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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 144, Issue 46

Thursday, April 3, 2008
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker



THE SENATE

Thursday, April 3, 2008

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

Prayers.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Journalists Lost in the Line of Duty

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 told.

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 Chikomba.

They all deserve our gratitude and homage.

World Water Day

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 demand.

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 own responsibilities.

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.

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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 wetlands.

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 Area.

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.

Mr. Gordie Howe

Celebration of Eightieth Birthday

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. Senators: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

Visitor in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw to your attention the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Mouldi Sakri, the new Tunisian Ambassador.

On behalf of all honourable senators, Your Excellency, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.

Tunisian Ambassador

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.

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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 information.

[English]

The Late Geoffrey Pearson, O.C.

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 Socialist Republics.

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.


ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Development Assistance Accountability Bill

Report of Committee

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

FOURTH REPORT

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.

Respectfully submitted,

CONSIGLIO DI NINO
Chair

Observations
 to the Fourth Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
(Bill C-293)

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 self-sustaining economies.

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 point.

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.

Public Service Employment Act

Bill to Amend—Report of Committee

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 present its

ELEVENTH REPORT

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.".

Respectfully submitted,

TERRY STRATTON
Deputy Chair

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.

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Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association

Rose-Roth Seminar, October 25-27, 2007—Report Tabled

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.

Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Accessibility to Post-secondary Education

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.


QUESTION PERIOD

Citizenship and Immigration

Effect of Amendments Proposed in Budget Implementation Bill

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 workers.

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.

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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 minister?

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.

[Translation]

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?

[English]

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.

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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 admit that?

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 Parliament.

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 system.

Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, the minister has said at least twice that the system is broken. I do not agree with that.

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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 backlogs.

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 needed.

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 Senate.

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.

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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.

Justice

Death Penalty—Criteria for Protection of Citizens Abroad

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.

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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 clear-cut.

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 individual basis.

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.

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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 penalty.

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 ministers.

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.

[Translation]

Delayed Answer to Oral Question

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.

Health

Proposed National Pharmaceutical Strategy

(Response to question raised by Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck on February 26, 2008)

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 territorial responsibility.

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.

Pages Exchange Program with House of Commons

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.

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[English]

Distinguished Visitor in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I interrupt our proceedings to draw to your attention the presence in the gallery of our distinguished former colleague, Senator Wilson.

On behalf of all honourable senators, welcome.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


ORDERS OF THE DAY

Food and Drugs Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading

On the Order:

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 Senator Comeau)

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 water protection.

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 this country.

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.

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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 comparison.

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 communities.

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.

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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 scarce resources.

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 drinking water.

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 Canada.

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 experts.

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 all Canadians.

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 the committee.

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 good.

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.

Referred to Committee

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?

On motion of Senator Grafstein, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.

Foreign Service Officers

High Attrition Rate—Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

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 Senator Andreychuk)

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.

Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Committee Authorized to Refer Documents from Studies on Bill S-21 During First Session of Thirty-eighth Parliament and Bill S-207 During First Session of Thirty-ninth Parliament to Current Study on Bill S-209

Hon. Joan Fraser, pursuant to notice of April 2, 2008, moved:

That the papers and evidence received and taken, and the work accomplished by:

(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 children); and

(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.

Motion agreed to.

Adjournment

Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:

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

That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, April 8, 2008, at 2 p.m.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Motion agreed to.

The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, April 8, 2008, at 2 p.m.