Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I rise again this year, as I do
every year, to pay homage to the journalists who, in the preceding year, were
killed or died in the line of duty, died covering conflicts or were killed
because they were journalists telling truths that someone did not want to be
As I do every year, honourable senators, I wish to read their names into the
record. Most of them were shot. One was beheaded. Several were kidnapped,
tortured and died in unimaginable ways.
Here are their names: in Afghanistan, Ajmal Naqshbandi and Zakia Zaki; in
Burma, Kenji Nagai; in Eritrea, Fesshaye "Joshua" Yohannes and Paulos Kidane;
in Haiti, Jean-Remy Badio; in Honduras, Carlos Salgado; in Iraq, 32 journalists
— Ahmed Hadi Naji, Falah Khalaf al-Diyali, Hussein al-Zubaidi, Abdulrazak Hashim
Ayal al-Khakani, Jamal al-Zubaidi, Mohan Hussein al-Dhahir, Yussef Sabri, Hamid
al-Duleimi, Thaer Ahmad Jaber, Khamail Khalaf, Othman al-Mashhadani, Khaled
Fayyad Obaid al-Hamdani, Dmitry Chebotayev, Raad Mutashar, Alaa Uldeen Aziz,
Saif Laith Yousuf, Nazar Abdulwahid al-Radhi, Mohammad Hilal Karji, Sahar
Hussein Ali al-Haydari, Aref Ali Filaih, Filaih Wuday Mijthab, Hamid Abed Sarhan,
Sarmad Hamdi Shaker, Namir Noor-Eldeen, Khalid W. Hassan, Mustafa Gaimayani,
Majeed Mohammed, Adnan al-Safi, Amer Malallah al-Rashidi, Muhannad Ghanem Ahmad
al-Obaidi, Salih Saif Aldin and Shehab Mohammad al-Hiti; in Kyrgyzstan, Alisher
Saipov; in Nepal, Birendra Shah; in Palestine, Suleiman Abdul-Rahim al-Ashi; in
Pakistan, Mehboob Khan, Noor Hakim Khan, Javed Khan, Muhammad Arif and Zubair
Ahmed Mujahid; in Paraguay, Tito Alberto Palma; in Peru, Miguel Perez Julca; in
Russia, Ivan Safronov; in Somalia, Mohammad Abdullahi Khalif, Abshir Ali Gabre,
Ahmed Hassan Mahad, Mahad Ahmed Elmi, Ali Sharmarke, Abdulkadir Mahad Moallim
Kaskey and Bashiir Noor Gedi; in Sri Lanka, Subash Chandraboas, Selvarajah
Rajeewarnam, Isaivizhi Chempiyan, Suresh Linbiyo and T. Tharmalingam; in Turkey,
Hrant Dink; in the United States, Chauncey Bailey; and in Zimbabwe, Edward
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: I draw the attention of honourable senators to
the fact that World Water Day was celebrated on Saturday, March 22. This day is
an opportunity for us all to reflect on the importance of clean water, and it is
meant, of course, to encourage Canadians to do their part to protect and
preserve our lakes, rivers, wetlands and aquifers.
We have more fresh water than any country in the world, but we cannot take it
for granted. Fresh water is now called blue gold and may soon be the most
precious commodity in the world. Our resources will come under increasing
We often hear stories about how the United States and other nations have
designs on our water, but we do not need to go abroad to find threats. We need
only to look in the mirror. Right now, Canadians are the biggest users and
abusers of Canadian water, and although we must be vigilant about preventing
bulk transfers of Canadian water to other countries, we must also address our
Our own energy and agriculture sectors are enormous consumers of water. For
example, four barrels of water are taken out of circulation for every barrel of
oil produced in the Alberta oil sands, and thousands of litres of water are
required to produce one kilogram of pork. Many of these industries are also
major polluters. We must do our best to reduce their impact on the environment.
Having grown up on the shores of the large Lake Winnipeg, I have witnessed
sadly the deterioration of this majestic lake. Along with my colleagues on the
Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, several years ago we worked
diligently to acquire and maintain Government of Canada funding for the
scientists on the research vessel Namao, and the Senate can take credit
for the work we completed in that regard, led by Senator Comeau.
We are studying the lake and identifying solutions because of the Namao
before it is too late. This situation has now gone on for four years. With our
government's action plan on clean water, the government has shown a real
commitment to protecting Lake Winnipeg and other vulnerable lakes, rivers and
I am extraordinarily happy to see $18 million in funding earmarked for Lake
Winnipeg. I also applaud the $48 million dedicated to cleaning up the Great
Lakes, with strict new limits on phosphates and detergents, through new
regulations banning the dumping of raw sewage and the creation of the world's
largest freshwater marine park, the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation
Honourable senators, we should also applaud our government's decision to
devote $330 million to providing access to safe drinking water for all First
Nations communities. These measures are not cure-alls but they are positive
steps in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing more initiatives of
this sort in the future.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, this past Saturday
afternoon I reached a friend at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit through his cell
phone, who was there with family and friends of Gordie Howe to celebrate this
Canadian hero's — indeed, this Canadian icon's — eightieth birthday. This
unexpected opportunity allowed me to extend to Mr. Howe my warmest best wishes.
Honourable senators, Gordie Howe is unquestionably one of the greatest hockey
players ever to lace up a pair of skates; though on more than one occasion I and
all the Toronto fans were no fans of his when he played against the Leafs at
Maple Leaf Gardens.
Senator Nolin: I know exactly what you are talking about.
Senator Di Nino: I am sure the senator knows. What is that team in
Montreal? I forget, but that is a question for another time.
As fans of the game, and as Canadians, Gordie Howe made us proud. He thrilled
generations of fans all over the world and provided us all with some of the
greatest moments in hockey history with his agility, scoring ability and a pair
of active elbows, particularly in the corners.
I am sure our colleague, Senator Mahovlich — with whom I discussed this
tribute, by the way — will agree that Gordie Howe is truly a unique athlete with
rare talent and charm, who has enriched our lives with his hockey prowess,
exemplary lifestyle and his role model stature.
Please join me in extending to Gordie Howe our warmest congratulations on his
eightieth birthday and best wishes for many more years of fulfillment.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I thank the Honourable
Speaker for so eloquently introducing the new Tunisian Ambassador to Canada. I
encourage all my colleagues interested in foreign affairs to try to contact the
ambassador. He will also certainly be very honoured to communicate with you.
From his biography, I have learned a number of very surprising things that will
be very useful to me.
For instance, for six years, he served as ambassador to a country that is
currently bothering the international community, namely, Iran. He worked very
closely with Canadian authorities there and is close friends with the Canadian
Ambassador to Iran.
His time in Canada will not only be important for us, but also useful for his
country. For any parliamentarians curious about or interested in the current
affairs of our troubled planet, his wisdom could be very useful, as I have
already had the privilege to appreciate.
Honourable senators, I know that I am not out of order. I thank the Speaker
for letting me speak. Once again, I would like to welcome the ambassador on
behalf of all honourable senators.
Anyone who is curious about international policy or has serious concerns
about human rights, about the situation in Iran or Afghanistan, and about what
could happen there in the future, now has a new, most useful source of
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, during the Easter break we
lost a great Canadian. Geoffrey Pearson died at the age of 80. As many
honourable senators know, he was the husband of our former colleague, the
Honourable Landon Pearson and the son of our former Prime Minister, the Right
Honourable Lester B. Pearson. However, Geoffrey Pearson was much more than a
husband and a son. He made a career in diplomatic service and made a superb
contribution to that field.
His latter postings included appointments as Canada's Ambassador to France
and on two occasions as Ambassador to what was then the Union of Soviet
Anyone who spent any time with Geoffrey Pearson knew of his wry sense of
humour. However, honourable senators may not know of his dedication to his
children and grandchildren.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I express the sympathy of this chamber
to Landon, to their children and, above all, to the grandchildren who will miss
those quiet conversations with their grandfather.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade, presented the following report:
Thursday, April 3, 2008
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-293, An Act respecting the
provision of official development assistance abroad, has, in obedience to
the order of reference of Wednesday, December 12, 2007, examined the said
Bill and now reports the same without amendment. Your committee appends to
this report certain observations relating to the Bill.
CONSIGLIO DI NINO
to the Fourth Report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
is supportive of the principle and general intent of Bill C-293, An Act
respecting the provision of official development assistance abroad.
Regrettably, however, Bill C-293 has a number of shortcomings that need to
be highlighted. First, the bill's overarching emphasis on poverty reduction
should be supplemented by a focus on economic development and the
achievement of prosperity in aid-recipient countries. The former often seems
to treat the symptoms of the poverty while the latter attempts to tackle the
root of the problem: the need for dynamic, growing economies and job
creation in poor countries. As the committee learned in its recent study on
Africa, there will be no progress in lowering poverty in these countries
without trade and investment driven economic growth and job creation.
Foreign aid should be provided to help aid-recipient countries develop
Second, although the purpose of the bill is to legislate that all
Official Development Assistance (ODA) be allocated for poverty reduction,
the term "poverty reduction" itself is not defined in the bill's
interpretation section. As such, the bill has no clear test as to what is a
contribution to poverty reduction. That is a curious omission, and one that
should be corrected.
Third, Bill C-293 does not set specific criteria for recipient countries
to satisfy in order to obtain Canadian aid. This is unfortunate given that
Canada has one of the world's most geographically diffuse aid programs in
the world, with its aid having little impact in each country.
Fourth, it is not clear in clause 4(1)(b) of the bill how the Minister
disbursing ODA would determine whether the aid funding "takes into account
the perspectives of the poor." Some clarification is in order on that
Fifth, Bill C-293 calls for federal government ministers providing ODA to
consult with "governments, international agencies and Canadian civil
society organizations" before aid projects are implemented. This provision
is problematic in that not only could it become a burdensome requirement on
the ministers involved and lead to additional costly delays in
decision-making, it could also open up the possibility that those parties
not included in consultations could take legal action because of their
exclusion. One also needs to question the usefulness, and the risks
involved, of having to consult with repressive governments who may not
welcome the presence and activities of Canadian aid organizations since in
certain countries, non-governmental organizations are perceived as threats
to government authority.
Sixth, the bill's reporting and transparency provisions would result in a
duplication of reports that are already available to the public and a costly
waste of time for government officials. Moreover, the requirement that the
Government of Canada publicly provide a summary of any representation by
Canadian representatives of the Bretton Woods Institutions (e.g., World
Bank, International Monetary Fund) is at odds with these institutions'
confidentiality policies, could curtail the flow of confidential information
and could undermine the relationship that Canada has with the countries
(Ireland, countries within the Caribbean Community) that it also represents
at these institutions.
Finally and of great importance, even though the short title of Bill
C-293 is the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act,
there is nothing in clause 4 of the bill that would make the "competent
minister" disbursing ODA accountable to the Canadian taxpayer in his or her
delivery of aid. There is no mention at all, for example, of providing ODA
in an effective and efficient manner and with due recognition of Canadian
aid capabilities at a time when Canadian aid is being increasingly delivered
in an invisible manner through large, often bureaucratic multilateral
institutions and international non-governmental organizations. As one
witness pointed out to the committee, Bill C-293 "appears to be silent on
the topics of aid effectiveness, results and value" and is rather light in
the area of accountability.
Despite the fact that the Canadian International Development Agency
(CIDA)'s annual budget exceeds $3 billion and the agency is the source of a
full 80% of Canada's ODA, its' only legal mandate is in a one-paragraph
insertion in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act.
Bill C-293, designed primarily to legislate that all Canadian ODA be
allocated to "poverty reduction," does not fix this deficiency. The bill
contains no explicit legislative mandate for the aid agency, complete with
objectives that can be monitored by parliamentarians.
The committee is convinced that what is really required is a bill that
would provide such a comprehensive legal mandate for CIDA. This new
legislation should be crafted in a way that improves the overall
accountability, transparency, and effectiveness of that aid agency, with the
accountability framework going beyond simply reporting statistics. The
committee sincerely hopes that such legislation will materialize in the near
future so that CIDA can become the leading development organization that
Canadians would like it to be.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
On motion of Senator Di Nino, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third
reading at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Terry Stratton, Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance, presented the following report:
Thursday, April 3, 2008
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance has the honour to
Your committee, to which was referred Bill S-219, An Act to amend the
Public Service Employment Act (elimination of bureaucratic patronage and
establishment of national area of selection) has, in obedience to the order
of reference of Tuesday, December 11, 2007, examined the said Bill and now
reports the same with the following amendment:
New clause 4, page 1: Add after line 27 the following:
"4. Section 3 comes into force on a day, not later than July 1,
2009, to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.".
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be
taken into consideration?
On motion of Senator Stratton, report placed on the Orders of the Day for
consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in
both official languages, the report of the delegation of the Canadian NATO
Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the sixty-seventh
Rose-Roth Seminar held in Belgrade, Serbia, from Oct. 25 to 27, 2007.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I give notice that,
at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and
Technology be authorized to examine, report on the accessibility of
post-secondary education in Canada, including but not limited to:
(a) analysis of the current barriers to post-secondary
education, such as geography, family income levels, means of financing
for students and debt levels;
(b) evaluation of the current mechanisms for students to fund
post-secondary education, such as Canada Student Loans Program, Canada
Student Grants Program, Canada Access Grants, funding for Aboriginal
students, Canada Learning Bonds, and Registered Education Savings Bonds;
(c) examination of the current federal-provincial transfer
mechanism for post-secondary education;
(d) evaluation of the potential establishment of a dedicated
transfer for post-secondary education; and
(e) any other matters related to the study; and
That the committee submit its final report no later than December 31,
2009, and that the committee retain until June 30, 2010, all powers
necessary to publicize its findings.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): My question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Citizens across this country are concerned about the government's hidden
agenda on immigration policy in Canada. Why is the government attempting to make
radical changes to the Immigration Act through the back door by stealthily
including it in Bill C-50, the Conservative budget implementation bill, rather
than showing transparency and bringing it forward as separate legislation?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. There is no
hidden agenda. The only thing hidden is the almost 1 million people who want to
come into this country who are in the backlog. This serious situation needs our
attention. The system is broken and needs to be fixed.
Budget 2008 invests $22 million over two years, growing in time to $37
million per year, to bring about some very important immigration reforms.
As I mentioned, the backlog is a serious issue that is unfair to the people
who want to come to Canada. It is also unfair to our provinces, territories and
industries that look to the immigration system to provide them with skilled
That is why, as the Prime Minister has stated and as part of the budget, it
is necessary for these reforms to be brought forward in this way. This issue has
festered long enough and the time for action is now. In the other place, the
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Honourable Diane Finley, has
outlined clearly the intentions of the government. There is absolutely nothing
hidden about her presentation. I am pleased to note that the measures are
supported by many organizations across the country, many leading columnists and
editorials and many leaders of our ethnocultural communities.
Senator Tardif: According to the Edmonton Journal in my home
province of Alberta, embedding changes to the Immigration Act in a budget
implementation bill is an American-style, hardball political move. Can the
Leader of the Government tell me why the government proposes that Canada's
Immigration Act be dictated by ministerial fiat, and how a government that
prides itself on being transparent can give so much additional power to a
Senator LeBreton: I cannot answer for something that was written in an
editorial of the Edmonton Journal. I understand that it was also in
The Toronto Star, which, by the way, in an article today, congratulated the
Prime Minister on his wonderful work at NATO.
All the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms prevail. Many people
are backlogged waiting to enter Canada. We want immigrants in Canada and we want
them to succeed. We want more immigrants. We are reforming the system so that
immigrants can be treated fairly and come here as quickly as possible. The
current situation is such that we are losing many good immigrants to countries
like Australia and New Zealand because of our inept system. Close to one million
people are waiting to come to Canada. This number grew under the previous
government from 50,000 to 950,000.
Senator Tardif: Many Canadians fear that the proposed amendments to
the bill will give the Minister of Immigration the power to arbitrarily decide
who can enter the country, which could open the door to discrimination and
unfairness based on ethnic background, country of origin and religion.
Could the minister explain why the government thinks it is necessary to give
so much power and risk ruining a tolerant and open system?
Senator LeBreton: That is Liberal fear mongering of the first order.
There is nothing in the proposed legislation and in anything said by the
minister that in any way would discriminate against any person wishing to come
to Canada. We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No matter which way the
honourable senator stacks it up, there is no way she can accuse the minister of
discriminating against people because of their race, religion or colour.
It is not only people on the government side who realize how serious this
issue has become, and how badly broken the system is. We have only to refer to
the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, who was quoted in
Vancouver's The Province on September 17, 2006, as saying: ". . . I
have to admit . . . that we didn't get it done on immigration."
The article goes on to say, "As an example, he pointed to the failure of the
immigration system to address labour shortages that have been 'a real drag' on
booming economies in Western Canada."
This situation is serious. The system is broken. We will fix the problems in
the interests of immigrants who want to come to Canada. The suggestion to the
contrary is Liberal fear mongering and is insulting to immigrants who want to
come into this country. We are trying to make the system work better.
As a government, we have taken some positive steps and made great progress
toward the reunification of families. We take no lessons from the Liberals in
regard to a so-called "hidden agenda." For instance, we have addressed the
Chinese Head Tax and cut the landing fee for immigrants in half. We are working
to make Canada a welcoming place for immigrants. We are working with the
provinces and territories to bring people into this country who have the skills
that are sorely needed in Canada today.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, it seems fairly clear that
whenever a system allows a minister discretion of this nature, the impression is
created that that discretion can and probably will, later if not sooner, be
exercised in a way that involves political favouritism. That impression may be
right or wrong. I am not accusing the minister or the present government of
having that as its motive.
I take the word of the honourable senator when she says that this process is
designed to fix a problem. God knows that successive governments since
Confederation have grappled with various problems arising from Canada being a
country that needs immigration as well as being a country that was proudly
founded by immigrants.
However, it seems that a system that establishes in law this kind of
arbitrary ministerial discretion does not lead to greater faith in the integrity
and the long-term fairness of the process. Why can the honourable senator not
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I reiterate that the minister
is responsible for her department. The minister and the government have made it
clear that there is a great need to fix a broken system. We will see what
happens in the other place as this bill works its way through the House
committee. The honourable senator need not fear that this or future ministers
will politicize the system. A minister is answerable and must report to
The minister is also responsible for this program. Applications continue to
come in and meanwhile the backlog sits there. People have been waiting eight and
ten years to get into Canada because of the backlog. Surely to goodness, the
minister must have some ability to contact these people and to ascertain whether
they still want to come to the country.
The proposal of the minister is a good one. The minister and the government
respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is nothing to fear here. The
minister is simply doing what the public and the government want. I am sure that
any reasonable Canadian would want the government to fix this terribly broken
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, the minister has said at
least twice that the system is broken. I do not agree with that.
I believe that if sufficient resources were provided, the system need not be
broken. She insists the system is broken, and her government apparently will fix
this broken system with the expenditure of $22 million, which is less than 1 per
cent of the overall budget. How will the government accomplish that?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, first, the figure is $22
million growing into $37 million. We need to start somewhere with the problem.
The proposal is to concentrate on the areas with the largest number of backlogs,
and work in those areas.
In terms of the monies, it is a matter of having people assigned to those
missions where the biggest backlogs are; for example, Manila, to concentrate on
those areas, put extra people and resources into those areas and move the
backlog through. After we move the backlog there, then we would apply some of
those extra human resources to other missions around the world where there are
For the honourable senator to stand here today and say that she does not
agree that the system is broken, she has to be the only person in this country
who does not believe that something is seriously wrong with a system where
almost a million are caught — people who want to come to this country, whom the
government wants to come to this country, who have skills, not only in the
labour market but also in the various professions, people who are desperately
The minister put this proposal before Parliament. It is part of the budget
implementation bill. Otherwise, we would talk about this for years. That is why
this measure is the best one to move the matter through Parliament. We would
talk about this in two years, and in two years' time the backlog would be a
million and a half people.
The government is showing good faith here. We want to address this problem.
There has been a great degree of support amongst the various stakeholders who
want us to fix this serious problem, and I believe that we are taking important
first steps to address it.
Hon. David P. Smith: I have a supplementary question. I do not suggest
the system is perfect. What system ever is perfect? Also, I do not question the
minister involved here or the good faith of the Leader of the Government in the
I only want to probe the concept that since Confederation, Canada has further
refined the whole concept of the rule of law, which we inherited from the
British parliamentary system, and we have taken it to a level that we can be
proud of throughout the world.
Where a statute is amended to give a minister complete arbitrary
decision-making ability to set aside a decision that had been made previously in
accordance with due process, where setting aside a decision is totally
arbitrary, is that amendment not in conflict with the concept of the rule of law
that we have in this country?
Senator LeBreton: First, honourable senators, the minister has no
power to go arbitrarily to any list. There were 800,000 people under the
Liberals, and I think 925,000 or 950,000 people are still on the list. The
minister has been given resources to try to deal with this backlog. I fail to
see how any person who is in this backlog and who wants to come to Canada would
not support the minister in providing resources to the various missions around
the world to help immigrants enter the country. There have been great strides,
as I said a moment ago, on the whole issue of family reunification. They have
spent a lot of time on those particular files, with great success. Last year, we
had the highest levels in Canadian history. Unfortunately, a large percentage of
the people in the backlog are skilled workers, whom we want in the country.
Working with the provinces and territories, the minister is trying to
expedite the clearing of the backlog as well as receiving new applications. The
minister is responsible for her own department and for working with her
officials. The people at the Department of Justice Canada have looked at this
and have determined that the bill neither breaks any laws nor causes any
difficulty for the government in terms of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I invite the honourable senator to read what the minister has said and listen
to the debate in the other place. If there are serious problems, I am sure that
Senator Smith's colleagues in the House will point them out. We have no reason
to believe there are any problems. We shall see what happens when the House of
Commons votes on the bill.
Senator Smith: I am not concerned about these powers being used to
solve problems. I am concerned about this arbitrary and mandatory power being
used to tell an applicant who has gone through due process and been accepted
into the country, that he or she cannot immigrate to Canada. It seems to me that
that is exactly what this proposed legislation does.
Senator LeBreton: That is false, as Senator Smith knows. I believe
that senators opposite have neither read what the minister said nor read the
documents prepared by the department.
The minister cannot arbitrary tell qualifying immigrants that they cannot
immigrate. That is not possible, unless they are criminals, of course. The
minister can determine categories, not individuals.
Hon. James S. Cowan: Honourable senators, my question is also for the
Leader of the Government in the Senate and relates to the position of this
government on defending the rights of Canadian citizens around the world facing
the death penalty. Unless I have missed something in the last few months, or it
is buried somewhere in one of the government's omnibus bills, Canada is still
against the death penalty and has been since 1976. However, in the last few
months we have seen this government come to the aid of a Canadian citizen facing
the death penalty in Saudi Arabia while blatantly ignoring the plight of another
Canadian citizen facing the death penalty in the State of Montana.
Does this government use some kind of list or criteria to make these
decisions, to choose which countries they are willing to stand up to in defence
of the rights of our citizens and which countries they will not? Canadians
deserve an answer, and perhaps this list will help Canadians decide where they
should and should not go if they want to be protected by their own government.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, first, it is very clear that the death
penalty was abolished in this country. There has been no change to that.
With regard to the situation of the young man in Saudi Arabia, as the
honourable senator knows, our ambassador and the Minister of Foreign Affairs
have made representations to the Saudi government on his behalf.
With regard to the man who committed the double murder, that man committed
his crimes in the State of Montana. Furthermore, the Minister of Justice, on the
advice of Justice officials, used exactly the same argument in the State of
Montana as the Minister of Justice in the previous government, Allan Rock used
in connection with a case between Canada and the State of Washington.
The man committed the double murder in Montana and Canada respects the laws
of the State of Montana and the United States of America.
With regard to the individual in Saudi Arabia, there is some question as to
exactly what happened in this incident. As I said earlier, the ambassador has
been to see officials in Saudi Arabia, and the Minister of Public Safety, while
he was over there, also made representations.
The short answer is that all of these cases must be dealt with on an
individual basis. The situation is the same as has been followed in the past,
and it is what the government will do in the present instance.
Senator Cowan: Is the character of the crime a factor? The leader
described the double murder in Montana. Is that the distinguishing feature?
Senator LeBreton: No, absolutely not. The fact is that the person in
Montana murdered two people and has been in the judicial system in the State of
Montana for 20 years, I believe, and has now sought to return to Canada, a
matter that is now before the courts. The case of the person in Montana is
completely different from that of the young Canadian who became involved in a
schoolyard altercation in Saudi Arabia. The government believes that the safety
of the Canadian in Saudi Arabia is of concern and we have made representations.
However, I do not think one can compare a young Canadian involved in a
schoolyard fight in Saudi Arabia to what occurred in Montana. Someone was killed
in each instance; there is no doubt about it, but the circumstances are not as
Senator Cowan: Is it rather a comment by the government on the
comparability of the legal system in the United States as against Saudi Arabia
and the knowledge that a person has of the legal system in Saudi Arabia as
against the United States? Is that what the honourable senator is saying?
Senator LeBreton: In regard to the situation with the person who
murdered two people in the United States, the government is following a policy
that is consistent with the process followed by both Ministers Allan Rock and
Anne McLellan in the previous government. The situation in Saudi Arabia is less
clear as to what exactly happened.
Obviously, the sentence that was determined in Saudi Arabia alarmed Canadian
officials and, therefore, Canadian officials have made representations and will
continue to make representations on behalf of this young man and his family.
However, as I said earlier, when Canadians find themselves in these situations,
and especially young people, the government will treat each case on an
Our law in regard to the death penalty in this country has not changed, but
we must deal with the various countries and cases on an individual basis, based
on the information we have.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, is the process purely ad hoc? Are
there no criteria? Is there no list? Does the minister of the day make the
decision as to whether or not to intervene based entirely on whim? That must be
what she is saying.
Senator LeBreton: That is the view of the honourable senator. The
government's position is exactly the same as it has been for many years. These
cases are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. This is what happened under
Ministers of Justice Rock and McLellan, and this is what is happening now.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, when the minister speaks about
the Washington case, is she talking about the Burns and Rafay case?
Senator LeBreton: I believe that was the name, but I do not have it
with me. I am speaking of the case where the Minister of Justice refused to
intervene, and then-Minister of Justice Allan Rock used language almost exactly
the same as the present Minister of Justice.
Senator Fraser: If memory serves, the Supreme Court of Canada said
that Justice Canada was wrong. If my recollection is correct, the Supreme Court
of Canada said that we could not extradite people who were facing the death
penalty without getting assurances that they would not in fact face the death
Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate telling us that Canada has a
judicial duty to obtain assurances before a trial but not after a trial? I do
not understand how she squares that.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I will have to check the case
on which Minister Rock was commenting.
The case of this gentleman — I use the word very carefully — is a case of
someone understanding the laws of the United States, committing a murder in the
United States, being sentenced in the United States.
I believe the Department of Justice advice was identical to advice that had
been given to Minister Rock and Minister McLellan in similar cases. I will
obtain the two cases that were involved when the decisions were made by those
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, if I understand correctly, the
minister is saying that this gentleman is subject to the laws of the United
States and he should have understood those laws. The laws of the United States
include the right to plea bargain. It is my understanding that the co-accused at
the time plea bargained, and that man is now free and walking the streets of
Canada, while his partner in the murder, who is the subject of this discussion,
is in jail in the United States and facing the death penalty.
The law is one thing, but what the law is sometimes used for is something
else again, and I have great concerns about this matter.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for Question
Period has expired.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour to table a delayed answer to an oral question raised
by Senator Callbeck on February 26, 2008, regarding health, the proposed
national pharmaceutical strategy.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck on February 26,
The National Pharmaceuticals Strategy (NPS), which was agreed to by First
Ministers as part of the 2004 Health Accord, targets issues such as
affordable access, appropriate use/ prescribing, pricing, safety and
effectiveness. The Strategy is ambitious, and the first phase laid the
groundwork. The NPS was never intended to be a vehicle to negotiate
increased federal funding for drug coverage, which is a provincial and
The federal government provides significant funds to ensure the
sustainability of the whole health care system through the Canada Health
Transfer, which grows at 6 per cent per year. In 2004, the federal
government provided an additional $41 billion to provinces and territories
to develop and implement a 10-year plan to strengthen healthcare, including
pharmaceuticals, according to provincial and territorial priorities.
Our emphasis with provinces and territories continues to be on realizing
efficiencies in our system as a result of our investment, so that public
resources can be targeted most effectively. Efficiencies could be gained
through better generic drug pricing, national purchasing strategies, better
prescribing practices and more accessible knowledge on drug safety and
effectiveness. We are working with provinces and territories under the NPS
and other initiatives to address these issues.
For example, a business plan has been completed, which proposes a model
for the creation of a pan-Canadian virtual network of centres of excellence
in post-market pharmaceutical research to strengthen the evaluation of
safety and effectiveness of drugs based on their use in the real world. This
report is available on Health Canada's website.
To address issues of affordable access, the Strategy calls for
catastrophic drug coverage options to be developed and analyzed. The NPS
neither said nor implied a commitment to new funding from the federal
government to expand coverage of catastrophic costs. The analysis of options
began in phase 1 and was refined in the next phase, as directed in the 2006
NPS progress report. Provinces and territories may utilize this analysis to
inform improvements in drug coverage for their residents. In fact, three
provinces (NL, SK, NS) recently introduced improvements to their
catastrophic drug coverage.
In addition to work on the NPS, the federal government has taken concrete
steps to improve the safety of drugs, including a significant investment of
$113 million over the next two years for the recently announced Food and
Consumer Safety Action Plan.
The Government of Canada continues to work with provinces, territories
and all stakeholders to improve access to a quality health care system,
including access to needed drug therapies, that is sustainable and meets the
needs of Canadians.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like to introduce
you to a page from the House of Commons. Antoine Pouliot is studying in the
Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa. He is majoring in
political science. Antoine is from Quebec City.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Day, for the second reading of Bill
S-206, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (clean drinking water). —(Honourable
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, the quality of our drinking
water is an issue that is of fundamental importance to all Canadians. I welcome
this opportunity to discuss the issue and to share some of my observations and
concerns in regard to Bill S-206, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.
First and foremost, however, I should like to applaud our honourable
colleague for his tireless efforts, not only in drafting this legislation but
also in persevering for all these years and over the course of many parliaments.
He truly deserves our thanks and, indeed, our appreciation.
Throughout the debate and discussion on Bill S-206, there has been much said
about the weaknesses of drinking water protection in Canada. There has also been
a great deal of speculation that Bill S-206 would fill the gaps and improve
drinking water quality and public health across our country. Let us explore some
of these arguments.
It has been mentioned in support of the bill before us that Canada is the
only modern country without federally regulated standards. I have researched
this topic, and I draw your attention to the Australian approach to drinking
Australia is recognized around the world as a leader in drinking water
management. In its November 2006 report, The Water We Drink, the David
Suzuki Foundation promotes the Australian framework as a successful model for
safeguarding the quality of drinking water. Like Canada, Australia's framework
is based on a comprehensive, multiple barrier approach that addresses all
elements of the source-to-tap cycle. Partnerships throughout the levels of
government are also recognized as being of critical importance, as they are in
Australia's successful and internationally recognized approach does not,
however, include federally-regulated standards. Instead, Australia's federal
government develops national guidelines, and the individual states are
responsible for regulating drinking water. The national government also provides
guidance for source-to-tap management and funding for priority areas. This
approach is similar to the one that is in place in Canada now.
Discussions over Bill S-206 have often included comparisons with the drinking
water management system in place in the United States. This example has been
used to support the need for Bill S-206, as well as for federally regulated
drinking water standards.
The United States began regulating drinking water at the federal level in
1974. The establishment of this federal regulatory system has not eliminated or
even reduced waterborne illnesses. In fact, the American health surveillance
system reports approximately 30 outbreaks of waterborne illness every single
year. By comparison, Canada's health surveillance system has reported zero
outbreaks of waterborne illness since it started recording data in 2001. Let me
repeat that: Zero outbreaks of waterborne illness.
Honourable senators, we must ask: Will federal standards make a significant
difference to public health? To me, the American data would suggest otherwise.
Another recurring topic of discussion is the number of boil water advisories
— and I am familiar with them — across this country and the claim that Bill
S-206 would rectify this situation and eliminate or at least significantly
reduce the number of boil water advisories.
Let me remind honourable senators that the presence of a boil water advisory
does not mean that people in the affected communities are getting sick. In fact,
it is quite the opposite. Boil water advisories are issued to protect public
health by ensuring that residents are not exposed to unsafe water. Issuing a
boil water advisory can be compared to a vaccination. It is a proactive and
preventative measure taken to protect a vulnerable segment of the population
from a potential illness.
In trying to put a dollar figure to the health impacts of unsafe drinking
water, Senator Grafstein has assumed that every person living in a community
with a boil water advisory will get sick. This is not the case. I suggest,
honourable senators, that just as vaccinations are considered a positive aspect
of our health care system, so should boil water advisories be looked on as an
important public health protection tool. Furthermore, a boil water advisory does
not impose a cost to our health care system since it is issued to prevent
illness. This is not to say that boil water advisories are an ideal situation;
they are not. It has been suggested that Bill S-206 would reduce the number of
boil water advisories across the country. Let us again look to the U.S. for a
The United States federal government does not publicly report on the number
of boil water advisories in place across the country. Very few states provide
status reports on boil water advisories that are in place or issued under their
jurisdiction. The most comprehensive, publicly accessible listing of boil water
advisories that I know of is from Ohio. That state operates its drinking water
programs in a federally regulated system like the one proposed under Bill S-206
and had over 200 boil water advisories in place as of December 20, 2006.
Honourable senators, Senator Grafstein collected his data on Canadian boil water
advisories during this time frame. Ohio has a population of about 11 million
people, which is similar to that of Ontario. In the data provided by the
Province of Ontario for the week of December 3, 2006, Ontario had only two boil
water advisories in place. Ohio, as I said, had over 200.
The evidence from this research suggests to me that the existence of
federally regulated drinking water standards does not guarantee that the boil
water advisory will be a thing of the past. The reasons for boil water
advisories are many and varied. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Federal drinking water standards will also not necessarily protect citizens
against more serious drinking water events such as those of Walkerton or
Vancouver. The United States, even with its federal standards, has had its share
of drinking water related crises. Over 400,000 people became ill and
approximately 100 others died in the city of Milwaukee due to an outbreak in
1993. In 2005, New York City residents were advised to boil their water after
heavy rainstorms resulted in high particle counts in the drinking water supply.
This is the exact situation that occurred in Vancouver in November of 2006.
Thankfully, there were no outbreaks in either Vancouver or New York City and no
increased health care costs related to these incidents.
Discussion of Bill S-206 has also raised concerns about drinking water in
First Nations communities. The government acknowledges the seriousness of this
situation, as we all do, and over the past year has made several important
improvements to the drinking water situation on First Nation reserves. Training
of treatment plant operators in First Nation communities is now mandatory;
standards are in place for the design, construction and operation of treatment
systems; and long-term solutions have been developed for the highest-risk
Recently, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada commissioned an
expert panel to look at the options for regulating drinking water on First
Nations lands. The report of the expert panel was tabled in the House of Commons
in December 2006. This report noted that the most pressing need is resources and
not regulation. The experts emphasized that regulation, without appropriate
resources, would not solve the problem.
The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada took this report under
advisement, and in January of this year, 2008, announced the latest progress
report on the Plan of Action for Drinking Water in First Nations Communities.
In addressing the Nipissing First Nation, Minister Strahl said, "When we
came to office, there were — shockingly — 193 high-risk systems in First Nation
communities. That number has now been reduced to 85."
When the plan of action was launched, it identified 21 priority communities
with high-risk systems, which also had drinking water advisories. The latest
progress report has only six communities in this category.
The minister said:
These are important steps, but we have to ensure progress continues. To
keep moving forward, my department is preparing an independent national
assessment of the current state of all water and wastewater systems.
Honourable senators, the signs of progress and leadership are strong, but
more needs to be done, especially in the area of skills development and training
for local system operators. That is why we are looking to hire between 30 and 40
more trainers who will travel to different communities. As a result of this
recruitment, the number of trainers will nearly double.
I believe honourable senators will be interested to know that 41 per cent of
operators have achieved the first level of certification or higher. With
improved training, this number will increase significantly, thank goodness.
All these initiatives are critical to addressing drinking water issues on
First Nations land. My concern, however, is that Bill S-206 will upset the
apple cart, so to speak, and serve only to duplicate these efforts and divert
In terms of implementing Bill S-206, it has been said that the federal
government will not be required to provide funding for infrastructure. While
this statement is technically true, there will be a great deal of pressure on
the government to support communities. The United States has issued a dedicated
fund of $850 million U.S. per year just for drinking water infrastructure. That
fund is amazing money.
It has also been proposed that regulating drinking water as a food under Bill
S-206 will not require any additional resources for federal administrative,
compliance and enforcement capacity. This proposal is not the case.
The expertise required to regulate drinking water from tens of thousands of
heterogeneous communities is different from regulating food products that are
sold for profit. Australia tried to regulate drinking water as a food, and found
no similarity in the skills required for these two areas. As a result, Australia
has created two separate groups, one to address food and another to address
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a budget of over $200
million for programming and enforcement related to drinking water. Honourable
senators, it is clear from these examples that the costs will be significant for
It means creating a whole new area of expertise for the federal government,
and it means taking a lead role in an area where the provinces are truly the
A key consideration in protecting the quality of drinking water is to ensure
the appropriate use of available resources. Additional costs resulting from Bill
S-206 are the penalties and fines imposed on those systems that do not meet the
potential standards. These costs would divert the scarce resources of these
small communities away from real improvements to drinking water and to
administrative costs. Personally, I want to see these resources directed at
improving drinking water and obtaining results right there in the community. I
am sure honourable senators share that view.
Senator Comeau: Hear, hear!
Senator Cochrane: The costs of Bill S-206 have not been assessed fully
and realistically. The burden of this bill will fall on the shoulders of
Canadian taxpayers with little in the way of public health protection.
Senator Grafstein has stated that the implementation of Bill S-206 will
provide an oversight function to the work already done by the provinces. The
federal government will duplicate the functions already in place in all
provinces and territories. Clearly, this situation is not acceptable.
Provinces and territories have stepped up to the plate, particularly since
Walkerton. They are doing an effective job in providing safe drinking water to
Honourable senators, I believe we all share the same objective: to protect
the health of Canadians against all risks from environmental contaminants. This
issue affects all Canadians and it cannot be ignored.
It is our responsibility to ensure the tools we choose to put in place to
protect the health of Canadians are effective, as well as cost effective.
While I commend the fundamental intentions of Bill S-206, I do not believe
the bill can or will help us meet these objectives.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I want to respond
briefly and then I will call for the question.
The Hon. the Speaker: If Senator Grafstein speaks now it will have the
effect of closing the debate.
Senator Grafstein: I thank the honourable senator for her intensive
review of the bill. I respond by saying there are statistics, statistics and
damn statistics. These questions are all important ones that properly should be
addressed to the committee. I thank her and welcome her for engaging in the
debate in a concrete way. She has not lowered or heightened the standard of
proof I must address to satisfy the committee that this bill would be an
appropriate one. She has raised interesting questions, and I hope that I can
respond to all those questions in an appropriate way before a fulsome hearing of
I hope as well to bring the Auditor General to be a witness. I have spoken to
the Auditor General about the subject matter. She is anxious to attend to
address many of the concerns the honourable senator has raised in terms of the
statistics she has provided here on behalf of the government. We are here for an
independent view about what this issue is all about. We listen to governments
all the time and we know sometimes they are too close to their own activities
and are not as objective about what should be done for the benefit of the public
I move second reading of this bill.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
An Hon. Senator: On division.
Motion agreed to and bill read second time, on division.
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Carstairs, P.C.,
calling the attention of the Senate to the reasons for the high attrition
rate of Foreign Service Officers and others who serve in Canadian Embassies
abroad, most particularly the failure of this and past governments to
recognize the rights of the partners of these employees.—(Honourable
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I will say a couple of words on this item. I am sure you are looking
forward to my comments on this one. Given that I have not had a chance to flesh
it out yet, I would like to request that I continue the adjournment on this
inquiry under Senator Andreychuk's name.
On motion of Senator Comeau, for Senator Andreychuk, debate adjourned.
Hon. Joan Fraser, pursuant to notice of April 2, 2008, moved:
That the papers and evidence received and taken, and the work
(a) the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs during the First Session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament
relating to Bill S-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of
(b) the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights during the
First Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament relating to Bill S-207, An
Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children);
be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs for the purposes of its consideration of Bill S-209, An Act to amend
the Criminal Code (protection of children), during the current session.