the matter with her. I do not want to dwell on it longer, but we are anxious to know on behalf of the Canadians when this will happen, and ask that the subject be pursued with the ministers and to let us know.

Senator LeBreton: It is fair to say that all Canadians realize the great commitment this country is making in Afghanistan. The comments of the President of Pakistan were made in a television interview. At the moment, I have no knowledge if the Minister of Foreign Affairs has had a chance to speak with his counterpart, or when he will be meeting with him, but I will be happy to share the results with this chamber when I have them.

(1355)

National Defence

Pakistan—Involvement in War on Terrorism

Hon. Hugh Segal: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. When she is inquiring with respect to representations that have been made in other matters, I wonder whether she could inquire and report back to this chamber with respect to what guarantees the Government of Pakistan has given the Government of Canada relative to interdictive activity in those border territories from which Taliban are being re-armed, from which materiel are being sent to support various forces working against the coalition activities to try to suppress that level of terrorism and share what these precise guarantees are from the Government of Pakistan, what their undertakings to us have been in the past and what we may be asking of them with respect to the future.

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I thank the honourable senator for that excellent question. These are concerns of a great many citizens of the world, let alone of Canada. President Karzai, when he was here last week, made it clear that he indeed feels there is a serious problem there. I will be happy to provide that information to honourable senators.

[Translation]

Health

Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology on Mental Health—Government Response

Hon. Aurélien Gill: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It has to do with the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on mental health. The minister should be very familiar with the study, since she took part in it and contributed to it.

Acclaimed by all, the report was published on May 9, 2006. Since that time, thousands of Canadians have been waiting for the government's response to the recommendations made.

As we all know, this is an urgent situation. After the tabling of that report, many people were convinced that mental illness would quickly emerge from the shadows.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us how and when the government intends to respond to that report?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for that question. I am well aware of the recommendations, having been a member of that committee under the chairmanship of Senator Michael Kirby.

Mental health, as we found out in that committee, touches practically every single Canadian. Every single one of us on the committee has members of our own families suffering from some form of mental illness.

At the moment, the Minister of Health is reviewing the Senate study. It has formed part of ongoing discussions that he has had with the provinces. I expect that, in the not-too-distant future, Minister Clement will be responding on behalf of the government, once he has completed his consultations with his various provincial and territorial counterparts as to how the government intends to proceed with the recommendations.

[Translation]

Senator Gill: Honourable senators are aware that the main recommendation was to create an independent Canadian Mental Health Commission with responsibility for coordinating efforts to improve service delivery and research and reducing stigmatization and suffering.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us whether the current government is committed to acting on the recommendation to establish this commission? If so, have meetings begun with health care sector representatives — she indicated a moment ago that the minister was meeting with the provinces — and with Aboriginal peoples, because a number of parties are involved in this study, in order to discuss the steps that must be taken to put this commission in place and appoint its head?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: When this issue arose before we recessed for the summer, I did report that the government, even in the last election campaign, supported the proposal of a mental health commission to coordinate and tie together all of the work that has to be done in this area. I was interested to read in this morning's paper about the Honourable Michael Wilson and his comments on the whole issue of mental illness. Of course, as we know, the Honourable Michael Wilson is a strong advocate for dealing with the stigma of mental illness and moving forward to address this serious issue because of the personal tragedy he suffered in his own family.

(1400)

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Firearms Centre—Proposal to Abolish Long-Gun Registry

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, my question is for the honourable minister responsible for Montreal. We know that violence occurs everywhere. We know that in Canada gun violence, including bloody rampages, have occurred too often in various places but nowhere have they occurred so tragically often as in Montreal. There is probably no Montrealer who was not personally affected, or at least does not know someone personally affected, by one of the rampages we have known. Marc Lepine killed 14 women at École Polytechnique; Valery Fabrikant killed four at Concordia University; and Kimveer Gill killed one person and wounded 20 at Dawson College. Every one of us has been touched. I perhaps like you, minister, am acquainted with people who have been affected by all of those tragedies. Although this was not in Montreal, we also recall the bloody rampage of Corporal Denis Lortie in the Quebec National Assembly. Montrealers have a direct personal experience of the violence that can be wrought by guns in the wrong hands, and that is probably why hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Montrealers have such a strong commitment to gun control.

I wonder how the minister can go home and tell Montrealers, and explain to Montrealers and justify to Montrealers the policy of his government to loosen gun control and to abolish the long-gun registry and to slash the budget of the Canadian Firearms Centre and to declare amnesties for the people breaking the law as it now stands. How can that be justified to the people of Montreal?

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): Honourable senators, I am the father of five young children. When I was 10 years old my father explained to me, on a Tuesday afternoon, such a horrific and tragic event. I have had to do this too often with my own kids. I visited Dawson College 36 hours after the tragedy. The honourable senator and everyone else in Montreal and outside of Montreal were deeply affected by this horrific event. Clearly, it is wished by all that this is the last of such events for a very long time.

As Senator Fraser is aware, several members of her party were mixing up issues and trying to make political gain on the back of this horrific shooting shortly after the shooting occurred — in my opinion too shortly after. The Montrealers that I know, perhaps not the ones that the honourable senator knows, make the difference and distinguish between fact and fiction. They understand that the long-gun registry had nothing to do with the Dawson tragedy. They also understand that this government stands for law and order and that this government is tough on violent criminals. We have tabled already a number of bills, as the senator knows, and others are forthcoming.

The Montrealers that I speak to are quite pleased not only that the government is addressing this situation properly but also that it does care about violent crime and about ensuring that violent criminals are put behind bars for a very long time.

Senator Fraser: Allow me to quote two people, neither of whom can be accused of belonging to either the minister's or my political party. One is a former Quebec Minister of Justice, who said, I thought in very serious and sober terms that the long-gun registry cannot deter every lunatic in the world. We know that. However, he said it can help and, in particular, it can help as a measure of control over people who are not so blindly lost that they do what Mr. Gill and Mr. Lepine did.

(1405)

The minister knows as well as I do that, indeed, the long-gun registry was a useful tool in stopping a copycat killing just a few days after Mr. Gill's murderous rampage.

The second person I would like to quote is young Mr. Hayder Kadhim, who was one of those wounded at Dawson College. He still has two bullets in his head. He has said that he cannot understand why the Government of Canada wants to loosen the gun control system, and that he would very much like to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss the matter with him.

Can I have the assurance of the minister that he will intervene on Mr. Kadhim's behalf and ask the Prime Minister to meet him and to explain his position?

Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, with regard to the gun registry, the only thing I would tell the honourable senator with respect to the one billion plus dollars that her party spent on a failed registry is to think about the number of lives we could have saved if the monies had been spent on profiling and ensuring that people like the perpetrator at Dawson College, who was clearly sick and deranged when he bought these firearms and who should not have had a firearm, had not obtained a firearm.

We did not have the political audacity, as members of the party opposite did, to go on the airwaves a few hours after the shooting to suggest that the former government was responsible for this tragedy. Frankly, this firearm was bought under the Liberal watch by a clearly deranged and sick individual. We did not do that. That is because there is something called class, respect and objectivity, which is something the honourable senator clearly does not understand.

Second, if somebody wants to meet the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, he has an office and representatives. If the request is sent to his office, I am sure he will consider it.

Senator Fraser: Honourable senators, the minister mixes apples and oranges here to some extent.

Everybody regrets the $1 billion, but it is gone. The Auditor General, a person of unassailable integrity and professionalism, has reported that the problems with the gun registry have been corrected.

I could not agree more about the need to tighten the system to try to ensure that deranged persons do not buy guns, but I do not think the one excludes the other. One can have a good registry and a good profiling system.

Senator Fortier: The honourable senator's question further reinforces my point. She is disconnected from reality, and probably from Montrealers as well. For her to believe that because her government misspent $1 billion and the Auditor General has reported then it is fine and we cannot talk about it again is ridiculous. The honourable senator is lecturing us on what we should be doing with the long-gun registry when members opposite had a chance for 13 years to deal with real and violent crime in Canada and they did absolutely nothing.

I will not take a lecture from either the honourable senator or anyone on that side of this chamber.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

An Hon. Senator: Run in the by-election!

(1410)

Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Committee Hearings on Federal Accountability Bill

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I, like many Canadians, have been following the proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on Bill C-2 and would like to take this opportunity to ask the chair of that committee a few questions pertaining to the hearings that have been taking place.

Could the chairman advise the chamber, as I am sure we are all interested, of the number of hours of hearings the committee has held on Bill C-2 since the Senate recessed in June? Although I cannot ask for details about committee deliberations at this time, would the chair tell us how many witnesses have appeared on Bill C-2? With regard to the selection of witnesses, could the chair advise this chamber if he proposed a list of witnesses and if those witnesses were invited to appear?

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: I would like to thank the honourable senator for that question, although I am a bit surprised.

Honourable senators, as of 1:20 p.m. today, when the committee adjourned until next Wednesday, the committee had sat for more than 75 hours on Bill C-2. During that time, the committee heard from more than 120 witnesses. Needless to say, there is now beginning to be a great deal of repetition in the words coming from the witnesses and the questions posed to the witnesses. Almost enough time has been spent on this matter.

Senator Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I am very impressed with how well informed the chairman is, so I will ask one more question.

I am sure it is a matter of public record, but when Bill C-2 was before the committee in the other place, how many hours of study were devoted to it and how many witnesses appeared?

Senator Oliver: Honourable senators, my instructions are that the committee in the other place sat for a total of 61.62 hours, including four days of clause-by-clause consideration from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. They heard from 69 witnesses, while we have already heard from 120 witnesses.

Finance

Fiscal Imbalance Between Provinces

Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, being the chamber of sober second thought, I guess we could concentrate a few more hours on that bill. There are many facets to it. However, that is not the subject of my question.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, my question is for the minister responsible for Quebec. After promising to correct the fiscal imbalance, the Prime Minister is continuing to put off infinitely doing what he promised. It is reasonable to assume that this promise played an important role in the election of a number of Conservative members in the Quebec City area.

After the Prime Minister failed to keep his promises regarding the Quebec City zoo and bridge, now we learn that the Prime Minister is reneging on his promise to correct the fiscal imbalance when he brings down his next budget.

Can the Minister of Public Works and Government Services confirm that the cabinet does not intend to keep the promise it made last December 19 regarding the fiscal imbalance?

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): I thank Senator Dawson for his question. I will get to the heart of the matter, because I do not think he wants to discuss the Quebec City zoo or bridge.

Having heard the interview Prime Minister Harper gave to Bernard Derome, I think it is clear that the commitment to correct the fiscal imbalance is still there and is even stronger.

I am very happy to hear Senator Dawson raise this issue in this chamber, because he used to deny that there was a fiscal imbalance, whereas today he wants to make sure the government deals with the issue.

I am happy to see that, like us, Senator Dawson hopes the issue of the fiscal imbalance will be corrected.

Senator Dawson: I had also asked the minister to define the fiscal imbalance, because we must recognize that allocation of tax resources in Canada poses a problem.

(1415)

As the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Since the Conservative government was elected, much has been held out but nothing actually delivered on the promise to resolve the fiscal imbalance.

Can the minister reassure us about other promises, namely promises to do with Quebec City's bridge, port and zoo? As you know, the Premier of Quebec is starting to lose patience with this federal government that is long on words and short on action.

Instead of continuing to give us smoke and mirrors by promising yet again to resolve the fiscal imbalance one of these days, not right away, soon, later, can the Minister of Public Works and Government Services stop treating us like children and confirm our suspicions that the fiscal imbalance does not exist?

Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, the last thing I think about the honourable senators opposite and on this side is that they are children.

You spoke of what has actually been delivered. With all due respect, allow me to make the following suggestion.

According to the latest poll, some 6 per cent or 7 per cent in the Quebec City area would vote for the Liberal Party. Accordingly, I know there are very few of you left in the Quebec City area.

Nonetheless, outside this circle, when it comes to something actually delivered, you will see that lowering the GST and helping young families were two promises we kept. The help we have started to offer in order to cut wait times in hospitals is another promise we kept. The five priorities promised were delivered.

That is why our party is enjoying greater popularity than yours in Quebec, as you know.

The fiscal imbalance does exist. If you do not think so, then you should consult your colleagues in the other place, because they recognize that the fiscal imbalance exists and they are pushing the Prime Minister to keep his promise, which he will do very shortly.

Labour

Assistance for Senior Workers

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: My question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

It has been said and written that the reason why Prime Minister Harper went against his principles and appointed the honourable senator to the Senate was to represent the interests of the citizens of Montreal. We have learned that the city is excluded from the Ottawa-Quebec agreement on assistance to laid-off older workers.

We would like the minister to explain why he has been unable to defend the interests of older workers in Montreal even though he is a member of government.

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): Honourable senators, first I would like to say that she is speculating about the contents of an agreement that has not yet been unveiled. I invite her to ask me a question after the agreement is announced and she has the requisite facts and information.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: I was just reminding the minister of his role as Montreal's representative. In the Liberal government, when I was in the other place, we extended this benefit to all workers who retired on account of difficulties in their industry. This benefit was available in several sectors and throughout the province. I would like the Minister to take note of this.

Industry

Quebec—Assistance to Aerospace Sector

Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question is also for the minister responsible for the Montreal region and pertains to the Canadian civil aerospace industry.

As the minister knows, I attended the ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Bell Helicopter in the greater Montreal area, which was presided by the Minister of Industry, Mr. Charest and the president of Bell Helicopter.

Bell Helicopter is a good example of what can be achieved when the private and public sectors collaborate, especially in such a vital sector.

More than half the jobs in Canada's aerospace sector are located in Montreal. This includes such companies as Bombardier, Pratt and Whitney, Bell Helicopter and CMC.

The minister knows that, in 2005 election, his party made a campaign promise to cancel the aerospace industry funding program. That commitment has been tossed on the scrap heap. In order to reassure the industry, employees and all parties working in this sector in greater Montreal and in Canada, is the minister able to assure us this government will continue to fund the civil aerospace industry?

(1420)

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): Honourable senators, this gives me the opportunity to point out to this chamber that, for the senators who were not invited, not only was Senator Fox present in the room when he was recognized for having convinced Bell Textron to move to Mirabel 20 years ago, but Monique Landry, Bob Brown, Ed Lundley and he were also recognized at the time by the company. As I indicated in my address, this was a remarkable gesture, 20 years later, for he worked very hard to ensure that Bell Textron would move to Mirabel. This honour was well deserved.

That being said, he no doubt knows that I am very concerned about aeronautics, aerospace and defence. I will therefore respond quickly with two points.

First, many of these programs fall under the responsibility of the Minister of Industry. That minister clearly indicated that he was reviewing these programs and that he would soon report and deliver a concept. We must therefore allow him to submit his ideas before making any comments.

Second, I would like to point out that the very important announcements made this summer regarding military spending, although not for the civil sector, will have a considerable impact on civil industry, throughout Canada — but especially in Montreal — because we are going to insist that all manufacturers, whether of airplanes, helicopters or anything else, reinvest one dollar in Canada for every dollar that they receive. In certain cases, these spinoffs will reach the civil sector.

Senator Fox should know this, since I know that he is in regular contact with the industry. The civil aerospace industry in Montreal is being encouraged by this government through future prospects and especially thanks to our management of defence procurement.

Senator Fox: I have a supplementary question, which will be my last. I thank the minister for his answer. I will have to change the slightly aggressive tone of my additional question, given the compliments the minister was kind enough to pay me.

I recognize the minister's interest in the aerospace industry in Montreal, but I am especially concerned about the future of the support programs, because to take just one example, when a company like Pratt & Whitney wants to develop a new technology, a new engine, it is competing with other Pratt & Whitney plants around the world. Plants in the United States have access to Pentagon programs, while those in Montreal do not. That is why it is important for this sector to have access to government assistance programs. This was recognized in a document entitled National Aerospace and Defence Strategic Framework, written in collaboration with representatives of the industry, academia, employee associations and the federal and provincial governments and released last November by his colleague, David Emerson.

What worries me is that, in the wake of last week's announcements of cuts, $42 million was cut from the Technology and Partnerships Program. I would ask the minister to reassure us that this is not an ongoing trend and that this program or a similar but better program — because we can always do better — will always be there to support Montreal's and Canada's aerospace industry.

Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, you will understand that the action the minister has proposed will be that of the Conservative government. Mr. Bernier is currently reviewing the programs. I am confident that, once that review has been completed, and once these very important contracts have been awarded to the aerospace industry in Quebec, the industry will be very encouraged by the employment prospects and this Conservative government.

(1425)

[English]

Delayed Answer to Oral Question

Hon. Terry Stratton (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have one delayed answer, in response to an oral question posed in the Senate on June 28, 2006, by the Honourable Mac Harb, regarding legislation to control second-hand smoke.

Labour

Legislation to Control Second Hand Smoke

(Response to question raised by Hon. Mac Harb on June 28, 2006)

Canada is a signatory to the ''Framework Convention on Tobacco Control'' of the World Health Organization (WHO FCTC) which provides the guiding principle for domestic tobacco control policies. Article 8, Section 2 of this convention which is the basis for the Honorable Senator's question states:

Each party shall adopt and implement in areas of existing national jurisdiction as determined by national law and actively promote at other jurisdictional levels the adoption and implementation of effective legislative, executive, administrative and/or other measures, providing for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places and, as appropriate, other public places.

The government is committed to this article and indeed the entire convention. The Government of Canada's policies are fully consistent with the convention and achieve the tobacco control objectives as specified in article 8.

  • The Non-Smokers' Health Act has governed federally-regulated workplaces since 1989. The Act bans smoking in federal workplaces except in designated and regulated smoking rooms/areas. The purpose of these areas is to allow those who are addicted to smoking to do so but only in the company of other smokers. Regulation of these areas implies that second hand smoke should not affect the health of non-smokers. The question of whether or not designated smoking areas should be totally eliminated requires assessment of its implications both for those addicted to smoking and non-smokers.
     
  • The government's Tobacco Control Program is designed to allow for the government to work with other governments and voluntary associations to develop and implement comprehensive and integrated approaches to increase awareness and education concerning the health hazards of smoking, and to reduce smoking significantly.
     
  • And, finally, the government has used the tax system to raise the monetary cost of smoking to a level that it creates strong incentives not to begin smoking and for smokers to stop. Overall Canadian taxes have grown from an average of $27.00 per carton in 1997 to $50.00 per carton in 2005. The federal government works together with the provinces to coordinate tobacco-related tax policies.

The smoking rate for Canadians aged 15 and older has declined considerably over time, from 50 per cent in 1965 to 19 per cent in 2005, indicating the success of tobacco control policies. Indications are that the rate will continue to fall.


ORDERS OF THE DAY

Public Health Agency of Canada Bill

Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Keon, seconded by the Honourable Senator Meighen, for the second reading of Bill C-5, respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts.

Hon. James S. Cowan: Honourable senators will note that this bill is identical to Bill C-75 tabled in the House of Commons on November 16, 2005, by the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, then Minister of State for Public Health. That bill died on the Order Paper upon the dissolution of Parliament on November 19, 2005.

I commend the government for reintroducing this legislation, which will provide the statutory underpinning for the Public Health Agency of Canada, established in September 2004, by Order-in-Council.

It is important to recall the historical background to the introduction of Bill C-75, now Bill C-5. The need to improve and strengthen coordination in the area of public health was highlighted as a consequence of the SARS outbreak of 2003. In response, the Liberal government of the day appointed the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, chaired by Dr. David Naylor, to study the circumstances surrounding the outbreak.

The Naylor committee reported in November, recommending that a public health agency be created to provide a coordinated and collaborative approach to address public health issues. This need was supported from this place by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, in November 2003, when it delivered a report concurring with the Naylor report. Consequently, the government appointed Dr. Bennett as Minister of State for Public Health.

In May 2004, she outlined a plan to establish a new public health agency for Canada in conjunction with public health centres across the country. Under Dr. Bennett's leadership, extensive consultations took place through a working group with the provinces, health professionals and other stakeholders. The working group reviewed public health models in other jurisdictions and consulted with various stakeholders and also concluded that a public health agency and public health officer were needed.

In September 2004, the Public Health Agency of Canada was created by Order-in-Council. Dr. David Butler Jones was appointed as the first Chief Public Health Officer for Canada. The agency has since defined its mission as ''promoting and protecting the health of Canadians through leadership, partnership, innovation and action in public health.'' I am sure all honourable senators will agree that this is an admirable and important mission.

In April 2005, the Canadian Public Health Network was established, allowing federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions to plan for public health issues together. As I said a few moments ago, Dr. Bennett introduced Bill C-75, the predecessor to the present bill, in November, 2005.

Honourable senators, this bill is not a comprehensive public health act but, rather, a technical bill to establish the agency on a legislative basis. This legislation recognizes the importance which this government and the previous government, and indeed all citizens of Canada, give to public health and the need to take measures at the federal level to promote collaboration amongst federal departments and agencies. The bill also recognizes that, in order to have a truly effective public health system, it is essential to enlist the consultation and cooperation of the provinces and territories and their agencies, together with international organizations and other interested parties.

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The purpose of the agency is to assist the Minister of Health in exercising and performing his or her powers, duties and functions relating to public health. The agency will continue as a government department separate from Health Canada, but as both organizations are part of the health portfolio, they will report to the Minister of Health.

The Chief Public Health Officer for Canada will become the government's lead health professional in relation to public health issues. As such, this individual may communicate with other governments, public health authorities and other organizations in the field of public health within Canada and internationally.

The Chief Public Health Officer may also provide information to, or seek the views of, the public, voluntary organizations in the field of public health or the private sector.

The act contains provisions for the regular reporting by the Chief Public Health Officer to Parliament on an annual basis, and additionally, as the individual may wish, in relation to other public health issues as they may arise.

The agency will bring a focus and prominence to public health needs of Canadians and create a federal focal point to work cooperatively with provinces and territories and other stakeholders in preparing for, and responding to, public health threats.

In conclusion, I urge all honourable senators to support this bill, and to expedite its progress through the legislative processes of this chamber so that the bill can be brought into full force and effect as soon as possible.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to and bill read second time.

Referred to Committee

The Hon. the Speaker: When shall this bill be read the third time?

On motion of Senator Stratton, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

Hamid Karzai President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Authorization to Append Address to Members of the Senate and the House of Commons

Hon. Terry Stratton (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government), pursuant to notice of September 27, 2006, moved:

That the Address of His Excellency Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, to Members of both Houses of Parliament, delivered on September 22, 2006, together with the introductory speech by the Right Honourable the Prime Minister of Canada and the speeches delivered by the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons, be printed as an Appendix to the Debates of the Senate of this day and form part of the permanent records of this House.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to.

(For text of speeches, see Appendix, p. 785.)

National Blood Donor Week Bill

Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mercer, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cochrane, for the second reading of Bill S-214, respecting a National Blood Donor Week.—(Honourable Senator Comeau)

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise in the Senate chamber today in support of Bill S-214, a bill respecting National Blood Donor Week, to be held in conjunction with the World Health Organization's World Blood Donor Day on June 14.

Most of us have seen advertisements that Canadian Blood Services air on television. We have heard the stories of joy and gratitude from those people whose lives have been saved by blood products.

Last spring, Senator Mercer spoke of seven-year-old Shanelle of Winnipeg, who is now able to laugh and play with her friends, cancer-free. Senator Carstairs told us about her son-in-law, who survived a rare disease last winter with the assistance of daily units of blood.

There are heartwarming stories from my home province of Prince Edward Island as well. A gentleman named Silbert had a terrible farming accident where he suffered severe injuries. He says, and I quote:

Why I am alive today, I don't know, but it had to be that people cared. People took the time to give blood, because it was there when I needed it.

We know how important our blood and blood products system is, but we are not acting on this knowledge. Of all Canadians who are eligible to donate blood, less than 4 per cent actually do, and every day the need is there. More than half of Canadians have required blood or blood products for themselves or for a family member.

Anyone can be touched. A cancer patient receiving treatments can require up to eight units of blood per week. The victim of a car accident might need up to 50 units of blood. Most organ transplants can require up to 10 units of blood, while the procedure for a liver transplant alone might require up to 100 units.

This bill is important because the Canadian Blood Services needs approximately 80,000 more new donors to meet increasing demands for blood and blood products.

By establishing a National Blood Donor Week, we can recognize the life-saving contributions of our donors. We can praise the countless volunteers of the Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec for their tireless hard work and dedication, we can increase awareness of both blood and blood product donation and we can actively encourage more Canadians to become regular blood donors.

Honourable senators, that is why I support this bill, and I encourage all of you to do so.

On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.

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Foreign Affairs

Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Matters Relating to Africa

Hon. Hugh Segal, pursuant to notice of September 27, 2006, moved:

That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Tuesday, May 9, 2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was authorized to examine and report on issues dealing with the development and security challenges facing Africa; the response of the international community to enhance that continent's development and political stability; Canadian foreign policy as it relates to Africa; and other related matters, be empowered to extend the date of presenting its final report from October 31, 2006 to December 22, 2006; and

That the Committee retain until January 31, 2007 all powers necessary to publicize its findings.

He said: Honourable senators, to ensure that senators travel as little as possible during the time when we all have obligations in committees and here in the chamber, the visit with respect to Africa will take place over the Thanksgiving break. That will make it impossible for us to report by the first date, which is why we are asking the consent of this chamber for a modest extension thereto.

Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I have a quick question for the chair of the committee. I take it there is no change in the budgetary requirements.

Senator Segal: We still hope to come in under the amount for which we have permission.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to.

Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Softwood Lumber Agreement

Hon. Hugh Segal, pursuant to notice of September 27, 2006, moved:

That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Wednesday, June 28, 2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was authorized to study and report on the Canada-United States agreement on softwood lumber, be empowered to extend the date of presenting its final report from October 2, 2006 to November 30, 2006.

He said: Honourable senators, because of the Senate committee travelling to Africa and the fact that other matters are being addressed that may be germane to this inquiry in the other place, by means of a ways and means motion, which at some point may find itself being discussed in this location, the extra time asked for will allow us to have ample opportunity to pursue the inquiry that this chamber asked us to undertake by reference some time ago. We do not expect any increase in committee costs as a result.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to.

Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament

Committee Authorized to Examine Name Change of Foreign Affairs Committee to Include International Trade

Hon. Hugh Segal, pursuant to notice of September 27, 2006, moved:

That the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament be authorized to examine and report on the following:

That rule 86(1)(h) of the Rules of the Senate be amended to read:

''The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, composed of twelve members, four of whom shall constitute a quorum, to which shall be referred, if there is a motion to that effect, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to foreign and Commonwealth relations generally, including:

(i) treaties and international agreements;
(ii) external trade;
(iii) foreign aid;
(iv) territorial and offshore matters.''; and

That the Committee submit its final report no later than December 22, 2006.

He said: Honourable senators, this discussion is a follow-up to a discussion that took place in this chamber on June 20, led by my colleague on the committee, Senator Stollery, speaking for the majority, as well as a discussion that took place on June 28 in which Senator Austin spoke in favour of the proposition. I can report an absolute consensus from both the majority and the minority side in the committee with respect to having this matter be considered by this chamber and, if so inclined, referred for consideration to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament.

Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Thank you. I am delighted that we corrected and are about to correct what was, in my view as a very old parliamentarian, an immense mistake that was made to accommodate some people. However, it was a mistake to have split the department, as we have said in the Senate. Some people were not in agreement with us that it was a mistake and they went ahead with it.

To recall the debate, as honourable senators know, the House of Commons passed a motion while the government was in opposition, so that the government of the day, which means the government of today, would have ''la cohérence et la cohésion.'' They voted against the split when they were in opposition, and now that they are in power, they have followed up on this vote that took place some time ago by reinstituting the committee.

I know I am not speaking only for myself today. I will not embarrass colleagues who might share my view. At that time we in the Senate were ready to fight that split, which did not serve Canada's interests. However, now we are back to reality and I congratulate the chairman for having seen fit to put the issue to the committee and to recommend that we proceed with this new title. I want to join with those who believe, as I do, in thanking him for his promptness. I know that the departmental people will be extremely happy. The split created a lot of friction for people who serve Canada in difficult situations. What happened in the past was callous, causing depression and everything that goes with it. Now the situation is back to normal and I am very happy about it.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to.

Adjournment

Hon. Terry Stratton (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate, and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:

That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, October 3, 2006 at 2p.m.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Motion agreed to.

The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, October 3, 2006, at 2 p.m.

Appendix

Address
of
His Excellency Hamid Karzai
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
to
both Houses of Parliament
in the
House of Commons Chamber, Ottawa
on
Friday, September 22, 2006

His Excellency Hamid Karzai was welcomed by the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, by the Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate and by the Honourable Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of Commons.

His Excellency Hamid Karzai
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Address to Members of the Senate and the House of Commons:

Hon. Peter Milliken (Speaker of the House of Commons): I call upon the Right Hon. Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, to address this joint session.

[Translation]

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr. Speaker of the Senate, colleagues from both Houses of Parliament, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Mr. Speaker, today it is my great pleasure to introduce His Excellency, President Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan.

[English]

Before I get to his introduction, I know the President will understand and forgive me for taking a few minutes to acknowledge some others, because there are some very important people with us here today. Were in not for them, in fact, President Karzai might not be here.

Afghanistan might still be ruled by tyrants and terrorists. Their courage and their commitment is the steel in Canada's national will to fight against global terrorism and to fight for peace and security in Afghanistan.

They are the wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and comrades of the brave Canadians who are rescuing and rebuilding President Karzai's long-suffering homeland. Among them are veterans of that noble mission, including some who have shed their blood on Afghan soil.

I know everyone in this House will join me in saluting them for their courage and sacrifice.

And now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to this House the first democratically elected leader in the history of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

In October 2004, he won a clear majority over 22 other candidates. He took 55 per cent of the over eight million votes cast, and may I say that I am very impressed and more than a little envious of this record of electoral success, but we should not be surprised by it.

[Translation]

A proud Pashtun born in Kandahar, Mr. Karzai speaks six languages and attended universities in Kabul and India. He began participating in his country's political life early on. He has witnessed more upheaval and confrontation than any of us can even imagine. As President, he has faced even more dangers.

[English]

In the 1980s, when he was a student in India, his beloved country was invaded and occupied by the Soviets.

He became an important figure in the Afghan popular resistance movement and helped the mujahedeen drive out the communists.

When the Taliban seized power in the 1990s, Hamid Karzai took a stand for his country once again, but his refusal to collaborate with the fanatical regime was a costly one.

He was forced to live in exile and therefore was not at home when his father was assassinated, almost certainly by agents of the Taliban.

A lesser man might have retreated from public life. However, Hamid Karzai stepped forward again in 2001 to bring political and economic progress to his people after the Taliban were ousted from power by a coalition of countries acting under the mandate of the United Nations.

He embarked on a campaign to persuade the international community to donate resources needed to rebuild his shattered country.

[Translation]

When the leaders of the Afghan tribes met in 2002 to choose a leader and an interim government, Hamid Karzai was there to serve his country yet again.

His electoral success should come as no surprise. He is a symbol of his country's progress in its long journey toward freedom and democracy.

[English]

That is why we should listen very carefully to him today as he tells us about the progress that is being made on security and reconstruction in Afghanistan; about the advance of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law; about the role our defence personnel, diplomats, development workers and tax dollars are playing; and about the challenges that remain.

Mr. President, before you take the podium from me, I would just like to share a personal reflection.

[Translation]

A little over a week ago, a madman opened fire on college students in Montreal. Since then, Canadians have been mourning the young woman who died and praying for the survivors.

Recently, I thought of those students as I was taking my own young children to school. I also thought of the thousands of young children in your country who face that kind of violence and risk every day.

[English]

They face that violence, not from an isolated madman but from the remnants of a regime that once ruled your country, people who oppose any education, particularly any education for girls, people who are prepared to deliberately kill children to achieve their fanatical goals, and we know this is not some theory.

This week we learned sadly in this country of the deaths of four Canadian soldiers, killed by the Taliban, as they stopped to assist Afghan children, in an attack in which scores of young Afghan children were maimed and injured.

Those Canadians, Mr. President, all the Canadians in Afghanistan and I think all Canadians, are thankful for the peace and prosperity that our children enjoy almost as a birthright, and we want to share our blessings with the children of your country.

That is why, at your request, we are in your country.

[Translation]

Mr. President Karzai, here you are among friends.

[English]

Canada's mission to your country has been, over the years, consistently backed not just by our government but by most in this Parliament, most notably by my colleague and sometimes adversary, the hon. Leader of the Opposition. All of us want to help you and your embattled people and we so eagerly await your words.

Colleagues, His Excellency, the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

[Applause]

His Excellency Hamid Karzai (President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan): Honourable members of Parliament, in Afghanistan, in a very respectful place, you wear your hat, so I will wear my hat as a mark of respect.

[Mr. Karzai spoke in Arabic]

The Right Honourable Prime Minister, honourable Speaker of the Senate, honourable Speaker of the House of Commons, honourable members, ladies and gentlemen.

[Translation]

I thank you very much for this great honour and for welcoming me to the people of Canada's House.

[English]

Honourable members, I stand before you today with deep emotions. It is a pleasure to be among friends in Canada today and to be visiting a great nation that is a model to the rest of us for all that is good.

Yet, I know my visit comes at a time of sadness for a number of families across Canada who have lost loved ones in my country, Afghanistan. I also know that it is a time when many in Canada are pondering their country's role in Afghanistan.

Therefore, in addition to the hon. members, it is to those families and the Canadian public that I wish to address myself today.

If the greatness of life is measured in deeds done for others, then Canada's sons and daughters, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, stand among the greatest of their generation. On Saturday, four of your fallen soldiers will return home to their final resting place.

They have sacrificed so that we in Afghanistan may have security. They have sacrificed to ensure the continued safety of their fellow Canadians from terrorism.

I know that there are many others who also feel the emptiness and loss of their loved ones. My heart goes to the families, the friends, and the Canadian people at this time of reflection and sorrow for those families.

More than anyone else, Afghans very much understand that these sacrifices are for a great, good cause. It is the cause of all of us as humanity, the cause of security for all, and the cause of peace in the basics of life for Afghan children as, Mr. Prime Minister, you earlier mentioned.

Honourable members, the people of Afghanistan have suffered from over two decades of invasions and destruction. The miseries of the Afghan people began with the invasion of our country in 1979 and continued until the tragedy of September 11, brought to the world by al-Qaeda and its associates.

The freedom loving Afghan people, backed by supporters from what was then referred to as the free world, fought and defeated the invasion, facilitating the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall. These were indeed significant accomplishments of our time, for which Afghans paid dearly. Over one million Afghans lost their lives, another one million were disabled, more than a quarter of our population became refugees in neighbouring countries and elsewhere, and our country's infrastructure was razed to the ground.

Whereas Afghans had fought and won the world's war against communism, the reward that Afghanistan received was abandonment by the international community. We were left with a world of destruction to rebuild and at the mercy of a predatory neighbourhood and bellicose extremist forces that had been brought to Afghanistan. Few cared about the dismal plight of the Afghan people and even fewer thought about the consequences of leaving a country so dangerously vulnerable to foreign extremists.

It was in this environment that al-Qaeda, with supporters in the region and beyond, set up its deadly campaign of terror against Afghans and the whole world. While the Afghan people continued to suffer and while we continued to warn the international community about the danger of international terrorism that was brewing in Afghanistan, the world remained unmoved.

Both our sufferings and our warnings were ignored as if Afghanistan did not exist. Perhaps by the standards of today's world we did not exist, for we had nothing to sell to the world or nothing to buy from the world, so we did not matter.

The tragedy of September 11 showed in a terrible way the flaws of the arguments against helping Afghanistan. For one thing, it showed that, in fact, the cost of ignoring Afghanistan was far higher than the cost of helping it. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 brought home to many in the West the pain of terror and the fear that we in Afghanistan had been feeling at the hands of foreign-sponsored terrorists for so many years before September 11. And when the international community forces, including Canadians, came to Afghanistan later that year, they came as partners under the banner of a United Nations Security Council Resolution to liberate Afghanistan from the extremist forces which had seized control of our nation many years before that.

The arrival of the international community to our rescue after 9/11, however, was not a partnership solely of military might. Over the last five years, Afghanistan and the international community have developed a remarkable partnership which I would call a cooperation of civilizations, a partnership that extends from enhancing security to developing the rural areas of Afghanistan to providing education and health services to our needy people. Canada, in all respects, has been among the leaders of this partnership.

Thanks to Canada's contributions, Afghanistan today is profoundly different from the terrified and exhausted country it was five years ago. Today, Afghanistan has the most progressive constitution in our region, which enables the Afghan people to choose their leadership for the first time in their history through democratic elections. Over the past five years, our people have voted in two elections, one for the president and another for parliament.

With the inauguration of Parliament, 28 per cent of women were placed as members of Parliament. All the three branches of the state have been established. More than six million children are going to school today. To bring a comparison, during the time of the Taliban, only 700,000 children went to school; only boys. Today, over six million children go to school; over 35 per cent of them girls, from little girls to adult girls.

Once, five years ago during the rule of the Taliban, people were running away from Afghanistan. We have seen in the past five years that over four and a half million of our refugees have returned to the country, from His Majesty, the former King of Afghanistan, living in Italy, to the political leaders of the country, to the educated elite of Afghanistan in Europe, America and Canada, to the millions of refugees, poor ones, living in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan. They have all come back home.

Afghanistan, Mr. Prime Minister and hon. members of Parliament, because of your help, is once again the home of all Afghans.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Hon. Mr. Hamid Karzai: During this period, we have also disarmed thousands of illegally armed persons, collected thousands of weapons, light and heavy. We have begun to create our national army and our national police. We have achieved fiscal stability. Our economy has grown. When we began in 2001, our income per capita was only $180. Today, it is only $355 but it is twice more than $180. In short, we in Afghanistan have embraced the vision of a prosperous and pluralistic society which Canada so richly embodies.

A democratic nation is not built overnight, nor in one or two elections. A democratic state draws its strength not only from strong state institutions but from the confidence of the people in those institutions and in the democratic process. Afghanistan's democracy will continue to grow, will continue to develop and will continue to gain the confidence of its people but only with patience and with the continued support of Canada and other members of the international community. As we move forward, we will continue to look to Canadian institutions, like this great Parliament, and to Canada's pluralistic traditions to help us move forward.

Despite our phenomenal progress, our new democracy faces serious challenges and threats. Insecurity in parts of our country, as a result of the rise of terrorist activities, is our greatest challenge. Five years ago, Afghans and international forces defeated terrorists within two months because of the power of the international community and the will and desire of the Afghan people. While some terrorists were removed, most of them ran away and took refuge in neighbourhoods beyond our borders.

Unfortunately, it was in those sanctuaries beyond our borders where they were reorganized, trained, financed and provided with ideological motivation to come into Afghanistan, kill our children, kill our teachers, kill the clergy, destroy mosques full of worshippers, destroy schools, destroy clinics, kill international aid workers, attack international security forces and try to bring us defeat.

A year ago, in southern parts of Afghanistan, all schools were open. Today, all over the country, as I speak to you, more than 150 schools are burned by these terrorists and 200,000 children, boys and girls, who went to school last year cannot go to school today because of these attacks. Terrorism sees its ultimate defeat in the prosperity of the Afghan people which is why terrorists attack.

Polio, which was almost eradicated, with only four cases last year, this year 27 cases have been registered by the minister of health and only in those areas of the country where terrorism has come back to strike health workers, children and their parents.

Terrorists are prepared to cross any boundaries and commit horrific acts of violence to try to derail Afghanistan from its path to success. They want the international community to fail, and I emphasize they want the international community to fail in its collective endeavour to help Afghanistan rebuild. That is why they decapitate elderly women in the name of spying for the coalition forces. A 75-year-old woman in Afghanistan rarely goes out of her house and is busy almost all the time with her grandchildren. You cannot imagine that a 75-year-old Afghan lady in the village would be in contact with either the international security forces, with the Afghan government or with any entity outside the walls of her house. However, they would kill her and then label her a spy just to frighten us all into the dark ages.

That is why, again, terrorists are killing international soldiers and civilians who have come to help Afghanistan. Clearly, unless we confront them more decisively, terrorists will continue to attack us everywhere, in Afghanistan and in the rest of the world. We will not succeed in eliminating terrorism unless we seek and fight the source of terrorism wherever it might be and dry its roots.

Our strategy of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan has so far been mainly focused on addressing the symptoms of terrorism, that is, on killing terrorists who come from across our borders. This strategy is bound to fail unless we move beyond the military operations in Afghanistan and to address terrorism's political ideological and financial basis. We must also show that extremism is not used by any country or entity as an instrument of policy.

Unless we go to the roots of terrorism, to where they are trained, where they are equipped and where they get inspiration, in other words, to the sources of terrorism, the world will not be a safer place for all of us, not Afghanistan, nor any other country.

Globally that is true too. If terrorists continue to harm innocent people around the world, which is what we have seen happen from New York, to Bali, to Madrid, to London, then it is our collective duty to stop them at the point of origin, at the breeding grounds before they can reach far and wide.

Fighting terrorism collectively is also tied to our fight against drugs. The menace of narcotics feeds terrorism and threatens the foundation of legitimate economic development in Afghanistan. A combination of factors, mainly a lack of a conducive security environment for our counter-narcotics efforts, absence of a comprehensive alternative livelihoods program and clandestine credit flows to poppy farmers from outside are behind the narcotics trade in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is committed to fighting narcotics, alongside terrorism, with strength and determination and through a combination of law enforcement and economic measures. We expect that the international community will continue to support us in this fight by enabling us to provide meaningful alternative livelihoods to our farmers.

The narcotics problem in Afghanistan is as serious as terrorism. As an Afghan, I know, as do the members of my delegation, that if we do not destroy poppies in Afghanistan, poppies will destroy us. Therefore, trust us when we say that we will fight them and we will because we want a country as good as yours and a parliament as good as yours. We will not have that unless we have destroyed poppies. However, it will take effort in the world and many years of patience before we succeed. I hope you will have the patience to bear with us for that long, perhaps five to ten years.

Honourable members, today, under the United Nations mandate and consistent with the wishes of the Afghan people, your sons and daughters are together with the citizens of more than 35 other nations committed to security for Afghanistan, while more than 60 nations, along with multilateral organizations, have pledged generously to help rebuild our wartorn country and to have a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.

Canada has made a tremendous difference in the lives of millions of Afghans already. I have described only five or six aspects of the improvement of life. I have told you of children going to school. I have told you of millions of refugees coming back. I have told you of parliament coming back. I have told you of women back in parliament and in the workplace. There are hundreds of other examples, ladies and gentleman, honourable members, of where your country is helping us on a daily basis to secure our country, to bring us a better life, better roads, better agricultural production, a thriving civil society and press freedom that is unprecedented in Afghanistan.

Today in our country, where we had no television station five years ago, we have six television stations, private ones, all critical of me. We have more than 300 newspapers, again, almost all of them critical of me. Over 30 radio stations belong to the civil society. There is no part of the media that the government owns and the ones that we own people do not listen to, they do not watch.

Now extend that to the Afghan villages and the access that Afghans in the countryside suddenly have to world news, to the rights that the constitution has given to them and to the awareness that this is the right they have, that the government is nobody to give it to them, that it is theirs. This has come to us because your troops are serving in Afghanistan, because your taxpayer dollars are helping in Afghanistan. That presence of your sons and daughters and your resources has enabled Afghanistan to offer this great virtue to all people.

We are proud, honourable members, to be recipients of your assistance. It has gone a long way, as I mentioned earlier, in addressing the needs of our people, especially with the kind of generosity that you have offered that help.

Mr. Prime Minister, you chose Afghanistan as your first foreign journey and we are grateful for that. You have shown steadfast support for us and for the ideals that we share together through this Parliament and through the government.

I am also grateful, ladies and gentlemen, honourable members, to the two former prime ministers, Prime Minister Chrétien and Prime Minister Martin, for they too committed to Afghanistan and for the Parliament of Canada for having made that possible.

Honourable members of Parliament, those of you who visited Afghanistan, from the Senate and the House of Commons, and those of you who helped Afghanistan through your work in this Parliament should know that this help may seem little to you here, but it multiplies a thousand times when it goes to Afghanistan, for you do not know, sitting in this Parliament, the desperation of the Afghan people, the need for security of the Afghan people and also the danger that the lack of security can bring us here in Canada or in the United States. Therefore, your help to us for building us into the future is much more valuable than perhaps you can imagine. It takes us into the future, a secure future.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is much that we can learn from Canada, from a society that speaks two languages, which is exactly what we do in Afghanistan. When I address the Afghan people, I do exactly as you did today, Mr. Prime Minister. I switch from one language to another. We have learned from your experience: the freedom to all the languages, the recognition of the minority languages. The national anthem of Afghanistan was a year ago in Farsi. Today it is in Pashto, another official language of ours, but the national anthem of Afghanistan, through the modern constitution that we built for us, through your help, recognizes today all the 14 major ethnic groups of Afghanistan and it is in our national anthem to mention all the 14 ethnic groups of Afghanistan. It is a beautiful song. It is not that long. It only takes a minute.

Once again, your presence there and your help there has brought to Afghanistan the stability of a political system that is working toward a better tomorrow, and I thank you for that, too.

Honourable members, in Afghanistan we admire your respect and adherence to the rule of law. That is what we are trying to do in our country, for justice and for human dignity — we feel so stepped upon in Afghanistan by all those invaders — of the Afghan man and woman. We are trying to do that with your help. Most important, we admire your determination to help Afghanistan, at times with the dearest sacrifice that mankind can offer, the lives of your soldiers.

I sometimes think, what if Afghanistan soldiers were serving in Canada, what would the families of Afghanistan think when an Afghanistan soldier died in Canada? Would they justify it? Would they see the value in it? Would they understand it? When I think of the interconnectedness between humanity today, the dangers and the virtues, together, I understand that, yes, it is sad but it is worth it.

Afghanistan also sheds blood there. Every day we lose the lives of our children, we lose the lives of our soldiers, we lose the lives of our teachers. We lost one of our best governors, the most educated of ours, to a suicide bomber. All of that is for a common cause, the cause of security for all of us. It is this cause of security that you are serving in Afghanistan, but in Afghanistan you are not only serving the cause of security for the international community and your country, you are also helping one of the most oppressed societies in the world and its little children.

Thank you.

[Applause]

[Translation]

Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Speaker of the Senate): Mr. Speaker, Your Excellency President Karzai, Mr. Prime Minister, Honourable Senators and members of the House of Commons, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of all the parliamentarians and everyone here today, it is my honour, Your Excellency, to thank you for your visit and for your clear and eloquent speech to this joint session of Canada's Parliament.

[English]

President Karzai, your acknowledgment of the contribution of Canadian men and women to the development of a modern, free and democratic Afghanistan is greatly appreciated. I am confident that our brave Canadian Forces personnel, together with the humanitarian workers presently deployed in your country are pleased that you have had this opportunity to salute, in the Parliament of Canada, their important work.

We are proud of those Canadians who work alongside the Afghan people, together with participants from 37 countries in the NATO and United Nations, to assist the men and women of Afghanistan in building all elements of your civil and national society.

[Translation]

Today, your country is emerging from its dark era of terror and fear. You have adopted a constitution establishing a democratic Islamic government. You have held democratic elections, re-opened the schools and begun to breathe again after years of war and tyranny. Canada is proud to have been able to help you attain these objectives.

[English]

Mr. President, Canada is proud to have assisted the men and women of Afghanistan in accomplishing the goals achieved to date. Together, we have restored hope. Indeed, hope restored, Spem Reduxit, is the very motto of my province of New Brunswick. ''Hope Restored'' might very well serve as the beacon, as we continue to collaborate with the people of Afghanistan. Our NATO and United Nations colleagues are fully aware that the process of rebuilding Afghanistan has only just begun. We know that the road ahead will be difficult, and we are all too aware of the costs involved.

[Translation]

That is why we are grateful to you, Your Excellency, for addressing the participants of this joint session of Canada's Parliament.

While Canada has a long history of establishing and maintaining peace all around the world, our mission in Afghanistan presents special challenges for the diplomats, police officers, soldiers and development officers.

We are pleased to hear you talk of their contributions and the work that remains to be done.

[English]

The past five years since 9/11 may be only a short time in the order of history, however in that short space of time, Canada and Afghanistan have developed new and lasting ties. Canadians have become aware of Your Excellency's historic country as never before, and they hope that, through their efforts and sacrifices, Afghanistan will become a safer place, and the world along with it.

We look forward with hope to the day when all peoples will live in the fullness of freedom, a day when we will be able to give priority to mutually celebrating the music, the art and the literature of each other's cultures.

President Karzai, Your Excellency, your address to this joint session of the two houses of the Parliament of Canada has reassured us that our contributions are bearing fruit. Allow me, therefore, on behalf of all here present, to thank you once again for your address, and to wish you and the people of Afghanistan, Godspeed.

[Applause]

[Translation]

Hon. Peter Milliken: President Karzai, Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Harper, Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Kinsella, members of the diplomatic corps, hon. senators, hon. members, ladies and gentlemen.

[English]

President Karzai, on behalf of the members of the House of Commons, and indeed of all of us in the chamber today, I would like to thank you for having addressed us. As the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's first democratically elected president, you carry with you the dreams and aspirations of your people for a safe and prosperous nation, and that is not an easy burden to shoulder.

The first task of a leader is to keep hope alive, and I have no doubt that at times it is a very difficult and indeed lonely task, but you are not alone, as I hope you know. You and the Afghan people have many friends here in Canada and indeed all over the world. They are eager to see your country rebuild itself and more than willing to help in that connection.

[Translation]

The Parliament of Canada is no exception. Last June, it hosted a group of men and women who work for the National Assembly of Afghanistan who came to attend the Parliamentary Officers' Study Program here in Ottawa. This program shows participants how our Parliament works and compares our practices to their own legislatures.

[English]

All of us who had the privilege to meet and work with these dedicated individuals were struck by their commitment to their nation and to their fellow citizens, as well as their determination to restore to health the phoenix that is Afghanistan, if I may borrow a phrase you yourself have used, Mr. President.

The men and women who participated in this study program are serving the first Parliament elected in more than three decades. The national assembly, composed, like Canada's Parliament, of both an upper and lower house, will celebrate its first anniversary on December 19, 2006. Through their newly elected members, Afghans now have a voice, one which I trust will grow ever stronger with the help of their many friends in the international community.

[Translation]

Mr. President, from what I have read about the history of your country and its people, I understand that poetry is an integral part of life in Afghanistan.

I understand that private poetry competitions are frequently held and almost every family has a poetry collection.

[English]

It was therefore no surprise to learn that you, President Karzai, are also a lover of poetry. I came across one of your favourite poems, and I would like to recite it for all of those in attendance here, first because it is a lovely rhyme, but also because I think it gives us some insight into your own hopes for your country, your own realization that fulfilment is not always easily achieved, but that hope must be kept alive in you and the Afghan people and the friends of Afghanistan, all of whom constitute a large group.

The excerpt is from a poem by Robert Frost called Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

On behalf of all the members of the House of Commons, I thank you again for having visited us today and I wish you good luck and Godspeed in your long journey home.

[Translation]

Godspeed!

[Applause]

Hon. Peter Milliken: I declare the joint session adjourned.