The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before we proceed, I would
ask senators to rise and observe one minute of silence in memory of Corporal
Michael Starker, whose tragic death occurred yesterday while serving his country
Hon. Joan Cook: Honourable senators, May 5 through May 11 is Mental
Health Week in Canada. This national awareness week, spearheaded by the Canadian
Mental Health Association, provides citizens across the country with
opportunities to learn more about the importance of mental health and how to
achieve and maintain it in our daily lives.
This year's theme, "Work-Life Balance: Make it Your Business," focuses on
the role that employers and businesses can play in making their workplace a
mentally healthy and productive environment.
Statistics show that one in five Canadians will experience some form of
mental health problem at some point in their lives. However, in spite of the
fact that almost all of us know someone who has been or who will be affected by
mental illness, very few of us know much about it.
It is human nature to fear what we do not understand and, unfortunately,
mental illness still carries a stigma. Sadly, many people hesitate to get help
for a mental health problem. Canadians need to know that effective treatment and
help exists and that the fear associated with mental illness will begin to
disappear as people learn and talk more about this illness.
In my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Canadian Mental Health
Association will be hosting numerous events this week, beginning on May 5 with
the signing of a provincial proclamation by the Honourable Ross Wiseman, our
Minister of Health and Community Services, declaring Mental Health Week in
Newfoundland and Labrador. I am proud to be a member of the Pottle Centre board,
a drop-in centre for mental health consumers in St. John's, and they, too, will
be hosting an open house this week.
In keeping with the theme of the week, "Work-Life Balance: Make it Your
Business," information brochures will be circulated electronically to private
and public sector employers across the province.
Honourable senators, I urge you to take some time this week to learn a bit
more about mental health and help all Canadians win the fight against the stigma
associated with it. Together, we can create a mentally healthy Canada.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I rise today to call your
attention to the proactive steps taken by Canada in the electoral uncertainty
arising from the recent Zimbabwe elections. I want honourable senators to know
that Canada has been extremely active in working behind the scenes to help find
a solution to the electoral crisis in Zimbabwe to help prevent the outbreak of
On April 20, I flew to Mauritius where, with the able assistance and counsel
of Her Excellency Roxanne Dubé, Ambassador in Harare, we engaged in more than
nine major bilateral meetings with African heads of state and foreign ministers
of the Southern African Development Community, SADC, countries.
While we attended the Southern African Development Community International
Conference on Poverty and Development in Mauritius, we utilized the opportunity
to lobby senior African delegates to encourage them to take steps to find a
solution to the crumbling credibility of the electoral process in Zimbabwe.
At the request of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, we advanced
Canada's position to urge African leaders to play a more active role in difusing
the crisis. At each meeting, we referred to a powerful statement from the 135
national parliaments that had just met in Cape Town at the one hundred and
eighteenth Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly. The IPU document said:
The people of Zimbabwe have a right to determine their future through
free and fair elections, as enshrined in the universally accepted norms and
standards, as well as the continental (African Union) and SADC Principles
and Guidelines governing democratic elections.
Ambassador Dubé and I spoke with African leaders from Zimbabwe, Zambia, South
Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola and others to encourage greater African
leadership in resolving the crisis. This was the second SADC summit that Her
Excellency had attended, post-election, to lobby African leaders.
Our hope was that civil war would not break out at the cost of thousands of
lives. With sensitive issues such as this, diplomacy is often done quietly.
The Canadian Embassy staff acted as election observers on the day of the
election and closely monitored events both before and after. In fact, the
Canadian Embassy was the only embassy present at the official recount of
Ambassador Dubé and her staff have been working closely with non-governmental
organizations, NGOs, including the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which has
played a crucial role in the election.
Thanks to the direct intervention and advocacy of Ambassador Dubé,
journalists from The Globe and Mail and the Canadian Broadcasting Company
were among the few Western journalists to be granted permission to report the
elections from inside the country. Her close and visible contact with the
journalists during their stay may very well have protected them during a
crackdown on foreign journalists.
Honourable senators, I wish to commend Ambassador Dubé for her excellent
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, on Saturday, May 3, the Trenton
Military Family Resource Centre held its fourth annual invisible ribbon gala.
This celebration of the military family was first held in Winnipeg in 1996.
Barbara Little and Maureen Macdonald created the plastic ribbon to symbolize the
invisible uniform that Canada's military spouses wear.
The contribution of military spouses and their families deserves to be widely
known and celebrated. While our troops are constantly on the move, at the front,
on missions or in training, their spouses must become heads of their households
and take on many responsibilities by themselves. They do all this with great
energy and make it possible for their military partners to do their own jobs
Military spouses work constantly to reconcile the demands of military life
with their status as civilians. They have had to adapt to these constraints and
to the resulting regular disruptions in their own professional lives.
The moral strength and discretion they demonstrate are worthy of our
admiration. I have always been overwhelmed by their will to take charge of their
lives. They never give up. They are my heroes and heroines.
The spouses make many sacrifices, expecting nothing in return. They only want
their partner's mission to end in success. Their supporting role in their
husband's or wife's well-being is of extreme importance.
Honourable senators, I encourage you to continue to support the military
brass in its effort to increase the recognition of the sacrifices these families
make. I know that every senator in this chamber is aware of the enormous
contributions these families make and see those efforts for their true worth.
I encourage honourable senators to show your ongoing support and solidarity
this week by wearing the invisible ribbons that are on your desks.
There are many ways to support our brave troops, but if you ever have the
chance to meet a military spouse, shake her hand and tell her how much you
admire and respect how she handles things. They are invisible, but they are
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, May 5 to 11 is Mental
Health Week, an annual event that gives Canadians many opportunities to learn
more about the importance of mental health.
The focus of Mental Health Week this year is "Mental Health: Make it Your
Business," which is about the role that employers and businesses have to make
work environments places that are productive as well as supportive of mental
Toxic offices are not simply difficult places to work, they also cost all of
us money. Employee burnout results in an estimated $12 billion spent on health
claims, lost productivity and absenteeism.
An article from The Globe and Mail on May 8, 2007, stated that:
. . . 22 per cent of Canadian workers consider themselves workaholics.
And money is the major motivator.
The article continues by saying that studies also show that:
Over the longer term, however, research shows that overworking is an
unprofitable behaviour. Allowing work to encroach on rest, relaxation and
personal relationships increases vulnerability to stress-related impairment
Fortunately, we are doing something to support mental health.
As honourable senators are aware, the Senate has made the mental health of
Canadians a priority, as evidenced in the May 2006 report from the Standing
Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology entitled Out of
the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction
Services in Canada.
This government has also made the mental health of Canadians a priority. Last
year's budget provided funding to establish the Mental Health Commission of
Canada. In addition, our former colleague, the Honourable Michael Kirby, has
been chosen to chair the commission.
This year's budget continues our support for mental health by providing $110
million to fund proposed demonstration projects. I must say that Senator Kirby
has been tireless in his efforts to get the job done. These projects will help
us find solutions by targeting the very real problems experienced by people with
mental health issues.
This is the kind of leadership that will provide real help to Canadians.
Honourable senators wishing to learn more about mental health should check the
website of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, over 1,100 citizens of the
Brandon area in my home province of Manitoba have signed a petition requesting
both assistance and action on the establishment of an Instrument Landing System,
ILS, at the McGill Field in Brandon. Brandon is Manitoba's second largest city
and has always had poor passenger and freight service, not the least of which
has been caused because they have not had the appropriate safety requirements
which an ILS requires.
Unfortunately, honourable senators, the petition is an online petition and
the rules of this place make online petitions unacceptable for tabling. Perhaps
the Rules Committee should look into this restriction since citizens use the new
technology every day to express their views to the politicians of this country.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Carstairs: The petition reads as follows:
We the undersigned citizens of Western Manitoba, ask the Government of
Canada to provide the necessary infrastructure to enable safe air travel at
Brandon Municipal Airport. The current lack of an Instrument Landing System
creates uncertainty for scheduled air services and presents safety concerns
for air ambulance and other services. An ILS would provide reliability and
safety for scheduled commercial flight, air ambulance, and business aircraft
in all weather conditions. Investing in this infrastructure would make
possible the recruitment of national/international carriers to serve Brandon
Municipal Airport. We look forward to the support and leadership of the
Government of Canada regarding this important issue for the people and the
economy of Western Manitoba.
Honourable senators, the people of Brandon and Western Manitoba deserve the
support of the Government of Canada.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, a great Canadian, Colonel
Richard Dillon of London, Grand Bend and Toronto, a distinguished soldier, civil
servant and engineer died last month at the age of 87. He was awarded the
Military Cross for distinguished and meritorious service in battle in World War
II during the Italian campaign. It was at the town of Assoro where that cross
was won. The Globe and Mail provided the following description of events:
On July 23, 1943, two companies of the RCR were ordered to skirt the town
of Assoro, under cover of darkness and attack it from the rear. Nothing went
according to plan: The commanding officer was killed, communications broke
down and Capt. Dillon, with a section of carriers, was instrumental in
re-establishing contact with the beleaguered forward companies, which were
The Military Cross citation reads, he:
. . . led the carriers skillfully across difficult rocky and mountainous
country during daylight under constant observed enemy artillery, mortar and
machine gun fire, and through enemy patrols, contacted the forward Companies
and carried out his mission. The officer displayed leadership and
outstanding devotion to duty in carrying out his difficult mission.
Among others, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery signed that citation.
Richard Dillon went on to become the first Dean of Engineering at the
University of Western Ontario and the first Deputy Minister of Energy in
Ontario's history. After the election of the Parti Québécois in 1976, he,
William Darcy McKeough and Richard Schmeelk of Salomon Brothers inaugurated the
French Canadians can study in English at an anglophone university and English
Canadians can study at a francophone university, all in the interest of national
Richard Dillon was a patriot, someone who did his remarkable generation
proud. His last moments were described in The Globe and Mail in this way:
Mrs. Dillon cared for her husband at home until finally, when he could no
longer recognize his loved ones and even a walk in the garden could frighten
him, she allowed him to be moved into the veteran's wing at Sunnybrook. . .
He died there some time later surrounded by his family. About an hour after
his passing, the chaplain and some of the nurses on duty came into Mr. Dillon's
room. According to Kelly, one of Dick Dillon's three daughters:
The Chaplain read some passages and said a prayer. . . . Then she looked
at my mother and said: "On behalf of the people of Canada I want to thank
you and your husband for his service to the country and for the freedom we
enjoy today." And then, they placed the flag over his body.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been
received from the House of Commons with Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada
Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the second time?
On motion of Senator Comeau, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second
reading two days hence.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In
response to my question yesterday about the cancellation of the Coordination of
Access to Information Request System, the leader described it as:
. . . elaborate and incomplete centralized control over access to
information that is expensive, bureaucratic and does little to improve
actual access to information.
Therefore I ask the minister to tell this chamber how much the government
will save by cancelling the CAIR system?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I wish to thank the honourable senator for
that question. I believe I answered all of the questions on this matter
It is quite clear that very few people use this system. In fact, there was an
article in the National Post newspaper yesterday, reporting that federal
government officials had said that there were 13 users a month, at an annual
cost of $50,000.
This registry has been used in the past as an early warning system to
restrict the flow of access to information. Our government has increased access
I have a list of 69 agents of Parliament, Crown corporations and wholly-owned
subsidiaries that the government has added to the registry. Anyone who wants to
file an access to information request, and who is in this registry, is able to
receive that information. They need only to make the inquiry and they will
receive the information.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I believe we need more
information not only about the costs but also about what would be provided to
the general public and for those who need to consult. From what the leader is
telling honourable senators about the number of requests under this program, I
understand that some free services were provided to the government because
external parties were completing the work.
Can the government provide a system with a mechanism that allows direct
government access and, thereby, not use volunteers who are kind enough to put
the information on the website for the general public to access? Can the
government complete the information and provide access to the Canadian taxpayer?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, we have expanded the registry
for access to information with the addition of 69 agencies and bodies. The
public has increased access to information, as indicated by the higher number of
access requests made over the last two years. There is nothing in this decision
to shut down this particular registry that restricts anyone in any way from
access to information. The registry was simply a compilation of the requests
that have been made. As I said yesterday, we have a proven example of the
registry being used for wrong purposes when it allowed the previous PMO to be
aware of an access request, to fashion its response and to figure out a
communications strategy before any of the information was known to the public.
In no way does the discontinuation of this list impede anyone in any way from
using his or her rights as a Canadian citizen to access information. If someone
files an access request and suspects that someone who may or may not have been
on this list has filed the same request, they simply have to ask to be advised
if that is so. That information is available.
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, the Access to Information Act
is seminal legislation that serves the cause of Canadian democracy. Any
tampering with access mechanisms raises serious concerns. I should like to ask
the minister the following question: Freedom to information was a value that the
once proud Progressive Conservative Party of Canada believed in. With the
elimination of the registry, the legacy of Gerald Baldwin, Walter Baker, Joe
Clark and Brian Mulroney is being significantly weakened, if not discarded.
Why is the government betraying its own party's legacy? Why is the
government's commitment to open and transparent government in its 2006 platform
being whittled down and abandoned?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I am very proud of the legacy
of our party in this area. I well remember Gerald Baldwin from Peace River,
Alberta, who first raised the issue of freedom to information in Parliament.
I also know that it took a long time for the issue to pass through
Parliament. As a matter of fact, the Mulroney government was the first
government confronted with access to information because it was brought in very
late in the previous government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
I am proud of the legacy of the Conservative Party in this regard. As proof
of how much we value our legacy, we have expanded access to information. As I
mentioned a few moments ago, I would be happy to read the list for honourable
senators. We have expanded the coverage to 69 additional organizations to make
them subject to access to information. That is all good news.
Honourable senators, 13 customers per month is not extensive use of a
registry. There is also some evidence that it was not up to date, and there is
nothing that is in the registry that is not available to anyone who wants to ask
for information on just who has filed an access request.
Hon. Francis Fox: If the minister wants to talk about history, we
will. It was a Liberal government that took over the bill of freedom of
information proposed by Mr. Clark and shepherded it through Parliament by July
1, 1983. I happen to remember it well, because I am the one who shepherded it
through Parliament. I do see it as a shared legacy of parliamentarians on both
sides of the Senate.
However, by abolishing the registry, the government is surely making access
less efficient and more cumbersome. This, in itself, is a serious weakening of
the access process. The minister spoke yesterday of the evils of centralization
through instruments such as the registry.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate now confirm or deny that the
Privy Council has been given the task of coordinating the release of any
information requested under the Access to Information Act?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): That is very interesting. This idea originated with the
Conservatives, and then it took three years for the then government of Mr.
Trudeau to bring it forward. However, as I have pointed out, the full effect of
the act was not implemented until the government of Brian Mulroney.
With regard to this decision, there is no reason to believe that
discontinuing it impedes the ability of Canadians to access information from the
government. As I said a few moments ago, we have strengthened the act. We have
added 69 more organizations that are now accessible. Honourable senators need
only to witness the stories we are now seeing in the media about the CBC and
With regard to the specific question, I am not aware of what Senator Fox is
talking about, so I will simply take that portion of his question as notice.
Senator Fox: Perhaps, in the spirit of access to information, the
minister could undertake to make those inquiries and give the Senate a
commitment to table whatever protocol or directives have been given to
departments and agencies regarding the new processes governing access to
information since this government took office?
Senator LeBreton: I should point out that all of the activity with
regard to access to information, of course, falls within the Treasury Board
Secretariat. We have made great strides, not only on access to information but
on many other areas of the accountability act and other offices of Parliament. I
would be happy to provide a chronology of all the great work that we have done.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, as it happens, just this week I
received a letter from the Privy Council Office in relation to the Access to
Information Act because last summer I sent a letter to the Prime Minister and to
then Minister of Defence, Mr. O'Connor, asking for action on behalf of veterans
who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I will cite the request
of the letter in the original French as follows:
. . . copies of all the letters sent to Stephen Harper's attention,
except letters from the public, from July 1, 2007 to today, October 19,
I take it from that that the request was made on October 19, 2007. My letter
from the Privy Council Office says that they are considering the release of this
material but believe that it may contain information that falls under subsection
21, which has to do with exceptions, for example, information that does not have
to be released. For my convenience, they have attached extracts from the act.
For the life of me, I cannot see how my innocent letter to the Prime Minister
would fall under any of these exceptions, but I was particularly interested in
what I take to be the act's requirement that when a record is requested under
this act, the head of the relevant institution shall, within 30 days after the
request is received, give written notice to the third party of the request. If
this request was made on October 19, that is now close to seven months.
How can we square that with the government's repeated assurances that it is
doing more than anyone in history to enhance access to information and
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for her question, although it
sounded rather like one of her old editorials in the Montreal Gazette.
I cannot respond. Obviously, the honourable senator has sent a letter to the
Prime Minister, so that would fall within the purview of the Privy Council
In response to Senator Fox, the implementation of the act falls within the
purview of Treasury Board.
In response to Senator Fraser, however, as I do not have the details of what
the honourable senator is asking, and as she read only snippets from her
correspondence — and probably well selected snippets — she cannot expect me to
I must say that I remember, back in the opposition times, when Mr. Chrétien
was the Prime Minister and was running around saying he was a "Chevy Prime
Minister," and the expense to make a Chevrolet bullet proof was reported in the
newspapers. They started with a Chevrolet and ended up with a Buick Roadmaster.
I had a researcher who worked for me file a simple access to information request
— I paid the five dollars myself — and what I asked was a very simple question.
I was not asking for security details; I just wanted the cost. My researcher was
investigated by the RCMP for simply asking the question, and his request was
cited by the former Information Commissioner as an abuse of power. That was my
own experience with the previous government.
I would have to have more details to fashion a proper response to Senator
Senator Fraser: I will be happy to provide the leader of the
government with details of the correspondence. Let me just ask her to accept my
assurance that while, yes, I was an editor for many years — a period she
apparently remembers fondly — it has been my practice, then and now, not to edit
so as to distort. I would never mislead this chamber.
Senator LeBreton: As Senator Fraser would remember, I sent many
letters to the editor of the Montreal Gazette. When Senator Fraser was
appointed to the Senate, she ended up being my neighbour, and one day she yelled
in to my secretary, "Your senator used to send me lots of letters," to which I
yelled back, because I was inside my office, "Yes, and it might have been nice
if I had had the odd reply."
In any event, the honourable senator did not give me enough information to
properly respond to her question.
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, some time ago the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs heard evidence from a
number of individuals with regard to correctional services provided in Canada.
Following those presentations I received a letter from the Office of the
Correctional Investigator of Canada stating that, for 2006-07, of a total budget
of $1.8 billion, only $37 million was spent on programs that contribute to the
safe reintegration of offenders following release. This represents an actual
decrease in programming funds of more than 28 per cent over the past few years
after inflation is taken into consideration.
As we all want safer streets, including the Leader of the Government in the
Senate, will the government extend its law and order agenda to include increased
funds to improve programming for offenders so that they are less likely to
reoffend once they are released?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for that question. The government
takes the safety of our streets and communities very seriously. Many bills have
been introduced in and passed through Parliament that deal with crime in our
country. I do not have the figures on the amount expended by Corrections Canada
for people after they are released from incarceration, so I will take that
question as notice.
Senator Milne: I thank the leader for that response. However, I am
concerned about where this government's dedication to convicting Canadians and
throwing away the key will lead us. I am afraid we are going the way of the
United States regarding correctional services. It was recently announced that
more than 1 in 100 adult Americans is behind bars.
Last year, over $49 billion was spent on corrections in the United States,
$10 billion more than was spent in 1995. That is an increase of approximately 20
per cent. Meanwhile, in Canada, corrections spending has doubled over this same
period, a 200 per cent increase. With spending on corrections rising while
program spending for inmates is falling, it is little wonder that the Office of
the Correctional Investigator found a shortage of core programming in maximum
Will the Leader of the Government use her considerable influence to remind
her cabinet colleagues that the responsibility to offenders does not end when
they receive a sentence for their crime? We owe it to the safety of Canadians to
ensure that offenders are provided with the opportunity to access programs that
may help them to be productive members of society once they get out of jail.
Senator LeBreton: In terms of the overall budget of Corrections
Canada, Senator Milne makes the assumption that none of the increased costs are
invested in rehabilitation and preparing those incarcerated to return to their
communities and not to reoffend. I know it is popular to compare our system with
that of the United States. I cannot answer for the United States. Our system is
completely different. We have introduced many justice bills, some of which have
been passed and some of which have been held up, to address serious issues
facing law enforcement.
The honourable senator assumes that none of the increased costs at
Corrections Canada have been invested in the prison population, and I do not
believe that is the case.
When I ask the minister's office to respond to her first question, I will ask
for a breakdown of where some of this money has been spent.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, I note in the Auditor
General's report yesterday that she has joined the hundreds of thousands of
other Canadians who want Prime Minister Stephen Harper out of 24 Sussex Drive.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Mercer: I could not let that line go by without delivery.
Honourable senators, yesterday's Auditor General's report included some
findings of great concern to Canadians. One of particular note is that the
Canada Border Services Agency does not know the whereabouts of almost 41,000
people who have been ordered removed from the country. That is more than some of
the smaller towns in my province.
Auditor General Sheila Fraser also noted that the agency's guidelines give
wide latitude to officers to decide when to actually detain someone. Also, no
system is in place to ensure these decisions are consistently being made across
My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. When will her
leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, do something about the apparent inability
of the Minister of Public Safety to actually keep Canadians safe?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Does the honourable senator expect people to believe that the
condition of 24 Sussex Drive deteriorated since January 2006, and that all of
these people went missing since January 2006?
I will quote the report of the Auditor General. She said:
Since our last audit, the Agency has made a number of improvements in its
management of detentions and removals. It better estimates the number of
outstanding cases and it focuses its efforts on removing the higher-risk
The government very much appreciates the work of the Auditor General. She has
pointed out areas that need attention, unlike in the past, where every Auditor
General's report was a massive abuse of taxpayers' dollars — such as the Human
Resources and Social Development Canada scandal and the sponsorship scandal. In
this case, the Auditor General is bringing legitimate concerns to the
government's attention while acknowledging improvements since her last audit.
Senator Mercer: The Leader of the Government in the Senate constantly
refers to the previous government. At which point in time, at which point in
history, what is the date, what is the marker, where is the benchmark for when
this government will take responsibility for what the government does? I would
say that it is the day the Conservative Party assumed office, and the leader
should recognize that and start taking some responsibility.
The Auditor General's report also noted the Canada Border Services Agency
does not check to see whether detainees are being treated fairly according to
established human rights objectives; imagine that. We have no idea whether these
people are being properly treated. The agency also does not monitor how often
individuals released under certain conditions actually comply with these
conditions. Therefore, people are released and given some restrictions, but we
have no idea whether they follow them. The agency also does not pay attention to
the costs of detaining and removing individuals; the list goes on and on.
Meanwhile, I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate last month
about the Canada Border Services Agency rejecting an offer from the Halifax
Regional Police to dust for fingerprints in a bus aboard a ship where stowaways
were hidden. They refused; they were not interested in knowing the number of
stowaways on that bus. This pattern of ineptitude of the Minister of Public
Safety is rampant.
I received another one of Minister Day's email missives that he sends to all
of his employees extolling his virtues and trying to be buddies with his
employees. If the minister is too busy trying to be everyone's friend and not
properly running his department to ensure the safety of Canadians, when will
Stephen Harper be firing this minister and putting in place someone who will do
Senator LeBreton: We are happy to take responsibility for the actions
of our government, after having formed the government in January and being sworn
in in February 2006. I am happy to answer for that government. The honourable
senator often refers to statistics that obviously did not just happen within the
two-year period that we have been in government.
With respect to the Canada Border Services Agency, Minister Day, who is a
competent and well-liked minister, has directed the Canada Border Services
Agency to develop an action plan to improve the management of the detention and
removals program. This plan will include national supervision of the detention
and removals process to make it more effective, with better control of costs and
better tracking of individual cases in order to strengthen the removal process
and protect the public safety.
Minister Day, as is the case, is well ahead of the honourable senator on this
matter, and I await news from his department as to how they are planning to
implement this action plan.
Senator Mercer: The minister may know that the rest of us await this
action as well, because the Auditor General has told us that 41,000 people are
roaming the streets of this country, from north to south, and from east to west.
The government has had two years to change this situation.
This is a government that was elected on a great law-and-order platform.
Their stated goal was to make Canadian streets safe. However, the Auditor
General tells us that there are still 41,000 people roaming the streets who have
been ordered to be removed from this country, and Mr. Day does not know where
those thousands of people are. I would suggest that this is a sign of
Senator LeBreton: The fact is that even the Auditor General has
acknowledged that some of those 41,000 might not even be in the country. The
difficulty is in tracking them.
As I said, the minister has instructed the Canada Border Services Agency to
put in place a number of initiatives to improve the situation. It is hoped that
when the Auditor General revisits this issue, she will again be able to report
that, since our last audit, the agency has made a number of improvements in its
management of detentions and removals.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour of presenting an answer to an oral question raised
in the Senate on April 17, 2008, by the Honourable Senator Jaffer, concerning
CIDA, the Initiative to Save a Million Lives and funding to combat malaria.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer on April 17, 2008)
The Initiative to Save a Million Lives
The Initiative to Save a Million Lives will focus on training, equipping
and deploying front line health workers to deliver basic health services to
children and pregnant women. This Canadian-led Initiative will include,
among other basic health services, new medicines to treat malaria and
long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria.
UNICEF is currently working with the Ministries of Health in the
assessment of needs and gaps in coverage of key health services, including
services for malaria. Gaps have already been identified in some of the
countries, while work is still ongoing in others. For example, in
Mozambique, the gaps have been identified in mosquito net coverage for
children and pregnant women. Therefore, Canadian funds will support the
delivery of over 400,000 long-lasting mosquito nets to children and pregnant
women by the end of the year.
Canadian funding to the Initiative will also provide other critical
services, such as immunizations, vitamin A supplements and treatment for
pneumonia — interventions that are aimed at the illnesses that greatly
contribute to childhood deaths in developing countries. The Initiative aims
to ensure that the results will be sustainable by making sure that there are
sufficient health workers trained to deliver these services to those who
need them most.
CIDA will monitor the use of these funds closely through annual reports
provided by UNICEF and validate the results reported through an independent
Canada will continue to play a world leadership role in malaria control,
working with a range of organizations, including the World Health
Since 2003, CIDA's support to malaria has resulted in the distribution of
over 6.4 million bednets in Africa through partnerships with the Canadian
Red Cross, UNICEF and World Vision Canada. It is conservatively estimated
that these nets will save approximately 180,000 lives.
Canada was the early leader among donor countries in the provision of
long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLITNs), and remains one of the lead
The second element in the fight against malaria is expanding access to
treatment for the poor. CIDA will be playing a major role in providing sick
children with the new highly effective malaria treatments, called
artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).
In addition, Canada has recently pledged $450M over three years to the
Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This brings
Canada's total contribution to $980M, and is one of the largest
international aid commitments ever made by Canada. Approximately one-quarter
of Global Fund monies have gone for malaria prevention and treatment.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before proceeding with the
Orders of the Day, I have a Speaker's ruling on Senators' Statements.
At the end of Question Period on May 1, 2008, Senator Fraser rose on a point
of order relating to Senators' Statements. She had two specific concerns: that a
statement made earlier in the day had not met the criteria of rule 22(4) and
that its content may have violated rule 51. On a separate issue, she asked for
guidance as to when, if ever, mention may be made to the absence of senators.
Senators Comeau, Carstairs, Goldstein, Banks, Corbin, and Stratton all spoke
to the matter, focussing on specific aspects of Senator Fraser's point of order.
I thank all the honourable senators for their helpful contributions.
On the first point, I will read rule 22(4) in full.
When "Senators' Statements" has been called, Senators may, without
notice, raise matters they consider need to be brought to the urgent
attention of the Senate. In particular, Senators' statements should relate
to matters which are of public consequence and for which the rules and
practices of the Senate provide no immediate means of bringing the matters
to the attention of the Senate. In making such statements, a Senator shall
not anticipate consideration of any Order of the Day and shall be bound by
the usual rules governing the propriety of debate. Matters raised during
this period shall not be subject to debate.
Senators must, usually, rely on their own understanding of the appropriate
matters for statements. This is evident from the rule itself, which states that
senators may raise matters that "they consider" to be urgent. The rule
reflects the fact the Senate remains in large measure a self-regulating chamber.
Senator Fraser's second concern was that the statement may have violated rule
51, which forbids "All personal, sharp or taxing speeches." Her objection
concerned some of the language that was used.
Rule 51 seeks to preserve decorum and order. As I have noted in previous
rulings, the Senate functions best when its business proceeds in a courteous and
dignified manner appropriate to the chamber of sober second thought. I again
underscore this point for senators, and invite them to show care in how they
frame remarks at all times during the sitting.
As a final point, Senator Fraser also sought guidance about restrictions on
referring to the absence of a senator. This is not the first time the topic has
come up during the current Parliament. A ruling of February 7, 2007, addressed
this very issue. It stated that:
As to the matter of referring to senators who may or may not be present,
House of Commons Procedure and Practice by Marleau and Montpetit is
clear, at page 188, that "the Speaker has traditionally discouraged Members
from signalling the absence of another Member from the House because 'there
are many places that Members have to be in order to carry out all of the
obligations that go with their office'." This is just as much the case for
senators. Similarly, Beauchesne's, at page 141, citation 481(c) of
the sixth edition, prohibits reference to the presence or absence of
Canadian practice discourages any reference to the absence of senators.
Practices in other countries, which were mentioned in discussion on the point of
order, are not of direct relevance to the conduct of Senate business in this
Just as reference is not to be made to the absence of a senator, members
should also refrain from drawing attention to the arrival or departure of any
honourable senator. We all understand that senators have many legitimate
competing obligations on their time.
As already noted, honourable senators are themselves to a great extent in
control of how the Senate runs. We must share responsibility for this.
I would like also to take this occasion to address the concern raised by
Senator Mercer yesterday. He made reference to rule 19, which deals with the
demeanour of senators in the chamber. The purpose of this rule is to maintain an
appropriate level of respect and dignity amongst honourable senators. The first
item in the rule indicates that it is out of order for any senator to pass
between the Chair and the senator who is then speaking. I urge all honourable
senators to observe all the proprieties established in this rule 19
In conclusion, I wish to thank all honourable senators for their comments. I
once again encourage all honourable senators to reflect on the manner in which
we conduct ourselves during the sitting, to ensure that we preserve the useful
and respectful exchange of ideas and information that is the hallmark of the
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Di Nino, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Andreychuk, for the second reading of Bill C-31,
An Act to amend the Judges Act.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, would my colleague across the floor provide an indication as to when
they intend to deal with this bill? This is an extremely important bill that
would provide access for Canadians in the appointment process of justices. As I
understand it, there is a certain number of judges from the Aboriginal
communities of Canada who would benefit from the passage of this bill.
Could my honourable colleague provide an indication as to when we might
expect her side to deal with this issue?
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, as Senator Comeau has indicated, this is an important bill, which
requires serious consideration. Certainly, our side is looking closely at the
legislation and preparing our information in order to respond appropriately.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the amendments by the House of
Commons to Bill S-215, An Act to protect heritage lighthouses:
1. Preamble, page 1: Add after line 15 the following:
"AND WHEREAS it is important to provide access to heritage
lighthouses in order for people to understand and appreciate the
contribution of those lighthouses to Canada's maritime heritage;"
2. Clause 2, page 2: Replace line 9 with the following:
"this Act, and includes any related building"
3. Clause 2, page 2: Replace lines 19 to 28 with the following:
""related building", in relation to a heritage lighthouse, means any
building on the site on which the lighthouse is situated that
contributes to the heritage character of the lighthouse."
4. Clause 6, page 3: Replace line 6 with the following:
"include any related building that the Min-"
5. Clause 7, page 3: Replace line 29 with the following:
"whether any related buildings should be"
6. Clause 11, page 4: Replace line 19 with the following:
"lated building should be included in the des-"
7. Clause 16, page 5: Replace line 23 with the following:
"house and whether any related building". —(Honourable Senator
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, in rising to commend this
motion to your attention and support, I will be brief.
After 10 years and seven or eight iterations, and with Senator Carney having
flown all the way from Vancouver to ensure that we do this right, I would not
dare do anything to impede the progress of this bill toward passage by the
Senate and Royal Assent.
The issue that is addressed by these amendments and the issue in which
Senator Carney and I as well as other proponents of the bill on the one hand,
and the government on the other, have been joined this past little while is that
of public access to lighthouses and sites designated as heritage lighthouses and
Senator Carney's concern, and our concern, was that ministerial designation
of a heritage lighthouse as provided under this bill would be, if not a dead
letter, certainly of dubious effect without some assurance of public access to
these heritage sites.
I pause long enough here to thank our friends on the Senate committee who
assisted Senator Carney and me with this undertaking. At committee we wrote into
the text of the bill binding stipulations to ensure that the designation of a
heritage lighthouse would be accompanied by the provision of access.
At the House of Commons, the government stated that the provisions we had
written into the bill at the Senate committee went too far. They found those
provisions to be too constraining. The government, as it not infrequently does,
invoked the well-known doctrine of unintended hypothetical consequences in the
future. This led to a series of negotiations and discussions involving the
sponsors of the bill and various interested parties outside Parliament. There
are and have been many interested and strongly committed parties urging this
bill upon us. We had negotiations and discussions that led to the amended bill
that is now before us.
Senator Carney and other proponents of the bill agreed to a new preambular
clause in the bill, which I will read:
AND WHEREAS it is important to provide access to heritage lighthouses in
order for people to understand and appreciate the contribution of those
lighthouses to Canada's maritime heritage. . . .
In the body of the bill, there are now references not only to the lighthouse
to be designated but also to "related" buildings. The minister in charge of
Parks Canada, the Minister of the Environment, may designate a lighthouse as a
heritage lighthouse. He or she may also designate any related building as part
of the heritage site. This, together with the preambular reference to the
importance of providing public access to heritage lighthouses, seemed to us to
be an honourable compromise, which we have accepted and which, on behalf of the
proponents, I commend to honourable senators.
Finally, honourable senators, let me say again that this bill has at least a
10-year history in Parliament. It originated, I believe, with our late friend
and colleague, the Honourable Michael Forrestall, a veteran of over 30 years in
both Houses of Parliament, whose memory I salute with affection this afternoon.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Murray: The legislation was taken up by Senator Carney from
the West Coast, whose prodigious persistence knows no bounds, as I have better
reason to know than almost anyone here, having inherited the bill and having
acted on her instructions for these many months.
I should also say a word about our friends in the House of Commons. Mr.
Gerald Keddy, MP, from Nova Scotia; and Mr. Larry Miller, MP, had the carriage
of this bill in the House of Commons and did so with quite exceptional skill,
vigour and commitment.
Mr. Miller is the Member of Parliament for Bruce—Grey— Owen Sound. He has
Georgian Bay in his constituency, with six lighthouses — which explains to some
extent his great interest in this matter — dating back to the period 1855 to
1859. It seems to me that this is a matter of interest and concern not just to
those of us who have some connection on one or other of the coasts, but to
people like Mr. Miller in the province of Ontario.
The minister who oversees Parks Canada, Mr. Baird, and the Minister of
Fisheries and Oceans, Mr. Hearn, also need to be congratulated. It is Mr.
Hearn's department that will foot the bill for much of this going forward.
Naturally, he had to take the traditional and frugal perspective on these
matters given the many other demands on the budget of that department. We thank
him, also, for his interest and forbearance.
On the first occasion that I went to see Mr. Miller, the MP for
Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, he told me that he had looked up my biography in the
parliamentary guide and that I was born the same year as his mother. However,
after that rather rocky start, our relationship came to a productive end.
Thank you, honourable senators. I do commend this bill to your attention.
Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, I wish to make a few comments
on this bill, having had some association with it. Lighthouses are very powerful
instruments, and it is our argument that lighthouse keepers are very powerful
There is an apocryphal story about two ships meeting: The signal from the
first ship indicates, "I have the right of way. Change direction to
starboard." The signal comes back from the second ship, "I have the right of
way. Change your direction to port." The signal from the first ship replies, "I am a battleship. Change your direction to starboard." The signal comes back
from the second ship, "I am a lighthouse. Change your direction to port."
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Rompkey: To go from the ridiculous to the sublime, I want to
call on the assistance of Honourable Senator Smith in reflecting on the origins
of that old hymn, "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning":
Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
Senator Smith: Let the Lord.
Senator Mercer: Would you turn up the music, please?
Senator Campbell: The temptations!
Senator Rompkey: That puts it in context.
If one lives on the coast, lighthouses are probably second only to the cross
on the church steeple in terms of iconic signals. The church was obviously built
on a hill because it could be used for navigation purposes. However, a
lighthouse becomes very important to people who live on the sea.
I simply want to give credit to Senator Michael Forrestall. I learned at
lunch today that he was in the Merchant Navy. That was something I had not
realized before. He spent some time on the sea and was quite well aware of its
perils and glories, and the importance of lighthouses. If one is out there, one
needs some connection with the shore and with home. The lighthouse gave us that.
Therefore, I want to pay tribute to Senator Forrestall, who initiated this
bill, and also our friend Senator Carney, who continued the effort. I hope that
the Senate will give it proper approval today.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I, also, would like to thank everyone, both in the Senate and in the
House of Commons, who was involved in the work that went into this bill to move
it through Parliament.
I would also like to not let it pass by without remembering the hard work
that our late and dear friend Senator Forrestall put into initiating this bill.
He put much heart into it when he came up with the bill. I also want to thank
Senator Carney, who approached the bill with gusto and enthusiasm, and Senator
Murray, who acted as an intermediary between the various interests that had to
arrive at a solution as to how to proceed with the bill.
Finally, I want to thank Minister Baird and Minister Hearn. Minister Baird is
the lead minister to administer most of the provisions of this bill. Minister
Hearn must find the money to fund the application of the implementation of the
Congratulations to all.
The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Murray,
P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Spivak that the Senate concur in the
amendments made by the House of Commons to this bill without amendment, and that
a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House accordingly.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before proceeding to the
next item, Bill S-234, I draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of
Grand Chief Eva Ottawa; Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho; Andrew Delisle, Sr.; and
Ghislain Picard, President, Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Aurélien Gill moved the second reading of Bill S-234, to
establish an assembly of the aboriginal peoples of Canada and an executive
He said: Honourable senators, let me thank you for your consideration and
your expressions of support. As you know, my time in this place will be coming
to an end soon. I would therefore appreciate your help in seeing this bill
through to completion.
I also thank my Aboriginal colleagues in the Senate for their support and
trust, especially Senator Watt, who has agreed to look after this bill
throughout the process. I also thank the Law Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Mark
Audcent and his staff for their help and expertise with regard to Bill S-234.
My thanks also go to Kathleen Lickers and her Indigenous Bar Association
colleagues, to my staff, as well as to Serge Bouchard and my great friend Andrew
The enactment I am putting before you today at second reading stage was given
long and careful thought. It follows up on the statements I have made in this
chamber over the years. Indeed, you have often heard me speak. Some might even
say that I repeat myself, and they might be right. I apologize for that.
Indians, as we were called for the longest time, tend to repeat themselves, and
the reason we repeat ourselves so much is that it seems to us that nobody is
Honourable senators, my public life is coming to an end. It was an honour to
sit in the Senate as an Aboriginal person, and proud to be so. I am all at the
same time a Montagnais, an Abenaki, an Englishman and a French Canadian. See how
complicated a story it is.
Having grown up on the Pointe-Bleue Reserve of the Lac-Saint-Jean area, I
have always been very sensitive to the fate of our people through history and
All my life, I have fought for Aboriginal causes. All my life, I have seen
the ravages of dependence. It is clear that the Canadian government will not
forever be able to fulfill the fiduciary obligations it took on in the 19th
century. We have said it 100 times, 1,000 times, and have to say it again: the
Indian Act is an anomaly. The Department of Indian Affairs is an anomaly. It is
important and urgent to break the bonds of this trusteeship.
This paternalistic system, symbolized by the Indian Act and the department
responsible for its enforcement, has shown its limitations. It is time to
consider a system that gets Aboriginals involved in the management of this
country's affairs, especially in affairs that concern them.
It is urgent that we move forward, and do what has been recommended in all
the sensitive and intelligent reports, including the one from the Royal
Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which is to make Aboriginals more responsible.
How do we do that? We must do so slowly, and start by establishing a
framework that gives Aboriginals the opportunity to properly participate in this
country's decision-making process. Such a structure would recognize the
interests, cultures and values of our peoples and give them the opportunity to
consider any issues that are vitally important to First Nations, Metis and Inuit
peoples. For Aboriginals, this institutional framework would represent an
opportunity to officially organize and express their concerns.
I am essentially proposing a responsible political body and a real
representative assembly. It is something that has been tried elsewhere, albeit
with limited powers, for example, in the Sami Parliament of Norway and the Sami
Parliament of Finland.
Some might find the approach I am suggesting somewhat risky. Others might
even see it as a dangerous novelty. Yet there is nothing new about the idea per
se; it is a very old idea that has been considered many times, in various forms,
and it would be unfair not to highlight those here.
In its final report dated November 21, 1993, the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples recommended the passage of an Aboriginal Parliament Act to
establish a representative body of Aboriginal peoples that would evolve into a
House of First Peoples and become part of Parliament.
The idea of a third chamber was put forward during the round of
constitutional negotiations that terminated in the Charlottetown Accord.
As early as 1918, some of our great leaders came up with the idea of an
Aboriginal government in Canada and one who comes to mind was the Iroquois
leader Frederick Ogilvie Loft. Honourable senators, he was a remarkable man. He
was not a radical without any personal resources. He held a university degree.
He served in the army during the war and could have easily been prime minister
of Canada, for he had the political skills.
He definitely wanted to break the vicious circle of dependence and
guardianship. Because of his actions, people tried to discourage him. Political
meetings were banned on reserves and the Indian Act was amended in order to make
it illegal for Aboriginals to raise any funds to finance the First Nations'
The government of the day went even further in its battle against the
affirmation of Aboriginal rights. It prohibited Aboriginals from having recourse
to lawyers or pursuing any legal action against the Indian agencies' abuses of
power. Loft persevered, in spite of everything. He objected to the Oliver Act,
which authorized the sale of Indian lands to give non-Indian veterans a place to
settle. With the help of others, Loft managed to establish the League of Indians
of Ontario, as well as similar leagues in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Following the lead of the Iroquois, Deskaheh, also known as Levi General,
Loft went to Geneva in 1921 to ask the League of Nations to recognize the
sovereignty of the Six Nations Confederacy. Loft was talking about sovereign
nations. He spoke to kings. He was part of the tradition of the great Amerindian
leaders of the past.
Despite the government of the time, with its deaf ears and its unfair and
humiliating strategies, the movement continued on from 1930 until 1980.
Modern-day Canadians know nothing of this important struggle. It may be
difficult to say and hear all these things, but they must be told because
history is lacking in details about these events.
In 1943, Andrew Paull, from the Squamish Nation in British Columbia, and a
number of leaders, including Huron Gilles Sioui and Algonquin Willie Commanda,
organized a national conference that led to the creation of the National Indian
Brotherhood. This brotherhood grew as other leaders joined in the 1960s and was
followed by the creation of various provincial First Nations associations. This
brotherhood became the Assembly of First Nations.
Aboriginal peoples are hardly newcomers to politics. Our nation was
sovereign. Some of our political leaders of yesterday were legendary. They had
difficult decisions to make. They had to deal directly with the Crown of France
and the Crown of England.
At major turning points in history, some of them rose to take a stand and
left their legacies. The mighty Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa nation, faced with
the turmoil of the wars between France and England for possession of America,
called for the First Nations to unite. That was in 1760. Tecumseh, of the
Shawnee nation, did the same in a compelling speech in 1812. In the new world,
he said, Indians must unite and speak with one voice in order to find a place on
the political map between the Americans and the Canadians. Naturally, no one
listened to them.
Honourable senators, I do not wish to retell the whole story for you; I
simply want it to be clearer and I want us to remember that these efforts are
the continuation of past efforts. All these remarkable individuals since Loft
have continually called for responsibility and political authority for
We have been calling for a better world and proving that we are going nowhere
for quite some time. The political conscience of Aboriginal leaders is not newly
found; it has always existed, but their voices were smothered and were not
Honourable senators know just as well as I do how the Americans dealt with
Indians between 1830 and 1890 — with brutality, meanness and without respect.
Canada was definitely less brutal, but were the results any different? Indian
lands disappeared, natural resources were put under government trusteeship,
reserves were established, treaties were not respected, the administration was
unfair and fraudulent, powers were abused and our most fundamental rights were
The 20th century will remain a dismal period in the history of the rights of
Aboriginal peoples in Canada. What happened to the First Nations? They were
broken, they became bands isolated from one another, administrative units in
trusteeship, subjects dependent upon the federal government. We should consider
the dead end we are in as a true tragedy because it has created an unacceptable
social situation in terms of health, education and the economy, as demonstrated
by year after year of family and community crises.
Those of us who have been deprived of our rights as citizens and persons, who
have been legally marginalized in Canada, have a lot of ground to make up. We
only obtained the right to vote in 1960, four years after I graduated from
university. During those four years I paid taxes and held a job as a teacher and
Despite all these inconsistencies, we are still here. Even more incredible is
the fact that we have played an active role in history, for the benefit of
Canada. Our people went to war in 1914 and 1939, and a number of them gave their
lives. Some were military heroes.
I am thinking of major figures such as Francis Pegamagabow, an Ojibwa who was
awarded several medals during the First World War. I am also thinking of Joe
Kurtness, my next-door neighbour in my community of Mashteuiatsh. Were these
people recognized? No. They were humiliated when they came back and they were
forgotten. Most of them were excluded from veterans' assistance programs.
It is now 2008 and the situation persists. Every now and then, Canadians
become aware of tragedies that are reported on the national news in the context
of horror stories such as the suicide rate in isolated communities, Third World
conditions prevailing in Canada, public health issues, and so on. There is never
anything positive. It is always about unpleasant situations and bad surprises.
We will never get beyond this situation until we have full control over our
own affairs. We have the political know-how to govern ourselves.
The main purpose of the legislation that I am submitting for your attention
today is to establish an assembly for Aboriginal peoples, which would be located
The assembly, which will bring together the representatives of the Aboriginal
peoples of Canada, will have three separate chambers for the First Nations,
Inuit and Metis members. French and English will be among the official languages
of the assembly.
The number of members is to be determined by the assembly. However, that
number shall not exceed the maximum number of members of the Senate. The
assembly will have the power to determine the method of selection of its members
and their terms of office.
The privileges and immunities of the assembly's members will be similar to
those enjoyed by the members of the Senate of Canada. The remuneration of the
members will not exceed the amounts paid to senators.
The general mandate of the assembly is primarily to deliberate on the affairs
of Aboriginal peoples. The assembly may, among other things, investigate
matters, deliberate and adopt resolutions concerning constitutional issues
relating to Aboriginal peoples and persons in Canada.
The bill provides that the assembly may consider, concurrently with the
Senate and the House of Commons, any motion or bill to amend the Constitution of
The Senate or House of Commons may transmit such a motion or bill to the
assembly for its consideration.
Clearly, nothing in this bill undermines the authority of the Queen,
Parliament or the Government of Canada or the legislative assembly or government
of a province or territory.
The assembly's authority extends to government spending as it relates to
Aboriginal peoples; Aboriginal rights, treaty rights and land issues in Canada;
the law governing Aboriginal peoples and Aboriginal persons in Canada; and
Aboriginal identity, education, language, tradition, culture and social life.
The assembly will also be able to consider matters that it accepts to have
referred to it by Aboriginal organizations.
The assembly will redraw the geopolitical map of the First Nations. It will
have to set regulations for membership and address the Metis issue and Inuit
reunification. It will have to deal with lands, resources, wealth creation, the
tax base, relations with the government, health, education and culture.
The wording of the bill included more details in this regard about the future
responsibility of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada.
The assembly will establish a committee to help it manage its internal
governance and it will also establish a secretariat, including a clerk of the
assembly, a law clerk and a parliamentary adviser. The mandate of the Auditor
General of Canada will also extend to the assembly.
In order to establish this permanent assembly, the bill provides for the
creation of a provisional assembly for a term of two years or less consisting of
Aboriginal peoples summoned by the Governor General by instrument under the
Great Seal of Canada.
Prior to persons being recommended for summoning to the provisional assembly,
the Governor-in-Council, in consultation with the First Nations, Inuit and
Metis, shall summon between seven and fifteen persons to sit on the committee
responsible for establishing the provisional assembly.
The committee will be under the direction of the Speaker of the House of
Commons, the Speaker of the Senate, and a member of the Indigenous Bar
Association in Canada, who will be in charge of selecting Aboriginal peoples
based on certain demographic and geographic criteria, in consultation with the
associations of the First Nations, the Inuit and the Metis.
The provisional assembly will facilitate the creation and meeting of the
assembly of Aboriginal peoples.
The bill provides for the establishment of an executive council within the
permanent assembly, whose mandate will be to exercise the executive functions
assigned to it by the assembly. There will be seven members, including one chair
and three members elected by the assembly. The other members will be designated
by each of the chambers of the assembly.
It seems imperative to me that the federal government machinery now dedicated
to Aboriginal affairs and the government's budgetary resources in the other
departments come under the control of a duly created Aboriginal political body.
To that end, I propose in the bill that one year after this assembly of
Aboriginal peoples is set up, the government, together with the assembly,
introduce legislation to wind up the activities of the Department of Indian
Dear colleagues, this is the essence of the bill that I am submitting for
This representative assembly is the first step, and without it, nothing will
ever happen. Aboriginals must take their place in Canada's political landscape.
The 1982 Constitution recognizes us as peoples. It recognizes that we have
rights. Therefore, it is high time to take action and achieve the goals
necessary to enable the Aboriginal peoples to take charge of their futures.
It should be noted that this Assembly of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada is
not meant to replace the self-government measures taken by various nations. It
is simply an institution to complement all the measures taken a few years ago in
our communities to achieve self-government.
I am very humbly following in the footsteps of our great historical leaders.
I want to see a responsible Aboriginal government in Canada. That is my fondest
wish. I urge all of our leaders to work towards this.
I want to help eliminate the current conditions. There are over 600 isolated
and vulnerable band councils, Aboriginal groups that have no economic, legal or
political power; and there is a lack of commitment from the federal and
provincial governments to change or improve the situation.
Honourable senators, I would ask you to take a close look at the bill I have
presented. See what a great step forward it would be. Consider the positive
long-term effects. This bill would give Canada something it should have had
years ago, a place dedicated to managing Aboriginal affairs.
Aboriginal peoples will have a lot of work to do. We will have to unite and
learn to work together. We will have to rediscover ourselves. We will have to
make a real effort. But who would oppose that?
How can we be anything less than passionate about this, when the future of
our many children, their education, their health, their environment, their
pride, their culture and their identity are at stake?
Honourable senators, Canada is an incomplete country, a house with some
important pieces of its foundation missing.
One of the missing pieces is the assembly I have proposed.
This country will never be complete as long as Aboriginal peoples do not have
a place in its political architecture. Simply acknowledging that Aboriginal
peoples have played a major role in founding this country would go a long way
toward resolving numerous disputes. If we correct this mistake, we will be able
to pursue our development on the basis of historical truth.
This new house must be created, and it must be given the time and means
necessary to establish itself.
This implementation will take place in stages and many problems will be
worked out as they come up. I have confidence in our leaders. As everyone knows,
there are a number of complex problems. It will take decades to solve them and
it will not be an easy path. It will be fraught with obstacles, but at least it
will be a path, and above all, it will be our path.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Do you have a
question, Senator Mercer?
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: I congratulate the honourable senator on
introducing this bill, and I understand the passion that is behind this; I
appreciate it. I have a couple of questions in order to help me understand how
this will help with other things. My history is one of trying to encourage
greater participation by everyone in the democratic process and getting more and
more people involved. I will ask the two questions at the same time so as not to
take up as much time.
Will we continue to enjoy First Nations people as candidates for the House of
Commons? Will First Nations people continue to accept offers of appointments to
the Senate of Canada? I hope the answer to both of those questions is yes
because all First Nations members of Parliament that I know have made tremendous
contributions no matter which party they may be a member.
Does the honourable senator think this will help to increase greater
participation of First Nations people in the general elections for Parliament?
It has been a long-standing problem in the Aboriginal community to attract
people. I do not know how we as a country cannot remind ourselves constantly of
the bad treatment we have given to the Aboriginal people of this country when,
as Senator Gill stated, he did not receive the right to vote until 1960. Prior
to that, we were quite happy to have our Aboriginal friends join the army, navy
and air force and fight and die for our country, but we were not willing to give
them the right to vote. Shame on us.
It seems that we need to do everything in our power to encourage people to
participate in the political process. I hope that this legislation will assist
in this regard because we have continued to put up barriers for the Aboriginal
community to their full participation in the democratic process.
Senator Gill: I will try to answer the honourable senator's second
question. I explained in a previous speech my interpretation as to why people do
not participate very much in politics and elections. People feel as though they
are not a part of the country. If we have an institution that shows that First
Nations people are part of the country, I think participation will increase.
Would the honourable senator repeat his first question?
Senator Mercer: Will we still see a number of First Nations people
running for seats in the House of Commons, and will they continue to accept
calls to the Senate?
Senator Gill: I do not think this measure will prevent that. There
will be one country and it will be open for anyone to be a candidate in any
party. By the way, I want this project to be bipartisan, if possible.
In the House of Commons, government, parties and the Senate, everything is
open. However, we want to have institutions in which First Nations are able to
take control and manage and not be managed by someone else. Can honourable
senators imagine if a group of Americans decided to manage Canadian affairs? We
need to be responsible for our own mistakes and successes; we need to be
responsible for everything.
Hon. Tommy Banks: May I ask a question?
Senator Gill: Yes.
Senator Banks: All honourable senators are grateful for the work that
Senator Gill has done on this bill. To gain an understanding of the architecture
to which he referred, I have a simple, short question and a hard question.
First, in what physical place would the assembly sit? Second, speaking of the
architecture and of Aboriginals managing their own affairs, what would be the
relationship between the First Nations as they now exist on the one hand and
this assembly on the other? Would there be an authority in this assembly that
would be able to determine on behalf of First Nations certain things that are
referred to in this bill?
Senator Gill: I suggest that the assembly would be in Ottawa because
this is where national subjects are decided. I do not know what will happen. I
am proposing a kind of set-up that will allow for discussion among the First
Nations and Canadians about what kind of future there should be to have a better
relationship between non-native and native. I speak of this kind of assembly now
and that is why I propose a permanent assembly. However, before that, we should
have a provisional assembly, to be able to discuss with the people concerned and
to have the best set-up we can.
Of course there will be a physical installation somewhere. I could see a good
building on the island. I am proposing something that was supposed to be in
place from the beginning. It is not there yet. I am not proposing something with
a veto; I am not proposing something that will be able to discuss issues for
five minutes or three days a year. I am proposing something with approximately
the same time as other chambers to discuss First Nations matters. These issues
are very complex, as everyone says. We do not take time for that. I know
Canadians have many priorities, so we must take time. Of course we need physical
installations; we need all these things, but do not forget, there is a
$10-billion budget in Indian Affairs, and I am not counting what is being spent
in other departments. We can do a lot with this money. I am sure it is possible
to do better.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Senator Gill, without asking you to repeat
your speech, I would like to know what the connection is between your assembly
and the executive council. After quickly reading the bill, I have the impression
that the executive council is a creation of the assembly.
But if such an assembly is created, other structures that exist in Canada
will inevitably be eliminated to prevent duplication.
I am thinking of the organizations representing Canada's various Aboriginal
communities, whether First Nations, Metis or Inuit. Can you list some off the
top of your head? That is what I would like to have a clearer view of.
Senator Gill: Honourable senators, I think the assembly is an
additional institution unlike any that already exists. It is not intended to
replace the Assembly of First Nations or the Inuit. My objective is to establish
a legally recognized institution that would run things instead of the Department
of Indian Affairs. That is what I want to achieve. At present, there are
Aboriginal nations moving toward self-government. We would not interfere with
that process; it would carry on.
What I am trying to describe and wish to see come about is a national
institution in which all Aboriginal nations are represented: Inuit, Metis and
the various Indian nations. That is my goal. You are right; the executive
council is a creature of the provisional assembly, established by that body. It
is necessary to ensure continuity over time.
The assembly will not be able to sit all the time. It cannot always be here.
The executive council will be there to make decisions and act on certain items
of business, and ensure continuity. The assembly will not sit all the time. It
will have a schedule like any other assembly or the Houses of this Parliament.
At certain times it will not be in session. Continuity is needed where buildings
and assembly business are concerned. That is what the executive council is there
Senator Nolin: I would have another question to ask about funding. You
are certainly not operating under the assumption that all this will be done for
free; there will be costs associated with these activities. We cannot escape
considering the Senate's ability to propose spending of that magnitude. Do we
have the ability to do so? If so, I would like to understand the reasoning
behind that conclusion.
Senator Gill: I realize that we do not have the authority to introduce
bills proposing big spending. My answer is that is not what I am seeking right
This bill is in line with the government's community decentralization and
self-government policy; it is a public policy. There are budgets attached to
public policies, budgets coming from Indian Affairs or elsewhere. There is no
doubt that it will take money to set up a provisional assembly and committees.
If we succeed in our goal, the budgets currently used will be used by
official governmental organizations that are going to be established. As I
stated earlier, we are talking about $10.5 billion. I have seen this coming for
a long time — if it does not happen now, it will happen eventually. Indians,
Metis and Inuit will govern their own affairs. They will have their own
equalization formula. Things cannot stay the way they are now, not with the
youth. Resources come from isolated areas. The wealth will have to be shared. We
cannot always have enormous gaps between different groups of Canadian citizens.
We cannot continue on in this way. There will be equalization formulas and
resource sharing. I have confidence that this assembly can do it.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I
would like to introduce a page who is with us from the House of Commons. Paul
Anderson is pursuing his studies in Humanities at the Faculty of Social Sciences
at Carleton University. Paul is from Ottawa, Ontario.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Tardif, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Cowan, for the third reading of Bill C-292, An Act
to implement the Kelowna Accord.—(Honourable Senator St. Germain, P.C.)
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, pursuant to section 37(1) of the Rules of the Senate, I seek
leave to simply clarify what was reported in the Debates of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Tardif: Honourable senators, yesterday, when I spoke at third
reading stage of Bill C-292, I quoted Senator St. Germain. I noticed that part
of the quote was not reported properly in the Debates of the Senate and I
wish to inform all honourable senators that this has been corrected.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Keon, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Di Nino, for the adoption of the fifth report of the
Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament (use of
Aboriginal languages in the Senate Chamber), presented in the Senate on
April 9, 2008. —(Honourable Senator Stratton)
Hon. Willie Adams: Honourable senators, I do not wish to speak to this
motion until I hear what Senator Stratton has to say first. Will the honourable
senator speak to the report this week or next week?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I will
inquire of Senator Stratton as to his intentions on speaking to this item. There
is nothing stopping the Honourable Senator Adams from speaking to the motion if
he wishes to do so, but I will get back to him on what Senator Stratton plans in
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Meighen, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Johnson:
That the Senate urge the Government of Canada to take appropriate steps
to end the long and unjust delay in recognition of Bomber Command service
and sacrifice by Canadians in the liberation of Europe during the Second
World War.—(Honourable Senator Day)
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, yesterday when I spoke to this
matter, Senator Banks asked a question with respect to the status of Canadian
flyers who might have flown with the Royal Air Force and not with the Royal
Canadian Air Force. The question and my response were well-intentioned, but I
believe that we were both factually incorrect. I have been informed that many
squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force flew under our flag with Bomber
Command. The proposition in my text yesterday stands in respect of Canadian
honours and a Canadian medal for our flyers.
I apologize for any confusion I might have caused in response to the
Honourable Senator Banks.
Hon. Tommy Banks: I apologize as well because it was I who began the
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, was leave granted for this point of clarification?
The Hon. the Speaker: The item was called and the honourable senator
rose to correct the record.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I wonder whether
some honourable senators are overwhelming themselves with work. Senator Di Nino
seems to be taking on a significant amount of work with many of these motions
and inquiries and so on.
Hon. David Tkachuk: That is out of order. Order!
Senator Dallaire: Is that the normal practice? I have not found in my
Rules of the Senate of Canada any limits as to what an individual senator
can take on as they adjourn this and that, and the calendar flows with all this
work. Am I seeking something that does not exist, or should it exist?
The Hon. the Speaker: The honourable senator raises a good point. The
rules were changed some time ago to provide for an item being on the Order Paper
for 15 days, and then it would be dropped if no action was taken on the item. I
take it the honourable senator is referring to Item No. 78. The rules are clear,
and the motion in Item No. 78 is at day six and stands in the name of the
Honourable Senator Di Nino.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Keon:
That whenever the Senate is sitting, the proceedings of the upper
chamber, like those of the lower one, be televised, or otherwise
audio-visually recorded, so that those proceedings can be carried live or
replayed on CPAC, or any other television station, at times that are
convenient for Canadians;
And, on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Banks, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Segal, that the motion be amended by deleting all
words after the first "That" and replacing them by the following:
"the Senate approve in principle the installation of equipment
necessary to the broadcast-quality audio-visual recording of its
proceedings and other approved events in the Senate Chamber and in no
fewer than four rooms ordinarily used for meetings by Committees of the
That for the purposes set out in the following paragraph, public
proceedings of the Senate and of its Committees be recorded by this
equipment, subject to policies, practices and guidelines approved from
time to time by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and
Administration ("the Committee");
That selected and edited proceedings categorized according to
subjects of interest be prepared and made available for use by any
television broadcaster or distributor of audio-visual programmes,
subject to the terms specified in any current or future agreements
between the Senate and that broadcaster or distributor;
That such selected proceedings also be made available on demand to
the public on the Parliamentary Internet;
That the Senate engage by contract a producer who shall, subject only
to the direction of the Committee, make the determination of the
programme content of the selected, edited and categorized proceedings of
the Senate and of its Committees;
That equipment and personnel necessary for the expert selection,
editing, preparation and categorization of broadcast-quality proceedings
be secured for these purposes; and
That the Committee be instructed to take measures necessary to the
implementation of this motion.". —(Honourable Senator Andreychuk)
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, Honourable Senator Andreychuk is not in the chamber at this time. I
know that she continues to be interested in this matter, but I also realize
there are some senators who would like to see this item come forward. We are now
at day 13. We do not want to see this item fall off the Order Paper by accident.
For the time being, I would like to continue the adjournment of this debate for
the balance of my time in my name.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Keon:
WHEREAS the Canadian public has never been consulted on the structure of
its government (Crown, Senate and House of Commons)
AND WHEREAS there has never been a clear and precise expression by the
Canadian public on the legitimacy of the Upper House since the
constitutional agreement establishing its existence
AND WHEREAS a clear and concise opinion might be obtained by putting the
question directly to the electors by means of a referendum
THAT the Senate urge the Governor in Council to obtain by means of a
referendum, pursuant to section 3 of the Referendum Act, the opinion
of the electors of Canada on whether the Senate should be abolished; and
THAT a message be sent to the House of Commons requesting that House to
unite with the Senate for the above purpose.—(Honourable Senator Cowan)
Hon. James S. Cowan: Honourable senators, I want to speak on this
issue as well. I should like to adjourn the debate for the balance of my time.
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon, pursuant to notice of May 6, 2008, moved:
That, pursuant to rule 95(3)(a), the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology be authorized to sit on Tuesday, May
20, 2008 and Wednesday, May 21, 2008 in St. John's, Newfoundland, for the
purposes of its study of population health, even though the Senate may then
be adjourned for a period exceeding one week.
Motion agreed to.
The Senate adjourned until Thursday, May 8, 2008, at 1:30 p.m.