Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 85
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
- Corporal Kevin Megeney
Sergeant Donald Lucas
Corporal Brent D. Poland
Corporal Christopher Paul Stannix
Corporal Aaron E. Williams
Private David Robert Greenslade
Private Kevin Vincent Kennedy
Master Corporal Allan Stewart
Trooper Patrick James Pentland
- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Speaker's Delegation to Panama and Costa Rica
- Speaker's Delegation to Libya, Malta, the Holy See and Italy
- National Finance
- The Senate
- Access to Information Act
Canadian Wheat Board Act
- Income Tax Act
- National Security and Defence
- QUESTION PERIOD
- Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- The Senate
- Public Works and Government Services
- Veterans Affairs
- Fisheries and Oceans
- Veterans Affairs
- Delayed Answers to Oral Questions
- Public Works and Government Services
- Foreign Affairs
- The Late Jocelyne Couture-Nowak
- Visitors in the Gallery
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Canada Pension Plan
Old Age Security Act
- Public Service Employment Act
- Divorce Act
- Transport and Communications
- Study on Issues Relating to New and Evolving Policy Framework
- Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
- Constitution Act, 1867
- Study on National Security Policy
- Human Rights
- Impact of Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the Rights of Canadians and Prerogatives of Parliament
- Contributions of the Honourable Howard Charles Green to Canadian Public Life
- The Senate
- Canada Pension Plan
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Corporal Kevin Megeney
Sergeant Donald Lucas
Corporal Brent D.
Corporal Christopher Paul Stannix
Corporal Aaron E. Williams
Private Kevin Vincent Kennedy
Master Corporal Allan Stewart
Trooper Patrick James Pentland
The Hon. the Speaker: Before we proceed, I would ask honourable senators to rise and observe one minute of silence in memory of Corporal Kevin Megeney, Sergeant Donald Lucas, Corporal Brent D. Poland, Corporal Christopher Paul Stannix, Corporal Aaron E. Williams, Private David Robert Greenslade, Private Kevin Vincent Kennedy, Master Corporal Allan Stewart and Trooper Patrick James Pentland whose tragic deaths occurred recently while serving their country in Afghanistan.
Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today to speak out against an issue that the media reported last week: spanking classes for parents offered by a school board in Quebec.
Just imagine, they call this a "course in managing difficult children." They might just as well say, as the papers have put it, "Spanking 101."
Parents should certainly be offered classes that show them how to do a better job of raising their children and that help them out when they need help. That being said, any form of corporal punishment applied to children is totally unacceptable.
In April 2006, to counter the kind of family violence that arises from archaic and barbaric practices, I tabled Bill S-207, which would finally enable Canada to fulfill its international obligations by prohibiting corporal punishment. Eighteen countries have already taken this step, including the Netherlands on March 6.
To confirm that so-called pedagogical spanking is unacceptable, 253 Canadian organizations recently signed the joint statement to prohibit physical punishment. Among the signatories were the Saskatoon Public School Board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Newfoundland and Labrador Eastern School District, to name but a few.
Honourable senators, the debate is now open, and we eagerly await the report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Legislators are responsible for studying this controversial practice, as the Honourable Louise Arbour stated in the Supreme Court's ruling on the matter. Now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Arbour said at the time that this issue should be studied in light of the Charter — an important day for us today — current social norms and the body of evidence.
Today, as we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we must ensure that all Canadians, including the children, receive its full protection.
In closing, I would like to quote Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, who has put it very clearly:
How can we expect children to take human rights seriously and to help build a culture of human rights, while we adults not only persist in slapping, spanking, smacking and beating them, but actually defend doing so as being "for their own good"? Smacking children is not just a lesson in bad behaviour; it is a potent demonstration of contempt for the human rights of smaller, weaker people.
Strangely, those who are between the ages of 2 and 12 are the only human beings in this country that are allowed to be corrected physically.
Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Honourable senators, last week I, along with a number of our colleagues, participated in ceremonies marking the ninetieth anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the rededication of Walter Allward's inspired and inspiring monument which stands on its crest. Each of us felt that we had shared a unique and unforgettable experience; an experience which reinforced our pride in Canada and Canadians, but especially in our youth. This sense of pride grew throughout the weekend, culminating with the ceremony on Easter Monday. It began with the Saturday Sunset Ceremony highlighted by the brilliant and timely rays of sunlight that focused on the two gleaming pylons of the restored monument.
On Easter Sunday, we witnessed the awarding of the Freedom of the City of Arras to the Canadian Forces contingent whose precision in the march past would, I am certain, have brought a gleam of pleasure to the eye of even the most demanding of sergeant majors. At dinner that evening, Prime Minister Harper eloquently reminded us that recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate anew that sacrifice is unfortunately but unquestionably the price of freedom today — as it was 90 years ago.
Monday was a day of superlatives, including the weather. There was undeniably a very special feeling in the air, for as the Prime Minister pointed out:
We are a long way from home. But there may be no place on earth that makes us feel more Canadian. Because we sense all around us the presence of our ancestors . . .
For me and I think for the others, the crowning moment came just before the ceremony when down the flank of the ridge there appeared a seemingly endless stream of young Canadians cheering and waving flags. These inheritors of freedom, as someone described them, gave to the solemn proceedings a life and spirit and sense of hope that otherwise would have been lacking.
Obviously there has existed for some time now an unrequited thirst by our young people to learn more about the defining events of our history. Much of the credit for answering that pent-up demand goes to people like Dave Robinson, a teacher from Port Perry, Ontario. Mr. Robinson and his colleagues, on their own, armed with only imagination, determination and a vision of what could be, spread the message of Vimy to students far and wide, and they gladly took up the challenge. They each raised the money necessary to travel to France and bore on their shirt the name of one of the 3,598 Canadian casualties whose life they had carefully researched. In the end, it was they, the youth of Canada, who defined so eloquently and vividly this seminal event. It was they who gave strengthened meaning to the words that are inscribed on memorials everywhere to our war dead: "Their Name liveth forevermore."
Perhaps I might end by quoting another Prime Minister of Canada who, at the Thélus Military Cemetery on Vimy Ridge, spoke these words which are as true today as when first uttered on July 3, 1921:
France lives and France is free, and Canada is the nobler for her sacrifice to help free France to live. In many hundreds of plots throughout these hills and valleys, all the way from Flanders to Picardy, lie fifty-thousand of our dead. Their resting-places have been dedicated to their memory forever by the kindly grateful heart of France, and will be tended and cared for by us in the measure of the love we bear them. . . . Across the leagues of the Atlantic the heartstrings of our Canadian nation will reach through all time to these graves in France; we shall never let pass away the spirit bequeathed to us by those who fell . . .
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, June Rose Callwood passed away on April 14, 2007, at the age of 82. We have lost a great Canadian. Throughout her life, this Chatham native selflessly dedicated herself to social causes, particularly those affecting children and women.
June Callwood, who was known by some as the Conscience of Canada, was a compassionate woman. On March 7, she received the Writers' Trust Award for Distinguished Contribution. During the ceremony, she told the audience:
If any of you happen to see an injustice, you are no longer a spectator; you are a party to that injustice and have an obligation to do something.
Those words, spoken just one month before her death, guided her throughout her life. June Callwood started taking action against social injustice early on. She took part in more than 70 service organizations and founded a number of social action organizations herself.
Shocked by the sight of young people living on the street in the late 1960s, she created Digger House, a shelter for homeless youth in Toronto. This house marked the start of her hands-on involvement. In 1974, she and some others founded a shelter for abused women called Nellie's, after the activist Nellie McClung.
In 1982, Jessie's Centre for Teenagers was created for pregnant teenagers and teen parents. Casey House, a palliative care hospice for persons infected with AIDS, opened its doors in 1988. It was the first of its kind in Canada.
June Callwood also leaves her mark as a civil liberties crusader. She was involved in the founding of numerous organizations including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Justice for Children and Youth, Connecting Seniors of Canada and Feminists Against Censorship. Although she is considered to be a latecomer to the feminist movement, June worked tirelessly to defend the rights of women. She was a founding member of the Canadian Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws in 1972 and became a founding member of Canadians for Choice in 1989. I had the privilege of working with her during those years.
In addition to her dedication as a volunteer, June Callwood worked as a writer in all forms of media, including television, radio, newspapers and magazines. In particular, she wrote columns for Maclean's, Chatelaine and The Globe and Mail. A prolific writer, she also wrote 29 books. Her work and career earned her the Order of Canada, as well as a number of honorary doctorates.
Honourable senators, I rise here today to pay tribute to this formidable woman. Her record of achievements is remarkable. She has made an enormous contribution to Canadian society.
Please join me in offering our most sincere condolences to Trent Frayne, her husband and partner. May his affection for June be his source of comfort.
Hon. Nancy Ruth: Honourable senators, today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Constitution Act, 1982, and a woman's right to choose is still not a right in Canada.
Our Charter is part of the supreme law of Canada with respect to democratic, mobility, legal, equality and other rights. Our work is informed by these constitutional principles. We have regard for them whether we are recommending policy, making laws or reviewing how our laws or policy work in practice. The principles are theoretical. Canadians look to them for hope. Canadians look to them for results that can be seen and experienced in every part of the country.
One of the most important cases in our 25 years with the Charter is Regina v. Morgentaler. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down section 251 of the Criminal Code. Chief Justice Dickson said of the law:
. . . s. 251 is a law which forces women to carry a foetus to term contrary to their own priorities and aspirations and which imposes serious delay causing increased physical and psychological trauma to those women . . . Section 251 . . . infringes the right to security of the person of many pregnant women. The procedures and administrative structures established in this section . . . do not comply with the principles of fundamental justice.
Honourable senators, I draw your attention to an April 10, 2007, publication of Canadians for Choice entitled, Reality Check: A Close Look at Accessing Abortion Services in Canadian Hospitals. The report states that only 15.9 per cent of Canadian hospitals provide accessible abortion services — that is, one in every six hospitals, and most of them are in southern urban areas. Many women in Canada still face incredible barriers such as anti-choice health care professionals, unexpected costs and travel time, and bad referrals. Women and men have reproductive choice in law. They are entitled to reproductive choice in practice. We need to help Canada to reach that objective. As Canadians for Choice states:
. . . a choice that cannot be exercised in a safe, accessible, supportive and affordable manner is no choice at all.
Honourable senators, some of our committees are dealing with population health, city and rural issues, fiscal balance and federal transfers, human rights and international development and more. Do not forget this constitutional right. Let us write our reports to reflect it.
Hon. Daniel Hays: Honourable senators, I rise today to share with Senate colleagues, and thereby make public, my decision to retire from the Senate. The decision is one that was made with Kathy and is motivated only by my desire at this time in my life to spend more time in my home city, Calgary, and on my private interests.
I will continue to support the Liberal Party, its leader, Mr. Dion, and the work of Parliament, especially the Senate, which I hold in such high esteem. I am letting my intentions be known at this time in order to facilitate the transition to my private life.
I anticipate that this process will take until the end of the spring session to complete, by which time I will have served in the Senate for 23 years. I look forward to commenting on my great affection for colleagues past and present and on this place at a later date.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, on this, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signature by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, of the Constitution Act of 1982, I would like to draw to the attention of this chamber that today is Law Day across Canada. This year, the Canadian Bar Association's Law Day marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the new Constitution. Over the past twenty-fifth years, Canada has achieved much. We have made further strides to realize equality for all Canadians, regardless of gender, race or belief, although more remains to be done.
Throughout the world and for many decades, Canada has been known as a society where, by and large, justice and fairness do prevail, but we must not take these rights and freedoms for granted. With these rights comes responsibility. We are constantly looking to better our justice system. One way is to ensure that Canadians understand their rights and the workings of our legal system, and that is the raison d'être for Law Day.
This anniversary of the Charter has become a real celebration of Canadian life. On this day, the legal profession, legislators, judges and peace officers are taking a break from their work to speak directly to the people they serve. They are also helping Canadians to better understand their rights and obligations. In the end, Canadians will have a better appreciation of how our legal system works.
The focus of Law Day is "Access to Justice," a theme I strongly endorse. It reflects the right of every Canadian to have equal access to information about the law and the legal institutions of our country. Public legal information and education activities have been organized across Canada by the Canadian Bar Association involving hundreds of lawyers. Activities include courthouse tours, mock trials, career panels, newspaper supplements, poster contests and fun-runs to raise money for local causes. The aim is to make the law more accessible to all Canadians and to offer educational opportunities for students to expand their knowledge of their rights within our justice system.
I am not a lawyer, honourable senators. My mother never forgave me for not being a lawyer and for becoming a Conservative.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Segal: She was wrong on one of those counts.
I offer my encouragement and support to the Canadian Bar Association as well as to the many legal groups here in Ottawa and across Canada in their endeavours on Law Day. Please join me in extending best wishes to the men and women who serve the law and all of us on this successful Law Day 2007.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, this afternoon, representatives from every national party committed to the election of more women to Parliament after the next election. The pledge was part of the "Canada Challenge" by Equal Voice, a national, multi-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to the goal of electing more women at all levels of government across Canada.
Each party must develop strategies that work best for it. Stéphane Dion has pledged to have at least one third women candidates nominated for the next election.
Currently, the other place has only 21 per cent female representation, a number that places Canada forty-seventh in the world, behind Uganda and Vietnam, among others. In fact, during the 2006 election, Canada's number of elected women actually decreased.
The same is true in other public administrations. All of our provincial premiers and all the mayors of Canada's large cities are men. This under-representation of women undermines the legitimacy of our democratic institutions.
Twenty-five years ago today, the Canadian Charter of Rights was signed. Canadian women have made significant gains since that time; yet, with 52 per cent of the population, women are still overwhelmingly under-represented in our democratic and public life.
Some will say that women who want to run for office in Canada are completely free to do so and that it is unfair or undemocratic to recruit women specifically. However, women face different attitudes, societal expectations, media coverage, family and social responsibilities, and often have different access to the money and power networks within political parties. The power of incumbency also works against women. It is easier for a current MP to get re-elected, and fewer of them are women.
Statistics show that where women are on the ballot, Canadians will vote for women and men in equal numbers. Often, the greatest barrier to women's participation in politics is getting the party nomination, not the election campaign itself. That is why Equal Voice, in addition to learning tools such as the online campaign school called "Getting to the Gate," has launched the "Canada Challenge" directly to political parties, the gatekeepers to the political process.
The United Nations says that a threshold of 30 per cent female legislators is required to achieve the critical mass necessary to ensure that public policy reflects the perspectives of women. Ninety per cent of Canadians want more women elected. What is necessary is political will. Political parties need proactive recruiting and support for women candidates in winnable ridings. Young women need role models and mentors in elected office.
During the election campaign, Equal Voice will be tracking the number of women nominated and elected by each political party. Let all of us do our part to meet the challenge to increase the number of women in the other place next time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 28(4) and with leave of the Senate, I would like to table a document entitled Visit Report to Panama and Costa Rica, concerning a visit that took place from January 16 to 25, 2007.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 28(4) and with leave of the Senate, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a document entitled Visit Report to Libya, Malta, the Holy See and Italy, February 4-14, 2007.
Hon Joseph A. Day, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, presented the following report:
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance has the honour to present its
Your Committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Wednesday, September 27, 2006, to examine and report on issues relating to the vertical and horizontal fiscal balances among the various orders of government in Canada, respectfully requests funds for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008.
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.
JOSEPH A. DAY
(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix, p. 1332.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
On motion of Senator Day, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the Order adopted by the Senate on April 6, 2006, when the Senate sits on Wednesday, April 18, 2007, it continue its proceedings beyond 4 p.m. and follow the normal adjournment procedure according to Rule 6(1); and
That committees of the Senate scheduled to meet on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 be authorized to sit even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
Hon. Grant Mitchell presented Bill S-224, to amend the Access to Information Act and the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: 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.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-294, to amend the Income Tax Act (sports and recreation programs).
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Tkachuk, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.
Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I give notice that later this day, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Thursday, April 27, 2006, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence which was authorized to examine and report on the national security policy of Canada, be empowered to report no later than March 31, 2008; and
That the Committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until May 31, 2008.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted for this to be taken into consideration later this day?
Some Hon. Senators: No.
Hon. Lowell Murray: I should like to ask the chairman of the committee why he seeks this leave.
Senator Kenny: I seek leave because there is no change to the previous mandate. If that is not convenient, I am content to give notice. All senators are familiar with the matter.
The Hon. the Speaker: Leave is not granted.
Senator Kenny: Honourable senators, then I give notice for tomorrow.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Leader of the Government. On this twenty-fifth anniversary of the entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian Constitution, in which I participated as a member of the other place, this historic date for our country is being celebrated by a number of citizens and organizations and by our sitting colleagues who worked very hard on promoting article 15 of the Charter on the equality of women in this country.
The Governor General of Canada, the Leader of the Official Opposition, an array of members of the judiciary, a significant number of representatives of schools and universities and many Canadians from coast to coast marked the anniversary of this event that laid the foundation for our citizenship, our values and our identity. Missing from the festivities were the leading lights of the Conservative government, such as the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Minister of Citizenship and countless others.
Did this oversight occur because of the election preparations or was it by order of the Prime Minister's Office?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I was not part of the government of course, but I well remember that I was part of a group of women who marched on Parliament Hill to protest the fact that women had been left out of the Charter. Flora MacDonald organized a major part of that response.
The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Charter is of course being marked by Canadians. The Department of Justice contributed $120,000 towards these anniversary celebrations, including $20,000 towards a conference at the University of Ottawa. The Minister of Justice, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, is speaking today about the Charter and what it means to Canadians in an address to high school students here in Ottawa.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: In any event, I did not receive an invitation from our colleagues or from the government to this important celebration. In terms of a marriage, the twenty-fifth anniversary is the silver anniversary. If the Prime Minister did not order his ministers to ignore the celebration of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, then perhaps his chief of staff, Ian Brodie, had a hand in this. In a book he wrote, Mr. Brodie talks about the so-called ill effects of the Charter.
I would like the Leader of the Government to say a few words about the ill effects of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada.
Senator LeBreton: The premise of the honourable senator's question is entirely wrong. No orders were given by anyone to participate or not participate. The Charter is very highly regarded and held in esteem by all Canadians.
As I indicated in my earlier answer, the Minister of Justice is celebrating the Charter today on behalf of the government. As a matter of fact, I was reading an article the other day by Tom Axworthy, who is well-known to the Liberal Party of Canada, who said that the Charter would not have been possible had it not been for the Bill of Rights brought in by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. The Bill of Rights, a copy of which I have on my wall, was the forerunner to the Charter. All statements of human rights and Canadian rights are to be celebrated, including the Charter and Mr. Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): I would therefore conclude that the Charter of Rights, at least here in the Senate, is an extremely valuable tool for the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
On that note, I would like to ask the Leader of the Government if she plans to lobby cabinet to bring back the Court Challenges Program, which enables ordinary Canadian citizens to exercise their rights.
After its multi-billion dollar budget, I do not understand why her government abolished a program that enabled Canadians to exercise and clarify their rights. Can she explain why?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. That decision was made by the government. I was part of that decision last summer when we reviewed government expenditures. I have absolutely no intention of campaigning among my colleagues, in my party or in the cabinet to bring back that particular program.
Hon. Serge Joyal: On that same issue, the leader mentioned she is not ready to campaign to re-establish the program. I am surprised that on the one hand she praised her past action to introduce section 28 in the Charter which deals with the equality of status of both men and women. I am sure she remembers the wording of section 28 well. Section 28 reads:
Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.
I believe she apprises herself accurately about all the women who participated at that time on the representation.
Is she not forgetting, at the same time, that the Court Challenges Program covers section 28 and has been used in the past by individual women who tried to have that equality mentioned in section 28 recognized and implemented with regard to their situation? How, on the one hand, can she tell us that she is proud of her past action regarding section 28 and, on the other hand, say she is not ready to consider that the Court Challenges Program helped to make that section of the Charter real: Not a dead letter, but real results for women in Canada?
I am surprised that, as a woman, she would not want to re-establish the Court Challenges Program for that section of the Charter.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, even I will acknowledge that time marches on. The Court Challenges Program, which was set up for the purposes that the honourable senator describes, was to deal with Charter challenges. The Charter has been with us for 25 years and, as I responded to similar questions when this program was abolished last fall, the purposes for which the Court Challenges Program was set up have been met. Twenty-five years later, there are many other opportunities for people to lobby the government or make their views known. The Court Challenges Program was not the only instrument.
I do not personally feel that, 25 years later, the Court Challenges Program, which was set up to deal with Charter issues, is really necessary.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Can I look forward to equality as a woman? Can I look forward to equal treatment in respect of being chosen as chairman of committees? Can I look forward to equal treatment in being chosen to attend state dinners, and equal treatment in being chosen for trips?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I am not in charge of state dinners or trips, so I will take the question as notice.
Senator Cools: I am only half jesting.
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: My question is to the Honourable Leader of the Government in the Senate.
I would ask the government leader to think for a moment about the word "illusion," which comes from that lyrical Latin word "illusionis." The Oxford dictionary, ninth edition, defines illusion as deception, delusion, misapprehension of the true state of affairs or a figment of the imagination.
I submit that Canadians are putting their trust in an illusion, thrust upon them by none other than the Right Honourable Stephen Harper. These deceptive announcements relate to health care wait times.
I shall provide a little history. On December 2, 2005, Stephen Harper said this about health care wait time guarantees: "Patients need us to set those targets and start meeting them now, not two years from now. . . . That process will begin immediately after the election, and conclude in 2006." He referred, of course, to the Conservative Party of Canada Platform 2006, "Real solutions for health care — a Patient Wait Times Guarantee," which listed cancer, heart, diagnostic imaging, joint replacements and sight restoration.
On April 5, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the House of Commons: "So we're going to act right away . . . to develop a Patient Wait Times Guarantee."
Twelve months later, on April 4, 2007, he said: ". . . we're delivering . . . guaranteed timely access . . . in at least one . . ."
Honourable senators, the following are examples of the illusion being perpetrated on Canadians: Ontario promised cataract surgery within 182 days by 2009. In 2007, they are currently doing it in 183 days. That is a one-day difference. Manitoba promised cancer radiation within four weeks by 2010, yet in 2007 they are doing it in one week. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick promised cancer radiation treatment within eight weeks because that is what they are doing now.
I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate the following: Is this an illusion on the part of the Prime Minister? Are the provinces taking the easiest possible route to get their share of the $612 million on the table? Have sick people from coast to coast to coast been deceived on the issue of wait time guarantees?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. This is a subject in which I have a great deal of interest, having been part of the Senate special study on Canada's health care system when in 2002 we advocated in this very place a wait times guarantee.
The previous government was in power for a couple of years following the publication of that report, and nothing happened. During the last election campaign, the Conservative Party of Canada announced the wait times guarantee, which Senator Kirby, myself and others, had been advocating on the committee and in the Senate.
With regard to Senator Trenholme Counsell's question, however, as she knows, delivery of health care is a provincial responsibility. On April 4, the Prime Minister announced that all provinces and territories have agreed to establish patient wait time guarantees. Over $1 billion was contained in Budget 2007 in support of more timely treatments for Canadians. These agreements are the necessary first steps towards reversing the growth of wait times that occurred under the previous government's watch, when the average wait time doubled to almost 18 weeks.
Our government will provide financial support for these new guarantees through the Patient Wait Times Guarantee Trust, a $612-million initiative contained in Budget 2007.
With respect to specifics, Nova Scotia will establish a wait times guarantee in radiation therapy for cancer with its share of $24.2 million; Alberta has agreed to establish a wait times guarantee in radiation therapy by 2010, to be supported by $62 million in Budget 2007; and Minister Clement also announced $205 million to go to Ontario for its cataract surgery guarantee.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I thank the honourable government leader. Of course, she is repeating what I have read from the Prime Minister's statements and from what happened one or two weeks ago, but nothing really happened.
Despite what the government leader and others have said, there has been a chorus of criticism including words such as "a gimmick," "utter failure," "pre-election posturing" and "just shuffling chairs on the deck."
One Albertan that seemed to be waking up to this government's broken promises said — and I quote: "No government's going to walk away from a pot of money . . . all have signed up for the wait times they're already beavering away at" — and I thought that was a great Canadian phrase — "or successfully meeting." Therefore, nothing new has happened here.
I would ask the honourable leader the following question: Were the hard-earned tax dollars of Canadians used transparently and honestly when each province was given a $10-million bonus — I would call it a bribe — just to sign a piece of paper in order to save face for this so-called "new" Conservative government?
Senator LeBreton: I think it is irresponsible for anyone in public life to characterize money that is being directed to assist Canadians in wait times as a bribe. As I have said in this place many times, senators can get up and quote various people who have different views on these subjects. I cannot be responsible, nor can any of us, for the views of everyone. Obviously, with any program that the government brings in, no matter which government is in power, one can always dig up a quote from someone who is not in agreement. It is specious to try to respond to quotes from people when we have not even identified the source.
In addition to the wait times guarantee, another important matter that was discussed in the Senate committee, and which the government is now acting on, is the Canadian Health Infoway. We are investing $400 million in that project, which will lead the way toward full digitization of Canadians' health records and a national health information management system. Those of us in the Senate who have had an opportunity to listen to our colleague Senator Keon know how important this initiative is to the timely and proper delivery of, and access to, health care in our country.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I would like to ask the Minister of Public Works some questions. However, it turns out that when he messes up he has to sit quietly, and when he really messes up they do not even let him come to speak or be here at all. I am referring, of course, to his announcement last week of the appointment of Daniel Paillé, a known separatist and former minister of the Quebec PQ government, to conduct a thinly veiled witch hunt on a matter already studied by the Auditor General of Canada. It is interesting and instructive to note that three years ago the Auditor General dismissed this investigation and said that the government was managing public opinion research in a transparent manner and with adequate controls.
In the absence of the Minister of Public Works, my question is to the Leader of the Government. Why is this government abusing taxpayer funds for a blatantly partisan investigation that actually duplicates something that was done perfectly well by the Auditor General of Canada three years ago?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, the fact is that this commitment was made to the Canadian public when we campaigned in the last election. Mr. Paillé was Minister of Industry in the Quebec government. He has a master's degree in economics, has extensive business experience and is currently a finance professor in Montreal.
With regard to the term "witch hunt," the study the Minister of Public Works has asked for goes back to 1990. That is the Auditor General's timeline, and as the Minister of Public Works said, he wants a report on this review within six months.
I will repeat what I said at the beginning of my answer: We made this commitment to the Canadian public in the last election campaign.
Senator Mitchell: I have a sneaking suspicion that the leader will make sure her beloved Mr. Mulroney will not be subject to part of this investigation.
Some weeks ago, the Minister of Public Works responded to a question that I asked with this quote: ". . . all who have been appointed by this government have been properly vetted and are competent appointees." What part of "competent" does this government not understand when they hire a former separatist cabinet minister noted in particular for a job creation boondoggle that created essentially no jobs and cost the Quebec population $300 million?
Senator LeBreton: I do not think it is within our right to question anyone's competency based on his or her political beliefs. After all, Jean Lapierre, who was Paul Martin's right-hand man, was a former separatist and one of the creators of the Bloc, along with Mr. Bouchard. I do not know Mr. Paillé, other than my awareness of his considerable resumé. Nevertheless, the minister obviously appointed Mr. Paillé because he trusted him to do a competent job with this file.
With respect to the honourable senator's comment about Mr. Mulroney, since the minister has asked the review of documents to begin in 1990, I assume that would lay his accusations to rest.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, linguistic duality is a Canadian value and an integral part of this country's image. At home and abroad, we must ensure that our linguistic duality and equality are reflected in everything from diplomatic missions to commemorative monuments.
It has come to our attention that there were serious language errors in the French-language historic plaques at the Vimy monument, that the plaques were removed, and that, as a result, there was no recognition in French of Canadian soldiers' achievements at Vimy.
This came to pass because volunteers, not qualified translators, provided the French translation. It is deplorable that the translation of a text relating the history of Canada's participation in a decisive First World War battle should have been entrusted to volunteers, particularly since the text was for a ceremony as important as the one held on April 9, 2007.
Can the Leader of the Government explain why the Department of Veterans Affairs insulted francophone veterans, all Canadians and the French language in France itself?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): The incident to which the honourable senator has referred was very unfortunate and regrettable. The Minister of Veterans Affairs immediately ordered the removal of the offending plaques. I understand, although I stand to be corrected, that it was something done in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Legion; however, everything the honourable senator says is absolutely true. This should not have happened. The Minister of Veterans Affairs was appalled and apologetic, ordered the plaques removed and is now ensuring that the contributions of our soldiers, whether they were French, English or of another background, will be properly noted in the two official languages.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, on April 12, 2007, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Minister Hearn, announced the redeployment of two Coast Guard heavy icebreakers. The CCGS Terry Fox will be deployed from the Maritimes region to the Newfoundland and Labrador region in April of 2008, and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St.-Laurent will follow in April of 2009. In a draft Coast Guard business plan for 2007 to 2010, of which I have a copy, there is no mention of redeployment.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us why this redeployment is necessary and, if so, why is it absent from the business plan?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I do not have the advantage of having the draft, but in Budget 2007 there was an investment of $324 million for the purchase and maintenance of six new vessels for the Coast Guard.
With regard to the icebreakers, which follows on questions I had from Senator Rompkey, I shall take the question as notice and get the information for the honourable senator.
Senator Mercer: I thank the honourable senator for the answer, and I will await her response.
I have a supplementary question. The decision by Canada's "growing old" government to redeploy two of the Canadian Coast Guard's icebreakers appears to have been made without consultation with anyone in the Maritime region, certainly no one we can find — not the workers, the union or even local management. It does not even appear to be in the business plan, as I have mentioned.
I am certain of two facts, however: The Conservatives have no seats in the Halifax-Dartmouth region, nor will they following the next election. The Conservatives do have three seats in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where the vessels are being redeployed. Is the redeployment a simple election trick to strengthen the prospects of their embattled and fumbling MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador, who have stood by and done nothing for their people?
The final part of the supplementary question is this: Where is Peter MacKay, the regional minister? Why is he not standing up for Nova Scotia? Again, he has failed us.
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for that question. However, he must get over his past position as the national director of the Liberal Party. Those characteristics that he ascribes to Conservatives are what Liberals do, not Conservatives.
I will take that question as notice. I am certain that Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn will have a cogent and intelligent answer to that question.
Hon. Jean Lapointe: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. My father, Joseph-Arthur Lapointe, who was a member of the House of Commons from 1935 to 1945, was a major in the army and fought at Vimy and Courcelette. He was injured at the end of the war.
I received an e-mail at home from a Mr. Fortin of Montreal about the famous panels. One panel was removed, which was a slight improvement, but I do not know whether the text on the panel was replaced with appropriate text. If memory serves, the text had been written by young students in England.
In my opinion, it would have made more sense to ask French students to write the text. A mistake was made and apologies were offered, which is fine. But will there be a follow-up at the Department of Veterans Affairs? Those who are responsible should be reprimanded. Will they be punished or not?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I wish to thank the honourable senator for that question. As I said in response to the question from Senator Tardif, it was an unfortunate set of circumstances.
Senator Corbin: That is not an excuse. It will not do.
Senator LeBreton: I am not certain who was responsible. I believe the Minister of Veterans Affairs expressed apologies on behalf of the government. I do not know if some person is personally responsible and whether that person will be reprimanded. As I said to Senator Tardif, Minister Thompson felt badly about the discrepancy.
I will pass on the honourable senator's concerns to Minister Thompson, and his suggestion that if someone specifically in the Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible, whether a reprimand would be appropriate. Everyone makes mistakes. However, I know this is a serious mistake, and I will pass on the honourable senator's suggestion to the minister.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. She indicated that this was a regrettable error and that the minister certainly regretted this blunder.
I agree with Senator Lapointe. This error must not pass without comment because it reflects an attitude. Certainly, there were no errors in the English-language panels, and every effort is made to ensure that there are never any errors in English.
The minister has offered excuses: there was a delay in the translation; it was done by amateurs. Nevertheless, the Official Languages Act clearly states that French is equal to English. It certainly should not be rendered by volunteers or amateurs, because it is vital to our country.
Just as soldiers in the First World War went to their deaths under orders from officers who spoke English, so were francophone Canadians in the Second World War ordered to their deaths by officers, some of them francophones, speaking English. Never again will a Canadian soldier die in the officer's language. If they must give their lives, soldiers will die in their own language.
The issue is not just the error. Do you not think that it reflects an attitude within this department that French is less important and less valuable than English?
Senator LeBreton: I hope that Canada in the year 2007 does not reflect that attitude. I do not think it does. I will ask for a definitive response from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The laws of the country are clear. It does not matter whether one is anglophone or francophone; we are respectful of each other's languages. I am certain, knowing that Minister Thompson comes from the only officially bilingual province in the whole country — New Brunswick — that he is one of the biggest proponents of everything being done properly in both official languages.
I will take Senator Dallaire's question as notice and attempt to obtain clear, definitive answers to what went wrong and what steps are being taken so this situation never happens again.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour of presenting delayed answers to the following oral questions: a question raised by Senator Fraser on November 23, 2006, concerning the creation of workplace child care spaces in federal buildings; and a question raised by Senator Munson on February 7, 2007, concerning International Social Service Canada.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Joan Fraser on November 23, 2006)
It is Treasury Board policy to provide departments with the authority to establish workplace day care centres when it can be demonstrated that they are financially viable and self-supporting with a proven and sustained demand.
To date, 11 day care centres exist across Canada in 9 federal departments and agencies (5 centres in Ottawa and 6 in Regions). There are close to 560 children registered in federal day care centers. The total rent subsidy for these centers amounts to approximately $1.3M/year.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Jim Munson on February 7, 2007)
International Social Service Canada (ISSC) is a non-profit agency committed to assisting children, individuals and families whose problems require inter-country cooperation and solutions. It is part of a global network called International Social Service (ISS) whose General Secretariat is located in Geneva.
The Consular Affairs Bureau of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has used the services of ISSC for over ten years to assist with consular cases which require professional expertise in social work. In support of these services, the Bureau has provided financial support to ISSC in the form of a fee-for-service contract ($2000 per case) and an annual contribution of $80,000.
Historically, the Bureau has referred an average of 50 cases per year to ISSC. In recent years, however, there has been a diminishing need for the services of ISSC in the resolution of consular cases. In 2004-2005, the Bureau referred only 21 cases to ISSC; in 2005-2006 the number decreased to 14. As of December 31, 2006, the Bureau had referred only 8 cases during the fiscal year. It is the Bureau's assessment that this trend is unlikely to change and that it is no longer possible to justify the current level of financial support to ISSC. The decision to discontinue the annual contribution effective March 31, 2007 was conveyed to ISSC in a letter of May 31, 2006 to their President, Don Ebert.
It is important to note that the mandate of the Consular Affairs Bureau is limited to cases involving assistance to Canadian citizens in difficulty abroad, and does not extend to non-Canadians nor to services in Canada. The Department, through the Consular Affairs Bureau and its overseas network of over 270 consular points of service, will continue to provide high quality consular services to Canadians abroad, including children. The Consular Affairs Bureau includes a unit which has expertise in managing consular cases involving children's issues, and which works closely with local social services.
ISSC previously received an annual grant averaging $150,000 from then Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC). HRDC discontinued this funding in March 1994. ISSC currently receives funding in the form of grants and/or contracts from some provincial governments and undertakes some limited fund-raising activities.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before proceeding to Orders of the Day, I would ask you to rise and observe one minute of silence in tribute to Ms. Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, a French language professor at the Virginia Tech university, who was killed during the terrible tragedy that unfolded there yesterday afternoon.
Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.
The Hon. the Speaker: I wish to draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of our former colleague, the Honourable Douglas Roche, and representatives from various organizations active in the field of nuclear disarmament. They are guests of the Honourable Senator Romeo Dallaire.
On behalf of all honourable senators, welcome to the Senate of Canada.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Angus, seconded by the Honourable Senator Andreychuk, for the second reading of Bill C-36, to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, it is a pleasure to speak today at second reading of Bill C-36, to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act. The changes proposed in the bill hopefully will allow easier access to benefits for some of Canada's most vulnerable people: seniors and the disabled.
In his speech, Senator Angus provided a brief background on Canada's retirement income system. I agree with his comments that Canada is a leader among other countries in offering a lifetime basic pension where the only requirement is residence in Canada. I also agree with the honourable senator that Canada's public pension is one of the most generous and stable public pension programs in the world.
Honourable senators know that former Prime Minister Lester Pearson and the Honourable Paul Martin Senior brought in the Canada Pension Plan to help seniors with lower incomes. We also know that former Prime Minister Chrétien and his government brought in full-funding provisions to ensure a secure public pension system.
As a member of then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's task force on seniors in 2003-04 and currently a member of the Special Senate Committee on Aging, I am concerned with issues dealing with Canada's senior population. Last month, the Special Senate Committee on Aging, under the leadership of Senator Carstairs, Chair of the Committee, and Senator Keon, Deputy Chair of the Committee, released its first interim report entitled, Embracing the Challenge of Aging. The committee has set an ambitious and challenging task of examining and reporting upon the implications of an aging society in Canada.
A key factor in the health and well-being of Canada's senior and disabled population is financial security. Canada has made progress on the issue of seniors living in poverty. In 1980, Statistics Canada reported that 21 per cent of Canada's senior population was living in poverty, while in 2004 that number dropped to 5.6 per cent. Canada has gone effectively from being one of the worst countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to one of the best in the OECD in supporting its seniors. However, within the overall senior population, certain groups suffer more than others. Single seniors have a low income rate that is 10 times that of seniors living in families. Single senior women are almost twice as likely to have a low income as are single men. These issues of inequality must be addressed.
In Bill C-36, the requirement for seniors to reapply continually for the Guaranteed Income Supplement as their income situation changes would be eliminated. This step is positive. Through coordination with the Canada Revenue Agency, seniors will be able to apply once and their records will be kept up-to-date through their yearly tax return. This step effectively eliminates the issue of seniors who are eligible but do not reapply, or of seniors who believe that if they are not eligible for the GIS in one year, they will not be eligible for the GIS ever again. The limitation on this change in the bill, however, does not take into consideration those seniors who do not file a tax return. It is important that the government ensure that seniors are informed and that information is communicated to them in a variety of ways to ensure that they receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
According to some estimates, close to 320,000 eligible Canadians do not receive the GIS and associated spousal and widow's allowances. There are myriad reasons why seniors who are entitled to certain federal government financial benefits fail to receive them, such as health problems, mental or physical issues, literacy issues or, as in many cases, they are simply unaware of the available financial programs. I hope that government will take the initiative to work with community groups and seniors to tackle this problem.
With an aging population such as Canada's, the federal government's job is to make sound financial decisions and policies to ensure that the financial support will be in place for Canada's population as they move into retirement. Canadians must have confidence that their government is planning and looking out for their best interests. I am proud to say that during the 1990s, the then Chrétien government was able to implement policies that returned stability to the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security programs to ensure a reliable public pension system that will last for at least 75 years to come. Currently, the Canada Pension Plan stands at $100 billion, which experts agree is on sound financial footing for the peak of the retiring baby boom generation.
I support the proposed amendments to allow easier access for long-time contributors to qualify for disability benefits under the Canada Pension Plan. Currently, those people who have 25-plus years of contributing to the CPP must have contributed to the plan in four of the last six years. Under the proposed changes, the individual must contribute in three of the past six years. Any change that will allow easier access to financial assistance for the purpose of maintaining respectful living conditions for disabled Canadians is a positive change.
I also support the proposed amendments in Bill C-36, including those designed to modernize and streamline the delivery of the service, to provide clarification of the text for easier understanding and to allow information sharing for greater personal access to one's files. With the proposed amendments, individuals will be able to request a CPP statement of contributions and will be able to view their statement of CPP contributions online. Currently, the act allows for only one request per year. With this proposed change, interested Canadians will be able to track and monitor their CPP contributions better.
While many of the proposed amendments are administrative in nature, the increase in accessibility to CPP and OAS benefits are welcome changes for Canadian seniors and disabled Canadians. It is essential that we recognize the importance of income security for our seniors and for persons with disabilities. These changes have come about because of seniors' groups, Canadians who have requested changes, the recommendations during the CPP Triennial Review and the Auditor General's observations. The changes are a step forward.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to and bill read second time.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
On motion of Senator Angus, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette moved the third reading of Bill S-201, to amend the Public Service Employment Act (elimination of bureaucratic patronage and geographic criteria in appointment processes), as amended.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, it was moved by the Honourable Senator Ringuette, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cordy, that this bill be read the third time. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Yes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Carried.
Senator Ringuette: Honourable senators, for three years I have been speaking to you about the facts surrounding this bill. I would be very happy if this bill were passed at third reading on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This bill will do away with mobility obstacles for Canadians who wish to obtain jobs in the public service.
I would like to quote a press release published on March 29 by Ms. Barrados, an excellent president, who understands the situation. It states:
"By using a national area of selection for more federal public service jobs, the PSC is playing an active role in providing greater access to talented Canadians from across the country," said Ms. Barrados. "In fact, prior to April 2006, only 19 per cent of jobs were open to the public. However, with this latest expansion of the national area of selection, this is expected to increase to 55 per cent.
Honourable senators, we still have a 45 per cent gap that this bill should eliminate. Therefore, I am happy to move third reading of this bill.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I apologize for rushing earlier. I did not see that Senator Ringuette wanted to speak. Is there any further debate?
Hon. Terry Stratton: I move adjournment of the debate.
Senator Tardif: No.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Stratton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, that further debate be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Your Honour, I think that while you were putting the question, senators over here were on their feet, trying to be heard or trying to get your attention.
Senator Tkachuk: I did not see any.
Senator Cools: A senator was trying to say something. It is very hard to do so from that corner.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I must explain to the house that, yes, I did not think that Senator Ringuette wanted to speak. She moved third reading, and the motion was adopted, but then she spoke. In speaking, she opened the debate again. I then had to accept Senator Stratton's motion to adjourn the debate.
Senator Stratton: That is correct.
Senator Ringuette: Continue to play your games. That is all right. Canadians are listening.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I will put the motion again. It was moved by the Honourable Senator Stratton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, that further debate be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: All those in favour of the motion to adjourn will please say "yea."
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: All those opposed to the motion will please say "nay."
Some Hon. Senators: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: In my opinion the "nays" have it.
Senator Ringuette: Call a vote.
Senator Stratton: Call in the senators; a one-hour bell.
And two honourable senators having risen:
Senator Stratton: After a senator has spoken, we should at least be given the privilege of responding. That is the way things are conducted in this chamber. This bill has been sitting on the Order Paper long enough. Senator Ringuette spoke and I should have the right to respond. If the other side does not want to do that, then we will have a one-hour bell.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: The question has been put, and the nays have it.
Senator Cools: In passing, I wish to say that there can be debate and exchanges and disagreement, but it is extremely improper for a senator to threaten other senators using the word "if." That is very undesirable and in very poor taste.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Does the honourable senator want a vote on the motion to adjourn? Two senators rose.
Senator Corbin: On division.
Senator Tkachuk: On division.
Senator Ringuette: Your Honour, I would like to clarify the situation. I have been working on this file since 1993. I have been working on this file in this chamber for the last three years. After my colleagues agreed to third reading of the bill, I stood up to thank them. I thought that was the proper thing to do because they understand the issue. That is what happened. I did not make a speech. I stood up to thank my colleagues, especially because it is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
With regard to process, I think that there is a review to be done.
Senator Cools: Point of order: Your Honour, it is very distracting when you are having a conversation with someone when senators are trying to get your attention. I find it very distracting. Perhaps the person who is distracting you in this way could cease and desist.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I wish to thank the Honourable Senator Cools. I should like to apologize to the chamber for having gone too fast in calling third reading. Senator Ringuette was standing and wishing to speak on third reading, which we often do when third reading is called. I asked if there was further debate and recognized Senator Stratton, who moved adjournment of the debate. We conducted a voice vote. I called for the "yeas" and the "nays," and the nays said that no, they did not want to adjourn the debate. I then saw two senators standing, but I do not see them standing now.
Senator Comeau: We will stand again if need be.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I will again put the question to adjourn debate.
It was moved by the Honourable Senator Stratton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, that further debate be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
An Hon. Senator: On division.
Senator Stratton: On division.
On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned, on division.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino moved the second reading of Bill C-252, An Act to amend the Divorce Act (access for spouse who is terminally ill or in critical condition).
He said: Honourable senators, Bill C-252 seeks to amend the Divorce Act. It enables the court to take into consideration the terminal illness or critical condition of the divorced parent when making a variation order providing right of access to the child before death.
Unfortunately, divorce is a reality for many families these days. Statistics indicate that, in recent years, there were more than 70,000 divorces in Canada, representing the breakdown of 38 per cent of marriages in 2003. For that particular year, the vast majority of dependents named in a custody order were 18 years old and under.
While all relations between husband and wife might be severed, the ones between parents and child usually endure. For most, there is no stronger bond and no relation more central. Both provincial legislation and the Divorce Act govern issues of custody and access of parents to their children following a divorce. Section 16 of the act deals with making an original order in respect of custody or access.
Subsection 16(8) directs the court to take into consideration "only the best interests of the child of the marriage" in making such an order. As long as it is consistent with that key requirement, subsection 16(10) also obliges the court to give effect to the principle that a child of the marriage should have maximum contact with each spouse.
What happens if, after an order for custody and access is given, one of the parents falls seriously ill or is hurt to the point that his or her condition is terminal or critical? Under section 17 of the act, a parent may seek a variation in the existing order to change the custody or access arrangement. Subsection 5 says — and I quote:
Before the court makes a variation order in respect of a custody order, the court shall satisfy itself that there has been a change in the condition, means, needs or other circumstances of the child of the marriage occurring since the making of the custody order or the last variation order made in respect of that order, as the case may be, and, in making the variation order, the court shall take into consideration only the best interests of the child as determined by reference to that change.
By adding subsection 17(5.1), Bill C-252 allows a parent to establish the existence of an important change in the child's circumstances, the first criterion to be met in order for a court to consider making a variation order. The terminal illness or critical condition of a parent will be presumed to be an important change in the child's circumstances.
Although a court is free to consider the terminal illness or critical condition as a significant change in the child's circumstances, jurisprudence has not made this an established legal principle. There are no guarantees that a parent will meet this basic condition for a judge to even consider changing a custody order.
Bill C-252 will allow for that. By eliminating this shortcoming in the Divorce Act, the sponsor of the bill in the other place, Rick Casson, the member of Parliament for Lethbridge, believes that this amendment will help families who are going through one of the most difficult situations we can imagine.
The addition of new subsection 17(5.1) will not take away the court's discretion to determine what is in the best interests of the child, which is a separate inquiry made once a material change in the circumstances of the child has been found. It will not require a judge to grant access on the basis of a terminal illness or critical condition.
Honourable senators, divorce can be stressful, and in each case is different. Not every parent may be fit to have custody of or access to his or her child. This bill will not enable that. What the proposed legislation will do is ensure that the courts consider terminal illness or critical condition of a parent as a material change in the circumstances of the child for the purposes of making a variation order. A judge will be required to consider it as one of the factors in making his or her determination of what is in the best interests of the child.
Honourable senators, Bill C-252 passed third reading in the other place on March 21 by a standing vote of 302 to 0. The friendly and considered debate at the other place by members on all sides resulted in several amendments that improved the bill now currently before us.
In the other place, the bill's sponsor spoke about the story of one constituent, a young divorced mother who prompted him to action. In her last days after battling leukemia, her children were taken away from her custody.
It is true that in many cases there are two sides to the story. However, Bill C-252 is not about one case; it speaks to the larger principle. Few acts in life have as much importance as an opportunity to say a final goodbye to a loved one, especially a goodbye between parents and children. For the child, it will help better prepare for the imminent loss and assist in getting through the painful grieving process. For the parent, it will bring enormous comfort for possibly the last time to see and touch his or her child, and to say what needs to be said before passing on, which in difficult relationships may also help the child move on with his or her life.
When faced with a final separation, the time a child spends with his or her parent becomes more than an ordinary visit. It becomes a lifetime of enjoyment compressed into a few precious moments.
Honourable senators, Bill C-252 probably will not affect a large number of individuals. Many custody and access agreements are reached amicably by parents, and the type of situation noted earlier probably does not occur very often. This amendment to the Divorce Act can make a tremendous difference for parents and children in such traumatic, life-altering circumstances.
I am asking you to support this bill at second reading and refer it to committee for detailed study.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Will the honourable senator entertain a question?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Di Nino, will you accept a question?
Senator Di Nino: Yes.
Senator Cools: This is subject matter on which I have done a lot of work, as honourable senators know; I have case files in the thousands. I have not started to work on this bill yet, even though I do plan to speak to it.
According to the honourable senator, this bill essentially enables a judge to grant access for a parent who is terminally ill. Does the bill also apply to other family members who are terminally ill, such as grandparents or other siblings, or is it limited only to the parent? I have extensive case files on this subject.
Senator Di Nino: It is important to state that the bill will not grant any right to the parent. It will ensure that the case judge considers this issue as one of the factors in deliberating on whether to grant access.
As to the second part of the question, as I read the bill, it is only for parents and children and not for other members of the family.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is there further debate?
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: It was my intention to speak on this bill, but I notice that the honourable senator, after a most eloquent and moving speech, is referring it directly to committee. That is what I thought his words were.
Senator Di Nino: It may have been my pronunciation in my attempt to speak our other official language from time to time.
I am urging all honourable senators to support the bill and, at the appropriate time, send it to committee.
On motion of Senator Trenholme Counsell, debate adjourned.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the seventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications (budget—study on the examination of containerized freight traffic handled by Canada's ports), presented in the Senate on March 29, 2007.—(Honourable Senator Bacon).
Hon. Lise Bacon moved adoption of the report.
Motion agreed to and report adopted.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the eighth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, (budget—study on the examination and report on the objectives, operation and governance of the Canadian television fund—power to hire staff), presented in the Senate on March 29, 2007.—(Honourable Senator Bacon).
Hon. Lise Bacon moved adoption of the report.
Motion agreed to and report adopted.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the sixth report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, entitled: The Management of Atlantic Fish Stocks: Beyond the 200-Mile Limit, tabled in the Senate on February 20, 2007.—(Honourable Senator Johnson)
Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, I move:
That the sixth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, tabled in the Senate on February 20, 2007, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 131(2), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report.
He said: Honourable senators, fish stocks off our Atlantic coast face a continuing threat from foreign fishing. The question is how to control that fishing.
Canada's fisheries jurisdiction extends only 200 nautical miles offshore. Beyond that zone, vessels from Europe and elsewhere will fish in the high seas area that our fishermen know as the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks. Many fish stocks straddle the 200-mile line. It was Pierre Trudeau who once pointed out to us, in his own inimitable way, that fish swim; therefore, overfishing outside the zone can also deplete stocks within our zone.
On those outer edges of the Grand Banks, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, known as NAFO, is supposed to control fishing. Its members, including Canada, can vote on quotas and other conservation measures, but any member country of NAFO is free to object to those quotas and to set its own. Even when countries agree on paper and respect the rules, some of them cheat.
The NAFO regime has had woeful results for the fish and coastal communities that depend on them. Depletion is so bad that NAFO has placed most stocks under a fishing moratorium. Even then, some countries keep fishing them by exploiting loopholes in the rules or by just plain cheating.
This is widely known, and not just in Canada. The European Union recently issued a press release lamenting the law-breaking by their own vessels in their own waters. Do we expect their fishermen to behave any better far from home?
Vessels in the NAFO regulatory area have been obliged to carry observers. Charles Clover, the environment editor of the Daily Telegraph in London, looked at some of these reports. I quote from his book, The End of the Line, about overfishing:
Perhaps the most thought-provoking thing that reports show are the failures of the authorities in Portugal and Spain, and the apparent official tolerance of illegal fishing.
Three years ago, when the Honourable Loyola Hearn, now Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, was an opposition member in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, that committee recommended that Canada extend what it called "custodial management" over the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks. Deciphered, that meant unilaterally taking control. In 2005, an advisory panel to the minister and to the government of the day said that custodial management would be impractical, but it declared Canada should strive to replace NAFO with something better.
We started a study last summer with NAFO's failures clearly in mind. Then, in September, after years of Canadian pressure, NAFO members agreed to certain reforms. Minister Hearn had by now abandoned talk of custodial management. I will note that he praised the proposed reforms as a Canadian triumph that would, as he said, "give teeth" to NAFO.
Our committee wanted to take a closer look. Over several months we heard from many expert witnesses here and in Newfoundland and Labrador. They included fishing industry members, environmentalists, academics and provincial and federal ministers. We also heard from public servants, including former senior officials and international experts of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans itself.
Honourable senators, they told us that some of the NAFO's supposed new teeth were in fact false teeth that would never bite. The European Union, the most troublesome fishing entity, had held the pen in drafting the new proposals, and it appeared that Canada had overlooked significant defects.
Let me mention some of the most alarming defects that we found. The voting rules would change from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority, and Canada, therefore, would have a harder job winning enough allies to pass conservation rules. As well, the new NAFO convention could open the way for the organization to interfere with Canada's own fishery management inside the 200-mile zone.
The deputy chair of our committee, Senator Johnson, and I wrote the minister in December pointing out these problems and suggesting that the government employ outside experts, including some of our witnesses, to advise on NAFO. Meanwhile, we tabled our full report on February 20, pointing out the problems I have already mentioned and many more.
Honourable senators, we were in for two surprises. The first was that within 24 hours of our report the minister released a statement dismissing it. He did not address its substance but said that NAFO was now improving. This was interesting since he was one of those who had earlier proposed doing away with NAFO. Then, late in March, Senator Johnson and I finally received a response to a letter we had sent in December. Here is the second surprise: Minister Hearn now seemed to agree with the constructive criticisms we had made. In his letter, he said:
I certainly take your point about the value of consulting with ex-senior DFO officials and others in reviewing proposed NAFO reforms.
The minister went on to say that the department had now called on such experts. He said that Canada would address the issue of the two-thirds voting rule and the other problems raised in our letter.
Honourable senators, we may rejoice that those in the other place are also capable, on occasion, of sober second thought. I commend the minister for recognizing in the end that the matters noted in our letter need attention. However, that still leaves other problems detailed in our full report, which is before us today.
The NAFO reforms promised to make it easier for inspection officers to redirect offending vessels to port. They promised a dispute settlement procedure to prevent countries, in case of disagreement, from simply setting their own rules. In both cases we found serious loopholes.
As well, the proposed reforms would cut the number of observers aboard fishing vessels, even though in previous years observers were seen as essential for enforcement, and the fisheries controlled by NAFO badly need a scientific review and a rebuilding plan.
We made recommendations on these and other matters, including areas of the high seas around the world that have no regulation at all. For such areas, Canada should join, we said, responsible fishing nations like Norway and New Zealand in supporting a temporary moratorium on bottom trawling to reduce damage until at least some conservation and environmental rules come into place.
As for the outer Grand Banks, our report did not put forward radical measures that experts agree will not work. Without ruling out custodial management forever, reforming NAFO does seem, at the moment, the most workable way ahead. Therefore, we recommend practical measures that would indeed help give NAFO some bite.
However, given the organization's woeful record, common sense requires watchfulness at every step, and the proposed reforms to the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization of last September badly needed the extra scrutiny our committee gave them.
The good news is that the government may be starting to recognize the bad news. Judging by the minister's eventual response to our earlier letter, they now realize that the NAFO proposals have faults that need fixing. We ask that the government extend the same consideration it gave our letter to the full body of the report and bear it in mind during NAFO negotiations later this month. We offer support for strong and sensible measures that we continue to hope could one day restore the legendary abundance of the Grand Banks.
In short, honourable senators, we have found some difficulties in the text of the proposed reforms to NAFO. We have pointed out those weaknesses and have suggested ways of fixing them. The onus is now on the government and the other members of NAFO to ensure that these recommendations are put in place at the next meeting. We as a committee will be monitoring. We have asked to see the text when it is revised, and we will continue to monitor this to ensure that NAFO is reformed in a way that is to the benefit of Canada and particularly to Canadian fishermen.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to and report adopted.
Leave having been given to revert to Other Business, Reports of Committees, Item No. 3:
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fourteenth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (Committee Budgets—Legislation), presented in the Senate on March 29, 2007.—(Honourable Senator Furey)
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore moved the adoption of the report.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to and report adopted.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Hays, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser, for the adoption of the second report of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform (motion to amend the Constitution of Canada (western regional representation in the Senate), without amendment but with observations), presented in the Senate on October 26, 2006;
And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, seconded by the Honourable Senator Campbell, that the second report of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform be not now adopted but that the motion to amend the Constitution of Canada (western regional representation in the Senate), be amended as follows:
(a) by replacing, in the third paragraph of the motion, the words "British Columbia be made a separate division represented by 12 Senators;" with the following:
"British Columbia be made a separate division represented by 24 Senators;";
(b) by replacing, in clause 1 of the Schedule to the motion, in section 21, the words "consist of One hundred and seventeen Members" with the following:
"consist of One hundred and twenty-nine Members";
(c) by replacing, in clause 1 of the Schedule to the motion, in section 22, the words "British Columbia by Twelve Senators;" with the following:
"British Columbia by Twenty-four Senators;";
(d) by striking out, in clause 2 of the Schedule to the motion, in section 27, the words "or, in the case of British Columbia, Twelve Senators,"; and
(e) by replacing, in clause 2 of the Schedule to the motion, in section 28, the words "exceed One hundred and twenty-seven." with the following:
"exceed One hundred and thirty-nine.".—(Honourable Senator Ringuette)
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, I rise today to discuss the motion to amend the Constitution of Canada with respect to the regional representation of Western Canada in the Senate, now known as the Murray-Austin motion.
Our colleagues presented a motion for a constitutional amendment that would allow additional representation of Western Canada in the Senate. As you know, this amendment would increase the number of senators by 12, distributed as follows: six more senators for British Columbia, four more for Alberta, one more for Saskatchewan and one more for Manitoba.
If the Senate passes the motion, it will be using its right to propose a constitutional amendment, thereby triggering the official constitutional amendment process, which begins with sending messages to the House of Commons and all provincial legislatures.
As set out in the Constitution Act, all of those parties have three years to respond to the proposed amendment. If they do not, the motion is ruled invalid and inoperative.
Honourable senators, for this resolution to come into effect, it needs the support of at least seven provinces representing more than 50 per cent of the population of Canada, as well as a majority in the House of Commons.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that this is a piecemeal measure that raises more serious questions about the Senate's role and powers. As recently as 1980, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the immutability of the pact signed by the founding provinces at the time of Confederation. As stated in the Upper House Reference  S.C.R. 54:
. . . alterations to the Senate that would affect "the fundamental features, or essential characteristics given to the Senate as a means of ensuring regional and provincial representation in the federal legislative process" could not be made by Parliament alone.
The character of the Senate was determined by the British Parliament in response to the proposals submitted by the three provinces in order to meet the requirement of the proposed federal system.
It was that Senate created by the Act, to which a legislative role was given by s. 91. In our opinion, its fundamental character cannot be altered by unilateral action by the Parliament of Canada and s. 91(1) does not give that power.
Honourable senators, the motion before us does not seek to alter the basic principle that the four divisions are equally represented in the Senate, because that can only be done by amending the Constitution under section 38. However, adopting this motion would essentially mean that the Senate prefers and supports the idea of changing the number of representatives of each of the four divisions in the Senate so that the numbers are unequal.
Honourable senators, section 22 of Canada's Constitution provides that:
In relation to the Constitution of the Senate, Canada shall be deemed to consist of Four Divisions:
3. The Maritime Provinces, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island;
4. The Western Provinces of Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta;
which Four Divisions shall (subject to the Provisions of this Act) be equally represented in the Senate as follows: Ontario by twenty-four senators; Quebec by twenty-four senators; the Maritime Provinces and Prince Edward Island by twenty-four senators, ten thereof representing Nova Scotia, ten thereof representing New Brunswick, and four thereof representing Prince Edward Island; the Western Provinces by twenty-four senators, six thereof representing Manitoba, six thereof representing British Columbia, six thereof representing Saskatchewan, and six thereof representing Alberta; Newfoundland shall be entitled to be represented in the Senate by six members; the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories shall be entitled to be represented in the Senate by one member each.
Honourable senators, why should we wish at this point to alter the regional representation characterizing the Senate? Why is it now desirable to amend the Constitution so that the four divisions of Canada are represented unequally in the Senate? Are we doing this simply to appease reformers, who have been making incoherent requests from all sides to modify this chamber?
I fully agree with Senator Hubley's statement in this chamber that parliamentary reform should never be approached in a piecemeal matter without knowing beforehand the overall shape and substance of the newly reformed institutions. I strongly believe that it is naive to think we can simply modify important aspects of this chamber without affecting its whole function and purpose.
The underlying purpose of this motion is the desire to recognize the existence of two regions in the West in response to the population growth, especially in Alberta and British Columbia. Concretely, this amendment would increase the number of senators by 12. Compared with Quebec and Ontario, B.C. and Alberta continue to gain more representation in the other place. The argument has been made that the current populations and economic weight of Alberta and B.C. call for representation beyond that of provinces in Atlantic Canada.
According to the founders of our great country, the upper house of Parliament "is to be confided the protection of sectional interests." Therefore, it is that the four great divisions are equally represented for the purpose of defending such interests against the combination of majorities in the House of Commons.
Lower Canada has agreed to give us representation by population in the lower house on the express condition that they shall have equality in the upper house. On no other condition could we have advanced the Confederation negotiations. The protection for those interests, such as equality in the upper chamber, has been enshrined in the fundamental law of and for the land of Canada. It is our contract. If one wants a successful contract negotiation, any amendments must be a win-win proposal for all parties. This proposal changes the fundamental equality representation: One region gains while the three other regions will lose relative representation.
In the Senate, we have enjoyed the concepts of representation by region that evolved from historical political compromises. In comparison, the U.S. Constitution has built into it a series of compromises between rep-by-pop and rep-by-area, whereas there are two senators per state, at least one representative per state and representation in the Electoral College. Nevertheless, as Senator Mercer has previously said in this chamber on the same issue:
. . . any time we talk about Senate Reform and changing how this place is configured, we get into the discussion of representation by population. That is not what this place is about.
When addressing this issue, Senator Murray and Senator Austin based most of their arguments on the principles of fairness and equity. These same principles underly the representation-by-population debates that occur every 10 years in the other place as per the Election Act. These arguments are in direct contradiction with the reason we have an upper house in this great federation, which is to represent and protect the regions and the minorities against the will of the majority. The Senate was established to balance representation and to ensure a degree of equality and inclusiveness for the less populated provinces against the tyranny of the majority.
We have not addressed how this rebalancing will affect the functioning of the Senate. How will it affect the traditional role of representation of the regions? How will rebalancing affect the Senate's relationship with the House of Commons? Should our roles and our authority be redefined constitutionally?
Honourable senators, I strongly believe that it is not possible to change the composition, the character and the functions of the Senate without also addressing all other consequential questions. Prior to the alteration of the historical and constitutional concept of regional representation, should we not anticipate all other consequences? For one to think that modifying the regional representation of the Senate will have no consequences, one must ask: Why is it being sought in the first place?
Let us be clear: Regional voting power is important.
These basic questions need to be addressed, honourable senators, before the regional balance of representation is altered.
Honourable senators, I will not support this motion, for its adoption would break the deal; the equality among those four divisions. We cannot simply propose and approve breaking the deal.
While the Meech Lake accord attempted to reconcile the cultural and linguistic aspirations of Quebec with the rest of Canada and to provide recognition for our Aboriginal people, the Charlottetown accord was a pack of constitutional amendments for Quebec's recognition and for a Triple-E Senate that was requested by the Western provinces; that is, there were supposed to be six elected senators per province. It was proposed by the Canadian federal and provincial governments in 1992 and submitted to a public referendum in October of that year.
Senator Cools: I voted against it, with pleasure!
Senator Ringuette: Although most of us worked very hard toward its approval it was defeated, and it was defeated strongly by the four Western provinces. They defeated the Triple-E Senate as proposed in the Charlottetown accord. Manitoba defeated the Charlottetown accord with 61.6 per cent against; Saskatchewan, 55.3 per cent; Alberta, 60.2 per cent; and B.C., 63.8 per cent.
Senator St. Germain: Never been wrong.
Senator Ringuette: The four Western provinces voted "no" to a Triple-E Senate.
The politicos, to this day, argue that it is the only way the West will feel that they are "in." If the Triple-E Senate was refuted by such numbers in the West 15 years ago, why are some Western politicians still arguing for it today?
Personally, I believe that, in a file of such constitutional importance, we, as senators, have an obligation to express our point of view and to contribute to the national constitutional debate that must be held if the Senate is to be modernized. History will acknowledge that we rose to our constitutional obligation, and not that we simply rose up against any initiatives towards reform. It is the responsibility of this chamber to respect its constitutional raison d'être, to the best of its ability, in the interest of the regions and minorities. The proposed amendments to regional representation will change the fundamental nature and the very purpose of the Senate.
Last, the intention of the proposed Murray-Austin motion seems to respect a number of precedents set in the amendments brought forward over the years to the number and distribution of the seats of the Senate. It is important to note, however, that most of these changes were to increase the number of Senators when a new province or territory joined the federation.
It is important to acknowledge that every time an additional seat was created in this place it was because of the addition of a territory to this land.
May I have five more minutes?
Senator Cools: Agreed.
Senator Ringuette: I have only two minutes.
Senator Comeau: Maximum five.
Senator St. Germain: If you will quit picking on B.C.
Senator Di Nino: We want to hear more, more, more!
Senator Ringuette: Thank you.
First, two senators were added for Manitoba in 1870, three senators for British Columbia in 1871 and four senators for Prince Edward Island in 1873. A province or territory that joins the federation constitutes a new political entity, but an increase in the population of a given region is a different matter.
The primary role of the Senate is to protect the Constitution, the rights of minorities and Canada's regions. It would be shirking the duties of this institution to try to respond to these reform efforts on a case-by-case basis.
What is needed is a comprehensive examination of the role, powers and composition of the Senate. Only then will we be on the road towards a modern Canadian Senate.
Hon. David Tkachuk: I should like to thank Senator Ringuette for that, and remind the honourable senator that in the Charlottetown accord the Canadian people also defeated self-government rights for the Aboriginal people of Canada. That does not mean that we are not moving forward in that particular policy direction.
I put the amendment forward because Prime Minister Chrétien himself recognized British Columbia as a distinct region; because of that, I thought it unfair that they be treated any differently than any other region in the country. While the Maritime Provinces were intimately involved in securing their 24 seats, the rest of us in the West were satisfied with what we got when we entered Confederation.
This is an amendment on my part to see that the wishes of the honourable senator's Prime Minister are fully implemented in the Constitution. Only lip service is now being paid to British Columbia, "Yes, you are a region but you are not really a region." That is usually the story that we get out West. However, we are a region. The Prairies and British Columbia see themselves as a region. They should have 24 senators, just like the Maritimes do.
It seems rather strange to me that in Atlantic Canada we have 30 senators, and in the West, from Manitoba to British Columbia, we have 24. This does not seem to me to make sense and, hence, the amendment.
Therefore, I ask that all honourable senators support the amendment. I am not sure if my speaking here closes debate on my amendment.
Senator Ringuette: I was waiting for a question.
Senator Cools: Put a question to the honourable senator.
Senator Tkachuk: I never asked a question. I am not interested in asking a question. I got up to speak on my motion, and I think that my speaking on my motion closes the debate.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I would like to move the adjournment of the debate.
The Hon. the Speaker: First, I will ask the table how much time is left in Senator Ringuette's time.
Senator Cools: There is still five minutes. He is safe.
The Hon. the Speaker: Therefore, the chair thought that —
Senator Cools: Treat it as a question.
The Hon. the Speaker: — Senator Tkachuk was making a comment or asking a question.
Senator Cools: Yes, and I have a question, too.
The Hon. the Speaker: Order! He has stated his intention to speak. If he was speaking, I must advise the chamber that if Senator Tkachuk speaks it would have the effect of closing the debate.
We are on the motion in amendment and there is no right of reply as on a main motion.
Senator Ringuette: Can I answer?
The Hon. the Speaker: The motion that was in order, I recognize Senator Tardif who has moved the adjournment of the debate.
On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the consideration of the fourth report (interim), as amended, of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, entitled: Managing Turmoil, The Need to Upgrade Canadian Foreign Aid and Military Strength to Deal with Massive Change, tabled in the Senate on November 21, 2006.—(Honourable Senator Banks)
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, because of the unusual nature of tomorrow's proceedings and because of a motion made today, I may not be in this place to speak tomorrow. In light of this item being on its fourteenth day, I would like to adjourn this motion in my name for the remainder of my time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Fraser, for the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cook:
That the following Resolution on Combating Anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance which was adopted at the 15th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Association, in which Canada participated in Brussels, Belgium on July 7, 2006, be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights for consideration and that the Committee table its final report no later than March 31, 2007:
RESOLUTION ONCOMBATING ANTI-SEMITISMAND OTHER FORMS OF INTOLERANCE
1. Calling attention to the resolutions on anti-Semitism adopted unanimously by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly at its annual sessions in Berlin in 2002, Rotterdam in 2003, Edinburgh in 2004 and Washington in 2005,
2. Intending to raise awareness of the need to combat anti-Semitism, intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, as well as racism, xenophobia and discrimination, also focusing on the intolerance and discrimination faced by Christians and members of other religions and minorities in different societies,
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly:
3. Recognizes the steps taken by the OSCE and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to address the problems of anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance, including the work of the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Unit at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the appointment of the Personal Representatives of the Chairman-in-Office, and the organization of expert meetings on the issue of anti-Semitism;
4. Reminds its participating States that "Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities", this being the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by representatives of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) and ODIHR;
5. Urges its participating States to establish a legal framework for targeted measures to combat the dissemination of racist and anti-Semitic material via the Internet;
6. Urges its participating States to intensify their efforts to combat discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities;
7. Urges its participating States to present written reports, at the 2007 Annual Session, on their activities to combat anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination against Muslims;
8. Welcomes the offer of the Romanian Government to host a follow-up conference in 2007 on combating anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination with the aim of reviewing all the decisions adopted at the OSCE conferences (Vienna, Brussels, Berlin, Córdoba, Washington), for which commitments were undertaken by the participating States, with a request for proposals on improving implementation, and calls upon participating States to agree on a decision in this regard at the forthcoming Ministerial Conference in Brussels;
9. Urges its participating States to provide the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) with regular information on the status of implementation of the 38 commitments made at the OSCE conferences (Vienna, Brussels, Berlin, Córdoba, Washington);
10. Urges its participating States to develop proposals for national action plans to combat anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination against Muslims;
11. Urges its participating States to raise awareness of the need to protect Jewish institutions and other minority institutions in the various societies;
12. Urges its participating States to appoint ombudspersons or special commissioners to present and promote national guidelines on educational work to promote tolerance and combat anti-Semitism, including Holocaust education;
13. Underlines the need for broad public support and promotion of, and cooperation with, civil society representatives involved in the collection, analysis and publication of data on anti-Semitism and racism and related violence;
14. Urges its participating States to engage with the history of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism and to analyze the role of public institutions in this context;
15. Requests its participating States to position themselves against all current forms of anti-Semitism wherever they encounter it;
16. Resolves to involve other inter-parliamentary organizations such as the IPU, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA) and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in its efforts to implement the above demands. —(Honourable Senator Cools)
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Senator Grafstein's motion, which is a motion asking the Senate to refer a resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a resolution on combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance, to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. This is an interesting motion, and I shall see if I can develop something here.
Honourable senators, like many, I deplore racism in all its forms and expressions. As honourable senators know, I was born in the British Caribbean, in Barbados, the home dating back to the 1600s of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the new world. In fact, they were Sephardic Jews in a thriving community in Barbados.
Jewish arrival in the Caribbean predates Jewish arrival in North America, both the United States and Canada.
The old Jewish cemetery in Barbados contains headstones whose barely readable dates are from the 1650s. I am familiar with Jewish history. In fact, I myself have Jewish blood. For many different reasons, I understand racism, prejudice and persecution.
Honourable senators, soon after I arrived in Canada, while shopping with my mother one day — I was 13 years old — in a clothing store, I observed that some of the personnel had serial numbers tattooed on their arms. I questioned these numbers, and my mother quickly explained to me the significance of those tattooed numbers and their connection to the Holocaust. I was horrified.
Honourable senators, that encounter was my first personal encounter with those who had suffered from savagery and barbarism. For a long time thereafter, I pondered the imponderable, the planned extermination of Jewish millions.
Newly arrived in Canada and 13 years old, I quickly learned that expressions such as "he Jewed them down" and "the nigger in the wood pile" were part of the vernacular of many Canadians. I learned to understand racism and ethnicity.
This statement may sound strange coming from the British Caribbean, but in the British Caribbean we were basically Black, White and Brown. There were not too many other ethnic groups. There were a few Jews and so on. I learned to understand racism on coming to Canada.
Honourable senators, Senator Segal had interested me in this motion. He included in his speech a treatment of the Semitic peoples who, though no longer known to many, include not only the varied Jewish peoples but also the varied Arab peoples and still others.
In fact, the Jewish people and the Arab people share a common ancestry, being Abraham who was the father of Ishmael, the progenitor of the Arab peoples, and who also was the father of Isaac, the progenitor of the Jewish people.
Further, Semitic languages include Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac and Aramaic. As honourable senators will know, Aramaic was the language that Jesus Christ spoke.
Like many Canadians, I am aware of the racist comments that I frequently hear about the Arab peoples. In recent years, the term "terrorist" seems to be wedded to the words "Arab," "Islam" and "Muslim." The expressions "Arab terrorists" and "Islamic terrorists" abound in the language and in the idiom today.
Many Arabic and Islamic Canadians tell me of their pain and of the burden they carry of prejudice and racism against them, and their efforts to overcome it and to be good Canadians.
Honourable senators, Senator Segal in his speech here on February 28, 2007, said:
. . . although anti-Semitism is more often than not perceived as hatred and bigotry toward Jews per se, we must not lose sight of the broader definition. The term also refers, of course, to Arabs. In our current global social climate, we must not allow one bigotry to be replaced by another. Combatting anti-Semitism must include combatting hatred and bigotry toward Arabs as well.
Honourable senators, I know something of the history of the Jewish people and of the Arab people. I also know something of the history of the Holy Land, particularly that portion of greater Syria called Palestine. In the days of the Romans, I think it was called Syria Palestina. I know something of the creation of Israel and something of the plight of the dispossessed Palestinian refugees.
Honourable senators, I also know that the world wants an end to the bloodshed and carnage in the Middle East. It wants peace in the region that gave us the three great religions of the Book; Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
As a Christian, I did much reflection on this subject last week with Easter's mighty symbols of the crucified Christ as I listened to magnificent choruses singing Handel's Messiah which, as we know, drew on the Old Testament book, the Book of Isaiah. The crucified Christ, the risen Christ, and their Easter messages of redemption, forgiveness and love are poignant, powerful and, I would dare say, necessary.
Honourable senators, I believed that this motion asked the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights to study anti-Semitism and racism. However, in preparing my remarks, I discovered that this motion was not merely to study anti-Semitism and racism. Rather, it was a motion to consider a resolution from a foreign assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE.
Consequently, honourable senators, I want to raise a point of order. Before I do so, I also want to point out that this motion is defective on a few other points as well.
I am not sure of the status of the motion as it originally asked the committee to complete its final report by March 31, 2007. That part of the motion may be spent, but that is not the problem if something new can be introduced.
The other deficiency is contained in the motion, which states:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Fraser, for the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cook:
That the following resolution on Combatting Anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance which was adopted at the 15th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Association, in which Canada participated in Brussels, Belgium on July 7, 2006 . . .
— and it continues.
I think that is a mistake, honourable senators, because later on it refers to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, but the text of the motion is what I just read. In other words, that is the order of reference. There is a defect in there. I am not sufficiently well instructed on these international bodies, but where the body of the motion refers to "parliamentary association," perhaps it means "parliamentary assembly." In the middle of the page, the motion reads:
Calling attention to the resolutions on anti-Semitism adopted unanimously by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly . . .
The word that seems to recur throughout is "assembly." Perhaps one could look at that.
My reasons for asking His Honour to rule that this motion is out of order are a bit more than those two other points. They are relatively small points.
I want to ask His Honour to rule this motion out of order because it purports to ask a committee of this assembly, the Senate, to judge a proceeding of another assembly, which is prohibited by long-standing parliamentary practice. This prohibition is based on the notion that parliaments and assemblies have exclusive cognizance of their own proceedings. This is a distinct feature of the law of Parliament and one that has been accorded full recognition by parliamentary jurisprudence and by case law in the courts.
Honourable senators, this principle is called the sovereignty of Parliament or the independence of the Houses, and it is guarded very jealously. Conversely, the Senate or the House of Commons accords other assemblies the same deference, the deference of their exclusive cognizance of their own proceedings. Again, this is the notion of parliamentary sovereignty, which also includes the notion that one assembly or its members should not be rendered supplicants to another assembly, and that neither should be compelled as witnesses in another assembly.
I would ask honourable senators to consider how the Senate would react if we were to discover that our proceedings were being thrust into other assemblies for decision and for judgment.
Honourable senators, I repeat, the principle of parliamentary sovereignty and independence is such that this assembly, the Senate, or any other assembly, ought not to have its judgments questioned in another assembly, and conversely, another assembly's judgment should not be questioned in the Senate.
I do not know about the other assemblies in Europe, but for this Senate, this principle was laid down in the Bill of Rights in 1689. It is article 9 of the Bill of Rights that states:
. . . the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;
We must understand what "questioned" means. It means to debate and to consider. We must understand that I am not on the substance or the merits or intentions of the proposals.
Honourable senators, sound constitutional relations both inside and outside of Canada prohibit the submission of one assembly's judgment to the judgment of another assembly. Any and all assemblies are constitutionally and perfectly free to consider the same subject matter and even to arrive at the same conclusion. In short, any independent assembly is free to form its own judgment on the same issues. However, that judgment on the subject issues must be its own independent judgment and must not be a judgment on the other assembly's judgment.
Senator Grafstein's motion seeks to ask the Senate to make a judgment on the judgment of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which is this bundle of resolutions. It seems to be more than one.
Honourable senators, it is in order and sometimes desirable that other assemblies' judgements, conclusions and debates may inform Senate debates and judgments. However, the Senate's proceedings, even though on the same subject, must be independent of the OSCE's proceedings. The Senate must proceed by way of its own resolution, asking the Senate to ask its committees to consider the subject matter of anti-Semitism but not in the way that Senator Grafstein has proposed, to consider the resolutions of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
Honourable senators, this brings me to another related procedural point. Senator Grafstein's motion is also out of order because it asks the Senate to refer the OSCE proceeding to a Senate committee. The Senate cannot do this because the Senate has never received the resolution. The Senate cannot refer to a committee something it has not received.
Honourable senators, as the Senate receives bills, petitions, inquiries and other reports and papers, it can refer those to committees, but it has to have it in its cognizance. In fact, careful examination of the Senate's rules and procedures quickly reveal that the Senate has no procedural rubric to receive proceedings of other assemblies other than from the House of Commons, which the Senate receives by message. The Senate's rules and procedures, based on section 18 of the BNA Act, do not anticipate that the Senate would receive proceedings from foreign assemblies. Further, foreign assemblies are an additional matter of foreign affairs, which goes back to some of the questions I raised earlier, in another debate.
Honourable senators, this is a very important subject matter. We should follow the proper procedure because the subject matter of anti-Semitism is so timely.
I recently read an article by Shira Herzog in The Globe and Mail newspaper of April 11, 2007. The article was headlined, "Peace beckons, but will Israel's leader respond?" Most Europeans, Israelis, Arab peoples and Canadians, as well as a growing number of Americans, want peace.
Honourable senators, anti-Semitism was an ugly invention of Europe, complete with its pogroms, atrocities, ghettos and attacks on the Jewish people. I have read of the pogroms of the 1890s. Many people do not say it, but European Semitism was also based on wicked envy and jealousy, as many envied — we know the difference between the two words, and I hope that I am not shocking anyone — the Jewish people for their industry, wealth, intelligence and scholarship. Whatever Canada's sins have been, they have not been of the European variety. Maybe Europe has some expiation to do for its sins, but Canadian sins have not been of that variety.
Honourable senators, I remember it was just before I went to McGill University that the quotas on Jewish students were lifted. I have many friends who studied medicine who had to go off to Europe. I know other Jewish lawyers who could not get into McGill who studied in French at the University of Montreal.
Honourable senators, Senator Grafstein's motion is timely even though defective. I want to encourage him to restate his motion in the proper procedural way. It is timely, though defective, because a serious and thorough Senate study on anti-Semitism would also examine racism toward the Arab people and also would examine the growing phenomenon of the use of the term anti-Semitism to intimidate or to silence anyone who would question Israeli policies.
There are those who wish now to make questioning anti-Israeli policies anti-Semitic. There is a growing body of scholarship and literature on the wrongful and politically motivated use of accusations of anti-Semitism against those who offer criticism of Israeli policies or of Zionism in a way that inflates or expands the definition of anti-Semitism to mean any criticism of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories, or the Palestinian refugees or in the question of a country for the Palestinians.
Honourable senators, the problems in the Middle East revolve around the question of settling the condition and the status of the Palestinian refugees as well as around the question of a country for those people.
I was very touched by Senator Segal's intervention — in actual fact, if truth be told, I had not noticed this motion until he called it to my attention. As I remember, I listened to him very carefully.
Honourable senators, in my view, Senator Grafstein's motion is out of order for the reasons that I have stated. There are many strange parliamentary creatures, aliens, moving about between these motions. I questioned one just two weeks ago — that is, the phenomenon of the Senate being a supplicant to a foreign sovereign. There are so many of them. When one of them catches my attention in this parliamentary way, I feel I have an obligation to say something and to see if we can correct the phenomenon before it becomes a bad practice. Bad practices can often mistakenly be treated as precedents.
Honourable senators, I should like to encourage the Speaker, Senator Kinsella, to observe and to rule on the defectiveness of this motion. I should also like to thank Senator Grafstein for his good intentions in bringing forth the subject matter and to encourage him to bring a motion that is scripted to respect the independence of this chamber as well as the independence of other assemblies. Such a renewed motion would in no way alter the substance of the issue or the substantive issues that the motion was seeking to have us study.
Honourable senators, thank you for your attention in this matter. Our ancestors handed to us a body of principles and a body of rules to conduct our business. When I was a young girl, my schoolmistresses always said to me that the magnificence and majesty of the British system rests in the rules. It is in the rules — not so often in the conclusions. It is in the rules, whether it is a system of Parliament, a system of trial by jury or the system of rules of evidence where accusations have to be sustained and proven. Therefore, I should like to encourage senators to pay more attention, if possible, to the drafting and the scripting of some of these motions. At the same time, I look forward, depending on the outcome of the Speaker's ruling, to speaking more fully on the substantive issues of anti-Semitism. These are, however, important issues, and I must tell honourable senators how important the Semitic people in Canada and across the world view this debate.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, it may well be, as my friend suggests, that the majesty of the Westminster system is in the rules, but there has been a lot of lèse-majesté in the initiative that was taken this afternoon.
The honourable senator made a good speech on the motion, dividing it into two parts. First, she gave us a very interesting historical narrative, as always, since the honourable senator has a lot of experience and does so much research on these matters. Then, having given the first part of her speech, she drew a parenthesis and within that she argued that the motion was out of order for reasons that she cited. At that point, she closed the parenthesis and proceeded to conclude her speech, debating the motion that she had just argued was out of order.
I am glad I stayed around this afternoon because it was not only extraordinary, in my experience and observation, but unprecedented here. One of the matters I think Your Honour may want to take under advisement is whether it is open to a senator to do what she has just done. Surely, if the honourable senator has a point of order as to the receivability of a motion, then she should make that point and await the Speaker's ruling. At the very least, she should await a consensus by the Senate that the debate may proceed without prejudice to the point of order, or that the point of order may be considered without prejudice to continuing the debate for a while.
The second matter that I have been turning over in my mind, when Senator Cools raised the point of order, is whether a committee, such as the Human Rights Committee, really needs an order of reference to consider a matter such as is put forward in Senator Grafstein's motion.
I am aware that the mandate of that committee, like that of most other committees, states that the committee "to which may be referred, as the Senate may decide, bills, messages, petitions" et cetera, "relating to human rights generally." The question is whether a specific order of reference is needed.
There are only two standing committees that are explicitly authorized to do things of their own volition: one is the Rules Committee; the other is the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. I think honourable senators have found that some committees allow themselves a great deal of latitude in discussing and reporting on matters within their mandate without a specific order of reference. Some of this is done under the rubric, for example, of the Estimates. At the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, we can study just about anything, so long as we have the Estimates technically before us. At the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, we can take up just about anything, so long as we have the Commissioner of Official Languages' report before us. We do not think we need to come back for a specific order of reference that frequently. Other committees treat these matters differently.
While you are considering the point of order raised by Senator Cools, you might reflect on the extent to which the Senate wishes to keep its standing committees on a short leash — or, to put it another way, to what extent a standing committee should have latitude to pursue matters that are generally within the mandate and the subject matter that the committee is supposed to deal with.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are there any further comments on the point of order?
Senator Cools: I should like to thank Senator Murray for his intervention and for his somewhat flawed interpretation of what I did. My introduction was by way of personal statement to introduce my acquaintance with the subject. The latter part was by way of appreciating and thanking Senator Grafstein, who has had a long history of devotion to community work in Toronto, on the timeliness and importance of his initiative.
By way of closing, the issue that was before us on the point of order — which Senator Murray really did not address — was that there are very few committees that have the ability to take an initiative. One of them is the Rules Committee. There is also the Internal Economy Committee, and I have forgotten the other one.
I shall read rule 86(1)(s) — respecting the Human Rights Committee — from the Rules of the Senate of Canada:
The Senate Committee on Human Rights, composed of nine members, four of whom shall constitute a quorum, to which may be referred, as the Senate may decide, bills, messages, petitions, inquiries, papers and other matters relating to human rights generally.
Therefore, the Human Rights Committee has very little freedom to initiate major studies on its own.
Senator Murray is absolutely correct that, with respect to the business of referring to a study or looking up resolutions of other houses, any committee can do at any point. My issue was on the composition of an order of reference from this place. I think Senator Grafstein was doing right in terms of seeking an order of reference — and that is the proper word for it — from this place.
My point in raising this, honourable senators, is to show very clearly that what can be referred to committees is relatively circumspect. Remember, once a reference is made, that is an order and it is circumspect.
I believe the section on committees runs from 86(1) all the way through. If one reads every single rule in that section, one very quickly comes to the conclusion that there is no rubric there that allows decisions of other assemblies en masse to be referred to those committees for consideration and comment.
This is something I have looked at very carefully. I can tell honourable senators that there is nothing whatsoever in the rule that contemplates that one house should put another one under discussion or under debate.
This may be a new phenomenon; maybe I am just a dinosaur. As a matter of fact, if honourable senators go to the Order Paper, which lists the number of things that can be introduced into the chamber, they will find the same problem, no rubric.
Perhaps Canada should expect that many of its parliamentary decisions and resolutions made here will find themselves being considered, debated and condemned in other assemblies. It may very well be that other assemblies, foreign ones, may use their penal and subpoena powers to subpoena members to come before them to appear as witnesses under coercion.
That is something that would worry me, particularly in the instance of someone like Senator Dallaire, who has had international experience and has not always been accepted by other people and other legislatures. I would be very unhappy if any of those assemblies tried to use their penal powers to compel a member of our place to come before them.
Honourable senators, that is the issue. I wanted not to confuse the merits or the substance of the proposal; it may very well be that a motion, properly moved, could reach some of these same conclusions. All I am saying is that the independence of this place demands that we do our own study, that we arrive at our own conclusions, searching out our own evidence and research, and that we are not putting the decision of another assembly to our judgment. That is all.
The Hon. the Speaker: I want to thank all honourable senators for their contribution to this point of order, which I will take under consideration.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Segal calling the attention of the Senate to the impact that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has had these past 24 years on the rights of Canadians and the prerogatives of the Parliament of Canada.—(Honourable Senator Andreychuk)
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, it is my great pleasure to speak today to the inquiry of Senator Segal on the impact the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has had these past 25 years on the rights of Canadians.
As honourable senators know, April 17 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is an honour for me to take part and, I hope, to contribute to the ongoing debate on the Charter, and I do so with the utmost humility.
On this very important anniversary marking the inclusion of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our Constitution, it is quite appropriate that we, as senators, should take part and reflect on the impact that this very important document has had on rights in our country.
According to Patrick Monahan, the Dean of Osgoode Law School, the Charter has made Canada a better place. He is quoted in The Ottawa Citizen on April 15 — and I quote:
It's a fairer society, . . . It's a society that treats individuals with greater concern and respect, and I think it's a society that provides for checks and balances on the exercise of political power.
In their speeches, the honourable senators who spoke before me eloquently described the general impact the Charter has had on individuals by protecting their freedom of expression, association and mobility, the rights of Aboriginal peoples and the right to equality before the law.
Their thoughtful and informed interventions enrich the debate and contribute to the conversation that began 25 years ago involving legislators, legal scholars, researchers and civil society. It is also clear, by the number of documents, articles, texts, speeches and seminars that have been organized to commemorate this event that entrenching the Charter in the Canadian Constitution has significance to many people.
In my view, this shows the real and tangible impact the Charter has had on the lives of many Canadians and on some communities.
This Sunday, on April 15, the Ottawa Citizen published an interesting in-depth article about Charter cases that have defined our rights over the last 25 years on matters of freedom of religion, liberty of the person, freedom of expression, equality rights and numerous others. While this article proved very interesting, it struck me that it failed to mention anywhere the indelible impact on official language minority communities' education rights of article 23 of the Charter and subsequent Supreme Court rulings.
This surprising omission confirmed to me that there is still room for constructive debate to underscore certain lesser known aspects of the Charter, such as the impact on official language minority communities. As many of you already know, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had a significant, tangible and very real impact on francophone minority communities.
In my view, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 23 in particular, was a defining moment in the evolution of linguistic rights.
In a recent article, Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages stated:
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms consolidated equality and language rights. . . . Language rights were central to the Charter.
As Daniel Bourgeois explained recently in his book, Canadian Bilingual Districts, "the Charter contains eight sections pertaining to language rights," from recognition of English and French as the official languages of Canada and New Brunswick, to the right of instruction in the language of the minority.
However, of the Charter's eight sections pertaining to language rights, academics, community representatives, politicians and citizens alike concur that section 23, which recognized that "the English or French linguistic minority communities of a province have a right to primary and secondary instruction in their language and to the management of their school systems, where numbers warrant" proved to be a watershed moment in the evolution of linguistic rights.
According to Michael Behiels:
The inclusion of educational rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 drastically changed French-language education.
In the words of Gino Leblanc, former president of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, section 23 of the Charter was "a revolution in the field of education." Even in its 1990 judgment on the Mahé case, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that article 23:
. . . represents a linchpin in this nation's commitment to the values of bilingualism and biculturalism.
This did not all happen overnight, and it did not prove to be easy.
As Dyane Adam, the former Commissioner of Official Languages, stated in her 2004 annual report, even though the Charter recognized the rights of minority parents, and I quote:
It would take the francophone minority another 10 years of court battles to win the right for parents to govern their schools.
In a number of provinces, particularly in Alberta, the Charter brought about the first publicly funded French-language schools.
In my community in Alberta, it was not until 1984, two years after the Charter was entrenched, that the first publicly funded French-language schools opened their doors: the Maurice Lavallée school in Edmonton and the Marguerite Bourgeois school in Calgary.
Before the Charter, there were no publicly funded French-language schools in Alberta. It was only after 1982 that it was possible to think about creating publicly funded French-language schools.
I sat on the first parents' committee that fought for a publicly funded French-language school in Edmonton. We had to hold many meetings, draft petitions, make submissions to the school boards and change the mindset and culture of organizations with respect to the educational rights of francophones.
In addition to the authorities and anglophone parents, francophone parents who were satisfied with the existing situation quite often had to be convinced.
As the former Official Languages Commissioner stated so eloquently in her 2004 annual report:
At the outset, neither the majority community nor the Francophone community were behind the effort.
This was due to the fact that, before 1982, the demands of French-speaking Albertans were not legitimate in the eyes of a majority of Albertans.
Schools for francophones? It was a whim and thus unnecessary. There was no infrastructure; it would have to be built from the ground up.
The Charter gave legitimacy to parents' demands presented to the provincial government, school boards and local authorities. French-language schools were no longer a whim; they were recognized by the country's fundamental, constitutional law.
As you know, in Alberta's case, a group of parents had to go to court to assert the rights recognized by the Charter.
As a mother, I would have liked my daughter to be educated entirely in a French-language school. It was not until 1990, when she was in grade 12, that my daughter was finally able to be educated in such a school for the first time.
It was also in that year that the Supreme Court of Canada recognized, with the Mahé decision, the right of French-language minority communities to establish and manage their own schools.
It was not until 1994, 12 years after the Charter came into force, that the Alberta government established French school boards. And yet, in 1982, Alberta had signed the new Constitution and approved the Charter.
The province endorsed, on paper, the principle of minority language education, but in practice, things took much longer. Many of you might have similar stories to tell about the establishment of French-language schools in your own province, be it Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or even Ontario. Despite the fact that the Charter recognized our right to be educated in our own language, many of us had to go to court, at great cost, to make our provincial governments understand that we had rights. How many parents, teachers, school principals and community associations have had to work hard to convince local authorities, school boards and provincial governments that they have constitutional rights guaranteed under the Charter? The Charter changed everything.
Before the Charter, there were no publicly funded French-only schools in Alberta. Today, there are more than 30 francophone schools in Alberta, five school boards and almost 5,000 students.
French-language schools have helped slow assimilation and stimulate the vitality of our francophone communities.
I also believe that the Charter has promoted dialogue among federal and provincial legislators, the courts, civil society and governments.
As the Commissioner of Official Languages said in a recent article:
. . . language rights have developed and advanced in Canada over the last quarter century through an elaborate three-way discussion between the Canadian Parliament, the provinces and the Canadian courts.
Without the Charter, that discussion would not have taken place.
If, as Lord Sankey opined in the famous Persons Case, the Canadian Constitution should be seen as "a living tree capable of growth and expansion within its natural limits," then the Charter and the language rights it recognized and helped develop will continue to grow and evolve over time. The "conversation," as Graham Fraser calls it, between Parliamentarians, provincial governments, the courts, the federal government and official language minority communities will continue to evolve and shape our future.
We should also remember something very important that Roger Tassé pointed out in a recent article:
The Charter is a framework, an instrument, a method that enables us to protect our basic rights from abuses of power and the excess of government authority in response to the changes that are transforming and will continue to transform our society and our world.
The Charter protects minorities from the potential tyranny of the majority.
Before the Charter, as André Braën pointed out:
A few language-related issues ended up in the courts at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.
Does anyone remember the Manitoba Schools Act? What about New Brunswick's Common Schools Act? What about the Alberta Schools Act and Regulation 17 in Ontario?
The Charter made such legislation impossible or invalid, because it was no longer possible for provincial governments to prevent the teaching of the French language or the creation of French-language schools, as they had done with that previous repressive legislation.
As our former colleague, Professor Gérald Beaudoin, pointed out, the path of language rights in Canada has been very long, and the Charter marked a turning point in the evolution of linguistic rights in Canada.
Honourable senators, while the political, philosophical and academic debates surrounding the impact of the Charter on this quarter-century anniversary continue, we must never forget that the Charter is not simply an abstract document of law with remote implications on our daily lives. It has proven to be one of the most important political and legal documents in our recent history, with a real and tangible effect on the daily lives of Canada's official language minority communities. As my own story and that of many others in official language minority communities demonstrate, the Charter has not only had an abstract, high-level impact on our political institutions and political thought, it has also changed, very tangibly, the lives of many Canadians.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella: Honourable senators, as Speaker of the Senate, I should be disciplined in having custody of the tongue, but given that today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of an historic event, I did not want to miss the opportunity to address this important inquiry of the Honourable Senator Segal.
Honourable senators, 25 years ago today, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II sat at a table placed in front of the Peace Tower and signed the Canada Act, 1982. That same table is now located in the office of the Speaker of the Senate of Canada. The table serves as a daily reminder of the work accomplished by many Canadians that led to the repatriation of the Constitution with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On the wall adjacent to this artefact is a series of photos from the first ministers' meetings that made this all possible. I would invite honourable senators to drop by the office of the Speaker of the Senate to see this part of the Charter's story.
Earlier today, I was pleased to speak at the twenty-fifth anniversary conference on the Charter organized by the Association of Canadian Studies at the University of Ottawa, at which time I touched on a number of points. First, and importantly, the practice of freedom in our great country has enjoyed significant success during the past 140 years, notwithstanding some significant bumps along the way, such as the head tax, Komagata Maru, the internment of Canadians of Japanese heritage, anti-Semitic restrictive covenants and other forms of discrimination. However, successive generations of men and women of goodwill from all corners of Canada and at various times have risen to the occasion and have made significant contributions to the growing of Canadian freedom, from Macdonald and Cartier through the Labour Convention cases of the 1930s; to the work of McGill's John Humphrey, Maxwell Cohen and Frank Scott; to John Diefenbaker's Canadian Bill of Rights; to the judgements of former Justices Ivan Rand, Bora Laskin and our late friend, Walter Tarnopolsky.
The first ministers of Canada held the attention of Canadians during the early 1980s when they made their contribution to the agreement on the patriation of the Constitution with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I was particularly pleased with the contribution to that process made by the late Senator Richard Hatfield, former Premier of New Brunswick. Indeed, without the support of former Premier Bill Davis of Ontario and Richard Hatfield, the Charter would not have come into being.
Honourable senators, the International Covenants on Human Rights of the United Nations, which was ratified by Canada in 1976, with the written support and agreement from all provinces, served as an important inspiration for the idea of a Canadian constitutional charter. One of the reasons that former Premier Hatfield of New Brunswick supported repatriation with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms was that he understood that the standard of human rights provided by the covenants already imposed human rights obligations upon Canada. Many attempted to underscore the fact of this previously written agreement, with all provinces replying to a letter sent by former Prime Minister Pearson inviting them to examine the two covenants and to indicate whether Canada should deposit the instrument of ratification. Each province wrote back and the Province of Quebec, in my judgment, did the most serious analysis of the human rights standard provided by those covenants. Unfortunately, although an attempt was made to underscore the fact that Canada already had a written agreement on a human rights standard, it was difficult to make that completely understood.
I would argue that the high standard of the UN International Covenants on Human Rights, in comparison with the Charter, is worthy of recollection. During this current period of anti-terrorism legislation, it is instructive to recall that provisions of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Canada and obliges Canada with the agreement in writing of all provinces, provides a standard of non-derogation of certain rights, even during times when the life of the nation is threatened. Article 4 reads:
1. In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the State Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.
2. No derogation from articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs 1 and 2), 11, 15, 16 and 18 may be made under this provision.
The above noted articles deal with such things as torture. Our international standard of human rights prohibits the derogation, even in times of national emergency when the life of a nation itself is threatened. Torture may never be used under the terms of that standard, which is a far superior standard in the minds of many students of human rights than is the covenant. The covenants have served to guide our courts in their interpretation of the content of the Charter.
Honourable senators, allow me to reflect on the non obstante provision of section 33, which was the dealmaker in settling the parliamentary supremacy debate during the 1980 First Ministers' Conference. Most students of human rights are satisfied with the limited use that legislators have made of the notwithstanding provision. Equally, students have found it interesting to study the operation of the Human Rights Act adopted by the Parliament of Westminster a few years ago that allows for the application of the European Convention on Human Rights in the United Kingdom.
However, the judgment of a tribunal in England to the effect that a law that contravenes the European convention does not have the effect that the offending statute is nullified. Rather, that can only be accomplished by an act of Parliament. In the United Kingdom, therefore, their system would seem to allow for what might be described as an ongoing non obstante provision. I clearly prefer our Canadian law to that one.
Another point on the relationship of our Charter to the covenant is that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a companion covenant to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It provides us with a model for a new initiative in Canada; namely, an initiative to establish a Canadian social charter. I would hope that, in the not-too-distant future, we will see Parliament moving forward, courageously and creatively, in the creation of a Canadian social charter.
The courts in Canada have faced the difficult task of reconciling the mounting tensions between societal rights for security and individual's rights to freedom of religion. In the time remaining, I should like to briefly review four particular decisions the Supreme Court of Canada rendered since the enactment of the Charter in 1982. I hope to advance the argument that a proper understanding of freedom of religion can serve the right to security through the reasonable accommodation of religious freedom. To the extent that one's freedom of religion does not harm others or jeopardize public safety, religious acceptance and tolerance can, in the end, foster security.
Freedom of religion, as honourable senators know, is entrenched by section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada, and thus my first case to cite, provided a seminal interpretation of religious freedom in R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., in 1985. The case involved a constitutional challenge to the Lord's Day Act, which prohibited retail trade on Sundays unless provincial law provided otherwise. In concluding that the legislation violated freedom of religion due to its coercive effect, the Supreme Court of Canada stated — and I quote:
. . . the essence of the concept of freedom of religion is the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination.
However, the court also held that freedom of religion may be limited when it causes harm to others. In particular, the freedom was stated to be — and I quote:
. . . subject to limitations as are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedom of others.
There have been notable decisions since R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd. In 1986, the case of Ross v. New Brunswick School District No. 15, a case on which I worked, involved a teacher who was disseminating anti-Semitic works and making anti-Semitic statements outside the classroom. The Supreme Court upheld the teacher's right to express his opinions based on the sincerity of his beliefs and found that his freedom of religion had been violated when he was deprived of his post. However, the court restricted the scope of the teacher's freedom of religion and expression through its analysis under section 1 of the Charter, which allows rights and freedoms to be subject to such reasonable limits as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
In the case of Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem in 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right of orthodox Jews to construct succahs on their condominium balconies for the purposes of fulfilling a practice of dwelling in small and enclosed temporary huts during annual religious festivals, but with limitations.
More recently — my final case — reconciling individual freedom of religion with collective safety or security is Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, rendered in March of 2006. That was the case of the student with the kirpan.
In summary, these four decisions of the Supreme Court demonstrate the way in which religious freedom must be reconciled with other rights or may be restricted where its unlimited recognition would undermine the security of others. As first enunciated in Big M Drug Mart, freedom of religion is subject to limitations as are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. In the Ross case, the teacher was precluded from holding a teaching post, as his anti-Semitic views harmed the students in his classroom. Even in the Amselem and Multani decisions, religious freedom was not absolute, and factors relating to safety and security were considered. Mr. Singh Multani had already agreed to certain conditions in being allowed to wear his kirpan, such as ensuring that it was worn under his clothes, carried in a wooden rather than a metal sheath, and was securely wrapped and sewn to prevent it from falling out or being taken by another student. The co-owners in the Amselem case had undertaken to set up their succahs in such a way that they would not block doors, obstruct fire lanes or otherwise pose a threat to safety or security.
In Multani, the Supreme Court of Canada assigned an important role to schools in the transmission of Charter values. It stated that if the school in question were to completely ban kirpans, it would — and I quote:
. . . stifle the promotion of values such as multiculturalism, diversity, and the development of an educational culture respectful of the rights of others.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is the honourable senator asking for more time?
Senator Cools: Agreed.
Senator Comeau: Five minutes.
Senator Cools: As much as he needs!
Senator Corbin: Same rights!
Senator Comeau: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, as stated in the February 2007 report of the Special Senate Committee on the Anti-Terrorism Act, the targeting of individuals based on race, religion or ethnicity does not enhance Canada's anti-terrorism goals; rather, it leads to the deterioration of government-community relationships. If certain communities believe they are unfairly targeted by our criminal laws, they may be less likely to interact with police and security intelligence agencies in order to share information regarding actual terrorism.
All of this is to say that a society that promotes religious freedom to the greatest extent possible — that is, provided that the exercise of an individual's freedom does not harm others — is likely to be a safe and secure society. If, for example, succahs are seen annually by neighbours as part of a religious festival or kirpans are valued as a religious symbol by schools and inevitably students, familiarity and respect will replace fear and mistrust — the latter being at the root of many threats to our safety and security. By accommodating and promoting religious diversity, curtailing intolerant religious speech where it harms others and ensuring that our laws do not disproportionately target members of certain religious groups, Canadian society is able to protect both religious freedom and collective security. Given 25 years of the Charter, our courts, our legislators and our policy-makers have the capacity and responsibility to reconcile valid competing human rights claims in order to recognize each of them as fully possible.
Honourable senators, I am confident that Canada and Canadians, with the support of distinguished parliamentarians such as all present in this chamber, will continue to grow our freedom.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: I should like to ask Senator Kinsella a question, if I may. It is more than a question. I want to acknowledge —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: The table indicates that Senator Kinsella has time for one question.
Senator Cools: This was more in line of an expression of appreciation, in that Senator Kinsella is one of the last members of this place who played an active role around the events in 1982 in repatriation and in the Charter. I thought I should draw that to the attention of honourable senators and to thank Senator Kinsella for his contribution in that period of time.
On motion of Senator Joyal, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Murray, P.C., calling the attention of the Senate to issues concerning the faithful and exemplary service to Canada, during his entire adult lifetime, of the late Honourable Howard Charles Green of British Columbia. —(Honourable Senator Stratton)
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, this inquiry has been standing in my name for some time. I was reminded by Senator Murray today that it is day 15, and I would like to speak to it. Therefore, with the permission of the chamber, I would like to speak to it in the next couple of days.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire, pursuant to notice of March 29, 2007, moved:
That the Senate call on the Government of Canada to take a leading role in the reinvigoration of the urgent matter of nuclear disarmament in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the Preparatory Committee Meetings scheduled to convene April 30 to May 11, 2007 in Vienna which act as a prelude to the next Treaty Review Conference in 2010; and
That the Senate urge the Government of Canada to take a global leadership role in the campaign of eradicating the dire threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons.
He said: Honourable senators, may I first, before introducing the subject, recognize that in the gallery we still have our ex-colleague Senator Roche and representatives of non-governmental organizations who are involved in the efforts to eliminate the use of nuclear weapons. They have demonstrated an enormous amount of patience, and I applaud them and thank them for staying on and demonstrating that perseverance as we have an opportunity to discuss and present this motion.
I present this motion in regard to non-nuclear proliferation and, ultimately, the eradication of the use of nuclear weapons. Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and I consider the presence and use of nuclear weapons to be an aberration of human rights. It is also the fiftieth anniversary of the Pugwash movement to control and, ultimately, eradicate the use of nuclear weapons, so it is in that atmosphere that I would like to present this motion.
Nuclear weapons are the most extreme, massive violation of human rights imaginable. These weapons of mass destruction are immoral, indiscriminate, and they violate the right of every human being to basic peace and security.
In its advisory opinion in 1996, the International Court of Justice ruled unanimously that the threat or use of nuclear weapons "would generally be contrary" to humanitarian and other international law regulating the conduct of warfare and that states have a legal obligation to disarm.
Only nuclear weapons can kill hundreds of millions of people in a few hours and potentially bring about the end of life on our planet, and we discussed Kyoto. Contrary to popular propaganda, it is the nature of these weapons themselves that is evil and not certain peoples who may acquire them. Any possession of weapons designed to cause the massive annihilation of human beings is wrong and cannot be made right by specious arguments regarding deterrence. We have reached the point where no single state can operate alone; we must work together to create global security and to prevent global destruction.
The public of Canada and around the world are grossly uninformed as to the dire situation we all face, which has been compared to being asleep at the controls of a fast moving aircraft that is running rapidly out of fuel. Each day we are threatened with 27,000 nuclear weapons; approximately 2,500 of these are capable of being fired in less than 30 minutes. The number of nuclear-capable states is in danger of increasing well beyond eight or nine, and the potential exists for many regional nuclear arms races.
More than 30 countries, including Canada, are members of alliances that rely on nuclear weapons as part of their security.
The North Korean nuclear test of October 9, 2006, uncertainty concerning Iran's nuclear program, proposed modernization of nuclear weapons at extensive costs and the threat of nuclear terrorism pose new security challenges to us all.
The nuclear non-proliferation regime created in 1970 is in danger due to the following: a failed 2005 review conference — they are held every five years; states that possess nuclear weapons or who refuse to sign the treaty; the 2006 United States-India nuclear deal, which permits India to produce more nuclear weapons; and, a denial by nuclear weapons states to honour their legal obligations to reduce and eliminate their nuclear arsenals, essentially to disarm in the nuclear sense. We are poised precariously on the precipice of a frightening cascade of nuclear weapons proliferation.
At the end of January this year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced the hand of its doomsday clock to five minutes to nuclear midnight due to the increased potential of accidental or intentional nuclear exchange. Leading scientists around the globe agree that a nuclear incident is inevitable through deliberate acts or accident. We have narrowly escaped nuclear Holocaust on several occasions due to computer or human error in the past, and trust me when I state that.
Bipartisan, distinguished American cold warriors such as Mr. Schultz, Mr. Perry, Mr. Kissinger and even Mr. Nunn have recently made 180-degree turns and now cry out against the myth of nuclear deterrence and plead for abolition of "the world's most suicidal, genocidal and ecocidal weapons" systems. The moral weight of the Nobel Peace Laureates has been applied recently to an international appeal calling for the reduction of nuclear threat. The warning signs are all there.
The world has finally become aware of the threat humans pose to the environment. There are inherent links between the environment and nuclear weapons. Without global security, it is simply impossible to achieve the cooperation that must exist between countries to remedy environmental problems. Scientists agree that a single, isolated nuclear accident could cause irreversible damage to our already fragile climate. If we do not take action immediately, it may become impossible to correct environmental problems. The world must recognize right now the threat that nuclear weapons pose to the survival of humanity, and to what extent the environment could be permanently destroyed by the use of these weapons. What is more, these weapons are not free.
Since the end of the Cold War, some $12 billion has been spent on developing technology that is powerful enough to blow up our planet several times over. This disgraceful and immoral waste of global resources continues to escalate today. Countries that already have nuclear weapons want to modernize them. To what end? Consider how these funds could be used to promote peace and security around the world, if only they were used to feed, educate, care for and create jobs for the less fortunate.
What steps should we be taking? What tools do we have at our disposal? A nuclear non-proliferation treaty — the last, best hope the world has of eliminating the nuclear nightmare — is within reach. The Non-Proliferation Treaty is the most powerful international treaty. In October 2006, the UN General Assembly voted 168 to 4 in favour of abolishing nuclear weapons.
Canada must take a leadership role at the Non-Proliferation Treaty preparatory committee meetings to be held in Vienna from April 30 to May 11, in order to champion not proliferation, but eradication, which is covered by this treaty.
Recently, attention has focussed on the threat of proliferation, to the point where people have forgotten the crucial issue of nuclear disarmament. In the treaty, these two issues are inextricably linked. States that do not possess nuclear weapons have agreed not to acquire any, although they still have the right to use peaceful, civilian applications of nuclear technology such as nuclear energy and medicine, whereas states that do possess nuclear weapons have agreed to eliminate their nuclear arsenal. Nevertheless, we are modernizing our nuclear weapons.
Non-proliferation requires disarmament. We have to continue to exert pressure so that states possessing nuclear weapons comply with both aspects of the treaty and, in due course, keep the promise they made more than 35 years ago to disarm. Canada must urge all the other non-nuclear-weapon states to adopt and implement the additional protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which today constitutes the benchmark for monitoring compliance with the treaty.
Inspections must be carried out, and states that violate the terms of the treaty must be condemned and held to account before the international community. I suggest that we must negotiate the abolition of nuclear weapons by means of a convention like the treaties against land mines and chemical and biological weapons. The treaty simply does not go far enough. It lacks the teeth to enforce the basic expression of our human right to security: disarmament and the destruction of nuclear weapons. It does not prohibit outright the possession of nuclear weapons and makes no reference to their legality. This is not covered in the treaty.
Most member states of the United Nations are calling for immediate negotiations on a convention on nuclear weapons that would ban the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat and even the ultimate use of nuclear weapons. No physical or financial obstacle is preventing us, within a decade or less, from freeing the world from the man-made scourge of nuclear weapons. The only things lacking are moral leadership and political will.
Why does Canada, as a middle power that does not have any nuclear weapons, not take this leadership role and initiate the process to abolish and eliminate these nuclear weapons? In my opinion, we should intensify our efforts to ensure the coming into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and thereby prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and a possible arms race. Some 177 countries have signed the treaty, but 10 more must ratify it for it to come into force. A treaty banning the production of fissile material for the purposes of weapons production must be negotiated without delay.
Have we really allowed the situation between the United States and India to get to a point where these two countries have ultimately agreed to allow India to increase its stockpile of nuclear weapons and, in doing so, create an arms race in another area of the world that is extremely sensitive to any sort of conflict?
We must intensify our campaign to decrease the alert level of the nuclear arsenal in the United States and Russia and to eliminate the option of launch-on-alert policies in nuclear war plans. This launch-on-alert option determines, in a matter of five minutes, whether the enemy threat of using nuclear weapons is legitimate or not. If the threat is legitimate and real, nuclear weapons are deployed before the enemy nuclear weapons can neutralize them.
We must also encourage all the nuclear powers to adopt non-use policies regarding non-nuclear-weapon states. Why is there such urgency when the Cold War is over? Or is there another war we are unaware of and for which these nuclear stockpiles absolutely must be maintained and updated at a cost of billions of dollars?
Especially since the procurement policies of countries with nuclear weapons accommodate processes for creating new, sophisticated, more effective nuclear weapons, if we can look at it that way. It is brazen hypocrisy to ask other countries to give up their nuclear weapons and to forego purchasing others when these weapons are given greater prominence in one's own security policies. The modernization of nuclear weapons for offensive purposes is quite simply scandalous. It is just incredible that the five permanent members of the Security Council are major users and owners of nuclear weapons. They do not see that it would be useful to promote the treaty to eliminate the use of nuclear weapons and, therefore, these weapons continue to be improved.
We should stop supporting the nuclear policies of NATO, which are incompatible with our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On the one hand, we are against nuclear weapons and we say so. On the other hand, we are a member of an organization with a treaty based on the availability of nuclear weapons. There is actually an intolerable contradiction between our commitments under the treaty and our membership in an alliance which gives such importance to nuclear weapons in its security policies.
In the post-Cold War world, there is no longer any reason to state that nuclear weapons play a vital role within the alliance.
The nuclear disarmament field is not an easy one in which to work. There is an almost pathological reaction to such a horrific topic, which is, in fact, denial. It is this riddle that can only be overcome with the help of the brave people in the NGO community who have worked selflessly for countless hours, years and, in some cases, decades to save civilization from this weapon of self-destruction.
On behalf of all Canadians, I salute Senator Roche and his colleagues for their ongoing work and for making us aware of the fact that we are living with that threat not only to our security but also to our fundamental ability to live on this planet, for the planet itself is at risk.
What is the way ahead? There is an exciting international campaign underway this month to promote global awareness of the dire threat to humanity by nuclear weapons. I am a proud endorser of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and I am excited at working with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Mayors for Peace in their attempt to educate a new generation of people about the true nature of nuclear weapons.
I firmly believe that Canada's youth are best suited to be the leading advocates of change. We need to demonstrate that a nuclear weapons-free world is not only within our grasp but is also absolutely essential for our common survival. Nuclear weapons are not an essential requirement of security in this era.
The Canadian launch of ICANw will be announced on April 30. Their website, www.icanw.org, indicates a number of ways that each and every Canadian can participate to make a real difference.
Honourable senators, let me remind you of a bit of history and bring you to the current time with Pugwash, a great little fishing town in Nova Scotia. The Pugwash Conferences on Sciences and World Affairs was founded 50 years ago at the height of the Cold War. In 1957, Canadian industrialist Cyrus Eaton, inspired by the 1955 manifesto of Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, brought scientists from East and West together to his summer home in the village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia.
In 1995, the Pugwash movement and its founder, Sir Joseph Rotblat, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their significant contributions toward the goal of nuclear disarmament.
From July 5 to 7 this summer, the Pugwash Peace Exchange, the Canadian Pugwash Group and the Pugwash Park Commission are celebrating the importance of this piece of Canadian history at Thinker's Lodge in Pugwash, Nova Scotia. They are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the efforts to move this world to a sane plane of nuclear disarmament.
The Middle Powers Initiative, MPI, chaired by Senator Douglas Roche, a former Canadian disarmament ambassador, is a key group of non-governmental organizations that works with middle power governments — of which we are not an insignificant one — to encourage nuclear weapons states to disarm. This July, MPI and Pugwash are co-sponsoring an international conference on revitalizing nuclear disarmament. Would it not be interesting to bring the 1960s "ban the bomb" effort into the modern era?
The Pugwash Peace Exchange is establishing an international peace centre on this hallowed Canadian ground where people of all ages, from all walks of life, and from all corners of the world can come to learn about peace and how they can make a difference. I am very proud to be the honorary patron of this organization, and I am excited to be taking part in these festivities.
To conclude, at the heart of this matter is the frank realization that we must invent a new kind of global security, one not based on erroneous concepts of deterrence which only serve to augment our mutual lack of security. Increasingly, our individual actions have global consequences and only a global solution can possibly extricate us from this horrible predicament of having the ability to literally eliminate ourselves.
In the words of Martin Luther King:
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation.
We must all learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
I have seen with my own eyes genocide by machete. Although the machete would certainly not be perceived as a weapon of mass destruction, in 100 days it was able to kill 800,000 people. Imagine what nuclear genocide would look like. Any peace based upon the threat of genocide is an immoral bastardization of the concept of peace.
Honourable senators, we have reached a fork in the road of humanity. One path leads to certain apocalypse, the other to a peaceful cooperative world. Let Canada, this leading middle power, blaze the trail down the road of a sustainable future by respecting human rights and doing all in our power to eliminate, to eradicate, to destroy nuclear weapons.
I am not an alarmist. I am a soldier, conscious of the capabilities and the vulnerabilities of those systems. This is the number one threat to the future of mankind. In the past, my warnings have fallen on deaf ears, with tragic results in Africa. I implore each and every person who hears my words today to take them to heart and to learn more, and to take action on the fact that we are more vulnerable to self-destruction in this era than we were in an era that we considered very dangerous, that is, the Cold War.
One advantage of our technological age is that people can make their political voices heard and governments have no choice but to listen or fall. Significant expressions of public concern, both in quality and quantity, can spur governments to increase funding and take actions in response. Our time is running out. The nuclear arms race can have no winner but will lead to the loss of all that we cherish. The very future of our children, grandchildren and the not-yet-born swings in the balance. Surely our destructive capability will not overcome our desire to live, love and prosper. Disarmament is the litmus test of our humanity. We cannot afford to fail in this era. We must not fail, for we are committing genocide upon ourselves.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, we are almost at six o'clock. I will take the occasion to make one or two brief preliminary remarks, after which, with your indulgence, I shall propose the adjournment of the debate and return to it on another day.
Let me join with Senator Dallaire in greeting our old friend Senator Douglas Roche. Senator Roche served through five Parliaments, I believe, as an elected member of the House of Commons and through several Parliaments here in the Senate. Between times he was, as Senator Dallaire noted, Canada's ambassador for disarmament, in which capacity his passionate commitment and advocacy at home and abroad to the cause of nuclear disarmament is well-remembered and well-respected and appreciated.
I want to thank Senator Dallaire for bringing this motion forward. It could not be more timely. This is a cause that desperately needs now a strong injection of new intellectual and political energy, and I will argue that there is a terrific opportunity and responsibility for Canada, and for the present government of Canada in the present circumstances, to take the leadership on this matter, if it chooses to do so.
We have moved on from the days when we had a Cold War standoff between the two superpowers with the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. There was some strategic coherence or rationale to that doctrine, but as we were reminded by the former cabinet secretaries, — Kissinger, Schultz and Perry — and former Senator Nunn in the declaration to which Senator Dallaire referred, that doctrine is obsolete and we are now perhaps arguably in a situation far more dangerous than we knew even during the Cold War.
I do not have the military or defence policy background of Senator Dallaire, but I will argue the case for an injection of new energy and especially of political will in this country and elsewhere, for it has been political in the past. Any reading of history tells us that political will has been the prime contributing factor whenever we have been able to make progress in this world on arms control and disarmament.
With those few remarks, honourable senators, and with your indulgence, I will propose the adjournment of the debate.
On motion of Senator Murray, debate adjourned.
The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, April 18, 2007, at 1:30 p.m.