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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 40

Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


THE SENATE

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.

[Translation]

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Question of Privilege

Notice

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, this morning I gave written notice of my intent to raise a point of order later today, pursuant to rule 43(3). My point of order relates to the unfortunate incident that occurred on Thursday, May 28, 2009. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Minister of State (Democratic Reform) and Senator Rivard held a press conference without any notification to senators. Those participating in the press conference revealed important details about the bill to limit Senate terms before the bill was introduced in the Senate by the Leader of the Government.

Pursuant to rule 43(7), I am prepared to move a motion asking the Senate to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and Rights of Parliament.

[English]

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Hon. Irving Gerstein: Honourable senators, about 50 years ago, four people who are now present in this chamber graduated from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Three of the four graduates, along with their spouses, are observing us today from the visitor's gallery: the Sigel brothers, Michael and Skippy, and Howard Berkowitz. The fourth graduate was me.

Despite the exacting standards demanded by the Wharton School, there was never any question of my friends Howard, Michael and Skippy graduating with relative ease. However, in my case, honourable senators, it took a lot more effort.

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Had I known all those years ago that I would become a member of this place, the Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance and a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, I often think how much more effort I would and could have put into my studies. However, along with my friends, I somehow managed to get through my exams and with graduation this group of friends went their separate ways. At that time, we had no idea what paths our lives would take.

The Sigel brothers, Michael and Skippy, enjoyed success in the world of business and law, as did my other great friend and guest today, Richard Krelstein.

Howard Berkowitz not only distinguished himself in the world of business as a founder in 1967 of Steinhardt, Fine and Berkowitz, one of the first hedge funds in the United States, but also made — and continues to make — an enormous contribution to his country and community. He served as National Chair of the Anti-Defamation League and was Co-chair of the Peace and Security Task Force of the Conference of Presidents. He is the current President of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a leading think tank on Middle Eastern affairs.

On the other hand, honourable senators, I got mixed up in the wonderful world of politics. As I indicated to you in my maiden speech, I was proud to become, amongst other activities, a party bagman. How little we could have imagined that, after almost 50 years, our separate paths would lead us to all meet again in this place.

Honourable senators, I mention these eminent guests of mine today because our story is a testament to something very special: the enduring power of friendship. My life, and particularly my involvement in politics, has brought me endless variety, with many ups and downs. As I said when I first spoke in this place:

I do not have to tell you that if you are looking for something that mirrors life — its triumphs, tragedies, and utter unpredictability — nothing beats Canadian politics.

Through all this time, my friends have been a great source of support and companionship to me, something that I am sure honourable senators have all experienced in their own lives.

Honourable senators, the fact that we are here today, after so many years, shows that unlike possible future membership of this place true friendship has no term limits.

I am sure that honourable senators will join me —

Some Hon. Senators: Order!

Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, Cicero, a well-known senator of bygone years, once said, sapientia est ordinarius, which means in this context that all honourable senators are invited to follow the rules of this house. I wish to point out that during Senators' Statements we have a three-minute time limit. However, we also have rule 22(5), which states:

Senators wishing to draw the attention of the Senate to the presence in the gallery of a distinguished visitor shall do so by prior written notice to the Speaker. The Speaker shall, when the visitor is in the gallery, rise and draw the attention of the Senate to the presence in the gallery of that visitor.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of the very distinguished visitors who are with us today.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

International Day of Action for Women's Health

Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, since 1987, May 28 has been recognized and celebrated around the world as the International Day of Action for Women's Health. This is a great time for a progress report.

Women's health needs are different. Gender should be a critical consideration in the development of health policies.

Sadly, in many countries, women are still at the bottom of the list, which results in unequal access to health care and millions of deaths due primarily to haemorrhaging, infection and back alley abortions. As we work to help developing countries address their challenges, we must focus more on the importance of healthy mothers.

Here in Canada, female health issues are finally getting the attention they deserve.

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Considerable progress has been made in the area of reproductive health care. Contraception is much more accessible and reproductive technology is widely available to women.

However, things are far from perfect. The status quo on abortion is constantly being challenged. Access to the termination of a pregnancy is still limited in New Brunswick and non-existent in Prince Edward Island.

Aboriginal women in Canada have yet to enjoy the same progress as other Canadian women. They begin having children at a young age. We must pay greater attention to the sexual health and reproductive rights of young Aboriginal women, especially those who live in isolated or northern regions. Like all Canadian women, Aboriginal women are also entitled to health care.

Despite appearances, we have not yet fully mastered maternal health care. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, this country is facing a crisis in obstetrical care, and this will have repercussions on Canadian women who give birth in the future.

There is a lack of human resources. Mothers and babies in small towns, villages and rural areas do not have adequate emergency obstetric care. Yet every Canadian woman, regardless of where she lives, should be able to give birth safely close to home.

I join with the SOGC and its partners in calling for the creation of a Canada-wide birthing strategy. Such a strategy would allow mothers and children to get the care they need.

I would like to commend the outstanding work of the community health centres and centres of excellence network across the country, which helps provide Canadian women with appropriate, effective health care services.

I would also like to commend the work of the teams behind the womenshealthmatters.ca and femmesensante.ca websites. Thanks to the range of information they contain, those websites and other similar projects give women the facts they need to stay healthy. I am pleased to have this opportunity to congratulate and thank them.

[English]

Major Brent Beardsley

Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise today to salute a unique individual who has served his Queen and country and the international community with distinction. Major Brent Beardsley, Canadian Forces Decoration and Military Service Cross recipient, retired yesterday, June 1, 2009, from the Canadian Forces.

He served as Directing Staff at the Canadian Forces Officer Candidate School Chilliwack; with the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment in London, Ontario; with the 2nd Battalion RCR in Gagetown, New Brunswick; with the 3rd Battalion, RCR in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Baden-Soellingen, Germany; and with various Kingston units, most recently at the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute under the Canadian Defence Academy.

Other overseas deployments included tours with the United Nations in Nicosia, Cyprus and, most notably, with our own Senator Dallaire during the intensive United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda where he was the second in command. Brent co-authored the award-winning Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda in 2004 with Senator Dallaire and acted as a technical adviser for the production of the motion picture. He was also technical adviser for three other documentaries on Rwanda: The Last Just Man, in 2002; The Ghosts of Rwanda, in 2003; and Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, in 2004.

In 2004, Brent testified for the prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, against Colonel Theoneste Bagosora who was subsequently convicted a few months ago in December 2008 on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Brent has been a staff officer in the Leadership Outreach and Lessons Learned Section at the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute, Canadian Defence Academy Kingston, since 2002.

Major Beardsley has a pre-arts diploma, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Concordia University, a post-graduate diploma in education from McGill University and a Masters of Applied Science in Management from the Royal Military College of Canada. He is currently completing his second masters degree in war studies at RMC. The focus of his studies is on genocide and humanitarian intervention in the current and future security environment.

He remains active in the academic community and is regularly called upon to discuss and lecture on genocide issues at universities across Canada and the United States. He is a member of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, a Research Fellow at the Montreal Institute of Genocide and Human Rights Studies, and adjunct faculty of the Zoryan Institute's Genocide and Human Rights University Program and Genocide Education Institute, both at the University of Toronto.

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I ask honourable senators to join with me in congratulating Major Brent Palmer Beardsley on his service and retirement and in offering our best wishes to him, his wife Margaret and their children Jessica, Joshua and Jackson. We must never forget to say "thank you" for those brave men and women in uniform whose dedicated service to Canadians and compelling efforts at making the world a more humane place must always solicit our support and gratitude.

Twentieth Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I might find this hard to read, but June 3 is the anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square. Though that is 12 hours from now, it is already June 3 in Beijing.

Honourable senators, it has been 20 years, but that horrific picture is engraved in my memory. It was June 3 in the early evening. I was with my CTV crew. We were a short distance from Tiananmen Square. Crowds shouted "Long live democracy" in Mandarin and they stood their ground, believing the small tank coming their way would stop. It did not.

Many died during the night and in the early morning hours of June 4. Hundreds were wounded. We still do not know how many. Maybe it was 300; maybe it was 3,000.

The weeks before the tragedy had been filled with excitement. China's door to the Western world blew open and exhilarating breezes of freedom and democracy were blowing through the city. Young people were excited. There was a feeling of hope.

Growing numbers of young people were gathering in Tiananmen. By the end of the week, 100,000 people covered every inch of the square. We could feel a sense of celebration, not only from students but from workers, doctors and religious groups. Beijing felt like a liberated city. However, the mood and the weather would shift from warm to stifling and stormy. Pessimism replaced optimism.

We could almost hear the door that had been opening to greater freedom slam shut. Rumours began to circulate that the army was close by and that they were planning to put an end to the protests, but nobody wanted to believe that tanks and terror would replace hope.

The Canadian embassy had ordered nonessential staff to leave. Those who stayed behind were buying more food in the street markets to stock their kitchens in preparation for what was to come. I bought tickets for my family to fly to Hong Kong, but I stayed and reported on the historic tragedy that unfolded.

It was difficult. It was difficult as a reporter who had covered many world events. It was difficult to watch people die. It was difficult to watch students being crushed. Twenty years later, I have so many unanswered questions.

China is an economic powerhouse, a huge global player that is assuming more and more of a leadership role, but leadership means accountability. It means answering tough questions.

What happened to that couple who stopped me and my crew as I ran toward the square and said in broken English, "Please tell the world what is happening here"? Are they enjoying their old age?

What happened to the young man captured in photographs only a short distance from where I was, the young man who was arrested for standing bravely in broad daylight in front of tanks. Will his real story ever be told?

I wish I had more than three minutes to continue to tell this story, but I will continue it over the next few days.

History was made in Tiananmen Square during those warm weeks of April, May and June, but too many unanswered questions remain, and I am still waiting.

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, during our last break week, Canadians celebrated the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. Diversity has played a significant role in my life's work and I am honoured to speak today on the subject of this day and its declaration by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

On December 20, 2002, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 57/249, which proclaimed May 21 as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. The resolution invites all member states to raise public awareness of the value and importance of cultural diversity and, in particular, to encourage, through education and the media, knowledge of the positive value of cultural diversity.

This day provides individuals and communities alike with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the value of cultural diversity and to learn from each other's differences to strengthen our lives together.

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In a statement in honour of May 21, Mr. Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO, said:

UNESCO believes that cultures are not monolithic but interdependent, resulting from mutual exchanges and borrowings, and that this diversity is a source of strength and unity.

In 2005, UNESCO continued on its quest to educate us on the advantages of diversity and pluralism by organizing the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions 2005. Canada was the first member state to accept the principles of this convention.

In a January 2009 interview, His Excellency Mr. Gilbert Laurin, Canada's Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO and outgoing Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, said that the main challenge facing the convention's future is raising funds. To this effect, the Governments of Canada and Quebec have already contributed $600,000 to the International Fund for Cultural Diversity. This amount makes Canada the top contributor, representing more than one half of the Committee's entire fund, which presently sits at over $1.1 million.

I, too, continue my work to increase public awareness of the benefits of diversity. Since January, I have spoken on issues related to multiculturalism and equality at the universities of Ottawa and Ryerson. As well, I have spoken to various government departments and organizations about pluralism and equality, and the importance of fostering a culture of inclusion.

In conclusion, I invite all honourable senators to commit themselves to the promotion and protection of our planet's cultural diversity. Diversity is an amazing concept with countless benefits. Today and everyday, I ask honourable senators to foster dialogue with other people and cultures within Canada to build a better Canada for future generations.

National Sun Awareness Week

Hon. Yonah Martin: Honourable senators, as we reconvene during these last few weeks of spring, after a long, cold Ottawa winter, we are all eager to go outdoors, enjoy the sunshine and take in the majestic landscape of our great nation. The warm summer months offer what seems like endless moments of peace and serenity as we enjoy long days under the sun.

Unfortunately, these moments of peace and serenity can turn into moments of fear and pain after years of unprotected exposure to harsh ultraviolet radiation, the main cause of skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada and around the world. This year, more than 75,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer, and approximately 5,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma, from which 940 will die.

Honourable senators, the dangers associated with prolonged sun exposure are even greater for young Canadians who face a two- to three-times higher lifetime risk of skin cancer. For those young Canadians born in the 1990s, there is a 1 in 6 lifetime risk of having skin cancer; and for those born in the 1960s, there is a 1 in 20 lifetime risk.

Fortunately, Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of the precautions that they may take to prevent skin cancer due in large part to the efforts of the Canadian Dermatology Association. June 8 marks the beginning of the association's twenty-first National Sun Awareness Week. National Sun Awareness Week is a week-long educational campaign that promotes awareness of the early signs of skin cancer and highlights risk factors through free public skin cancer screening events in cities and towns across the country.

Today, between five and seven o'clock, the Canadian Dermatology Association will visit Parliament Hill to host the third annual Chuck Cadman Memorial Skin Cancer Screening and reception. I encourage all honourable senators and their staff to take a few moments to honour the late member of Parliament by attending the reception co-hosted by me and his widow and my B.C. colleague, Dona Cadman. Take part in the screening and learn how to protect yourself and your family.

Skin cancers are highly preventable, and early detection is linked directly to high survival rates. Before heading out into the sun this summer to enjoy all that our country has to offer, know the risks, be vigilant and take the time to protect yourself against prolonged exposure to the sun.


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ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Budget and Authorization to Engage Services and Travel—Study on Rise of China, India and Russia in the Global Economy and the Implications for Canadian Policy—Eighth Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, presented the following report:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has the honour to present its

EIGHTH REPORT

Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Tuesday, February 24, 2009, to examine and report on the rise of China, India and Russia in the global economy and the implications for Canadian policy, respectfully requests supplementary funds for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2010 and requests, for the purpose of such study, that it be empowered:

(a) to engage the services of such counsel, technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary;

(b) to travel inside Canada; and

(c) to travel outside Canada.

Pursuant Chapter 3:06, to section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

CONSIGLIO DI NINO
Chair

(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix A, p. 765.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Di Nino, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

[Translation]

Official Languages

Budget and Authorization to Engage Services and Travel—Study on Application of Official Languages Act and Relevant Regulations, Directives and Reports—Second Report of Official Languages Committee Presented

Hon. Maria Chaput, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, presented the following report:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages has the honour to present its

SECOND REPORT

Your Committee which was authorized by the Senate on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 to examine and report from time to time on the application of the Official Languages Act and of the regulations and directives made under it, within those institutions subject to the Act, respectfully requests the approval of funds for fiscal year ending March 31, 2010, and requests, for the purpose of such study, that it be empowered:

(a) to engage the services of such counsel, technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary;

(b) to adjourn from place to place within Canada; and

(c) to travel inside Canada.

Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that Committee are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

MARIA CHAPUT
Chair

(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix B, p. 773.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when will this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Chaput, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

The Senate

Notice of Motion to Hear Additional Representative of Aboriginal Community During Committee of the Whole on June 11, 2009

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That, when the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Thursday, June 11, 2009, pursuant to the order adopted on March 24, 2009, to hear from First Nations witnesses for the purpose of reporting on progress made on commitments endorsed by parliamentarians of both Chambers during the year following the Government's apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools, it also hear from the President of the Native Women's Association of Canada, in addition to the witnesses already approved.

Board of Directors Gender Parity Bill

First Reading

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette presented Bill S-238, An Act to establish gender parity on the board of directors of certain corporations, financial institutions and parent Crown corporations.

(Bill read first time.)

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

(On motion of Senator Hervieux-Payette, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)

[English]

Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Current State and Future of Energy Sector

Hon. W. David Angus: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources be authorized to examine and report on the current state and future of Canada's energy sector (including alternative energy). In particular, the committee shall be authorized to:

(a) Examine the current state of the energy sector across Canada, including production, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, sales, consumption and conservation patterns;

(b) Examine the federal and provincial/territorial roles in the energy sector and system in Canada;

(c) Examine current domestic and international trends and anticipated usage patterns and market conditions, including trade and environmental measures and opportunities, likely to influence the sector's and energy system's future sustainability;

(d) Develop a national vision for the long-term positioning, competitiveness and security of Canada's energy sector; and

(e) Recommend specific measures by which the federal government could help bring that vision to fruition.

That the committee submit its final report no later than June 30, 2011 and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.

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Fisheries Act

Cessation of Commercial Seal Hunt—Presentation of Petition

Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I have the honour to introduce a petition signed by residents of the provinces of Nova Scotia and British Columbia requesting the Government of Canada to amend the Fisheries Act to end Canada's commercial seal hunt.

Senator Comeau: They must be Haligonians.

An Hon. Senator: It isn't happening.


QUESTION PERIOD

Natural Resources

Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories—Medical Radioisotope Supply

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Eighteen months ago, on this government's watch, we witnessed the shutdown of the Chalk River nuclear facility, Canada's main medical isotope producer. At the time, the government claimed that getting the reactor back up and running was a question of life and death. They blamed and then fired the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Linda Keen, for what the government called "a lack of leadership." We now learn that this facility will be shut down once again for a minimum of three months, risking the health of at least 5,000 Canadians and 76,000 people worldwide who rely on Canadian medical isotopes for cancer tests everyday.

Who will the government blame this time? Who will the government fire this time for lack of leadership? Will it be the Minister of Natural Resources, the Prime Minister or some other scapegoat? When will this government stop passing the buck and start acting to protect the health of Canadians and people worldwide?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I hasten to point out that the situation in December 2007 was a situation where Linda Keen would not allow the reactor to restart; it had nothing to do with a leak. There was a second pump, a power back-up. There was no question about the safety of the nuclear reactor at that time. Parliament, in its wisdom, unanimously passed legislation in both houses to overrule Linda Keen and to restart the reactor.

Honourable senators, this is an entirely different situation. This is a serious situation. There was a power failure in Eastern Ontario in May, which caused the reactor to shut down. During an inspection, the AECL crew found a heavy water leak. We have seen the reports out of AECL as to how long it will be before they will have this leak fixed.

Senator Cowan will know that there are similar situations around the world with these isotope-producing reactors. I believe that three out of five reactors are shut down.. The Minister of Natural Resources has been working with her counterparts around the world. They are doing everything they can to assist Canada, just as Canada did when they had similar situations in their countries.

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To bring honourable senators up to date, the Petten reactor in the Netherlands ramped up production by 50 per cent, while South Africa has increased supply by nearly 30 per cent, and the Open Pool Australian Lightwater reactor may begin to export isotopes five months earlier than originally scheduled. These are commitments to Canada, similar to commitments that Canada made to those countries when they faced a shortage in their own countries.

Last Thursday, as I mentioned last week, the minister established an expert review panel to assess proposals for production alternatives from the private sector, universities and research organizations. Obviously, this review panel will work with its counterparts. The Minister of Health is, of course, working with her provincial and territorial counterparts to address this serious situation quickly.

I assure all honourable senators that Minister Raitt is personally and actively involved with her counterparts around the world to secure an isotope supply for Canada, just like Canada, when our reactor was working and the reactors of other countries were shut down, stepped into the breach and assisted those countries.

Senator Tkachuk: Well done.

Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, what we have here is another example of mismanagement, incompetence and the lack of any coherent plan on the part of this government. It has been over 18 months since the nuclear reactor was shut down at Chalk River and this government, despite what the minister said, has done absolutely nothing to ensure access to an alternate source of medical isotopes. They simply blame someone, fire them and hope the issue resolves itself. It has not, and people's lives are once again at risk.

My questions are simple: What has the government done since the reactor was first shut down 18 months ago and why does this government wait until lives are at risk before it reacts?

Senator LeBreton: We are not running around blaming people. We are dealing with a serious situation. I hasten to point out that there were five ministers of natural resources under the previous government and none of them did a thing about Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

We are not blaming anyone. Obviously, the situation Parliament acted on in December 2007 was completely different. As I mentioned last week, the former minister began work in November 2007, and the new minister has carried this work forward, to strengthen and restructure Canada's nuclear industry. Obviously, the corporation has been a major initiative to the government. Hence, the announcement by the Minister of Natural Resources last week about AECL.

As the honourable senator knows, the government continued to work with AECL on the two MAPLE reactors. The MAPLE reactors were severely over budget and had been scheduled to be up and running in 2000. In 2008, the decision was made to disband the MAPLE reactor project because not one single solitary medical isotope was produced.

I read in the newspaper this morning that MDS Nordion suggests that perhaps a second look at the MAPLE reactor should be taken. I expect that the expert panel that the minister has set up will take into consideration MDS Nordion's remarks this morning.

Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, the honourable minister mentioned in her response to the leader's first question that she was pleased that the Netherlands was increasing its capacity by 50 per cent. The Netherlands reactor is to close down for the month of July. What will we do then?

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Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I am going on the information that Minister Raitt's Netherlands counterpart has provided. They say that they have ramped up production by 50 per cent. As I mentioned, South Africa has increased supply by 30 per cent. In her discussions with Australia, the minister is quite hopeful and has every reason to believe that they will be on stream much more quickly than originally thought.

Regarding the issue of medical isotopes and the supply chain around the world, as we know, it is old technology. All operations face similar situations. Europe and South Africa have faced situations much like Canada is facing right now. At that time, Canada came to their assistance.

The minister is quite encouraged by the response she is getting from her worldwide counterparts. It should be a matter of interest that Canada is viewed in the world as a leader in this area. As a matter of fact, today, Canada was named to chair the Nuclear Energy Agency international working group. Obviously, Canada is looked upon in positive terms as a good world partner. Otherwise, we would not have been asked to chair this working group.

As I said to Senator Cowan, this is a serious issue. The lives and livelihoods of many people depend upon it. Minister Raitt has been doing an impressive job of working with her counterparts around the world. She should be congratulated for the efforts she is making in this regard.

Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, this is a serious matter. Is the minister telling this chamber this afternoon that the announced shutdown — it has been announced for some months — of the reactor in the Netherlands for the month of July will not take place?

Senator LeBreton: It must have been terrible to be a student of the honourable senator's and have words put in one's mouth all the time. I did not comment on the reason; it might be maintenance.

All I am reporting is that the Netherlands has said it will increase its production by 50 per cent. I did not make any comment whatsoever about its plans for July for its reactor. I am simply saying that it has said that it will increase its production by 50 per cent.

I said twice to the honourable senator in my answer that this is a serious situation. I am glad she repeated it. It is a serious situation, and the government takes the matter seriously.

Finance

Regulatory Policies of Financial Institutions

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, last week I attended at Dublin, Ireland, where I chaired and gave a keynote address to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Economic Forum on the world financial crisis. While there, one of the experts gave me a report entitled, Report of the Commission of Experts of the President of the United Nations General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System. In this report, there are over 100 recommendations for domestic as well as international reform.

Why is it that the Government of Canada has not brought to the attention of Parliament its policies and its reaction to a report tabled yesterday at the UN calling for Canada to respond? We have not heard anything about it in Parliament. Why is Parliament being overlooked on matters affecting Canada's domestic regulatory policies?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I do not have an answer, so I will take the question as notice.

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Senator Grafstein: To assist the leader, over 100 recommendations in this report deal with issues ranging from credit rating agencies and central banks to our attitude toward the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, our taxation policies and our competitive policies. The report deals with domestic as well as international issues.

A report has been tabled by the G20 dealing with the 47 action plans, all of which are now being acted upon by this government and none of which have ever come to the attention of Parliament through government announcements or declarations.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, Senator Grafstein is asking me to respond today to a report that he says was tabled yesterday. The government obviously is not in a position to respond that quickly. However, I am sure that our officials at the United Nations are well aware of the workings of the report.

Many international organizations, including the IMF, continue to report that Canada is in a preferred position vis-à-vis other G8 and G20 countries. Our projected deficit, even as a percentage of the gross domestic product, is extremely low compared to that of all other countries in the G8 and G20.

Commentators on both sides of the border watching the results of the General Motors situation yesterday pointed out that Canada is in a better position to deal with the worldwide economic situation. There are good signs in the economy, depending on who you listen to. If you listen to Don Drummond, you will see the dark side; if you listen to someone else, you will see the brighter side.

We are all trying our best, given the uncertain times in which we live. The government and the Canadian population are heartened to know that Canada is seen to be in the best position of the G8 and the G20 to deal with, and come out of, the worldwide economic recession.

Senator Grafstein: Honourable senators, I do not quarrel with the recommendations of the IMF. That is not the question. The question is: What is the Government of Canada doing in response to the recommendations on our domestic policy of these international organizations in which we participate. In other words, what reforms do we intend to bring in with respect to our banks, financial institutions, credit rating agencies and pensions?

Would it not be interesting for the Government of Canada to enlighten Parliament on what these reforms will be in order that we might debate them in the national interest?

Senator LeBreton: Again, according to Senator Grafstein's own words, this report was tabled yesterday. I have indicated in this place in the last few weeks that the government will make a report to Parliament within the next few weeks on all aspects of our economic action plan and how it impacts the country.

I believe that Senator Grafstein supports what the Minister of Finance is trying to accomplish with regard to the securities regulatory situation in the country. Within the next two weeks, there will be a detailed and comprehensive report to Parliament on the status of our economy and how the government's economic action plan, as announced in late January, is working its way through the system.

[Translation]

Finance

Sale of Crown Properties

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On February 25, I asked whether or not you would guarantee that official languages obligations would remain in the event Crown corporations were sold. You answered that you would forward my concerns to the Minister of Finance and to your other colleagues and that you would seek clarification as to what plans the government has for prospective owners.

(1450)

Now that the government is considering selling the CBC, VIA Rail and the National Arts Centre as part of its deficit reduction strategy, will the leader share with us the clarifications she has obtained from her colleagues since February?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I believe I took that question as notice but I will check. I believe the senator was provided with a written response and I will check that as well.

This speculation in the newspaper today is speculation only. However, it raises the concerns that Senator Tardif raised before. I do not believe I can comment specifically on the National Arts Centre. I will check to see exactly what happened to my commitment to the honourable senator to provide an answer on linguistic policies vis-à-vis Crown corporations if they are sold by the government.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: Honourable senators, no response has been received. I will repeat the second question because I would like a response to my concerns. If there were a sale, what mechanisms would be used to ensure that these corporations meet their obligations under the Official Languages Act?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I will take that question as notice and, at the same time, find out what happened to the answer to the honourable senator's last questions.

[Translation]

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, could we take a cue from the experience of Air Canada? Many representatives of Air Canada have appeared before the Official Languages Committee. The company is finding it difficult to meet its official languages obligations. The private company faces additional costs when it provides these services.

When studying any mechanism to be established, could she ensure that their evidence will be taken into consideration?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, yes, I will be happy to do that.

[Translation]

The Senate

Independent Senators

Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, very early in the morning of May 28, I read the title of an article in Le Devoir penned by Ms. Hélène Buzzetti, which startled me and took me completely by surprise. It read, "The Senate Dreams of Independence".

I wondered if we were about to separate from Canada or if we had some new Bloc Québécois colleagues. It was an article about the idea that some senators might be opting out of their political parties. It mentioned that a working group was being set up to discuss Senate reform.

Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the existence of this working group? Does she agree with it?

[English]

Does the honourable leader agree? Can she tell us who the members of that committee are?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): When I listened to the honourable senator's preamble, I was thinking he was probably trolling for members to join his new independent party.

In any event, this matter is not a matter of government business but I happen to know that there was discussion about having a small working group look at ways the Senate can better serve its responsibilities. My understanding is that it was suggested the Chair of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament and the Chair of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration discuss the matter and see if there is any interest in a working group to look at this matter. I believe we once considered bringing together an ad hoc group. I think that is the status at the moment. Perhaps Senator Furey, as Chair of the Internal Economy Committee, or Senator Oliver, as Chair of the Rules, Committee, would be in a better position to advise Senator Prud'homme as to the status.

(1455)

I do know the story to which the honourable senator refers; it was in Le Devoir. It certainly got our attention; let us put it that way. I thank the honourable senator very much.

Senator Prud'homme: Prompted by the leader's answer, for which I thank her very much, may I ask Senator Oliver if he has the list of members of this committee.

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: No.

Environment

Carbon Emission Reductions

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, after promising that they would announce their specific carbon emission regulations by the end of this year, we now hear that the Minister of the Environment, Mr. Prentice, has said they will not be announced until next year and, worse yet, they will not take effect until 2016.

Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us what credibility her government's 2020 carbon emission reductions could possibly have when they will only give industry, and presumably other Canadians, four years to meet them?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Being Environment Week, I knew there would be a question from the honourable senator. I thought of Senator Mitchell on Sunday.

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.

Senator LeBreton: I had 30 people in my yard in Manotick along the river on Sunday to celebrate a seventy-fifth birthday. As we nearly froze to death, I had to move everyone inside the house; it was 4 degrees on May 31. I looked in the newspaper this morning and Environment Canada confirmed it was the coldest May 31 in a long time; the coldest on record since 1945. I was wondering where Senator Mitchell was on global warming and climate change when we needed him.

An Hon. Senator: Where is Al Gore when you need him?

Senator LeBreton: In any event, I had quite a crowd of people in my home because the weather was too cold to stay outdoors.

I will reply to the honourable senator by saying that Minister Prentice and the government continues to develop a domestic framework for industrial greenhouse gas emissions. As each major economy has promised, we will table all of our climate-change policies prior to the Copenhagen conference this December.

As promised, in 2010 we will gazette the CEPA recommendations to implement these policies. These regulations will then be brought into law, sector by sector. While our policies will reflect Canada's national interests, we are also engaged internationally, as honourable senators know.

Prime Minister Harper and President Obama established a clean-energy dialogue in which we will cooperate on several critical energy, science and technology issues. Minister Prentice was in Washington in early March where he had positive meetings focused on this dialogue. He was there again in late April for a meeting on the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate.

Honourable senators, we have a unique opportunity, unlike in the past, to work with the Obama administration in the United States. We now have a willing partner on the North American continent. I believe Minister Prentice is being prudent in preparing our plans to take to Copenhagen in December. As I mentioned, it is our intention to gazette and start implementing these policies in 2010.

(1500)

Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, I am touched. I have been trying to be less partisan, honourable senators. This is evidence of it. That answer was the most effective answer the leader has ever given. It has taken my edge completely off and now I have to try and regroup.

Why is it that the government cannot establish the caps this year, like they have promised they would, after three and a half years of doing absolutely nothing to deal with climate change challenges?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I notice that, when Senator Mitchell said, "I have been trying to be less partisan," the people who laughed the loudest were those senators on the other side of the floor.

Honourable senators, I know that Senator Mitchell has a lot of respect for his fellow Albertan, the Minister of the Environment, Minister Prentice. I can only say what I said in my earlier answer: Minister Prentice will go to Copenhagen well prepared to represent Canadian interests and the government. In Copenhagen, he will put our plans on the table. As I said earlier, he plans to gazette the CEPA regulations in 2010 and begin to implement them sector by sector, bearing in mind that we are dealing with a difficult economy.

Energy, Environment and Natural Resources

Committee Authorized to Meet During Sitting of the Senate

Leave having been given to revert to Notices of Motions.

Hon. W. David Angus: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources have the power to sit at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, 2009, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that Rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.

(Motion agreed to.)

[Translation]

Delayed Answers to Oral Questions

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table two delayed answers to oral questions. The first was raised by Senator Atkins on March 24, 2009, concerning National Defence, Canada's defence strategy; and the second by Senator Milne on April 21, 2009, concerning Veterans Affairs, survivor benefits.

National Defence

Canada's Commitment in Afghanistan—Recruitment

(Response to question raised by Hon. Norman K. Atkins on March 24, 2009)

The Canada First Defence Strategy sets very clear targets for the expansion of the Canadian Forces and will allow the CF to continue growing over the next decade with a degree of predictability made possible by long-term funding.

The Canada First Defence Strategy provides the resources needed to expand the Regular Force to 70,000 and the Reserve Force to 30,000 by 2028, providing Canada with a total strength of 100,000 troops.

Force expansion will also improve the military's ability to strengthen key capabilities and address shortfalls in specific occupations, enhancing the Canadian Forces' ability to achieve the Government's defence objectives in Canada, on the continent and internationally.

Veterans Affairs

Survivor Benefits

(Response to question raised by Hon. Lorna Milne on April 21, 2009)

The Government understands that people are the Department of National Defence's most important resource, and that the Government has a duty to honour and respect the sacrifices made by Canadian Forces members and their families.

One way the Government fulfils this duty is by providing a stable and dependable income to help support former Canadian Forces members. The Canadian Forces Superannuation Act provides generous pension benefits to retired Canadian Forces members and their survivors.

In most private and public sector pension plans, including the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, an automatic survivor pension is provided to a spouse or partner who marries a plan member before the member's retirement.

This practice is based on the principle that the employer's obligation under a pension plan can be reasonably limited to the family that existed during the member's period of service to that employer, and while the member was making contributions under that pension plan.

Recognizing that CF members generally retire at a much earlier age than Public Service employees, the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act provides a survivor pension to an eligible spouse if the marriage occurs prior to the member's 60th birthday.

The age limit of 60 coincides with the age at which most public servants normally retire and are eligible to receive a full pension.

However, CF members who marry after 60 currently do have the option of making a survivor benefit available to their spouse or partner thanks to a 1992 amendment to the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, although the member must elect to reduce the amount of their own benefit in order for a survivor benefit to be paid to a spouse or partner.

Answers to Order Paper Questions Tabled

Human Resources and Skills Development—Guaranteed Income Supplement

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 6 on the Order Paper—by Senator Downe.

Foreign Affairs—Canada's Role as a Leader in la Francophonie

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 19 on the Order Paper—by Senator Jaffer.

Foreign Affairs—Special Envoy for the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 20 on the Order Paper—by Senator Jaffer.

Foreign Affairs—United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 21 on the Order Paper—by Senator Jaffer.

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism—Recognition of Foreign Credentials

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 22 on the Order Paper—by Senator Jaffer.

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism—The War Against Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 26 on the Order Paper—by Senator Jaffer.


[English]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it being 3 p.m., pursuant to the order adopted May 3, I will shortly leave the chair for purposes of proceeding into Committee of the Whole.

Before the Senate resolves itself into Committee of the Whole, I think it appropriate to remind all honourable senators that the Senate adopted a report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament on May 14, 2008, recommending "that a pilot project involving the use of Inuktitut . . . be commenced at the earliest opportunity."

During the last few months, arrangements have been made to implement this decision. Today, the Senate will inaugurate this pilot project. Proceedings in the Committee of the Whole, as well as later debate on the Nunavut official languages resolution will include the use of Inuktitut. Remarks will be interpreted into English and then from English into French. Senators will be able to listen to proceedings in either official language.

As this is the first time we are providing interpretation of an Aboriginal language during a sitting, there may be technical difficulties. If any such complications arise, they will be addressed as the project moves forward.

Honourable senators, this is a significant initiative by the Senate of Canada. It demonstrates our recognition of the important role of the First Nations.

Honourable senators, it now being 3 p.m., pursuant to the order adopted on May 3, I leave the chair for the Senate to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to hear from the President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami for the purposes of reporting on progress made on commitments endorsed by parliamentarians of both chambers during the year following the government's apology to former students of Indian residential schools.

Apology to Students of Indian Residential Schools

Representative of Aboriginal Community Received in Committee of the Whole

On the Order:

The Senate in Committee of the Whole to hear from the President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, for the purpose of reporting on progress made on commitments endorsed by parliamentarians of both Chambers during the year following the Government's apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools.

The Senate was accordingly adjourned during pleasure and put into Committee of the Whole, the Honourable Senator Losier-Cool in the Chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, rule 83 of the Rules of the Senate of Canada states:

When the Senate is put into Committee of the Whole every Senator shall sit in the place assigned to that Senator. A Senator who desires to speak shall rise and address the Chair.

Is it agreed that rule 83 be waived?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: I now ask the witness to enter.

Pursuant to Order of the Senate, Mary Simon was escorted to her seat in the Senate chamber.

The Chair: Honourable senators, the Senate is resolved into a Committee of the Whole to hear from Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, for the purpose of reporting on progress made on commitments endorsed by parliamentarians of both chambers during the year following the government's apology to former students of Indian residential schools.

Additional witnesses will appear on this subject on Thursday, June 11.

Ms. Simon, thank you for being with us today. I invite you to make your opening remarks.

Mary Simon, National President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: Good afternoon, honourable senators, and thank you for your invitation to speak today.

[Editor's Note: Some evidence was presented through an Inuktitut interpreter.]

[Interpretation]

It is an honour both as a Canadian and as a leader of Canada's Inuit to be in this chamber to mark and reflect upon the historic event that occurred one year ago: The Prime Minister's Statement of Apology to Former Students of Indian Residential Schools.

As I look around this room, I am comforted by seeing faces of senators who have worked with and for Aboriginal people in Canada for many years, promoting reforms inside the framework of democratic principles and human rights that have served our country for many years: Senator Watt from Nunavik, and Senator Adams from Nunavut. Senator Adams will retire from the Senate next week after 32 years serving Canadians. Congratulations, Senator Adams.

(1510)

[English]

I also see senators who know and understand the extraordinary significance of July 11, 2008, to Canada's Aboriginal peoples. It was an apology that reached across generations to the living and the deceased, to the former students of residential schools, to their children and grandchildren who experienced the consequences of a government policy that forcibly removed children from their homes, isolated them from their families, our language and our culture, and sought to assimilate our people into the dominant culture.

As the Prime Minister stated, this policy "had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal cultures" and it had "no place in our country."

That day, I spoke directly to our Prime Minister and told him that I had dreamed of this day when, on behalf of all Canadians, our government could reach inside the despair of so many of our people to say "we are sorry."

[Interpretation]

In homes across this great country, Inuit heard these remarkable words from our Prime Minister:

The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for too long. . . . The burden is properly ours as a government and a country.

[English]

Those words, in all their significance, did not change anything that day. Rather, it created an opportunity for change and we must make the most of this opportunity.

The past forward lies in reconciliation. Reconciliation between Inuit, our government and our nation will have many threads and at different levels. As leaders, we must weave these threads together to create a journey of healing and transformative changes for Canada's Inuit.

In the months following the apology, I spoke about its significance at national and international events. I told audiences about the significant shift that the apology represented because for the first time in our history, a Prime Minister recognized that the policy of residential schools and assimilation was ". . . based on the assumption that Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong."

If, then, the apology marked the end of a period of misguided policy where our language and cultural knowledge had been devalued, then it stands to reason that the apology must also mark the beginning of a period when we must collectively invest in restoring the legitimacy and validity of our language and cultural knowledge.

This is one reason why it is so important that Canada reconsider its position on the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Endorsing this UN declaration would be indicative of a country that has shifted its attitude on the validity of its Aboriginal cultures, which is what the Prime Minister's apology represented.

The true measure of the apology, therefore, will be the actions that follow this shift in attitude by our government. Reconciliation will follow a path of policy changes of substance, involving setting new goals and defining new decision-making processes that signify a high level of legitimacy for the Inuit language and culture.

[Interpretation]

Your decision last year, taken prior to the apology, to introduce Inuktitut as the first Aboriginal language to be used in the Senate chamber and two Senate committees raised Inuktitut to a new level of legitimacy in Canada. We must continue to build on decisions of this progressive nature.

[English]

Thank you, senators, for your leadership on the Inuktitut language, which lies at the core of who and what we are as Inuit. Your actions speak louder than words on this issue. Right after my speech, you will be dealing with a motion to approve the Official Languages Act for Nunavut. The Senate is demonstrating that sober second thought has the power to make history.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Ms. Simon: I also want to take a moment to publicly thank Governor General Michaëlle Jean for her actions in support of our culture.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Ms. Simon: In sharing seal meat with residents of Rankin Inlet at a community feast last week, she actively demonstrated support for our hunting traditions. It was a big morale boost for Inuit who need a champion for our way of life. Thank you, Your Excellency.

Honourable senators, your voices were heard again in the recently released report With Respect, Canada's North by the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.

[Interpretation]

This report reaffirms what Inuit have been saying for many years. A key measure of progress toward our sovereignty goals will be allocating resources to strengthen Canada's sovereignty claims in the North and improving the social conditions for the people who live there.

[English]

Thank you for your leadership in promoting this shift in policy thinking around sovereignty. It is absolutely critical that the development of a comprehensive Arctic strategy by our government stem from the needs of the people living in the Arctic.

Canada's next phase of policy-making for the Arctic must pick up from the historical significance of the Prime Minister's apology — specifically, that the apology signifies a departure from the past and the beginning of a new era where Inuit will lead the process of reclaiming our education systems, restoring the health of our citizens and fostering a new wave of growth for our language.

Policies and resource allocations by our federal government must enable these transformative goals. Let me provide a few examples.

Our country has never set national goals for Inuit education and we have the lowest graduation rates in the country. Reconciliation must involve a sustained commitment to strengthen our Inuit education systems so that we graduate more of our children.

In the last 20 years, Inuit have witnessed the rising tide of mental health issues in our communities. Reconciliation must involve a sustained commitment to investing in a comprehensive mental health strategy developed by and for Inuit.

(1520)

[Interpretation]

For many Inuit, losing their first language created a void in their lives. Reconciliation must involve a sincere commitment to replacing that void with a promise and a plan to support our efforts at reclaiming our language as the heart of our culture.

[English]

Our coastal communities and our livelihoods are threatened by climate change. Reconciliation must involve real action on Canada's contribution to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

You have undoubtedly heard of the recent discussion around establishing a university in the Arctic. This is an idea of substance for the post-apology era because it would represent the emergence of a new level of legitimacy, validity and influence of Inuit knowledge and language. No single project could demonstrate our country's sincerity about the apology more than a commitment to establish a university in the Arctic, a university that would produce Inuit scholars for the challenges we face today in the Arctic.

[Interpretation]

Before I conclude my remarks, I must take a moment to raise an important issue on behalf of all Inuit, but specifically for the Inuit of Nunatsiavut in Labrador.

[English]

Last year's Statement of Apology contained a gap, resulting in an ongoing injustice. The injustice concerns Inuit students who attended day school in Nunatsiavut in Labrador. These victims have been left out of the Government of Canada's acceptance of responsibility for the abuse that was inflicted on Aboriginal students, and this injustice must be corrected.

Each generation must decide if it wants to settle for the world of their parents, or if they want to improve upon the past. In Canada, through no fault or intention of our parents, they were part of a generation of a national education policy that had catastrophic consequences on our language and culture and the mental health of our people.

It is time to honour our parents, elders and past generations by redressing the mistakes of the past. Through our collective leadership, we must move our country forward into a new era of transformative changes for today's generation of Inuit. The threads of reconciliation will be woven through the record of enabling laws, progressive policies and day-to-day decision making that draws on the spirit of the apology.

[Interpretation]

I am pleased to be a leader in the company of two strong Inuit women who have entered the national political arena in the past year. As important as speaking Inuktitut to you here today, I spoke Inuktitut for the first time to a minister of the Crown this year when I met formally, as ITK president, with the Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq.

[English]

I was just as pleased the day after Nunavut turned 10 years old to sign a National Inuit Education Accord with Minister Strahl, which I wish I had more time to talk about. It was in the presence of the new premier of Nunavut, Eva Arreak, and I think she is here today. I am not sure where she is sitting, but it was a pleasure to have her be part of that development.

The National Inuit Education Accord will develop a national strategy on Inuit education within a year. Before Minister Strahl and I signed the accord, the two territorial governments signed it, as well as the Nunatsiavut government, plus Newfoundland and Labrador, the presidents of each of the land claims organizations and school boards within the different regions. This is a very positive development.

As leaders, we must get up every day and put into practice a vision for Canada's indigenous peoples. Let us hope that the decisions we make in support of this vision are criticized as overreaching, so that history will some day record these decisions not as overreaching, but rather as overdue.

We would also like to see a report card issued by the Government of Canada. We would be pleased to help the government structure this report card on an annual basis.

Let us keep in mind why we are set to engage in what I called last year "our nation's heavy lifting," when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission begins its work.

It is for our children and our children's children. Once our communities are healed, our children will grow up in healthy communities and happy families. We owe that to our children. Thank you very much.

[Translation]

The Chair: Honourable senators, according to the rules, during debate in Committee of the Whole, no Senator shall speak for more than 10 minutes. Are there any questions?

[English]

Senator Carstairs: Thank you for your presentation this afternoon.

You mentioned in your remarks the importance of the Government of Canada changing its position on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Like you, I think this is an incredibly important step forward. Can you give us any reasons given to you as to why the government refuses to move forward on this declaration?

Ms. Simon: Thank you for that question, Senator Carstairs. I have had a number of meetings with Minister Strahl on the issue. We have engaged with them on why we feel that the Government of Canada should embrace the declaration and vote yes on it. So far, we really do not know why they have not moved forward.

We have read various documentation about the reasons why they are not able to support the declaration. We have had our own legal counsel look at these concerns because if we felt that there were legitimate concerns, we would engage in the dialogue that would resolve these issues.

However, we have not been able to see how the declaration contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or how it goes against some of the provisions in the land claims agreements. We have not been able to resolve those issues yet.

We did not want to open up the declaration because it took us 20 years to negotiate that document. I think once we open it, there would a shift to making it weaker than it is already.

Senator Carstairs: You said that you were very pleased with the anniversary celebration and the signature of a national strategy within the year to develop a strategy on Inuit education.

Can you tell the Senate this afternoon how much money has been committed to this? It would be argued that money is not everything, but I would argue that since we spend considerably less to educate an Aboriginal child in this country than we spend to educate a non-Aboriginal child, it is highly significant that money be attached to this.

(1530)

Ms. Simon: We have committed to an approach whereby we have not asked for a substantial investment at the front end. We put together a national steering committee in which the minister's office is involved. Through this accord, we have given ourselves one year to develop a national strategy so that we can look at Inuit education across the board and build on our successes in education and remove the problems in education. At the same time, we will identify the gaps to understand why educational levels have not allowed students to meet the standards required, in many cases, to go to university.

At the end of the year, we are hoping that the government recognizes the need to invest heavily in our education system. We are trying to develop a concrete plan with the involvement of all parties, including the two territories and the provincial governments. Although Quebec is not on board yet, we are working on it. We have given ourselves a very short period of time to lay out this plan that will be put forward to the federal government for funding. There will need to be heavy investments if we want to revamp our education system. To date, there has been no money.

Senator Carstairs: Thank you.

[Interpretation]

Senator Watt: When I look around this chamber, I see many paintings in this room that depict wartime. As Inuit, we think differently. We are close to the land, and we do not advocate war. It is very important that we begin to reflect our culture in public places such as this one.

The Prime Minister's apology to the Indian residential school students was made public to all Canadians. Until today, we have not made any movement to resolve anything on Indian residential schools. I read that a member of the First Nations, Harry LaForme, who chaired the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission since April, has resigned. As we all know, the truth and reconciliation appointments are taking so long. Are you up to date with what is happening?

Ms. Simon: Yes, that is so true. I would very much like to see art that depicts positive things by Inuit and that reflects our closeness to the environment and our culture and lifestyle. We need to see more of that.

After the Prime Minister apologized to Inuit, First Nations and Metis with respect to their residential school experiences, it was part of the agreement that the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be established, but the chairperson resigned. Shortly after, another two people resigned from the commission. They all will have to be replaced.

Since April, we have been waiting for the federal government to appoint three new commissioners. We do not know when the federal government will make those formal appointments. I concur with you that this must happen quickly. When I spoke with Minister Strahl in April, we both agreed that it was urgent that the appointments be made. We expected the appointments to be made this June, but nothing has been confirmed.

Senator Watt: The Inuit culture is different from First Nations' and Metis' cultures and languages. The abuses against Inuit were also quite different. They happened in a different environment and the distance was far greater when they removed Inuit children from their families and homes. The experiences were different, although they were all put into the residential school system.

We need to have some input, not just one Inuk but maybe two co-chairs, one representing First Nations and Metis and the other representing Inuit. The presence of Inuit must be taken seriously at the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There is much work to be done on reconciliation and, if we do not get off to a good start, more problems will arise as a result of the slow process. How seriously are we taking it?

Ms. Simon: It is creating more problems.

[English]

Senator Watt, in our discussions with the Government of Canada, we have tried to ensure that there is proper Inuit representation in the work of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I am not at liberty to divulge how those discussions took place at the committee I sat on, but we have insisted that during the process of the work over the next five years that the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission will undertake, we need a process that will recognize Inuit-specific issues. As you said, the Inuit went through similar but different processes in the residential school era. We need to ensure that Inuit are not side-stepped in any way when this commission does its work. Given that we are remote and fewer in number, there can be a tendency in certain situations to move us to the side. We are working hard to ensure that that does not happen.

The appointment of the commissioners is in the hands of the federal government. Once we find out who they will be, we will work very hard to ensure that Inuit are an integral part of their work.

Senator St. Germain: Thank you, Ms. Simon, for being here with us today and for your excellent presentation. I have had the privilege of working with you on several files to date in respect of proposed legislation, as have many of us here. The enthusiasm and the wisdom that you bring to these debates is greatly appreciated. It is nice to have you here. I was one of those who was able to participate in the apology, and your role was significant, as it should have been.

(1540)

Senator Carstairs brought up the question of education. I feel that this issue is critical. As you know, I have sat on the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples for about the last 15 years. Wherever we go, education seems to be the resting place after all discussion is over. You mentioned that there must be a strategy to identify the gaps, and we discussed the financing.

Has any thought been given to going beyond that strategy? There must be a distinct reason for most young people to want to become educated. The North has tremendous potential, such as in the mining and resource industry. The border forms our Northern frontier.

What thought has been given to inspire young Inuit to seek out an education so that they can remain in their native territory? Many of us of Aboriginal background are fearful. We were fearful in our younger years of leaving the home and the place we were accustomed to. Has any thought been given to developing a strategy to inspire young people and to create a light at the end of the tunnel, such that if they become educated, there will be positive results and they will be able to stay in the North, work in the North and prosper in the North with the education that is required?

Ms. Simon: Thank you very much for your question, Senator St. Germain. It has been a pleasure working with you as well.

Your question is important because it is part of the whole picture, and these issues are interlinked. We put much emphasis on the role that education plays in each of our lives. We need to address the mental wellness of our children, our youth and our people. We need to feel pride in our education system by using our own language and our culture to teach. Once we can do that and go beyond that, we will have healthier communities and we will be able to engage our youth much more than we have been able to do to date. They must feel that this process is their process and their system that is in place to better their lives.

Right now, one of the main reasons we have such a high level of unemployment in our communities is because our young people are not going to school. They need to go to school. Without an education in 2009 and beyond, there is not a lot that youth can do except continue to live off the land. Many of our youth do not want to live off the land anymore, because we depend on a cash income, like everyone else, and material goods are now part of our daily lives.

People need to think of education as an integral part of their upbringing, an education system that is made by the people and for the people. That is why we put so much emphasis on education.

I spoke to someone in New Zealand yesterday. It is "cool" to speak Maori in New Zealand now, even if you are not a Maori person. Their education system has been totally transformed and they educate their children in the Maori language.

This situation is not insurmountable, but we need to focus on it and give it the kind of investment it requires, with a focused plan and a focused involvement of the people who will educate our children. At the core of the issue is the feeling of not belonging or of looking into a black tunnel. There must be hope, and part of that hope must be acquired not only through the raising of our children but through our education system. This is what we are trying to establish. I truly believe that the level of employment and the level of opportunity will come with what is established.

Senator St. Germain: Finally, in connection with your observations of New Zealand and the Maori people, last year our committee travelled to the Navajo and Pueblo nations in the U.S. The Navajo nation has an immersion school starting at kindergarten. Their graduation rate rose to 78 per cent from a percentage in the low 20s, I believe. I may be wrong on these figures, but the increase was dramatic, where the Navajo children were taught in their native language. I do not think the situation is the same with the Inuit, but the Navajo parents who had not learned Navajo properly were going to school with their children.

That is an indication that the direction in which you are going appears to be the correct one. I wish you well.

Have you looked at the Navajo and Pueblo experience? When our committee visited the high school for Pueblo students, we found their enthusiasm incredible. Have you looked at their experience? If not, it may be something to consider.

Ms. Simon: I have not personally looked at the Navajo and Pueblo experience, but our educators have. The people involved in the education system in the various regions have looked at different models. We are looking to see what has been successful and what has not worked, and we hope to build on the successes. This model does not have to be within our own culture. If a certain model is successful in another area or region, we can modify it to fit our own needs. It is important to build on other people's successes and modify them to meet our own needs so that we are not always reinventing the wheel. That is important.

Senator Joyal: Welcome, Ms. Simon. Listening to your introductory remarks today, I think this chamber was well-founded in inviting you here, after a year of the progress and, I should say, non-progress that has been registered. I think that is why you have been invited today, to underline the success and to identify where we should concentrate our priorities.

I want to raise with you the issue of Aboriginal languages. On June 12 of last year, when you were in this chamber, you stated the following:

. . . in framing this new relationship with us based on the respect for who we are, our traditions, history, language and culture.

Today, you stated that reclaiming your language is part of reconciliation.

We have a bill on the Senate agenda under the initiative of senators, Bill S-237, which is entitled, An Act for the advancement of the aboriginal languages of Canada and to recognize and respect aboriginal language rights.

Can you explain to us why, in your opinion, it should be a priority for the Government of Canada and the Parliament of Canada to legislate in relation to the recognition and value of Aboriginal languages?

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Ms. Simon: Thank you very much, Senator Joyal. Our Aboriginal culture and language is the very basis of our existence as a people. Once you lose your language, your culture goes to a large degree. In Inuktitut, our language is tied to our surroundings, the environment and the living resources that we have depended on for thousands of years. It is a very descriptive language and without it, I think we would lose a large part of our identity. It is at the core of our very being.

It needs protection because we are losing it, despite the fact that we can still use it in some regions, in other regions it is almost gone. You can see a real decline in the use of the Inuit language. We are fearful that unless we get assistance in terms of protection and investment, we will lose our language in the long term. We are not a large group of people when you consider the numbers.

We have a commitment to ensure that we do not lose our language. However, when you look at it over decades, it has eroded to a substantial extent. We do not get any funding for Inuit language and preservation. In a recent speech that I made, I called on the Government of Canada to invest in our language. I called on the government to invest in our language to at least the same degree as the francophone language. There is no comparison in terms of the investment that is made for the francophone community in Nunavut versus the Inuktitut for the Inuit language. We are really encouraging the government to look at this very seriously.

I know that it is a big step forward to have the act put into place by the Nunavut government but we need more than that. We need the Government of Canada to help us move ahead on this issue.

Senator Joyal: Would you approve generally with the objectives and principles that are stated in the bill recognizing Aboriginal languages?

Ms. Simon: I have not read every article. Looking over at my two Inuit colleagues, I am looking for a positive sign. I think they both affirmed that, yes, this kind of bill is very welcome.

Senator Joyal: You mentioned in your statement — I will change the subject — that the Inuit from Nunatsiavut are not included in the agreement that was endorsed between Canada by the various Aboriginal leaders.

Could you explain to us why you think it is important for that group of Inuit to be included for reconciliation and indemnity at par with any other Aboriginal in Canada?

Ms. Simon: The students that went to those schools suffered in the same way as other students that went to residential schools. The sacrifices that the parents made to have their kids taken away to go to school and to try to get rid of their culture and their language is the same as other residential school victims.

In fact, in Labrador, I think that the damage in terms of the language has been great. I think they should legitimately be included in the work that we are doing to rectify this damage. They should be part of the reconciliation between the peoples of this country. Without them being included in the settlement agreement, they do not feel that they are part of this process at all. That is why I spoke on their behalf.

Senator Joyal: What is the main reason that they are excluded?

Ms. Simon: From what I understand, senator, it occurred before Newfoundland joined Confederation that some of these schools were set up and the Government of Canada was not responsible for those schools. The other reason that I have been told is that they were called "federal day schools" and not residential schools. In reality, they were residential schools. Even in my own territory, there are schools that were called "day schools" but they were residential schools.

Senator Joyal: Those Inuit have no other choice than to take the government to court if they want to seek indemnity and repair. That is the only option they have if they are not included in the general agreement that has been endorsed by all the other Aboriginal Inuit.

Ms. Simon: That is a decision that they are making as a region. My role as the national leader is to try to and find some common ground between the Government of Canada and the people of Nunatsiavut. I am hoping that, through discussions with various ministers, we can resolve this issue without having to go through the court system. That decision is not mine; it is the decision of the region.

Senator Nancy Ruth: Thank you for coming here this afternoon. It is always an honour for me to listen to you.

In the introductory comments, you used the phrase "weaving the threads together" — that is, that both the Inuit and the government must do this. In many of your responses, you have talked about a specific department or program or plan.

Do you have a way in which you actually think we could weave together than do this separate business that we are so very good at?

Ms. Simon: Senator, the reason I used those words is exactly that. The issues that are confronting our communities are interrelated. When you look at housing, there has been some money announced for housing for the territories. There has also been some money announced for Arctic research facilities and for health. However, there are other areas that are not being addressed. In order to weave that thread so that the lives of the people at the community level become one, we need to look at these issues in a holistic way.

There is a secretariat in the government right now, which was set up a few years ago, called the Inuit Relations Secretariat in the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. As far as we are concerned, their role is to help us try to get out of the silos of the various departments and work through some of these issues together. We continue to try to do that. It is a long, drawn-out process, but we are working on it. It is very slow.

Senator Nancy Ruth: I bet. You said that decisions made about your region needed to be made in consultation with you and with the people of your land. I want to ask in terms of things that might have to do with the militarization of the North.

We announced deepening of ports; we celebrate the Rangers. We do this and we do that. We run this fear game of the Arctic being exploited for resources. I almost never hear the word "cooperation," cooperation either with other nations in the pan-Arctic region or with the Aboriginal peoples.

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From your perspective, having served both in the pan-Arctic and now as leader, do you feel consulted, respected, and part of the action, the decisions, the game?

Ms. Simon: It is certainly an ongoing process. The Arctic started to get a lot of attention over the last few years because of the climate change issue, the melting of the sea ice and the icepack in the Northwest Passage, and because of the discussion about the development of resources up there, and the fact that nation states other than Canada are talking about claiming those resources.

Our pitch has been — and I am not sure if we have succeeded yet — that in order for the Arctic to be sustainable, it needs to involve the people of the Arctic, in terms of the development itself and also the implementation of the various land claims agreements. More important, we have to build healthy and sustainable communities because Inuit are there to stay.

One of the ways in which Canada has asserted its sovereignty in the past was that Inuit lived in the Arctic on a permanent basis. Presence is the largest way of asserting one's ownership.

Therefore, we are saying to this government and have said to previous governments that they need to involve the Inuit in the decision-making process for these issues. We must also invest in the well-being of the people so that we have healthy Inuit living in the communities in the long term.

Senator St. Germain mentioned the hopelessness that is felt by some of our young people. We have to free them from that hopelessness and make our young feel that they are part of the development that is ongoing in the Arctic. However, it has to be sustainable for the environment and the resources as well as for the people.

We have never been against militarization. In fact, as long as there are no atomic bombs or anything like that, we feel we need security. We need the assistance of security in the Arctic as well.

It should not be the only game in town. We need to look at our sovereign responsibility as a nation, but we also need to look at how as a government and a people we support our communities in order to make them viable and healthy.

Senator Nancy Ruth: As you said that, I remembered that the first time I became aware of you was after Chernobyl blew up. You made many statements about what was happening in the Arctic and the damage to the land. It is like hearing those words 20 years later again and again.

I wish you well and I will do what I can.

Ms. Simon: Thank you very much.

Senator Grafstein: Welcome, Ms. Simon. We are absolutely delighted that you are here. This is an historic occasion. We are all privileged to be here and to have the opportunity to listen to you from your perspective.

I was very taken by your list of basic issues: health, mental health, Arctic issues, education, language training, greenhouse gases, universities, university students. It is a pretty vanilla, plain and simple set of basic requirements for any society. We welcome the fact that you have put them down on the table. I also welcome the fact that you have asked for a report card, which I think is appropriate.

We have been here a long time. We have heard many good statements from governments on all sides, yet very little progress has been made on these fundamental issues. I have been here longer than most. I welcome again the fresh energy that you have put into this agenda.

It is a rather sad statement about how little progress we have made on some of these fundamental issues. I would like to commend Senator Watt and Senator Adams, who introduced me about a decade ago to the topic of the sorry state of clean drinking water in Aboriginal communities, particularly in the North.

As you know, a bill has been before this Senate now for almost a decade. I am going to give you a report. I am reporting to you that for the third time the bill about clean drinking water, which effectively focuses on providing clean drinking water to everyone across the country, including every Aboriginal community, is now at the third reading stage of debate for the third time; yet, we are still waiting to have the chair, who is here today, call that to our attention so that we can address it once again.

What is the situation with respect to drinking water in the areas where you are responsible? We did have a report several months ago indicating that at least one third of the Aboriginal communities, which included yours, were at risk. Health concerns are paramount. Could you comment on where you stand on that issue and whether or not you can persuade the Senate to move more forcefully on this bill?

By the way, it is Bill S-208, and it is before the committee chaired by Senator Angus. The chair is sitting here.

Ms. Simon: We are simple people. There are no two ways about it. We need simple things to help our communities. We are lagging behind the rest of Canada in almost every sector. Looking at the economic downturn that is happening worldwide, as a national leader my fear has been that we will be cut even more, that the investment that is required will not happen. If that happens, the gap will just get wider.

We need very basic investments in our communities. Clean drinking water is one of them. Our drinking water comes from trucks. Water is trucked in to each home, except maybe in Iqaluit, Yellowknife and Rankin. In all the other communities, such as Kuujjuaq, our water is delivered by trucks every day.

As hard as people try to keep the sanitation issue in check, sometimes it gets out of hand and we have boil water advisories in many of our communities. People get sick and then find out it is from the water. It is a very important part of addressing the basic needs that I spoke about.

If your bill is at third reading for the third time, what can I say? Clean drinking water is a basic requirement to live. In a country like Canada, which is considered to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, our communities are lacking things like clean drinking water. To us, that is not acceptable. We are full taxpayers in this country. Inuit pay full taxes, maybe more than other Canadians because the cost of living is so high in the North; yet, our very basic needs are not met much of the time.

That is why I would plead with whomever I have to plead with to pass this piece of legislation so we can look forward to telling our people that they will have clean drinking water, aside from many other basic needs. We have mouldy houses that cause serious respiratory problems for our babies and children — and the list goes on. It does not end. It is almost mind-boggling when you think about it.

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We try to take it step by step, but we need a plan. We need a strategy as to how we will address those basic needs.

Senator Segal: I am delighted to share the warm welcome to President Simon. I remember with some fondness her outstanding work as our circumpolar ambassador, and we all, as Canadians, have benefited from that work. As she has been in so many things, she was a remarkable pioneer on difficult and complex issues with clarity of purpose and a clear voice, which makes all Canadians proud and not only the Inuit Tapirisat, which she represents so ably.

I want to ask you a question about money. Every time I hear a bureaucrat say, It is not the money; it is the principle, I know it is really the money, and they are covering something up.

Over the last 25 years, Inuit and other First Nations across the North, along with the duly elected governments of those regions, have asked for what the provinces have, which is the devolution to the territories of their legitimate financial mineral rights. What that devolution would mean, in terms of the diamond and other mineral activities in the region, the full fiscal capacity on the part of the duly elected government of Nunavut, and also on the part of the Inuit Tapirisat organization. The Inuit Tapirisat has a clear and straight treaty right with respect to those assets. This capacity would mean an opportunity not to call on Ottawa to spend program dollars that should have been in the hands of the Inuit Tapirisat and the Nunavut administration to begin with because the resources come from their territory. In fact, the Inuit Tapirisat and the Nunavut administration would be able to spend the money themselves on their own social, medical and health care priorities, just as the provinces of Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia do.

I have always wondered why leadership has, on occasion, been prepared to engage on whether this program pie or that program pie is spending sufficiently to deal with critical issues like drinking water or the relationship between poverty in the North and population health versus taking the case for their own resources being given back to them so they have the cash to make their own sovereign decisions within our confederal union on the issues of importance to them.

I would be interested, because of your vast experience in this region and with this issue — I remember your negotiation on behalf of the Inuit Tapiriit, the time of constitutional agreements that have been reached in the past — why you think that is, and why you think that would be a better answer than many little program dollars that either do or do not flow appropriately, as my colleague Senator Nancy Ruth referenced in her question.

Ms. Simon: The simple answer to that question is, first of all, Inuit are a peaceful people. We like to negotiate. We do not like confrontation, so we have always stayed away from confrontation.

The other simple answer is it is hard, when we are a colonized people, to take power. We have to regain that power. That is what we have been trying to do for many years through the settlement of our comprehensive land claims agreements, which are constitutionally protected agreements. They are modern-day treaties, and they embody many of the things that you have talked about. The creation of the new territory of Nunavut is an embodiment of that power that we are trying to regain. I know that the Nunavut government has been trying to start the negotiations on devolution so that they can address those issues that you have talked about in terms of fiscal capacity and mineral rights. Those issues are all part of the negotiations that, as a people, we have agreed to undertake with the Government of Canada.

Our feeling is that devolution is taking much too long, these issues need to be resolved and they cannot go on forever. We feel that it is such a snail's pace sometimes that nothing is happening, and we have to look back five years to feel any progress.

These things are not absent in our minds. We think about them every day. We work on them every day, but we need the Government of Canada to address these issues on an urgent basis.

Senator Segal: With respect to the health status, specifically of young people in the region where the Inuit Tapirisat has sovereignty, breadth and reach, the data that I have seen suggests that one of the reasons for the difficult health status — dental problems, for example, and the fact that soft drinks, because there is a bottler there, are cheaper than milk — is that poverty is a grinding cause, relative to the actual cost of living in the North, of some of the health outcomes that are so negative for so many of the population.

I know you are not a physician and neither am I, and we defer to physicians on these issues, but can you give us your perspectives on the relationship between health outcomes, opportunity and poverty in the North? Do you think poverty is fundamental or ancillary? What would you like to see the federal government do directly on that front, if there is any initiative that occurs to you directly?

Ms. Simon: The federal Minister of Health, Leona Aglukkaq, who was also the Minister of Health for the Nunavut government, would probably be able to answer those questions much more thoroughly than I can, but I will attempt to respond to some of the questions you raised.

Health status has an impact on the well-being of our young and of our youth. If you look at the statistics that have come out recently on suicides, the suicide rate in the North is the highest in the country.

Senator Segal: That is right.

Ms. Simon: If that kind of statistic came out anywhere else in Canada, maybe not necessarily in other Aboriginal communities but in other cities or in other regions of Canada, it would be considered a crisis that demanded political attention immediately, yet, we cannot focus any attention on it.

Then we look at the tuberculosis rate in the Canadian Arctic. In a country like Canada, in 2009, we have the highest rate of tuberculosis outbreaks in the Canadian Arctic. This is a sad story because, in this age, tuberculosis is supposed to be eradicated in Canada. In Labrador alone, they could not bring patients out of the communities because there were no beds for them in Goose Bay, so they could not be tested. They stayed in the community, probably infecting other people there.

These are some of the problems we have to face.

Nutrition is another example. People are used to eating traditional foods. Therefore, when we import potato chips, Coke and all those good-tasting junk foods, people eat them. The children are not hungry afterward, so they do not get to eat very nutritious foods.

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The parents are now learning pretty late in the game that they have to change their ways. However, it is still a problem because the stores are still selling all this junk food. Also, people still have to go out on the land to hunt for their meat. We do not have meat in our stores and, if there is, you cannot afford it.

Senator Segal: Right.

Ms. Simon: It is often also freezer burnt and it is not very good, anyway. People still have to go out and hunt on the land for their meat, unlike we do down in the South.

These things all very much affect the well-being of our young people.

Senator Fairbairn: Welcome, Ms. Simon. It is very good to see you here. This has been a very interesting conversation, and it is important for us to hear what you have to say.

It was about this time last year that the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry visited Iqaluit. We had been on a tour to every corner of Canada to study the issue of rural poverty.

We had very interesting hearings in Iqaluit. I recall that people whom I had met before talked about the fact that they were still working hard on literacy, learning, books and all of the things that we take for granted down here in the South.

Listening to the emphasis you have been putting on the learning issue in your communities, do you still have the programs that are reaching out to help both children as well as adults? Are you still able to get the kinds of books that are open to being read in your area? Is this still moving ahead and beyond in a useful way for you, or are there more things we need to do?

Ms. Simon: Senator, I think there is a lot more that has to be done. I know that literacy projects are very important. However, more importantly, I think the Inuktitut curriculum needs to be developed. We do not have enough curricula in our schools to teach in our language.

We have curricula, let us say up to grade 3, in Nunavik and also in Nunavut. However, beyond that, no real investment has been made for the development of curricula because, like one senator said earlier, some parents have started to lose their language. I think it was the Navajo, and I think it was Senator St. Germain who said that the parents are learning with their children in their language.

To me, this is so important because we will have to do that, as well; we will have to regain our language with parents, as well as the children. Therefore, the development of curricula in our schools is paramount. It does not replace the literacy programs and programs that are also needed in adult education. In most small communities, they do not exist. However, it is very important to have a curriculum that can be used in places other than just the school.

Senator Fairbairn: As we have heard here today, in so many ways it is just absolutely gorgeous up there. When I look back on the final day of our committee hearings in Iqaluit, it was gorgeous — cold but gorgeous. It is a very important part of this country.

My hope is that we in the nation's capital, our place of government, can give you more help in this way, not just encouragement but more in the way of the efforts that are there to be had if we can only get it together, you and us. I hope we think carefully about what you have been saying today and realize that there is much to be done in that part of Canada.

It is far away, but almost everything is far away in Canada. The North deserves just the same as, if not more than, anywhere else. I hope that we will be able to give you that advance to help your young people and to help their parents, because it works for all. Thanks so much for being here.

Ms. Simon: Thank you very much.

Senator Duffy: Welcome, ambassador. It is an honour to have you here with us.

I think all of us in this chamber applaud your efforts to preserve your language and culture. We know how important it is, especially for young people, to know from where they come so that they can use that as a base as they plan their future.

Those of us who represent rural and distant communities are always concerned about the communication link. There are probably mixed reviews in regard to what broadcasting has brought to the North. It has brought some good things, including the CBC broadcasting in Native languages and so on. However, I suspect there have also been some negative cultural aspects to having television in the North, as there has been here in the South.

I was wondering about the current penetration of high-speed Internet. I have been impressed in the last while, travelling around the country, at how many remote communities we have — or which would previously have been thought to be remote from the "thought control centre" in Toronto — where there are thriving little businesses in everything from aquaculture, mapping, digital games, et cetera. It is all over, whether it is in Newfoundland and Labrador, in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, or in Souris, Prince Edward Island. Businesses have sprung up and enabled local people to work there because they can connect to the wider world. How have we done with helping you connect in the North and how much remains to be done?

Ms. Simon: Thank you for your question, Senator Duffy.

Communications, especially radio, has played an important role in the Arctic. We have used the radio medium for many years now. It was our way of hearing about some of our relatives who had been sent off to hospitals; you used to have these short-wave programs from Montreal where there would be a report on who was getting well and who was not, just by listening to the radio.

Communications has played an important role, and CBC has certainly done its part. TV is a different story, although we do have our own northern network. These are things that we continue to work on. Like everywhere else, many television programs have had some bad effects.

In terms of the Internet, it is a very positive thing. Problems have been associated with it, but like any society, good and bad things come with having access to the Web. Our young people are really using it. In fact, it is a mode of communication for a lot of our young people now. They use Facebook, email, MSN and that kind of thing.

Senator Duffy: Is it across the North?

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Ms. Simon: The service is starting to develop in every region. It is still slow in places like Kuujjuaq in Nunavik. It is still difficult to download, but in terms of having access to email and so on, it is becoming much better. That is a positive thing for our young people as they will be much more connected to the world. As we said, they need to be part of economic progress and world politics in terms of climate change and the social welfare of our people.

It will have a positive impact if it is done well. There has been a lot of investment in that area.

Senator Duffy: Finally, reflecting back on your time as Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, how is Canada doing compared to other nations? Is there a model nation that we should be emulating or are we among the leaders in the circumpolar nations?

Ms. Simon: We have had our up and down times. Canada should be a leader in the Inuit Circumpolar Council because we are an Arctic nation.

Recently, there has been more effort on the part of the government to have more senior people involved in the international work that the Arctic Council is doing. This is positive. Involvement with the Arctic Council has been on an upswing. It was on a down swing for a while. However, we still do not have a replacement for the circumpolar ambassador. It is still vacant or does not exist, I am not sure which.

With respect to Arctic issues, it is incumbent upon us as a country and a nation with a very large portion in the Arctic to be very involved and to take a leadership role.

Senator Duffy: Thank you for coming today.

[Interpretation]

Senator Adams: Thank you for coming to this chamber. I am sure you have heard many questions. I have a few questions concerning the residential schools issue. Have there been any studies or surveys of past residential school students? How many people are alive? How many people are deceased?

I have another question about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with respect to the apology and the agreement they reached. Have you looked into this? Where is it at? Is that the end of the apology?

Many Inuit wanted compensation for the hardships they suffered. The judge who was the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission resigned and the others resigned shortly after. Maybe that is the reason why the work of the commission is not happening. There is no commission to speak of currently. We had hoped that when the commission was struck and announcements were made that we were moving forward to deal with residential school damages.

Ms. Simon: Thank you, Senator Adams.

I agree with you. It is important for those things that are supposed to be constructive and restorative to Aboriginal Peoples move forward. Having you and Senator Watt working in the parliamentary system is very important to us Inuit. Your full-time participation here is very valuable and worthwhile to help Inuit.

Regarding the residential school students, there were many complaints that most former students did not get the full payments when people received compensation. This was because of certain schools they attended, and in some cases, which organization funded the schools. In other cases, it was due to poor recordkeeping. This is especially true for older people who were not paid for all the years that they were absent from their homes living in residential schools.

The payment and compensation method was not satisfactory to many people because of the poor quality and loss of records or simply that no recordkeeping system existed at the time for the earlier residential schools. We are still hearing those complaints.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission starts looking at the healing process, I believe that the compensation process will come up as it did not satisfy all former residential school students for the years they attended residential schools away from home.

[English]

Senator Mitchell: There are many special moments in the Senate and in Parliament, but last year's apology and the appearance of Aboriginal leaders in this chamber transcended most of them. It was a very special moment for all of us. It is good to have you here to allow us to revisit that and to follow up to see what progress is being made.

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources travelled to the Western Arctic last year. One of our most powerful impressions was the evidence of climate change and its effects on the North.

Could you provide to honourable senators your assessment of the impacts of climate change, evidence of it, and its impact on your communities and people?

Ms. Simon: I am not an expert on these issues, but I can tell you what we have experienced.

One thing that has been very profound is the negative effect of climate change on our traditional knowledge. Many of our elders, our hunters and people on the land — such as Senator Watt and Senator Adams when they are in their communities — are not able to predict weather conditions and seasonal changes as well as they used to.

There have been a number of accidents with people out hunting when they knew the ice would be safe at a given time of year. In fact, it was not because of climate change. These are some of the real effects that our elders are feeling. The elders tell us many times that they have trouble predicting, in terms of their traditional knowledge, how the seasons will evolve.

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The other one is more related to the western Arctic, where you might have visited — I am not sure. It is the erosion of the coast. Places like Tuktoyaktuk, which is in the western Arctic, are finding that due to the extreme weather conditions and extreme storms, the coastal area is eroding quite a bit. In fact, some of the sea water is starting to go into people's backyards because erosion is taking place.

We have a community in Nunavik, where Charlie Watt and I come from, where there are probably about 600 to 800 people. They live in a sort of valley. Because of the permafrost melting, the community is sinking. There have been discussions about relocating that community to another site, which will cost an enormous amount of money. It is happening. These are real-life situations that people are experiencing.

There are also things like the ultraviolet rays from the sun, which are much stronger. They are present everywhere else, but in the Arctic we feel them much more because people are out on the land a lot. Years ago when I was growing up, we did not need sunscreen. People became brown and dark, but we never needed sunscreen. Now hunters cannot go out without sunscreen; they break out in sores because the sun is so strong as it reflects off the sea ice. These are real-life issues that we are facing.

Then there is the more insidious type of change, which is pollution, the transboundary pollutants that are infiltrating the food chain we depend on for our food source. The contaminant levels in these animals have been much higher than the accepted levels that are supposed to be there in order not to damage your body; these levels are way beyond those levels.

Those types of changes we have no real control over. That is why we work so hard in the international community to have nation states like Canada to deal with the source of the problem. It must be dealt with at the source. Band-aid remedies and adaptation remedies will not change the way the world's climate is changing. The source of the problem needs to be dealt with, and those are the greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants that are spewing into the atmosphere. Those issues have to be addressed. We are trying to encourage countries like Canada to take this problem much more seriously than they have.

Senator Mitchell: What is your impression, more specifically, of what Canada is doing or not doing to address climate change? Are you hopeful that there is some initiative there?

Ms. Simon: I do not know what Canada is doing. I know a lot of negotiations are going on right now leading up to the Copenhagen conference — I think it is COP 12. I am not sure which number it is, but it is one of the COP conferences that will take place in Copenhagen. I know Canada is involved in those negotiations, but I do not know what is being negotiated.

We would like to find out. We want to be part of those discussions, but up to now we have not been successful in participating. We have been invited to participate in the conference itself, but the negotiations are over by the time these conferences take place.

I realize that more and more. I went with the Minister of Environment to Bali over a year ago. The negotiations had been pretty much completed by the time we arrived there. I think it is important to be involved in the lead-up to these agreements.

Senator Mitchell: You have not been consulted on that process?

Ms. Simon: Not the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, no.

The Chair: On our second round, Senator St. Germain asked to be recognized for a final brief comment.

Senator St. Germain: Thank you, chair. You are very generous.

Ms. Simon, when I placed my first questions to you, something came to mind. When we were with the Pueblo Nation, and Grand Chief Garcia was before an enthusiastic crowd of high school students that were all Pueblo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we were given the opportunity to question him.

I asked him: How do you have this great esprit de corps flowing through your school? One of the most profound statements I think I have heard with regard to education was when he said: We do not impose; we try to see the situation through the eyes of the children. Governments and adults often try to impose.

I think that with the challenges we have with First Nations, Inuit and Metis in education, it may be time we try to see education through the eyes of the children. Then maybe we will experience more success. I thank you again.

Ms. Simon: Senator St. Germain, I could not agree with you more.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, I know that you will join me in thanking Ms. Simon for being with us today.

[English]

Honourable senators, is it agreed that the Committee rise and that I report to the Senate that the witness has been heard?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.


[Translation]

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the sitting is resumed.

Report of Committee of the Whole

Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, the Committee of the Whole, which was authorized by the Senate to hear from the President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, for the purpose of reporting on progress made on commitments endorsed by parliamentarians of both chambers during the year following the government's apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools, reports that it heard the witness.

Business of the Senate

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 27(1), I wish to inform the Senate that, when we proceed to Government Business, the Senate will begin with Item No. 26 under Motions, followed by the other items as they appear on the Order Paper and Notice Paper.

The Senate

Motion for Concurrence in Legislative Assembly of Nunavut's Passage of the Official Languages Act—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government), pursuant to notice of May 28, 2009, and seconded by Senator Adams, moved:

That, in accordance with section 38 of the Nunavut Act, chapter 28 of the Statutes of Canada, 1993, the Senate concur in the June 4, 2008, passage of the Official Languages Act by the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut.

He said: Honourable senators, I had the privilege of introducing a motion requesting the Senate's concurrence in the amendments made to the Official Languages Act of Nunavut. The House of Commons has already given its support for this very important motion.

(1650)

Before discussing the motion itself, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to Senator Willie Adams of Nunavut, who will be retiring in a few days after 32 years of service in Parliament. We have been friends for 25 years, ever since we discovered our shared interest in issues that affect coastal communities. Senator Adams was appointed to the Senate on April 5, 1977, by the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau. He was the first Inuk appointed to Canada's Senate.

I believe that a number of events celebrating Senator Adams' long and distinguished career will be held between now and the time he leaves.

Congratulations, Senator Adams!

Senator Adams is in favour of the motion under consideration. Allow me to explain what it is about and what it implies.

The new Official Languages Act passed at third reading by the Nunavut Assembly on June 4, 2008, recognizes Inuktitut, French and English as the territory's only official languages. This is a significant change because, when the territory was created in 1999, Nunavut inherited the Northwest Territories' Official Languages Act, which granted official status to English, French and seven Aboriginal languages. The new act removes six Aboriginal languages that are not spoken in Nunavut from the list of official languages. This measure should not be interpreted as lacking respect for these Aboriginal languages, because they are still covered under the Official Languages Act of the Northwest Territories, where they are still in use.

The adoption by Nunavut of its new Official Languages Act is part of a set of measures to protect the Inuit language. The Government of Nunavut also passed the Inuit Language Protection Act in September 2008. This territorial legislation will ensure that this language will be the primary language in education, work and public service throughout the territory.

The Official languages Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act resulted from 10 years of studies, consultations and reports on the best way to preserve the Inuit language and culture and to establish mechanisms allowing the Inuit to control their institutions, speak their language and shape their future.

Today, we are asking the Senate to give its assent to the Nunavut Official Languages Act, the last step before its implementation by the government in the territory. The Senate's concurrence is required under section 38 of the 1993 federal legislation that created Nunavut, which states that proposed changes to the language regime in effect must be approved by Parliament by way of a resolution. A similar requirement applies to the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

By concurring in the amendments made by the new Nunavut Official Languages Act, the Parliament of Canada is confirming the preservation of the language rights of Francophones and Anglophones in territorial legislation, government communications and access to services.

It is also an opportunity to demonstrate support for concrete measures that ensure the self-government for the inhabitants of the north.

From all possible viewpoints, there is good reason for supporting this legislation that the territory wants.

It is part of the federal government's well established desire to support the autonomy of the north, the northern strategy, devolution agreements, territorial transfers and so forth.

The new act affirms and protects the rights of all territorial residents while reflecting the specific challenges faced by the Inuit language.

Furthermore, the Francophone community in Nunavut is a strong supporter of measures to promote the Inuit language and advocates the strengthening of its collaboration with the Inuit in order to develop the territory.

However, by approving those amendments — and I think this is the most important aspect — the Senate of Canada is publicly demonstrating Canada's desire to support the people of Nunavut in their journey towards empowerment, something we would all like to see.

The year 2009 is also the 40th anniversary of the Official Languages Act. It is therefore also a good time, symbolically speaking, for this motion to pass in both houses of Parliament.

Forty years ago, the Government of Canada took the necessary steps to declare French and English the official languages of the Parliament of Canada, the government and the federal courts. The goal was to allow Canadians to communicate with their government in French and English, to provide equal opportunities for employment within the federal government, to allow Canadians to work in the official language of their choice and to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities.

Now Nunavut wants to take ownership of the issues related to official languages by proposing a series of measures to protect the Inuit language, while fully respecting the rights of francophone and anglophone residents.

The fact that the Senate and the House of Commons both support the motion for concurrence is a sign of recognition of and respect for Nunavut's jurisdiction over language issues.

It also fits in perfectly with our vision set out in Canada's Northern Strategy, whose aim is to ensure that the inhabitants of the three territories control their own futures.

I encourage all honourable senators to join together to support this motion.

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, earlier the senator indicated that the other Aboriginal languages, those that are going to be dropped from the official list, are no longer spoken in Nunavut. Do we have any proof? Has Statistics Canada said so? I am simply asking. I am sure everyone understands what a sensitive issue this is. I have already heard people say that no one speaks French in Alberta or in Newfoundland. I want to be sure that we know what we are talking about.

Senator Comeau: According to the information from the Government of Nunavut, which proposed this motion, these languages are not spoken in that region. The Government of Nunavut apparently conducted extremely thorough research. We have been assured that these languages are not spoken in Nunavut. However, some of these languages are still spoken in the other regions of Yukon and the Northwest Territories. But the Government of Nunavut has assured us that that is not the case in Nunavut.

Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I want to ask a question about what Senator Comeau has said. If I understand correctly, notwithstanding the proclamation of the importance of the Inuit language, francophone and anglophone minority rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Canada will not be affected or diminished at all, either by the legislation or by the senator's motion for concurrence.

Senator Comeau: That is correct. I read the bill to make sure. In my opinion, the bill contains no restrictions with regard to the official languages, English and French. In fact, the francophones — who sometimes interest me much more — in Nunavut strongly support this bill. And I am completely sure that the bill does not diminish Canada's two official languages.

(1700)

[Editor's Note: Senator Adams spoke Inuktitut.]

[Interpretation]

Hon. Willie Adams: Honourable senators, thank you for raising other issues, such as education for Inuit, which we had not talked about. I will speak about the motion regarding the Nunavut Official Languages Act.

Honourable senators, on a request from the Government of Nunavut to have the agreement of both houses of Parliament, I concur with the Leader of the Government in the Senate on her motion changing the Nunavut official languages.

When Nunavut was created in 1999, the Northwest Territories Official Language Act was still in force in Nunavut. Many of the languages considered as official languages in the Northwest Territories are not spoken in Nunavut, therefore requiring an update for a language bill in Nunavut.

I want to again stress the Inuit languages because they are integral to our culture and our being.

Before the arrival of English- and French-speaking explorers, the people in the Arctic spoke only Inuit languages. Over the past few years, it has become apparent that our languages are not being spoken as frequently as years ago. We have a generation that was brought up impressed by all things from the South. They are at risk of losing their language and culture.

This act, which was passed by the Government of Nunavut last June, was the result of years of consultation to achieve legislation that would recognize the rights of Inuit in the legislative process and ensure that Inuit languages continue to be spoken and have equality with English and French as the official languages of Nunavut. Over 70 per cent of the population of Nunavut speaks Inuit languages, 26 per cent speaks English and 1 per cent speaks French.

Under Article 32 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, Inuit have the right to participate in the development of social and cultural policies within Nunavut. This act will ensure that programs and services will be offered by territorial institutions to better assist Inuit. The territorial institutions and applications would include the Government of Nunavut, courts, proceedings in the legislative assembly and administrative heads of public agencies.

In order for all Inuit who are unilingual to be able to participate in the parliamentary democratic process in Canada, we have to accept Inuktitut as an official language in Nunavut. I feel that once the Inuktitut language is officially recognized, this will promote more employment because Inuktitut will be a working language and more Inuit will participate in the workforce.

Debates and proceedings in the legislative assembly will now be in the language of choice. Documents such as records, journals, acts and recordings will be made available upon request in any of the three languages.

Many of our elders are unilingual and require someone, usually a younger family member, to interpret for them into the English language in order to communicate. They will now have the opportunity to obtain important services in the only language that they have ever known.

There is also a goal to have 85 per cent Inuit employment in the Nunavut government, and with that number, more and more employees of the Government of Nunavut will be able to conduct business in an Inuit language. There will be no fear of our language disappearing, and more and more services will be implemented to better serve Nunavummiut.

This act will also be incorporated into the justice system and will confirm the language makeup of Nunavut. I understand that the Minister of Language is here, the Honourable Louis Tapardjuk. Now, official languages will be used in judicial proceedings and interpretation services will be provided accordingly.

This act also outlines the duties of the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut, who will have the authority to ensure that the rights, status and privileges contained in the Official Languages Act are recognized. This may entail investigations and reports to ensure that the provisions of the Official Languages Act are followed appropriately.

This act is to be reviewed every five years, by which time I am hopeful that many of the policies will have been implemented and will continue to be implemented.

Recently, the Minister of Language in the Nunavut government, the Honourable Louis Tapardjuk, attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and spoke about issues important to Inuit. One of those issues was the new Official Languages Act and its importance to the Inuit way of life.

Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, spoke to us earlier, but I do not see the Premier of Nunavut, Eva Aariak, in the gallery. We expected her. We also expected the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut to be present here today.

I would like to thank the Nunavut delegation for coming to the Senate Chamber to hear our debate about concurring with the passage of the Nunavut Official Languages Act.

Today history is being made in the Senate Chamber, as we have Inuktitut interpretation for the first time. It was an honour to have Mary Simon address the Committee of the Whole.

I apologize that I have trouble communicating effectively in English, and sometimes in Inuktitut.

Honourable senators, it would be a great honour if this motion were passed today, recognizing the importance of Inuit languages to Nunavummiut. I thank you for supporting it.

[English]

The Hon. the Speaker: Is there further debate?

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Yes, Your Honour. Some senators on our side have expressed the desire to look more carefully at this very important motion, which is certainly much supported. Senators would like the opportunity to look more carefully at section 38 and chapter 28 of the Statutes of Canada. Therefore, we would like to take the adjournment of the debate.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned).

Business of the Senate

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I would like to call Item No. 3 under Government Business, Bills.

(1710)

[Translation]

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Patrick Brazeau moved that Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, be read the second time.

He said: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to talk to you today at second reading of Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. I am delighted to have this opportunity to express my support for a bill that fulfils two of the basic obligations contained in a historic agreement between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.

The historic agreement is the new relationship agreement signed in February 2008 by the Government of Canada and the Cree peoples of Quebec. It puts an end to decades of lawsuits and marks the beginning of a new era of collaboration and cooperation between the federal government and the people who live in the eastern James Bay and southern Hudson Bay region of Northern Quebec.

More specifically, the new relationship agreement provides for the transfer of federal responsibilities to nine Cree communities in the region. It also provides for the transfer of $1.4 billion to those communities to ensure that they have the necessary resources to carry out those responsibilities. The agreement puts the Cree of Eeyou Istchee one step closer to self-government.

The Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act must be amended to give binding force to the provisions of the agreement. That is why Bill C-28 was drafted.

[English]

Does the bill warrant our support? The answer is, yes, because Bill C-28 addresses the three prerequisites for a strong, viable and self-governing Cree Nation in Quebec. First and foremost, it builds strong communities: It promotes health, education and community involvement and improves the quality of life for men, women and their children.

Second, it encourages economic growth and development: It promotes investment, training and career opportunities that support families and helps men, women and families to achieve their dreams of a prosperous future.

Third, it respects our natural heritage: It helps to mitigate the impact that we have on our environment and preserves plants and animals and conserves lands and waterways for people to enjoy generations from now.

[Translation]

In other words, the bill is part of a broader process designed to promote social, economic and environmental development in the nine remote Cree communities in Eeyou Istchee.

Bill C-28 promotes social development in these communities by giving residents the power to control their future. In the coming months, the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec and community leaders will continue their preliminary discussions in order to negotiate an agreement on self-government that will pave the way for a new government for the Cree nation and the modernization of community governance structures. Bill C-28 is an essential precursor to this historic agreement. It gives the people of eastern James Bay and southern Hudson Bay the tools to prepare successfully for full-fledged self-government.

Specifically, Bill C-28 empowers the Cree Regional Authority, the central administrative body for the nine communities, to make regulations, coordinate sanitary, police and fire services and set regional standards on water quality, financial accounting and environmental protection. We cannot overestimate the social repercussions these regional standards alone will have.

The Cree Regional Authority will have the power to create new standards on water quality so that all the residents in the nine remote communities can have access to clean water. The local wastewater processing facilities will be tested, water mains and other infrastructures will be maintained and other residents in the region will receive the necessary training to become qualified water quality technicians.

Similarly, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee will benefit from the financial and accounting rules that the Regional Authority plans to introduce. At present, each of the nine communities has its own way of tracking expenses. Even though all these methods are sound, the variety of approaches makes it difficult to monitor cash flow within the region.

[English]

That is why the Cree Regional Authority proposes the use of a single system that will make it easier for the Cree of Eeyou Istchee to see exactly how public funds are used, to hold regional leaders accountable for their decisions and to ensure that the nine communities in the area have adequate resources to meet the needs of residents.

As an added benefit, the stringent financial accounting regulations that the Cree Regional Authority plans to implement will also propel economic development in the region. Secure in the notion that solid accountability measures are in place, investors will have the confidence to fund short-term and long-term projects in Northern Quebec. As a result, Bill C-28 meets the second requirement that will pave the way for future self-government: It ensures the economic viability of the nine remote communities. Development in the region will introduce a host of employment and training opportunities for the people who live and work there. As is always the case when a significant number of stable, well-paying jobs are created in a community, small businesses will open and expand to meet the needs of the new workforce, creating even more opportunities.

[Translation]

As I already pointed out, respect for the environment is the third prerequisite for a strong, viable and autonomous Cree nation in Quebec. In the case of the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, their environment consists of ancestral lands that are punctuated by countless lakes and covered by endless forests. There is no other place in the world with such a breathtaking landscape.

By preserving the pristine nature and beauty of this land and water, Bill C-28 disappoints no one. It places responsibility for environmental protection squarely in the hands of the people who appreciate it — the people who have lived through the seasonal cycles for thousands of years. Naturally, I am speaking of the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.

Not only will the Cree Regional Authority be able to develop and implement water quality standards and financial and accounting procedures, it will be able to establish rules for land development and environmental protection. It will be able to appoint a Cree regional manager of the environment who would be responsible for supervising all environmental assessments conducted on the ancestral lands of the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and ensure that all resource-based projects are environmentally viable.

[English]

Honourable senators, Bill C-28 makes good social, economic and environmental sense. What makes this possible is genuine collaboration between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and a spirit of partnership that marked the negotiation of the New Relationship Agreement and partnership that continued on well after its signing to infuse every aspect of this bill's development.

In keeping with provisions in the New Relationship Agreement, federal government representatives met regularly with the Cree of Eeyou Istchee to discuss the draft legislative proposal. These consultations have not only produced an impressive bill but have also made relations between the two groups stronger still.

This point was emphasized in the words of Bill Namagoose, Executive Director of the Grand Council of the Crees, and those of James O'Reilly, legal counsel for one of the First Nations communities. When these two men appeared before committee in the other place, they testified to the spirit of partnership that now permeates the interactions between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.

Bill Namagoose was the first to speak, commending the Government of Canada and, in particular, the Department of Justice for "the courteous and insightful manner in which they have carried out their work and consultation with us." James O'Reilly agreed, adding that there has been exemplary cooperation between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee in the last number of years.

(1720)

[Translation]

Honourable senators, as you can see, these words are a real testament to the cooperation behind the development of Bill C-28 and, more broadly speaking, an approach that helped eliminate the past tensions that existed between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, and to ensure that the people of the eastern James Bay and southern Hudson Bay region in northern Quebec feel respected as equals.

And they are equal. As the Auditor General has stated on many occasions, global treaties and agreements are reached in a certain spirit and with a certain intention — in the spirit of respect and real partnership, and with the intention of finding sustainable solutions that meet the needs of all parties involved. By simply respecting that spirit and intention, we can avoid conflict and the need to take matters to the courts, and we can avoid lawsuits to settle our differences. By respecting that spirit and intention, we are opting for a more neutral solution and choosing to proceed with discussions, consultations and the exchange of ideas.

I would like to draw your attention to the important work of our colleagues who took part in the study that led to the report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, entitled Honouring the Spirit of Modern Treaties: Closing the Loopholes. That special study focused on the implementation of comprehensive land claims agreements in Canada. In that report, the committee recognizes that when partnership and cooperation are present, especially on the political front, positive results are obtained. The report even quotes the New Relationship Agreement and the unique context in which the implementation rules were settled, in order to demonstrate how this process can be successful for all parties.

Bill C-28 proves that this new approach works. Furthermore, it presents cooperation as the model to follow in order to improve relationships with other First Nations communities throughout Canada.

[English]

Honourable senators, before I conclude, there is one more aspect of Bill C-28 that I would like to bring to your attention: the incorporation and inclusion of the Oujé-Bougoumou as the ninth Cree band under the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. Like the other communities already covered under the act, Oujé-Bougoumou have long resided in the eastern James Bay and southern Hudson Bay region of Northern Quebec. For thousands of years, they hunted the land's caribou and trapped beaver and the other region's wildlife.

However, unlike the other communities, the Oujé-Bougoumou were not present at the negotiations of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. At the time the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was signed, extensive mining operations were conducted on the traditional lands of the Oujé-Bougoumou, prompting the people to temporarily relocate to other First Nation communities near the town of Chibougamau.

What the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement failed to acknowledge was that, in spite of this move, the Oujé-Bougoumou remained their own people, their own distinctive First Nation, entitled to the same rights and opportunities enjoyed by other Cree communities.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, it is time to officially recognize the people of Oujé-Bougoumou and their place in our country's history. It is time to give the community of Oujé-Bougoumou the same status as other Cree communities. It is time to subject all of the Cree communities of Eeyou Istchee to the provisions of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act.

In other words, it is time to update the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. Honourable senators, let us act now. Let us ensure that the amendments to the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act proposed in Bill C-28 become law.

There is no reason to wait any longer. Bill C-28 covers everything needed to ensure the social, economic and environmental viability of the nine Cree communities in Northern Quebec. It gives the people the power to shape their own future, stimulate economic development in Northern Quebec, help preserve our country's natural heritage, and embark on a new era of collaboration and cooperation between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.

[English]

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: I apologize to the honourable senator; I have just had an opportunity to brush through the bill because it came up quite suddenly. However, I do have a simple question to ask him and then we will follow it up later.

Proposed subsection 62.01(b) states, as the honourable senator pointed out, that the new authority, the Cree Regional Authority, would be responsible "to regulate essential sanitation services — including water and sewer services. . . ." Later on, there is a provision whereby the federal government, if it agrees, can transfer responsibility — which I would assume was federal responsibility — for the regulation of clean drinking water.

What standard would the Cree authority adopt? Which standard, which laboratories and which testing would the Cree authority adopt if this bill were approved?

Senator Brazeau: At this point, it is true that the duties or responsibilities of the federal government would be handed to the communities — the Cree Regional Authority — to administer and look over those areas of jurisdiction. Therefore, I am assuming that the Cree Regional Authority would be working in cooperation with the federal government and the Department of the Environment to develop those regulations.

Senator Grafstein: I will not belabour this, but there are existing voluntary regulations. The federal government is responsible directly for the regulation of water and clean drinking water in this jurisdiction. We have another bill before another committee dealing with this question.

I will leave it for now, but I put the Senate on notice that I intend to raise this matter in a more fulsome manner during the course of this debate. I do not think this is the appropriate time to do so.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is there continuing debate?

(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)

[Translation]

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act

Bill to Amend—Third Reading

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) moved the third reading of Bill C-3, an Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.

He said: Honourable senators, my comments will be very brief. I encourage all of you to join me in passing 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?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)

[English]

Canadian Agricultural Loans Bill

Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Michael Duffy moved second reading of Bill C-29, An Act to increase the availability of agricultural loans and to repeal the Farm Improvement Loans Act.

He said: Honourable senators, agriculture has always been a cornerstone of our great country. Today, agriculture remains the economic backbone of Canada, generating over 8 per cent of our GDP, one in eight of our jobs and over $30 billion of Canadian trade.

In these challenging economic times, Canada needs a strong and vibrant agriculture sector more than ever. Our government understands the vital contribution agriculture makes to our economy. Led by our Minister of Agriculture, who is a tireless ambassador for agriculture in every region of the country, we are opening new markets for farmers internationally.

Here at home, we are building a solid foundation for our farmers through flexible, proactive farm programs. To help this great industry succeed, we need to look to the future; we need to rejuvenate the ranks of farming. The desire is there among the young generation to pursue a life in agriculture. I see it every time I am home in my home province of Prince Edward Island. However, all too often, the financial hurdles that are presented to this younger generation are too great — often in the millions of dollars — given the size of today's farms and the huge capital investment needed to buy the equipment, buildings and land that are necessary to get started.

The demographics of the situation make this matter even more urgent than ever. Like the rest of Canadian society, the farming industry is greying. Over the next 15 years, Canadian farmers operating almost 84,000 farms are expected to retire. Think of that staggering number: Over the next 15 years, on over 84,000 farms, the farmers are planning to retire.

(1730)

Young farmers are the future of agriculture. Young farmers like Craig Ference, who farms with his father Harvey in east-central Alberta is a recent university graduate. He sees a bright future in agriculture for himself and his young family. However, he also sees some big financial challenges ahead. Capital requirements are high and there is not a lot out there in the way of loans for young farmers unless you bring significant equity to the table. Mr. Ference says there is a real need for a loan program specifically tailored to help beginner farmers become established in the business.

On May 4, this government took action for young farmers like Craig Ference. Delivering on our promise in Canada's Economic Action Plan, we introduced changes to the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act, or FIMCLA as it was known. FIMCLA has been around for 20 years, but farmers and cooperatives told us that it no longer met their needs. This government listened and this government is acting.

Bill C-29, the proposed Canadian agricultural loans act, would make it easier for new farmers to get the credit they need to get started on the farm and to keep Canadian agriculture growing. Bill C-29 would guarantee an estimated $1 billion in loans over the next five years to Canadian farm families and cooperatives, including young farmers taking over their family farm. The amendments we are proposing will raise the loan limit to bring them more in line with the realities of modern-day agriculture.

Under Bill C-29, we are helping all farmers — including new farmers — by doubling the government-guaranteed loan limit to $500,000 for property, land and buildings. We are also raising the loan limit to $350,000 for other capital purchases like new machinery, livestock and new technology.

We are also making it easier for new farmers by guaranteeing loans up to 90 per cent of the purchase price — a very important change. That moves it up from 80 per cent and means that a new farmer would only need to put down half as much for a loan as in the past. For example, a new $100,000 tractor could be purchased with a $10,000 down payment rather than the previous $20,000.

This program would also cover family farm transfers. Everyone from regions of this country with large rural populations know how important this is as young farmers looking to take over the farm from their parents have had difficulty in doing so in the past. Under this law, they would be eligible for guaranteed loans up to $500,000 to buy the family farm.

We are also opening the program to a wider range of agricultural cooperatives to help farmers explore new, value-added opportunities for their products. Agricultural cooperatives have a great history of helping farmers in every region of Canada and rural communities have prospered because of it. They are improving competitiveness, pooling risk and reinvesting dollars locally.

However, like new farmers trying to get a foothold in the business, co-ops also face high capital requirements and limited sources of credit. As a result, this new legislation responds to the co-op sector's needs by opening the program to all agricultural cooperatives with a majority of members who are farmers. This important change gives producer-owners the best of both worlds. They can access outside investment to go after new value-added markets while retaining farmer control at the same time.

We know that farming is always changing. The proposed Canadian agricultural loans act would also build flexibility into the regulations so that loan limits could change as the need arises without having to amend the law. It can be done by regulation. The Minister of Agriculture has mandated a full review of the program, in five years to ensure that it is still responding to producers needs.

Honourable senators, the legislation we are introducing today will help new farmers access the same new tools as other small businesses in Canada. The proposed Canadian agricultural loans act is good news for new farmers. It is also good news for retiring farmers who can have the piece of mind in knowing that the farm is staying in the family and that their needs in retirement are covered.

In fact, it is good news for all farmers who are finding it difficult to obtain loans due to the tightening of global credit markets. It is also good news for farmer-owned co-ops. They can more aggressively go out and capture new opportunities for their members. This is one more way our government is putting farmers first.

Honourable senators, the members in the other place have seen the urgency of this legislation and have moved it forward quickly. I urge honourable senators to follow that example so we can get these needed changes to our farmers by this summer. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: Continuing debate?

(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)

Human Pathogens and Toxins Bill

Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eaton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Gerstein, for the second reading of Bill C-11, An Act to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins.

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill C-11, an act to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins. Let me begin by saying that it is clear from the transcripts of the debates in the other place and from the committee report on this bill that Bill C-11 was seriously considered and studied in-depth by individual members and by the Standing Committee on Health. Bill C-11 has been improved significantly by a number of amendments introduced in the other place.

The purpose or intent of this bill is to establish a bio-safety and bio-security framework that allows for the safe handling of human pathogens and toxins. It is intended to protect the health and safety of Canadians from infectious diseases resulting from the production, transport and physical manipulation of human pathogens and toxins.

Bill C-11 sets up a system of classification of these substances based on the severity of health risks associated with a particular substance. Appended to this bill are schedules of substances classified by the severity of the level of risk to human health and by the type of substance — such as bacteria, viruses and prions. For example, listeria monocytogenes and Colorado tick fever virus are listed in Schedule 2 as low-risk agents while West Nile Virus — which you recall swept across the country a few years ago — is included in Schedule 3 because it has more severe health effects on humans. Ebola virus is located in Schedule 4 with more severe health risks, and smallpox virus is under Schedule 5, the prohibited pathogens and toxins.

Honourable senators, it is not hard to imagine that with new scientific discoveries and new emerging strains of infectious agents, such as the influenza A H1N1 virus, that these schedules cannot be fixed in stone. They must be amended from time to time. Bill C-11 sets up the process to do that in sections 9 and 10. In consultation with an advisory committee established under the Public Health Agency of Canada Act, the Minister of Health may add to or delete items from the schedules of pathogens and toxins. This allows the schedules to be responsive to public health concerns over new strains of viruses emerging in Canada or elsewhere.

Bill C-11 will also protect the health and safety of those individuals who actually handle these substances as part of the activities associated with their occupations. It is likely that this latter group is at greater risk than the public at large in most instances. For example, research technicians, research scientists and trainees who manipulate these substances in their laboratories will be better protected with the implementation of Bill C-11.

There are big gaps in the current legislation that Bill C-11 will fix. Though there are legislative regulations concerning the importation of human pathogens and toxins, there are not any concerning their domestic transport within Canada. Consequently, those laboratories that acquire toxins and human pathogens domestically are not required by law to follow bio-safety guidelines, but do so voluntarily. This situation creates a potential safety hazard for those who work in unregulated laboratories, for those involved in the domestic transport of human pathogens and toxins and for the public at large.

Honourable senators, imagine that you are a director of a research facility and you wish to carry out experimental investigations on West Nile virus. It would make no sense to you that different rules apply, depending on whether you obtained it from Canadian sources or from another country. That situation currently exists.

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Bill C-11 will change this situation so that there is a uniform licensing system nationally, which not only makes sense but also means that there will be greater safety for everyone. Once enacted, Bill C-11 will allow for a complete national database of the locations of human pathogens and toxins. Presently, only the locations of imported agents are known.

Bill C-11 outlines a comprehensive system for obtaining a licence to conduct controlled activities with human pathogens and toxins. The types of controlled activities are listed in section 7. Thus, for example, a research scientist would be able to obtain a licence to acquire human pathogens and toxins, except for those that are prohibited and listed in schedule 5; and that research scientist would be able to conduct controlled activities or experiments that comply with the regulations to be developed according to this bill.

Honourable senators, once again, imagine that you are the director of a research facility after this bill comes into force. Imagine that you have already obtained a licence so that you can conduct experiments utilizing a particular human pathogen. To ensure the safety of the general public and those people who work with the particular pathogen, you would be required to appoint a biological safety officer who would be responsible for overseeing the work with that substance in your laboratory. In addition, there would be, from time to time, an inspector who would come to your facility to confirm that the procedures occurring within your laboratory were conducted according to regulations — that is, in a safe manner.

There is the possibility, rare I suspect, that somehow shortcuts have been taken in the procedures that are being conducted by you or someone else in the laboratory, and that these shortcuts create an unsafe condition. That is why having an external inspector check over the lab records, inventories, notebooks and day-to-day hands-on procedures is most useful. Such inspections are a reminder to be vigilant about good laboratory practice, and official inspections will likely verify that such is the case in the vast majority of instances.

While this approach may seem to be a rather odd process, which could be construed as a policing system, the process is not unusual for those who work in laboratories. For example, a similar system occurs for those who work with radioactive compounds. This type of inspection ensures the safety of the laboratory personnel and the general public at large.

For those laboratories, however, that have not been so regulated, it may be seen as an undue burden to comply with this system outlined in Bill C-11. However, a balance must be achieved between scientific freedom and public safety.

Under Bill C-11, clauses 40 to 52 describe the administration and enforcement of the act. For example, if an inspector finds that things are done in a manner that poses a serious and imminent danger to the health and safety of the public, the inspector can order remedial actions be taken to reduce or eliminate that danger.

Clauses 20 to 22 of the bill outline the process whereby the minister can suspend or revoke a licence, and clauses 24 to 29 outline the processes for appealing such a decision.

Honourable senators, imagine the worst case scenarios, where the public health and safety has been endangered — for example, where a person has knowingly conducted activities with prohibited substances listed in schedule 5, or situations where a person has intentionally released a human pathogen or toxin. A system of fines and possible imprisonment is outlined in clauses 53 to 64, the severity of which is directly correlated to the risk associated with the type of pathogen or toxin involved in the offence.

In other words, honourable senators, the fines and lengths of imprisonment increase with the increasing level of risk to the public health caused by the particular pathogen. For example, an offence related to risk group 2, which includes substances that pose a moderate risk to the health of individuals and a low risk to public health, carries a lower penalty than an offence related to risk group 4 substances, which pose a higher risk to an individual and a high risk to public health.

Honourable senators, imagine that you are a member of the general public and you wish to see what is happening in the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, which has a level 4 safety rating, the highest level. In this facility, scientific staff members are able to conduct work on human pathogens and toxins at the highest level of risk to human health and safety permitted.

Some years ago, as a member of the Science Advisory Board of Health Canada, I visited this facility. To do so, like every person who enters that facility, I had to receive a security clearance. This security makes eminent sense to me, as not everyone should have potential access to highly infectious and highly dangerous pathogens and toxins. Clauses 33 to 35 of Bill C-11 outline the procedures relevant to obtaining a security clearance from the Minister of Health to enter a facility that conducts activities with human pathogens that fall into risk groups 3 and 4.

Honourable senators, no doubt you are imagining how complicated the system must be to regulate the types of controlled activities, the types of facilities such as laboratories, the types of administrative processes, the qualifications of a licence holder, the biological safety officer, the inspector, the biosafety guidelines and so on. The processes whereby these regulations will be developed are described in clauses 66 to 69. These clauses were significantly amended in the other place to incorporate the level of risk associated with the human pathogens and toxins, and the process whereby the proposed regulations are to be reviewed by both houses of Parliament.

Bill C-11 will be implemented in three phases. After Royal Assent, the first phase requires every person who has a human pathogen or toxin to inform the Minister of Health, and in the case of schedule 5 agents, which are the most dangerous, to dispose of any according to the minister's instructions. The first phase allows the minister to know who has what pathogens and toxins and where they are located, and allows for the disposal of the most dangerous agents.

In addition, the clauses dealing with prohibited activities, offences and penalties and other provisions, except those under clause 7, which outline the controlled activities that are prohibited unless licensed to do so by the minister, will come into force.

The second phase of implementation of this bill is to develop the regulatory framework. The third phase provides a timeline for stakeholders to come into compliance with the bill.

Honourable senators, Bill C-11 has been reviewed and debated in depth in the other place. There were seven committee hearings in the other place; there were five government witnesses and 13 other witnesses that appeared before the committee, and numerous debates.

Of particular note are the significant amendments that were made to the bill to address concerns related to important clauses of the bill, some of which I have already mentioned, such as the incorporation of clauses that direct the Minister of Health to consult an advisory committee before making any changes to the substances listed in the schedules.

Concerns with respect to the Privacy Act were expressed at third reading. It was suggested that this house of sober second thought and the review committee give these concerns further consideration. Nonetheless, the bill was passed in the other place with a resounding majority.

Honourable senators, Bill C-11 is a sound and important piece of legislation that balances the need for ensuring that the safety of all Canadians is not compromised by the activities associated with the production, transport, handling and disposal of human pathogens and toxins. It closes significant loopholes in current legislation and it proposes a national system of regulation that meets the standards of other countries, such as the United States of America.

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The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to and bill read second time).

Referred to Committee

The Hon. the Speaker: When shall this bill be read the third time?

(On motion of Senator Comeau, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.)

National Philanthropy Day Bill

Third Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eggleton, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Adams, for the third reading of Bill S-217, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, as amended.

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Question.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed).

Library and Archives of Canada Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Order Stands

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Pépin, for the second reading of Bill S-201, An Act to amend the Library and Archives of Canada Act (National Portrait Gallery).

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, when does Senator Di Nino intend to speak to this item that has been outstanding for some time?

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: I thank the honourable senator for the question. The item is only at day five on the Order Paper. I believe that the honourable senator knows my position on this item. Certainly, I hope to speak to it next week.

(Order stands.)

Bank of Canada Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Order Stands

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Pépin, for the second reading of Bill S-230, An Act to amend the Bank of Canada Act (credit rating agency).

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, when does Senator Oliver intend to speak to this item? It is an issue of the international forum, and everyone is talking about it. I hope that Senator Oliver will speak to the item soon.

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I will try to address the bill as soon as possible.

(Order stands.)

[Translation]

Income Tax Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lovelace Nicholas, for the second reading of Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (carbon offset tax credit).

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I note that this bill has been on the Order Paper for 14 days. We intend to examine this bill as soon as possible. In order to speed up the process, I move that the bill be adjourned in the name of Senator Di Nino, who will probably deal with it more quickly than I would.

On motion of Senator Comeau, in the name of Senator Di Nino, debate adjourned.

[English]

International Boundary Waters Treaty Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Murray, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Atkins, for the second reading of Bill S-222, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act (bulk water removal).

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, Senator Murray had to leave the chamber, although he wishes to speak to Bill S-222 at the earliest opportunity. Given that the item is at day 14 on the Order Paper, I adjourn the debate for Senator Murray for the remainder of his time.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, for Senator Murray, debate adjourned).

Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Committee Authorized to Study Accessibility of Post-Secondary Education

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Callbeck, seconded by the Honourable Senator Corbin:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology be authorized to examine and report on the accessibility of post-secondary education in Canada, including but not limited to:

(a) analysis of the current barriers in post-secondary education, such as geography, family income levels, means of financing for students, debt levels and challenges faced specifically by Aboriginal students;

(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 Plans;

(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, 2010, and that the Committee retain until June 30, 2011, all powers necessary to publicize its findings;

Motion in Amendment

And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Cowan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Munson, that the motion be amended by adding immediately after paragraph (b) the following:

"(c) evaluation of the current mechanisms to fund scientific research and development in post-secondary and related institutions and the commercialization of such research;"

And by then relettering the subsequent paragraphs accordingly.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the question is on the motion in amendment by the honourable Senator Cowan, seconded by the honourable Senator Munson. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the question is on the main motion, as amended. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion, as amended, agreed to).

Question of Privilege

Speaker's Ruling Reserved

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise to bring to the attention of honourable senators an incident that I believe violated senators' privileges as legislators.

On Thursday, May 28, 2009, at approximately 1:15 p.m., moments before the sitting of the Senate, I learned that the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform and Senator Rivard had held a joint press conference at 10 a.m. in relation to the government's proposed Senate term limits bill now known as Bill S-7. A media advisory had been sent to journalists the day before, Wednesday, May 27, late in the afternoon. I have a copy of that advisory.

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It reads:

Ottawa, Ontario, May 27, 2009. The Honourable Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Democratic Reform) along with Senator Marjory LeBreton and Senator Michel Rivard, will make an announcement regarding the introduction in the Senate of An Act to amend the Constitution Act 1876 (Senate Term Limits). Charles Lynch Theatre, Centre Block, Parliament Hill.

The transcript of the press conference reveals that key portions of Bill S-7 were divulged to the press before the bill was introduced appropriately in the Senate. For instance, Senator Rivard told reporters that the bill would apply retroactively to our 18 newest colleagues, and he also disclosed that the mandatory age of retirement for senators would not be changed in this latest version of the government's Senate term limits bill.

When the press conference concluded at approximately 10:38 a.m., a press release was issued by the Minister for Democratic Reform outlining a detailed summary of both the proposed bill and the press conference.

I have a copy of that press conference and seek unanimous consent to table it in both official languages.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Tardif: Unfortunately, the original media advisory giving advance notice of that press conference was not sent to senators. Several members of this chamber were contacted by the media to comment on a bill that had not yet been introduced in Parliament and which they had not seen.

Honourable senators, what occurred violated not only the privileges —

The Hon. the Speaker: I regret to interrupt, honourable senators. It being six o'clock, is it the will of the house that the clock not be seen?

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, we agree that we not see the clock, and as well, I ask for leave so that committees that had agreed to sit at this time to meet with witnesses and so on be allowed to sit even though the Senate may now be sitting.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is the unanimous consent of the house given so that Senate committees that are sitting at six o'clock have permission to sit, notwithstanding the rule?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is there also consent that we not see the clock?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Tardif: Honourable senators, what occurred violated not only the privileges of all of us in this chamber, but it also violated the government's own policy and cabinet directives on the legislative process. The Privy Council Office has publicly released a document entitled Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations.

In the introduction, it states:

The making of law is arguably the most important activity of government. This Directive describes the framework for this activity and the principles that govern it. It is of the utmost importance that departments embarking on law-making initiatives plan and manage them in accordance with this Directive and the supporting documents issued by the Clerk of the Privy Council.

This directive was approved by the federal cabinet.

At page 148, it explains:

Government bills are not made public until introduced and, therefore, briefings of parliamentarians and the media on bills follow introduction.

The next paragraph says:

If a media briefing occurs before the introduction of a bill, effective measures (such as an embargo or a lock-up) must be taken to ensure the protection of the information until the time of introduction and a similar advance briefing must be offered to parliamentarians.

On Thursday morning, there was no lock-up. There was no embargo. There was a public press conference that the majority of us did not know was taking place, where the two government ministers did everything possible to ensure that the information was not protected.

The Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations continues at page 148:

The briefing of parliamentarians may take place before or at the same time as the media briefing, but not after. Any pre-introduction briefing of parliamentarians must be offered both to Government and opposition members. . . .

. . . These principles also apply if a Government bill is first introduced in the Senate.

Bill S-7 is a government bill that was introduced in the Senate. Was there a briefing as contemplated in the passage I have just read? If there was a briefing offered to parliamentarians on Wednesday afternoon, it was not offered to both government and opposition members, as required by the government's own policy.

I want to know whether it is true that a number of government senators were given a briefing on the contents of the bill the day before it was introduced in the Senate.

It is important for all honourable senators to recognize that what took place on Wednesday and Thursday of last week is a serious violation of our privilege as parliamentarians and as legislators. Despite the protocol outlined by the Privy Council Office, an open press conference was held, which took precedence over our rights as parliamentarians to be the first to examine and learn of the details of legislation introduced into Parliament. If the contents of the bill were disclosed in private meetings to some of us but not to others before it was formally introduced into Parliament, the contempt against this chamber was compounded.

There is irony in the fact that the minister styled as the Minister of State responsible for Democratic Reform would be the one to orchestrate the anti-democratic spectacle we witnessed last week.

Honourable senators, I did not raise a question of privilege last Thursday because it was not until Friday that I had an opportunity to examine the transcript and discover that the entire content of Bill S-7 had, in fact, been disclosed Thursday morning before the bill was introduced to the Senate. Today is my first practical opportunity to raise this matter.

I ask Your Honour to consider the points made today and find that a prima facie case has been established. Honourable senators, should His Honour find that there is a prima facie case of breach of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion to have the matter referred to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament.

Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, Senator Tardif appears to have a grievance that may or may not be justified. I do not believe, however, that the grievance qualifies as a legitimate question of privilege.

I note for the record that the Conservative Party promised in the last election campaign to bring in legislation to limit the terms of senators. I will quote from page 24 of The True North Strong and Free, Stephen Harper's Plan for Canadians.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Comeau: Thank you.

As a minimum, a re-elected Conservative Government will reintroduce legislation to allow for nominees to the Senate to be selected by voters, to provide for Senators to serve fixed terms of not longer than eight years, and for the Senate to be covered by the same ethics rules as the House of Commons.

What great, deep, dark secrets were revealed last week? It was right there in the book, as I have noted, page 24 of The True North Strong and Free.

I need to check the transcripts of the conference in question, but I do not believe that any minister did anything other than restate that commitment that was stated publicly. I do not believe that it is a breach of privilege for ministers to discuss in principle the purpose of legislation that they intend to bring forth.

In this instance, the purpose of Bill S-7 is to bring an eight-year term limit for senators. I do not believe that any minister disclosed any specific contents of the legislation prior to its introduction. I note that His Honour should not find a prima facie case of breach of privilege in this case.

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Hon. Joan Fraser: Your Honour, this is the kind of question that tends to arise more often in the other place because that is where most bills are introduced. Therefore, I think it may be pertinent to pay some attention to proceedings in the other place on comparable occasions. However, nothing is quite comparable to an advance media briefing on a constitutional bill, but I shall return to that point.

It is perhaps worth drawing to Your Honour's attention, although I expect you are already aware of it, two cases that occurred in the House of Commons in 2001 when, as all honourable senators will recall, a different government was in office.

The first of these cases involved the provision of a briefing to the media on something of much less constitutional import than the bill we are discussing here; namely, some amendments to the Criminal Code. That briefing was provided to the media before parliamentarians were given an opportunity to have a comparable briefing, and the Speaker found that there had been contempt.

In its report on this matter, which was the fourteenth report in that session on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in the other place, the committee said — and I think it is worth quoting because I believe the principles they addressed apply precisely here:

The provision of a briefing to the media and not to Members on legislation before its introduction in the House of Commons —

— here it would be the Senate, of course —

— undermines the pre-eminence of the House of Commons in legislative matters, and the right of the House to be informed first. Such an action impedes, obstructs, and disadvantages Members of Parliament in carrying out their parliamentary functions. In all of these circumstances, the Committee has come to the inescapable conclusion that the privileges of the House and of its Members have been breached in this case.

Later that year, there were a series of media leaks on what would become the anti-terrorism bill before members of the House of Commons were briefed on it. Again, the Speaker, as I recall, found that privilege had been breached.

In this case, Your Honour, we are dealing with a constitutional amendment, and it is not precisely the same constitutional amendment that was before this house in an earlier Parliament. As we learned at the press conference from an official spokesman for the government at that press conference — namely Senator Rivard, who was not denied by ministers — this one has a new wrinkle: It would apply retroactively to those senators who have been appointed since the last general election.

The fact that Senator Rivard was there speaking for the government, although he is not a member of the government — he is not a minister — suggests to me that at least one senator, and rumour has it more than one senator, received an advance briefing that was not available to all senators on this bill. That seems to me to compound the breach of privilege.

Honourable senators, this is not a minor matter. It is important that the full rights and privileges of this chamber be respected and I beg Your Honour to agree, after consideration, that indeed our privileges were breached.

Hon. Terry Stratton: I would like Your Honour to examine what was said at that so-called press conference because, as the honourable senator across the way has stated, it was Senator Rivard speaking on behalf of the government. Was he speaking on behalf of the government or was he speaking as an individual senator from the election handbook that the Conservative Party put forward?

Your Honour must be absolutely clear on that before you can find a contempt of Parliament or a question of privilege.

Senator Fraser: On that point, Your Honour, I would draw to your attention that, as my colleague Senator Tardif did tell us, the official announcement of the press conference said that the announcement would be made by the Honourable Steven Fletcher, Senator Marjory LeBreton and Senator Michel Rivard. I think we can take it that he was speaking on behalf of the government on that occasion.

The Hon. the Speaker: I thank the honourable senators for raising the matter and for their advice, which will be taken into consideration. It will be reported on whether, in the opinion of the Speaker, a prima facie case of privilege has been made.

(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, June 3, 2009, at 1:30 p.m.)