Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, issues of religious
intolerance have emerged in surprising places like Switzerland and Denmark with
political posters and cartoons. I was honoured, therefore, to be invited back to
Denmark last week to be the keynote speaker at the European Conference on
Diversity through Equality in Public Administration in Europe, which took place
from October 17 to October 19 in Copenhagen.
The State Employer's Authority in Denmark hosted the conference in
partnership with the joint European Public Administration Network and trade
union delegations. The conference had a twofold agenda: strategic discussions
for future challenges in diversity and equality in Europe, and exchanging
experiences to develop better methods for designing public policies on
In attendance at the Copenhagen conference were some 300 delegates,
representing 25 countries in Europe. I was honoured to explain how many of
Canada's successful diversity policies may serve them as a model and guide in
developing their own diversity programs.
I was struck by the differences and similarities in the debates and views on
diversity and integration that are occurring on both sides of the Atlantic. I
told them as a non-European observer, their debates left an impression that
diversity and immigration are still largely viewed by Europeans — and especially
those in homogenous societies — as a threat or a problem, rather than an
economic solution or a plus for society.
I proudly explained how Canada now welcomes more than 250,000 immigrants a
year, which is more than any other developed nation. I then outlined four
factors that were essential to Canada's successful diversity model.
First, Canada's multiculturalism policy, adopted in the 1970s, helped to
assist different ethnic groups in our society.
Second, the policies and legislation that gave more emphasis to promoting
citizenship and that supported individual and human rights. These are contained
in three important statutes, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the
Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act.
Third, education promotes the concept of zero tolerance for racial
discrimination, and that teaches respect for the individual, diversity and for
minority rights. Many schools have incorporated lessons of cultural tolerance
into their curriculum. Pat Clark, who heads up the social justice program for
the B.C. Teachers Federation, said:
What we try to teach is what kids have in common rather than the
differences between them, to respect differences and to find similarities.
Finally, honourable senators, I said effective political leadership is needed
to make integration and respect for minority and individual rights a priority.
Canada's success or failure in fully integrating young immigrants into our
society today will be a harbinger of Canada's tomorrow. The Canadian values
study, conducted in 2005 by the Dominion Institute, determined:
. . . multiculturalism has gone from a state policy to a bona fide,
embraced Canadian value.
Canada's ethnic diversity was cited more than any other factor as the
characteristic that makes Canadians unique. Canadian values can only be truly
effective if they are embraced by our leaders.
Canada's new government embraces these views. Consider, for example, what
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said during a speech to the United Nations' urban
forum in Vancouver in June 2006:
Canada's diversity, properly nurtured, is our greatest strength.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, today I would like to
highlight a great example of collaboration between the Government of Manitoba
and the Government of Canada on francophone economic development. The
investment, announced on September 7, 2007, will fund projects for three
Manitoba organizations: CDEM, the Economic Development Council for Manitoba
Bilingual Municipalities, Entreprises Riel and ANIM, the new Agence nationale et
internationale du Manitoba.
ANIM's goal is to use French to open the doors to trade relationships in
domestic and foreign markets. It aims to develop business ties with France,
Belgium and Tunisia. It also plans on pursuing trade relationships with the
province of Quebec, something which up until now, had never officially been
done. The organization has a three-part mandate to put francophone Manitoba on
the map, initiate trade and encourage business immigration.
I would like to wish CDEM, Entreprises Riel and ANIM success with the many
innovative projects they are undertaking. It is very important to ensure that
these projects receive long-term funding so that they can carry on their work.
These organizations enable francophones in Manitoba to create their own
French space and to make francophone communities in Manitoba known throughout
Canada and the world.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, on September 6 the world
lost one of its most beloved and celebrated tenors with the death of Luciano
Pavarotti at the age of 71. Pavarotti, who brought opera to the people, was born
in Modena, Italy, in 1935, the son of a baker and a cigar factory worker. As a
child, he listened to opera recordings, singing along with tenor stars of a
previous era. His first professional breakthrough as a tenor came in 1961, and
his international career began in 1963. In a career spanning almost 50 years, he
was known for his signature white handkerchief and beautiful male operatic
voice. Known in his heyday as the "King of the High Cs," Pavarotti also
performed with pop superstars such as Sting, Michael Jackson, Bono, Elton John
and Canada's own Bryan Adams and Celine Dion. As a member of the Three Tenors
with Plácido Domingo and José Carreras, Pavarotti won the hearts of millions
with his charismatic charm. Their album, The 3 Tenors in Concert, is the
best-selling classical album of all time. He married twice and has four
daughters. As one of the few opera singers to win crossover fame as a popular
superstar, Pavarotti will be missed the world over.
Hon. Percy Downe: Honourable senators, 50 years ago, in October 1957,
one of the greatest Canadians, Lester B. Pearson, was awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize. Mr. Pearson, who had an outstanding career in foreign affairs prior to
winning the Nobel Prize, is remembered with great affection by Canadians today
for his work in creating peacekeeping units to protect unstable areas in the
On October 12, 1957, the CBC reported that a telegram was sent from Norway to
inform Mr. Pearson that he had won the Nobel Prize. It was delivered to the
wrong house. Hours later, a reporter called Mr. Pearson to interview him on
winning this award and that was the first time Mr. Pearson heard that he had won
the Nobel Prize. Indeed, 50 years ago, communications were much slower and Mr.
Pearson was unaware that he had even been nominated. He was quoted in the media
as being "thunderstruck and overwhelmed."
Mr. Pearson was the former President of the United Nations General Assembly
and former Secretary of State for External Affairs of Canada. As all honourable
senators are aware, his Nobel Prize was awarded for his outstanding work
resolving the Suez Canal crisis in 1956. To reduce the increasing violence
between Israel, France and the United Kingdom against Egypt, Mr. Pearson
proposed that a UN emergency force be founded to act as a buffer between the two
The Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson is remembered today by Canadians not
only for his noble prize, but also as one of the best prime ministers in the
history of Canada. His name lives on at our largest airport, at the national
headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and at various schools, in
permanent recognition of his service to Canada and to the world. Well done, Mr.
Pearson. Well done.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I wish to recognize two
exceptional young men from the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. Travis Price and
David Shepherd are grade 12 students at Central Kings Rural High School in
Cambridge, Nova Scotia, who witnessed a grade 9 student being threatened and
bullied for wearing a pink shirt on his first day of school.
Honourable senators, these young men were sick and tired of these
all-too-common displays of intimidation in their school and decided to take
action. David and Travis did not confront the bully directly but, rather,
decided to include the entire student body to support each other and,
ultimately, to create an atmosphere in the school where bullies would not feel
comfortable or welcome. They did not want this aggressive and intimidating
behaviour to be tolerated any longer.
Their plan was inspired and simple. They hoped to have as many students at
Central Kings Rural High School as possible wear pink shirts in a show of
solidarity against bullying in their school. They went out and collected as many
pink T-shirts and tank tops as they could find and brought them to school the
next day. Within minutes they ran out of the 100 or so shirts that they were
able to collect. The support from students and staff was overwhelming.
The Pink Shirts for Peaceful Schools movement caught on like wildfire, and
local stores and shops in the area ran out of pink tank tops and T-shirts. Calls
started coming in from other schools in the province, across the country, the
United States and all over the globe expressing interest in taking part in the
pink movement within their own schools.
The movement has also spread outside of schools and into communities. Even
Nova Scotia's premier showed his support by wearing a pink tie and using a pink
pen when declaring the second Thursday of the school year as Stand Up Against
I wish to express my congratulations to the students of Central Kings Rural
High School for their show of support for their fellow classmates, and
especially to David and Travis for making such a big difference with their act
of courage. Their actions have been an inspiration to many.
Hon. Bert Brown: Honourable senators, I should like to thank those of
you who have extended good wishes to me. I have received some very flattering
notes, even from some members across the aisle. I am learning as I go, having
been here for only one week.
Senator Prud'homme said that he had debated my philosophy with me in the past
and should like the opportunity to do so again. In the Parliamentary Restaurant
last week, I spoke to Senator Adams as he sat in an alcove. He said that there
is an alcove in the dining room reserved for senators of my persuasion and
another reserved for senators of the Liberal persuasion. I should like to sit in
that alcove when I can, and I invite members of this chamber to debate me there,
as Senator Prud'homme wishes to do.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I was in Washington
last week to take part in a conference on children affected by wars and children
who are caught in the crossfire of drug wars.
For me, a high point of the conference was the presence of a number of
members of Congress and democratic candidates, as well as the Speaker of the
House of Representatives, who spoke forcefully on the need to eradicate the use
of children in war.
Honourable senators, another high point was the presence of Goldie Hawn — who
gave me a kiss following my speech. I raise this point because the entertainment
world is becoming more and more involved in humanitarian and international
affairs, and should be encouraged to pursue such activities aggressively. I am
not sure we would want all celebrities to become involved in these affairs, but
a majority of them could participate in encouraging the youth of our nations to
participate in such actions.
The subject of nuclear disarmament was raised at the conference. It is
interesting that youth are now particularly interested in the existence of the
27,000 nuclear weapons that can destroy the whole of humanity.
Honourable senators, I invite you to join with Senator Roche in Room 216N
this afternoon as he launches his most recent book on nuclear disarmament.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw to your
attention the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Mustapha Mechahouri,
royal emissary to the Prime Minister of Canada. He is accompanied by His
Excellency, Mr. Mohamed Tangi, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to Canada.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next
sitting of the Senate, I will move:
WHEREAS the Canadian public has never been consulted on the structure of
its government (Crown, Senate and House of Commons)
AND WHEREAS there has never been a clear and precise expression by the
Canadian public on the legitimacy of the Upper House, since the
constitutional agreement establishing its existence
AND WHEREAS a clear and concise opinion might be obtained by putting the
question directly to the electors by means of a referendum
THAT the Senate urge the Governor in Council to obtain by means of a
referendum, pursuant to section 3 of the Referendum Act, the opinion
of the electors of Canada on whether the Senate should be abolished; and
THAT a message be sent to the House of Commons requesting that House to
unite with the Senate for the above purpose.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I have read the comments of the Minister Responsible for the Status of
Women, the Honourable Josée Verner. I was surprised, as was Ms. Michèle Asselin,
president of the Fédération des femmes du Quebec, that the minister referred to
the comments on the Throne Speech by women's groups in Canada — who were very
disappointed — and made thinly veiled threats that she would cut funding to
these Canadian women's organizations.
My question for the Leader of the Government is as follows: Will the minister
inform her colleague that the work of these Quebec women's groups is important,
that they need support and that, in a democratic society, they have the right to
express their opinion on any subject being discussed in Parliament?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. I am not aware
of the statement of Minister Verner to which she refers. As I have said many
times in this place, the government believes in the full participation of women
in Canadian society, and we will continue to support women through programs that
are managed effectively.
Budget 2007 provided the new, refocused Women's Programs at Status of Women
Canada with an annual budget of $15.3 million, which is the highest budget in
the history of Status of Women Canada. Obviously, all Canadians, whether they
are women or men, are totally free to speak their minds on any subject. That is
the nature of being Canadian.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In
light of polls that indicate weak support among women for the Conservative
option, will the minister do as I suggested last week and ask for more money for
various programs, such as the literacy program?
Also, will the minister speak up for the Court Challenges Program?
Apparently, this program was eliminated because some of the provinces had
concerns about it.
Will the Leader of the Government ensure that her colleague in cabinet, Ms.
Josée Verner, understands how critical these programs are for women who want to
exercise their rights? The right to equality is assured only when we can be
certain that this right is respected, even if one must sometimes go to court.
These programs are vital to ensuring equality for women in this country.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I will make her views known to my
colleague, Minister Verner. In her question, the honourable senator made
reference to a belief that the polls show that women do not support this
government. I would argue to the contrary. Among women I have met, particularly
senior women, many issues this government is pursuing are of great interest. At
the top of the list, if people were to talk to their constituents, women are
concerned about the whole issue of crime, youth crime, drugs and gangs. They are
also concerned about their own safety and that of their families.
The blanket statement that women do not support this government is not borne
out in the polls. It is the view of a few, particularly Susan Delacourt of the
Toronto Star, who has her favourite pollsters she likes to talk to that
further her interests in this area. Many people will refute that view.
As a woman, as a member of Mr. Harper's cabinet and as a member of this side
of the house, I do not and would not condone any belief that those of us that
happen to be women on this side are less interested than any other woman in
Parliament in issues of concern to women.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, in the Speech from the Throne, the government stated:
Our Government supports Canada's linguistic duality. It will renew its
commitment to official languages in Canada by developing a strategy for the
next phase of the Action Plan for Official Languages.
However, some things were conspicuously absent from the speech, such as
reinstating the Court Challenges Program, which is an important tool and
essential to the evolution of the rights of official language minority
communities. Can the minister tell us why the federal government ignored the
Commissioner of Official Languages' recommendations and failed to take this
opportunity to reinstate the Court Challenges Program?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. I
have answered this question in the previous session of Parliament. We, as a
government, take this issue seriously. Our government is deeply committed to
Canada's two official languages. We have announced $110 million in funding
related to the four hundredth anniversary of Quebec City this coming year. We
look forward to next year's twelfth Francophonie summit, which, if my memory
serves me correctly, was started under a Conservative government. As I have said
before, during our first 100 days in office we concluded multi-year educational
agreements with provinces and territories worth in excess of $1 billion, as well
as enhanced agreements on service delivery with 12 of the 13 provinces and
Budget 2007 invested $30 million for official language minority communities,
for community centres and cultural and after-school activities. This is on top
of the $642 million over five years provided in the Action Plan for Official
With regard to specific programs, as I have said before, our government has
embarked on new programs and we have made a decision as a government to pursue
these programs. In no way does this diminish programs of previous governments,
but we have new programs in this area that I believe are working extremely well.
Senator Tardif: With all due respect, I have to say that the minister
did not really answer the question.
I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Yellowknife this past
weekend. The people from the Association franco-ténoise told me that because the
program no longer exists, they will have to mortgage their homes to raise the
money they need to go to court in order to defend their rights.
Does the minister believe that it is an acceptable situation in our country
when people cannot defend their rights?
Senator LeBreton: I am not familiar with the exact cases to which the
honourable senator refers; however, since Senator Tardif mentions the North, in
September, Minister Verner signed an agreement with the Yukon government to
support French-language services and announced funding for the Federation of
Francophonie and Acadian Communities. On October 5, Minister Clement announced
$4.5 million for access to health care services for official languages minority
communities. These are examples of measures this government is taking to support
our minority languages.
Hon. Tommy Banks: My question, which is somewhat extemporaneous, is to
the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Earlier today, I went over to greet
and welcome back Senator Cools, who I thought was seated temporarily at a desk,
but I found that her name is printed there. Can the leader please tell
honourable senators whether Senator Cools is now a member of the Conservative
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for his question, but as
honourable senators know I answer questions in this place on behalf of the
government and Senator Bank's question is not one that I am in any position to
answer on behalf of the government.
Senator Banks: Honourable senators, I do not quite understand;
therefore, I shall try to reword my question. The minister, as I understand it,
is the Leader of the Conservative Party in the Senate. I believe that members of
this house are interested, and I would have thought entitled, to know the
political affiliation of members of this place. Do I understand from the
leader's answer that that is not so?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I cannot answer Senator Bank's
question. I am not responsible for the designation of senators in this place. I
believe, in the case of Senator Cools, the matter was already dealt with by our
caucus chair, Senator Tkachuk. With regard to the political affiliation of
Senator Cools, perhaps the question would be better addressed to her.
Hon. James S. Cowan: Last week, I asked the Leader of the Government
in the Senate when the government would be tabling the legislation necessary to
implement the arrangements that had been concluded between the Government of
Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. Her response was that I was mistaken
and that there is no legislation to be tabled. I indicated in the preamble to my
question that I had been advised by officials of the Government of Nova Scotia
that they were expecting such legislation.
The next day, Premier MacDonald of Nova Scotia, in response to questions in
Nova Scotia, is reported as having said that he insisted the agreement is solid
and that he is satisfied the federal government will follow through with its
promise by introducing legislation to implement the changes.
Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate take my question as notice
to confirm the accuracy or inaccuracy of the information provided to the Senate
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I have never
seen a group of people accept good news with such difficulty. As I have said
before, the Premier of Nova Scotia and the Prime Minister announced an agreement
resolving Nova Scotia's concerns related to the interpretation of the Atlantic
On October 10, Minister Flaherty exchanged formal letters with the Finance
Minister of Nova Scotia, Michael Baker, which outlined the details regarding the
recent agreement with the province. As I stated last week, Nova Scotia and
Newfoundland and Labrador, if they so choose, will be able to opt into either
the 2005 equalization formula or the new equalization formula. They may not
combine or stack the benefits of the two formulas.
The Atlantic accord benefits will be protected no matter which equalization
formula they choose. This resolution means both governments can now focus on
issues of common interest. Premier MacDonald said last week: "We have the
agreements in place and we're moving forward with that."
I also note that former Premier John Hamm expressed support for the
agreement. Minister Flaherty and Minister MacKay confirmed last week that work
is underway on technical amendments. I do not know and therefore cannot
speculate on the timetable.
Senator Cowan: Last week, in response to my question, the Leader of
the Government in the Senate said specifically that there will be no
legislation. I made no comment either last week or this week about the merits or
otherwise of the arrangements that have been concluded. I was simply asking
whether there would be legislation introduced into the Parliament of Canada to
implement the arrangements concluded. The leader said last week there would be
no legislation. I must have misunderstood. That is contrary to what the premier
has said. Is the position of the government that there will be no legislation or
there may be some technical amendments; which is it?
Senator LeBreton: I think I said there were no side deals.
An Hon. Senator: Those are your words.
Senator LeBreton: Since there seems to be confusion —
An Hon. Senator: Not unusual at all.
Senator LeBreton: — on the definition of technical amendments or the
specific belief that the honourable senator has, I will take the question as
Senator Cowan: In order to clarify, the words the minister used last
week were, "There is no legislation to be tabled." Is that an accurate
statement, or is it now being qualified?
Senator LeBreton: I said a moment ago that I will check the record and
take the question as notice.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I am in search of an
accurate statement from this government leader. I will begin by saying that this
government has not mastered very much, but it has mastered the art of ambiguity
and inaction when it comes to climate change. In the Throne Speech, the
government actually said that it supports a global regime with binding emissions
reductions targets. Why did the government spend the summer advocating across
the world, at the APEC meeting and other fora, for voluntary targets?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I will simply say to the honourable senator
that our government has taken many steps to improve Canada's environment. I do
not have to remind the honourable senator, because other people have, that after
many years of inaction we are prepared to take action. In Budget 2007, we
invested $4.5 billion in the environment, including funding for a national water
strategy, land conservation, improved environmental protection enforcement, the
Eco-Trust and Clean Air Fund, and cleaner transportation.
As a matter of fact, I was interested to read in the newspaper today that
Toyota and Pollution Probe have actually commented on the ecoAUTO program, and
they say it is working.
The government is making progress and people are generally supportive of the
initiatives the Prime Minister took at the G8, at the APEC summit in Sydney,
Australia, and also at the United Nations.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, it would be hard to say people
were supportive of what the Prime Minister did at the G8 because he did not
actually do anything. Voluntary targets are nothing.
Further, why has this government tied its climate-change wagon to that of the
current President of the United States — perhaps the least successful President
in U.S. history — who is without credibility on Kyoto and any number of other
issues throughout the world?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the fact is the initiatives
that this government has taken are just that, initiatives of this government.
Senator Mitchell is fixated on the matter of the President of the United States.
We have our own environmental programs. The Prime Minister took the lead at the
G8, in previous meetings with the European Union, in Australia at the APEC
meetings, and he went to New York and spoke specifically of Canada's work in
this area. He has also stated the obvious: In order to make serious changes to
deal with this issue, we must have the United States and other major polluting
countries, like India and China, at the table.
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. The present strength of the Canadian
dollar is something that has probably been unequalled since the 1960s. The
strength of our dollar has been well-received on both sides of the border. What
is the driving force behind this strong Canadian dollar?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I am actually
old enough to remember when the Canadian dollar was well above the U.S. dollar.
There are a number of factors behind the resurgence of our currency: Canada is
in very good shape; we are holding our place in the world; we are looked up to
in the world.
While I am not an economist, and I am certainly not an expert on why all of
this is happening, I will agree that the Canadian dollar is appreciating at a
very fast level. I am sure it is a situation of which all Canadians can be
proud, that we are in a country run by a good government. We have sound
financial footing and low unemployment.
Canada is a member of the global economy, and generally there is a positive
view in the world marketplace that Canada is an excellent place in which to do
business and invest.
A week or so ago, I read that some of the large financial operatives in the
world — that were gathered at economic meetings in New York — have also
attributed Canada's attractiveness to the greatly diminished threat of
separatism in this country.
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, this spring the Standing Senate
Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs reviewed Bill C-31, amending the
Canada Elections Act. Under this bill, electors are now required to present
proof of their identity and residential address at the polls to receive a
ballot. This amendment came, apparently, from the use of the two legal words,
"address" and "residence," in the bill.
Normally, a complete civic address, comprising a street number, street name,
town and province, is required to locate a residential address on a voter's list
in a polling division. Unfortunately, many electors in northern and rural areas
of Canada have either an incomplete or a non-civic address; or if they do have a
civic address, it is not found on their identification documents, making it
difficult for them to prove their residential address.
I understand that, at the national level, more than 1 million electors have
an incomplete or a non-civic address. In some 3,500 polls, more than 30 per cent
of the electors do not have a complete civic address. In the currently vacant
riding of Desnethé-Missinippe-Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan — in
fact, half of Saskatchewan — 71 per cent of the electors have a non-civic
address on the voting registry, and the government must soon call a by-election
in that riding.
Therefore, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to urge her
colleagues in the cabinet — and I am being completely non-political as this
matter is of importance to all parties — to solve this problem quickly so rural
Canadians have the same right to vote — so that their right to vote is not at
risk, as it presently is — in future elections.
If she can report back to the Senate, I would appreciate it. This issue is of
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank Senator Milne for her question. In the Throne Speech, I
believe there was reference to going back and further clarifying what is
required in terms of providing identification while voting.
I am well aware of the issue raised, in particular, the riding mentioned by
the honourable senator, the one in northern Saskatchewan, in the last election.
I believe there was a challenge. There was great confusion about the voter
turnout and the authenticity of some of the voting results. It is a serious
issue, I agree. I will take the honourable senator's question as notice.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Comeau, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Brown:
That the following Address be presented to Her Excellency the Governor
General of Canada:
To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Chancellor and
Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the
Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of
the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the Senate of Canada
in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your
Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to
both Houses of Parliament.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, it is a privilege for me
today to give the first Liberal response to the Speech from the Throne here in
First, I would like to thank Senators Comeau and Brown for moving and
seconding the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. Judging by their
speeches and the excellent questions raised to date by some of my colleagues, I
have no doubt that the coming debate will raise a number of issues concerning
the Conservative government's priorities.
Before I talk about the content of the Speech from the Throne, I would like
to say how impressed I was by the elegant way Her Excellency read the speech. I
have always had sincere admiration for the Governor General, and I am sure that
my comments will not be taken as an affront to Her Excellency. I have a problem
with the message of the Throne Speech, not the messenger, so to speak.
Last Tuesday's Throne Speech triumphantly declared four points upon which I
would like to comment:
Canadians now have more money in their pockets because taxes have been
cut. Families now have real choice in child care through the Universal Child
Care Benefit. Canadians now have a government committed to helping them get
the medical care they need more quickly . . .
The results are clear: the economy is strong, the government is clean and
the country is united.
Honourable senators, these claims are bold indeed. I suspect I am not the
only one in this chamber who felt indignation on behalf of Canadians for this
assault on our intelligence and collective memory.
Honourable senators, let me begin with the misleading assertion that
"Canadians now have more money in their pockets because taxes have been cut."
As Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion aptly noted last week, income taxes for the
lowest income tax bracket actually increased from 15 per cent to 15.5 per cent.
Sure, the Harper government lowered the GST by 1 per cent. Buyers of Porsches
and Rolexes saved a bundle of money. However, for the ordinary family buying
groceries, paying rent, making mortgage payments and paying tuition or child
care fees — items on which no GST is charged — not one cent of taxes was saved
with this GST reduction. It was a tax cut for the wealthy. This Harper
government has actually increased the income taxes paid by Canada's lowest
income earners. A new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development, OECD, shows that the effect of tax increases brought upon the
Canadian taxpayer by this government has completely negated the 1 per cent
reduction in the GST. The overall collective tax burden for Canadians has
remained exactly the same. In other words, honourable senators, the taxes saved
by those wealthy Canadians who bought Porsches and Rolexes were subsidized by
ordinary Canadians, including Canada's lowest income earners, through increased
I must question the policy decision to press on with another GST cut,
honourable senators. The government's lack of commitment to ordinary Canadians
is distressing. Instead of reducing the GST by another 1 per cent, perhaps the
Harper government should consider taking the $5 billion that 1 per cent of the
GST represents, and investing it in social programs, in restoring funding to
literacy programs and the Court Challenges Program or in creating real choices
in child care.
Honourable senators, despite the government's declaration to the contrary in
the Speech from the Throne, many Canadian families find themselves today with no
real choice in child care. According to the New Brunswick Child Care Coalition,
86 per cent of children in my province cannot access licensed child care.
Daycare costs often exceed the cost of housing and continue to remain
unaffordable to many families despite the title, Universal Child Care Benefit.
New Brunswick is said to have the poorest paid and poorest trained child care
workers in the country. Honourable senators, the Harper government's Universal
Child Care Benefit program does not provide families with a real choice. Rather,
it provides families, especially single-parent and low income families, with no
Honourable senators, turning to health care, this government tells us in the
Speech from the Throne that they are committed to reducing medical-care wait
times. Honourable senators, they have an odd way of demonstrating their
commitment. Scarcely anything is more important than the health of Canadians,
and yet health care is not listed in the Throne Speech as a priority. Just last
week, the Fraser Institute, not exactly a bastion of left-wing or liberal views,
released a study which found that wait times for Canadians seeking surgical or
other therapeutic treatment hit an all-time high of 18.3 weeks in 2007, up from
17.8 in 2006. Last Friday, the Ottawa Citizen featured an article
describing how a young Gatineau man had to wait 28 hours after being diagnosed
before finally finding a surgeon in Montreal to remove his burst appendix. I am
confident that this young man would agree when I say that this government should
consider giving the issue the attention it deserves, besides merely exclaiming
that they are committed to reducing wait times as though being committed is a
Today, honourable senators, many Canadians have less money in their pockets
because the government has increased their taxes. Canadians are facing
exorbitant prices for child care and long waiting lists to get a space, not to
mention the long waiting lists for health care, which have never been as long as
they have been since the Conservative government arrived. The Conservative
Party's 2006 election platform was called "Stand up for Canada" and its French
title could be rendered as "Let's have real change".
Honourable senators, Canadians did not realize that the real message was that
under a Conservative government, the more things change, the more they stay the
According to Mr. Harper, the results are clear: "The economy is strong, the
government is clean, and the country is united." The economy is strong, that is
true, but, as Mr. Dion pointed out last week in the other place,
The Conservative government inherited an unprecedented economic dynamism
thanks to the efforts of Canadians and to a decade of sound financial
management by the previous Liberal government . . .
Mr. Dion continued by saying that the Conservative government:
. . . has been content with just riding on this strong economy without
having any plans or convincing scheme to enhance our economy's potential.
As for the country being united, honourable senators, I respectfully suggest
that the Prime Minister make this statement in Newfoundland and Labrador,
Saskatchewan or Nova Scotia.
The existence of a piece of legislation they wish to call the Federal
Accountability Act does not entitle the Harper government to declare that it is
"clean." Public trust must be earned, and it has to be maintained.
Recently, the Conservative government has been under fire. Here I refer to
three independent investigations being conducted into questionable practices of
the Harper government: investigations by Elections Canada, investigations by the
Privacy Commissioner, and investigations by the Ontario Provincial Police.
Honourable senators, the irony that the architects of the Federal
Accountability Act should be mired in scandals is indeed tragic. What is sadder
still is the fact that instead of holding their actions to account, Mr. Harper
and his team in the other place choose to act like children in the schoolyard
and to engage in a shameful game of evasion, finger pointing and bullying.
To boast to the entire nation that the government is "clean" constitutes a
stunning exhibition of arrogance. Common sense and experience tells us that the
invitation to those without sin to cast the first stone is expected to be turned
down by a thoughtful people, but not by this government. This government proudly
casts its stones with seeming impunity, conveniently forgetting that it resides
in a glass house. I predict that history will make a mockery of this remarkable
Throughout the Speech from the Throne, the government repeats how committed
it is to the union crafted by the Fathers of Confederation and how it respects
constitutional institutions. However, it would appear that this respect and
commitment extend only so far as is convenient for the Harper government — only
so far as its uncompromising agenda will allow. I speak here of the issue of
parliamentary reform. Liberal senators are not against parliamentary reform; we
are against unconstitutional actions. The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs, after hearing from numerous constitutional law experts
and after hearing from numerous provinces, concluded that there were significant
constitutional concerns if the Senate proceeded to pass Bill S-4 without
consulting the provinces, as proposed by the government. The Senate agreed. We
decided that Bill S-4 should proceed to the Supreme Court of Canada to obtain a
ruling on the constitutionality of the proposed legislation.
Honourable senators, I fully expected to hear in the Speech from the Throne
that the government would convene a first ministers' meeting to discuss
proposals for parliamentary reform, but that is not what we heard in the Speech
from the Throne. To my astonishment, we learned that this Prime Minister plans
to ignore his constitutional partners, the provinces. Evidently, he has no
appetite to test his belief that the bill is constitutional, and he does not
plan to refer it to the Supreme Court of Canada. Honourable senators, what is
this Prime Minister afraid of? Why has he refused to convene even one first
ministers' meeting since forming the government nearly two years ago? Why does
he not wish to check the constitutionality of his bill in the Supreme Court? Is
this reluctance signalling the next campaign will be to discredit the
"unelected, undemocratic and appointed" Supreme Court justices?
Mr. Harper claims to take issue with the Senate because it is appointed. The
Prime Minister went so far as to ridicule this chamber and all honourable
senators — except Senator Brown — during his recent trip to Australia. I found
these comments to be denigrating, tactless and un-statesmanlike. It seemed to
have momentarily slipped the Prime Minister's mind that he was in Australia
representing Canada and all Canadians, not his "reformed" Conservative Party's
Does the Prime Minister show more respect for the House of Commons because it
is an elected house? Rather than hold a debate in the other place about the
future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, he preferred to appoint an expert
panel to decide the matter. He would reject the Kelowna accord rather than
implement a policy which resulted from 18 months of negotiations involving 147
participants, including representatives from 27 Aboriginal organizations,
members of the federal government, as well as senior officials from provincial
and territorial governments. He would rather see the government fall than be
willing to accept parliamentarians' amendments to the upcoming crime bill. Such
blatant disregard for the democratic process would be arrogant for a majority
government, let alone one that received a mandate from 23.5 per cent of eligible
voters in the last election.
I cannot help but wonder why certain issues were not mentioned in the Throne
Speech and identified as priorities by the government. I appreciate Senator
Murray's analogy of the Speech from the Throne as possibly being a Christmas
tree, but there are certainly many issues, honourable senators, that should have
been dealt with.
If I had had more time I would have liked to address a number of other
points: child care, health care, the responsibilities of government, the fight
against poverty, parliamentary reform and Canada's place in the world are not
the only problematic items in this Speech from the Throne.
I see that my time is nearly complete. I wonder if honourable senators would
provide me with two minutes to finish my summary?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Day: For example, honourable senators, Mr. Dion spoke at
length about how weak the environmental protection measures are in the Speech
from the Throne, in particular, the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol. He also
spoke about the future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. I am sure my Liberal
colleagues will address these and other topics in greater detail during the
Parliamentarians, as representatives of Canadians, have a responsibility to
do our best to look beyond party squabbles and to govern in the best interests
of all Canadians. This includes implementing an ambition plan to curb climate
change, aiding the reconstruction in Afghanistan, taking an active role in the
Darfur peace process, taking measures to ensure that Canada's economy remains
strong, and fighting poverty, inequality and social exclusion. The recent Throne
Speech falls far short of a vision for Canada. By working together, we can build
a better Canada; we can contribute to a better world.
Honourable senators, we will not achieve those objectives with a bullying,
my-way-or-else Prime Minister.
Hon. John G. Bryden moved second reading of Bill S-203, An Act to
amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals). —(Honourable Senator Bryden)
He said: Honourable senators, before we begin the debate on Bill S-203, it
will be helpful to outline the process that, I hope, with your help and
cooperation, we can follow to bring Bill S-203 to the same stage in the
legislative process in this Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament as its
predecessor, Bill S-213, reached in the first session, before prorogation.
In attempting to do this, I am relying on the advice and drafting skills of
our law clerks as well as a very detailed procedures paper that was provided, at
my request, by the committees division of the Clerk's office. I am sure I speak
for all of us in thanking them for their continuing professionalism, courtesy
and support of us and this institution.
Bill S-203 is identical to and in the same form as Senate Public Bill S-213,
which was passed by this chamber and referred to the House of Commons for
consideration in the previous session. In the House of Commons, Bill S-213
received first and second readings and had been referred to the House of Commons
Justice Committee. Bill S-213 died on the Commons Order Paper at prorogation.
Unlike the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, the Rules of the
Senate of Canada contain no provisions for the reinstatement of legislation
from a previous session. Therefore, while Bill S-203 is identical to and in the
same form as Bill S-213, Bill S-203 must pass through all stages of
consideration in the Senate prior to being referred to the House of Commons for
House of Commons Standing Order 86.2(1) allows a Senate Public Bill to be
reinstated at the stage it was prior to prorogation, provided the bill is in the
same form as it was in the previous session and that it is sent to the House of
Commons in the first 60 sitting days of the new session.
House of Commons Standing Order 86.2(1) states — and I quote:
During the first sixty sitting days of the second or subsequent session
of a Parliament, whenever a private Member proposing the first reading of a
bill brought from the Senate pursuant to Standing Order 69(2) states that
the bill is in the same form as a Senate public bill that was before the
House in the previous session and the Speaker is satisfied that the bill is
in the same form as at prorogation, notwithstanding Standing Order 71, the
bill shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages
completed at the time of prorogation and shall stand, if necessary, on the
Order Paper pursuant to Standing Order 87 after those of the same class,
at the same stage at which it stood at the time of prorogation or, as the
case may be, referred to committee, and with the votable status accorded to
it pursuant to Standing Order 92(1) during the previous session.
It is the latter that Bill S-213 had achieved.
Honourable senators, in addition to the conditions set out above in House of
Commons Standing Order 86.2(1), that we must meet within the first 60 days of
this session, we are all aware that this session may not last nearly that long,
which makes time of the essence if we are to put Bill S-203 before the Commons
Justice Committee for their consideration.
Therefore, honourable senators, I am asking for your help and cooperation to
move Bill S-203 through the stages of our Senate process as expeditiously as is
reasonably possible. For example, when we complete second reading, it is my
intention, as is our usual practice, to move that the bill be referred to the
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. With leave of the
Senate, I shall include in that motion that the papers and evidence received and
taken by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
relating to Bill S-213 during the First Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament
be referred to the committee in order not to duplicate the work done in the
previous session by that committee.
Honourable senators, the Senate carefully considered and passed Bill S-213 at
all stages of our legislative process and referred it to the House of Commons
during the First Session of this Parliament. Nothing has changed since then,
except the bill is now numbered S-203 instead of S-213, as it was then.
Honourable senators, I am sure you will be pleased to hear that it is not my
intention to review the history or debate the merits of Bill S-203. Most of you
are as familiar with these files as I am. Anyone who wants to know how we got to
where we are need only read the debates on cruelty to animals in this chamber
and review the evidence presented to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs over the last decade.
In closing, honourable senators, there is another and more urgent reason that
Bill S-203 become law without further delay. During this year, there has been a
series of horrific examples of cruelty to animals from various regions of
Canada: The Daisy Duke case where an injured dog was dragged behind a pickup
truck in an attempt to kill it; the case of amateur surgery to clip a dog's
ears; the case of killing kittens with a golf club; and, most recently, the case
of the puppy mill from hell, where 200 dogs were found, sick, starving,
emaciated and filthy.
Canadians are sickened and angered at these and similar events. They and the
press are demanding that something be done to punish the perpetrators and to
deter future cruelty to animals. The major demand is that the penalties for
cruelty to animals be increased dramatically from the current maximum penalty of
up to a $2,000 fine or up to six months imprisonment to penalties that reflect
Canadians' abhorrence of such cruel acts, and that would deter people from such
actions towards animals in the future.
The sole purpose of Bill S-203 is to increase penalties for acts of cruelty
to animals. Under Bill S-203, cruelty to animals is punishable on indictment by
up to five years in prison, or on summary conviction of up to a $10,000 fine, up
to 18 months imprisonment or both.
The real imperative here, honourable senators, to move expeditiously to get
Bill S-203 back before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and
Human Rights is to give this Parliament the opportunity to finish their
consideration and pass this bill. Passing this bill will give the justice system
the tools to punish persons found guilty of cruelty to animals adequately, and
to set examples that will deter others from acting in a similar manner toward
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved second reading of Bill S-204, An
Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.
He said: Honourable senators, this bill is not news to the Senate. It was
first introduced in November 2005. It has been on the Order Paper ever since. I
hope that this year, with the assent of all senators, we can move this bill
quickly to committee.
November 15 is established already as a special day for philanthropic
organizations across the country. National philanthropy days are held in every
region in Canada involving thousands and thousands of people every year. It was
initiated at the grassroots level and it continues to grow, led by individual
charities and organizations such as the Association of Fundraising
With the adoption of this bill, Canada would lead the world, if Parliament
recognizes National Philanthropy Day. Parliament can have a tremendous influence
on public behaviour. The creation of a day recognized by Parliament would send
once again a powerful message to all Canadians that charitable giving and
volunteering are critical to our society, and a crucial element in all aspects
of Canadian life.
Each and every senator in this room, including our most esteemed and recent
senator, has been actively engaged in charitable organizations. That
participation is part of our life, so we should understand this need better than
most. This day would provide a formal forum for charities and volunteer
organizations across the country, before the end of the year, to give more, to
gather together in our villages, towns and cities to share their stories, and to
celebrate their successes, large and small.
Honourable senators, it is an established fact that celebrating these stories
and identifying the ongoing need for support is one of the most effective ways
to inspire others to give of themselves and their resources and wealth. For
instance, Terry Fox Day is now a powerful example about what one person's
positive actions can have on the public's desire to support great and good
causes. Forgive me if I might add a commercial here, but the Run for the Cure
established by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, of which my wife was a key
organizer, now raises millions of dollars every year for cancer research that is
vitally needed. These are only two examples of individuals coming forward with
their committees and with their friends and families to join in these extremely
important gestures of charitable giving.
Parliament's recognition should be given for a number of reasons, but let me
describe four. First, the recognition encourages giving. Support for the
charitable sector must come from a variety of sources. Direct government funding
remains a primary and essential source for many organizations. However, in the
year of shrinking budgets and expanding needs, philanthropy is becoming an
ever-increasing part of the public solution.
Second, recognition of philanthropy builds communities and civic society.
Giving encourages greater civic responsibility. When people give, they invest a
part of themselves in their community and create a stake in the future of our
society. Bringing together people, both young and old, who might normally have
nothing to do with one another by focusing on a common goal, happens to bond not
only families but also social organizations and civic society as a whole.
Third, the recognition of this day would further strengthen the growing
partnership between the federal government and the voluntary sector. The federal
government began a partnership in 2002, and provided $94 million to fund the
jointly administered Voluntary Sector Initiative. The VSI resulted in a number
of outcomes that were recommended jointly by the government and the sector
itself, including the largest regulatory reform of the charitable sector in more
than a generation. The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce,
which I previously so proudly chaired, examined this question. The committee
still has work to do in that regard, and I recommend to the new committee that
they do so.
Finally, recognition of National Philanthropy Day is a grassroots,
non-partisan matter, and something the Canadian public has strongly and
consistently supported by voice and deeds. Studies now report that 90 per cent
of all Canadians believe that non-profit organizations are becoming increasingly
important to all Canadians. However, 59 per cent of all Canadians believe that
non-profits do not have enough money to do their essential work. Every day,
non-profits serve on the front lines of hundreds of issues facing our country,
from social services to health care, to the environment, to the arts and beyond.
Canada, honourable senators, remains a land of free choices. Canadians can
commit their time and spend their money in countless ways, but for volunteers
and donors of philanthropy it is not only another choice. For many, it is a
statement of the meaning of their life. Already, more and more Canadians rely
upon programs and services provided by these non-profit organizations. The
voluntary sector has had an indelible impact on all levels of Canadian society.
More than 81,000 registered non-profits in Canada receive approximately $10
billion in contributions annually, according to Statistics Canada. That figure
is out-of-date. I do not have the most recent one, but I am sure it is at least
20 per cent higher. The impact of the volunteer sector goes beyond philanthropic
programs and services. Recent studies indicate that the non-profit sector
employs more than two million people. These organizations draw on over two
billion volunteer hours every year — it is unbelievable — the equivalent of one
million full-time jobs. Each and every Canadian has been touched by the work of
our volunteer sector in some way, and each senator, as I pointed out, has been
deeply involved in the voluntary sector in their regions and communities.
The non-profit sector has an impact on the financial bases of the economy.
The economic contribution of the non-profit sector is larger than many
industries in Canada. In 1999, the contribution amounted to 6.8 per cent of the
gross domestic product, according to Statistics Canada. That number has
increased. The non-profit sector GDP is 11 times more than the motor industry
and, Senator Gustafson, more than four times that of agriculture. The
non-profits make a huge contribution to our society.
National Philanthropy Day has the support of many volunteer organizations
including Imagine Canada, Philanthropic Foundations Canada, Community
Foundations of Canada, Voluntary Sector Forum, Canadian Association of Gift
Planners, and Canadian Bar Association that represent thousands upon thousands
of non-profit organizations. It also has the support of countless smaller
charities and volunteer organizations across the country.
Again, honourable senators, this is a very easy thing to do. I urge you to
formally recognize a special date, November 15, by adopting this bill. Should we
not take just one day every year to honour the efforts of the volunteers and the
efforts of all Canadians and organizations across Canada that support them?
Honourable senators, at the core of each faith is the eternal question: Is it
more blessed to give than to receive? National Philanthropic Day is Parliament's
answer to that question in the affirmative. I urge you to pass this bill
speedily, this magnificent parliamentary gesture to Canadians and to the
volunteer sector. This bill could be Parliament's donation to the work of the
volunteer sector across Canada. I urge its speedy passage.
Hon. Yoine Goldstein moved second reading of Bill S-205, An Act to
amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (student loans).—(Honourable Senator
He said: Honourable senators, post-secondary education is, in many ways,
invaluable, but it does not come cheaply. According to a 2004 Statistics Canada
report, the average debt load of college and university graduates grew 76 per
cent during the 1990s. Not surprisingly, one quarter of all post-secondary
graduates now have difficulty repaying their student loans. Student debt is an
inescapable reality for many young Canadians, and it is imperative that our
government adopt a pragmatic and humane approach when dealing with individuals
who have trouble repaying student loans.
Bill S-205 would amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to assist young
Canadians who borrowed money to pay for post-secondary education but who are
then unable to repay their loans, whether because of a change in the job market,
illness, disability or personal crisis. This bill would make it easier for
former students to be discharged from all of their debts in bankruptcy
proceedings so that they are not hounded by creditors and collection agencies
even after it has become clear that repayment is completely impossible.
First, I should like to discuss the importance of post-secondary education to
the Canadian economy. I shall then discuss the role that student loans play in
helping young Canadians, especially those from low- and middle-income families,
to access post-secondary education. I shall close with a brief discussion about
why this bill is needed and how it will assist individuals who are currently
being crushed by student debt.
Canada's competitiveness in a global economy depends in large measure on the
knowledge and skills of its citizens, especially given the growing importance of
advanced technology. A highly trained workforce is also needed to raise Canada's
productivity, to drive innovation and to attract foreign investment. Accessible,
high-quality education is essential to ensuring that Canada has the skilled and
innovative workforce required to remain economically competitive and socially
progressive in the 21st century. An educated workforce benefits the Canadian
economy and Canadian society as a whole.
According to Industry Canada, the amount of high-knowledge activity as a
share of total economic activity is steadily rising in all parts of the country,
meaning that demand is increasing for skilled employees. The Canadian Chamber of
Commerce recently reported that fully two thirds of Canadian firms are suffering
skilled-labour shortages. This proportion rises to three quarters in Western
Canada. Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, described
the situation as "a looming worker tsunami."
Improving access to post-secondary education is a way to meet this demand.
When asked how to address the problem of worker shortages, many firms respond
that increased funding for education and training, along with more financial
assistance for students, would help alleviate the shortage, because the high
cost of post-secondary education is a barrier for many potential students.
In fact, the cost of post-secondary education in Canada has risen
dramatically over the past two decades, with the average annual cost of
undergraduate tuition jumping by more than 100 per cent, from $1,800 in 1989-90
to over $4,000 in 2003-04. A similar jump was seen at the college level, with
the average tuition in provinces other than Quebec more than doubling, from
$1,000 to over $2,000, during the same period. However, it was professional
schools that experienced the most dramatic tuition hikes, with the cost of
medical school in Ontario, for example, skyrocketing 500 per cent, from under
$3,000 in 1989-90 to roughly $15,000 in 2003-04. For many families, indeed most
families, these costs are prohibitive, and students are forced to borrow money
if they wish to attend college or university.
Not surprisingly, rising tuition costs have also been accompanied by growing
levels of student debt. Many students are borrowing more money to finance their
post-secondary education. From 1990 to 2006, the proportion of Canadian
undergraduates with debt at graduation rose from 45 per cent to 59 per cent, and
the average debt load for undergraduates with loans more than doubled, from
$11,600 to over $24,000. In 2003-04, government student loans were the second
largest source of funding for post-secondary students, covering approximately 19
per cent of their costs. In 2005-06, the Canada Student Loans Program loaned
roughly $1.9 billion to 350,000 post-secondary students. Its total outstanding
loan portfolio in that year was $8.2 billion owed by 990,000 current and former
More assistance is needed to help students pay for post-secondary education.
However, in addition to improving access and funding, we need to ensure that
other types of legislation do not discourage young people from pursuing
post-secondary education. Even if measures are taken to reduce student expenses
and to provide new kinds of financial support, it is likely that government
student loans will remain an important source of funding for university and
college students. The large numbers of Canadians affected by student debt, and
the growing size of the average Canadian student loan, make it essential that a
rational, yet compassionate, approach be adopted in dealing with former students
who find themselves unable to pay the money that they have borrowed because of
circumstances beyond their control.
The number of Canadians relying on government student loans to pay for
post-secondary education is increasing, as is the average amount of debt amassed
per student. Data is beginning to emerge showing that high debt levels affect
the choices that people make after they graduate from school. For example,
college and university students might complete one degree or diploma but then
decide not to pursue further studies if they already have a lot of debt. Studies
have shown that students who go on to graduate or professional schools usually
have much less debt than those who stop after one degree. This finding suggests
that student debt could be preventing Canadians and Canada from having more
highly skilled workers such as doctors and engineers. There are also concerns
about equity, because those from wealthier backgrounds are presumably more
likely to complete their education without amassing significant debt, and are
then more likely to continue their studies.
Student debt will not disappear, but the way the government deals with
students who borrow money to invest in post-secondary education matters a great
deal. Bankruptcy is supposed to provide individuals and businesses with a way of
dealing with debts they cannot pay back and with a way of eventually "starting
over" so that they can eventually play an active part in the economy and in
society. Bankruptcy allows individuals, entrepreneurs and investors to cope with
the risk inherent in any business venture by allowing them to be freed from
their debts if an entrepreneurial venture does not turn out as planned. Without
the last-resort availability of bankruptcy, people would be much less willing to
take financial risks or invest their money in new ventures, which would greatly
inhibit economic growth.
When students borrow money, however, for post-secondary education, they are
also taking a risk by investing in something that is likely but not guaranteed
to benefit them and society. Student borrowers should have the right to declare
bankruptcy in a timely fashion and be released of their debts, just like other
However, despite the importance of providing individuals with a means of
starting over, and notwithstanding the benefits of using bankruptcy to help
investors cope with risk, student loans are treated differently than any other
kind of loan in bankruptcy proceedings. Unlike, for example, a small business
owner borrowing money, a former student cannot be freed of a government student
loan in bankruptcy proceedings until he or she has been out of school for 10
years. If an individual with a student loan is negatively affected by a dramatic
change in the job market, or if the individual suffers a personal catastrophe of
some kind, no options are available to them once interest relief and debt
reduction programs have been exhausted.
In conducting research for this bill, I discovered stories about young
Canadians who have had personal misfortune compounded by financial difficulties
relating to the repayment of student loans. For example, there are young
Canadians who have graduated from college and university with significant debt,
only to be diagnosed with a terminal illness and told that they cannot work to
earn a living. These people have subsequently gone on to default on their loans
and then have been continually harassed by commercial collection agencies on
behalf of our government, even though it is clear to all parties that
circumstances beyond anyone's control have made repayment impossible for these
borrowers. Under the current law, these unfortunate individuals are trapped by
circumstance with little hope of escape. This bill will help these people by
allowing them to apply to a court to be relieved from their loans at any time.
The treatment of student loans and bankruptcy proceedings has changed a great
deal in the last decade or so. A rule prohibiting the discharge of student loans
in bankruptcy for two years after the holder left school was created in 1997
during the series of amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. One year
later, without any notice and without the knowledge of anyone that had an
interest, the restriction was unilaterally increased to 10 years. There was no
additional consultation, review or explanation for the second change, other than
the apparent belief on the part of the lenders that student borrowers were
declaring bankruptcy shortly after graduation in order to avoid repayment of
their student loan debt.
Despite this perception, one thing has become clear over the last 10 years
that is essential for an understanding of the philosophy behind this bill: There
is absolutely no evidence at all that students have been abusing the bankruptcy
process to rid themselves of student debt. In fact, all of the research that has
been done indicates the contrary.
However, reviewing bankruptcy legislation in connection with student loans,
one would think that abuse has occurred. That is not the case. The research is
clear and consistent: Abuse of the bankruptcy process is not a factor in the
non-reimbursement of student loans.
Honourable senators, this bill would reduce the amount of time before which
student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings to two years, as it
was in 1997. It would create a new provision that would allow persons
experiencing long-term financial hardship to apply for a court order to relieve
them from all or part of their student loans within two years of completing
schooling. By allowing student debts to be included in bankruptcy after two
years from the end of a student's study, Bill C-205 balances the need for
graduates to take responsibility for their obligations and the need for
Canadians to be freed from unbearable debt within a reasonable period of time.
Allowing those facing exceptional circumstances to apply for a court order at
any time also ensures that no Canadian will suffer undue and unreasonable
hardship because of student debt.
Honourable senators, this bill is compassionate. It is timely, given the
rising cost of post-secondary education and growing levels of student debt. It
is premised on the notion that it is in the interest of all Canadians for
students from all backgrounds to be able to invest in post-secondary education
without the disincentive of a potentially disastrous and long-term burden.
Accordingly, the small minority of people for whom the investment does not pay
off should not be unfairly penalized and prevented from making a fresh start at
a key time in their lives.
George Peabody once described education as a debt due from present to future
generations. This bill will help to ensure that borrowing money today to pay for
post-secondary education will never create a crushing financial albatross from
which needy former students cannot be freed until very far into the future.
Honourable senators, I urge speedy passage of this bill in this place.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved second reading of Bill S-206, An
Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (clean drinking water).—(Honourable
He said: Honourable senators are familiar with the subject matter of this
bill, but let me briefly sum up, for those who do not recall it, that this bill
is essentially about equality and equal treatment of Canadians across the
country regarding clean drinking water. The situation in Canada, rather than
improving, continues to deteriorate. The companion bill, to which I will speak
tomorrow, deals with the upstream protection of our drinking water. This bill
deals with water at source.
This bill has been on the Order Paper now since February 2001. I introduced
it as a remedial measure arising out of the tragic situation that occurred in
Walkerton, Ontario, my province; in North Battleford, Saskatchewan; and in other
towns and cities across the country. Recently, even this summer, a tragic event
took place with respect to water in Montreal. We continue to have bad episodes
of drinking water in the 21st century in Canada. To my mind, that is a major
This is a simple bill. It will amend the Food and Drugs Act to add clean
drinking water as an explicit objective of a federal agency already organized to
regulate foods and liquids. As I mentioned before, the food and drug agency
regulates soda pop and ice. The federal government regulates drinking water in
all its federal aspects across the country and it regulates drinking water in
bottles but not drinking water at source. A bottle of drinking water from Fiji
costs $4 or $5, yet people are not able to get drinking water out of their taps
in many towns and cities across the country on which they can rely.
I will not repeat the speech I gave in May 2006 in the Senate at second
reading. At that time, I convinced my colleagues who had objected to the bill
from a constitutional perspective and others to refer it to committee. I again
commend Senator Banks, who held excellent hearings. Finally, after five years,
we heard from Health Canada that the bill was constitutional. There is no longer
a question about its constitutionality, but it took five years — and I see that
Senator Banks, who chaired the hearings so ably, agrees — and that was a means
of speeding the passage of the bill along in this place.
Senator Bryden presented the problem we have in this chamber compared to the
other place. The other place can, by a simple motion, restore all of its
legislation that dies on the Order Paper. We have to go through the mechanics of
second and third reading and referring bills to committee. I hope, with the
consent of honourable senators to expedite this bill and get it back to the
other House, where it sat on their Order Paper.
This bill was passed by this chamber. In order for the proposed legislation
to return to its place on the other side, it needs to be sent there within 60
days. A number of days have already run; I believe we are at around 55 days now.
Time is running out. If, as suggested, this Parliament will be a short one, I
urge that honourable senators expedite this bill as quickly as possible.
I will not go into the procedure, as Senator Bryden already did so.
Essentially there is a means and we will talk to house leaders on both sides to
see if they will consent, as they did before, to expedite the passage of the
bill with the consent of all senators.
The situation has not improved over the last five years but has grown worse.
The greatest scandal, of course, is in the Aboriginal community. I am delighted
to hear once again that this government and the last three or four preceding
governments have all mentioned their commitment to drinking water and
particularly to drinking water in Aboriginal communities. However, the situation
is no better today than it was five years ago. This bill, if passed, will force
the federal government to expedite what it should have done before, which is to
renovate the infrastructure, particularly for First Nations people.
Honourable senators, I will not take much more time on this matter because
you have heard it before. I will not be emotive about it, but I want to again
remind all senators, particularly female senators, about the importance of this
measure. One thing upset me deeply five years ago when we had a meeting. My
friend, Dennis Mills, member of Parliament, and I convoked a hearing in an
Aboriginal community north of Toronto. An Aboriginal woman from Grassy Narrows
told us that in order for her to have a healthy baby she must leave her
reservation and go to a place where there is clean drinking water. In that way
she could cleanse her womb for two or three years in order to ensure that the
impurities in her system were removed so she could have a healthy baby. When I
heard that story I was outraged.
Honourable senators, I want to again thank Senator Watt and Senator Adams for
their tremendous moral support. Senator Watt brought this situation to my
attention and made me become, in effect, his advocate for this particular
measure. Senator Smith will be pleased that I mention the study by the Gordon
Water Group of Concerned Scientists and Citizens, Changing the Flow: A
Blueprint for Federal Action on Fresh Water. It includes, on page 33, a
chapter on drinking water. The rest of this excellent study, founded by a great
friend of ours, a great mentor of Senator Smith and mine, Walter Gordon, and his
family, was funded by their foundation. I will read brief excerpts from their
recent study at page 33, Priority 3: Securing Safe Drinking Water for all
By the way, this group is comprised of concerned scientists and citizens in
every region across the country, including all the environmental groups. This
has been supported by practically every environmental group and people
interested in this question across Canada. They say:
The Canadian government estimates that contaminated drinking water causes
90 deaths and 90,000 cases of illness annually and independent health
experts suggest a much higher number of Canadians suffer from
gastrointestinal illnesses related to their drinking water.
When I sought to obtain these statistics from Health Canada they were not
available. I believe the reason Health Canada did not make them available or
keep them is because they would then be obliged under the act, as a public
health measure, to do something about it. In my view, there has been a whitewash
of this statistical information and we do not keep track of what is going on
When I was preparing my paper, I asked Dr. Schindler, an independent expert,
if he and I could put together a model to estimate the savings to the health
system if we could clean up the drinking water situation across Canada. We
estimated a minimum of $1 billion to $2 billion a year alone, aside from the
cost of people becoming sick because of bad drinking water. Many times people go
through the health system and, because the system does not keep track, they do
not even know their illness came from bad drinking water. That is a whitewash
and a scandal.
Honourable senators, the report continues:
. . . . inconsistencies and inequities exist. As the water contamination
events in Walkerton, North Battleford and Kashechewan illustrate, problems
are most severe in communities that rely on small drinking water systems and
on First Nations reserves.
When I heard the Newfoundland story, this upset me even more. What is the
Newfoundland story? In many of the outports of Newfoundland, where they have
large families of six, seven or eight children, to this day they must boil all
of their water for all of their utilization — for their food, drinking water and
washing needs. Newfoundland and Labrador is an oil-rich province and it has not
been able to provide clean drinking water to its own inhabitants. The Premier of
Newfoundland and Labrador rants and raves about how important it is to get
revenue from the federal government in connection with the resources in his
province, but I have not heard anyone rave and rant about the hundreds of
housewives and mothers who to this day, every day, must boil their water. I do
not know how inert we can become when we do not respond to these rather
Therefore, what is the action plan? The action plan, on page 33 of the study,
Why the Federal Government?
.Under the Constitution, the criminal law power gives the federal
government power to legislate to protect the health and safety of all
Canadians. Clean and accessible drinking water is essential for health
Again, every day the department of health is directed to say that, if one
wants to be healthy, one must drink eight glasses of water a day. How
inconsistent is that? We demand to keep good health by drinking water, but we do
not provide the good water so children and families can drink it.
On that point, Senator Nolin has been a great critic of most of my
legislation. He and I are interested in constitutional matters. We have other
things to discuss, such as securities legislation and the watershed bill. It is
interesting, though, that last week the Minister of Finance of Quebec — and I
have made the point in this chamber a countless number of times —said that the
federal criminal power is unquestioned by Quebec. This is the power upon which
the Food and Drugs Act is based. She said that is unquestioned, and that was two
days ago. I will send the honourable senator the clipping. I might have
misquoted the minister, but sometimes even a Minister of Finance in Quebec is
right. On that question, she was right. We will continue to debate this
question. We will hear from the securities regulator how she is impeding the
progress of our capital markets, but let us stick to the subject matter here.
.Through Health Canada, the federal government is responsible for
enhancing and protecting the health of Canadians.
The Gordon report continues:
.The federal government has established legislative standards for food,
drugs and bottled water through the Food and Drugs Act, 1985.
The federal government has a clear mandate —
Honourable senators, note this:
— and fiduciary responsibility to ensure safe drinking water for
Aboriginal Canadians (First Nations, Metis and Inuit) whose communities are
located on federal land.
Honourable senators include First Nations, Metis and Inuit representatives
and I hope they will support me once again in this measure.
The Gordon report concludes by saying, under "Standards vs. Guidelines,"
because the federal government has non-enforceable guidelines which, as the
Auditor General has reported, are way out of date. We have guidelines
established that are voluntary and even they are out of date. Senator Banks
discovered that when he had the Auditor General report to his committee. That is
all on the record.
The concluding statement in this paragraph is:
Standards are expected to provide a superior level of protection for
human health compared to guidelines because they are legally binding and
enforceable and failure to comply results in punishment. Guidelines, on the
other hand, are essentially voluntary targets that water providers may
strive toward but are not required to achieve.
Honourable senators, the situation is not getting better; it is getting
worse. Whether one agrees with the Gordon report is another question. There is
not a province or region in this area where there is not bad drinking water
today. It is my contention that the reason for this is that the criminal power
has not been utilized with the municipalities and those involved to ensure that
the health of Canadians is protected.
I began with a question of equality: Why is it that in Toronto I should get
clean drinking water for me and my family and someone in Newfoundland should
not? Why is it that in Toronto I should get clean drinking water for my family
and Senator Watt's or Senator Adams' families and their communities should not?
It is not fair. It is not right. It is contrary to the spirit of the Charter.
I will conclude by this comment: There is one institution in Canada that is
supported by 88 per cent of the public. It is not the flag, it is not the Queen,
it is not the Governor General, and it is not even our Speaker. There is one
institution that is respected in every region of the country by 88 per cent.
That is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canadians believe in rights. They
believe in equality. I hope the Senate will join in this belief and speedily
pass this measure back to the House of Commons so we can deal with this issue,
and save and help Canadians to be healthy, prosperous and productive citizens.
Hon. Tommy Banks moved second reading of Bill S-207, An Act to repeal
legislation that has not come into force within ten years of receiving royal
assent.—(Honourable Senator Banks)
He said: Honourable senators, I have lost count of the number of times that I
have not only spoken to but introduced this bill. Senator Bryden has set out the
context of the situation in which this bill, as well as his bill, is found.
I will not bore you about its provenance but this bill is one that answers
the question of how long a government will enjoy the discretion given to it by
Parliament to enact the will of Parliament. It answers that question with ten
years. Absent that constraint of time, Parliament gives the government
discretion to determine when, but not whether, an act will be brought into
This bill has been passed unanimously in this place. It has been placed
unanimously at second reading in the other place. This bill has been studied
over the course of five years by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs, during the course of which study it has been amended and
changed. It has been studied by the Department of Justice, and changes have been
made to accommodate the wishes and needs of that department.
That department is now geared up and ready to give effect to this act of
Parliament when it comes into force. It has been amended to accommodate
department wishes. This government, I am told, is in favour of this bill. I know
the present opposition is in favour of this bill. I know the previous government
was in favour of this bill, and I know the previous opposition was in favour of
this bill. It has been passed unanimously through every stage.
This bill is non-controversial, non-partisan and not even political. It is
simply a bill in the public interest of Canada. It has been supported
unanimously on all sides. I am informed that it was within days of being
reported without amendment by the committee in the other place for third reading
when prorogation occurred.
When Senator Bryden stated the mechanism by which these two bills can be
restored to their previous place, I call two things to your attention. The first
is that Senator Bryden said we have a 60 sitting-day window of opportunity to do
that. The second time, the honourable senator said 60 days, and the second time
is correct, according to the information I have. The window of opportunity is
not 60 sitting days but within 60 days of the beginning of the Second Session of
the Thirty-ninth Parliament. This is the tenth day. There are 50 days left, and
10 of them are a break. If we want these two bills restored to the place they
were, in the other place, we have a small window of opportunity in which to do
that, smaller than we would think.
Speaking as I must for this bill, it has been studied and studied, and it has
been changed in light of those studies to accommodate both the wishes and
concerns expressed by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs and the Department of Justice, with whom we have been negotiating for
five years about the nature of this bill and what will happen to it if it
becomes an act of Parliament.
I can assure honourable senators, as Senator Bryden did, that the bill before
us now has been changed only in number. Every other aspect of this bill is
identical, down to the comma and indentations, to the one previously passed
unanimously in this place and in the other place at second reading and sent to
committee there. I urge and ask that we deal with the greatest alacrity possible
to make this bill an act of Parliament.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I want to express my support, as
I did the last time this bill was before us. I think that in the content of this
bill, in representations made by Senator Hervieux-Payette with respect to the
status of legislation that keeps on getting rolled back and forth, there may be
an opportunity for the Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the
Rights of Parliament to make a broader recommendation that we would all support.
I will work with my honourable colleague to move this bill through the house
expeditiously, and I will adjourn the bill for the present time.
Hon. Yoine Goldstein moved second reading of Bill C-280, An Act to
Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections
110, 111 and 171).—(Honourable Senator Goldstein)
He said: Honourable senators, I am speaking to Bill C-280. You will likely
remember from our debates last spring that this bill would deal with the
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to bring into force those provisions of
the act that establish the refugee appeal division.
It is unfortunate that Parliament should ever be forced to create a new law
to fully implement the provisions of one that is already passed. It is doubly
regrettable in this case since the refusal of successive governments to
implement the refugee appeal division is one symptom of the growing crisis in
Canada's system for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers.
Honourable senators, around the world, every day, hundreds, if not thousands,
of people flee from their homes to escape persecution based on race, religion
and political views. Over 55 years ago, the international community codified its
responsibility to protect these persons in the form of the United Nations
Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. As a party to this convention,
Canada is forbidden to send any refugee claimant to another country where his or
her life would be threatened.
Accordingly, it is Canada's duty to carefully examine the case of each
refugee applicant, lest we become unwitting accomplices by sending persons to a
place where they will be harmed.
Unfortunately, many persons attempt to take advantage of the international
system for the protection of refugees, meaning that Canadian officials often
face the agonizing task of screening out the truly deserving, using evidence
that is often incomplete or unverified. As a result, it can take many months to
process a refugee claim, particularly since Canada receives somewhere between
23,000 and 38,000 refugee claims each year.
In 2001, Parliament passed the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, in the
hopes of speeding up and streamlining the process for approving refugee claims.
A key provision of the act reduces the number of immigration board members
hearing each case from two to one, which theoretically would have doubled the
number of claims that could be heard in a given period of time.
However, this efficiency came at a price. Whereas before most claims would be
accepted if only one of the two members supported the application, the new
system put each applicant's fate in the hands of one immigration board member.
To guard against the potential of for mistakes by individual officials, the
2001 law balanced the increased efficiency of the determination process by
creating a new refugee appeal division, which would be able to hear appeals from
those who were rejected based on the merits of their cases. However, when the
law went into force in 2002, the government of the day specifically did not
implement the provisions creating the refugee appeal division on the grounds
that it would slow the system to the point of a halt; an explanation that is
counterintuitive and thoroughly illogical.
While arguments about efficiency might sound tempting, speed should not be
the primary goal of the system that exists to protect those who are running for
their lives. Without the refugee appeal division, claimants rejected under the
new system have been left with no way to appeal on the merits of their claims.
Instead, all they can do is ask the Federal Court to grant them leave to apply
for judicial review of their cases.
Unfortunately, nine out of ten applicants are denied leave to apply, and the
court gives no explanations for those that it turns down. As a last resort,
rejected claimants can apply for pre-removal risk assessment, which evaluates
the likelihood that a person will be harmed if he or she is deported. However,
an application for a risk assessment can only be made on the basis of new
evidence and cannot be based on a reconsideration of the original refugee claim.
Only yesterday, an imam whose wife is Canadian and pregnant was deported to
his country of origin where he faces a prison sentence of at least three years
and presumably untold torture. Yet we deported him.
Without a proper appeal process, Canada has no mechanism to assure that it
fully respects its international commitment to protect refugee claimants from
harm. This failure has been noted by the United Nations High Commission for
Refugees, which has written to the Canadian government expressing its opinion
that, "An appeal mechanism is a vital part of the refugee determination
This view has also been expressed by the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights, and by the United Nations Committee against Torture. At present, Canada,
Italy and Portugal are the only industrialized countries without a procedure for
a merit-based appeal process for asylum and refugee claims.
Perhaps the most regrettable part of this situation is, despite the
non-implementation of the refugee appeal division, Canada's system for the
protection of refugees has become less efficient in recent years, not more.
Instead of dropping, the number of backlogged cases has grown by over 50 per
cent since August 2005, leaping from 20,000 to almost 31,000.
Worse still, each case is being handled at a slower pace, with the typical
processing time now standing at over 14 months, as compared with 12 months as
recently as December of last year.
The biggest factor driving this slowdown is that this government has refused
to fill over 40 vacancies on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada,
leaving the organization operating at two-thirds strength. Unless appointments
are made soon, this situation will worsen, leaving those in need of protection
hanging in limbo for ever longer periods of time.
It is incumbent on all parliamentarians to stand up for what is right,
especially when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable in our international
community. That is why I have agreed to sponsor this bill, even though it was
introduced in the other place by the Bloc Québécois, a party with which I
Recent events have made it obvious that the long delays in the refugee
claimant process are not the result of the process, but rather the fact that
successive governments — both Liberal and Conservative, let it be said — have
not allocated the resources required to make the process work.
Honourable senators, I have a significantly personal interest in this bill
and in the refugee process. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, when some 6
million Jews could have been saved from their death, this country adopted a
policy that has been described as "none is too many" — a policy that
systematically refused entry into Canada people who, to the specific knowledge
of Canadian immigration officials at that point, were destined to be killed
solely because of their religion.
I respectfully urge honourable senators to support this bill, so that
together we can send the message that refugee protection is a fundamental
Canadian value. It must be done with complete confidence, with the right
procedures and resources in place to do so. To do otherwise will only exacerbate
the problem and force more deserving people back to the persecution from which
they have fled.
Canada should not do that. I respectfully urge your support.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I will make a point, since he
is not here at the moment, of contacting Senator Segal, but I wish to correct
myself. I made a point when I was speaking about Bill S-207 in suggesting that I
had heard differently than Senator Bryden about the 60 sitting days as opposed
to 60 days. Since I dwelt on that for a moment, I must tell you that I was wrong
and Senator Bryden is right. In the first sentence of the House of Commons
Standing Order 86.2. (1) it says:
During the first sixty sitting days of the second or subsequent session
of a Parliament. . .
We agree on everything else. I wanted the house to be aware of that matter,
and I will undertake to tell Senator Segal that forthwith.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, pursuant to notice of October 17, 2007,
That the following Resolution on Combating Anti-Semitism and Other Forms
of Intolerance, which was adopted at the 16th Annual Session of the OSCE
Parliamentary Assembly, in which Canada participated in Kyiv, Ukraine on
July 9, 2007, 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, 2008:
RESOLUTION ON COMBATING ANTI-SEMITISM, RACISM, XENOPHOBIA
OTHER FORMS OF INTOLERANCE, INCLUDING AGAINST MUSLIMS AND ROMA
1. Recalling the Parliamentary Assembly's leadership in raising the focus
and attention of the participating States since the 2002 Annual Session in
Berlin on issues related to intolerance, discrimination, and hate crimes,
including particular concern over manifestations of anti-Semitism, racism,
xenophobia and other forms of intolerance,
2. Celebrating the richness of ethnic, cultural, racial, and religious
diversity within the 56 OSCE participating States,
3. Emphasizing the need to ensure implementation of existing OSCE
commitments on combating anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and other forms
of intolerance and discrimination, including against Christians, Muslims,
and members of other religions, as well as against Roma,
4. Recalling other international commitments of the OSCE participating
States, and urging immediate ratification and full implementation of the
Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the
Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes
and Crimes against Humanity, and the Rome Statute,
5. Reminding participating States that hate crimes and discrimination are
motivated not only by race, ethnicity, sex, and religion or belief, but also
by political opinion, national or social origin, language, birth or other
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly:
6. Welcomes the convening of the June 2007 OSCE High Level Conference on
Combating Discrimination and Promoting Mutual Respect and Understanding, in
Bucharest, Romania as a follow-up to the 2005 Cordoba Conference on
Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance;
7. Appreciates the ongoing work undertaken by the OSCE and the Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (the OSCE/ODIHR) through its
Programme on Tolerance and Non-discrimination, as well as its efforts to
improve the situation of Roma and Sinti through its Contact Point for Roma
and Sinti Issues, and supports the continued organization of expert meetings
on anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance aimed at enhancing the
implementation of relevant OSCE commitments;
8. Recognizes the importance of the OSCE/ODIHR Law Enforcement Officers
Programme (LEOP) in helping police forces within the participating States
better to identify and combat hate crimes, and recommends that other
participating States make use of it;
9. Reiterates its full support for the political-level work undertaken by
the three Personal Representatives of the Chair-in-Office and endorses the
continuance of their efforts under their existing and distinct mandates;
10. Reminds participating States of the Holocaust, its impact, and the
continued acts of anti-Semitism occurring throughout the 56-nation OSCE
region that are not unique to any one country and necessitate unwavering
steadfastness by all participating States to erase the black mark on human
11. Calls upon participating States to recall that atrocities within the
OSCE region motivated by race, national origin, sex, religion or belief,
disability or sexual orientation have contributed to the negative
perceptions and treatment of persons in the region;
12. Further recalls 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, Washington in 2005 and Brussels in
13. Reaffirms especially the 2002 Porto Ministerial Decision condemning
"anti-Semitic incidents in the OSCE area, recognizing the role that the
existence of anti-Semitism has played throughout history as a major threat
14. Recalls the agreement of the participating States, adopted in Cracow
in 1991, to preserve and protect those monuments and sites of
remembrance, including most notably extermination camps, and the related
archives, which are themselves testimonials to tragic experiences in their
15. Commends the 11 member states of the International Tracing Service
for approving the immediate transfer of scanned Holocaust archives to
receiving institutions and encourages all participating States to cooperate
in opening, copying, and disseminating archival material from the Holocaust;
16. Commemorates the bicentennial of the 1807 Abolition of the Slave
Trade Act which banned the slave trade in the British Empire, allowed for
the search and seizure of ships suspected of transporting enslaved people,
and provided compensation for the freedom of slaves;
17. Agrees that the transatlantic slave trade was a crime against
humanity and urges participating states to develop educational tools,
programmes, and activities to teach current and future generations about its
18. Acknowledges the horrible legacy that centuries of racism, slavery,
colonialism discrimination, exploitation, violence, and extreme oppression
have continued to have on the promulgation of stereotypes, prejudice, and
hatred directed towards persons of African descent;
19. Reminds parliamentarians and participating States that Roma
constitute the largest ethnic minority in the European Union and have
suffered from slavery, genocide, mass expulsions and imprisonment, forced
assimilations, and numerous other discriminatory practices in the OSCE
20. Reminds participating States of the role these histories and other
events have played in the institutionalization of practices that limit
members of minority groups from having equal access to and participation in
state-sponsored institutions, resulting in gross disparities in health,
wealth, education, housing, political participation, and access to legal
redress through the courts:
21. Underscores the sentiments of earlier resolutions regarding the
continuing threat that anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance pose to
the underlying fundamental human rights and democratic values that serve as
the underpinnings for security in the OSCE region;
22. Therefore urges participating States to increase efforts to work with
their diverse communities to develop and implement practices to provide
members of minority groups with equal access to and opportunities within
social, political, legal, and economic spheres;
23. Notes the growing prevalence of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia,
and other forms of intolerance being displayed within popular culture,
including the Internet, computer games, and sports;
24. Deplores the growing prevalence of anti-Semitic materials and symbols
of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic organizations in some OSCE
25. Reminds participating States of the 2004 OSCE meeting on the
Relationship between Racist, Xenophobic and Anti-Semitic Propaganda on the
Internet and Hate Crimes and suggested measures to combat the dissemination
of racist and anti-Semitic material via the Internet as well as in printed
or otherwise mediatized form that could be utilized throughout the OSCE
26. Deplores the continuing intellectualization of anti-Semitism, racism
and other forms of intolerance in academic spheres, particularly through
publications and public events at universities;
27. Condemns the association of politicians and political parties with
discriminatory platforms, and reaffirms that such actions violate human
28. Notes the legislative efforts, public awareness campaigns, and other
initiatives of some participating States to recognize the historical
injustices of the transatlantic slave trade, study the enslavement of Roma,
and commemorate the Holocaust;
29. Urges other states to take similar steps in recognizing the impact of
past injustices on current day practices and beliefs as a means of providing
a platform to address anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance;
30. Suggests guidelines on academic responsibility to ensure the
protection of Jewish and other minority students from harassment,
discrimination, and abuse in the academic environment;
31. Urges participating States to implement the commitments following the
original 2003 Vienna Conferences on Anti-Semitism and on Racism, Xenophobia
and Discrimination and subsequent conferences that include calls to:
a. provide the proper legal framework and authority to combat
anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance;
b. collect, analyse, publish, and promote hate crimes data;
c. protect religious facilities and communitarian institutions,
including Jewish sites of worship;
d. promote national guidelines on educational work to promote
tolerance and combat anti-Semitism, including Holocaust education;
e. train law enforcement officers and military personnel to interact
with diverse communities and address hate crimes, including community
f. appoint ombudspersons or special commissioners with the necessary
resources to adequately monitor and address anti-Semitism and other
forms of intolerance;
g. work with civil society to develop and implement tolerance
32. Urges parliamentarians and the participating States to report their
initiatives to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance and
publicly recognize the benefits of diversity at the 2008 Annual Session;
33. Commends all parliamentary efforts on combating all forms of
intolerance, especially the British All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into
Anti-Semitism and its final report;
34. Emphasizes the key role of politicians and political parties in
combating intolerance by raising awareness of the value of diversity as a
source of mutual enrichment of societies, and calls attention to the
importance of integration with respect for diversity as a key element in
promoting mutual respect and understanding;
35. Calls upon OSCE PA delegates to encourage regular debates on the
subjects of anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance in their national
parliaments, following the example of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry
36. Calls upon journalists to develop a self-regulated code of ethics for
addressing anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination against Muslims, and other
forms of intolerance within the media;
37. Expresses its concern at all attempts to target Israeli institutions
and individuals for boycotts, divestments and sanctions;
38. Urges implementation of the Resolution on Roma Education unanimously
adopted at the OSCE PA 2002 Berlin Annual Session to "eradicate practices
that segregate Roma in schooling" and provide equal access to education
that includes intercultural education;
39. Calls upon parliamentarians and other elected officials to publicly
speak out against discrimination, violence and other manifestations of
intolerance against Roma, Sinti, Jews, and other ethnic or religious groups;
40. Urges the participating States to ensure the timely provision of
resources and technical support and the establishment of an administrative
support structure to assist the three Personal Representatives of the Chair-in-Office in their work to promote greater tolerance and combat racism,
xenophobia and discrimination;
41. Encourages the three Personal Representatives of the Chair-in-Office
to address the Assembly's Winter Meetings and Annual Sessions on their work
to promote greater tolerance and combat racism, xenophobia, and
discrimination throughout the OSCE region;
42. Recognizes the unique contribution that the Mediterranean Partners
for Co-operation could make to OSCE efforts to promote greater tolerance and
combat anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination, including by
supporting the ongoing work of the three Personal Representatives of the
43. Reminds participating States that respect for freedom of thought,
conscience, religion or belief should assist in combating all forms of
intolerance with the ultimate goal of building positive relationships among
all people, furthering social justice, and attaining world peace;
44. Reminds participating States that, historically, violations of
freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief have, through direct or
indirect means, led to war, human suffering, and divisions between and among
nations and peoples;
45. Condemns the rising violence in the OSCE region against persons
believed to be Muslim and welcomes the conference to be held in Cordoba in
October 2007 on combating discrimination against Muslims;
46. Calls upon parliamentarians and the participating States to ensure
and facilitate the freedom of the individual to profess and practice any
religion or belief, alone or in community with others, through transparent
and non-discriminatory laws, regulations, practices and policies, and to
remove any registration or recognition policies that discriminate against
any religious community and hinder its ability to operate freely and equally
with other faiths;
47. Encourages an increased focus by participating States on the greater
role teenagers and young adults can play in combating anti-Semitism and
other forms of intolerance and urges participating States to collect data
and report on hate crimes committed by persons under the age of 24 and to
promote tolerance initiatives through education, workforce training, youth
organizations, sports clubs, and other organized activities;
48. Reminds participating States that this year marks the 59th
Anniversary of the United Nations Human Rights Commission's adoption of the
Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which has served as the inspiration
for numerous international treaties and declarations on tolerance issues;
49. Calls upon participating States to reaffirm and implement the
sentiments expressed in the 2000 Bucharest Declaration and in this
resolution as a testament to their commitment to "respect human rights and
fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion
or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or
religion", as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act;
50. Expresses deep concern at the glorification of the Nazi movement,
including the erection of monuments and memorials and the holding of public
demonstrations glorifying the Nazi past, the Nazi movement and neo-Nazism;
51. Also stresses that such practices fuel contemporary forms of racism,
racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and contribute to
the spread and multiplication of various extremist political parties,
movements and groups, including neo-Nazis and skinhead groups;
52. Emphasizes the need to take the necessary measures to put an end to
the practices described above, and calls upon participating States to take
more effective measures to combat these phenomena and the extremist
movements, which pose a real threat to democratic values.
He said: I shall not try your patience too much longer; you have been very
salubrious in your responses.
Honourable senators, this resolution in most of its form has been on the
Order Paper now for some five years or more. I shall briefly address it, as this
is a new motion with some amendments, a similar motion having been tabled in the
I rise to speak on this motion and to address the rising spiral of
anti-Semitism, the oldest of all prejudices in Canada and elsewhere around the
world. The alarming statistics cry out for redress.
The largest number of recorded hate incidences across Canada and in Toronto
continues to be anti-Semitic in nature. Over 60 per cent of all the hate
incidences in Toronto, my home city, were anti-Semitic. In the past year, while
the total number of incidences has ebbed slightly, they remain at historic high
numbers — and again, anti-Semitic incidences top the polls.
The information has been tracked first by B'nai Brith and now, more recently,
by some police authorities. The hate incidences are still not tracked by
Statistics Canada, which is part and parcel of this particular resolution.
The substance of this motion has been on the Order Paper for over five years.
It was briefly considered by the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights for
an hour or two. However, for some unexplained reason, the committee chose not to
complete that study despite the resolution of this chamber, and a report was
Honourable senators will recall that this resolution was unanimously adopted
by 55 states, including Canada, in Washington in July 2005, and before that, for
over five years, by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which has now grown from 55
states to 56 states. Once again, at its annual meeting in Kyiv, which I
attended, it was adopted by all countries by a very large margin. There were
very few abstentions.
The pith and substance of this motion have been revisited each and every
year, and there have been countless sidebar meetings in every major city across
Europe to keep up the work. Hence, the issue is not fading away. The regretful
attendance of the president of Iran at the United Nations in New York indicates
that anti-Semitism is alive and well. Not only is it alive and well in those
corners of the world away from public attention, but also in the media capital
of the world, in New York City, at Columbia University and at the United Nations
I regret to say that the resulting resolution dealing with this action has
been taken by a number of other countries. France has taken some action, along
with Bulgaria and Romania. Many other countries have moved. In particular, I
want to draw attention to the fact that our sister parliament in the U.K. held
an all-party meeting on this and have come up with a magnificent study, which is
available on the House of Commons website in England. They thought it was
important enough for it to be an all-party study and they spent the better part
of a year on it.
I am not suggesting that here — I want a much shorter hearing — but
essentially the U.K. has come up with a model in a parliamentary system that
could be utilized or at least considered by the committee of this place.
All 56 member states recognize the ominous re-emergence of the dark and
miserable throwback to the dark recesses of history. As I said, this resolution
captures the previous resolutions, with some amendments that took place in Kyiv
The requirement in this resolution is to make a report. I want to refer to a
couple of brief paragraphs that might be useful. The first is to call upon,
collect and analyze hate-crime data. The purpose of this is to draw attention to
public authorities about hate crimes. This does not apply to just anti-Semitism;
it applies, as the title says, to anti-Semitism, to xenophobia, to anti-Muslim
or other anti-religious feelings. Hence, it is important to collect statistics,
and section 31 of this resolution calls upon all member states, including
Canada, to do so.
Furthermore, it calls upon police officers to be trained to handle hate
crimes. It is interesting that the Toronto Police Service is now leading the
OSCE to train police forces across Europe about how to handle hate incidents.
There is a delicacy and a sensitivity to hate incidents that do not apply to
criminal actions generally. Canada, particularly Staff Sergeant Brown and his
colleagues, and others from the United States have been holding seminars
throughout Europe. Originally, only four or five countries were prepared to
participate; now 22 of the 56 countries are regularly participating in these
training sessions for police. This training program is an added and concrete
Finally, honourable senators, let me say this. From the number of voices that
have advocated ideas that could bring redress and a retreat from this rising
menace, the following five approaches have been advocated. The heart of this
long resolution is only five things I should like the Senate committee to focus
First is education, to urge teachers, school boards and school officials to
develop effective core curriculum at all levels of education to remediate the
roots of this historic hate. Elie Wiesel, in a magnificent speech in Berlin at a
conference some years ago, said this: "You can teach a child to love or you can
teach a child to hate."
By the way, I find it curious that in my own city of Toronto, which has the
second or third largest number of Holocaust survivors, we still have not been
able to develop a suggested core curriculum for all the schools at the primary,
secondary and post-secondary level. I must commend the Roman Catholic Church,
which has done excellent work in renovating its catechism. The Lutheran Church
has done the same thing, and others are working away at it. My point, however,
is that although there have been some changes they have been slow. Education is
The second approach is statistics. Most democratic republics do not
understand the depth and the nature of this problem. In this resolution,
governments are urged to track and publish hate incidences regularly when and
where they occur.
The statistics gathered by me are not mine. They have been gathered by the
B'nai Brith as well as police forces in Toronto who try to keep track of this.
They all generally concur about the tracking and the rising incidences. The
available statistics usually come from nongovernmental sources but are serious
enough to warrant annual and regular attention by Statistics Canada.
The third approach is more sophisticated policing. As I indicated, the
Toronto Police Service has led the way internationally, in conjunction with the
OSCE, and now trains police forces in 22 countries.
Fourth is to review our domestic laws to strengthen the rule of law against
invidious and hateful conduct and incitement to hate or violence. It is time to
have a fresh review of the anti-hate legislation on our books.
The last approach is to expose the explosion of websites on the Internet that
promote hate and discrimination. On this latter point, pioneering work has been
done on child porn and missing children in partnership with the Toronto Police
Service and Microsoft. There are solutions; there are freedom-of-speech
solutions to inhibiting the use of the web to increase hate. We can curb hate if
we do it without reducing free speech; there are mechanisms available.
I hope, honourable senators, that the Standing Senate Committee on Human
Rights, if this motion is adopted, will explore these five elements that can
dilute the impact of hate. I am not asking for a massive study of months and
months — I know the committee in question is very busy — but I would think that,
within three or four well-organized sessions, they could hope to address some of
these points and act as a model of recommendation to the federal, provincial and
municipal governments. We cannot hope to eradicate the roots of this odious
prejudice of anti-Semitism, but hopefully we can make a difference.
Some honourable senators may wonder why I continue year after year on this
topic. Honourable senators, I take this subject very personally. I have seen
anti-Semitism up close and personal, since this dismal subject was directed
toward me, my family and my co-religionists personally, right here in Canada.
Honourable senators, why is there a continuing reluctance on the part of the
Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, in light of the clear evidence of the
growing problem in Canada, to study this problem? This subject goes to the very
heart of the idea of equality before the law, in which each and every senator
believes, equality of our civic society and, above all, freedom from fear. I
urge all honourable senators to support this motion and refer it quickly to the
Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore, pursuant to notice of October 18, 2007, moved:
That the following humble Address be presented to Her Excellency, The
Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada:
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
WHEREAS full representation in the Senate of Canada is a constitutional
guarantee to every province as part of the compromise that made
AND WHEREAS the stated position of the Prime Minister that he "does not
intend to appoint senators, unless necessary" represents a unilateral
denial of the rights of the provinces;
AND WHEREAS the Prime Minister's disregard of the Constitution of Canada
places the Governor General in the intolerable situation of not being able
to carry out her sworn duties under section s. 32 of the Constitution
Act, 1867, which states, "When a Vacancy happens in the Senate by
Resignation, Death, or otherwise, the Governor General shall by Summons to a
fit and qualified Person fill the Vacancy.";
AND WHEREAS upon the failure of the Prime Minister to tender advice it is
the duty of the Governor General to uphold the Constitution of Canada and
its laws and not be constrained by the willful omission of the Prime
Therefore, we humbly pray that Your Excellency will exercise Her lawful
and constitutional duties and will summon qualified persons to the Senate of
Canada, thereby assuring that the people and regions of our country have
their full representation in a properly functioning Parliament, as that is
their undeniable right guaranteed in the Constitution of Canada.
He said: Honourable senators will recall that during the last session the
Senate debated the inquiry of Senator Banks calling the attention of senators to
the large number of vacancies in the Senate and to the constitutional obligation
of the government to fill those vacancies. Several honourable senators who
participated in the debate expressed their dismay that the Prime Minister had
stated clearly a general policy that he would not fill vacancies. Not
surprisingly, he made a glaring exception to this policy when he announced an
appointment to fill a vacancy in his home province of Alberta before that
vacancy had even occurred.
I acknowledge that there have been periods of time when the vacancies in the
Senate have exceeded 12. In the fullness of time, all such vacancies were
filled. However, in those situations, none of those prime ministers stated, "I
do not intend to appoint senators unless necessary," as Prime Minister Harper
has said. This Prime Minister cannot unilaterally rewrite a section of the
Constitution, which is an agreement between the federal government and the
provinces that has existed for 140 years.
Some honourable senators have expressed concern about the impact of the Prime
Minister's decision on the rights of the provinces. Senate representation is not
optional; it is not the gift of a prime minister to give or withhold at his
whim. Representation in the Senate is constitutionally guaranteed to every
province as part of the compromise that made Confederation possible. The policy
of the Prime Minister unilaterally denies the rights of the provinces.
Some have also expressed concern about having sufficient numbers to carry on
the proper functioning of the Senate. Honourable senators, saw an illustration
of the problem during the last session. On May 15, the Senate adjourned for a
lack of quorum. It is not unusual in a parliamentary body for the opposition to
attempt to use a lack of quorum to delay a government initiative that it
opposes. However, this tactic is rarely successful because under normal
circumstances the government can easily establish a quorum with its own members.
On May 15, when the Speaker's attention was called to a lack of quorum in the
Senate, debate was suspended for five minutes while senators were summoned from
the reading room. After that failed to establish a quorum, the bells were rung
for a further 15 minutes. Honourable senators, I emphasize that the day in
question was a Tuesday, normally the beginning of our weekly calendar, not the
end of it. After the bells were rung, the government still could not muster the
15 senators needed to carry on the business of this place. For the first time
since 1914, the Senate adjourned for a lack of quorum. The result of the Prime
Minister's refusal to appoint senators is a serious undermining of the Senate's
ability to function.
Equally disturbing is the constitutional situation the Prime Minister has
created with his refusal to recommend appointments. One seat has been vacant for
over three years. The Prime Minister has put the Governor General in the
intolerable position of not carrying out her duty under section 32 of the
Constitution Act, 1867.
Honourable senators, over the past four months, no one on the government side
in this place has defended the Prime Minister's policy of letting vacancies
linger. I wish I could say that I am surprised. I particularly regret that none
of my Conservative colleagues from Nova Scotia has spoken to an issue that
affects so deeply our province's commitment to Confederation. Nova Scotia is
currently the most affected by the Prime Minister's policy of neglecting
vacancies. We have three vacancies, which amounts to 30 per cent of the seats
guaranteed to Nova Scotia under the Constitution. One of those vacancies, the
seat left open by the retirement of Senator Buchanan, has gone unfilled for 18
Honourable senators, I do not think we can remain silent about this state of
affairs. At a minimum, we must say collectively that we want the vacancies
filled. The Prime Minister advocates changes to the Senate; as is his privilege.
In the meantime, he is wrong to say that he will disregard the Constitution
until his proposals are adopted. He is wrong to oppress the constitutional
rights of Nova Scotia and other provinces. He is wrong to fail to do his duty to
recommend appointments to the Governor General.
One of the most basic rules of the Queen's representative is to preserve the
Constitution. Normally, the Governor General acts on the advice of ministers
but, when the Prime Minister omits to tender advice in an effort to prevent the
fulfillment of a constitutional obligation, where does that put the Governor
General? Honourable senators, I submit that since the Prime Minister has plainly
said that he refuses to recommend appointments, then it is incumbent upon Her
Excellency to take whatever steps are necessary to fulfill her constitutional
For that reason, I urge all honourable senators to support the humble Address
I propose today, praying that Her Excellency carry out her duty under section 32
of the Constitution Act, 1867, and fill the 12 vacancies in this place.
On motion of Senator Tkachuk, debate adjourned.
The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, October 24, 2007, at 1:30 p.m.