Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 71
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The Honourable Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, Speaker pro tempore
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker pro tempore in the chair.
Hon. Nancy Ruth: Honourable senators, Valentine's Day on the Hill is
unique. While a few are focused on roses and romance, it is on Valentine's Day
that in Room 200 West Block, human rights are fought for and remembered. Last
night it was Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh who told their story. One year ago, on
February 14 and February 15, 300 women remembered their fight for their rights.
We mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Ad Hoc women's conference that led
to changes in Canada's Constitution. Those changes strengthened equality rights
for women in section 15 and section 28 of the Charter.
Women in Canada and around the world do not experience life the way men do.
Honourable senators, I want you to hear this: Women in Canada and around the
world do not experience life the way men do.
Women's experiences are not random events that fall sometimes on women and
sometimes on men. Things happen to women precisely, predictably and simply
because they are women. These things include the intersection of race, age,
disability, sexual orientation and religion; threats to physical security and
violence; limits on access to basic public health care, education and justice;
poverty, deepened by a lack of reproductive freedom, equal pay and child care;
and limited political representation and access. These things happen to us
simply because we are women.
This being Flag Day, I want to emphasize that we are all Canadians under one
flag, created here. That flag represents what we share, the unique country we
have created across a vast landscape and a diverse population.
We are Canadians under one Constitution. That Constitution recognizes our
diversity, our differences. It compels us to pay attention to women and women's
lives precisely because they and we are women. Doing so does not detract from
our Canadian-ness. It is at the heart of what we are building.
Honourable senators, let us not talk about the flag without talking about the
situation of all kinds of women in our country. Let us not do any study in this
place without looking at that study through the eyes of women.
Hon. Joan Cook: Honourable senators, today we celebrate National Flag
Day. I recall, on a cold, blustery day 42 years ago, trudging up the hill of the
former U.S. military base to HMCS Cabot, with a group of Girl Guides in
tow, to watch the unfolding of such a historic moment in our history.
The red maple leaf has long been a symbol of Canada, originating long ago
with Canada's Aboriginal peoples gathering maple sap from the trees every
spring. Throughout the great world wars the red maple leaf displayed on badges
and equipment became the dominant symbol for many of the Canadian regiments and
soldiers serving overseas. It was worn in the darkest hours of battle and also
in the most celebrated moments of triumph. It continues to be worn by Canadian
peacekeepers and troops serving all over the world.
In 1949, with the expectation of a higher standard of living, more public
services and a greater economic security in international trade, England's
oldest colony, Newfoundland and Labrador, joined this maple leaf nation and
became Canada's newest province.
In 1965, the red maple leaf officially adorned the new national flag of
Canada. Today, it is a symbol recognized throughout the world as one of peace,
diversity, tolerance and respect for human rights. It represents not only our
history and the sacrifices we have endured, but also our devotion and commitment
to ensure a greater Canada for our children's children.
Honourable senators, today we celebrate that symbol. I believe our rich
history has produced a nation of courageous, proud and tolerant people. I am
grateful to live in a united nation where we can be who we choose to be, where
each person can voice their own opinion without persecution and where we can go
about our daily business in relative peace.
May our flag speak to the exciting challenges and opportunities for a future
filled with hope and promise.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, history was made this week
in Nova Scotia. Her Excellency, Michaëlle Jean, the first Black Canadian to hold
the position of Governor General, and Mayann E. Francis, Nova Scotia's
thirty-first Lieutenant-Governor and the first
Black woman to become Lieutenant-Governor, were both at the Black Cultural
Centre for Nova Scotia in Halifax Tuesday evening celebrating Black History
Month, and what a celebration it was.
Two Black women, head of our country and of our province: The hall was packed
to the rafters and native Black Nova Scotians read original poems. Talented
artists such as Jeremiah Sparks sang and performed. The Preston Mass Choirs
performed, and Her Excellency gave a most powerful address on equality and
When Their Excellencies, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, the Governor
General of Canada, and Jean-Daniel Lafond, decided to make their first official
visit to Nova Scotia, it was their intention to focus on activities that empower
groups of diverse backgrounds to be heard, including women, immigrants, youth,
members of the province's Black community, artists, francophones and volunteers.
In a heavy agenda, Her Excellency participated in a round-table discussion
with immigrant women. His Excellency met with representatives of the francophone
community and later he had a tour and luncheon meeting with representatives of
the food and wine industry, as well as with students enrolled in the culinary
arts program at Nova Scotia Community College. I was honoured to participate in
that event as well.
Premier Rodney MacDonald welcomed them at Province House, where Her
Excellency made a landmark address. The event marks the first time that a
Governor General has ever addressed the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia.
Her Excellency said, among other things:
Province House itself evokes a history rich in lessons about freedom and
It was here, after all, that Joseph Howe defended himself against a trumped
up libel charge after exposing government corruption.
The oratorical marathon that he performed in this building in 1835, arguing
for the importance of free speech, remains legendary among journalists across
She later quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., and said, "Until all of us are
free, none of us is free."
Yesterday afternoon, Her Excellency and Jean-Daniel Lafond were at the Art
Gallery of Nova Scotia, where I was privileged to show them some of the artwork
of famous Nova Scotia Black artists.
Honourable senators, I conclude by commenting on how history was made this
week in Nova Scotia by quoting from Her Excellency, who said in Halifax:
I strongly believe that it is so much more rewarding when we work together
to break down the barriers — of language and race, gender and religion,
poverty and disability, geography and age.
All the cultural backgrounds Canadians are a part of have combined to build
our collective wealth, history, knowledge, language and culture, making Canada
the example for the world, for human rights and the rule of law. This is
something all Canadians should be truly proud of.
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, the 24th annual Défi Sportif
will be held from April 25 to 29 in Montreal. This event is special because it
is the world's largest gathering of athletes with disabilities.
Défi Sportif was created by AlterGo, a group of organizations whose purpose
is to promote sports and recreation for disabled persons. The initiative grew
out of the realization that disabled persons have few opportunities to compete
Since 1984, this annual event has proven that disabilities do not necessarily
get in the way of being active. During the event, athletes with five types of
disabilities — hearing, intellectual, physical, mental illness and visual — can
participate in their chosen sports and interact with elite athletes. In parallel
with the sporting events, other activities are organized to support the social
integration of persons with disabilities.
Défi Sportif is about sports, social interaction and people. Its mandate is
to encourage the practice of sport and to show a dynamic image of people with a
I had the opportunity to experience this dynamism and to meet a number of
participants during a benefit show held in Montreal on February 6. I met a
number of ambassador-athletes, also known as Champions: Mario Babin, rugby;
Rodrigo Buitron-Lara, volleyball; Stéphane Chaput, cycling; Michael Dauphin,
water polo; Sébastien Fortier, cycling; Sydney Fredeling, basketball; Éric
Guérard, track and field; Alexandre Levert, soccer; Sarah Mailhot, track and
field; Pierre Mainville, fencing; Nancy Morin, goalball; Shauna O'Brien,
rhythmic gymnastics; Karine Vermette, basketball; and Simon Vézina, ball hockey.
I also met 17-year-old Mathieu Marcil from Gatineau, who plays boccia, which
is a version of lawn bowling for athletes with cerebral palsy. Mathieu has been
enthusiastically wheeling his way through boccia games since 2001.
Mélanie Lessard, who is from Saint-Jean-de-Matha, Quebec, is another Défi
Sportif Champion. Mélanie has Marfan syndrome and won a silver medal in swimming
in 2006, the first year she participated. In 2007, she hopes to achieve a
personal best time and win gold. It was both touching and refreshing to hear her
talk about her goals for upcoming competitions.
In April, more than 2,900 athletes from approximately 12 countries will
compete for top honours in 13 sporting activities. Without a doubt, passion and
energy will abound.
I would like to congratulate the organizers for creating and developing this
wonderful project. I commend the sponsors and volunteers who have allowed this
event to continue to grow over the years.
I invite you, honourable senators, to join me in encouraging these young
Canadians, who, despite their disabilities, show exceptional perseverance in
living life to the fullest.
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, yesterday, thousands of
Manitobans were joined by firefighters throughout North America to pay tribute
to two Winnipeg firefighters who lost their lives in a weekend blaze. Sadly, it
takes a tragedy like the one that claimed the lives of Captain Tom Nichols and
Captain Harold Lessard for many Canadians to reflect on the great service our
firefighters provide and the great cost to some of them and their families.
The House of Commons passed a motion in 2005 that could have led to a
national memorial to fallen firefighters. A foundation is in place, but there
remains no place in Ottawa that prompts Canadians to reflect on their sacrifice.
Honourable senators, my message is very simple: I would urge the government,
as well as anyone else who must be involved, to work with the Canadian Fallen
Firefighters Foundation towards building an appropriate memorial here in Ottawa
in the near future.
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, I rise today to mark the
twenty-fifth anniversary of the worst offshore drilling accident in Canadian
In the early hours of February 15, 1982, the world's largest and most
advanced oil rig, the Ocean Ranger, capsized and sank on the Grand Banks. All 84
crew members, the vast majority of them young men from my province, lost their
lives. It is a tragedy that pierced the collective soul of Newfoundland and
Labrador and a loss that we continue to remember, and reflect on, all these
The profound sense of loss and grief that followed this horrible event,
however, fuelled a determination to bring about positive changes and to put a
spotlight on workplace safety. In the intervening years there have been
investigations, a royal commission, mechanical and design changes, and tightened
government regulations. Indeed, government and industry worked together to
improve safety standards and practices, which continue to guide offshore
petroleum exploration and development in the province today.
However, perhaps the greatest legacy has been the emphasis on workplace
safety and training, especially training. Today, there are greatly enhanced
standards for vocational skill and survival training for all those who work in
the offshore. In the aftermath of the Ocean Ranger sinking, my province emerged
as a world leader in training for disasters at sea.
The province's Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Kathy
Dunderdale, said recently:
It is essential that we always remember what happened that day and ensure
that safety is the number one consideration in the development of our
Every decision that we make with respect to the offshore is to the backdrop
of the Ocean Ranger to ensure that no tragedy like this ever happens again.
I could not agree more.
To the families and friends of all those who perished that fateful day, I say
that your province and country continue to share this loss with you. May there
be pride and comfort in the fact that the lessons learned from that great
tragedy have surely saved the lives of many others who work in the offshore.
Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Honourable senators, over the past few
months, many have seen the banner I have affixed to my Senate binder, which
reads, "Supertankers in our bay — no way! Respect Canada's waters."
I thought that honourable senators would be as pleased as I am to note that
on Wednesday our ambassador in Washington delivered a note to the Chairman of
the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, as it is known.
The essence of this note was to tell the chairman that notwithstanding that the
commission is about to hear two and perhaps three applications for the
construction of LNG facilities right on the international boundary between New
Brunswick in Canada and Maine in the United States, the only access for the
tankers is through a narrow, fog-bound passage that at its widest is 1,500
metres, and therefore, as Ambassador Wilson's letter indicated, "Canada will not
permit LNG tankers to pass through Head Harbour Passage."
This, honourable senators, is good news for all Canadians. It is good news
for New Brunswick. It is good news for the fishermen of New Brunswick, for the
ecotourism industry, for the whales of the Bay of Fundy and for energy
The United States need have no fear as to whether we in Canada will be in a
position to supply their market with natural gas and oil. The announcements in
Saint John recently of the doubling of the oil refinery there prove ample
evidence of that fact. Hopefully, FERC will take note of our formal objections
and statement that we consider Head Harbour Passage to be sovereign Canadian
waters and will reject these applications. If they do not, then what remains for
us is to enact legislation, probably an amendment to the Shipping Act, to
formally put in law our objections to this highly dangerous initiative, which
the Americans would be wise to consider putting elsewhere down along their
eastern coast rather than on an international boundary in very difficult, tricky
Honourable senators will be happy, I know, to share this news.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in
both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which deals with the development and
security challenges facing Africa, the response of the international community
to enhance that continent's development and political stability, and Canadian
foreign policy as it relates to Africa.
On motion of Senator Segal, report placed on the Orders of the Day for
consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Banking, Trade and Commerce, presented the following report:
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce has the honour
to present its
Your Committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Tuesday, May 2, 2006,
to examine and report on issues dealing with interprovincial barriers to
trade, respectfully requests for the purpose of this study that it be
empowered to adjourn from place to place and travel within Canada.
Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative
Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy,
Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that Committee are
appended to this report.
JERAHMIEL S. GRAFSTEIN
(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix,
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
when shall this report be taken into consideration?
On motion of Senator Grafstein, report placed on the Orders of the Day for
consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal
and Constitutional Affairs, presented the following report:
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the
honour to present its
Your Committee, to which was referred Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canada
Elections Act, has, in obedience to the Order of Reference of Thursday,
November 23, 2006, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without
DONALD H. OLIVER
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
when shall this bill be read the third time?
On motion of Senator Oliver, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third
reading at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Lorna Milne presented Bill S-223, to amend the Access to
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: When shall this bill
be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Milne, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second
reading two days hence.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore informed the Senate that a
message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-288, An Act to
ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
when shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Mitchell, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for
second reading two days hence.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the
next sitting of the Senate, I shall move:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Thursday, December
7, 2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs,
which was authorized to examine and report on the benefits and results that
have been achieved through the Court Challenges Program, be empowered to
extend the date of presenting its final report from February 28, 2007, to June
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, I give notice
that at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and
Technology be authorized to examine the state of early learning and child care
in Canada in view of the OECD report, "Starting Strong II," released
on September 21-22, 2006 and rating Canada last among 14 countries on spending
on early learning and child care programs, which stated ". . . national and
provincial policy for the early education and care of young children in Canada
is still in its initial stages . . . . and coverage is low compared to other
OECD countries;" and
That the Committee study and report on the OECD challenge that ". . .
significant energies and funding will need to be invested in the field to
create a universal system in tune with the needs of a full employment economy,
with gender equity and with new understandings of how young children develop
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I would like to announce that Senator LeBreton is still ill today and
will not be here for Question Period. Senator Fortier is with Her Excellency the
Governor General at present, and I do not anticipate that he will be with us for
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I believe that the honourable senators will understand why the Leader
of the Government is absent but will be slightly less accommodating with regard
to the minister responsible for the Montreal area, who did very well for himself
during Question Period yesterday and who should give priority to his work as a
parliamentarian, because we feel that role is an extremely important one.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, my question is for the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.
Can the honourable senator please tell the chamber whether the committee will
address Bill C-288 at its earliest convenience?
Hon. Tommy Banks: It is the practice of our committee, as I am sure it
is of others, that legislation takes precedence over other matters, such as the
study of CEPA, which is mandated by the legislation.
At present, there are two other bills before our committee, so I will discuss
with the committee the priority they would like to use in establishing how soon
to deal with which bill and in which order.
Bill C-288 is a bill of considerable import. I suspect members on all sides
will want to address their attention to the bill with some alacrity.
I do not know whether this gave rise to the honourable senator's question,
but a report in a large newspaper stated as follows with respect to Bill C-288 —
and "there" in the upcoming quote refers to the Senate: "There, it is expected
to be passed into law after being studied briefly by the environment committee."
I wish to disabuse any members who may be under that impression, or anyone
else who is within the sound of my voice who may be under that impression. We
will not dispense with or deal with that bill briefly. By definition, it is an
important bill. It contains very important matters that will affect not only our
country, but the standing of our country in the world.
Our job, as we are reminded by people who have been here for a long time, is
to review legislation. That is the job of this place. When an important bill
that has widespread implications comes before us, we will not review it briefly.
We will review it in some detail. We will examine its implications. We will
examine the legislative effectiveness of the bill. We will find out how
effective it is. We will find out what teeth it has. We will find out what the
downstream implications are if the bill comes into force and is acted upon.
These implications are interesting and considerable. We need to know what they
are in the course of our review of that legislation. We need to know the legal
and constitutional obligations of the government, if any, should the Senate
decide to pass this bill. Therefore, the double answer I will provide to the
leader is that I think the members of the committee will agree to address that
bill in short order and to address it thoroughly and patiently before we report
to this house.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, I am encouraged by what I
have heard from the chairman of this particular committee. I can see that
Senator Banks, in everything he does in this place, takes his job seriously. I
happen to be privileged to work with him on other committees, and I know how
thorough he is.
I am not sure whether it is proper to ask him this question at this time but,
as a committee, can he visualize studying the global aspect of this bill as
opposed to zeroing in on the legislation itself? Does he see the purview of the
committee extending to the various other contributors to the problem on a global
Honourable senators, this issue is such an important one. As humans on this
earth, we play an important role, but I do not think we are the be-all and
end-all. There are many other players in this program, and I wonder whether they
will come into the study of this particular legislation.
Senator Banks: I have the honour to chair a committee comprised of
people who already happen to have considerable knowledge of this subject, that
is to say, the global implications of the questions addressed in this bill. We
have been studying those implications avidly for six years and probably for a
long time before that. In the present context, we have studied this subject for
a long time. The members on all sides are knowledgeable in that respect and are
committed to doing the right thing. However, we will look at this legislation,
what it means and what it will do.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Can I also ask Senator Banks, in whose distinguished
leadership in the committee we all trust, whether he is aware of any
predisposition that might exist on the part of the majority to stand in the way
of substantive and thoughtful amendments that might normally be brought forward
for discussion and consideration at the committee stage? Alternatively, is he of
the view that the committee would be open to, and, as chairman, he would have no
predisposition against, the discussion of any appropriate amendments in the
clause-by-clause review that may ensue after inquiry into the other areas of
examination he so thoughtfully laid out in response to his leader's question?
Senator Banks: I have been a member of this committee since long
before I had the honour of becoming its chair. It has never, to my knowledge or
recollection, and certainly never under my chairmanship, made a report to this
place that was not unanimous.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Can the chair of the committee clarify that part
of the purview of his committee's investigation or review of this bill would be
to ascertain, perhaps by calling the Minister of the Environment or even the
Prime Minister, whether that government is prepared to fulfill the law of
Parliament as embodied in Bill C-288 passed by the House of Commons and
presumably could be passed by this Senate, or whether they are prepared to break
Senator Banks: I have to assume that no government of Canada would
ever break the law.
Senator Mercer: Stay tuned.
Senator Banks: I assume as well that no government of Canada would
ever flout the will of Parliament. I cannot answer the honourable senator's
question because, as he knows well, being a member of the committee, the
committee will identify the witnesses to appear before it.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, my question is to the Chair
of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I am
disappointed that Senator Fortier is not present in the chamber today because I
thought that he did quite well yesterday during Question Period. One day of hard
questioning has driven the honourable senator out. That was pretty tough.
We have witnessed the apparent stalling of bills during Senate proceedings.
The Conservatives are accusing this side of the chamber of stalling Bill S-4; at
least, that is what I read in the media. Bill C-9, in respect of conditional
sentencing, came to this place in November 2006. That seems quite a long time
for such a major bill to remain with little or no debate. The definition of that
in my dictionary is "stalling."
Can the Chair of the Legal Committee, to which this bill will be referred,
tell the house of the progress, if any, of the negotiations with his leadership
to begin the debate on Bill C-9 so that his committee can examine it to the
extent that it deserves?
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: I thank the honourable senator for the
question, but neither of the bills to which he refers is before the Legal
Committee and might not come before the committee. Therefore, I am unable to
Senator Mercer: It is highly unlikely that a bill dealing with
conditional sentencing would not go before the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Even a person like me who is not a lawyer can
figure that out. I rather anticipated that answer.
The policies on conditional sentencing contained in Bill C-9 seem to be
similar to the policies of our American cousins, who have mandatory minimums.
While this place can debate all day on the effectiveness of those policies or on
the virtues of conditional sentencing, honourable senators cannot deny the
inherent problems with both. Yes, conditional sentencing has flaws, but the good
things that it accomplishes cannot be ignored. Certain crimes are committed by
groups defined by socio-economic status, and that cannot be ignored.
Conditional sentencing has been shown to prevent many of these people from
facing jail time.
Bill C-9 has not come up for debate in this chamber and, therefore, has not
been referred to the Legal Committee. Could the reason be that the Conservative
caucus is in disagreement over the merits of the bill? Is all not well with
Canada's "growing-old" government?
Senator Oliver: I thank the honourable senator for the question, but
it is not my practice to talk about what goes on in caucus.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, my question is for the Chair
of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural
Resources, and I apologize in advance if it puts him on the spot.
Last week, Environment Minister John Baird raised the hysteria of his
anti-Kyoto bias by saying that Canada's economy would collapse like Russia's
economy if the government were to fulfill its international Kyoto obligations.
He simply cannot connect the dots between the environment as an opportunity and
Is the Chair of the Energy Committee aware of any evidence, analysis or
reports that might back up the contention that should Canada pursue its Kyoto
obligations in an appropriate manner, the Canadian economy would collapse like
that of Russia's?
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I point out that Senator
Fortier has joined us.
I was unaware that the economy of Russia had collapsed. I do not think it
has. The Soviet economy collapsed, but the Russian economy is quite a different
matter and is doing quite well.
It is also my experience, and we have heard evidence for a long time now,
that good ecological and environmental practices by individuals, businesses,
institutions and government always lead to profits.
Senator Mitchell: It seems to me that the honourable senator is saying
he can think of or has come across no examples, no evidence in fact, that
enlightened environmental policy and business-related environmental initiatives
would be inclined to damage an economy or a business; quite the contrary, they
actually enhance economic growth and business success.
Senator Banks: I believe I would find agreement on all sides of our
committee that all of the evidence we have heard in the past several years since
emissions have become an issue is to the effect that responsible ecological
management at all levels of industry and society are, in the end, profitable. I
could provide a long list of examples, beginning with Royal Dutch Shell, whose
chairman came before us and said that the measures they had initiated to put
into place better ecological practices have resulted in unanticipated profits
for his corporation with six zeros on the end of them. He was very happy to
explain that to us.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I would like to continue with the questions concerning advertising
asked yesterday of the minister. Can the minister tell us the total cost of the
recruitment advertising campaign for the Canadian Forces this year?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I would like to remind senators of rule 24(1), which states:
When the Speaker calls the Question Period, a Senator may, without notice,
address an oral question to:
(a) the Leader of the Government in the Senate, if it is a question
relating to public affairs,
(b) a Senator who is a Minister of the Crown, if it is a question
relating to his ministerial responsibility, or
(c) the Chairman of a committee, if it is a question relating to the
activities of that committee.
In this case, the question is for the minister, and she is not here at
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question is for the Minister
of Public Works and Government Services and concerns the awarding of the
contract for the C-17 aircraft about which we spoke a while ago. Could the
Minister of Public Works and Government Services enlighten a number of observers
and analysts in this country on the value of this contract's economic spinoffs?
The figure of $3.4 billion in economic spinoffs has been mentioned, but then
the $1.6 billion maintenance contract was awarded to the U.S. Air Force. Rather
than this contract going to Montreal or Winnipeg, it was awarded to the U.S. Air
Force and the contract value has been reduced to $1.8 billion. The engines for
these aircraft will be purchased in the United States, which does not help
Canada's aerospace industry. In the end, we are left with a contract worth only
The analysts at Le Devoir, Mr. Sansfaçon among them, and Quebec union
leaders, including Mr. Massé, are wondering about the actual spinoffs from this
contract. The government, of course, refuses to say whether there will be
spinoffs for specific regions.
There are doubts about the real economic spinoffs for the Montreal area.
Could the minister shed some light on this matter for all Canadians, because it
seems that he is the only one who understands what these significant economic
spinoffs are for this area, when others see them going elsewhere, especially to
the United States.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I cite rule 24.1.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I believe the question
was for the minister.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, I could also cite the Speaker's
recent ruling of October 19, 2006.
Senator Fox: Point of order.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: The Speaker's ruling
confirms the point of order with respect to questions addressed to a minister.
This time, I did hear Senator Fox put a question to the Minister of Public Works
and Government Services. The minister is in the chamber and may choose to answer
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, the question was directed to the
Minister for Public Works, but the question had more to do with Industry Canada.
As put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, this is a question relating to
national defence, and, as you know, these are directed to the Leader of the
Government in the Senate on behalf of the departments.
Senator Fox: Your Honour, I will repeat the question. The question was
directed squarely at Canada's Minister of Public Works and Government Services.
He signed the contract as the minister responsible for public works and it is as
such that the question was asked of him. To not answer it would be an affront to
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I
want to remind you of rule 24(1):
When the Speaker calls the Question Period, a Senator may, without notice,
address an oral question:
(a) to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, if it is a question
relating to public affairs,
(b) to a Senator who is a Minister of the Crown, if it is a question
relating to his ministerial responsibility, or
(c) the Chairman of a committee...
This is what we have done until now. The Leader of the Government in the
Senate is not in the chamber at the moment. The minister has the choice to
respond or not.
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: Honourable senators, I have a question that I
would like to word as a point of order directed to the Deputy Leader of the
Government in the Senate. Could he promise today to table in the Senate the list
of all the ministers and a detailed description of their specific
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I
am sorry, but the Rules of the Senate state that the question has to be
directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and not the Deputy Leader
of the Government.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, my question is for the Minister
of Public Works and Government Services. Could he explain to us whether or not
he is responsible for the contracts he signs?
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
Thank you, honourable senators. As you know, not only am I responsible for
signing contracts, I am very proud to do so. The contract we signed to buy those
four airplanes was extraordinary and we got an extraordinary deal for taxpayers.
I looked after airplane acquisition, as provided in my mandate.
Senator Bacon: Honourable senators, he has answered the question.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Madam
Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Many of the questions that were raised
today to the chairs of committees dealt with matters that are not now before
these committees. As such, the questions ought not to have been asked and ought
not to have been answered.
I refer to rule 24(1), which I think some of us have already referred to
today, which reads:
When the Speaker calls the Question Period, a Senator may, without notice,
address an oral question to:
... (c) the Chairman of a committee, if it is a question relating to the
activities of that committee.
A question posed to the Chairman of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy,
the Environment, and Natural Resources regarding a bill that has not yet been
referred to that committee is clearly out of order. Among other things, it
anticipates a decision of the chamber that has not yet been made. The bill might
be referred to that committee, but it might be referred elsewhere. It might be
referred to the Legal Committee or the Fisheries Committee, for that matter.
Many other questions were similarly out of order, as they may relate to
matters presently before the committee.
I request that Her Honour review these matters and refer to today's Hansard
to determine whether many of these questions are out of order. I waited until
this time to intervene because I obviously could not raise a point of order
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, this question of how Question
Period is conducted has been on my mind for a while. I want to put one aspect of
the issue to honourable senators for their consideration.
The other day, Senator Tkachuk engaged the Honourable Leader of the
Government in the Senate in a protracted exchange concerning Bill S-4. Today,
there were questions by Senator Mercer to the Chairman of the Standing Senate
Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs concerning Bill S-4 and again
concerning Bill C-9.
It is, I think, the practice in most assemblies of our kind to exclude or
forbid questions during the oral question period concerning matters that are
already on the Order Paper and that are the subject of debate or committee
consideration. I do not see a specific rule in the Rules of the Senate of
Canada conditioning our Question Period.
I would like Her Honour to take under advisement, in view of the convention
that exists elsewhere and the general provision somewhere in our rules, that
where not specified, we adopt the practices and rules of the other House,
whether it ought to be permitted to ask or, indeed, answer questions during our
oral Question Period concerning matters already on the Order Paper.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are there comments on
the point of order?
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: I wish to respond to Senator Murray's
intervention. The bill that passed last evening, which Her Honour reported
today, was on the Order Paper in the other place for many days. If I glean
correctly from watching television and reading the newspaper, there were dozens,
if not hundreds, of questions posed to the Prime Minister, the current Minister
of the Environment and the former Minister of the Environment about the
implementation of the Kyoto agreement, which that bill dealt with specifically.
If we were to exclude an item on the Order Paper and if we want to follow
what happens in the other place, then all those questions, following Senator
Murray's argument, would have been out of order. Since Speaker Milliken, whose
judgment I respect greatly, did not rule those questions as out of order, I
contend that Senator Murray's argument is without substance.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: To assist Her Honour in her inquiry, I
listened carefully to the deputy leader and I am not sure I heard him correctly.
I think he indicated that a committee can only deal with matters, according to
his interpretation, of issues that are currently before the committee.
Therefore, I assume he implied that it is premature to raise questions before a
matter is referred to committee.
However, that is not what the rule says. I refer the honourable senator and
the Her Honour to the rule and I have a suggestion to make.
Rule 24(1) reads as follows:
When the Speaker calls the Question Period, a Senator may . . . address an
oral question to:
(c) the Chairman of a committee, if it is a question relating to the
activities of that committee.
It is not necessarily limited to a matter.
In presenting your ruling, Her Honour might examine carefully the terms of
reference of the committee in question, to determine whether the application of
the terms of reference — for instance, my committee has general terms of
reference to deal with matters relating to the economy. If members chose to
raise a question that we were considering, or about to consider, I would be open
to respond to that, because that is one of our terms of reference.
I would hope that Your Honour would look at the terms of reference
outstanding by the committee in question, to determine whether these questions
were within the ambit of those general terms of reference.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, I think it would be
difficult for the Speaker to know about everything that goes on in committee.
Committee chairs and ministers are responsible for answering questions
concerning matters currently under review in their committees. With respect to
ministers, the issue is whether or not the question relates to their
responsibilities. In determining that, we could settle the issue right away.
It would be very difficult for the Speaker, who does not really know what a
committee is studying, to answer a question that the committee is not studying.
That could lead to endless debates.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, the simple answer to the
question put forward by Senator Robichaud would be to ask the chair of that
committee whether the issue was under study by his committee. It is
straightforward. You would put that behind you quickly.
As to Senator Mercer's statement, what is done in the House is done in the
House. What is done here is done here.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, some important points were made
by both Senators Grafstein and Robichaud. I would observe that the rule says
that a question to the chairman of a committee can be a question "relating to
the activities of that committee." Activities of a committee normally include
planning. It is well-known to us all that the committees often have a fairly
good notion of what will or may be coming to them in a given session. Committees
do engage in the activity of planning their time.
As Senator Robichaud said, it is really up to the chair of the committee, in
a given case, to say whether the committee has or has not considered something
or whether the committee has or has not done anything about it, and answer the
question in the specific case. I do not think it is out of order to put such
questions to chairs of committees.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I want to raise the essential
point that I raise time and time again, which is this: It is not the role of the
Speaker of the Senate to regulate or to superintend every single utterance that
comes out of every single senator's mouth.
Senator Mercer: That would be a big job.
Senator Cools: Yes, it would be a big job. However, I was not
measuring the magnitude of the task; I was measuring the righteousness of it,
the raison d'être.
I continue to caution here, again and again, that we should not use points of
order as a way of getting Speakers to make rulings that, in two days or two
weeks or three weeks or three months, become yet another rule, which only
continues to fetter free debate. Perhaps some of the senators' questions were a
little limited; perhaps some of the questions were not as intelligent as they
should be; perhaps some of them are a bit mischievous. Nevertheless, there is a
long gap between mischievous or uninformed questions and being out of order.
Your Honour, I would like to appeal to you as well to exercise some
restraint. The notion is here that we senators are supposed to regulate our
proceedings ourselves. Therefore, there is room in this system here in this
house, in this place, such that, if a senator asks a question — and it may not
be the best question in the world — perhaps by a bit of debate back and forth,
we would regulate that and deal with it, rather than put that individual senator
or those individual senators in the position of being ruled upon.
I would ask Her Honour to bear that in mind. The role of the Senate Speaker
is not that of the Speaker of the House of Commons. The Senate Speaker does not
have the same role in our proceedings.
I should like to raise another point on the matter; it relates to the
business of asking questions to chairmen of committees. I heard no question
today that was out of order. I heard questions that some might like to think
were out of order or that some might like to be able to persuade Her Honour are
out of order, but I heard no question that was out of order. I have a feeling
that if I had a chance I, too, would have got to my feet with some alacrity.
Honourable senators, I do not know if the role of chairmen of committees has
changed. In my understanding, a chairman of a committee not only is involved in
all the business of planning the committee's affairs but also is supposed to be
the lead person in the chamber on those matters.
God knows, the leaders of this house have never allowed me the privilege of
serving as a committee chairman; however, in the days when I served as a deputy
chair, I can tell you that I was well informed with respect to every single
subject or matter in this house that touched on what I viewed as my
responsibility as deputy chair. I covered it all, I followed it all, I read it
all, and I was ready to defend and to respond.
The chairmen of committees, especially now that they are paid personnel, have
a totally different role.
On that topic, honourable senators, one of these days we should have a debate
in this place about how the fact of now paying those people $10,000 a year, or
whatever it is, has also changed the nature of the task.
In addition to the old role of chairman having to know everything about every
bill that his or her committee will receive and being on top of it and
understanding right up to and including planning the moment the committee will
begin its studies — because let us not kid ourselves, honourable senators; we
have seen references to committee pass here and five seconds later senators
receive notices of the committee in the office. The committees were all
organized well in advance of the reference being made to commit the bill to the
We must understand that the committee staff frequently are obeying references
that have not yet come as they prepare to receive them; otherwise, how can there
be an order of reference made in the Senate at 3:30 and the chairman sitting in
his chair at the committee meeting at 4:00? We were not born yesterday. If we
want to start raking up all of these issues, then maybe that is a matter for
A chairman is perfectly well qualified and should be asked more questions in
respect of questions, to quote the rule, "relating to the activities of that
committee." I do not think, honourable senators, that we can pretend in today's
community that chairmen are well aware of the movements of every bill that they
will receive, hope to receive or hope not to receive, because we must put onto
the record that ministers have been known to lose many bills.
As a matter of fact, during the debate here on the Federal Accountability
Act, when Bill C-2, I think it was, fell off the Order Paper, I thought the
government was trying to lose it. Frankly, that is what I thought, because I
could not believe that a government would let a significant, important piece of
initiative fall off the Order Paper. I argued at the time it needed a motion in
this place to allow it to come back into debate.
Chairmen in this place increasingly have become representatives of the
government, especially if they serve for the government. As far as I am
concerned, the choice of questions under this rubric, which is "chairman of a
committee" if a question relates to the activity of that committee, I would say
to Her Honour that there is a wide range of questions concerning the
relationship to the activities of the committee that have yet to be asked in
this chamber. Frankly, they should be asked.
As I said before, Your Honour, there is no point of order here. At most it
could be said that there were a few ill-considered, not wisely articulated
questions. There is no need for Your Honour to attempt to take over control of
every single word and every single utterance being spoken in this chamber.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Before I recognize
Senator Comeau, who will be the last speaker, are there any other comments?
Hon. Percy Downe: Yes, I have a comment.
Honourable senators, it seems to me that rule 24(1) covers the "Leader of
the Government in the Senate" because we can ask any question to the Leader of
the Government relating to public affairs. The Leader of the Government has
additional responsibility for seniors now, which we can now question her about.
It seems to me that rule 24(1)(b) is the problem today because we have a
minister of the Crown and the rule reads that we can ask questions "relating to
his ministerial responsibility."
The trouble seems to be that that minister has additional responsibilities
given by the Prime Minister and cabinet, the responsibility for Montreal, and
may have other responsibilities that we cannot question him on.
It seems to me we should amend rule 24(1)(b) so we can question Minister
Fortier on everything he is responsible for, as we do for the Leader of the
Government in the Senate. We can ask her about any public policy, including
seniors. We cannot do the same for Senator Fortier.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, I have two or three brief points.
First, I will start off with the question that Senator Cools raised, namely,
that we tend to raise points of order generously. Perhaps she is right, that we
should be mindful that we do not raise points of order at the drop of a hat. I
am sympathetic to that. Given that I raised the point of order today, I take
some responsibility on that.
This issue of questions in Question Period has been dogging us for some time
now. Today my point of order was more on the issue of questions to committee
chairs. I think we need guidance on this. Senator Downe raised a question of
questions to Senator Fortier, which was not the gist of my point of order today.
Having said that, he might wish to refer to a ruling in October by the Speaker
which addressed the question of a senator's extra ministerial responsibilities
above and beyond his role as a minister for certain departments. I think he was
referring to a minister with political responsibilities for a region. I think
the Speaker of the Senate ruled on that on October 18 or 19, I think it was.
That is easy to find.
I wish to raise a couple of points that were mentioned by Senator Grafstein.
The honourable senator referred to committees having somewhat of a standing
order of activities that relate to that committee. Unlike the House of Commons,
the Senate does not have a standing set of orders to study matters that refer to
its title. For example, the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans
cannot start a fisheries study on its own. The committee must seek a reference
from the Senate to proceed. The rule has something to do with the budgets and
all kinds of matters. The fact that the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the
Environment and Natural Resources is named the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources does not, by itself — and I think
I am speaking to one who has far more experience on this than I — give the
committee the mandate to study Kyoto if it wishes to do so. It must seek that
mandate. At the present time, I am not certain, and the chairman would have to
answer, whether the committee has the mandate to look at that issue or other
issues. However, it must be referred by the Senate. The chair, I imagine, would
be gracious enough at that point to say that he does not have the mandate to do
In the matter presently before us, a bill was brought to our attention only
today, and the fact that the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy,
the Environment and Natural Resources responded to questions as to how he would
handle or not handle a bill that has not yet been referred to his committee is,
in my view, outside what has been, historically, the role of the Senate.
If the bill is referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the
Environment and Natural Resources — and it may or may not be — then at that
point I think the chair can answer questions on behalf of the committee. At this
point, however, the bill only arrived in the Senate today. We must be mindful of
these things. All we are looking for from Her Honour is some guidance, I
imagine, as to how we handle those kinds of questions. In effect, points of
order every once in a while become useful.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I am not a lawyer
and we seem to be into that sort of realm, but I would like to bring to your
attention, if I may, to rule 90, "Powers of committees." It states:
A standing committee shall be empowered to inquire into and report upon
such matters as are referred to it from time to time by the Senate. . . .
Senator Comeau: That is exactly my point.
Senator Dallaire: The question is: In Question Period, during which a
senator asks a question of a chair of a committee on a matter not considered to
be a subject that is being brought to the attention of that committee, is the
chair empowered either to answer it or to conduct a study in order to answer it?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
thank you for your comments. I have heard a number of interesting submissions
that I will have to consider carefully with our advisers. I will make a decision
in the near future.
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: Honourable senators, I would like to ask the
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate whether, in light of his affection
for this chamber and the proper conduct of debates during Question Period, if he
would be kind enough to table the list of responsibilities of the Minister of
Public Works, as well as the laws of Canada for which he has administrative
responsibility, so that we can word our questions better and comply with the
Rules of the Senate.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, I will gladly do so.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Oliver, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Nolin, for the third reading of Bill S-3, to amend the
National Defence Act, the Criminal Code, the Sex Offender Information
Registration Act and the Criminal Records Act;
And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C.,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Pépin, that Bill S-3 be not now read a
third time but that it be amended as follows:
In clause 4,
(a) on page 14, by adding after line 24 the following:
"(1.1) If the Chief of the Defence Staff is considering making a
determination, he or she shall notify the Minister before making the
(1.2) The Chief of the Defence Staff may make a determination only if
he or she is of the opinion that the operational reasons are of such an
exigent nature as to outweigh the public interest in applying the
provisions of this Act that would, but for the determination, be
applicable in the circumstances."; and
(b) on page 16,
(i) by adding after line 3 the following:
"(6) The Chief of the Defence Staff shall, every 15 days after
making a determination under this section, consider whether the
operational reasons continue to apply and, if they do not, shall revise
the date on which the operational reasons cease to apply accordingly.
(7) Subsection (6) applies until the date that is provided in the
notice under subsection (4) as the date on which the operational reasons
cease to apply, unless a revision is made under subsection (6).
(8) If a revision is made under subsection (6),
(a) the Chief of the Defence Staff shall, without delay,
notify the Provost Marshal of the revision;
(b) the Provost Marshal shall, without delay, notify the
person who is the subject of the determination of the revision;
(c) in the case of a determination made under paragraph (1)(b)
or (c), the Provost Marshal shall, without delay, notify the
persons referred to in paragraph (5)(a) or (b) of the
revision and of the revised date on which the suspension of the time
limit or proceeding ceases to apply; and
(d) a person who registers information for the Provost
Marshal shall revise the date that was registered under paragraph
8.2(7)(a) of the Sex Offender Information Registration Act
as the date on which the suspension of the time limit, proceeding or
obligation ceases to apply.", and
(ii) by adding after line 31 the following:
"227.171 (1) The Chief of the Defence Staff shall, within 30
days after the end of each year, submit a report to the Minister on the
operation of sections 227.15 and 227.16 for that year that includes
(a) the number of determinations that were made under each
of paragraphs 227.15(1)(a) to (d) and the duration of
the suspension of the time limit, proceeding or obligation resulting
from each determination; and
(b) the number of determinations that were made under
subsection 227.16(1) and the number of persons who were exempted under
subsection 227.16(4) as a result of each determination.
(2) The Minister shall cause a copy of the report to be laid before
each House of Parliament on any of the first 15 days on which that House
is sitting after the Minister receives the report.".
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, after consulting the
Minister of National Defence, I am pleased to take part in this debate at third
reading of Bill S-3 and I intend to be its faithful sponsor.
First of all, I fully support this bill which will bring the military justice
system in line with the Criminal Code and the Sex Offender Information
Registration Act, so that it conforms to Canadian legal standards. I encourage
all honourable senators to vote in favour of this bill.
Before talking about the benefits of Bill S-3, I would like to deal with some
concerns raised during recent meetings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal
and Constitutional Affairs, which Senator Joyal mentioned in his speech.
In light of testimonies heard by the committee, some of my colleagues may
have been led to believe that the bill before us deals with the policy on and
prevention of harassment and the regulatory measures adopted by the Department
of National Defence to deal with it. That is not the case. I regret that such a
misunderstanding has arisen. I would like to clarify, for the benefit of
honourable senators, the measures that the Department of National Defence and
the Canadian Forces have taken to deal with harassment in the workplace.
One of the witnesses who appeared before the committee explained that the
department's study on sexual harassment was done over a decade ago. Since then,
much has been accomplished. In fairness to the department and the Canadian
Forces, I would like to point out some of the progress made in this regard.
Unfortunately, as in many other workplaces, the Canadian Forces are not immune
to sexual harassment. No department or government agency tolerates this
behaviour in the workplace.
In 2001, the Canadian Forces adopted a policy for the prevention and
resolution of harassment in the workplace. This policy includes an education and
awareness component that seeks to inform members of the Canadian Forces and
their chiefs of the appropriate procedure for dealing with harassment
complaints. The Canadian Forces also established conflict resolution centres for
most bases and squadrons. The plaintiffs and the accused have the opportunity to
meet and to resolve the complaints together in an appropriate, confidential and
The Canadian Forces took other measures to improve the working conditions of
all military members and to give them additional means to express their
concerns. I would like to highlight three of those measures.
First, I am sure some of you will recall the major review of the military
justice system, which was conducted by the Right Honourable Justice Brian
Dickson in 1997. One of the major changes that resulted affected the National
Investigation Service, or NIS. The NIS now has the mandate to investigate
serious or sensitive offences against property, people and the department,
including alleged sexual offences.
In 1998 — those who were here will remember — Part IV of the National Defence
Act was introduced. It established a legislative framework for complaints
reported by or about the military police. It added measures to deal with
complaints about military police and incidents of interference by senior
officers of the Canadian Forces.
Shortly afterward, in 1999, the Office of the Ombudsman for the Department of
National Defence and the Canadian Forces was established. The ombudsman acts as
a neutral and objective investigator for both civilians and military members.
Honourable senators, these initiatives, combined with the changes made to the
harassment prevention policies of the Canadian Forces, are not enough in and of
themselves to prevent harassment. However, they clearly indicate the
determination of the Canadian Forces to deal with harassment.
I would now like to move on to Bill S-3 and address specific questions raised
in committee during its consideration.
Let us first look at the purpose of the Sex Offender Information Registration
Act and Bill S-3.
Honourable senators, during his testimony before the committee, one of the
witnesses said, incorrectly, that the purpose of the Sex Offender Information
Registration Act was to ensure public safety and to monitor sex offenders. That
is not the purpose of this bill. Let us be clear: the act, which is currently in
effect is simply a tool for investigation. This legislation was not designed to
constitute another form of punishment for offenders nor a way to prevent sexual
offences. Its purpose is simply to set up a data bank that contains the address
and other pertinent information about registered sex offenders. The police use
this information to help in their investigations into new sex offences. Take the
If an alleged sexual offence is reported in Cold Lake, Alberta, the local
police force, which is responsible for investigating the incident, will be able
to access the database quickly to determine which sex offenders live in the
region where the offence was committed. If necessary, the police will be able to
question those people to assist its investigation. It is important to understand
that police officers cannot access the SOIRA database whenever they want. A
police force can only use the database when actively investigating a sexual
Honourable senators, the main goal of Bill S-3 is to ensure that people who
are found guilty of sexual offences in a military court are included in the
This bill is about a very specific issue: ensuring that the SOIRA information
registry system can be used within the military justice system. The SOIRA system
comes into effect only once an offender has been found guilty of a specific
offence. I would emphasize that the requirement to report to a registration
centre in accordance with this act does not constitute additional punishment and
that registration will not be ordered in all cases.
Let us now move on to another part of the bill, which has also been a cause
of concern for some witnesses during meetings of the Standing Senate Committee
on Legal and Constitutional Affairs: the powers of the Chief of the Defence
Staff. I would like to take a few minutes to clarify those powers, given the
seriousness and importance of this issue.
A court can order a person to register with the SOIRA database. If Bill S-3
comes into force, courts martial will also be able to hand down such an order.
Nobody in the Canadian Forces has or will have the power to exempt anyone from
complying with such an order.
Under this bill, the Chief of the Defence Staff would be the only member of
the Canadian Forces authorized to make two kinds of decisions that satisfy SOIRA
requirements while taking into account the Canadian Forces' operational needs.
The first of these powers is conferred under subsection 227.15(1) and may be
exercised only under certain circumstances.
Under that subsection, when the Chief of the Defence Staff determines that a
person who is subject to the Code of Service Discipline is, for operational
reasons, unable to: (1) apply for an exemption within the required period; (2)
file an appeal, within the required period, concerning the legality of an order
to comply with SOIRA, or file an appeal, within the required period, concerning
a decision of the court to not grant an exemption or a decision of the court to
not grant a termination; (3) participate in a proceeding relating to an
exemption order or in an appeal; or (4) comply with the obligation to report to
a registration office within the required period, the time limits that apply to
the exercise of these rights or the exemption from the obligation to report to a
registration office will be temporarily suspended until those operational
obligations have ended.
This decision may be taken only when an operational obligation exists and
when, as a result of that obligation, the individual is unable to exercise one
of those rights or comply with the obligation to report to a registration
Thus, the Chief of the Defence Staff may not exercise this power for just any
reason. He or she may not take this decision simply because it would be
inconvenient to comply with the SOIRA provisions.
The time limits can only be suspended when it is genuinely impossible to meet
any of the conditions listed or to meet the requirement of reporting to a
We therefore do not expect this power to be exercised very often. However,
without this power, certain individuals could find themselves in the unfortunate
situation of having violated one legal obligation in order to comply with
another, or of renouncing certain rights under the act in order to fulfill a
legal obligation under the National Defence Act.
Honourable senators, the sole aim of this power is to avoid conflicting
situations when an individual's legal obligation to obey a military order
conflicts with the exercise of his or her rights, or exemption of his or her
SOIRA obligations. Furthermore, the suspension will cease to apply once the
operational needs have been met.
Senator Joyal has introduced amendments, one of which pertains to proposed
subsection 227.15(1.2). I read with interest the correspondence you exchanged
with the office of the Minister of National Defence, and it seems to me that our
colleague's final proposal is clearer. I assume that Senator Joyal will want to
speak to this.
The amendment appears on the Order Paper, and Senator Joyal has suggested a
few linguistic changes, to further clarify the amendment you have before you. I
read this correspondence, and I believe we should add the words Senator Joyal
suggests. I will let Senator Joyal introduce the additional amendments
I believe it is appropriate to use the expression "public interest" in this
same provision. I think that we will all agree that the objective is to make the
exceptions in Bill S-3 as clear as possible, since they are exceptional
situations. The goal is to set them out as clearly as possible.
I would now like to address the second power conferred on the Chief of the
Defence Staff under Bill S-3. The power given to him under subsection 227.16(1)
is completely different and more restricted in scope than the power I just
mentioned. It applies only to individuals whose names are in the database and
who will be away from their residence for more than 15 days. Usually, if an
offender is away from his place of residence for more than 15 days but remains
in Canada, he must give notice of his departure and return dates and where he
can be found. If the offender leaves Canada, he simply has to provide his
departure and return dates in the notice.
Under subsection 227.16(1), if the Chief of the Defence Staff determines that
disclosing the offender's departure date or location could jeopardize national
security, international relations or the security of a designated class of
operations, the individual is not required to include that particular
information in the notice about absence. This power does not eliminate the
obligation to provide a notice about absence. It pertains only to the specific
information that is to be provided in the notice. Therefore, the notice will
say: "I am leaving." and refer to the power of the Chief of the Defence Staff
to indicate why information is missing.
A provision was added to this bill requiring the Chief of the Defence Staff
to notify the Minister of National Defence anytime he exercises one of these
powers, thus covering the issue of civilian oversight and, once again, Senator
Joyal has dealt with this matter in depth and we thank him for that.
Honourable senators, I see that the time allocated to me has elapsed. May I
have another five minutes?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
is it agreed?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Nolin: Honourable senators, Bill S-3 finally strikes a balance
between the Sex Offender Information Registration Act and the needs of the
Canadian Forces, as well as the rights and obligations of individuals governed
by these laws.
The bill will effectively guarantee that the military justice system reflects
the values and the objectives of the SOIRA while continuing to respect all
Canadian legal standards.
At the same time, it provides the tools necessary to ensure that, when the
legal obligations of a member of the Canadian Forces under the National Defence
Act are in conflict with those set out in the Sex Offender Information
Registration Act, there is a mechanism to resolve this conflict.
The government is proposing a number of mechanisms having the advantage of
aptly bringing together the special nature of the military operational context
and Canadian social constraints.
I believe — and I hope you will see it this way as well — that this bill is a
step in the right direction. Therefore, I urge you to pass it with the
amendments proposed by Senator Joyal.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I would like to thank Senator
Nolin for his comments, with which I concur — to use the language of the
justices of the courts of appeal. I greatly appreciate the explanations and
clarifications that he has brought to the debate.
I would simply like to say that, indeed, the statistics on sexual harassment
go back ten years or more. If we want to maintain some semblance of control over
the evolution, the elimination of sexual harassment in the military, given the
problem this represents for women who work in the military in particular, then
it is very important to have current statistics.
When the Minister of National Defence appeared before the committee, we asked
him to ensure that those statistics are updated in order to accurately measure
the constant improvements to the existing structures, which Senator Nolin
described very well.
There is just a procedural problem at this stage that I want to share with
the honourable senators and, of course, with Senator Nolin. In a letter sent to
me, dated February 7, last week, the Minister of National Defence attached
reformulations of the amendment that I had previously tabled. In a letter dated
February 12, I responded to the minister to clarify some aspects and we came to
At this stage I need the consent of the honourable senators to withdraw the
amendments I had tabled and to table instead the reformulation proposed by the
Minister of National Defence and in which the minister concurred, as Senator
I therefore seek the unanimous consent of the chamber to table the amendments
that the Minister of National Defence himself reviewed and drafted following the
changes I brought to him.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
do you give unanimous consent to withdraw this amendment, at the request of
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Thank you, honourable senators. I move that the
following amendment be substituted for the amendment we have just withdrawn. I
will read it for the benefit of the Journals of the Senate and I will
read it in the other language, if I may.
That Bill S-3 be not now read a third time but that it be amended in clause
(a) adding after line 20 on page 15 the following:
(2.1) The Chief of the Defence Staff may make a determination only if
he or she is of the opinion that the operational reasons clearly outweigh
in importance the public interest in applying the provisions of the Act
that, but for the determination, would apply in the circumstances.
(2.2) The Chief of the Defence Staff shall notify the Minister before
making a determination.
(2.3) Every 15 days after a determination is made, the Chief of the
Defence Staff shall consider whether the operational reasons cease to
(b) adding after line 31 on page 16 the following:
227.171 (1)The Chief of the Defence Staff shall, within 30 days
after the end of each year, submit a report to the Minister on the operation
of sections 227.15 and 227.16 for that year that includes
(a) the number of determinations made under each of paragraphs
227.15(a) to (d) and the duration of the suspension
resulting from each determination; and
(b) the number of determinations made under subsection 227.16(1)
and the number of persons exempted under subsection 227.16(4) as a result of
(2) The Minister shall cause a copy of the report to be laid before each
House of Parliament on any of the first 15 days on which that House is sitting
after the Minister receives the report.
Those amendments are clearly the amendments that the Minister of National
Defence proposed to me, with the two additions that I have suggested the
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?
Some Hon. Senators: Yes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable
senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator LeBreton, P.C.,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Comeau, for the second reading of Bill S-4,
to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate tenure).
Hon. George Baker: Honourable senators, I have a few words concerning
this bill with the hope that it will pass second reading and be referred to the
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
As referenced by many senators in their speeches, the Supreme Court of Canada
decided the question in 1980. The decision was, as all senators know, that a
bill that advocates an elected Senate is outside the jurisdiction of Parliament.
The minister of intergovernmental affairs for the Province of Ontario and the
minister of intergovernmental affairs for the Province of Quebec, who has two
PhDs on the subject and knows something about it, have both declared that the
bill that is in the other place now is outside the jurisdiction of Parliament.
They will challenge this piece of legislation if Parliament decides to pass it.
This piece of legislation, Bill S-4, has also partially been adjudicated by
the Supreme Court of Canada. Their judgment was referenced in a speech given by
another senator previous to me. He said that term limits for senators outside
the age limit of 75 "might impair the functioning of the Senate in providing
what Sir John A. MacDonald described as 'the sober second thought in
Honourable senators, the key is this: Does Bill S-4 impair the Senate's
function of providing sober second thought in legislation? That is a fascinating
question in my opinion, having spent 28 and a half years in the House of Commons
looking at this issue.
What is the standard of review for the Senate in providing sober second
thought in legislation? I do not think it has ever been defined in writing. I
have not been able to find it. However, the sober second thought in all of the
quasi-judicial bodies in our system is quite obvious to me. These are bodies
that give sober second thought on social assistance, welfare, employment
insurance, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, old age pensions
or the veterans' allowance.
The standard of review is this: It is at your final step, your final body. If
there is an error in law, then that body has a right to intervene and reject the
decision of the lower body. It is just like professional review, second thought.
Doctors, lawyers, accountants and nurses all have those sober second thoughts
that are structured in the same way. They say deference will be shown to the
first decider of fact down below, and facts shall not be interfered with unless
there is a terrible error made in the facts. A decision is only overturned if
there has been an error in law. We notice that element in every piece of
provincial legislation for doctors, lawyers, accountants, nurses and so on. It
has been adjudicated many times.
If we look at the same general structure, it is specific in nature in our
courts. It is the same thing. The provincial courts or the Trial Division of the
Supreme Court in each province decide the facts, and a decision can only be
reviewed by the appellate court if there is an error in law, whether it is the
Supreme Court of a province, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada.
They do not hear witnesses. It must be awfully boring to be a member of the
Court of Appeal of a province reading transcripts day and night, but that is the
system we live under. The Supreme Court of Canada is under the same restriction.
Only in exceptional circumstances is one allowed to admit new evidence, and that
is always by affidavit. One cannot admit it if it was available at the time of
the trial. It must be germane to the question under consideration by the Supreme
Court or the Court of Appeal.
Here we have the Senate, different from all of these other bodies of
so-called sober second thought because there is no written standard of review
for this place — sober second thought — in legislation. In every other body in
this country that gives us sober second thought or final determination, there is
a written standard of rules. Look at the laws we pass. Usually, the written
standard of review appears in the acts or in the rules of court.
What does one do in the case of the Senate? I suggest, honourable senators,
that perhaps we could borrow that same standard of review that we find in our
society. When I take something concerning social assistance or employment
insurance or old age pension to its ultimate determination before a board, there
are rules that are written. Some people say, "Why not take the same standard of
review as the Supreme Court of Canada? If it is good enough for the Supreme
Court of Canada, surely it is good enough for the Senate of Canada." Or is it?
That is the question. If we had the same rules, the same standard of review, and
this legislation is outside the jurisdiction of this place to pass — in other
words, if there is an error in law — then it should be rejected.
I find the most interesting sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms to be sections 24(1) and 24(2) because they provide the remedy for a
violation of our Charter rights, no matter what it is. Section 24(1) provides
for stays in proceedings or the entry of acquittals when the conscience of the
community has been shocked. Section 24(2) provides for the exclusion of evidence
where the administration of justice would be brought into disrepute. We have
there a standard whereby we can only retry the fact.
The House of Commons are the elected members. They have decided the fact. In
review, if a senator determines to their mind that the decision shocks the
conscience of the community or puts the administration of justice into
disrepute, I think that senator should vote against that legislation, just as
the standard of review is for the Supreme Court of Canada. If we follow the
standard of review as written for each of those bodies, we see it quite clearly.
If there is an error in law, then, of course, that particular decision should be
overturned. That is why I think we should deal with second reading and send the
bill to the committee so this matter can be "examined thoroughly," in the
words of Sir John A. Macdonald.
That is one reason — to determine whether there is an error in law here. The
second reason is the very reason that the government accepted the amendment of
Honourable senators, as far as the institutional memory of this place is
concerned and what functions this place should perform, I refer you all to an
exchange last week in committee between constitutional expert Professor Hogg —
who the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs referred to as the man quoted twice as much as anyone else by the
Supreme Court of Canada — and Senator Joyal. Senator Joyal started leading him
down a road. To paraphrase the great professor, he said: "I know where you are
taking me. I know where you are going. It contradicts what I have said. I do not
have a logical answer for it now, but sometime tonight, in the middle of the
night, I will wake up and I will know."
The other reason is the legislation we passed a moment ago, and I have to
congratulate the government for accepting the amendment. We talk about
institutional memory. This bill modified a power given to the courts martial. In
the middle of the testimony, one of the witnesses said that as far as the
registration of sexual violators is concerned, those who have been convicted,
they take other things into consideration in order to perhaps delay putting them
on the list. One gentleman said, and the minister also referred to it, that they
take into account whether the parties were intoxicated or alcohol was involved
when the sexual assault took place. I looked around the table, and I saw
people's eyes open wide. Committee members jumped on that comment and said that
intoxication is not a defence for sexual assault, and it has been that way for
15 years. That was the start of the amendment made by Senator Joyal and one of
the reasons it was made.
We were actually amending a legislative authority given by this house nine
years ago, not eight years ago, that was debated in this chamber 10 years ago,
and a change to the Criminal Code that was made 15 years ago. The senators
around that table were knowledgeable enough to come up with recommendations
accompanying this bill that will assist the Government of Canada in redefining
the bill when it goes back to the House of Commons.
Honourable senators, I hope second reading can be dealt with as soon as
possible. I am the last speaker from the Legal Affairs Committee on this side.
We should, as soon as possible, vote on the bill and refer it to the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs so we can get under way.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Would the honourable senator take a question?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable Senator
Cools, first I would remind the Honourable Senator Baker that he has one minute
Senator Baker: That is fine.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I listened to Senator Baker with
great interest. His comments were evocative of Canada's ancient heritage of
Common Law and Constitutional Law, which were brought to this place by section
18 of the British North America Act. The honourable senator referred to section
24 of the Constitution Act, 1867, in his quest for proper exercise of the law
and in an appeal to the great Common Law notion that, if at any stage in a
process these insufficiencies are discovered, they should be remedied without
injury to the lower stage of the process. The contents of section 24 of the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms are known to few people. For the record, I shall
read that section:
24(1) Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have
been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to
obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the
Honourable senators, most do not realize that the words "court of competent
jurisdiction" with 24(1) also include the high court of Parliament, of which
the Senate is a great part.
I would ask Senator Baker the profound question not only of sober second
thought but also of the high court of Parliament having the last word on
questions as to composition and in conformity with the Constitution of the land.
Honourable senators must remember that the Constitution Act, 1867, the BNA Act,
was supposed to be an adaptation of the British Constitution in this newly
settled frontier and slightly wild land.
Senator Baker: When the honourable senator was asking her question, I
was thinking about the first section in the Criminal Code in which a provision
speaks to anyone who misleads or provides information that would mislead the
Senate or a committee of the Senate. The usual procedure is prosecution when
someone intentionally misleads the court. However, the Criminal Code first
mentions the Senate, committees of the Senate and then the House of Commons
committees. Thus, honourable senators, anyone who misleads Your Honour or any
senator in this house can be subjected to a jail term of 10 years, according to
Canada's Criminal Code.
Does that answer the honourable senator's question?
Senator Cools: Yes, thank you. Honourable senators, Senator Baker has
raised important questions. The preponderance of opinion on this bill rests on
the fact that there is no constitutional authority to make these changes by a
simple bill. The authority is simply not there. The authority could be debated,
but the surest proof that it does not exist lies in knowing that, had it
existed, some other ambitious prime minister would have used it a long time ago.
Honourable senators, I shall speak to these issues at a future sitting of the
Senate, and so I move the adjournment of the debate.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It is moved by the
Honourable Senator Cools, seconded by the Honourable Senator Prud'homme, that
further debate be adjourned to the next sitting of the Senate.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: No.
Some Hon. Senators: Yes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators in
favour of the motion will please say "yea."
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators
opposed to the motion will please say "nay."
Some Hon. Senators: Nay.
An Hon. Senator: The "yeas" have it.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I believe the "nays"
And two honourable senators having risen.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there agreement on the
Senator Stratton: A 30-minute bell is agreed upon.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Call in the senators.
Motion agreed to and debate adjourned on the following division:
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS
Hon. Tommy Banks moved third reading of Bill S-205, to amend the Food
and Drugs Act (clean drinking water). —(Honourable Senator Banks)
He said: Honourable senators, as you will recall, yesterday, the Standing
Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources reported this
bill without amendment. It is the second time that we have reported a bill: the
first was so close to being identical to this one that it is fair to say that
its thrust, purpose, intent and effect are identical.
I urge that we move this bill to third reading. I wish to remind you about my
cartoon version for the purpose of this bill. Senator Grafstein will be more
specific, but the Food and Drugs Act is designed to ensure that purveyors of
whatever we ingest in Canada are obliged to ensure that when we buy, obtain, use
and ingest their product, that we will not be harmed by it, and that reasonable
prudence will be observed to ensure that it will not kill us or make us sick.
The act applies to cigarettes, bubble gum, chocolate bars, Corn Flakes and every
conceivable foodstuff. The only thing to which it does not apply with respect to
the application of enforceable federal standards is the one thing without which
we cannot live. We can live without celery, Sweet Marie bars, bubble gum and
even ice cubes, but we cannot live without water, and that is the one thing that
we ingest that is not subject to standard federal regulation.
That is the point and purpose of this bill, and I urge you strongly to
support its passage now.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, first, I wish to
thank Senator Banks for that precise analysis of the bill. I think he cut to the
heart of the bill, and I want to thank the committee members for their patience
and indulgence because the bill has now been referred to the committee for the
second time. The committee dealt with it thoroughly, heard a copious number of
witnesses, examined the bill for a second time and again has unanimously
recommended it to the House without amendment.
Honourable senators, I am here once again, calling on your patience and
indulgence, to give a short synopsis of a rather long and episodic history of
this bill. This month, February, marks the sixth anniversary of the bill in
relatively the same form. I first introduced then Bill S-18 in the Senate in
February 2001 at first reading, some six years ago. The second reading was
approved and referred to this same committee on April 24, 2001, and the
committee reported the bill without amendment on May 10, 2001, some six years
ago. At third reading it was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal
and Constitutional Affairs for a constitutional question, and then it died on
the Order Paper.
I reintroduced it again as Bill S-42, and now it reappears, once again, as
Bill S-205. This legislation has essentially been before the Senate for six
The bill, as the chairman of the Energy Committee pointed out, is simple. It
is remedial in scope, clinical, cost-effective and simple to understand. It is
to amend the Food and Drug Act by adding clean drinking water as an objective,
so that the federal agency that is mandated to regulate drinking water will do
so for communities with a population of more than 25.
The federal government already regulates water, as the chairman pointed out.
It regulates water in bottles and it regulates ice cubes. The federal government
under its other powers regulates drinking water in parks, on airplanes and on
ships, so it is not a new power for the federal government to regulate drinking
I want to emphasize that we are the only developed country in the modern
world that does not have federally mandated standards of drinking water for the
country at large.
There were two objections to this bill that I will review quickly. One was
the constitutional objection. Finally, after six years, we have heard from
government witnesses that there is no constitutional objection to this bill. The
government witnesses have opined clearly that there was no constitutional
impediment to this bill. That evidence was given to the committee by the
officials who came to the committee from the Department of Health and made it
absolutely clear that it was not a problem. This major barrier that was put to
the Senate was a false barrier, and it has now been extinguished by the
government of the day.
Therefore, when we look at this question, we say to ourselves that since
there is no constitutional objection, we do not have to belabour that point, we
do not have to refer it to another committee and we do not have to duck the
responsibility of solving this particular problem.
The second objection put forward by the government is the argument that the
voluntary guidelines are already working with the provinces, and, therefore,
there is no need for this bill. Under the current regime, the federal government
talks with the provinces, they work through a voluntary set of standards, and,
ultimately, after some time and deliberation, the federal government sets them
out in a notional bill or a regulation, but standards are not mandatory or
binding. The provinces can or cannot meet that particular standard. They say
there is no need for a mandatory standard because the voluntary standards are
The good news is that since this bill was introduced and since the wake-up
calls in Walkerton, Ontario; North Battleford, Saskatchewan; Charlottetown,
Prince Edward Island; and, most recently, Vancouver, British Columbia, where a
good chunk of the Vancouver population was on boil-water advisories, the
provinces have finally started concentrating on that question and have thrown a
lot of money at it. The bad news is that not much has been improved, despite a
lot of money and political activity because the provinces are still not doing
the job they were mandated to do under the Constitution, namely, to ensure that
the health of their citizens is cared for.
I want to pay a special tribute to my colleagues who represent the Aboriginal
community, Senator Adams, Senator Sibbeston and, particularly, Senator Watt, who
came to me with this problem six or seven and a half years ago. Senator Watt
said the problem is an egregious one in the Aboriginal communities. Most
Aboriginal communities do not have good drinking water. I looked into the
question then, and that opened up the whole question for me. I wish to pay
particular tribute to — I do not like saying this — the godfather of this bill,
Senator Watt. Without his encouragement, I do not think I would have persevered
all these years.
We know there is a serious problem in the Aboriginal communities that has not
been addressed. We have dealt with three governments since this bill was
introduced that promised they would address the problem with the Aboriginal
communities. Mr. Chrétien made that promise in a Throne Speech, and Mr. Martin
also made that promise in a Throne Speech.
Now we have heard from Mr. Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern
Development, who made the promise as well. Money has been thrown at the problem,
but when it applies in particular to the Aboriginal communities, there is still
no regulatory oversight. The numbers vary because we do not have precise
information, but anywhere from 150 to 500 Aboriginal communities do not have
clean drinking water.
I told honourable senators some years ago the horrible story I came across
when I organized a meeting in an Aboriginal community in Northern Ontario. A
woman from Grassy Narrows came to our group and said, "I live in Grassy Narrows,
and if I want to have a baby that is not deformed, I must leave the reservation
and cleanse my womb for three years to ensure that my baby is not born
Even when I raised this outrageous and scandalous situation, I could not
motivate the government of the day to address this particular problem. One of
the rationales for this bill is to provide mandatory oversight for federal and
provincial officials to do the job they were sworn to do, which is to provide
health to each and every Canadian.
What has happened since? In the most recent study, Canada is almost at the
bottom of the barrel when it comes to stewardship of our drinking water. We are
twenty-sixth out of 28 countries in the developed world in terms of managing our
water resources, and that includes our drinking water resources.
It is interesting to note the recent report released by Simon Fraser
University under the aegis of the David Suzuki Foundation. By the way, David
Suzuki and I attended high school together. In his report, The Maple Leaf in
the OECD, Dr. Suzuki compares progress toward water sustainability. He
points out something that I have been arguing about, which is now clear beyond a
doubt, that even at this late stage, there is no comprehensive assessment of
drinking water quality across the country. This is the reason, according to the
report, on page 24:
A comprehensive assessment of Canadian water quality is not possible due to
a lack of national water quality monitoring data.
Not only do we not have a regulation; we do not even have the data. However,
the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that in every region of the country — and
this Senate is a Senate of the regions — we have fallen below an acceptable
standard of care when it comes to drinking water.
When officials came forward — by the way, I do not criticize them, because
they are doing their job and they are doing the best they can under the mandate
they have — they argued that they cannot tell us the data with respect to the
nature or quality of drinking water across the regions because there is no
scientific or comprehensive analysis linking bad drinking water and poor health.
I was stuck with this problem. I went to an outstanding expert, Dr. David
Schindler, from Alberta. Some senators might know of him. He and I worked on
this problem and came up with a logarithm based on the information we had at the
time. That was six years ago and the situation is now worse.
Six years ago, Dr. Schindler and I concluded that, at a minimum, the
out-of-pocket cost to the health system was between $1 billion and $2 billion.
That estimate was conservative and included only direct costs, not indirect
costs, for example, if someone could not work because of a problem with poor
Canada remains the only modern country in the developed world without legally
enforceable standards for regulation. The Americans brought in standards in
1974. Despite the problem of states' rights, they went ahead. Today, if you live
in the United States and you want to find out the water quality in your area,
you can go to a website, enter your regional code, your 604 or 908, and find out
about the most recent drinking water advisories in your region. Wayward America,
and we lag behind.
Even the Auditor General has said that Canada lags behind. The evidence is
not only in the report; the evidence came to the committee. It was startling to
hear the Auditor General say that even the voluntary guidelines were woefully
out of date and were not in force. Even the voluntary guidelines are several
years out of date. We heard testimony at the committee that the guidelines are
catching up; they think they are now on top. However, no one can tell us for
sure whether each of the provinces are applying even the voluntary guidelines.
We finally received an advisory from the Department of Health, information
for the first time. I want to thank the chairman of the committee, because he
was pressing for this information, as was I, at the committee. I am not a member
of the committee.
We discovered that there were thousands of boil water advisories from across
the country that the Department of Health had finally put together in a list.
Then we received a statement, filed by the committee, which purported that about
1,174 boil-water advisories were in place. That does not seem like a lot for
Canada, but it was not a true number; it was only a number at a moment in time
last December. Even that limited sample indicated that 250,000 Canadians were at
risk. If you coagulate the number across the entire year, it would be 10 or 12
times that particular figure. Drinking water is a serious health problem in
Canada that is not addressed by these voluntary guidelines.
Beyond a doubt, the system is not working. We now have a wake-up call by
these boil-water advisories. I am sad to say that even the Sierra Legal Defence
Fund is now doing a provincial ranking. British Columbia, a province we admire
and one that is well represented in this chamber, which is proud of its water
performance, was given a C-plus due to the high rate of boil water advisories,
not only in December but throughout the year.
The other scandalous situation is in Newfoundland. In Newfoundland, a number
of the outports have never had clean drinking water. In the 21st century, a
number of communities in the outports of Newfoundland do not have clean drinking
water. A woman who has a family of four, five or six must boil water every day
to fulfil her household tasks and ensure that her children drink clean water. It
is a scandal and there is no excuse for it. The money is there, but we lack the
political will to address the problem.
The reason this issue is local and not national is clear. The problem does
not register in the national media. We have local advisories here and there, but
no one puts the numbers together. Due to the efforts of the chairman of this
fine committee, we received the first figures from the Department of Health, and
they were shocking. I find this strange.
We, in Canada, are worried about the world. Honourable senators will find
this information in the wonderful report that we just tabled today. The first
thing we do when we go to Africa is provide clean water systems. When we go to
Afghanistan, the first thing we do, Senator Dallaire, is ensure that our troops
have clean drinking water. We provide clean drinking water systems around the
world, but we do not do it in Canada. Is that not a shock? Is that not ironic?
I will end my comments with this final irony. About two weeks ago the Food
and Drugs Act issued a new advisory about a healthy diet. In the advisory, they
say, as Senator Banks has said, that eight glasses of drinking water is
mandatory if you want to have a clean, healthy diet. In Canada, the Food and
Drugs Act says that is what we must do, but they do not mandate it to ensure
that every region of the country has clean drinking water.
I believe in the Constitution and in equality. I believe that every Canadian,
wherever he or she lives, every man, woman and child, is entitled to a clean
glass of water eight times a day. I believe that with this clinical bill we will
provide the proper oversight and overview to ensure that each and every Canadian
is entitled to his and her equal right: eight glasses of clean drinking water
I urge the speedy approval of this piece of legislation.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Dallaire would
like to ask a question. Will you take questions, Senator Grafstein?
Senator Grafstein: Yes.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: My daughter is a young civil engineer
heading off to South Africa to build water and sewage systems for the Canadian
International Development Agency, CIDA, for six months.
Bob McDonald, who does "Quirks & Quarks" on CBC, did a demonstration using
a glass of water. If a glass of water is all the water in the world, he said,
and you take away the water in the oceans, the North and South polar caps and
the water in the air, the amount of drinkable water barely covers the bottom of
the glass. What is more, Mr. McDonald said that 70 per cent of that drinkable
water is in Canada. He says, "We pee in it." The question becomes our
consideration of how we are abusing our own water.
In California and Arizona, there are massive plantations, where every drop of
water is being sucked out, to feed artificial surfaces like golf courses, to
name but one.
What security process and future management plan do we have in place
vis-à-vis Canada's water, in regards to the massive abuse of the use of water on
this continent, let alone elsewhere, let alone our own ability to keep it clean
for our people?
Senator Grafstein: I did not want to go into this matter, but I will
very briefly. This really touches on another bill — one that is on the Order
Paper; I intend to deal with that bill, if this bill is successful, which deals
with the problem the honourable senator addresses.
In Canada, the statistics are very clear. On the surface, we have the largest
capacious source of clean drinking water in the world. Much of it is now
polluted. The problem is not getting any better; it is getting worse.
The other problem, more intense than that, and the reason OECD and Suzuki and
Simon Fraser condemn us, is the problem of sustainability. In other words, we
consume much more than we return back to the system in a purified form. That is
a deeper problem, and one that we must address.
I have before the Senate another bill that deals with the up-source problem
— which is watersheds. In a nutshell, I am asking the federal government to map
out all the watersheds, which are the sources of water in Canada, so we can at
least keep track and try to provide preservation and sustainability with those
watersheds. We do not do it. That is the subject matter of another bill.
This is a down-stream problem. The two are connected but not really directly
involved. At the down-stream problem, we can clean this up by regulation, by
additional costs. As Senator Banks pointed out, we pay for our water. The
problem is that because it has been so capacious, the cost of water has been
very low, and people do not notice it. The truth is that one of the fastest-growing businesses in Canada is bottled water. If you buy a bottle of Fiji or
Evian water in a restaurant, it will cost you more than a glass of wine, in most
cases. There is an irony to this. The drinking water in Toronto is better than
most of the bottled water — because we have worked consistently on that problem
in Toronto. Other cities are not as fortunate; they have not done the work.
There is a problem. It is a larger question, and I hope we will address it in
a future piece of legislation on the Order Paper.
On motion of Senator Cochrane, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Fairbairn, P.C.,
calling the attention of the Senate to the State of Literacy in Canada, which
will give every Senator in this Chamber the opportunity to speak out on an
issue in our country that is often forgotten.—(Honourable Senator LeBreton,
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, it is a pleasure for me to
rise today to speak to this issue, the inquiry introduced by Senator Fairbairn
on the state of literacy in Canada.
The preamble to this inquiry includes a very significant phrase "which will
give every Senator in this Chamber the opportunity to speak out on an issue in
our country that is often forgotten." How true that is.
We often forget the many issues confronting Canadians and overlook some
challenges many Canadians face. However, we cannot easily overlook this one.
Literacy is a very simple thing to understand, but there is no simple solution
to overcoming the boundaries many cope with when they do not have the proper
Honourable senators, literacy is the essential skill. Whether it is reading,
writing, thinking or using social skills as the result, literacy is the gateway
to a knowledgeable, practical and productive society. How, then, is it possible
that Canada's new government is slashing funding for literacy programs? How is
it possible the federal government does not recognize the importance of literacy
programs, even in my home province of Nova Scotia? According to Literacy Nova
Scotia, these cuts will adversely affect 6,000 Nova Scotians currently in
literacy programs, as well as the 30 per cent of Nova Scotians that do not have
a high school diploma.
One reason cited for these cuts and the others is that these programs were
not providing any value for money spent. Can you believe it? Would my colleagues
on both sides of the chamber like to visit Literacy Nova Scotia and suggest that
to the many citizens who use this program?
I would submit that, instead of cutting funding, we should be increasing
funding because of the absolute success of these programs in producing results.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,
Statistics Canada in 2004, a 1 per cent growth in the average literacy and
numeracy levels in Canada will yield a 1.5 per cent permanent increase in the
GDP per capita. That would amount to approximately $18 billion a year. That is a
lot of money.
To my Conservative friends — literacy is just good business; it makes a lot
Many times I have spoken in this place about the connection between literacy
and education with health and economic factors that influence our communities. I
have always believed that literacy is the one true path to eliminating poverty.
In October 2005, I attended the launch event for the Halifax Humanities 101,
a Clemente Course in the Humanities. The Clemente course, founded by Earl
Shorris, seeks to break the cycle of poverty through increased literacy. All
metro Halifax universities donated teaching time. Donations were received from
foundations, including McCain and RBC, and from individuals, including myself.
These funds were offered to support rooms, teaching supplies, food — and even
daycare for those who needed it. This was done without government funding.
Nevertheless, it was difficult, because many programs are in place that receive
funding; there is never enough to go around.
Certainly, with these new cuts, there will not be an opportunity to secure
new funding for this initiative — or any others. It will also be difficult to
keep service levels the same for programs that already rely on funding. Programs
that rely solely on government funding are in jeopardy or disappearing.
Honourable senators, poverty is not an easy thing to overcome or live in.
Students in the Clemente course have gone from living in the street to teaching
in schools themselves. What now? What about the thousands of Nova Scotians who
rely on literacy programs to improve their lives and those of their families?
What of the tens of thousands of Canadians across the country who do so as well?
The consequence of these funding cuts is enormous, more so than we understand
even here in this place.
I draw the attention of honourable senators to a January article in The
Globe and Mail. It told a story of an Alberta machinist who lost his left
arm below the elbow. A new machine arrived at his work. The machine appeared to
operate in a similar manner as the old ones it replaced. Its operation was
treated by this man as such. This accident occurred because the worker could not
read the new owner's manual.
Honourable senators, it is not hard to see how increased literacy skills lead
to improved health and quality of life; even saving a life or, in this case, a
limb. It is not hard to see how improved health leads to improved productivity.
It is not hard to see how improved productivity leads to better and safer
Despite these well-known facts, funding has been slashed for literacy
programs. The first link in the chain has been broken. Moreover, as we all know
the rest of the adage, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Honourable senators, another point of view I would like to mention is that of
the provinces. How much more burden can we place on the provincial governments
to solve socio-economic problems? In the wake of these cuts to literacy and many
other areas, the provinces must pick up the slack. Can they afford to? A better
question is, can we afford not to pay attention and fight to have these cuts
In conclusion, honourable senators, I implore all of you to look at what is
happening, not just with the cuts to literacy but with the cuts to women's,
children's and volunteer programs. I implore you to ask your government why this
is happening. I implore you to demand that funding for these programs be
restored. You must do it for your children, your children's children and for the
very communities in which you live. We in public life cannot improve the lives
of the citizens we serve by unwarranted slashing of important programs, the very
programs that help us prepare for a better future.
Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, I wish to add my voice to
those who have already contributed to Senator Fairbairn's inquiry on the state
of literacy in Canada. She spoke with the knowledge, passion and commitment for
which she is so highly regarded in this chamber and elsewhere. Those of you who
added your voices to the inquiry obviously share the same commitment and
I must begin by underscoring that this inquiry was prompted by the
government's deeply regrettable decision last year to cut $17.7 million in
funding from adult literacy programs across the country. That cut was contained
in a billion-dollar package of cuts predominantly to social justice programs, a
reflection, regrettably, of the current government's lack of interest in the
welfare of the average citizen.
These cuts in funding are all the more deplorable since without literacy
Canadian citizens have dramatically reduced employment prospects, difficulty in
exercising their democratic rights, and are unable to contribute to the
dialogues and interactions that help shape our society and our values.
However, today I want to concentrate on another element of literacy that is
often neglected, mainly that of numeracy, which is a new word. It is a
contraction of the words "numerical" and "literacy."
Numeracy, or "quantitative or mathematical literacy," refers to a person's
ability to use and understand numbers and to perform the basic mathematical
calculations that are required for life at home and at work. It includes
everyday tasks like creating a household budget, determining which product
offers the best value for price, as well as more complex tasks such as
developing a long-term retirement plan. It is essential if people are to
understand how to choose to finance or refinance their motor vehicles, or how to
choose between different types of insurance policies. In short, a mass of daily
activities of the average Canadian requires numerical skills, that is, numeracy.
Human Resources and Social Development Canada calls numeracy one of the nine
items or "essential skills" required for employability. In fact, the
department's website lists numeracy as one of the most important skills for no
less than 102 occupations in Canada, some of which we would not necessarily
think of as requiring numerical skills, such as bartending, fish processing,
fabric making, heavy equipment operating, painting, sawmill operating and
welding. Within these fields, numeracy is essential for calculating area and
volume, determining the proper ratio for a mixture or preparing cost estimates.
There are many blue-collar jobs where number competence is required for safety,
to understand, for example, instructions regarding the use and mixture of
hazardous chemicals or, as the Honourable Senate Mercer has indicated, how to
operate heavy equipment.
Over the past few decades, numeracy skills have also become more important in
our personal lives because the number and complexity of the financial decisions
faced by Canadians have expanded rapidly and continue to do so. The development
of new products like pay day loans, reverse mortgages, consumer lines of credit,
credit card transactions and charges, zero-downpayment mortgages and other
complex consumer financial packages has given each of us more choice in how to
manage credit, but has also increased the possibility that we may choose a
product which is poorly suited to our needs. The slow decline of the value of
employer pension plans has also meant that decisions about retirement savings
and RRSPs are now crucial to many people's ability to retire comfortably.
Fortunately, there are Canadians who have been able to take advantage of
these new products and have been able to improve their financial well-being. For
those who are financially savvy, it can be relatively simple to benefit from
low-cost credit, leverage investments, and find tax shelters to protect their
assets. To those people, the growing diversity and complexity of Canada's
financial system is an opportunity to be exploited.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, are people without the numeracy
skills needed to identify the best values at the supermarket, let alone the
differences between various credit products. Being able to determine the
relative price differences between sale items can be very essential for
low-income families. For example, the difference between two cans of pasta for
$2 or 40 per cent off a can that is regularly $1.50 may be small, but it can
amount to a great deal of money over time, especially for those with low income.
Even more disturbing is the fact that people without numeracy skills cannot
evaluate the cost of money that is available to them through the credit system.
Without these skills, many Canadians wind up paying far more for a loan than
they need to. For example, they may think that they are getting a very good deal
if they are charged $50 in interest and fees on a two-week payday loan of $300.
However, on an annualized basis, that $50 translates into an absolutely
exorbitant interest rate that needlessly deprives Canadians of hard-earned
income. The same can be said of reliance on credit card borrowing or on the use
of any credit product with interest that accumulates, frequently faster than a
person's ability to pay it down.
Honourable senators, undoubtedly some of you are thinking that there is only
so much a government can do to protect credit users, and that financial service
firms should be able to offer whatever products the free market will bear.
However, one of the essential conditions of an enlightened free market is that
consumers must have knowledge of all of their options in order to make the best
choice for them. Clearly, without numeracy skills, an informed choice cannot be
made at the grocery store, at the bank or anywhere else.
A lack of numeracy skills can have further direct consequences on
individuals, their families and in fact on all of Canadian society. Under the
best of circumstances, such people find themselves under tremendous financial
pressure, and under the worst of circumstances those people who cannot manage
the credit system go into personal bankruptcy.
Honourable senators, last year there were 98,450 personal bankruptcies in
Canada. Over 8,000 human beings suffered the shame and the disadvantages of
personal bankruptcy each and every month. Although there was a very small
reduction in personal bankruptcies in comparison to the year before, Statistics
Canada tells us that the average ratio of debt to disposable income amongst
Canadians rose during the year to reach over 123 per cent. This indicates that
Canadians are taking on more debt than ever before and analysts now warn us that
any significant economic slowdown would cause the bankruptcy rate to shoot up
Whether or not it shoots up, the fact is that at least 8,000 Canadians each
and every month are going into bankruptcy. Most of them go into bankruptcy
because they cannot manipulate or control the credit system. Most of those
cannot control their use of the credit system because they lack the numeracy
skills to do so.
This is nothing short of a Canadian human tragedy and it repeats each and
every day. In most personal bankruptcies there is a spouse or a partner. There
are children in many cases. There are creditors in all cases. That means that at
least half a million Canadians are directly affected and touched by personal
bankruptcies of 100,000 Canadians each and every year.
Honourable senators will recall that in the fall of last year I questioned
the Honourable Leader of the Government in this chamber about when a new
bankruptcy and insolvency bill would be introduced. I was assured in private
conversation that it would be introduced by the end of the year, and she was
true to her word. However, it was attempted to be introduced as a ways and means
motion and the so-called new government sought, but did not obtain, unanimous
consent. Accordingly, the bill, although it is ready — I have a copy of it — has
not been introduced. That bill, when adopted and promulgated, would streamline
personal bankruptcies, would bring a host of needed improvements to the system
and to the process, and would encourage credit counselling for those who cannot
deal with the credit system.
However, the so-called new government is so new that it has not had time to
introduce it, preferring instead to deal with other supposed priorities.
Ordinary Canadians, hundreds of thousands of them each and every year, are
not the priority of the so-called new government. Small wonder that they deleted
the word "Progressive" from the name of the party, limiting themselves to "Conservatives." We have seen that there is nothing progressive about the new
Senator Stratton: Oxymoron, big time.
Senator Goldstein: I have a variety of answers to that, but I prefer
not to give them to my honourable friend at the moment.
Instead of the "new government," perhaps it should be called the "askew
government," because its priorities are so unbalanced and so out of
It is worrisome, honourable senators, that the number of Canadians with
numeracy challenges is so disturbingly high. At the moment, it is estimated that
40 per cent of adult Canadians have only low or basic numeracy skills. This
figure, however, masks an enormous variation between age groups. For example,
over 60 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 56 and 65 have basic or low
numeracy, compared with fewer than 40 per cent of Canadians between the ages of
16 and 25. This means that the bulk of Canadians who need help with numeracy
falls into the age group most affected by the recent and regrettable new
"askew" government cuts.
Studies by Statistics Canada have found that there is a high correlation
between numeracy and literacy skills, but it is useful for us to remember that
these are separate skills that require distinct policies and training programs
The need for numeracy skills is likely to increase further over the years as
new financial tools are created and new information technology becomes more
integrated into traditional sectors of the economy such as construction,
farming, forestry and others. If we do not take steps now to provide all
Canadians, both young and old, with the numeracy skills required for them to
make a living and to manage their finances, we are likely to see more and more
Canadians lacking the resources they need to support themselves and depending
more on the government to do it for them.
While I believe that the funding cut last year should be restored, I must say
in all honesty that I do not believe government has the sole responsibility for
ensuring that Canadians have the numeracy skills they need.
There are groups outside the government sector who are working to build
awareness, educate Canadians, and help them improve their knowledge of financial
issues. Allow me to highlight some of the existing initiatives.
First, the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education and other associations
dedicated to protecting consumers make various educational resources concerning
personal finances available to students and their teachers. They also offer
other services, such as courses and information workshops on subjects including
budgeting, credit and debt.
Second, I would like to acknowledge the Canadian Bankers Association's
program, "There's Something About Money", which brings volunteer bankers
trained by the association into schools to give Canadian teens 75-minute
seminars on the basics of good financial management.
Finally, I would like to mention the ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation, which
recognizes the importance of basic math skills in everyday life. Through its
website, the foundation gives all Canadians advice and helpful math hints, such
as how to calculate a tip in a restaurant, how much they pay in sales tax and
how much they are saving when they buy something on sale.
However, the current programs are insufficient to help people who need better
numeracy skills. The private sector, and particularly Canada's banks and
financial service firms, must make a better effort to guarantee that citizens
understand the products they are offered and must improve the transparency of
the fees and interest rates they charge. I would like to suggest, for example,
that a private sector initiative could involve the creation of a plain language
seminar series to be offered at schools and community centres across the
country, as well as the development of an improved practical mathematical
curriculum — and I emphasize "practical" — for Canadian schools.
Numerical literacy and letter literacy go hand in hand. Enhancing one
enhances the other. The current government cut in this program afflicts both
letter illiterate people and number illiterate people in this country.
Honourable senators, there is an aching in the Canadian body politic that we
have the ability to heal — not immediately, not alone, certainly. However, with
our prescriptions, our recommended doses, the reinstatement of this askew
government's literacy program financing and the cooperation of the dispensing
organizations, we have the potential to cause meaningful improvements in the
lives of so many Canadians. Can we afford to not try?
Hon. Joan Fraser: Would Senator Goldstein take a question?
Senator Goldstein: Certainly.
Senator Fraser: I thank the honourable senator for that interesting
and thought-provoking speech. This inquiry has produced many insightful comments
on the problems of literacy and numeracy. I was very impressed by the senator's
focus on numeracy.
I was also struck by the fact that the honourable senator used once or twice
a phrase that is often used nowadays — "Canada's new government." I put my own
back-of-the-envelope numeracy skills to work, inspired by his challenge, so to
speak. It seems to me that if we take the average life of a majority government,
the present Government of Canada is in its teens, which may explain why it shows
such disregard for so many of the normal rules of society.
If we take the average life of a minority government, this government is in
late middle age, heading rapidly to retirement. Would the honourable senator
agree with me that it is time to retire the phrase "Canada's new government"?
Senator Goldstein: I could not have said it better, nor would I dare
to try. I used the words "new government" entirely in its sarcastic
connotation. It is clear that this new government is old and tired and out of
touch with the people it is governing.
On motion of Senator Milne, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Dallaire, calling
the attention of the Senate to the final phase of the restoration of the
Canadian National Vimy Memorial, begun in 2001 under the auspices of the
Canadian Battlefield Memorials Restoration Project. —(Honourable Senator
Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Honourable senators, I rise to speak briefly
on Senator Dallaire's inquiry calling the attention of the Senate to the final
phase of the restoration of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, and to follow
up a bit on my previous remarks. I am sorry Senator Joyal is not in the chamber
— he was here earlier — because I know he has a strong interest in this matter
and wanted to know what was going on.
I am pleased to tell all this afternoon — and honourable senators will
realize that "all" is not very much. I am hoping to learn more — as I am sure
all honourable senators are — in the very near future as to the plans of the
Department of Veterans Affairs with respect to the commemoration of this event.
Having said that, honourable senators are aware that this major restoration
effort was launched back in 2001 to address a serious deterioration of our
memorial at Vimy. The final touches are under way. On February 7 — just eight
days ago — members of our subcommittee on Veterans Affairs were provided with
some details regarding the rededication of the refurbished memorial and the
commemoration events surrounding the ninetieth anniversary of the battle that
inspired its creation.
Appearing before the subcommittee was Mr. Robert Mercer, Assistant Deputy
Minister of Vimy Event 2007, Veterans Affairs Canada, who informed us that
activities will be taking place both in Europe and in Canada. In France, the
official Canadian contingent apparently will be comprised of at least 135
people. In addition, there will also be 20 members of the RCMP — plus their
horses, I hear — and over 300 members of the Canadian Forces, including a
representative from each of the four regiments who counted among their ranks a
winner of the Victoria Cross at Vimy. Many other veterans will be in attendance,
including 20 who will be government-sponsored. I was impressed to learn there
will be a least as many students from across the country in attendance in 2007
as there were those who lost their lives in Vimy in 1917.
There were 3,598 Canadian casualties at Vimy and 7,104 wounded. The number of
students to date, each of whom, honourable senators, has raised privately the
funds necessary to travel to France, now exceeds 4,000.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Meighen: There will also be thousands more from Canada and
around the world who will converge atop Hill 145. Four major events will take
place. On Saturday, April 7, the remains of two Canadian soldiers will be
buried. These remains were located some time ago and will finally receive a
Second, a Freedom of the City event for the Canadian military will take place
in the city of Arras, located very close to Vimy.
Third, there will be a ceremony here in Canada at the National War Memorial,
as well as over 25 separate events across the country.
Finally, the dedication ceremony itself will take place on Easter Monday at
the newly restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
Last week, Veterans Affairs Canada informed the Subcommittee on Veterans
Affairs that interest in the Vimy event greatly exceeded the department's
expectations. We have even received requests from individuals who attended the
1936 ceremony to attend the inauguration ceremony. This will be a major event.
To satisfy those who will be unable to attend one of our numerous
celebrations across the country, the inauguration ceremony will be televised
everywhere in Canada.
With the dedication of the restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial, an
important beacon of our nationhood will shine long into the future for
generations to come. I look forward to celebrating with the rest of Canadians
this truly momentous event.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Will the honourable senator accept a
Senator Meighen: Certainly.
Senator Dallaire: The initiatives, as you have described, will be
mainly overseas, where the memorial is, with some initiatives taking place here
in Canada, as you have indicated.
The question of Vimy is one of the history of us becoming a nation, just as
we are gaining an enormous reputation in Afghanistan with our colleagues, giving
us political leverage with NATO, and so on. In 1917, those troops gave us
leverage to be at Versailles in 1919, to become a nation, and be recognized as
such, as a signatory of the peace.
As we move on through the years, with the restoration of that site and people
visiting it and so on, we are welcoming more and more new Canadians, who are
trying to learn the history of Canada so that they can integrate into our
Canadian society. Yet, the major effort of the commemoration of our nation in
its maturing is across the pond.
As we raised at the committee, do you think it appropriate, now that we are
talking about the ninetieth anniversary, that perhaps we should try to convince
the government or society to look at the one hundredth anniversary, which is
only 10 years down the road, to try to repatriate the memorial, by creating
something of substance in this country, where people can go to visit, where they
can touch something and read about it?
It is interesting that, in Confederation Square, there is an ice sculpture of
Vimy that has attracted a lot of attention. Would it not be wise for us to move
some yardsticks to get people thinking about recreating the monument, or
something like it, in Canada for the one hundredth anniversary?
Senator Meighen: Senator Dallaire, I think that is an excellent
suggestion. I wonder if the commemorative ceremony to be held on April 7 could
be an opportunity to introduce that idea. It would be my pleasure — if I still
chair the subcommittee, obviously — to submit the proposal to the members of the
It is certainly the most impressive war memorial that I have ever seen in my
life, and I think many people share that view. I do not know whether we can
recreate the atmosphere; perhaps that would be difficult to do since that was
the place where Canada came of age. The memorial itself is so striking that it
is something that, at least if it is here in Canada, will be seen by more
Canadians and will be a constant reminder to them of our history, which is
something that I do not think we have always done a good job of teaching to all
Canadians, whether native-born or newly arrived. I thank you for that suggestion
and I would be glad to follow up on it.
Senator Dallaire: In 1974, I was commanding the guard at Vimy. The
Canadian government representative that came there was the MP from my riding. He
was a fine man. At the ceremony, with all the French dignitaries, he spent about
20 minutes telling them how ineffective their troops had been in defeating the
Germans and how we had magnificently done the job. He berated them in French and
then took another 20 minutes in English to do exactly the same thing again. That
did not really come across too well.
I am wondering, at the ninetieth anniversary, if the government will be
represented not only by the Governor General, who is the Commander-in-Chief, but
also by the Prime Minister, to demonstrate the significance of this ninetieth
anniversary and that restoration.
Senator Meighen: I hope so, dear colleague, but I have not been
informed of those details. I have heard rumours of the presence of the Prime
Minister, of Her Majesty the Queen and of others. I gather it is difficult for
both Her Majesty and the Governor General to be at the same place at the same
time. That is a matter for the protocol experts to work out.
I have no doubt, given the interest that is evident in the country, as
evidenced by the 4,000 students who have raised enough money to pay their own
way there, and by the department's own admission that the level of interest has
surpassed anything they anticipated. I think we will find that all those
important people that you mentioned will do their utmost to be there. Whether or
not they all make it, time will tell.
On motion of Senator Banks, debate adjourned.
Hon. Andrée Champagne rose, pursuant to notice of February 13, 2007:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to a major crisis in
She said: Honourable senators, in recent weeks, Canadian culture has seen a
mounting crisis that few among us could have predicted. Our television
production, an incontestable example of our distinct nature, is at risk.
One of the most important achievements of the government of the day, the
Canadian Television Fund was created in 1996. Every year since then, all
Canadian cable operators have been investing five per cent of their revenue, and
the Canadian government contributing $100 million.
Since 1996, $2.3 billion has helped create some 4,500 Canadian productions in
French, English and various Aboriginal languages. We have produced dramas,
variety programs, programs for children and adolescents, and documentaries.
Canadian television, with its varied networks from sea to sea to sea, has become
one of this country's greatest treasures.
Last December, Shaw Communications announced it would stop contributing to
the fund. They would stop making their monthly payments. A month later,
Vidéotron, part of the Quebecor empire, followed suit. If both cable companies
had been allowed to abandon their commitment, the fund would have suffered a
loss of $25 million this year and $72 million in 2008.
How does the fund work, some of you may ask? Who really benefits from it? Why
would those huge cable distributors suddenly decide to withhold the money? Had
they not signed an agreement? Yes, they had, and the law is clear, but for a
small detail, which I will explain later.
The fund was set up to provide money for private, independent producers; to
encourage and promote quality programming and Canadian content; and to help keep
our television alive and different from American productions.
A private producer comes up with an idea and spends a small fortune
developing it into a project he or she considers viable. The producer presents
the project to a television network. If the network is equally convinced that
the project is likely to be a success, considering its viewers' tastes, it
enters into a contract to broadcast the program or series.
Only then can the private producer present the project to the board of the
Canadian Television Fund, in the hope of receiving a portion of the production
funding that is needed.
Then, what are the reasons for Shaw Communications and Vidéotron's rebellion?
Honourable senators, it seems that close to 35 per cent of the productions that
receive funding from the Canadian Television Fund will end up on one of the CBC
networks. If one is to believe Pierre Karl Péladeau, owner of TVA, he puts money
into a fund that will help produce some shows that will be aired ultimately by
its main competitor, Radio-Canada, and he resents it.
Yet figures show that Quebecor usually invests roughly $16 million in the
fund and receives some $18 million in production funding. This is not too bad.
By refusing to pay the monthly sum they had promised to contribute to what is
commonly known as the "cable fund," were Vidéotron and Shaw Communications
acting lawfully or unlawfully? Could the CRTC have revoked the licences of these
cable distributors? These were the burning issues for over a week.
For his part, the chair of the fund, Douglas Barrett, stated that the
legislation governing the fund is unclear. Lawyers are still arguing about how
to interpret it. Some claim that the signatories actually had until August 31 to
make their contributions. The Liberals had set up a very valuable fund, but the
regulations governing it left something to be desired.
It seems that the monthly payments were part of a sort of gentleman's
agreement between the partners, but that Shaw Communications and Vidéotron
changed their minds. Everyone involved in television production was very
concerned, especially in Quebec.
The month of March marks the deadline for presenting many projects that will
become part of the programming of our television networks next fall and next
January. What was to be on our small screens then was in jeopardy. Who was
worried? Producers, of course, but also all those men and women that they hire:
writers, directors, actors, technicians, composers, musicians and
On Monday of last week, Pierre Karl Péladeau announced that he would rather
create his own fund than participate, be it indirectly, in a show that might be
aired on one of the CBC networks.
In any case, all productions that TVA could not produce in-house would have
been turned over to another Quebecor affiliate, Productions JPL, Jean-Paul
Ladouceur's former company, which could continue to receive federal tax credits
and try to go after Quebec tax credits.
However, the possible loss of funds for the Canadian Television Fund would
have limited the chances of independent producers obtaining backing from
broadcasters. If TVA did not like the project, too bad! Especially since monies
provided to the fund would have been reduced. What did our government do in
these difficult circumstances?
The Minister of Heritage said little at the outset of the crisis, but she was
very involved in the matter. First, our government announced that, for the first
time since the establishment of the fund, the minister was undertaking to invest
the amounts promised, that is, $100 million per year over the next two years.
Minister Bev Oda met with all the stakeholders: the CRTC, the Television
Fund, the president of the Association des producteurs, Ms. Samson,
representatives from Shaw Communications and Quebecor and, of course, the
lawyers for all the parties involved in the dispute.
Furthermore, she even assured the independent producers that current
productions would not be interrupted. On Tuesday, at the Standing Committee on
Heritage, she announced that she had written to both of the rebellious cable
operators, ordering them to keep their word.
Konrad Von Finckenstein, who faced this crisis as the new chairman of the
CRTC, was quick to remind Quebecor and Shaw Communications that the government
and the CRTC intended to take every action necessary to ensure that all parties
played by the rules.
In the past few months, Quebecor and Shaw have asked the Canadian Television
Fund to change some of its rules, but they never got enough votes for the
changes to come into force. Minister. Oda committed to holding new talks on the
subject, but only after the two cable distributors resume making the promised
contributions, which Vidéotron, at least, has said it will do.
One can just hear the industry's sigh of relief. I think we are still hearing
it. That must be what was blowing the snow around in Montreal yesterday. Still,
the fact is that our television industry was in danger, as were our cultural
industries. Workers in this intrinsically unstable field were asking themselves
some important questions. They are all freelancers who wonder where their next
paycheques will be coming from. Our government could not let two huge cable
companies renege on their promises because some of the money would be going to
Honourable senators, I hope that you will join me in offering your support
and congratulations to our minister and your scorn to those who, despite their
government licence, questioned their contributions to something that has had a
successful impact on Canada's cultural life.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I would like to congratulate
Senator Champagne for drawing the Senate's attention to this crucial issue,
which is the sort of thing we talk about very little here — not enough, in fact.
I have often thought that it is probably a very good thing for Canada that
Senator Champagne is a member of the government caucus. I would have liked it to
be our government, but one cannot have everything. I believe that she had some
influence in this matter. That said, I would like to move adjournment of the
debate for the remainder of my time.
On motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned to the next sitting of the
Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government), with leave of
the Senate, and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), moved:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday,
February 20, 2007, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to.
The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, February 20, 2007, at 2 p.m.