Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, I was a guest last weekend
at the Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF, and a highlight for me was the
event held by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Iceland has the Chair of the
Council in 2009, and Minister Katrin Jacobsdottir presented the plans now in
place for their response to the challenges and opportunities in arts and culture
posed by globalization.
They have adopted a "pro active strategy for cultural and media cooperation
making culture a separate and distinct topic with the overall Nordic efforts to
The aim is to create a "more visible Nordic region, a more knowledgeable
Nordic region and a more prosperous Nordic region." They want to be at the
forefront of the global development of the creative industries.
I feel Canada can learn from this initiative by the Nordic Council, for we
have much in common. Like them, we also have creative industries that see film
and computer games as the biggest growth areas. Like them, we are highly
regarded internationally for our film, movies, literature, art and our focus on
human rights, including the new federal Canadian Museum for Human Rights in
As a result of these areas in common, honourable senators, I feel we, too,
are in a strong position to play a key role in the production and transfer of
international cultural knowledge.
We can begin in the schools and develop cooperation between cultural
institutions and schools, and other institutions of higher learning, like
universities, to support creativity in its many forms. We can study what other
countries are doing to strengthen creativity in their cities, towns and
communities, and see where we can work together on arts and culture and follow
up on the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of
Cultural Expressions. The convention is based on human rights. It stresses,
above all, the notion of the right of sovereign states to pursue cultural
policies. The World Summit on Media for Children and Youth, a critical event,
will be held in 2010 in Sweden, and I know Canada will play an important role at
Honourable senators, I went to a film festival to learn about film in
connection with my production of the festival in Gimli, Manitoba. I came away
with many new ideas for cultural initiatives in our country and the importance
of international cooperation in the new century.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, on August 15 of this year, Nova
Scotians lost a dedicated public servant and an exceptional human being, with
the passing of Dr. Bill Gillis. Bill was born in Boston and moved to Antigonish
when he was only six weeks old. He was a geologist with the Department of
Energy, Mines and Resources from 1962 to 1967, and then he taught at St. Francis
Bill first ran for MLA in 1967 and lost to the incumbent by only 26 votes,
or, as he would say, "less than one vote per poll." He often used this story
to impress on people the importance of each and every vote during an election.
Bill ran again successfully in 1970, and he served as the Liberal MLA for
Antigonish until he retired in 1998.
During his time in office, he served in many high-profile capacities,
including Deputy Premier, Minister of Mines and Energy, Minister of Justice, and
Minister of Finance.
Bill had tremendous respect for taxpayers' dollars. He regularly took the
Acadian Lines bus on his trips between Antigonish and Halifax, and he would have
a lunch packed by his wife. He was often teased about his frugal ways, but he
believed that he had a responsibility to spend taxpayers' money wisely.
Dr. Bill Gillis was highly respected by his colleagues from all political
parties because of his fair-mindedness and integrity. He worked hard for Nova
Scotians because he truly cared for the people he represented.
My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Joan and his children, John and
Hon. Nancy Ruth: She is a star of the last century, a woman who worked
for peace and the greater good of all, a woman who worked for social change —
all during her 100 years of life. Muriel Duckworth died a few weeks ago on her
farm in Quebec.
After McGill University, she moved to Halifax and stirred the pot from there
— and from there, across Canada.
Muriel was one of those women who, along with Dr. Ursula Franklin, Senator
Thérèse Casgrain, Kay MacPherson, and others, proved that American nuclear
testing affected Canadians. These women, with the mothers of Alberta, collected
baby teeth and tested them for strontium 90. This testing measured the impact of
nuclear fallout drifting north. Honourable senators, it was only women doing the
work that men would not do.
On the walls of this chamber are paintings of war's devastation. The
paintings are here to remind us of that devastation and to encourage us to work
for peace through negotiation and not war. Muriel reminded us when she said:
War is the greatest destroyer of human life, the greatest polluter, the
greatest creator of refugees, the greatest cause of starvation and illness. We
all have to care — not just for our own little circle but for the universe.
We remember Muriel Duckworth, caring Canadian, Officer of the Order of
Canada, holder of 27 honorary degrees, peace activist, model citizen and a polar
Hon Elizabeth Hubley: Last month, Prince Edward Islanders were proud
to host the Canada Summer Games, one of the largest multi-sport and cultural
events in the world. Held every two years and alternating between winter and
summer games, the Canada Games bring together the best young athletes and
artists from each Canadian province and territory.
Between August 15 and 29, 4,400 athletes, coaches and managers came to Prince
Edward Island to compete in 18 sports. They were truly island-wide games, with
events centred in Summerside and western P.E.I. the first week, and in
Charlottetown and eastern P.E.I. the second week.
I extend my congratulations to Prince Edward Island athletes who had their
best showing ever in the Canada Games, as well as to all the athletes from
across the country who participated.
I also extend my congratulations to the organizers and more than 6,000
volunteers who made the Canada Games a success. Our best wishes go to the Nova
Scotians who are now planning the 2011 Winter Games.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, opponents to the
seal hunt and to any human involvement with animals are far from backing down,
after the declaration of a European boycott of seal products. On the contrary,
their victory has encouraged them.
Yesterday, animal rights activists protested loudly in the other place,
interrupting Question Period.
Others try to win us over by inviting us to events to supposedly protect
We must take action to respond to this multimillion-dollar lobby, which takes
many shapes, and uses both soft and hard approaches, and both friendly and
Our seal industry is being viciously attacked. Seal hunters will lose income,
and have already lost income because of the pressures from this lobby.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Honourable Gail Shea, was kind
enough to reply to a letter I sent to her during the summer. I asked that the
seal hunters receive financial compensation for the losses incurred by this
unfair European boycott, until the WTO renders a decision.
Minister Shea responded that the Conservative government would not offer any
financial compensation, but that the government would defend the quality of
Canada's killing methods to the WTO, and would try to have the boycott lifted.
I am pleased that Minister Shea and Minister Stockwell Day are contesting the
European decision before the WTO. I urge them to take the appropriate action as
quickly as possible.
But this decision is far from being enough. It will leave our hunters in
disarray while they wait out some obscure procedures without any guarantee of a
I am therefore formally asking Minister Shea to reconsider her position and
to ask the Prime Minister to provide annual financial assistance, while the
proceedings are before the WTO. After all, seal hunters are worth just as much
as automobile workers.
I am calling on the government to do everything it can to stop the unbearable
pressure from this vegetarian lobby on Canadian soil.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, this week we will have a chance
to make a difference in a young person's life by contributing to the Big
Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa Buddy Up campaign. The formula for Big Brothers and
Big Sisters is simple; it matches a "Little," a young person from 6 to 16,
with a "Big," an adult who becomes a friend and mentor to this child.
In 2008, more than 1,000 children in Ottawa spent time and developed
friendships with their volunteer mentors. Their friendships have been proven to
help kids at risk avoid drugs and alcohol, succeed at school, feel better about
themselves and get along better with other kids.
The Buddy Up fundraising campaign has a goal of raising $45,000 so that some
of the 160 "Littles" on the waiting list can find a "Big." They need 450
donors to give $100.
Honourable senators, when children have a "Big" in their lives, they have
someone who will listen; someone who will respect them; someone who will ask, "What do you think?"; someone who will say,
"Yes, you can," and "I can help
you." This is the same all across the country with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
I have been a big brother and I can tell you that "Bigs" get as much out of
the relationship as "Littles." I had great times with my little brother, a
street youth from Saint-Henri in Montreal, in the early 1970s. I am sure he is
doing big things now.
We all know that strong and healthy communities start with strong and healthy
kids who are engaged in their families, schools and neighbourhoods. You can help
make this happen by contributing today. I encourage all honourable senators to
do their part by going online at www.buddyup.ca.
Incidentally, "Buddy Up" comes from the Chief of Police in Ottawa who is
from Cape Breton originally. In Cape Breton, everyone is a "buddy." That is
where the idea came from, so "Buddy Up," as they say.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa is a great organization that serves everyone,
big and small, and contributes to a better city for all of us. Honourable
senators, you can do the same thing, of course, in your own cities and
The Hon. the Speaker: Before calling on honourable senators for
Tabling of Documents, is there consent of the house that we hear from the
Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Senator Cowan?
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I
would like to take this opportunity to say a few words of welcome to our new
Honourable senators, I was scheduled to speak on Tuesday following the
remarks of the Leader of the Government, as has been our long-standing tradition
when we celebrate the appointment of new senators. Unfortunately, our colleagues
left the chamber as Senator LeBreton was concluding her speech, for a photo
session with the Prime Minister, perhaps to sign their eight-year term
contracts; I don't know. I assume we will get copies of the pictures.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Cowan: In those circumstances, I felt it was inappropriate to
speak to them when they were not in the chamber. Yesterday, I received a
gracious note of explanation from Senator LeBreton and I am glad to have an
opportunity to say today what I would have said on Tuesday.
Honourable senators, on behalf of the opposition, I am happy to welcome our
nine new colleagues to the Senate. I am sure that their diverse talents and
experience will bring much to the work of this important institution.
For several years, our ability to function at the high level that Canadians
are entitled to expect from their Senate was hampered by the Prime Minister's
refusal to fill the ever-increasing number of Senate vacancies. We on this side
urged the Prime Minister to fulfill his duty, arguably his constitutional
obligation, by making appointments in a timely manner.
Last January, we welcomed 18 new colleagues, many of whom have made
remarkable contributions in this place already. Their presence has made a
particular difference in the ability of the government to fill its roster of
members on committees and to relieve the workload of their overtaxed colleagues.
Honourable senators, your arrival will further assist in evening out this
workload — something I am sure my friends in the government leadership will
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Cowan: I look forward to working with you in the weeks and
months ahead as we seek to do our part to make Canada the best place it can be
for all Canadians. Honourable senators will not be surprised to hear that I
expect that there may be times when we may disagree as to how best to achieve
that objective. Indeed, I suspect my vision of what Canada can achieve may
differ substantially from yours. I look forward to many lively debates in this
chamber as we consider and assess various legislative initiatives. However, you
may be surprised to learn that I expect there will be many times when we will
find ourselves in agreement. The Senate is a political institution, but it has a
strong and proud tradition of being less partisan than what we refer to here as
"the other place." Many of us work hard to try to find bipartisan solutions to
issues. I will not pretend that the efforts are always successful — but when
they do succeed, I believe Canadians and the Senate gain.
In this regard, I want to say a word or two about the function of this place
and to repeat a message that I gave to our new colleagues last January. As I
advised our then new colleagues: Do not believe everything you have heard or
read about this place. Take the time to check out the résumés of your colleagues
on both sides of the chamber. You will be amazed, as I was when I arrived, at
the depth of experience and knowledge that exists here. You will be impressed,
as I was, by the work that is done by your colleagues. Take the time to learn
about this institution; do not take the words of others. Form your own opinion.
Take advantage of the expertise of the officers of the chamber, the clerks, the
researchers who support our committees, and the wonderful resources that are
available to assist us in our work.
I believe you will find, as I did, that our colleagues — Liberal,
Conservative, Progressive Conservative and Independent — take their roles as
senators under the Constitution seriously. They work hard to understand and
assess all aspects of proposed legislation — listening to Canadians who take the
time to come before our committees to express their often impassioned views on
issues before us and checking for unintended consequences of initiatives, all
too often finding them and then working hard to find solutions.
That is our job as legislators in the Canadian parliamentary system. To quote
George Brown, one of the Fathers of Confederation, their aim in designing the
Senate was to fashion an upper house that would be "a thoroughly independent
body — one that would be in the best position to canvass dispassionately the
measures of this house. . ."
Mr. Brown meant the House of Commons. He continued by saying, ". . . and
stand up for the public interest in opposition to hasty and partisan
That is our role. We are constitutionally mandated to be "a thoroughly
independent body," independent of the other place and independent of the
executive. My friend and your caucus colleague Senator Oliver succinctly and
colourfully expressed it some time ago by saying that our constitutional role is
to be a watchdog, not a lapdog.
I mention this today in part because I was concerned to see the Prime
Minister's statement when he announced your welcome appointments that he was
making the appointments "in order for the Senate to carry out legitimate
government business." Honourable senators, under the Constitution, our job is "to canvass dispassionately" the measures that come before us — not to simply
"carry out" the government's business.
When I was summoned to this chamber, I was never asked to pledge support for
specific initiatives or general initiatives of the government that appointed me.
Indeed, there have been a number of times through the years when senators,
Liberal and Conservative, have disagreed with bills put forward by their own
government. I am proud of this fact — proud of my own personal independence and
that of this chamber as a whole. As I have said here before, if we fail to
uphold the independence of this chamber from the Prime Minister and the other
place; if we fail to exercise our power as the chamber of sober second thought,
then our critics are proven right. Why have an upper house at all if we are no
more than a rubber stamp for the government?
We are here, paid by the Canadian taxpayers, to exercise our constitutional
responsibility to the best of our ability. We abdicate that responsibility —
indeed, we undermine the essence of Canadian parliamentary democracy — if we say
that our job here is simply to pass all government initiatives. There are ways
to describe that, honourable senators, but "democratic renewal" it is not.
I must set the record straight on another comment made by the Prime Minister.
He said that he was forced to make these appointments because his Senate reform
agenda and his crime bills were being blocked by "some senators."
On the issue of Senate reform, the only bill that is before us, Bill S-7, is
essentially a reintroduction of Bill S-4 from the previous Parliament. That bill
was the subject of hearings before our Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Committee, during which serious questions were raised by eminent constitutional
experts as to the constitutionality of that bill. This is a serious matter,
honourable senators. Canadians expect us to do our best to respect the
Constitution at all times. To seek to amend the Constitution by possibly
unconstitutional means would be particularly egregious.
The committee and then this chamber recommended to the government that the
government refer the constitutionality of the bill to the Supreme Court of
Canada before seeking third reading approval and Royal Assent. Instead of
accepting that reasonable advice, the government did nothing for two years and
then, this spring, introduced essentially the same bill, Bill S-7.
I think it is fair to say that we could have had a decision from the Supreme
Court long before this new bill was introduced. The matter could have been
resolved and the bill either proceeded with or another approach to Senate reform
initiated. Senate reform — serious Senate reform — could have been very far
advanced by now. To be clear, for the record, no bills have been introduced in
the Senate with respect to the election or selection of senators. I am sure that
is not for lack of trying on the part of our colleague Senator Brown.
With respect to the government's anti-crime agenda, in February 2008, we
passed the government's much-touted omnibus Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime
Act. I look forward to seeing the statistics, but, so far, it is not clear to me
that their major anti-crime bill has in fact reduced violent crime to any
significant degree. Indeed, the government's introduction of successive pieces
of legislation suggests it recognizes that its previous efforts did not meet
with success. Violent crime has not yet been fully tackled.
Of the 11 justice bills before Parliament, six are still in the House of
Commons and the Senate has already passed two of them. There are only three
justice bills currently before the Senate, two of which have been here for a
grand total of 15 sitting days and the third for 8 sitting days.
Honourable senators, there has been no delay or obstruction by this side of
the chamber on these bills. I realize that some of the senators opposite are
slightly sensitive on this issue. However, you can see why I am disappointed to
hear the Prime Minister tell Canadians that "some senators have actively
blocked our government's anti-crime agenda." Canadians expect and deserve
For the benefit of our new colleagues, in particular, I should point out that
it was actually the Prime Minister's own government that delayed passage of Bill
C-15, the proposed legislation on mandatory jail terms for drug producers. Bill
C-15 was introduced in the other place on February 27, 2009. It did not pass
third reading until June 8 — 102 sitting days later — although the Liberals
supported its quick passage through that place. This bill was received in the
chamber on June 9, but the government did not see fit to speak to it until June
16, just a few days before the summer adjournment, leaving no time for debate.
Prime Minister Harper recommended your appointment to this chamber. That is
his right, and arguably his duty, however it may differ from his previous
statements. He should take responsibility for his own decisions and not seek to
hide behind false rationales about why he is ensuring that no vacancies remain
unfilled in this chamber.
Honourable senators, I am confident that you will find your work here to be
challenging, interesting, sometimes inspiring, and always with the potential to
be extraordinarily satisfying. You have been afforded a unique opportunity to
serve Canada. Take full advantage of it. If you do, you will find your time here
to be a rich and rewarding experience, and Canada will be better off for your
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary
delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group to the Border
Trade Alliance International Conference: New Administration, New Border Policy,
held in Washington, D.C., United States of America, from April 19 to 21, 2009.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I
give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, in accordance with rules 74(1) and 62(1)(i), the Standing Senate
Committee on National Finance be authorized to examine the subject-matter of
Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase
benefits, introduced in the House of Commons on September 16, 2009, in advance
of the said bill coming before the Senate.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, today, as I walked up to
Parliament Hill, I could not help but think about the elders, people and
children living in remote First Nations communities in northern Manitoba who
were sent body bags by Health Canada. It was a heartless act which dehumanizes
First Nations people. What kind of flu pandemic planning is this?
As a First Nations woman and a senator, I was in a state of shock after
hearing the news about the body bags. I was overwhelmed with grief. It was as if
someone had taken a knife and driven it into my heart. What was the government
thinking? How would people feel if they were worried about being infected with
H1N1 and they were sent a body bag to help them, indicating that their family
was going to die? What kind of message does this send to First Nations people?
In my heart, the body bags send a clear and strong message that the
Government of Canada does not care about the health, safety and well-being of
First Nations people. Sadly, it suggests the government is leaving them to die.
What is needed is not a message that the government expects them to die.
Rather, what is needed are preventative measures.
First Nations communities are faced with limited health infrastructure and
resources in place to manage the spread of this pandemic. To get to the core of
this situation, we have to recognize that this is more than a health crisis; it
is a social disaster.
The shipment of body bags, hand sanitizers and masks is not the solution to
the health problems of First Nations. This is about First Nations people having
access to clean drinking water, adequate housing, healthy living conditions, and
health services and resources. If these basic principles were implemented and
available, First Nations people would be better equipped to handle this H1N1
Will the Leader of the Government tell us why Minister Aglukkaq has not
apologized? Why were the body bags sent to First Nations communities in northern
Manitoba? Have they been sent elsewhere? What plans does the government have to
prevent H1N1 in First Nations communities?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. I can
absolutely identify with the feelings that she expressed when news of this
became known this morning. It is a very sad situation that this shipment to the
nursing stations, which included many other items, as was pointed out, seemed to
contain a disproportionate number of body bags. While we have not gotten to the
bottom of it yet, it does not matter what the explanation is. This is a very sad
situation and I am sure everyone is sorry this has happened.
With the indulgence of the honourable senator, I would like to read into the
record the Health Canada press release and statement made today by Minister
Aglukkaq, the Minister of Health. As honourable senators know, she is in
Winnipeg attending a meeting of the federal, provincial and territorial health
ministers. She issued the following statement this morning, which I will be
happy to table in both languages later:
For immediate release, from Winnipeg:
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq made the following statement following
reports that several body bags had been delivered by Health Canada to a First
Nations community in Manitoba:
"During a conference call with First Nations organizations yesterday
morning it was brought to my attention that there were reports out of Manitoba
that Health Canada had delivered body bags to a remote First Nation community
in that province as part of H1N1 preparations for the fall.
"What happened is unacceptable. It was insensitive and offensive. As
Minister of Health and as an aboriginal I am offended. To all who took offence
at what occurred, I want to say that I share your concern and I pledge to get
to the bottom of it. I have ordered my Deputy Minister to conduct a thorough
and immediate inquiry into the situation. I will make the result of the
inquiry public. I will continue to work with First Nations communities and the
provinces and territories to ensure all Canadians are informed and protected
"I was born and raised in remote communities and I understand the
challenges better than anyone — that's why I have met frequently with First
Nations organizations. Anyone suggesting that our Government's solution to
H1N1 is body bags is sensationalizing this situation.
"There is strong cooperation taking place with First Nations people at the
community, regional and national levels, as well as with provinces and
territories, to ensure that all Canadians are informed of and protected from
the H1N1 flu virus. As Health Minister I am fully committed to these efforts."
Just to summarize for honourable senators, I do believe that, — no matter
where they live, no matter what walk of life they are from, and no matter what
political party they belong to — all Canadians know that all levels of
government — federal, provincial, municipal, and territorial — and public health
care workers are doing everything possible to prepare all of our communities, no
matter where they are, for the potential of the H1N1 pandemic.
Senator Dyck: If the government was so perfectly prepared and if all
Canadians were concerned, this would not have happened. It shows a lack of
planning. How well can Health Canada be prepared to deal with this when they
have sent these packages out? It makes no sense.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, we should wait to see the
results of the minister getting to the bottom of this.
From what Dr. Butler-Jones said this morning, supplies are being sent all
across the country, but particularly into First Nation health care centres. I do
not think it serves any of us to politicize a serious issue like this, dealing
with the H1N1 flu pandemic and its implications for all Canadians.
The fact of the matter is this situation happened. Obviously in Winnipeg,
Health Canada officials were preparing supplies. We should wait and see exactly
what happened and what was actually shipped, in addition to these body bags. Let
us remember that all levels of government are working extremely hard.
Only yesterday, Minister Aglukkaq and Dr. Butler-Jones issued the regimen for
the distribution of the H1N1 vaccine and the groups that will take priority. I
am sure honourable senators have seen the regimen. One of those groups includes
those who live in remote, contained communities, many of whom are Aboriginals.
Honourable senators, I also wish to point out that in my own caucus, both in
this chamber and the House of Commons, are several Aboriginal Canadians,
starting with our Minister of Health. I regret that one could think that anyone
in government would deliberately do something to offend, cause concern or stress
for any group of people, but particularly the peoples of our First Nations — far
Minister Aglukkaq has worked with the new National Chief of the Assembly of
First Nations, Shawn Atleo. When I saw him on the noon news I thought Chief
Atleo was responsible in making the point that governments and communities must
work together to resolve this problem. It is reasonable advice.
This situation is an unhappy and regrettable one for First Nations people, no
matter who they are, where they live, what party they may or may not belong to.
This issue should not be politicized. This is a serious health issue. The
government at all levels is trying to deal with it.
The Minister of Health has received, from all political parties, laudatory
comments about how she has stayed on top of this situation. I am particularly
proud of her because she is from the North and she understands. The look on her
face when she appeared on television should have convinced anyone that she had
the same concerns and felt equally as hurt as Senator Dyck.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, that answer is not good enough.
Body bags are for coroners, not health officials.
Does the minister ever talk to her officials? Does she communicate with them?
There is one thing here: She is the boss and, at the end of the day — at some
point — responsibility begins with the minister. At some point, the minister
must take responsibility. The responsible answer is an apology. The minister
says she is offended by her department. She has a deputy minister, she has an
ADM and all kinds of people. With something as serious as this disease, when
these kinds of things are happening one would think there would be that type of
The minister must do more than say that there is an investigation. Why is it
so hard to say, "We apologize"?
Senator LeBreton: Frankly, honourable senators, that question is not
Senator Comeau: As usual.
Senator LeBreton: I will check — because I am speaking from the heart
here — but I believe that I said this situation is one for which we are all very
The honourable senator has suggested that Minister Aglukkaq is not working
around the clock, 24/7, meeting with her officials. I take it from the question
that Senator Munson thought she should have been in the shipping house helping
to pack the boxes.
Senator Munson: She should talk to her deputy minister.
Senator LeBreton: She has said that she has asked the Deputy Minister
to conduct an inquiry.
It is regrettable that anyone would politicize such a serious issue as H1N1.
The Canadian public deserves better of us. They are looking to their leaders —
no matter what their political stripe — to do everything possible to prepare the
country for the potential outbreak of H1N1. Every day or every second day, I see
Minister Aglukkaq and Dr. Butler-Jones on television explaining the situation in
terms of the development of the vaccine, the tests that are being conducted with
the vaccine, giving examples of what has happened in other parts of the world
and who are the most vulnerable.
Only yesterday Minister Aglukkaq and Dr. Butler-Jones issued guidance on the
H1N1 influenza vaccine, including the sequencing and the groups of people they
recommend would benefit from access to the flu vaccine. Of course there is a
long list. I am sure honourable senators have seen it. It was issued by Health
Canada on September 16.
Dr. Butler-Jones, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, is doing a remarkable
job. On this list were people with chronic medical conditions under the age of
65; pregnant women; children six months to under five years of age; people
living in remote or isolated settings; health care workers involved in pandemic
response; household contacts and caregivers; and so on down the line.
To quote Senator Munson's words, to politicize such an important health issue
"is just not good enough."
Senator Munson: What is regrettable is the leader has been able to
say, "I am sorry," but the minister has not been able to say — as a government
— "we are sorry." Words matter, and words matter on reserves in this country.
The minister and the Leader of the Government — if they are sorry — should go to
these reserves and make the case.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, in the statement I read — and
as I mentioned in response to Senator Dyck's question — the minister
understands, more than you or I or anyone else in this place — other than those
people who have lived in remote communities — what is at issue here. The
Canadian public do not want partisan debate over who said what, when they said
it, where and why. The Canadian public wants action, and that is what this
government is doing on this issue.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, my question is to the
Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The normal stages of any health care plan in Canada are birth, prevention to
ensure good health, treatment when necessary, palliative care when one has
reached the stage when treatment alone cannot prevent death and, finally, death.
Can the honourable minister explain to this house, because it has not been
explained yet, why this government has ignored the stages of prevention,
treatment and palliative care and has gone immediately to body bags?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I will not respond to that
question because Senator Carstairs knows as well as I do that is absolutely not
true. For Senator Carstairs to stand there and say that all we care about is
putting people in body bags is disgusting, and the senator should withdraw the
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, what is disgusting is that in
June, it was clearly proven to a Senate committee that the Department of Health
was not sending hand sanitizers to Aboriginal communities without running water
in my province because they were concerned about its alcohol content. That is a
total lack of sensitivity that I would have thought the Department of Health
and, more particularly, the minister, would have said to her officials, "Listen
up. For heaven's sake, get some sensitivity around these issues."
Instead of getting sensitivity around these issues, they have sent body bags
to communities in my province. We do not get hand sanitizers because they are
alcohol-based, but we get body bags. I do not understand. Perhaps the minister
can explain how our Aboriginal communities in Northern Manitoba can understand a
government that does not send them the supplies they need but sends them body
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, Senator Carstairs did not even
read the news stories about this issue because these large shipments included
sanitary gloves, masks and hand sanitizers. The honourable senator chose just to
focus on one part of the shipment which, of course, is not surprising.
Again, honourable senators, this is an issue that does not need further
misinformation or hysteria surrounding it. They expect all of us, and especially
from someone like the honourable senator who held a leadership position in the
province of Manitoba, to work together to solve this issue.
Minister Aglukkaq has met and has been meeting with First Nations all over
the country, and 90 per cent of the First Nations communities have reported that
they have plans in place.
We can be political and partisan about a whole host of issues, but one area
where we should not be political or partisan is with regard to a serious world
health issue such as H1N1. The people want us to work together on this serious
issue. I think the government is working extremely hard with its provincial and
As I mentioned earlier, Minister Aglukkaq is in Winnipeg, the honourable
senator's hometown, as we speak, meeting with territorial and provincial
ministers. The public health officials, the municipal officials and people in
all the various cities and jurisdictions are working together.
Obviously, some areas will require more attention. Senator Carstairs, people
from very different political stripes are working together to deal with this
serious issue. Shouting and making false accusations will not help the problem.
The senator's accusation that the government simply sent a shipment of body bags
to a remote community in Northern Manitoba is false.
Senator Carstairs: That is quite the record. In reality, not one
community but a number of communities received shipments of body bags.
Honourable senators, the best prevention to H1N1 is vaccination. The leader
referred to a list yesterday and mentioned that Aboriginal Canadians would be on
My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is since my
province has many remote communities, as the newest senator from Manitoba knows
well, that can be accessed only by air, is the plan to fly in the vaccinations
to all of these remote Northern communities? That information was not publicized
Senator LeBreton: I can assure honourable senators, so as not to alarm
people in the Northern communities in Manitoba, that the public health officials
have a plan to ensure that the remote communities in the northern part of the
country will have vaccines made available to them.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the
Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The crisis in the supply of medical isotopes has intensified. Short supply
means that delays in testing are inevitable. This is particularly worrisome for
Canadians with cancer for whom early diagnosis is critical.
Given the importance of these isotopes to Canadians' health and the
precarious state of supply, what contingency plans did the government consider
when it decided to shut down the MAPLE reactor, the only back-up to the Chalk
River NRU reactor?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Callbeck for the question.
As honourable senators know — a lot of this happened under the previous
government — the MAPLE reactors were supposed to be online in 2001. They never
produced a single medical isotope.
The supply problem is as a result of the shutdown of the NRU in May because
of a heavy water leak. AECL announced over the summer, on August 12, that the
reactor will return to service in the first quarter of 2010. Minister Raitt has
insisted that AECL's first priority is to bring that NRU reactor back on stream
as quickly as possible, consistent with maintaining safety and security. We
continue to work with the provinces and territories, the medical community and
international partners to address our needs during this outage.
In June, the Expert Review Panel on Medical Isotope Production was named, as
honourable senators know, to identify and recommend the most viable options for
securing supplies of isotopes over the medium and long term.
At the moment, hospital facilities are managing. We are still operating with
sufficient supplies to meet their needs. In addition, the minister, as I
reported in this place before, is still working with other isotope-producing
countries to solicit their support and, in the global effort, to coordinate the
schedules of the various reactors in order to maximize supply of isotopes into
At the moment, the supply is meeting the needs, although it requires constant
surveillance by the government.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, the honourable leader
mentioned hospitals, and some hospitals have had to import medical isotopes to
meet the demand. Prices have soared with a shortage of global supply. Many
hospitals are already over their budgets, and they are facing still higher
deficits, which the provinces will have to cover. The leader talked about
cooperating with the provinces. Will the federal government compensate the
provinces for the fiscal costs to the health care system caused by the isotope
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. We are well
aware that some hospitals have expressed concerns about rising prices. Dr.
McEwen heads the panel that is working with the various provinces. It is
fortunate that we have a government in Ottawa that is committed to long-term,
stable funding of health care to the provinces.
In response to the senator's question, I do not know whether any province or
hospital has requested such funding and I do not know the results of the
deliberations between the provinces and the federal government.
Senator Callbeck: Will the honourable leader please find out whether
the federal government plans to help the provinces with these increased costs?
Senator LeBreton: Yes, I will take that part of the question as
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have an urgent
question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last Monday, in
Washington, D.C., I attended a conference hosted by The New Republic
dealing with the current financial and economic crisis and looking ahead.
At that conference, a senior economic adviser to President Obama predicted
that unemployment, currently hovering at 10 per cent in the United States, will
rise in the years 2010 and 2011. Obviously, this is not good news for Canada.
In Wednesday's Globe and Mail, it was reported that unemployment in
Toronto was at 11.8 per cent in August, up from 8.8 per cent the previous year.
This number of 11.8 per cent does not include those who are not on welfare or
EI, or those who are first-time job seekers, students, part-time workers and
non-first-time job seekers. Based on some estimates, it means that unemployment
in Toronto is hovering between 15 per cent and 20 per cent — the highest in my
The stimulus package focused on construction and the short term is obviously
not working. Toronto, the engine of growth, is stalling and spiralling downward.
What new measures is the government planning to ensure that Canadians can
find jobs, in particular, students? Students in Toronto were unable to find jobs
this past summer to pay for their rising tuition costs.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I dispute the honourable senator's figures.
We have a competent Minister of Human Resources to deal with these issues, and
we are taking measures to help the unemployed. I saw the OECD report. Everyone
has told us that we will have different kinds of jobs coming out of this
recovery. Certainly, the minister understands that and that is why the
government is prepared to deal with the issue of unemployed long-tenured
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour of presenting delayed answers to the following oral
questions raised by Senator Cowan on May 7, 2009, concerning public safety — the
sale of contraband tobacco; by Senator Munson on May 7, 2009, concerning public
safety — the National DNA Data Bank; and four questions by Senator Dyck on May
13, 2009, concerning, first, justice — violence against Aboriginal women and
children; second, violence against Aboriginal women and children — federal,
provincial and territorial ministers responsible for the Status of Women Forum
in March 2006; third, violence against Aboriginal women and children — a "Walk
for Justice"; and fourth, violence against Aboriginal women and children —
Sisters in Spirit.
(Response to question raised by Hon. James S. Cowan on May 7, 2009)
The federal government is continuing to advance efforts to address the
issue of contraband tobacco on a national level in collaboration with
provincial governments, First Nations communities and industry stakeholders.
In May 2008, the Government launched the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
(RCMP) Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy (the Strategy), and announced
the creation of the Task Force on Illicit Tobacco (the Task Force).
The RCMP strategy aims to reduce the availability and demand for contraband
enhancing the skills of its members to effectively address the current
contraband tobacco environment;
disrupting organized crime groups involved in illicit tobacco
enhancing intelligence gathering/sharing while leveraging investigative
increasing public and law enforcement awareness through a variety of
The RCMP strategy serves as a guide to provide national direction to front
line officers. National and Divisional Coordinators have been appointed to
strengthen national and inter-divisional implementation.
Although the RCMP made more seizures of illegal cigarettes in 2008 than any
other year, law enforcement alone cannot solve the problem. Public Safety
Canada has been tasked to work with its federal partners to explore potential
policy, program and legislative measures to further help disrupt and reduce
the trade in contraband tobacco.
The Task Force is led by Public Safety Canada, and includes departments and
agencies that are involved in tackling the issue. These departments and
agencies include the RCMP, the CBSA, the Canada Revenue Agency, Finance
Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada, and Indian and
Northern Development Canada.
The Task Force has been asked to identify the facilitating circumstances
for each source of illicit tobacco, scope out the issue and what is currently
being done to address the problem, identify gaps in our collective efforts,
and explore approaches to address the illicit trade in tobacco products.
Task Force members have met on several occasions and working-level
officials from Task Force member departments and agencies are in contact
through meetings and/or conference calls, often on a weekly or more frequent
basis, to share information and discuss illicit tobacco related issues and
possible solutions. Public Safety Portfolio officials are also in discussion
with First Nations leaders and United States authorities.
Public Safety Canada is leading Canadian preparation and participation to
negotiate a Protocol on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products under the World
Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The purpose of
the Protocol is to develop an internationally accepted set of practical and
effective measures to control the production, manufacturing and distribution
of tobacco products, thereby reducing the opportunity for illicit trade.
Other federal initiatives:
In 2007, the federal government renewed its Federal Tobacco Control
Strategy which aims to reduce tobacco-related death and disease among
Canadians. The Federal Tobacco Control Strategy is built on the tenets of
prevention, cessation (quitting smoking) and product regulation.
Through the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy, Public Safety Canada receives
funding to support enforcement activities through enhanced contributions to
the Akwesasne Mohawk Police. These contributions aim to increase the capacity
of the Akwesasne Mohawk Police to assess the impact of smuggling activity in
the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne, and to enhance its inter-agency cooperation
with the RCMP and the CBSA to participate in joint forces operations that have
led to a number of charges and significant seizures.
Public Safety Canada also established "the First Nations Organized Crime
Initiative", which promotes the participation of First Nations police
officers in multi-agency task forces in Ontario and Quebec, targeting
organized criminal networks that deal in contraband of all kinds.
The RCMP, in concert with domestic and United States law enforcement
agencies at all levels, continues to work in close collaboration to combat the
illicit tobacco market through various crime prevention, training and
enforcement initiatives. This includes partnerships with First Nations police
services to address the threat of organized crime and cross-border
criminality, including contraband tobacco smuggling, on and around First
In Budget 2006, the federal government allocated funding for 1,000 more
RCMP officers and federal prosecutors to focus on such law-enforcement
priorities as drugs, corruption and border security. Of these, 71 new
resources were allocated to the RCMP Customs and Excise Program to support the
RCMP Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Strategy.
The CBSA continues to assist in the fight against contraband tobacco at the
border by using a variety of contraband detection equipment, intelligence
activities and officer training. The CBSA works to prevent, detect, analyze,
monitor, seize and prosecute persons involved in tobacco smuggling.
On July 31, 2008, the Government of Canada joined all provinces and
territories in a landmark settlement worth $1.15 billion concerning tobacco
smuggling. Two of Canada's largest tobacco manufacturers, Imperial Tobacco
Canada Ltd. and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc., admitted involvement in
"aiding persons to sell or be in possession of tobacco products manufactured
in Canada that were not packaged and were not stamped in conformity with the
Excise Act and its amendments and the ministerial regulations," between 1989
In August 2008, the Government of Canada announced a new investment of more
than $300 million for Ontario's flue-cured tobacco producers, including $286
million for Phase 2 of the Tobacco Transition Program to help them exit the
tobacco industry, and $15 million for community development initiatives. Under
Phase 1 of the Program, in 2005, almost all Quebec tobacco producers exited
the industry; only three producers remain. A key component under the Tobacco
Transition Program will be working with the Province of Ontario to repeal the
current provincial production controls places on flue-cured tobacco, with the
intention of implementing a provincial licensing system for tobacco growers,
allowing for more rigorous oversight of tobacco production in Canada.
On September 4, 2008, the Minister of National Revenue announced the
introduction of a new stamp with covert and overt identifiers to strengthen
controls over the manufacture and distribution of tobacco stamps. The new
tobacco stamp will provide a reliable indicator of the duty-paid status of
tobacco products, contain a limited tracing function, make counterfeit
products easier to detect and provide an effective compliance tool for both
federal and provincial authorities. The new stamp is expected to be
implemented in early 2010.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Jim Munson on May 7, 2009)
With respect to the destruction of biological material collected from a
convicted young offender, the RCMP has advised that, in accordance with the
provisions of the DNA Identification Act, the National DNA Data Bank
destroys all of the original biological material when the profile of a young
offender is required to be destroyed, sealed or transmitted to the National
Archivist of Canada under Part 6 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The destruction of the biological sample is documented for record keeping
purposes; however, this record contains no information that would allow it to
be linked back to the offender.
Regarding the exchange of DNA profiles between Canada and other countries,
subsections 6 (3), (4) and (5) of the DNA Identification Act permit the
National DNA Data Bank to exchange information, solely for the investigation
or prosecution of a criminal offence, with any country that enters into an
agreement with Canada. In May 2002, such an agreement was signed between the
Interpol General Secretariat and Canada, allowing for the exchange of
information between the National DNA Data Bank and the 187 Interpol member
As of March 31, 2009, the National DNA Data Bank has received 481
international requests to search the Convicted Offenders Index and Crime Scene
Index, most of which originated from the USA, followed by Europe. In turn, the
National DNA Data Bank has sent out 100 international search requests.
Altogether, these searches have resulted in two forensic hits (crime scene to
crime scene) and two offender hits (crime scene to convicted offender).
The National DNA Data Bank does not provide biological material to other
countries, only the DNA profiles collected from crime scenes.
In reference to the issue of destruction of profiles seized from young
offenders after the retention period has ended, profiles and biological
samples for young offenders are stored in the National DNA Data Bank in
accordance with the provisions of the DNA Identification Act and the
Youth Criminal Justice Act. When DNA profiles need to be removed from the
Convicted Offenders Index due to expired retention periods or quashed
orders/convictions, the RCMP Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification
Services advises the National DNA Data Bank. The National DNA Data Bank
removes the profiles in accordance with legislation. The removal is documented
for record keeping purposes; however, this record contains no information that
would allow it to be linked back to the offender.
The RCMP recently conducted a review of approximately 22,000 youth criminal
history records and verified that the National DNA Data Bank is in full
compliance with the DNA Identification Act and the Youth Criminal
(Response to question raised by Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck on May 13, 2009)
The Government of Canada shares the concerns of all Canadians on the issue
of violence against Aboriginal women and is working to address the root causes
of this serious situation.
Aboriginal women are a priority for the Government, as is addressing
violence against women. To that end, the Government is partnering with the
Native Women's Association of Canada on the multi-faceted Sisters in Spirit
initiative. This five-year project (2005-2010) focuses on improving the
situation of Aboriginal women, preventing violence against Aboriginal women,
and in particular, addressing the high rates of missing and murdered
The issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is a pressing concern
that requires a concerted response from all levels of government. The
Government has taken steps in this regard and will continue to do so. For
example, in cooperation with provincial and territorial governments, the
federal government has ordered a review of the treatment by the criminal
justice system of serial killers who target vulnerable women. This review is
under way and is expected to be completed over the next year.
The Government of Canada is also working with other levels of government to
improve policing and law enforcement. Governments are working together to
share best practices to address the issue of Aboriginal missing women, and
police forces across the country are putting shared knowledge to practice — to
the benefit of all Canadians, including missing women and their families.
The Government of Canada will continue to work with all its partners to
achieve results that ensure all women, including Aboriginal women, live in
dignity, safety and prosperity. It is collaborating with its provincial and
territorial partners to promote and support economic prosperity, safety and
security for First Nations, Métis and Inuit women in Canada. It will continue
to work with provincial and territorial governments to feed into strategic
orientations and policy development to address the root causes of violence
against Aboriginal women.
In recognition of the nature and scope of violence against Aboriginal
women, since 2003, Status of Women Canada has used its annual federal Family
Violence Initiative (FVI) allocation of $250,000 to support national projects
of Aboriginal women's organizations to move forward on issues of violence
against Aboriginal women. Over the four year period of 2004-05 to 2007-08,
Status of Women Canada funding in the amount of $3,258,120 (including a total
of $1,000,000 from the FVI allocation) was approved for projects of Aboriginal
organizations (carried out at the local, regional and national levels)
addressing issues of violence against Aboriginal women and girls.
The Government of Canada recognizes the varied socio-economic
circumstances that intersect to render Aboriginal women particularly
vulnerable to violence and marginalization (e.g. inadequate housing). The most
effective way to address the gap in socio-economic conditions faced by
Aboriginal peoples is increasing their participation in the Canadian economy.
For this reason, in Budget 2008, the Government committed to establish a new
federal framework for Aboriginal economic development to provide long-term
strategic direction to federal actions and take account of gender issues.
Budget 2008 announced that we will develop an Action Plan to advance the
equality of women across Canada. As part of a broader Aboriginal Women's
Strategy within the Action Plan, the Government is currently exploring
possible next steps.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck on May 13, 2009)
Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for the Status of
Women issued a report entitled the Summary of the Policy Forum on Aboriginal
Women and Violence: Building Safe and Healthy Families and Communities. Since
that time, FPT Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women have worked
together to promote women's economic self-sufficiency, safety and security,
and to work toward improving the situation of Inuit, First Nations and Métis
women in Canada.
In 2007, FPT Ministers unanimously confirmed their support for the Iqaluit
Declaration, which recognizes the urgent need to improve the lives of
Aboriginal women and girls, and made a commitment to improve the social,
economic and cultural well-being of Inuit, Métis and First Nations women, both
on and off reserve, in Canada.
FPT Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women welcomed the
recommendations for action presented to governments by participants at the
Forum and at the two National Aboriginal Women's Summits and have provided
written updates on what each government is doing to respond to their
(Response to question raised by Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck on May 13, 2009)
The Government of Canada takes the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal
women and girls in Canada very seriously and continues to take action to
improve the safety and well-being of all Aboriginal women in Canada.
Ending violence against Aboriginal women is a shared responsibility of all
levels of government, police, the justice system, Aboriginal people, civil
society and other stakeholders.
The Manitoba Task Force on Missing and Murdered Women will investigate and
analyze unsolved homicide files involving female victims and will determine if
any links exist between the incidents.
Our Government continues to work on this troubling issue with our partners,
in association with the Native Women's Association of Canada on the Sisters in
Spirit research, education and policy initiative to address the root causes of
violence against Aboriginal women.
The Government of Canada is exploring options for a Phase II of the Sisters
in Spirit initiative to address broader issues of violence against Aboriginal
(Response to question raised by Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck on May 13, 2009)
Our Government is committed to addressing the root causes of violence
against Aboriginal women and girls.
The Government of Canada, through Status of Women Canada, is partnering ($5
million over five years: 2005-2010) with the Native Women's Association of
Canada (NWAC) on the Sisters in Spirit (SIS) research, education and policy
initiative, which addresses the underlying factors contributing to gendered
racism and violence against Aboriginal women and their socio economic,
political and legal status.
Through this initiative, NWAC provides a variety of supports to families
with a loved one who has gone missing or has been murdered.
For example two tool kits have been developed to respond specifically to
needs identified by family members:
1) Unlocking the Mystery of Media Relations Tool Kit: This tool
kit provides families with guidance on how to deal with members of the
media. It contains tips and information on media coverage in general, as
well as specific ways to deal with reporters or other media staff during
2) Navigating the Missing Persons Process Tool Kit: With the
assistance of the National Aboriginal Policing Services of the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), NWAC developed this tool kit, which outlines
the process of filing a missing persons report. This tool kit illustrates
the realities and exposes the myths associated with the process of reporting
a missing person to police. Families can use this tool kit to learn about
their rights and to track police response and action throughout the process.
This document has been endorsed by the RCMP and has become an education tool
for policing services as well as a resource for families.
Since 2006, annual SIS Vigils have been held on October 4 to raise public
awareness about missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, share their
stories, and help to ensure that the general public understands that they are
loved and missed by their families. The Vigils have steadily grown in number,
beginning with 11 in 2006, 30 in 2007 and 40 across Canada in 2008. In 2009,
NWAC expects that over 60 Vigils will be organized throughout the country. The
organization has created registration forms and Vigil kits to help communities
plan and prepare for new gatherings, including how to advertise in communities
and generate media attention.
As part of NWAC's commitment to 'giving voice' to missing and murdered
Aboriginal women, girls and their families, three Family Gatherings have been
held. They are a means to help empower families of missing and murdered
Aboriginal women and girls and to honour those who have been lost to violence.
They offer a unique opportunity for family members to meet, share experiences
and bond with others who are experiencing similar losses and challenges.
More extensive information is available on these resources and activities
in NWAC's research report, entitled Voices of Our Sisters In Spirit: A Report
to Families and Communities (March 2009), available on NWAC's Web site at
The report contains life stories of nine Aboriginal women and girls, nine
alerts for missing women and five memorial notices for murdered women or
These are just some examples of the types of supports and resources
provided to families of missing or murdered Aboriginal women through the SIS
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Wallace, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Duffy, for the second reading of Bill C-15, An Act
to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and
consequential amendments to other Acts.
Hon. George Baker: Honourable senators, I strongly recommend referring
Bill C-15 to committee. The bill is important to the government and is highly
I congratulate senators on both sides of this place for the magnificent job
that they continue to do in their respective committees. As honourable senators
know, I have been keeping a running tally of the number of times that Canadian
courts have used Senate committee proceedings as references in their court
cases. The number of references remains consistent: Senate committees are quoted
75 per cent more often than House of Commons committees are quoted in Canadian
The analysis is easy to do with access to Quicklaw and WestlawCarswell
electronic search engines. It requires simple entries of the Senate committee
names and the House of Commons committee names resulting in a display of the
references to all reported cases. That includes not only the provincial courts,
supreme courts of the provinces, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court of
Canada but also all boards that are adjudicative panels and quasi-judicial
The websites locate every single tribunal that makes a decision that
incorporates something into law, whether passed here or by a province. Over the
past 15 years, the results have been consistent. When experts provided evidence
or when judges made determinations, Senate committees were quoted 923 times
during the past 8 years compared to 443 times for the House of Commons. That is
an incredible display of just how important the Senate standing committees are
compared to those of the House of Commons.
As honourable senators know, I spent 29 years and 9 months in the House of
Commons, where I sat on practically every committee. I can attest to the fact
that the Senate committees are referenced by our courts and by our tribunals
simply because honourable senators give sober second thought to legislation.
Activities in the House of Commons committees are primarily pure politics.
Certainly they have an idea of the issues but their main concern is being
re-elected. The main concern of honourable senators is for the next generation
and the proper passing of laws.
New members of the Senate should listen carefully when someone asks what does
the Senate do. Could we not do away with the Senate and just have the House of
Commons pass our laws?
In the past session, the past year or year and a half, one bill came to the
Senate that every single political party in the House of Commons had voted for.
We saw one section — and it was a member of the Conservative Party who saw it
and said, no, this is wrong — that would have released all the birthdates of
everyone who is on the voters' lists in Canada.
Honourable senators can imagine what would happen if that information was
released. It would be a gift to all those people who are looking for ways to
bilk our seniors out of money. We saw the problem in the Senate, and we amended
Some people would say honourable senators should not amend legislation,
especially when all parties passed it in the House of Commons. They would ask
honourable senators why they were second-guessing the elected members of the
House of Commons?"
Honourable senators, that is precisely why we are here. The Senate provides
sober second thought.
An even worse situation, for the information of new senators, is a bill that
was passed in the House of Commons in this past session. Every single political
party voted for it, overwhelmingly. Most members were present for all the
voting, second reading and committee stage. They passed something like 50
amendments in the committee; yet they missed nine pages in the bill. How can
they pass 50 amendments and miss nine pages in the bill?
I went back over the procedure used in the House of Commons. I discovered
that in large bills they present the motions in blocks of clauses. In other
words, the question is: Shall clauses 1 to 55 carry? Shall clauses 100 to 199
Even with the 50 amendments that they made in committee, they did not see the
key part of the bill hidden away. There were nine full pages and no one saw
The bill passed in the House of Commons and ended up in the Senate. At one of
the meetings of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce — I
do not sit on that committee but many honourable senators here do — a couple of
the members started asking questions of officials of the department. They
discovered that a whole new tax regime was introduced for the film industry in
The committee members said, let us bring in some of the film industry
members. The next day, a big story appeared on the front page of The Globe
and Mail saying that some preacher had convinced the government to put in
these provisions and to hide them away. This story made national and
Then we had a Bloc Québécois member, who said to some of the members in the
Senate — and I was one of them — Do anything you can do to change that bill. The
NDP, who say the Senate should not exist, said publicly, We demand that the
Senate change the bill. This situation occurred in the past year and a half.
Please fix the bill.
Of course, our only choice in the Senate, as honourable senators know, is
either to amend the bill or, if the amendment is of such a great consequence as
to negate a major portion of the bill and we cannot amend it, figure out what
else to do.
What did we do? The Senate intentionally sat on it. That is another action we
can take as the chamber of sober second thought. What did the government do? The
government agreed with us and the government did not reintroduce that bill.
When we look at those examples, honourable senators, the power of the Senate
is extensive. I believe a great many of us here do not want to rewrite the law;
we do not want to defeat a government that has been duly elected; and we do not
want to defeat bills that originate from the government of the day. However, our
job is to provide that sober second thought. Sometimes our job is to amend a
bill. Sometimes, as in that instance, it is to sit on a bill and let it
disappear because, honourable senators, in both those cases, every political
party in the House of Commons made tragic errors.
We see it with almost every bill we pass, and we make amendments. For some of
the largest bills that have gone before the Senate in the past two years, the
major amendments have been made by the government, not the senators on their own
initiative, but by the Government of Canada saying to the government side: Look,
you have to change this and that provision.
If we did not have a Senate, how would they fix those problems? We would not
have that sober second thought at all. We would need to appoint a group of
people to be the watchdog over the House of Commons, which is exactly what the
Senator does today.
With that brief introduction — and I was planning to say only a few words on
this matter — this bill before the house is a controversial bill, and I believe
we should send it to the committee.
Why is it controversial? It is controversial because it is about drugs. Bill
C-15 amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It is about a huge problem
in our society today, especially with young people.
I have read the bill briefly and there are only five major clauses in it. For
the first three clauses, minimum sentences are introduced — minimum sentences
that involve not only cocaine, but marijuana; minimum sentences on a certain
They must have a certain amount of marijuana in their possession for purposes
of trafficking. In other words, if they have a certain amount in their
possession, there is no other answer; it must be for trafficking. If someone has
a truckload of marijuana, it cannot be for personal use. An honourable senator
just said, That depends.
However, a minimum sentence is affixed to possessing a certain amount. It is
like the plants. In this bill, if someone is found possessing between 6 and 201
plants, the minimum sentence is six months minimum. Possessing from 201 plants
to 501 plants is a nine-month sentence; but if it is proven that the plants are
for trafficking, it is an 18-month minimum sentence.
If possession is beyond 501 plants, the bill does not talk about trafficking,
because why else would someone have over 501 plants? The bill sets minimum
sentences for various offences presently under the Controlled Drugs and
The remaining two clauses are fascinating, because they deal with
drug-sentencing courts. Some honourable senators may know about drug-sentencing
courts. They are fairly new. The first one was set up in Toronto.
A superior court judge in Toronto made a ruling that said, people on the
street who are cocaine addicts — they call them cocaine addicts or some refer to
them as coke heads — are not aggressive people. They are not violent people, so
why are we dealing with them in the court adversarial process of throwing them
in jail and when they are finished, they come back onto the street and do the
In 1998, a drug-sentencing court was set up. It has the same principle as the
others today in other parts of Canada; namely that upon appearing before a judge
in the court, prior to sentencing — if they are found guilty — they will go for
a year under supervision. Someone is assisting them with their medical problems,
employment problems or whatever other problems they might have. At the end of
the year, if they successfully pass that course, then they will get either a
conditional sentence or a complete discard of the charges.
The purpose of putting a clause dealing with that in this bill is that the
minimum sentence will not apply for those people who have been convicted and who
have gone through the drug-sentencing court and successfully passed it.
Honourable senators, it sounds like a great idea. Here is one simple problem
with it. We have drug-sentencing courts that started in Toronto in 1998, in 2001
in Vancouver, and then in 2005 and 2006 in Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg.
However, they do not exist anywhere else.
Therefore, the provisions of this legislation that exclude those people who
have successfully gone through a program with the drug-sentencing court, or have
successfully completed a drug treatment program authorized by — I am searching
for it, Senator Nolin — subsection 720(2) of the Criminal Code. I say this to
Senator Nolin because we all know, appreciate and realize that he is considered
to be an expert on this act, the Narcotic Control Act and the Controlled Drugs
and Substances Act. He is sometimes called before superior courts to give
evidence. Why is he called? He chaired a committee of the Senate that did an
exhaustive review of the Narcotic Control Act and the Controlled Drugs and
The bill refers to completing a treatment program under subsection 720(2) of
the Criminal Code. The problem in excluding persons who have successfully passed
those programs is that people who live in many parts of the country are being
excluded. There is no drug-sentencing court in Quebec that I can see here.
Neither is there one in Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. That
will be the subject of much discussion.
Under all of these offences for which there will now be minimum sentences if
this bill passes, it will put a reverse onus on everyone who is convicted of
those new offences. It presents what is called a reverse onus on bail. That
means a person may not get out on bail because it is one of the offences that
will be added to the designated offences.
That raises all kinds of questions. When someone is arrested and charged with
something, the law says that they are supposed to appear before a judge within
24 hours. That is the law. If they appear before the judge on a Friday, the
judge may put it off until Monday, or the next day to give them or their lawyer
an opportunity to arrange sureties for bail and so on.
Then the bail hearing takes place. The judge looks down at the charge and
says, "Okay. It is not a designated offence, so here is what I will do. Is
there a guarantee?" Our laws say that we all have a right to bail and that
everyone is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. The judge looks at it and
looks at the Criminal Code section 515 and he asks, first, "Will this person
show up for court?" That is the first thing. Second, "Will that person, if
released, reoffend and commit a criminal offence?" Third, called the tertiary
ground that Senator Nolin and the rest of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal
and Constitutional Affairs was talking about this morning, "How will it would
look with the general public?" In other words, would it bring the
administration of justice into disrepute, or would the public lose confidence in
If someone is charged with any of these new offences under this bill, then
what is the onus on them to do? The onus is on them to prove that they should be
released on bail. They have to prove it to the judge. The judge says: "You are
charged now with having 200 — or 6 or 8 — marijuana plants in your house. You
tell me why I should release you."
The onus is on the person who is charged. Usually, it is a pretty heavy onus
and that person remains on what they call remand. In other words, they remain in
jail until their trial, and during their trial they remain in jail unless they
can, on bail review, convince a Superior Court judge otherwise. It was a
provincial court judge who first put them in jail and it is a Superior Court
judge for the bail review. However, there is only one way to get out of jail,
and that is to prove that the trial judge made an error in law or that there are
new circumstances that come into play that say that person should be released
In closing, honourable senators, it is interesting that, of all of those
people who end up on remand in the detention centres throughout the country, 35
per cent do not end up being convicted of a crime. Let us not forget that figure
that stands out so much in Canada today. As of last year, 65 per cent of those
people in jail end up being convicted of a crime and 35 per cent do not. For 35
per cent of people in jail, the charges are dropped, there is a stay entered by
the Crown, there is a judicial stay entered or, most likely, they are found
innocent of the charges.
We have a huge problem in Canada with numbers of people on remand waiting for
trial. They are overloaded. We have a bill presently before the Standing Senate
Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Evidence shows that there are
more people to a holding cell than there are beds. The choice has to be made as
to who will sleep on the floor.
When they go to the lock-up to wait for trial, then it is even worse. Someone
who is arrested overnight is put in the city or town lock-up and they are in
there with all the drunks and so on who have to stay overnight until they can
see a judge in the morning. It is not a very pleasant place to be. The lights
are on 24 hours a day.
There is this serious problem and our courts have struggled with it. Normally
now in Canada, we give two-for-one credit, such that the period of time someone
spends in a holding cell or detention centre awaiting trial is counted
two-for-one in their sentence. In other words, if someone is there for one
month, that counts as two months if they are found guilty. Therefore, the
government has now said this does not look right and a sentence should be a
sentence. Therefore, the law will be changed so it is one-for-one and, under
extraordinary circumstances, one-and-a-half-for-one.
I must admit that every single minister of justice in Canada supports the
government in that regard — but nobody else does. In other words, the committee
is hearing from every professor of law and they are saying no to this bill.
Members of the committee are here today and they can attest to that. The
organization for Crown attorneys say it is not a good bill and that it will clog
up the bail system. All of the defence lawyers say the same, although you would
expect them to be opposed to the bill.
However, everyone else who has given testimony before the committee is
opposed to the bill. We all know that the ministers of justice for every single
province are in favour of the bill and that is who the minister is taking his
cue from. What do we do? I do not know, honourable senators. I have never seen a
situation like this one in my 35 years in Parliament.
What do we do with a bill that each of the ministers from the provinces
approves because it is their institutions that are under fire? Their
institutions, not the federal prisons, are the holding cells — the detention
centres. They are sent to a federal prison only if they receive a sentence of
two years plus a day or more. We were talking about provincial jails. We have a
serious problem in the committee as to what can be done. Can we amend the bill?
That committee is loaded down with work, as are many other committees in this
chamber. Sometimes, to be honest with you, honourable senators, I hear political
leaders from all political parties say, I wish the Senate would pass these
bills. We do not want to pass bad law. That is not what we are here for. We will
have a good look at these things. We try to accommodate as best we can.
I do not know what this committee will do when it receives this bill after
today's debate. I only encourage honourable senators to send the bill to
committee so it can be examined. If this were the House of Commons, members
would talk about the bill for two years in the House of Commons.
We want to examine the bill's content and judge it on its merits. The bill is
another controversial one. I encourage members to send it to the committee. We
will perform our due diligence again. As honourable senators will see, our
record will continue to come up, and the Senate of Canada and its committees —
held in such high esteem by our courts and by all our tribunals in this country
— will keep up its excellent record.
Hon. Elaine McCoy: If someone wishes to ask the senator a question, I
will defer. However, I want to speak to the bill.
Hon. Joan Fraser: I have a brief question for Senator Baker.
This question, in no way, goes to the thrust of Senator Baker's wide-ranging
argument. Maybe I misheard Senator Baker in connection with drug courts, but the
list of drug courts he gave for the record did not include Ottawa. Will Senator
Baker agree that Ottawa should have been in that list of cities that have drug
courts? This question does not affect Senator Baker's argument. It is only for
Senator Baker: Honourable senators, Canada has drug treatment courts.
They started in Toronto in 1998. One was opened in Vancouver in 2001; Edmonton
was opened in 2005; Winnipeg in 2006; and Ottawa in 2006. The honourable senator
is absolutely correct.
Senator McCoy: We are on second reading of Bill C-15 in the Senate,
which indicates that we agree in principle with this bill. I want to put on the
record that I do not agree with this bill in principle. I read the committee
report of the Senate that recommended decriminalizing marijuana. I would uphold
that decision. I have heard nothing that would persuade me to disagree with the
recommendation of that eminent committee of the Senate chaired by Senator Nolin,
with Senator Banks as deputy chair or at least as a member of the committee.
If this bill goes to committee, I want it to be on record that I do not agree
at least to that portion of the bill.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
(Motion agreed to and bill read second time, on division.)
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Fairbairn, P.C., for the second reading of Bill
S-214, An Act to regulate securities and to provide for a single securities
commission for Canada.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, this is the fifteenth day for this item and we do not want it to die
on the Order Paper. I know that Senator Meighen would like to speak shortly.
Therefore, I move the adjournment in the name of Senator Meighen.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, for Senator Meighen, debate adjourned.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fourth report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Official Languages, entitled: Reflecting Canada's
Linguistic Duality at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: A Golden
Opportunity, Follow-up Report, tabled in the Senate on September 15, 2009.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I move:
That the fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Official
Languages, entitled Reflecting Canada's Linguistic Duality at the 2010
Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: A Golden Opportunity, Follow-up Report,
tabled in the Senate on September 15, 2009, be adopted and that, pursuant to
rule 131(2), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the
government, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and the
President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada being identified as
ministers responsible for responding to the report.
Honourable senators, since 2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Official
Languages has been closely monitoring the organization of the 2010 Olympic and
Paralympic Winter Games to be held in Vancouver and Whistler. This report,
entitled Reflecting Canada's Linguistic Duality at the 2010 Olympic and
Paralympic Winter Games: A Golden Opportunity, Follow-up Report, is the
committee's third report on this topic.
All three reports have pointed out that this is the ideal opportunity for
Canada to promote its linguistic duality throughout the country and abroad. The
report shows that there is still work to be done and that it is vital that all
parties involved in organizing the Games must undertake to take positive steps
to promote the full recognition and use of both English and French.
I offer my sincere thanks to the members of the committee for their great
availability and cooperation. The committee is proud of the work it has
accomplished, and of the pressure it has exerted since 2007.
Honourable senators, with less than one year until the Games, everyone
involved needs to work even harder to ensure that these Games are a model of
respect for linguistic duality in Canada. As the report indicates, constant
vigilance will be required until February 2010. Canada must meet the challenges
related to official languages at the Games in an exemplary manner.
(On motion of Senator Comeau, for Senator Champagne, debate adjourned.)
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Chaput calling the
attention of the Senate to the discontinuance of the Interdepartmental
Partnership with the Official-Language Communities (IPOLC) and its damaging
consequences for official bilingualism in this country.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I believe that a senator wished to speak to this inquiry. However,
since he is not in attendance, I would like to take the adjournment in his name.
(On motion of Senator Comeau, for Senator Mockler, debate adjourned.)