The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before we proceed, I would
ask you to rise and observe one minute of silence in memory of the victims of
the tragedy that took place 20 years ago, on December 6, 1989, at the École
Polytechnique in Montreal.
Hon. Judith Seidman: Honourable senators, I am very saddened to pay
tribute today to the 14 women who were killed at École Polytechnique on December
I can tell you that the people of Montreal and Quebec were very deeply
affected by this tragedy. It was especially heart-wrenching for women in
university to see these young women die as they were just starting their adult
In paying tribute to them, we must also think about the lessons to be learned
from this sad tragedy. We want to be sure that these young women did not die in
vain, and that this incident served a purpose.
They were targeted because they were women, and misogyny is always wrong. We
have worked hard through the years to combat violence directed towards women and
girls, and we will continue to do so. However, we must not forget the role that
severe mental illness played that day.
The members of this chamber know from their work in the area that mental
illness is a serious matter. We note that it carries heavy social and economic
costs. While one in five Canadians will experience some form of mental illness
this year, help is often not there.
Some 20 years after the events at École Polytechnique, we are tackling the
problem. Through the Mental Health Commission, we are undertaking new
initiatives that will lead to real change. While we are still in the early
stages, we are coming out of the shadows.
None of this work will bring back the 14 women we lost, nor will it erase the
awful memories left to their families and friends, but it gives us hope that we
may prevent a tragic event in the future.
In conclusion, I offer my sincerest condolences to the families of these
young women. We will never forget them.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, as required by rule 43(3),
earlier this day I gave written notice that I intended to raise a question of
privilege later this day.
In accordance with rule 43(7), I give oral notice that later this day I shall
raise a question of privilege regarding a press release dated December 2, 2009,
entitled, "Human Trafficking Charges on International Day for the Abolition of
This press release was issued by Mr. Benjamin Perrin, a law professor at the
University of British Columbia and a self-described "expert on human
trafficking." This press release invokes the Senate, my name, and my actions on
the floor of the Senate. It is directed to a private member's bill, Bill C-268,
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving
trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years).
This press release was emailed to my office separately by both the Manitoba
Member of Parliament, Joy Smith, the sponsor of the bill in the House of
Commons, and Mr. Perrin, who appears to have a pride of authorship in the
creation of Bill C-268.
Hon. George J. Furey: Honourable senators, I am pleased to inform you
that Ottawa Public Health has confirmed that an H1N1 vaccination clinic will be
made available on Parliament Hill next week. The scheduled dates are Monday,
December 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Tuesday, December 8 from 9:30 a.m. to
A memo will be sent out later today to all senators, their staff and the
Senate administration confirming other details. Only the H1N1 vaccine will be
Pre-registration is not required; however, vaccination will be given on a
first-come, first-served basis.
Further, a seasonal flu clinic will possibly be held at the end of January or
in early February, and a further notice will be issued with respect to this
I take this opportunity to thank the Human Resources Directorate for its
continued good work and effort on this particular file.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Honourable senators, the Canadian
Diabetes Association is releasing a new report outlining the latest data on the
economic burden of diabetes in Canada. The reports shows the rates of diabetes
in Canada doubled over the last decade. Today, one in four Canadians either have
diabetes or pre-diabetes. Every 10 minutes, another Canadian is diagnosed with
Honourable senators, nearly one million Canadians have diabetes and yet do
not know it. People over the age of 40 are at high risk of developing type 2
On Monday, December 7, the Canadian Diabetes Association is hosting a
complimentary diabetes risk assessment for all senators. The screening is from 9
a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in room 602 in Centre Block.
The Canadian Diabetes Association is encouraging all senators to take
advantage of this free screening on December 7. In doing so, we will set an
example for all Canadians.
Hon Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, on December 3, 2008,
countries from around the world gathered in Oslo, Norway for the official
signing of the United Nations Convention on Cluster Munitions. The culmination
of 18 months' work between civil society groups and participating states, the
treaty seeks to prohibit the use, transfer and production of cluster munitions,
to require the destruction of existing stockpiles, and to provide adequate
resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas.
Cluster munitions, like landmines, are an especially cruel, inhumane and
indiscriminate form of weaponry. Cluster bombs are designed to inflict maximum
damage over a wide area by dispersing a large number of sub-bombs. These
sub-bombs are undirected and can often cover a square kilometre or more. Their
use kills and maims civilians in much greater numbers than more conventional
In addition to the immediate devastation they can cause on impact, cluster
munitions leave an ongoing threat to the local population, much like landmines,
in the form of unexploded components.
Although 103 states have now signed the convention, under international law
30 states must ratify it before it can come into force. To date, only 26
countries have ratified the convention. Canada is not one of them.
As we celebrate the first anniversary of the signing of this important
treaty, it is my hope that Canada will continue to lead international efforts to
clean up the deadly legacy of armed conflict left behind in countries across the
globe by ratifying the convention in the near future.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, last week the Prime Minister
announced a nuclear cooperation agreement with India. Under this agreement,
Canadian companies will have access to a market that is estimated to be worth
between $25 billion and $50 billion over the next 20 years. This is a boon to
Canadian companies that supply equipment, services and uranium for civilian
purposes. It is a boon to companies across Canada, but not least of those in
Saskatchewan, home to one of the largest uranium deposits in the world.
In fact, according to the World Nuclear Association, Canada is the world's
largest uranium producer, accounting for 20.5 per cent of the world's output
last year. This output comes mainly from mines in Northern Saskatchewan, the
largest of which is at McArthur River. In fact, it is the largest uranium mine
in the world.
Honourable senators, through careful management of the economy and focused
implementation of its Economic Action Plan, the Conservative government has seen
to it that Canadians have weathered the economic storm better than most. This
agreement, reaching beyond our shores, demonstrates how multi-faceted the
effort is to ensure not only that Canada recovers from the recent recession, but
is well situated in the global economy of the future.
India will play an important role in that economy, as it does in today's.
Next year, it will play host to the G20 summit. Our economic relationship with
India is no small thing.
In 2008, our bilateral trade amounted to nearly $5 billion. This is a record
level. Over the next five years, we plan to double it to $10 billion.
Just as India is the world's largest democracy, so the Indo-Canada community
is an ever-increasing portion of the Canadian mosaic, numbering nearly 1 million
people. These are the ties that bind us to India and that compel our close
economic relationship in the years ahead.
We are natural partners, and the nuclear cooperation agreement is just one
manifestation of what we hope will be a much more comprehensive partnership.
This can only be to the benefit of Canadians, just as the nuclear cooperation
agreement is to their benefit and, in particular, to the people of Saskatchewan.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, during the week of
November 8, I visited Guangdong Province, China. I was invited by Mr. Wu
Ruicheng, Director of the Guangdong Overseas Chinese Affairs Office to
participate in the opening ceremony of the 2009 International Tourism and
Culture Festival and Pearl River Delta Tourism Promotion Convention. I was also
invited to participate in the opening ceremony of the Guangdong Overseas Chinese
Museum in Guangzhou.
My father, Quan Leen Yook, was born in Xichengli, a village in the Xian Gang
Township, Kaiping City District, province of Guangdong. When the Chinese
government officials learned that a first-generation daughter of the Wuyi
Chinese was a scientist, a former Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and now a
Canadian senator, they invited me to participate as a foreign dignitary in
opening ceremonies to meet with government officials and visit Xichengli.
The people's government of Guangzhou province promotes the root-searching of
foreign-born Chinese descendents by having them visit their ancestral homes. The
Guangdong government sees this as a way of furthering the culture of the area,
as well as furthering economic ventures such as tourism and foreign business
Honourable senators, the big cities of Guangdong, Kaiping and Jiangmen, are
as modern as any other in the world and, in my ignorance, I had assumed that the
little villages, like Xichengli, had been destroyed during modernization. I
found out, however, that the Guangdong government has preserved these historic
villages and maintained museums dedicated to remembering the history of the
early Wuyi Chinese who immigrated to other countries like Canada in the late
1800s and early 1900s.
The early Wuyi emigrants, like my father, sent money back home to China to
support their families or relatives. Many were able to build homes in their
homeland. Some, like the Kaiping Watchtowers, are elaborate, unique structures
that have become recognized as world heritage sites by the United Nations.
Honourable senators, my father's greatest wish had always been to bring his
first-born son from his Chinese family to Canada. He was not able to do that due
to Canadian legislation in effect until 1948 that prevented his Chinese family
from immigrating to Canada. We were able, however, to bring part of Xichengli
back to his gravesite in Swift Current.
As a Canadian senator, I was able to bring honour to his homeland and meet
with many government officials and villagers. I sincerely hope that my Senate
work will help bring about closer relationships between our two countries.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I rise today to call your
attention to the Drive Away Hunger campaign.
I do not need to remind honourable senators that Canadian farmers are among
the best in the world, and our government believes in standing up for them.
Farmers work hard and they feed our cities.
An agency of our government, Farm Credit Canada, or FCC, also works hard and
helps to feed Canadians. FCC plays an important role in delivering services and
support to farmers, and it does some truly important work on behalf of food
growers and all Canadians.
For example, FCC is so committed to feeding Canadians that it even holds an
annual food drive called Drive Away Hunger right across Canada.
This October, Drive Away Hunger collected more than 1.5 million pounds of
food for local food banks. In addition, Drive Away Hunger also donated $25,000
to food banks in Canada in support of their national food-sharing system.
Honourable senators, this campaign started five years ago, when an FCC
employee in Ontario organized a tractor tour to raise awareness and collect
donations for the local food bank. Ever since then, the Drive Away Hunger
campaign has collected more than 3.5 million pounds of food.
Honourable senators, federal politics generates most of the headlines in
Ottawa, so it is easy to forget sometimes that Ottawa is primarily a public
service town. Our government is pleased to work with some truly outstanding
public servants. It says a great deal about an organization like Farm Credit
Canada when its employees take the initiative to help their communities.
Let me offer sincere thanks for a job well done to all who participated in
this year's Drive Away Hunger campaign.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, with your
permission, I would like to speak about someone from Senator Segal's hometown,
from Kingston and the Kingston garrison.
Honourable senators, I rise today to give a bit of living history. I want to
recognize the contributions that Lieutenant-Colonel John Ross Matheson has made
to this country.
Born in Arundel, Quebec, in 1917, John Matheson was a student at Queen's
University when World War II broke out. He subsequently trained at the Royal
Military College and served with the first regiment, Royal Canadian Horse
Artillery — my old regiment — in Italy, where he was wounded on December 1,
1943, by six pieces of shrapnel while crossing the Moro River.
After returning from war, the injuries left him paraplegic and epileptic.
Major Matheson, however, pursued careers in law and politics. He served as a
Liberal Member of Parliament for Leeds, Ontario, from 1961 to 1968. During that
time, and under the leadership of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, Mr. Matheson
was the driving force behind the committee responsible for selecting the new
flag of Canada.
He was instrumental in choosing the current maple leaf design, and is
referred to by many as the father of the Canadian flag, a flag that is based on
the Royal Military College flag.
In 1993, Judge Matheson was made an Officer of the Order of Canada; a
decoration that was most appropriate since he created the institution in 1967.
Honourable senators, Lieutenant-Colonel Matheson has recently received the
honour of having one of the main gates at Canadian Forces Base Kingston named
after him and in his honour. This tribute is fitting, given his contributions to
the Canadian Forces, to Canada and, in particular, to that garrison city.
When asked about his life and having the gate named after him, Judge Matheson
observed that he was "a lucky fellow." I suggest that we are the lucky ones to
have had such a resilient and dedicated person serve our country with great
Judge Matheson's achievements are individually impressive; together they are
truly exceptional. Please join me in congratulating this remarkable Canadian and
his family, whose son still serves in the artillery today, and in thanking Judge
Matheson for all he has contributed throughout his life to make Canada a better
Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: Honourable senators, I bring you good news:
Prime Minister Harper is in China today where he is warming relations between
our two countries. China has recently granted Canada approved destination status
Long awaited by the tourism industry in Canada, this status will make a huge
difference in the number of visitors coming to our country from China, and will
cement ties between our two countries.
This is the Prime Minister's first visit to China, and I am sure it will be
the start of a new era in bilateral relations.
The Chinese people have always loved Canada, thanks to the work of the famous
physician Norman Bethune.
Chinese people also love and respect a man from Ontario, Mark Rowswell, who
they call "dashan." He is arguably the most famous foreigner in China because
of his television and movie career.
The opening up of the Canadian tourism product to Chinese tourists is
wonderful news. We should all stay tuned and be thankful.
On a personal note, I first went to China many years ago as part of an
Asia-Pacific initiative, and I have been there four times in the last three
years. The Chinese people will really enjoy coming to our country.
Hon. Joan Fraser, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs, presented the following report:
Thursday, December 3, 2009
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the
honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-15, An Act to amend the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential
amendments to other Acts, has, in obedience to the order of reference of
Thursday, September 17, 2009, examined the said Bill and now reports the same
with the following amendments:
1. Page 2, clause 1: Replace lines 2 to 5 with the following:
"designated substance offence within the previous 10 years and served a
term of imprisonment of one year or more for that offence, or".
2. Page 4, clause 3:
(a) delete lines 1 to 4; and
(b) renumber subparagraphs (ii) to (vi) as subparagraphs (i) to
(v), and any cross references thereto accordingly.
3. Page 5, clause 4: Replace lines 11 to 18 with the following:
"8.1 (1) On two occasions, within two years and five years
respectively after this section comes into force, a comprehensive review of
the provisions and operation of the Act, including a cost benefit analysis
of mandatory minimum sentences, shall be undertaken by such committee of the
Senate, of the House of Commons or of both Houses of Parliament as may be
designated or established for that purpose.".
4. Page 6, clause 5: Add after line 9 the following:
"(6) The court is not required to impose a minimum punishment of
imprisonment if it is satisfied that
(a) the person to be sentenced is an aboriginal offender;
(b) the sentence would be excessively harsh because of the
offender's circumstances; and
(c) another sanction is reasonable in the circumstances and
(7) If, under subsection (6), the court decides not to impose a minimum
punishment, it shall give reasons for that decision.".
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be
taken into consideration?
(On motion of Senator Fraser, report placed on the Orders of the Day for
consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary
delegation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to the Fifty-fifth
Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, held in Arusha, Tanzania, from September
28 to October 6, 2009.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next
sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on June 18, 2009, the
date for the presentation of the final report by the Standing Senate Committee
on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on the provisions and operation of the
DNA Identification Act (S.C. 1998, c. 37) be extended from December 31,
2009 to June 30, 2010.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding rule 57(2), the following inquiry be placed on the
Notice Paper for the next sitting of the Senate:
"By the Honourable Senator Tardif: That she will call the attention of
the Senate to the career of the Honourable Senator Grafstein in the Senate
and his many contributions in service to Canadians."; and
That, notwithstanding rule 37(4), during proceedings on this inquiry no
senator shall speak for more than three minutes.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of
the Government in the Senate. It is disturbing to learn about an unacceptable
number of young people in Canada who are deprived of their full rights of
childhood. The number of First Nations children today who are in the care of
children's aid societies now surpasses the number of children who, generations
ago, were forced to live in residential schools. Think about it.
While growing numbers of Aboriginal children are in care, they still do not
receive the care they deserve. They receive on average 22 per cent less for
child protection services than non-Aboriginal children. Given the poverty,
substance abuse and poor living conditions that we know to be the reality on
many reserves, how can this be?
The Department of Indian Affairs is responsible for funding First Nations
child protection on reserves. Why is this government not doing more, especially
for Aboriginal children, those most in need?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank the senator for the question.
Obviously the standard of living and the state of some of the Aboriginal
communities in the country is of great concern to our government, as it has been
to all governments, including those that preceded us and particularly the
provincial and territorial governments of the large communities. There is no
easy answer to this question, of course, as we have said before.
The government has made progress on a number of important areas facing
Aboriginal people. The Economic Action Plan, which was announced earlier this
year, put an additional $100 million into skills and employment opportunities
for Aboriginals. There was $75 million for the new Aboriginal Skills and
Training Strategic Investment Fund. These and other programs relating to
education and schooling, health care services, and many plans that the
Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has already put in place,
of course, are only small steps. This is a compelling and long-standing problem.
Honourable senators, there is no easy answer, but the government has made
some significant changes, particularly in the area of new housing for people
living in Aboriginal communities. As well, as honourable senators know, we have
worked closely with the Aboriginal community to make the communities safer and
healthier by improving water and sewage systems. These are programs that are
under way and have some significant way to go to address the severity of the
Senator Munson: Honourable senators, I thank the leader for her
These small steps can turn into bigger steps as we address this issue.
Groups working on behalf of Aboriginal children have brought forward this
issue to the federal Human Rights Commission. Hearings were set to begin last
week when the newly-appointed chair suddenly adjourned the meetings until
Why were these meetings adjourned, and why do children have to wait even
longer to have their needs addressed?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I was not aware that they had
adjourned the meetings. The Human Rights Commission is an independent body of
the government. I will have to take that question as notice. I have no knowledge
of the reasons for the postponement, but I will certainly be happy to find out.
Senator Munson: I thank the leader for that. I have a further
In her report, Auditor General Sheila Fraser outlined that the federal
funding of child protection services on reserves is inadequate and is also less
than what non-Aboriginal children receive.
In looking at it, it seems that there are two standards for children; one for
Aboriginal children and one for non-Aboriginal children. Will the leader comment
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, there is a significant amount
of money invested in the various issues pertaining to our Aboriginal community
and, as I mentioned, we are expending considerable sums of money in education,
training, adult training, housing, and safer communities with regard to health.
I happen to have been in Iqaluit this past summer and there was an extremely
aggressive house building program under way. I was there a year earlier and was
amazed at the progress made in one year.
Honourable senators, the problems faced by many in our Aboriginal communities
are complex and troublesome. The various actions of our government, from the
residential school apology through to the money we have expended on housing,
education and skills training, and health services, are all good and positive
steps in the right direction. However, no one would argue the fact that there is
significantly more that needs to be done.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, this question was submitted in
November 24 marked the twentieth anniversary of National Child Day; a day
that commemorates the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by
the United Nations General Assembly. Canada ratified that convention in December
Instead of improving the state of children's welfare in Canada since then, we
have hardly made a dent in eliminating child poverty in Canada, and that was
during times when both the Liberals and Conservatives have been in government.
Sadly, approximately 637,000 of the 3.4 million Canadians living in poverty
are children, with double-digit rates of child poverty in most provinces. The
creation of the Working Income Tax Benefit and the stabilization of the Canadian
Social Transfer and the Canadian Health Transfer have helped Canadian children
but, if we really want to make a dent in child poverty, experts continue to
point to the necessity of a substantial increase in the National Child Benefit.
Will the government commit to an incremental and predictable increase in the
National Child Benefit to reach the level of $5,000, which has been recommended
by many organizations, including the Caledon Institute?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Eggleton for his question
and for notice of it. I thank him also for acknowledging the positive impact on
low-income families of some of the programs of the government, including the
Working Income Tax Benefit, WITB as we call it; and the increased transfer to
As I have said recently in this place, our government has already taken
action through the Economic Action Plan to enhance both the National Child
Benefit Supplement and the Canada Child Tax Benefit. We have raised the level at
which the National Child Benefit Supplement for low-income families and the
Canada Child Tax Benefit are phased out, providing a benefit of up to $436 for a
family with two children. These new tax benefits came into effect, as we know,
on July 1, and I believe that we are making some positive steps.
The world economic downturn that we experienced last year has exacerbated the
problem, but the government's policies and programs are designed in such a way
as to assist those who are in need of most assistance, namely, low-income
Canadians, and particularly children.
Senator Eggleton: I thank the minister for that answer and for the
progress that has been made. However, I think we all agree that there is always
more that needs to be done. Hopefully, more can be done soon.
Currently, the federal government spends $13 billion on its three child
benefit programs. According to the Caledon Institute, a $5,000 National Child
Benefit Supplement would cost an estimated $17 billion, but subtracting $13
billion would mean a net additional cost of some $4 billion.
We also know that poverty costs us all — much more than the net difference of
$4 billion. Poverty expands health care costs, policing burdens, and it
diminishes educational outcomes. The negative impact on the public treasury is
enormous. This, in turn, depresses productivity, labour force flexibility and
social progress. For example, a study by TD Bank calculated the social cost of
poverty between $24 billion and $30 billion annually.
Is the government willing to develop a plan to eliminate child poverty in
Canada? We just need to reallocate some of the funds to do that.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, we have taken a number of steps
to help low-income families and children. I have absolutely no doubt that it is
the intention of the government to continue to do so. Through the Universal
Child Care Benefit, we are providing more than $2.4 billion each year to benefit
over 2 million children. Our tax cuts have meant that almost 1 million
low-income Canadians are no longer on the tax rolls, and we are providing an
extra five weeks of EI benefits, as I have said before, to help those Canadians
who, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs. Obviously, children
are affected by this. This measure alone helped 365,000 Canadians. These are all
actions that help families, and families include children.
Honourable senators, while there is a significant amount of work to do,
Statistics Canada reported in 2007 that Canada had its lowest rate of low-income
Canadians in 30 years. We have since experienced the world economic downturn
which has obviously bumped up those statistics, but that is the most recent
information that we have. This government and the previous one have taken steps
to produce better results, but all governments would obviously want to do
everything possible to do so.
With regard to the Caledon Institute, that is one think-tank that has a
specific view of how things should be done. There are many others who do not
share the views of the Caledon Institute. They are one body, and governments
should not rely solely on the views of one body like that. Having said that, the
government has taken and will continue to take action to ensure that the lowest
income families among us and the ones most in need are helped as much as humanly
possible by the government.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, my question is for
the Leader of the Government in the Senate and concerns violence against women
and, in particular, the fact that our country is a leading middle power in the
world. We now know that in various conflicts around the world, violence against
women and massive abuses of women's rights increasingly include the use of a new
weapon commonly known as rape.
Could the leader tell us what specific diplomatic and security measures
Canada is taking in the conflict in Congo to mitigate the massive abuses of
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): I thank Senator Dallaire for the question. Simply put, that is
why we have our Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. Our young men and women are
defending democracy and working in a country like Afghanistan to help reduce the
level of violence against women and children.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: He is talking about Congo.
Senator LeBreton: I will get to Congo.
With regard to the various conflicts zones in the world, as the honourable
senator knows, the Department of Foreign Affairs and CIDA, in particular, have
and are working diligently. This is not an easy question and it is not an easy
situation to deal with, as honourable senators well know. The government has and
will continue to participate in measures to mitigate the serious issue of
violence against women whether it is in the Congo, in Afghanistan, or in other
trouble spots in the world, including our own country.
Senator Dallaire: I am looking for more specific responses. Could the
minister provide for us information from those ministries in regard to the
diplomatic effort, the nation building effort, the security effort and the
development specifically with regard to the significant dimension of those
conflicts, which is continuing, namely, the massive abuse of women through the
use of rape?
In the same light, may I also ask the leader to look into the case of Darfur?
We were significantly involved in the previous government. In an interview, the
government of southern Darfur told us directly that Muslim men do not rape. Yet,
we know that rape is being committed in that conflict not only in the refugee
camps but also in the internally displaced camps.
What are we doing diplomatically and through security and development? Why
are we pulling out the 105 armoured vehicles that we deployed there in 2005 to
enhance the capabilities of the hybrid and complex UN mission?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I believe I have answered this
question before, but I will take the question as notice because the senator has
asked me to provide information regarding what various agencies and departments
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. Violence against Aboriginal women across the
country is an intolerable reality. This human rights crisis demands a better
response, as Senator Brazeau pointed out yesterday. I know that the federal
government is supporting the Sisters in Spirit initiative and trying to improve
band membership codes, but a new report released by Amnesty International talks
about the inadequacy of the measures the government has taken and how that is
preventing Aboriginal women in Canada from obtaining adequate protection against
Madam leader, is it not time the federal government came up with a national
action plan to put an end to the violation of Aboriginal women's human rights?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I have answered that question in this place
before. We have colleagues in this place on both sides who have raised this
serious issue, Senator Dyck and Senator Brazeau, being two.
The Sisters in Spirit project that the honourable senator identified is
working and the government is participating in that project. It is, as you know,
a five-year research and public awareness project aimed at understanding the
root causes of violence against Aboriginal women. As honourable senators know,
the Native Women's Association of Canada spearheaded the Sisters in Spirit
project and set about to raise the profile of this serious problem. They are to
be commended for their work in raising awareness of this serious issue.
The federal, provincial and territorial governments participated in the
National Aboriginal Women's Summits in 2007 and 2008, and our government
endorsed the Iqaluit Declaration of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Status of
Women Ministers on Aboriginal Women, which recognizes that sustained and
coordinated action is required by all levels of government to reduce the sexual
violence and violence against Aboriginal women. In many cases, violence against
Aboriginal women results in the actual disappearance of these women.
As I have mentioned before, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern
Development and Health Canada are working on this serious issue. A
federal-provincial-territorial working group of justice officials is working
with all levels of government. I will be happy to report to honourable senators
any progress that they make.
Senator Pépin: Honourable senators, I understand that several
departments are studying various reports and working with provincial
governments, but when will the Government of Canada have an action plan and when
will it act? It is all well and good to want to cooperate with other governments
and study reports, but the government has been at it for quite some time now.
When will it take action and come up with a real action plan?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the government is working with
all levels of government, not only to study the problem but also to take action.
Action has been taken, but there is much work to do. This is a serious issue
that affects all communities, but more particularly our Aboriginal communities.
This is not a new problem. All governments have faced this problem and I believe
that our government, like the governments before us, is doing everything
possible to create better economic conditions and better opportunities. All of
these things together will help mitigate the serious problem. We are working in
collaboration with police on societal issues to create a better atmosphere in
our Aboriginal communities.
This problem cannot be solved overnight. I believe, as I have stated in many
answers in this place, that the various programs put in place by the government
with regard to our Aboriginal communities, will cumulatively help families be
healthier and more respectful of each other. Our programs include better
education, job training, better health services, cleaner and safer living
environments and the outcome will be better conditions for women and children.
With regard to the actual acts of violence, all levels of government are
collaborating to end this problem. They continue to monitor and study the
problem, but that does not for one moment suggest that they are doing nothing
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, on a supplementary
question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, The Native Women's
Association of Canada, through their Sisters in Spirit project, has done a
simply amazing job of addressing the issue of violence against women. The
government has recognized the work that they have done, and I am thankful for
Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate update honourable senators
on the status of the application of the Native Women's Association of Canada for
renewal of the five-year term to continue the Sisters in Spirit project?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Dyck for the question. I am
well aware of the application by Sisters in Spirit. I do not believe there has
been a final decision, but I am hopeful a decision will be made soon. I will be
happy to provide honourable senators with the information as soon as I have it.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, the Standing Senate
Committee on Aboriginal Peoples last year adopted a report on comprehensive land
claims agreements. The committee's Recommendation No. 2 called for the
establishment of an independent commission, such as a modern treaty commission,
to oversee the implementation of comprehensive land claims agreements, including
The government's response, tabled in September of this year, did not address
our recommendation directly. Moreover, officials made it plain in a recent
meeting of the committee that there was no intention to create any kind of
independent body. Instead, the government has set up a forum, a kind of
internal, interdepartmental committee.
Will the government acknowledge that an internal committee is incapable of
providing the effective oversight and credibility that would come with an
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I will not acknowledge any such thing. At
present, several land claims matters in British Columbia are before the Minister
of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. These are complex issues that vary
from province to province and province to territory. The Minister of Indian
Affairs and Northern Development had made great progress dealing with our
We did table a response to the report of the Aboriginal Committee. The
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is doing an excellent job
and has established a good relationship with the various Aboriginal communities.
The government believes that this is the way to proceed in resolving some of
these land claims issues.
Senator Hubley: Honourable senators, on a supplementary question, our
committee report was a consensus document. Senator St. Germain moved adoption of
the report, and it was adopted by the Senate without a dissenting voice.
The response from the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to
Recommendation No. 2 boils down to this passage from his letter: "The
government agrees that we need effective ways to resolve disagreements." That
is exactly what our committee proposed. The minister's response is somewhat
tepid, to say the least. When will the government get serious about establishing
a credible, independent body to ensure equality for all Aboriginal people?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I thank the senator for
confirming in the minister's response exactly what I said in the answer to her
first question. The minister is working closely with the various Aboriginal
groups on the land claims issues. These are complicated matters. Some land
claims involve issues that do not affect others, and there is not one model that
will fit all the various land claims. I think the minister's response to the
report is as the senator just read into the record.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, my question is for
the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Although the Minister of Labour,
Rona Ambrose, under the pretext of economy recovery, appointed an arbitrator to
resolve the CN labour dispute within three days, the same minister stubbornly
refuses to press management at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the
Canadian War Museum to resolve the labour dispute that has been going on there
for nearly three months.
Would the minister not agree that our public funds are being wasted when
employees who are mandated by the government to preserve Canada's history and
heritage cannot carry out their duties and provide the services that the public
is entitled to receive? I am thinking of all the young Canadians from various
educational institutions who have not been able to take advantage of the school
programs normally offered by the two museums, because those programs were all
cancelled when the strike began.
Would the minister not agree that educating our young people is just as
important, economically speaking, as CN's transportation activities? Or, as we
have seen in the past, is the Conservative Party's policy to slash everything
dealing with arts and culture simply part of its economic action plan?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): The last part of the honourable senator's question is, as she
knows, flat-out false and does not deserve an acknowledgment, let alone an
As Minister Ambrose has made clear, with regard to the strike at the museums,
it has always been our hope that the parties will come to an agreement without
intervention, as we saw yesterday with the fortunate situation at CN Rail.
The mediator appointed by the minister has been working with the parties on
both sides since before the strike began. As I reported in answer to Senator
Lapointe, we continue to encourage both sides to find a resolution as soon as
As I also reported to Senator Lapointe, the minister stands ready to name an
arbitrator, but an arbitrator cannot be named unless both sides agree.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: The holiday season is just around the corner
and Parliament will be adjourning in two weeks. So that the 400 or so families
affected by this nearly three-month-old strike may enjoy Christmas like all
other Canadians, can the Conservative government show the same diligence that it
showed with the CN dispute in the transportation sector, and introduce a special
bill to end this dispute, given that we would be willing to support such a bill?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, as I said, the minister
continues to urge both sides to settle this dispute as quickly as possible. The
government is monitoring the situation carefully and, as I reported, an
arbitrator would be named by the minister if both sides agreed.
I believe that the mediator the minister appointed before the strike began is
working hard to come to that exact conclusion.
Leave having been given to revert to Presentation of Reports from Standing or
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present
the twelfth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science
and Technology which deals with Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of
(For text of report, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix,
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
when shall this report be taken into consideration?
(On motion of Senator Eggleton, report placed on the Orders of the Day for
consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Claude Carignan moved that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the
Criminal Code, be read for the second time.
He said: Honourable senators, I have the privilege of rising today to speak
to Bill C-36.
This bill will eliminate the faint hope clause, which allows murderers
sentenced to life imprisonment to apply for early parole. Bill C-36, the Serious
Time for the Most Serious Crime act, will amend the Criminal Code by eliminating
the faint hope clause when it comes into force. Equally important, it proposes
to tighten the eligibility to apply for early parole for murderers who have
already been sentenced and are entitled to apply or who will be entitled after
serving 15 years of their sentence.
Honourable senators, I am proud to sponsor this historic measure. Our
government is committed to getting tough on violent crime and making offenders
take responsibility for their actions. Bill C-36 is another example of that
Before examining the amendments proposed to the Criminal Code by Bill C-36 in
further detail, allow me to provide the legal, historical and social context
that led to these amendments, in order to better illustrate why they are
necessary and timely. Given that there is currently no one in prison for
committing high treason, I will only talk about murder. As many honourable
senators know, before 1976, anyone who committed capital murder, in other words,
a premeditated, deliberate murder, was sentenced to death. Any other murder was
a non-capital murder and the offender was sentenced to life imprisonment with
the possibility of parole after serving seven years of the life sentence.
However, capital punishment for capital murder could be commuted to life
imprisonment with the possibility of parole. In that case, 10 years of the
sentence had to be served before the National Parole Board could grant parole.
At the time, the average length of time spent in prison for capital murder was
15.8 years. In other words, those who committed capital murder and were granted
parole served less than 16 years of their sentence before being released from
After 1962, public opinion on capital punishment began to change and
successive governments, Conservative and Liberal alike, commuted all death
sentences. Finally, in 1976, Parliament repealed the death penalty and
reclassified murder as first degree or second degree murder. Under section 231
of the Criminal Code, first degree murder includes premeditated and deliberate
murder and contracted murder. In addition, murder is first degree murder when
the victim works in the administration of justice, such as a police officer, a
prison guard or warden, or if the death is caused by a person who commits or
tries to commit certain serious offences such as hijacking an aircraft,
kidnapping and forcible confinement, and aggravated sexual assault. All murder
that is not first degree murder is second degree murder.
Murder is a serious crime and the punishment for murder is just as serious:
life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after a parole ineligibility
period determined under section 745 of the Criminal Code. This period is 25
years for first degree murder and for second degree murder, when the murderer
has already been found guilty of first or second degree murder or intentional
killing under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. The ineligibility
period for second degree murder is 10 years.
However, the sentencing judge always has the power under section 745.34 of
the Criminal Code to set a longer period of ineligibility — to a maximum of 25
years — given the character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the
circumstances surrounding the crime, as well as any other recommendations made
by the jury.
As Robert Pickton's trial in British Columbia has shown, judges exercise that
power. I remind honourable senators that Pickton was found guilty by the jury of
six counts of second degree murder. The judge extended Pickton's parole
ineligibility to the current maximum of 25 years.
As honourable senators can imagine, and some may remember, the debate on the
death penalty in 1976 was heated, and the longer, 25-year parole ineligibility
period was adopted as a compromise in exchange for abolishing the death penalty.
At the time, the so-called faint hope system was designed to counterbalance
the new parole ineligibility periods for first and second degree murder that
were longer than the average time spent in prison for murder in Canada and in
some other western democracies.
The primary goal was to offer some hope in the exceptional circumstance that
an offender has shown a significant ability to rehabilitate and has demonstrated
good behaviour in prison.
The faint hope system was designed to recognize that in some cases, it is
perhaps not in the public's best interest to continue to imprison some
offenders, such as elderly, disabled or seriously ill prisoners.
Although few offenders have used the faint hope system over the years — there
have been a total of 265 requests since 1976 — and even fewer have had their
parole ineligibility period reduced, these provisions are still very
controversial to the Canadian public.
Canadian police associations and victims' rights organizations have voiced
opposition to the faint hope clause every time a particularly notorious
murderer, who has very little chance of getting parole or early parole, submits
Of course, I am thinking of people like Clifford Olson, who take advantage of
every available legal avenue to advance their cause.
Even if the applicant is as notorious and unworthy as Olson, the outcome of
the application and the subsequent hearing is the same for the victim's family
and friends. They are once again forced to listen to the horrible details of the
crimes that resulted in their loss.
All too often, honourable senators, the stress resulting from these
applications and the uncertainty about whether and when an offender will apply
traumatise family members and friends to the point that they themselves become
They are victims of a process that many believe to be the source of social
ills greater than the intended preventive aspect.
As such, the overall justification for Bill C-36 is clear: by removing the
faint hope clause for future murderers and by making the early parole
eligibility application process stricter for those who are entitled to apply,
murder victims' family and friends will be better protected from the risk of
becoming secondary victims of crimes for which the original offender was
rightfully convicted and punished.
In addition, the measures proposed in Bill C-36 would more effectively
protect Canadian society by keeping murderers locked up for longer periods of
In this respect, I cannot help but comment on what opposition members have
said about the rate of recidivism for those who have been granted early parole.
They emphasized the fact that, of the 265 applications, eligibility periods were
reduced in only 140 cases and only 127 applicants were granted parole.
Of the 127 applicants who were paroled, only four were convicted of new
offences, and none committed another murder. Based on these numbers, they are
accusing our government of being short-sighted and abandoning rehabilitation in
favour of punishment.
Nothing could be further from the truth, because nothing in Bill C-36 affects
a convicted murderer's right to rehabilitate himself and apply for parole once
he has served the parole ineligibility period that was imposed when his sentence
was handed down.
We should remember, honourable senators, that we are also talking about truth
in sentencing. To give convicted murderers a chance, however slim, to be paroled
before they have served the parole ineligibility period imposed during
sentencing is inconsistent with truth in sentencing.
Truth in sentencing requires nothing less than this: individuals who are
sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for a specified period
should spend that entire period in prison.
Before I go on, honourable senators, allow me to comment on another criticism
the members of the opposition have levelled at this bill. As for recidivism,
they are accusing this bill of taking away the right of the jury, made up of 12
people from the place where the murder occurred, to decide whether the applicant
deserves a reduction of his parole ineligibility period.
Some have implied that Bill C-36 is an affront to the jury's role in our
justice system. Honourable senators, these comments do not jibe with the nature
of the amendments in this bill.
Instead of denying the crucial role the jury plays in Canada's justice
system, Bill C-36 enhances that role by ensuring that the decision of the jury
that convicted the offender will be respected and carried out.
In reaching its decision, the jury has heard all the facts about the crime
and has had an opportunity to assess the offender's character and consider all
the circumstances around the crime. The jury knows the crime, the offender and
the victim, and its decision must be respected. That is what Bill C-36 proposes.
I said previously that Bill C-36 would eliminate the faint hope system in
future and tighten the current procedure for applying for early parole.
Allow me to describe how the measures proposed in this bill would achieve
First, these measures would prohibit any person convicted of murder or high
treason from applying for parole under the faint hope system. Therefore, anyone
who commits one of these offences on or after the date on which these amendments
come into force will not be able to apply for eligibility for early parole.
In short, for anyone who commits murder or high treason in the future, the
faint hope clause will be repealed entirely.
As many honourable senators know, there are currently nearly 1,000 offenders
serving life sentences in Canadian prisons who are eligible to apply for early
parole, or will be eligible in the next few years.
There are also a number of recently convicted murderers, as well as other
people charged with murder who have not yet been convicted.
Bill C-36 will not affect their right to apply for parole once they are
eligible to do so. However, Bill C-36 proposes tightening up the process in
order to screen out the most undeserving applications. Furthermore, it will
impose new time restrictions to limit the number of times an offender can apply
for early parole, once he has served 15 years of his sentence.
I would like to describe the new procedures in greater detail.
Under current legislation, an offender can apply for parole any time after
serving 15 years of his sentence. This of course raises concerns for the
victims' families and loved ones, who do not know if or when the offender will
apply for parole and make them relive the trauma of their loss all over again.
Bill C-36 proposes changes to the current procedure that would force
applicants to submit their application within three months of the date on which
they have served their 15 years. If they do not do so within those 90 days, they
will have to wait another five years before they can submit a new application.
At present, the faint hope clause has three steps. Bill C-36 would make changes
to two of those three steps.
First, the applicant must actually convince a superior court judge that there
is a real likelihood that the application will succeed before he can move on to
the second stage. According to the courts, this criterion is not stringent
enough. In order to exclude applications that do not at all deserve to be
considered for the next stage, Bill C-36 imposes a more rigorous selection
criterion. A judge must be convinced that there is a substantial likelihood that
the application will succeed.
If the applicant is turned down at the first stage, he can submit a new
application two years later unless the judge sets a longer period. Bill C-36
would impose a waiting period of five years rather than two. In this way, an
offender who is eligible for parole only after 25 years, for example, would only
be able to apply twice after serving 15 years of his sentence and then once
more, five years later.
The change from two to five years would reduce the uncertainty for the
friends and families of victims with respect to the hearing under the faint hope
At the second stage of the process, the applicant must convince a jury
consisting of 12 citizens to unanimously decide to reduce the period of parole
ineligibility. If the jury refuses, another application can be submitted after
two years or after a longer period set by the jury.
Bill C-36 would impose a longer waiting period, five years rather than two.
If the jury decides to reduce the period of ineligibility, as was the case in
140 applications to date, it can set a new shorter period of imprisonment. Upon
expiry of this new period, the applicant can move on to the third stage and
submit a formal application for parole to the National Parole Board.
As I mentioned, Bill C-36 does not propose any changes to the current
procedure for submitting an application to the National Parole Board. However, I
would like to remind honourable senators that parole for a murderer is not
automatic and that it cannot be approved unless the applicant is able to
convince the board that he is unlikely to represent a threat to public safety.
Furthermore, inmates on parole remain sentenced to life imprisonment and if
they breach any condition of their parole, they are sent back to prison.
Since the National Defence Act incorporates by reference the faint hope
system under the Criminal Code, all these changes would apply to members of the
Canadian Forces convicted under this legislation.
Honourable senators, before concluding, allow me to take this opportunity to
review the controversy surrounding the faint hope system that resulted in this
bill's proposed amendments to the Criminal Code.
From the beginning, certain individuals in Canadian society have not stopped
expressing their concern over the existence of a process that allows those who
are convicted of the most serious crimes to spend less time in prison than they
were sentenced to.
Many concerned Canadians continue to wonder how access to early parole is
consistent with the fundamental principles of sentencing, namely to denounce
unlawful conduct or to deter offenders from committing other offences.
Honourable senators, public confidence in the integrity of Canada's justice
system is undermined when those who are convicted of the most serious crime
imaginable can easily obtain eligibility for early parole.
A justice system is only effective if it is both fair and balanced and the
public has confidence in it. The approach in Bill C-36 will help boost public
confidence in our justice system.
As it promised, the government has weighed the problems caused by the faint
hope system. Bill C-36 deserves the support of all honourable senators on behalf
of the victims and their families and loved ones, and Canadians in general.
Leave having been given to revert to Other Business, Other, Motion No. 73:
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eggleton, P.C.,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Ringuette:
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be authorized to
examine the state of the pension system in Canada in view of evidence that
approximately five million Canadians may not have enough savings for
In particular, the Committee shall be authorized to examine:
(a) Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement;
(b) Canada Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan;
(c) Private Savings — includes employer-sponsored pension plans,
Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), and other investments and
That the study be national in scope, and include proposed solutions, with
an emphasis on collaborative strategies involving federal and provincial
That the committee submit its final report no later than November 30, 2009,
and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings
until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise and
make a few brief remarks on the motion of Senator Eggleton, which proposes to
give the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance the power to study the
state of the pension system in Canada. The motion will authorize the committee
to look at and examine:
(a) Old Age Security/Guaranteed Income Supplement;
(b) Canada Pension Plan/Quebec Pension Plan;
(c) Private Savings — includes employer-sponsored pension plans,
Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), and other investments and
Before I discuss the motion itself, I remind honourable senators of this
government's initiative to help seniors and pensioners in Canada. Let me begin
by stating the obvious facts, of which I am sure all senators are aware, in that
Canada is facing the challenge of dealing with an aging population. As the
so-called baby boomers retire, their retirement will have implications on
everything, from the size of the labour force to the provisions of health care
to Canadians. By the year 2041, it is estimated that one in four Canadians will
be above the age of 65.
Honourable senators, two extensive consultations and initiatives were
initiated by this government, one by the highly respected Jack Mintz and the
other by Ted Menzies, member of Parliament, both of whom have traveled across
the country consulting Canadians extensively. Canada is well ahead of the game
in meeting the challenges we face with our aging population. In 2001, the Chief
Actuary of Canada confirmed the future sustainability of our public pension
system and the Canada Pension Plan.
Unquestionably, the recent global economic crisis has negatively impacted
Canada's private and public pension systems, but surely the good recovery Canada
has experienced will mitigate much of this impact. This situation needs to be
thoroughly investigated by the committee.
In addition, the government has improved the pension income tax credit,
doubling it from $1,000 to $2,000. This measure has helped 2.7 million seniors,
and 85,000 people no longer have to pay taxes. It also increased the age credit
by $1,000, raising it from $4,066 to $5,066, and offering hundreds of dollars in
additional tax cuts to low-income seniors.
Furthermore, the government has ensured that seniors will not be penalized if
they continue to work, and raised the age when seniors are required to roll
their RRSPs into RRIFs from 69 to 71. Lastly, it put money back into the pockets
of seniors who want to stay in the labour market, making the income exemption
for the Guaranteed Income Supplement seven times higher, raising it from $500 to
In addition to these many measures, the government took the extraordinary
step of creating the tax-free savings account. This is the most important
savings tool since the creation of the RRSP, and I hope that the committee will
examine how this new tool will affect pensions and income security for Canadians
in the future.
Honourable senators, I agree with Senator Eggleton; this is an important
issue that the Senate is well qualified to study. I do not agree, however — and
Senator Eggleton knows this — that the Standing Senate Committee on National
Finance is the appropriate committee for this study. The Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has a specific mandate to
deal with pension issues, and I refer you to the Rules of the Senate on
page 86, which specifically gives the committee this mandate. As well, the
November 30, 2009, reporting date requested in the motion needs to be extended.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Therefore, honourable senators, I move:
That the motion be not now adopted, but that it be amended:
(a) by replacing the words "National Finance" with the words "Social Affairs, Science and Technology"; and
(b) by replacing the words "November 30, 2009" with the words "June 30, 2010".
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there debate on the
motion in amendment?
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I appreciate the support
Senator Di Nino has given this study. He points out a number of measures that
the government has taken. Governments, past and present, have taken a number of
measures in this regard, but it is a different world in terms of pensions. We
have found out in the course of this economic crisis that many people will not
have decent pension plans when they retire. It is not a problem that is brought
about only by the recession; much of the attention to the problem has been given
in the recession, but there is a great lack of savings on the part of Canadians
to be able to provide for their retirement.
I have spoken previously on the basics of the issue, so I will not go into
those basics again. I will speak to the amendment that Senator Di Nino has now
An argument can be made for either committee to take over the study, either
the Social Affairs Committee or the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee, in
fact, in dealing with Bill C-51, has pension matters before the committee right
now, and it is had pension matters before it many times in the past. The
Department of Finance's primary place of reporting in the Senate is the Finance
Committee, as well as the Banking Committee I am sure. However, the Department
of Finance is the one most seized with the issues, certainly in Canada,
involving pension plans and old age security arrangements.
In addition, I have discussed the matter with the chair of the Finance
Committee, Senator Day, who feels the study is appropriate for his committee.
Further, there have been occasions where we have dealt with preliminary
examination of the current issues relevant to pensions. For example, we had the
Nortel employees association not long ago and other people who also advocated in
terms of pension improvements and possible ways of improving pensions, either on
a voluntary basis or involved with the government as a supplementary plan to the
Canada Pension Plan.
I think the choice of committee is arguable either way, but let me also point
out to Senator Di Nino that the Senate has given a number of obligations to the
Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology and the
committee's plate is full. That is not to say that the Finance Committee does
not have work before it; of course it does. In terms of any major policy
development study, the Social Affairs Committee has the city study previously
authorized by the Senate, the post-secondary education study previously
authorized by the Senate, and the motion on the Order Paper here from Senator
Eaton to conduct a study on Canadian identity. Senator Eaton knows full well
that it will have to wait, if it is adopted by the Senate, before it can be
scheduled. Adding another study on top of that into the Social Affairs Committee
will not work.
That is the agenda as determined by the Senate. Of course, in addition to
that we have the regular pieces of legislation that come our way, as does the
Finance Committee. The Finance Committee, to my knowledge, does not have one of
these extra studies on policy development issues at this time. It does have a
heavy workload, as most committees do. However, on that basis I think it should
be the Finance Committee, and the chair of that committee, Senator Day, agrees.
I would ask that this chamber do not adopt the amendment, but allow for the
motion which, both Senator Di Nino and I would agree, is an important issue and
that it should now go ahead. This motion had been on the Order Paper since the
spring. It is an issue that will not go away. It is one of the biggest issues
that face this country at this time.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to speak on this
question of privilege. I gave the required written notice to the Clerk of the
Senate earlier this morning and, earlier this afternoon, I gave oral notice
Honourable senators, I contend that Mr. Benjamin Perrin, law professor at the
University of British Columbia, has breached my privilege as a senator and has
also breached the privileges of the Senate as a whole.
He has reflected on the Senate in his press release entitled "Human
Trafficking Charges on International Day for the Abolition of Slavery." This
press release was about Ms. Joy Smith's Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal
Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the
age of eighteen years).
I would take it as a given, honourable senators, that every one of us is
opposed to bad things happening to children and that we need not discuss who may
be for and who may be against. That is a given. We are also authorized — if not
ordered — under the doctrine of parens patriae to uphold and protect
children at all times. I put that out as a given of what I would consider to be
Honourable senators, before I continue, let us remember at all times that
there is something in offences, especially sexual offences, involving children,
which shocks and offends us all and is naturally abhorrent to us.
In any event, I ask His Honour, The Speaker, to make a prima facie ruling on
the facts and also on the law of Parliament, or the lex parliamenti, as
received into Canada by the British North America Act of 1867, section 18.
Section 18 receives the powers, privileges and immunities of the ancient
Parliament of the United Kingdom. These powers and privileges were born by the
supreme sacrifice and efforts of many great members of the British Parliament.
These privileges came at a great cost. They exist not to serve us personally,
but to serve the public good.
Honourable senators, if Senator Kinsella were to find a prima facie case, I
shall be prepared to move the relevant motion.
All of this arises in respect of a bill sponsored by Ms. Joy Smith. Just to
recount the facts for honourable senators, if you were to look at today's Order
Paper, you will see that I am holding the adjournment in my name, and it is
Order No. 1, at page 8. Today is day nine. This is quite healthy and there is
nothing wrong with that at all.
Honourable senators, I must inform the house that I had a meeting with Ms.
Smith, who is the MP for Kildonan—St. Paul, on October 27, 2009. At that time I
indicated to her that I wished to speak to the bill and that I was doing some
very serious research. I will be honest, honourable senators. I have been
reviewing Blackstone and Sir Matthew Hale and others on the whole set of
principles of punishment and sentencing.
I informed her of this. I also informed her it was my intention to support
the bill at second reading. She understands that. I also informed her that it
was my intention to do my research and then to speak.
Subsequent to that meeting, my office has received several telephone calls
suggesting that I have stalled the bill — that was their language — even
pressuring my staff about my intentions regarding this bill. I do not understand
if, how or why any doubts may have arisen about my intentions regarding this
bill, but what I do know is that on the record here my intention has been pretty
clear all along. I have been working on it and I do plan to speak on this bill
I would also like to say about this question of privilege that I have no
knowledge of any involvement of Ms. Smith in the production of Mr. Perrin's
press release. She sent me a copy and I would just like to clear her name on
this so that we can understand the nature of my complaint with some clarity.
I remind honourable senators again that when I moved the original motion of
adjournment, I yielded the floor to Senator Dyck, at her request, so she could
have that second spot and the 45 minutes allocated to that spot. Senator Dyck
was persuasive; she wanted to put on the record several important points
concerning native peoples. Senator Dyck knows that I honoured her in that, just
as I have honoured Ms. Smith.
I have also made it clear that if any senator wishes to speak to Bill C-268,
I am willing to yield the floor at a moment's notice.
Honourable senators, I should like to read from Mr. Benjamin Perrin's press
release of December 2. I remember thinking this is the very law professor at the
University of British Columbia who, in the debates in the House of Commons on
the bill, it is made quite clear, played a very important role in the
development of this bill. As I said in my notice, there is a pride of authorship
here, honourable senators. I do not know the full extent, but I do know that he
was fully involved.
I want to read the press release. If I could table it, that would spare me
having to read the whole thing.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
is it agreed that the press release be tabled?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Cools: That way I can read only the relevant portions.
It is entitled, "Human Trafficking Charges on International Day for the
Abolition of Slavery."
Honourable senators must understand this press release jolted me in very deep
and primeval ways that perhaps I cannot express. I would hope some people have
the imagination to understand why.
It says "for immediate release" and is dated yesterday, December 2, 2009. I
shall read the first paragraph, skip some and then go into the sections that
speak about me. I quote:
Vancouver — Today, two separate human trafficking cases were announced by
the Calgary Police Service — the first such charges to be laid in the city
since the 2005 offence became law. They are poignant reminders that modern-day
slavery exists in Canada on the very day that the world is commemorating the
International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.
It goes on to speak about the Calgary Police Service and the need for
prosecutors to pay full attention, et cetera. Then it describes the first case
announced by the police, and on and on. Then there is another headline:
"Tougher Laws against Child Trafficking Needed."
In September, the House of Commons approved Bill C-268, which would enact
tougher penalties for child traffickers with a five-year minimum term of
imprisonment. Inadequate sentences in both Ontario and Quebec in 2008 spurred
calls for action. In one case, a convicted child trafficker spent just a week
in prison upon conviction after receiving 2-for-1 credit for a year of
Honourable senators, tons of other things are offensive about this release
that do not necessarily offend our privileges. Then Mr. Perrin goes on:
Unfortunately, Bill C-268 is currently stalled in the Senate because
independent Senator Anne Cools has unilaterally adjourned debate on it.
I will read that again.
Unfortunately, Bill C-268 is currently stalled in the Senate because
independent Senator Anne Cools has unilaterally adjourned debate on it.
I do not think the man understands what it means to move an adjournment. For
the sake of enlightening this appalling ignorance, perhaps I should put on the
record that an adjournment is not and cannot be a unilateral action. An
adjournment is a conclusion, a decision of the house that is reached on the
strength of a vote. Therefore it cannot be a unilateral action. Unilateral is
not even the right word.
The press release continues:
"Senator Anne Cools is stalling critical legislation that was approved
overwhelmingly by the House of Commons to ensure that child traffickers are
held accountable and victims are protected," said Professor Perrin. "As a
result of her inaction, alleged child traffickers in a Calgary case announced
today will benefit from lax sentences that the current law permits. The Senate
must take action."
I want to read this again, colleagues, because I want other people to
understand why I find this release so repugnant.
This is Anne Cools speaking. I have spent my life working for people, healing
broken families. I began my career as a youth worker, intervening to keep young
juvenile delinquents from being detained. While we are at it, the slavery
analogy does not make me feel too warm.
I shall repeat:
"Senator Anne Cools is stalling critical legislation that was approved
overwhelmingly by the House of Commons to ensure that child traffickers are
held accountable and victims are protected," said Professor Perrin. "As a
result of her inaction, alleged child traffickers in a Calgary case announced
today will benefit from lax sentences that the current law permits. The Senate
must take action."
Honourable senators, it continues and you can read it for yourselves.
Let us understand carefully that this particular press release has struck a
very deep note with me. To continue with some of the facts, because I was here
in the house yesterday, I received this press release at 2:27 p.m. yesterday. I
was here in the house. The Senate adjourned at 3:10 p.m. Therefore I learned of
this press release only when I returned to my office. Barely an hour later, I
received another email copy of Mr. Perrin's press release from Joy Smith at 4:03
p.m. I have made no attempts to find out if she had any role in the production
of this distasteful document and I intend to make none.
Having read from this insensitive and distasteful statement, which questions
not only my right to speak but also the validity of the entire second reading
and, as a matter of fact, of the validity of the entire Senate proceeding
itself, including the Senate votes when I adjourned the debate, I must tell
honourable senators there is a clear breach of privileges here.
Honourable senators, I shall try to outline some of these breaches. I want to
impress upon senators that I understand very well that a disagreement or an
unpleasant statement or even offensive statements are not breaches of privilege,
so I understand the difference and so I shall continue.
Mr. Perrin has unjustifiably reflected on me and my right to speak in
accordance with the rules of debate, as has been verified and supported by the
other members of this house. I view this document as an act of pressure and
intimidation. Mr. Perrin is insisting that the Senate pass a bill with what Sir
Wilfrid Laurier once called indecent haste — indecent haste.
Mr. Perrin has said that accused child traffickers in Calgary will benefit as
a result of my actions in the Senate. Mr. Perrin does not seem to comprehend
that the Criminal Code is a mighty instrument and that the entire law
enforcement system has many tools at its disposal. If this bill were such an
important one, then why was it not moved through these houses by a minister
under the strength of ministerial responsibility? Are we in another one of those
cases where one, it either moved ahead under the opposition of the minister,
which means he should resign if that happened, or two, it is moving ahead
silently, quietly, with the minister supporting it furtively, that is equally
wrong, because the notion of ministerial responsibility must prevail.
What Mr. Perrin has said about these child traffickers benefit from me is not
only untrue, but it is outrageous and scandalous and not becoming to any one of
Her Majesty's officers of the court. We always forget that every lawyer is an
individual minister of justice. Each one is an officer of the court.
These press release statements are calculated to cause, to lead and to incite
others to heap scorn and contempt upon me. I have received countless letters and
I was informed a few minutes ago that there was a statement on a radio program,
I think in Regina, Saskatchewan somewhere. Mr. Perrin's press release is an
obvious exercise in behaviour modification intended, frankly, to modify my
Honourable senators, I know a lot about the human psyche, and I know what an
artful dodger the human psyche can be. All this is intended to alter my actions
here on the floor of this house; in short, correcting my behaviour, my actions
here in the Senate to be in line with something he would prefer, or something he
wants. Maybe we should have an opportunity to ask him.
Honourable senators, this release is a breach of the highest privilege of
free speech. It is a reflection on me and on the Senate. It is a breach of
article 9 of the Bill of Rights of 1689, all of which was received into Canada
by the BNA Act of 1867. However, I will put this on the record for you. The Bill
of Rights, article 9 states:
That the Freedom of Speech, and Debates or Proceedings in Parliament, ought
not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament.
Those are powerful words. It may be that Mr. Perrin is just a person who has
an overactive vanity, or a bad day; who knows. We do not know, but I am saying
his action is wrong.
Honourable senators, senators are supposed to be able to act and speak in
this place without intimidation and without reprisal from others. Healthy
criticism and healthy disagreement are welcome and desirable, but Mr. Perrin's
statements are neither of these things.
This is an attempt to poison my reputation by creating an illusion that,
somehow, I am supporting crimes, or would support crimes, or I am capable of
supporting crimes that are naturally abhorrent and repugnant to most of us. This
seems to be the new thing these days — that is, to point a finger at the other
person who disagrees, or questions. If he disagrees with you on something like
the Anti-terrorism Act, to suggest that maybe he supports terrorism himself. It
is that sort of thing. It is both mischievous and menacing.
I wish to share with honourable senators the natural repugnance and the deep
disturbance that we experience when we hear of sexual crimes against children.
As a social worker, I have seen and worked with the most horrendous cases that
anyone could ever imagine. Mr. Perrin is trying to massage that natural
repugnance and then to tar me with it. It is truly distasteful and it should be
condemned as such.
Honourable senators, Mr. Perrin seems to be saying that the House of Commons'
word is word enough and that the Senate should adopt Bill C-268 without much ado
and with no debate. That is to say, less is good; none is even better. This is
another breach of the Senate's privilege of independence because the Senate is
the house of sober second thought for study and deliberation in review of the
decisions of the House of Commons. This is a separate and sovereign house, and
we ought to remind others about that fact every now and again.
Honourable senators, it is my bounden and imperative duty to study the
questions that are put before me and it is my intention to continue to do so and
to continue to honour and uphold my oath of allegiance to serve and to think and
to yield and to give the best that I have to offer. The Mr. Perrins in the world
will never alter my mind on any of that. It is an unfortunate thing that he used
the example of slavery, because he would have to know in my life what names like
William Wilberforce meant to me. Mr. Perrin had better know that he struck a
deep, primeval place in me. I do not talk about that very much, but one of these
days, I shall.
Honourable senators, there is another breach by Mr. Perrin. I would call it
the privilege of representation.
One of the reasons, honourable senators, I am trying to articulate these
breaches is that normally we rise and say that there is a breach of privilege
and then I believe we must show which one in particular. Most researchers on
privilege run to Hallsbury's Laws of Canada. The most important examples
are not listed there, however. I am talking about the one called representation.
That is the reason we are all here, namely, to represent others, the public, in
Parliament. Senators are representatives, just as members of the House of
Commons are representatives. We have a duty to represent people here, Canadians
here, and it is my intention on this bill to represent everyone touched by these
measures contained in Bill C-268.
Let me list some of them for us. Some are the accused; some are the victims
and the victims' families, prosecutors and defence counsel. I wish to add that I
will also be defending the interests of judges at a time when ideologues are
attempting to shape and direct judges' conclusions and findings. No public good
can be served by ministers invading the ken of judges. I will not dwell on that,
honourable senators, because that is the substance of the bill. However, I shall
deal with that later on and I shall raise it when I speak to Bill C-268 next
week, as planned.
Honourable senators, it is my bounden duty to measure every proposal here
against the well-established principles of this system of governance.
I think I have said enough on slavery, but Mr. Perrin has exceeded what I
would consider to be reasonable boundaries of criticism and social comment.
Senator Murray will remember when we said goodbye to Senator MacEachen. His
supporters had a lovely conference for him at St. Francis Xavier University. I
was there, as was Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Pelletier and Senator Jacques Hébert; it was
the last time I saw them together. I was taken by the motto of St. Francis
Xavier University. The place was teeming with marvellous Roman Catholic
academics. Senator Kinsella has had that kind of rigorous intellectual training.
Honourable senators, I would like to quote from the New Testament, book of Philippians,
chapter 4, verse 8, the
motto of St. Francis Xavier, which states:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are
honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever
things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any
virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Honourable senators, I thank you very much for your patient attention.
Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, when my colleague brought this
issue to my attention, I had a chance to look at the press release. Frankly, I
would like to join her in requesting that His Honour look into this matter and
make a decision as to whether it should go to the Rules Committee in order to
look at it more closely or render a decision on behalf of the Senate and
communicate the correct facts to the individual.
Quite correctly, Senator Cools cannot adjourn without the approval of the
Senate. Therefore, the statement indicating that she unilaterally adjourned the
debate is not accurate. Furthermore, as we all know, the Rules of the Senate
state that each senator has the ability to go up to 15 working days by
putting in a motion to adjourn so that the senator can prepare to speak.
Therefore, Senator Cools is within her own right in asking to adjourn so that
she can prepare.
The Honourable Senator Cools is not stalling. If she is stalling, then the
Senate agreed to her adjournment. Therefore, the Senate is stalling. We have a
responsibility to stand up and correct the record.
Furthermore, there is the honourable senator's inaction. In fact, she acted.
That was not inaction; it was an action on her part in order to participate in
an important debate, as was stated and as the other place debated this issue. I
am not second-guessing Mr. Benjamin Perrin; I am indicating to honourable
senators that it is important not to let this issue go without a challenge of
the facts, simply put, under rule 43 (1)(a)(b)(c) and (d). Moreover, under rule
45, the message was not a private, direct communication to the senator, but it
was transmitted throughout the media, creating a false impression of what really
happened here in the Senate. It was not a true reflection of what happened.
I would like to join with the honourable senator in appealing to His Honour
to use his good offices to communicate either directly or through a committee in
terms of the facts.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, I think it is important to
look at the history of Bill C-268 since its arrival in this place. It arrived in
the Senate on October 1. Senator Martin did not speak as a mover until October
22, some three weeks later. Was Senator Martin stalling? Of course not.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): There was a break for Thanksgiving during that period.
Senator Carstairs: Senator Martin had every right to take her time to
prepare her remarks. As a private member's bill, there are no speeches prepared
by departmental officials, as is the case with government legislation. It takes
time to prepare. The bill was adjourned on October 22 and spoken to by Senator
Dyck on November 3. Was Senator Dyck stalling? Of course not.
Senator Dyck gave an impassioned speech on this particular bill, which was
extremely thoughtful and raised some serious questions with respect to the
original bill and its potential need for improvements. That day, the bill was
adjourned by Senator Banks, in the name of Senator Cools.
Honourable senators, this bill, according to our Order Paper, is on the ninth
day. This is quite a normal process, I would suggest, in private members'
legislation. I would invite honourable senators to pick up today's Order Paper.
It is riddled with bills that have waited for 11 or 12 days. Some of them, in
fact, have waited 15 days and the clock has been rewound for the second edition
of those 15 days. No one has issued press releases accusing the members of
While the press release was issued by Professor Perrin from the University of
British Columbia, a copy of this press release was quickly sent to Senator
Cools' office by the sponsor of this bill, Member of Parliament Joy Smith.
Honourable senators, article number 75 in Beauchesne's Rules & Forms
. . . freedom of speech is . . . the most fundamental right of the Member
of Parliament. . . .
I would suggest, honourable senators, that this must be interpreted as the
right to speak after sufficient time has passed to allow one to participate
intelligently in the debate.
Article 93 in Beauchesne's states:
It is generally accepted that any threat, or attempt to influence the vote
of, or actions of a Member, is breach of privilege.
I would suggest, honourable senators, that this unwarranted attack on Senator
Cools as stalling the bill is an attempt to influence her actions, which might
result in her speaking before she is ready, were she the least bit conducive to
being persuaded in this way. I think we all know the strength of her character
and that this will not in any way determine that she should speak before that.
Article 99 in Beauchesne's states:
Direct threats which attempt to influence Members' actions . . . are
undoubtedly breaches of privilege.
I believe the press release issued by Professor Perrin and sent to Senator
Cools, by both the professor and the Member of Parliament Joy Smith, should be
examined in light of Beauchesne's articles 75, 93 and 99, and that there
has been an attempt to influence Senator Cools in terms of her actions and that
her privileges have been breached.
Both are entitled to hold views about her actions. That is clear. They are
entitled to hold views about her actions. They do not, I would suggest,
honourable senators, have the right to attempt to influence her by attempting to
limit her freedom of speech.
I urge His Honour to take this matter under advisement. Your Honour, this is
not a question of whether we support or do not support this particular piece of
legislation. This piece of legislation is worthy of consideration. Suggestions
made by Senator Dyck make it even more worthy of consideration. However, in that
consideration, we have a right as senators, and we have a right as a Senate, to
take our time, to deliberate carefully, to write our speeches, and to make
I find it a little difficult when I hear the interjections on the other side
and see some of the smiles and some of the concerns that perhaps we are going
too far on this issue. Senator Cools comes from a history in which, clearly, the
whole concept of slavery is repugnant to her. I would hope it is repugnant to
all of us. She, as with Senator Oliver, has a particular relationship.
Honourable senators, nothing offends me more than the trafficking of
children. Nothing. This bill is of great concern to me. I was sexually assaulted
as a child. I know what it is like from personal experience. This is no attempt
on my part to delay this bill in any way, shape or form. However, I will protect
the privileges of every member of this house, and that is what I am doing in my
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I rise to support Senator
Cools in her motion for a breach of privilege. I would confirm the fact that
after Senator Martin, the sponsor of the bill, rose to speak, Senator Cools got
up and adjourned the debate, and then she yielded the floor to me so I could be
the critic for the bill. She was definitely trying her best to have the bill go
forward within the chamber.
I, too, received a copy of the press release from Mr. Perrin. I have to say
that I was shocked that it came out on the International Day for the Abolition
of Slavery. Does Mr. Perrin not know that Senator Cools is a Black woman? He is
trying to restrict her freedom of speech and research to do her job as a Black
woman in this chamber. To me, that was incredibly appalling. He does not know
who she is and the incredible work she has done.
I do not believe other honourable senators have made the case that she is
stalling. She has 15 days in which to prepare her materials and do adequate
research. It is an important bill, and one cannot just get up and do a sloppy
job. She is a very intelligent woman. She is doing her research, and I look
forward to hearing what she has to say.
I will close by saying the bill spent five months in the House of Commons.
Were they stalling? Many Members of Parliament got up to speak to the bill
because it is an important issue.
I will close by quoting from our writ, which Senator Cools herself reminded
us of. It says:
KNOW YOU, that as well for the especial trust and confidence We have
manifested in you, as for the purpose of obtaining your advice and assistance
in all weighty and arduous affairs . . .
This bill is a weighty and arduous affair to which we must devote all our
attention, time and resources to do the job that we have been summoned here to
do. I congratulate Senator Cools, because I know she has done her job well as a
senator in the past and I know she will continue to do so in the future. I urge
His Honour to make a decision as quickly as possible.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, a while ago in this chamber,
when I raised a question of privilege, Senator Cools stood up and made what I
thought at the time — and in retrospect, even more — a profoundly wise
statement. She said basically, "I do not know if this is actually a question of
privilege, but something has gone very wrong in this case." At a minimum, it
seems to me that that is an absolutely appropriate comment to make about the
case that she has brought to our attention today, and I thank her for doing it.
I do not know if His Honour will find that a prima facie case for privilege
has been made out. My attention was caught by the same citations from
Beauchesne's that Senator Carstairs read. I would observe that freedom of
speech, to which the first Beauchesne's reference referred, includes
freedom not to speak, or freedom to reflect and consider and do research before
I would further observe that Senator Cools has, as has been pointed out, been
fully within our rules and has been accommodating to other speakers, as she has
engaged in her reflection on this matter.
It remains true, of course, that everyone, every member of the public, every
citizen of Canada and every visitor here has the right to comment on what we do
or do not do in this chamber. Some of those comments are, on occasion, wounding.
However, one thing that has gone terribly wrong here, apart from the
obviously appalling ignorance shown about Senator Cools herself in the comments
made by Mr. Perrin, is that it has betrayed one more time the appalling
ignorance that is prevalent in this country about Parliament, and in particular
about this chamber. It is even worse when it comes from what, I gather, is a
If Senator Cools is guilty of stalling, half the senators in this chamber,
including a large number of those on the government side, are even more guilty.
There are many bills on our Order Paper that have been adjourned for much longer
than this one. There are bills on our Order Paper on which senators have held
the adjournment since February, March, April and May, and no one has claimed
that this adjournment was a public shame.
Furthermore, in practical fact, I assume that this bill, if it receives
second reading, will be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs. If so, it will go automatically to the bottom of the
list until yet another bill comes and replaces it at the bottom of what is a
long list. As all honourable senators know, government bills take priority in
We have a long list of government bills coming at us before we even started
to consider private members' bills. There is a profound ignorance displayed in
the statement that has been made.
Most offensive of all, however, is the implication that because the House of
Commons has passed a bill, we should click our heels and do likewise. That
attitude is common not only among certain commentators but among a number of
members of the House of Commons, including ministers of the Crown, certainly in
this government and also in predecessor governments. That attitude is profoundly
offensive to this chamber. I find it offensive that Ms. Smith deemed it
appropriate to, if you will, endorse this profoundly ignorant statement by Mr.
Perrin in forwarding it to members of this chamber.
Yes, Mr. Perrin is trying to modify Senator Cools' behaviour as a senator. Of
course, he is. I have already said, Senator Mockler, that every citizen of this
country has the right to comment on what we do.
Senator Tkachuk: Exactly.
Senator Fraser: I await with interest His Honour's ruling on whether
this degree of comment constitutes a breach of privilege, but I return to my
original quotation from Senator Cools. Something has gone terribly wrong here.
Something goes too often terribly wrong in the way that members of the other
place, and supposedly informed members of the public, discuss the activities of
this chamber and its members.
If His Honour finds that there is a prima facie question of privilege, I
suggest that the matter be taken up not only by the Standing Committee on Rules,
Procedures and the Rights of Parliament but perhaps even by a special committee
of the Senate to see what can be done to combat this appalling ignorance that
afflicts Canadians. Even if His Honour determines that no question of privilege
has been made out, I still think that sending the matter to committee is an
appropriate course of action for the Senate to adopt.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I wanted to hear the nature of the alleged breach of privilege. I did
not write any notes prior to this debate. I did not seek to consult with my
usual advisers. Let us hear what Senator Cools has to say. As Senator Cools
spoke, I put down some notes. I have no pre-prepared notes. I am speaking from
what I feel are the issues raised here today.
I do not wish to discuss the merits of the bill in question, as others have
done. However, it strikes me that Canadians must be free to express publicly how
they feel about how we proceed or do not proceed with bills. Canadians must have
the right to express their opinion on how this chamber does its work.
I do not know who Mr. Perrin is. However, I think he has an absolute right to
express his views. To him, these views are extremely important. He expressed
them in his way, as a great number of Canadians do, sometimes in writing,
sometimes on radio, sometimes on television or in emails, of which I happen to
The opinions of Canadians in general have to be protected and we have to
protect their right to express those opinions. This one in particular as well;
we have to protect Mr. Perrin's right to express his opinions.
If Senator Cools feels that she has been attacked in a way that is
inappropriate, there is always access to the courts, if she has received an
opinion she does not like.
Mention was made this afternoon about the pressure that was brought to bear
on Senator Cools through this press release. Yes, in fact, Mr. Perrin was
probably trying to put pressure on her. However, we are under pressure virtually
every day from Canadians. Only today, Senator Nolin brought in a petition of
4,000 some-odd names calling on us to take certain action on Bill C-15. Senator
Harb for a number of weeks brought in petitions asking every one of us to
support the views of certain European people who, in his view, wanted us to take
a certain action. We listened. We did not rise and express an opinion that he
did not have the right to bring in those petitions.
Freedom of speech was mentioned by Senator Carstairs and Senator Fraser. I
wrote this down: "a direct threat made to Senator Cools."
Anyone who reads this press release will not see a threat or a direct threat.
What this gentleman is asking for is that Senator Cools act on a bill that she
has under adjournment. He is not expressing a threat. There is no threat, or
even an intimation of a threat.
I agree with Senator Fraser that the public has the right to comment. I am
not sure if I would have used the phrases "appalling ignorance" or "profound
ignorance." I tend not to use those kinds of phrases when describing the
public. That reluctance is probably from my years of having knocked on doors
when I ran for public office.
I say there is absolutely no prima facie case in this press release for His
Honour to go out with handcuffs and bring in a Canadian citizen before this
court. This gentleman has expressed his views. He has a right to do so, as
Canadians always do. Yes, we should protect our right to speak in this chamber,
but primarily we should protect the rights of Canadians to express themselves,
both publicly and privately.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I
want to place on the record two facts so that this can be seen in the proper
context. First, this bill was introduced in the House of Commons on January 29
and was in the House of Commons from January 29 until it arrived here on October
1. That is a fact.
Second, as has been pointed out by other honourable senators, Senators Cools
did not unilaterally delay the discussion of this bill. Senator Cools moved the
adjournment of the debate, and we all concurred in that adjournment. This was
not the subject of a vote where she was entitled to a vote and all the rest of
us wanted to move immediately forward. Senator Cools moved the adjournment of
the debate and we all concurred in it. I want those two facts to be on the
Senator Tkachuk: No one is arguing with you.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I do not want to prolong
this any longer than necessary. I want to put on the record a couple of my own
personal thoughts on this matter. First, if we look at the Debates of the
Senate, no one from either side of this chamber has accused Senator Cools of
stalling this bill. Certainly, I did not hear any such comments today.
Second, we are not talking about the bill. We are talking about an action
that Senator Cools is prepared to take, which she claims impinges on her rights
as a senator. It has been said, and I think it is worth repeating, honourable
senators, that this is a Canadian citizen who, for his own reasons, feels that
Senator Cools is not acting, as he believes Senator Cools should. He believes
that Senator Cools is not acting as quickly as she should. Any member of the
public has that right and we, as public servants, must be prepared to accept
criticism from the public. This is the issue.
Senator Tkachuk: We must also protect that right.
Senator Di Nino: Honourable senators, I do not believe there is a
question of privilege. I read Senator Cools' announcement, and I frankly could
not see a question of privilege in her information. I think the most important
issue that we need to deal with is whether Canadians have a right to criticize
and comment. Do Canadians have a right to suggest that we may not be conducting
our affairs in the way they would like? I think they have that right and that we
should protect that right.
Hon. Yonah Martin: Honourable senators, as the sponsor of this bill in
the chamber, I feel compelled to say a few things for the record. First, I want
to thank all honourable senators who have expressed their insights and opinions
on this matter. I say this respectfully to Senator Cools, with whom I conversed
on this matter very early on. At that time, I respected her right to reflect and
then speak on this bill. Senator Cools mentioned that to me personally, and that
is why I did not approach her a second time, to ask and urge her to speak sooner
than when she was ready. I want to put that on the record. My thanks also go to
Senator Dyck whose statement was extremely emotive, and we all agree that she
put a great of thought into her remarks. I thank Senator Comeau for articulating
some of the points I wanted to stress.
For the record, I do know Professor Perrin, a professor at the University of
British Columbia, my alma mater. Before I accepted sponsorship of this bill in
the chamber, I met with Mr. Perrin and was extremely impressed with his
dedication to this issue. He has dedicated the past 10 years of his life to
working in Thailand and to coming to an intimate understanding of this issue.
Professor Perrin is not here today. I point out that Professor Perrin worked
with member of Parliament Ms. Joy Smith, who has made this issue one of her
priorities for many years. Ms. Smith's son is a police officer and this bill
came at the urging of police officers with whom her son works, as well as other
officers who see what is happening to our children. I offer senators this
information within the context of how much time has been spent on this bill.
Senator Cools, and all honourable senators who have spoken today, as the
sponsor of the bill, I stand to urge all senators to reflect on what we
discussed today. I urge all to reflect on the bill, which is important and is
urgent as it pertains to the protection of our most vulnerable — our Canadian
children and youth.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I would like to answer a few
remarks, not many. My thanks go out to this new senator, Senator Martin, for her
intervention. It is no simple or easy matter for a new senator to intervene in a
debate like this, so I want her to know that I admire her and thank her.
Having said all of this, honourable senators, I would take issue with Senator
Comeau first. Honourable senators, the cast of mind of the Senate or of the
House of Commons or Parliament is a common law cast of mind. Honourable
senators, there is no common law right to hurt anyone. Let us be clear.
Freedom of speech affects and applies to everyone, but no one has the right
to use freedom of speech to incite or elicit scorn against anyone else, and the
common law is clear on that point; the jurisprudence is thick, heavy and deep.
Senator Comeau is not quite correct.
I was citing freedom of speech in a parliamentary way, not freedom of speech
like the ordinary person out on the street. Freedom of speech as embodied in the
BNA Act and the great constitutional acts of this country has a particular
meaning, and one of its meanings is that we are bound by a wider set of
principles than the ordinary and average person. When I was speaking of freedom
of speech, I was speaking of its parliamentary meaning. I would like to record
that in case there is any doubt.
Senator Comeau speaks about the rights of ordinary Canadians. If this were
about a disagreement, there would be no problem. I would not have raised it. If
this were about a difference of opinion, I would not have raised the question of
privilege. I want to make this quite clear. I was raising an issue as a breach
of the privileges of this place, of statements that are barely disguised as
social comment, just barely. I do not even think they meet the standards of
The first standard of social comment is fairness, balance, equilibrium,
upholding the moral condition and then the moral position of the law and the
moral position of individuals.
Senator Comeau keeps saying that the person in question, the professor, is an
ordinary Canadian. I think that is the understatement. This is no ordinary
Canadian. This person is an extremely privileged Canadian who is a professor of
law and who should know better. I would expect him to respect the principles of
the common law.
Not only is he no ordinary Canadian, he is actually present here in the
debate since he is the co-drafter, the co-creator, the co-producer of the bill.
There is a section in the House of Commons Debates, which even suggests
that he was the directing mind of the bill, creating or forming the language.
This man, Mr. Perrin, has a great privilege to work with a member of the
House of Commons to produce a bill to put before us for debate. Therefore, he
cannot go out there, waving his little flags as though he is just some simple,
ordinary, unknowing and uninformed individual.
He has to respect the fact that he has been a participant in this process,
though in an indirect way. I respect that, and I would have upheld that.
However, he stepped outside the boundaries that should pertain when one is
invited, as he was, to partake in creating a bill that is put before us.
I would never have raised this unless I thought it had an extremely serious
basis and foundation. I would like to say, honourable senators, I am used to
disagreements. A bit of disagreement does not bother me at all. I have been very
blessed; I was raised to respect criticism, and raised in the finest British
traditions of criticism and self-criticism. However, I do not think these
players were, because they want to pile on criticism but they do not want to
take any. I take mine and I will give it, when needed.
Let us understand clearly: This is no ordinary, poor little Canadian, like
the victims he is talking about with regard to the bill. These need our
protection. They are being told that harder stiffer penalties will correct
crime. I will tell honourable senators that they ought to instruct themselves on
social deviance and crime. We understand that. There is a lot of literature on
this, but we will get there on the substance of the bill. I wanted to make the
point that this is no frivolous, capricious or cavalier fact that I have raised.
I was mortified and shocked, because Ms. Smith had spoken so highly to me of
this gentleman. I was mortified that this press release could come from the hand
of the person whom Ms. Smith had described to me as an eminent mind and great
respecter of human rights. How can he respect other people's human rights if he
does not respect mine? That is my bounded duty, honourable senators.
Honourable senators, as I said before, I was raised to debate and I will
touch this again: Individuals like William Wilberforce, Buxton, Clarkson, John
Newton, and John Wesley, these abolitionists, were upheld to me as the
individuals to emulate. Therefore, when I read his statement about slavery, I
reacted very strongly. However, I will tell you a little secret that he does not
know. I will inform him, because I know he will be reading the record. He wants
to amend the Criminal Code in ways that are unconstitutional. I can tolerate
change, once you make the change in accordance with the system. These are major
amendments being suggested.
Honourable senators, to Mr. Perrin, I would like to say there is no
connection whatsoever with the phenomenon of slavery and these poor, terrible
cases that are happening, and they are very terrible cases. I can only find one
connection, and it is an intellectual one and a coincidence. The Criminal Code
of Canada was drafted by a man named James Fitzjames Stephen. Many people here
do not even know this. I have been looking at it, because I am a great reader of
all literature. We know that. I am an antiquarian.
Honourable senators, let us understand who James Fitzjames Stephen was. He
was one of the greatest minds of criminal law in the U.K. Unfortunately, in the
U.K., they never adopted the whole code he wrote, but it was adopted here in
1892. I believe he was the grandson of James Stephen, who wrote the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade that William Wilberforce moved, and that is the only connection anyone could
ever find between slavery and this thing.
That is purely coincidental and simply the nature of human history. The great
thinkers on the Criminal Code or the criminal law would be shocked. I will raise
these matters in due course; I will be raising them because I feel I am on
pretty strong ground. As a matter of fact, I was in Toronto a few days ago
meeting with some criminal lawyers on these very points.
I just wanted to say, honourable senators, that there is a clear breach of
privilege here. Mr. Perrin ought to have known the boundaries of critical
comment and proper social comment. He should understand them, he should adhere
to them, and he should uphold the principles that I am upholding right now in
respect of human debate, human endeavour and human freedoms to engage in
endeavours and to work together.
I will tell honourable senators something: I will support the bill, but I
will ask a lot more questions.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, allow me to express my
appreciation and thanks to all honourable senators for their contributions to
the consideration which is now before the Speaker, which is to determine the
very narrow question of whether a prima facie case of privilege has been made
I also wish to salute all of the honourable senators for the manner in which
they approached helping the Speaker on this question of privilege raised by
Senator Cools. It illustrated that all honourable members of this honourable
house take the question of privilege the way it needs to be taken. It is not
something that speaks to an individual member of the house but, indeed, to the
I wish to extend my appreciation for honourable senators' contribution. I
will take the matter under advisement and shall report back in due course.
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool rose pursuant to notice of December 1,
That she will call the attention of the Senate to violence against women,
its root causes, and possible solutions.
She said: Honourable senators, three days before the 20th anniversary of the
École Polytechnique massacre, it is with great emotion that I draw your
attention today to violence against women and girls.
Yes, I know that you probably think this is a subject we talk about a lot,
perhaps even too much. And I agree with you. I agree with you because we should
not have to talk about this kind of violence at all. It should simply not exist.
However, it does exist, and it has been around for far too long. Violence
against women and girls is an aberration that began in ancient times, and the
earliest justification for it was probably the physiological differences between
men and women.
Nonetheless, I would point out that in ancient times, many societies
considered men and women to be of equal importance, and some societies were even
matriarchal. So what has changed since then, and why has male domination become
the universal norm? There are many answers to that question, honourable
senators, and I do not know them all.
A look back in time teaches us that some religions codified male-female
inequality and imposed male domination on all aspects of society. But surely we
cannot place all of the blame on religions. Consider the wartime practices that
have allowed men to commit the worst atrocities against women and still allow
them to do so. Consider also industrialization, which favoured men's greater
physical strength, bestowing upon them dominance in the workplace that carried
over into the home. There are other reasons, honourable senators, but I will not
list them all.
Today, in 2009, such violent behaviour still exists, honourable senators, and
it is time for it to stop. Despite the largest women's movement in the history
of humanity over the past 50 years, violence against women is still a problem
today, although it has taken on new forms. Women are no longer burned at the
stake, but they are still raped. Women are no longer regarded as livestock, at
least not in Canada, but women are still beaten. Women are no longer thought to
be incapable of judgment and reason, but they are still harassed in many
What are the many forms this perpetual violence can take? Let us begin with
the worst form, murder.
Honourable senators, every year nearly 200 women in Canada are killed by a
husband, spouse or partner.
I also know that little girls are being killed in our country before they are
even born, when their parents, who usually come from cultures that prefer little
boys, ask for an abortion as soon as they know the sex of their unborn child.
And if those little girls are born, what kind of future will they have? Will
they be entitled to the same care and education as little boys? Will they be
forced into an arranged marriage in the name of other foreign traditions
condemned by our laws? Yes, honourable senators, these things do happen in
Canada, and even to Canadians. Why?
I will never forget the many times my female students, who were only 16 to 18
years old, confided in me about the violent behaviour they had been subjected
to. Over 20 years later, just last week I was horrified to read in a newspaper
from my home province about the violent murder of a 16-year-old girl whose body
was found on a former military firing range in my hometown.
And what about the violence too often committed by men who do not always
leave bruises on a woman's body, but who nonetheless leave their mark on her
mind? I am talking about men who dictate how their girlfriend or wife should
dress or wear her hair; who make decisions on her behalf without consulting her
and demean and ridicule her, sometimes in front of other people; who criticize
how she raises the children, keeps house or cooks; who deliberately ignore her
in the hope of hurting or bothering her; who prevent her from going out by
herself or seeing her friends and family; who threaten to harm her, shove her,
forcibly restrain her and force her to engage in sex or perform sexual acts she
does not want.
Honourable senators, these behaviours are all forms of violence that are too
often committed against women. Why? And what about sexual assaults or rapes of
unknown women whose only transgression was to walk alone in the street, jog
alone or leave their office alone? And what about men who do not allow the women
with whom they have sex to take contraceptives or who refuse to wear a condom?
Those men force those women to run the risk of sometimes serious venereal
diseases, if not an unwanted pregnancy that will ruin their lives.
These are other violent, unacceptable behaviours to which more women than you
might think are exposed more often than I would like. Why?
At the dawn of the 21st century, we can point to perhaps three main phenomena
that perpetuate this cycle of violence against women. First, there is
advertising on television, in the print media, on radio, everywhere. This
omnipresent advertising depicts a woman as a body, if not simply a body part,
and takes away her mind and her ability to think, leaving only an object of
desire, an image devoid of meaning. Does advertising treat men in the same way?
I do not think so.
There is also pornography, which has become increasingly accessible since the
sexual liberation of the 1960s and thanks to technological advances. Not only is
pornography increasingly degrading in its depiction of the woman's role in
sexuality, but it is increasingly easy for anyone, including young children, to
Does pornography treat men in the same way as women? Certainly not.
What can be said about the unbelievable persistence of sexual stereotypes?
Christmas is coming. Take a look at the advertising on television and in all the
media these days. Do the stereotypes treat boys and girls equally in
advertising? No. These stereotypes are even more dangerous because they last
into adulthood and too often result in an insidious form of violence against
women. Just consider the very sexist treatment of important women, politicians
or others, by their colleagues or the media. Just consider the hurtful comments
and gestures that have been directed at women like Belinda Stronach, Kim
Campbell, Hillary Clinton and Ségolène Royale. Just consider the notorious glass
ceiling that prevents women from reaching the highest positions in their
corporations because they have had to or may have to take leave or devote less
than 24 hours a day to their jobs due to pregnancy or family commitments. And
let us not forget the harassment, veiled or not, that they have to endure
throughout their careers.
Logic dictates that this violence should not exist, but logic is not a human
trait, and we all know that. Most levels of government in our country have laws
or policies in place that ban this violence. Many people oppose this violence,
including many men, but the violence still lives on. Why? I am tempted to
surmise that our leaders — be they in politics, the police, the business world
or the social sphere — would have too much to lose in the short or medium term
if they decided to give their all to fighting and eradicating violence.
Why is it not compulsory to register before purchasing any kind of firearm
and to take regular psychological tests to retain the right to use that firearm?
These weapons account for 54 per cent of all marital murders in Canada. This
percentage amounts to five murders per month. We should remember these
statistics when we have votes on a national firearms registry.
Why were improvements not made to Bill C-8 after the Native Women's
Association made their recommendations, rather than having it die at second
reading in the other place last May? Had the association prevailed, this bill
would have brought respect for matrimonial rights and interests in goods and
property located on First Nations reserves.
I am not telling you anything new when I say that Aboriginal women and girls
are victims of violence on a regular basis and that, proportionally, they are
mistreated more often than non-Aboriginal women living in Canada, as our
colleague Senator Brazeau alluded to yesterday.
Why do the budget cuts made by many governments in these times of crisis
affect women more than men? Examples include the closing of Status of Women
satellite offices in 2007 and the elimination of court social workers by the
Government of New Brunswick in the Spring of 2009, a program that was of
particular benefit to women.
Allow me to make a brief aside to mention these wonderful shelters or
transition homes. There are 13 of them in New Brunswick where many women fleeing
domestic violence seek shelter. There is L'Accueil Sainte-Famille in my hometown
of Tracadie-Sheila, which is marking its 30th anniversary this year. Our Acadian
Peninsula is grateful for the incredible work that L'Accueil Sainte-Famille
does. While we cannot celebrate its 30 years of existence, we should acknowledge
them. I wish these homes had no reason to exist, but since they do, why not help
as much as possible to give women a sense of dignity?
Clear, standard and identical definitions across Canada of what constitutes
an act of violence would help prevent 27 per cent of New Brunswick's men from
thinking that it is not a crime to force their spouse to have sexual relations.
And what about the 53 per cent of men in my province of New Brunswick who think
that hitting their wife during an argument is not an act of violence? What do
you make of the 34 per cent of men in my province who believe that women are to
blame for the violence committed against them?
If these acts of violence were clearly defined as crimes, they would happen
much less often.
Fortunately, not all men are so violent or narrow-minded. Many men want to
eliminate violence against women, which they believe is completely senseless. As
women, we must be in a position to welcome this support. It is true what they
say: once bitten, twice shy; centuries of fear have led us to be not as open-minded as we might be.
But the tide is changing, honourable senators, as evidenced by the domestic
violence awareness campaign that the province of Quebec launched two weeks ago.
There were more than 17,000 reported victims of domestic violence in 2008, and
the province hired a "real man", actor Patrice Robitaille, to tell others in
the province that he cannot imagine getting off on dominating someone.
If you think that 17,000 victims is a lot, you should know that this figure
is less than a third of the total number of victims of domestic violence. In
fact, general statistics show that fewer than three out of ten domestic violence
crimes are reported to the police.
Newfoundland and Labrador has recently come out with a charming campaign. It
says: "Show him how to tie his shoes, spell his name, pitch a tent and respect
I also urge you to read the master's thesis published in May by Miguel
LeBlanc from Scoudouc, New Brunswick, in which he explains how to get men
involved and active in preventing violence against women and finding solutions
to the problem.
Honourable senators, violence against women is a huge and long-standing
Honourable senators, I would ask for two additional minutes to complete my
Hon. Donald H. Oliver (The Hon. the Acting Speaker): Honourable
senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Losier-Cool: It is a problem that the whole of society and all
of our leaders must tackle in a coherent, consistent and efficient way across
borders. It will be excellent when Canada finally eradicates all violence
against women in the land. It would be even more wonderful if eradicating that
violence were to include Canada's neighbours.
All government levels should work simultaneously on two fronts. The first
front must be the systematic zero-tolerance criminalization of all forms of
violence against women and girls. Each form of violence must be clearly and
consistently defined across all jurisdictions in our country. Each form of
violence must be punishable by a criminal record and either a fine or jail term
commensurate with the act of violence.
I thank our current government for bringing December 6 to the attention of
the people. However, fighting violence against women takes a lot more than a
minute of silence or a white ribbon. Fighting violence against women requires
concrete and useful action that all levels of government — federal, provincial,
regional, municipal and First Nations — must take.
The second front that all levels of government should work on is the
implementation of economic policies to eliminate poverty, which contributes to
violence, and — more specifically — policies designed to help women. I would
like to see programs that are less universal and more gender-specific.
Employment insurance is one such program, because women's employment conditions
are often much different from those of men. Social assistance is another program
that often penalizes single-parent families headed by women. And then there is
the child benefit supplement, which I still call family allowance; it is just
not enough for many parents. Violence against women will not go away as long as
women are still falling behind in our society's economic race.
Honourable senators, we all want violence to end. Therefore, let us walk our
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I would like to thank Senator
Losier-Cool for having drawn the Senate's attention to this very important issue
and for giving a truly remarkable speech. I was genuinely moved by the research
and thought she put into her speech.
I want to propose adjournment, but before I do, I will tell honourable
senators that not more than three weeks ago, I listened to an opinion pollster
whose great strength is to probe the values and underlying opinions of
Canadians. He said that he was shocked, but his research shows that the number
of Canadians who believe that women are not, and should not be, the equals of
men is growing. That underlying attitude, whether admitted or not, is what leads
to so many of the terrible situations that Senator Losier-Cool has described for
us in Canada and around the world.
I will speak soon on this inquiry if I am granted the adjournment. I hope
that many other senators will join. I move adjournment of the debate.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs, pursuant to notice of December 1, 2009, moved:
That the Government of Canada make the issue of maternal and child health a
priority topic of G8/G20 discussions at the meetings scheduled in Canada in
Spring 2010 in order that nations work in a united way to increase investments
aimed at reducing global maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality.
She said: Honourable senators, this morning, parliamentarians from all
parties gathered together to meet with representatives of the Partnership for
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health on the important topic of maternal and child
health. Senator Keon, Senator Pépin, Senator Fraser and I, as well as perhaps
others who I did not notice in the room, were among those who attended. This
issue is one of the many addressed in our Standing Senate Committee on Social
Affairs, Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Population Health, ably
chaired by Senator Keon.
Honourable senators, the G8 and G20 are meeting in Canada next spring. These
meetings give the government the opportunity to raise the important issues of
maternal and child health. This issue is of significant importance to all
countries, but particularly to emerging economies and the Third World.
I think it is necessary to put these concepts in perspective. Millions of
mothers and children around the world die each year during pregnancy, childbirth
or childhood for want of access to adequate care or trained health care
professionals. Honourable senators, we are not speaking of one or two children —
tragic though the death of any child is — nor are we speaking of hundreds. I am
speaking of millions.
Each year, more than half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth, and
almost 10 million children die before their fifth birthday, almost 40 per cent
of those in the first month of life. Recent research finds that at least two
thirds of these deaths could be prevented with proven, cost-effective
interventions that could and should be available to every woman and child. By
expanding access to these interventions and integrating maternal, newborn and
child health efforts, an estimated 6 million deaths of women and children could
be prevented each year. Given the scope of this challenge, no individual
country, organization or agency can address it alone, and this is why the
meetings of the G8/G20 can set new directions.
The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health is a global health
partnership launched in September 2005 to accelerate efforts toward achieving
the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. MDG 4 focuses on reducing child
morbidity and MDG 5 on maternal well-being. This partnership is the result of a
merger of three existing partnerships: The Partnership for Safe Motherhood and
Newborn Health, the Child Survival Partnership and the Healthy Newborn
Partnership. The partnership's aim is to intensify and harmonize national,
regional and global action to improve maternal, newborn and child health.
The partnership joins together the maternal, newborn and child health
communities, encouraging unified and effective approaches that promise greater
progress than in the past. The partnership is made up of a broad constituency of
about 260 members representing partner countries; the United Nations and
multilateral agencies; non-governmental organizations; health professional
associations; bilateral donors and foundations; and academic and research
With only six years left until 2015 — the target set for the Millennium
Development Goals — it is evident that enormous scaling up will be required in
maternal and newborn child health. Of the 68 countries targeted under these
goals, 15 are on track to reach their goals, but 25 have made no progress at
all. While acknowledging the progress achieved by some partners and countries in
different areas, the partnership community strives to focus on the following key
objectives in 2009-2011: First, to build consensus on and promote
evidence-based, high-impact interventions and the means to deliver through
harmonization; second, to contribute to raising US $30 billion for 2009-2015 to
improve maternal, newborn and child health through advocacy; and third, to track
partners' commitments and measurement of progress for accountability.
To best support global action for MDGs 4 and 5 and to streamline
contributions by its broad membership, the partnership identified six priority
action areas where the partnership and its members are focusing in 2009-2011.
These areas are: maternal, newborn and child health knowledge management system;
MNCH core package of interventions; essential MNCH commodities; strengthening
human resources for MNCH; advocacy for increased funding and better positioning
of maternal, newborn and child health in the development agenda; and tracking
Child mortality in most countries has been decreasing in past decades.
However, both neonatal and maternal mortality have remained largely the same.
Neonatal mortality accounts for almost 40 per cent of the estimated 9.7 million
deaths of children under 5 years and for nearly 60 per cent of deaths of infants
under 1 year. These statistics mean that a child is about 500 times more likely
to die in the first day of life than at one month of age. The largest absolute
number of newborn deaths occurs in South Asia, and India contributes one quarter
of the world total. However, the highest national rates of neonatal mortality
occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
A common factor in these deaths is the health of the mother. Each year, more
than 500,000 women die in childbirth or from complications during pregnancy.
Babies whose mothers have died during childbirth have a much greater chance of
dying in their first year than those whose mothers remain alive. In the
developing world, 99 per cent of maternal and newborn mortality occurs where
more than 50 per cent of women still deliver without the assistance of skilled
health personnel. This statistic is a powerful statement about inequity and
access to quality care.
Direct obstetric cases of hemorrhage, infection, hypertensive disorders of
pregnancy and complications of unsafe abortion cause 80 per cent of maternal
deaths. For every woman who dies from complications related to childbirth,
approximately 30 more suffer injuries, infections and disabilities that are
usually untreated and ignored, and can result in lifelong pain and social and
economic exclusion. Most of these complications can be predicted and prevented.
All pregnant women are at risk and can develop complications at any time
during pregnancy, delivery and after delivery. However, women and families can
learn how to avoid unplanned pregnancies, and if pregnant, they can learn the
importance of receiving antenatal care and how to identify danger signs, plan
for emergency referrals and choose safe birthing options. When problems arise
and referral is timely, complications can be treated in health facilities that
are adequately equipped with supplies and medications, and fully staffed with
competently trained health workers.
Improving the health and nutrition of mothers-to-be and providing quality
reproductive health services are pivotal to addressing many underlying causes of
With close to 50 per cent of all newborn deaths occurring within 24 hours of
delivery and up to 75 per cent in the first week post-partum, strategies must
centre on a continuum of care approach. This approach includes improving access
to antenatal care during pregnancy, improved management of normal delivery by
skilled attendants, access to emergency obstetric and neonatal care when needed,
and timely postnatal care for both mothers and newborns. In addition to
strengthening the links between the different levels of care in health
facilities, the continuum of care also refers to strengthening the links between
the community and health facilities.
It is a myth to assume that high-cost neonatal care hospital units are the
only way to treat sick newborns. There is evidence proving that a large
proportion of newborn death and disease can be reduced by implementing simple,
low-cost interventions during delivery and in the vulnerable days and weeks
post-partum, both in the facility and at home. These essential interventions
include drying the newborn and keeping the baby warm; initiating breastfeeding
as soon as possible after delivery and supporting the mother to breastfeed
exclusively; giving special care to low-birth-weight infants; and diagnosing
and treating newborn problems like asphyxia and sepsis.
The majority of essential interventions are home care practices that families
can provide themselves. Families can also use the help of a community health
worker, who can be present at delivery to care for the newborn, and visit within
the first 24 hours and again one to two additional times during the first week.
With more than 50 per cent of newborn deaths occurring at home, the long-term
goal of training sufficient numbers of skilled attendants to be present at all
births will not be a reality in many countries for many years to come. Experts
estimate that providing these essential interventions at scale — over 90 per
cent coverage — in the community and in health facilities can reduce the
neonatal mortality rate by 70 per cent.
Honourable senators, Canada can take a leading role at the meetings of the
G8/G20. Economic development is dependent on maternal and child health. It is
estimated that $15 billion is lost each year as a result of maternal and child
health failures. This is the largest health inequity in the world. For example,
in Afghanistan, one out of eight women dies in childbirth. In Canada, it is one
I had a complicated second pregnancy that resulted in my spending six months
in bed, and the last six weeks of the pregnancy in hospital. Because I lived in
Canada, both my child and I survived. Millions of mothers and children are not
so lucky. Canada can lead. I urge honourable senators to support this motion to
encourage our government to take that leadership role at the meetings of the