Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 15
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before
we proceed, I would ask senators to rise and observe one minute of silence in
memory of Private Tyler William Todd, whose tragic death occurred while serving
his country in Afghanistan.
Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, on your
behalf, I wish to welcome the Deputy Usher of the Black Rod, Diane Boucher, who
is replacing the Usher of the Black Rod today.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish
to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency
Abderrahim Ould Hadrami, Ambassador of the Republic of Mauritania.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the
Senate of Canada.
Honourable senators, we are also honoured today because we
have another distinguished delegation in our gallery in the person of the
Honourable Emmanuel Otaala, Minister of State for Labour, Employment and
Industrial Relations of Uganda; His Excellency George Abola, High Commissioner
of Uganda to Canada; Mr. Milton Turyasiima, Senior Labour Officer, Employment;
and Ms. Rosemary Ssenabulya, Executive Director, Federation of Uganda. They are
guests of our colleague the Honourable Senator Mobina Jaffer and the chair.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, April is Daffodil Month, that annual rite of spring when
volunteer canvassers for the Canadian Cancer Society stream out into
neighbourhoods across the country to fundraise critically-needed dollars for the
fight against cancer.
I suspect that there is not a single person sitting in
this chamber — amongst senators, the many excellent people who help us in our
work here, or the visitors in the galleries — whose life has not been touched in
some way by cancer.
The statistics are sobering. According to the Canadian
Cancer Society, some 40 per cent of Canadian women and 45 per cent of Canadian
men will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. On average, 3,300
Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every week.
The good news is that a cancer diagnosis is not now what
it once was. Today, the five-year survival rate is over 60 per cent. It is
becoming increasingly common to hear of cancer patients treating their disease
as a chronic illness or, better yet, something that was dealt with and is now
over and behind them. For this, we are indebted to the many researchers,
doctors, medical technicians and nurses who are dedicated to figuring out how to
prevent cancer in the first place, detect it quickly if and when it first
appears in the body and, of course, treat it in the best way possible.
Canadian scientists have been at the forefront of cancer
research. Last year, researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton were the
first in the world to identify the key differences between normal human
embryonic stem cells and abnormal cancer stem cells. Honourable
senators, this was an important discovery that hopefully
will pave the way to treatments that will target and kill cancer cells while
leaving healthy cells untouched.
Recently, Canadian researchers played a key role in
identifying four new genetic markers of colorectal cancer, bringing the total
identified up to ten. Just last month we learned that researchers in Alberta had
successfully tested a new way to treat prostate cancer in some men using a
harmless virus called "reovirus."
Canadian scientists are researching therapies to starve
cancer tumours by cutting off blood supply. There is ongoing research to develop
a new immunotherapy treatment using the body's own immune system to try to
destroy cancer cells. There is research into a new, revolutionary treatment
called photodynamic therapy that, unbelievably, tries to use a combination of
light and photosensitive drugs to kill cancer cells.
This research is funded in part by the Canadian Cancer
Society. Last year, thanks to generous donations, the society was able to invest
$50 million in cancer research projects across Canada. This is an exceptional
level of scientific research support from the voluntary sector.
The April Daffodil campaign is a Canadian tradition that
goes back more than 50 years. It began in Toronto in the 1950s, when volunteers
used daffodils to decorate tables for fundraising teas to support the Canadian
Cancer Society. Today, of course, it relies upon tens of thousands of
individuals all across the country, all committed to helping in the battle
My congratulations and best wishes to the Canadian Cancer
Society for the 2010 campaign and my deep gratitude to the society, the army of
canvassers and the generous donors in all corners of our country for their work
and dedication to this important cause.
Hon. Doug Finley: Honourable senators, as some of
you may remember, the first words I spoke in this chamber were in recognition of
the Friday the 13th festivities in Port Dover, Ontario.
For my new colleagues, and to jog the memory of those who
were here, every Friday the 13th, the town is host to the largest motorcycle
rally in Canada. It started off as a small group of friends in 1981, and they
enjoyed the South Coast hospitality and the charm of Port Dover so much they
decided to do this every Friday the 13th.
This August, four months from today, the town will host
the fiftieth celebration of Friday the 13th. They have asked me to extend, once
again, an invitation for all senators to come enjoy some South Coast
hospitality, sample our famous perch, visit the beautiful harbour museum and, of
course, enjoy the motorcycle excitement.
In the past, Port Dover, a lakeside town of approximately
6,000 people, has had over 100,000 people from all over Canada and the world
come out for this event. This summer, weather permitting, we could easily exceed
that number. I ask honourable senators, what type of politician does not like to
schmooze with 100,000 people?
I am told that the closest available hotel rooms would now
be located in Hamilton. However, if you are able to go, Paul Morris, the
president of the Port Dover Board of Trade, has said they can arrange boarding
with local residents to get you within minutes of the action and in earshot of
For those of you who hold superstitions about Friday the
13th, I promise, with some good South Coast hospitality, you will have a very
different opinion of this supposedly unlucky day.
I hope all honourable senators, on both sides of the
chamber, will join my wife and I and the good people of Port Dover for the
fiftieth Friday the 13th motorcycle rally on Friday, August 13.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, today I
would like to speak to you about the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Since its
creation, the CFI has had a transformative impact on the research landscape in
Canada, in its work with the provinces, the private sector and colleges and
The CFI's mandate is to strengthen the capacity of
Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and research institutions to
carry out world-class research and technology development that benefits
Since its creation in 1997, the CFI has committed $5.27
billion in support of over 6,600 projects at 130 research institutions in 65
municipalities across Canada.
Under the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, the CFI
received $3.65 billion, which, together with accrued interest and subsequent
appropriations, allowed the foundation to do its good work.
Following a recent performance evaluation and value-for-
money audit of the Canada Foundation for Innovation by an independent
international review panel, CFI has been declared the most successful research
funding organization of its kind in the world. KPMG conducted the overall audit
of CFI and an international panel of seven experts in global research and
research funding reviewed the findings and produced an independent report. The
audit looked at CFI's management practices and processes and whether they had
been carried out with regard to economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Honourable senators may recall that there was some unease
expressed in some quarters during the creation of foundations in the 1990s.
While an independent review panel carried out this audit, the Auditor General of
Canada does have the authority to audit the CFI, powers which that office
obtained with the passing of the Federal Accountability Act. The Auditor General
has chosen not to audit the CFI, presumably because she has been satisfied with
the audit results presented by the independent panel.
Honourable senators, some of the words used by the
international panel to describe this Canadian foundation included
"uncompromising commitment to excellence," "strong advantage for Canada" and
"world best practice."
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the
foundation and to wish it much success in the future.
Congratulations, Canada Foundation for Innovation.
Hon. Pana Merchant: Honourable senators, 2010 marks
the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the North-West Rebellion of
1885, which is being commemorated by a tri-provincial marketing initiative to
attract tourists from across Canada and beyond. This program, entitled Trails of
1885, is a narrative that crosses the modern boundaries of Manitoba,
Saskatchewan and Alberta. Trails of 1885 is planned as a joint project of
tourism agencies and will draw on the multitude of historical references and
sites from life on the Prairies in the 1880s.
Trails of 1885 will embrace the story of the Metis, First
Nations and settlers who chose the Prairies as their new home. In fact, the
cultural interaction among Metis, First Nations and the thousands of immigrants
of 125 years ago is a defining moment in the history of Canada. The buffalo were
gone, the railway was coming and vast tracts of lands were cleared by immigrants
from dozens of nations.
Many important national historical sites can be found on
the Prairies. Included among them are Fort Pitt, the fur trade post; Steele
Narrows; Frenchman Butte; Fort Carlton; and the Caron Home at Batoche. As these
sites are vibrant tourist attractions, the potential economic impact of
increased tourism throughout the region is substantial. Circle tours and U-drive
tours are being developed to bring life to our historical legacy by way of
charting the Louis Riel story and the stories of the other leaders who preceded
It is my hope that Canadians and honourable senators will
join with us as we commemorate the history of our young country and retrace the
Trails of 1885.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I call your
attention to something we did on Wednesday, March 31, the day we rose for our
most recent break. It was not unprecedented but unusual. We refused to allow a
senator to adjourn debate on a bill. In the past, we have done so usually
because an honourable senator was obstructing a bill. However, the bill in
question is, I think, universally supported by all of us and pretty well
uncontested. The bill had been on the Order Paper for two days when the senator
stood and asked to take the adjournment of the bill in order to speak to it. I
think we might have asked for an assurance that it would have been spoken to
within a day or two, but without much thinking on our collective part, we voted
down the motion to adjourn the debate. We are all in favour of the bill. I hope
that we will not do that again. Senator Harb understands exactly what I am
talking about. I hope honourable senators will be careful because that is a
slippery slope if we begin to deny senators the right to speak on a bill that is
properly before us.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, pursuant to section 4 of the User Fees
Act, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a copy of the
proposal submitted to Parliament by Health Canada concerning user fees and
service standards for human drugs and medical devices programs.
After consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, it
was decided that the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and
Technology would examine the document.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant
to rule 28(3.1), this document is deemed referred to the Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have
the honour to table a Special Report to Parliament by the Information
Commissioner of Canada, pursuant to section 39 of the Access to Information Act,
entitled: Out of Time: 2008-2009 Report Cards and Systemic Issues Affecting
Access to Information in Canada.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, Export Development Canada's 2010-2014 Corporate Plan
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators,
pursuant to rule 104 of the Rules of the Senate, I have the honour to
table the second report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and
International Trade, which deals with the expenses incurred by the committee
during the Second Session of the Fortieth Parliament.
(For text of report, see today's Journals of the
Senate, p. 217.)
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a
message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-232, An Act to
amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages).
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when
shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Tardif, bill placed on the Orders of
the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the
Opposition): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table in the Senate,
in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the
Canada-France Interparliamentary Association respecting its participation at the
Meeting of the Standing Committee, held in Paris, France, from February 15 to
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, my
question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Canadians believed the campaigning Stephen Harper when he
promised to stand up for accountability, but as soon as he was elected, he put
in place the Conflict of Interest Act that was replete with loopholes.
The Harper Conflict of Interest Act allows the Prime
Minister to receive secret reports on the conduct of his cabinet ministers and
other public office-holders and to keep those reports secret even if the Ethics
Commissioner found that the minister had violated the act. Canadians would not
even find out that the report had been issued, let alone that one of the
government's cabinet ministers had violated the act.
Honourable senators tried to amend this legislation when
it was before the Senate, but the Harper government rejected our amendments.
Prime Minister Harper was determined to receive the report secretly and then
decide whether or not to let the public in on the truth about his cabinet
The Prime Minister has now asked the Ethics Commissioner
to investigate the conduct of the former Minister of State for the Status of
Women. As that request came directly from the Prime Minister, the Ethics
Commissioner, under the act, will report secretly and directly to the Prime
Minister on the results.
Will the leader undertake to this chamber that this report
on the conduct of former Minister Guergis will not go secretly to the Prime
Minister but will instead immediately be made public in its entirety?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, first, unlike former Prime Minister Chrétien, whose ethics
commissioner only reported to him in the person of Howard Wilson, this Ethics
Commissioner is an Officer of Parliament and reports to Parliament.
With regard to the allegations from a third party
concerning the former Minister of State responsible for the Status of Women, the
Prime Minister, upon receiving that information from a third party, immediately
referred it to the appropriate authorities. I imagine that once the RCMP has
investigated the allegations, they will certainly inform the public.
There have been many demands that the Prime Minister
reveal the allegations. However, any reasonable person — including, I am sure,
people in this very chamber — would not be demanding that these allegations be
made public until such time as the proper authorities have had a chance to see
if the allegations are true.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Day: The honourable senator has not taken
the essence of my question. I am not looking for the revelation of allegations.
I am looking for reports once a full investigation has been conducted.
Canadians should not have to rely on the kindness of the
Prime Minister or his assessment of the level of embarrassment faced by the
government in any given situation.
Since Canadians now see and understand the loopholes in
the Federal Accountability Act and the Conflict of Interest Act, which was
included in that act, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate undertake
to table amendments to the act to require, as a matter of law, that whenever the
commissioner concludes that there has been a breach of the act, then the
conclusions would be made known to the public and not reported secretly to the
Prime Minister for him to choose whether or not Canadians should know the truth?
Senator LeBreton: I take issue with the honourable
senator's premise because matters referred to any authority by the Prime
Minister or the government, if there is substance to the allegations, are made
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question
is also for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It will not surprise her
because the minister knows of my long-standing interest in access to information
legislation in this country.
My question refers to a report made public today by the
Interim Information Commissioner. The report, which is appropriately entitled
Out of Time, documents the extent of delays and also identifies a number of
factors contributing to them, based on an assessment of how 24 federal
institutions responded to access to information requests in 2008-09. These 24
institutions account for about 88 per cent of the requests Canadians submitted
Thirteen of these institutions assessed by the interim
commissioner performed below average or worse against a number of measures.
Furthermore, the interim commissioner confirmed the continued presence and
detrimental impact of system-wide issues, and also found some new and
significant obstacles to timely access to information.
As the interim commissioner concluded, we now have a fact-
based assessment of the situation. She stated:
This report analyzes issues that have a direct and
significant impact on the ability of institutions to meet their statutory
deadlines for responding to access to information. . . . We now have a firm
foundation to move forward on the issues of delays and to make
administrative improvements to the system, pending legislative reform.
Could the minister indicate that the government intends to
follow the Interim Information Commissioner's recommendations?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I
thank the honourable senator for the question.
As he is aware, and as I have stated in this place many
times before, we vastly expanded the list of agencies covered by the access to
information legislation. Seventy more institutions are now accountable, as
opposed to in the past, including agencies such as the Wheat Board, the CBC and
The government takes the report of the Interim Information
Commissioner seriously. It should be noted that there are over 40,000 access to
information requests each year and approximately 12 per cent of these do take
longer to respond to than 120 days.
Having said that, however, the government does accept the
report of the Interim Information Commissioner and it is seeking ways to improve
reporting. As I have pointed out before, however, the political arm of the
government does not involve itself in access to information requests. Hopefully,
the ministers and responsible departments and agencies will work harder in the
future to ensure that 12 per cent of the 40,000 requests do a better job of
meeting the time deadline.
Senator Fox: I have a supplementary question. I
thank the minister for her answer, which I take to be a positive one. I would
like to add a suggestion of my own.
Since the minister indicated that this legislation is in
the hands of the administration as opposed to the political arm in terms of
implementation, and since deputy ministers are at the top of all the government
institutions in this country, would she consider recommending to the Prime
Minister that he avail himself in one of his regular meetings with deputy
ministers of the opportunity to advise them of the importance that the
Parliament of Canada attaches to access to information legislation?
Also, would the government consider including in deputy
ministers' annual performance evaluations a factor reflecting his or her
department's performance in responding to access to information requests?
Senator LeBreton: I appreciate the suggestions, but
the Clerk of the Privy Council, Wayne Wouters, and the deputy ministers are well
aware of their obligations under the Access to Information Act. I am sure they
all take their responsibilities very seriously.
As I indicated, with 40,000 requests a year, one can
understand that this creates some pressure on the various administrations.
However, the Clerk of the Privy Council and public servants in the Privy
Council, as well as the deputy ministers and those who report to them directly
on access to information requests, are well aware of the issues.
The government, as the President of the Treasury Board
stated earlier, takes this matter seriously and is seeking ways to improve the
system and streamline the reporting so that we do not have 12 per cent still not
meeting the 120-day deadline.
Senator Fox: I understand the minister's response
but, to date, that system does not seem to be working appropriately. The deputy
ministers may be aware of it, but we do not see any concrete results.
That is why I am suggesting that one way of doing this is
to measure their performance in administering the Access to Information Act by
reflecting it in their take-home pay. I cannot think of a better way to
concentrate the minds of deputy ministers on the issue than to see to it that
somehow they are made not only accountable, but are remunerated in consequence
of the performance of their department in responding to access to information
Senator LeBreton: Again, I have great faith in the
deputy ministers of the various departments. Increasing numbers of them are
women, by the way, as was noted in newspaper headlines a couple of days ago.
I will certainly take note of the honourable senator's
comments today and make them known to the Clerk of the Privy Council.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators,
my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On several
occasions, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Prime Minister and
the Minister of Defence have made the point that we are able to carry out
dangerous operations abroad thanks to reservists, who sometimes account for as
much as 25 per cent of the personnel involved and who have been killed and
injured in these operations.
Could the minister explain why the budget for militia
regiments was so massively cut after the reservists returned to Canada last
fall, having served in the regular force? They are barely able to return to
their regiment one day a month to stay in touch and maintain their knowledge and
skills, which could be of use in civilian life. Will things continue this way?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, as I have responded to the honourable senator in previous
answers, the overall budget of the Department of National Defence was not cut.
I took the honourable senator's last question in this
regard as notice. I apologize if I have not provided a delayed answer, but I
hope the honourable senator noticed that, with regard to our military people
serving abroad, we have introduced legislation, as reported in the media. That
legislation is to extend parental leave to our service-men and service-women who
are overseas and not able to take advantage of the Employment Insurance parental
benefits because they are in a theatre of operation.
That benefit is one good thing we have done for our men
and women in service. With regard to the reserves, I will take the question as
Senator Dallaire: Honourable senators, the budget
for reservists, which is an integral part of our operational capability, is
managed as part of the operations and maintenance budget. This budgeting
approach is unlike the regular force, which has a set budget line in a vote. It
is structured in person years and done in a rigorous fashion. The reservists'
budgets are dependent on the O&M allocation and absorbing budget cuts.
There was a massive budget cut, and I can provide figures.
In as much as the leader is taking a look at protecting the reservists and the
continuity of the reservists by making their personnel budgets — their salaries
and so on — can she respond by making the reservists' budget a firm vote within
the Department of National Defence and not part of O&M, like rations, ammunition
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator has me at
a decided disadvantage with acronyms since he held a high position in the
Canadian Forces and has a much better working knowledge of the ins and outs of
the Forces than I will ever have.
I thank the honourable senator for the question. I will
take it as notice and provide the response.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to present the response
to the oral question raised by Senator Callbeck on March 25, 2010, concerning
Veterans Affairs, the Community War Memorial Program.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Catherine S.
Callbeck on March 25, 2010)
The Community War Memorial Program, announced in
Budget 2010, is under development and the Minister will make an announcement
as soon as program particulars have been finalized.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government)
moved second reading of Bill S-4, An Act respecting family homes situated on
First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures
and lands situated on those reserves.
Hon. Nancy Ruth: Honourable senators, Bill S-4, the
family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, provides a
workable solution to a complex issue that has for too long caused much pain and
I will spend my time today outlining why I am honoured to
present this bill and why I am committed to it and to the solution it offers to
a long-standing and complex issue.
To begin, I emphasize that there is support for this bill
among Aboriginal organizations and peoples. Consider, for instance, the
testimony of Betty Ann Lavallée, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal
Peoples, before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern
Development in the other place. When asked directly about the proposed
legislation, her response was as follows:
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples has always
supported the matrimonial property rights, quite simply for the fact that
we're in favour of anything that's going to protect women and children,
Honourable senators, this quote cuts to the heart of the
matter: the protection of vulnerable people. At present, the law does not
protect residents of First Nations communities from abuses of matrimonial
interests or rights. The law protects us and other Canadians who live off
Bill S-4 will put an end to this inequity; it will provide
legal protection to some of our most vulnerable citizens. This proposed
legislation protects the rights of Aboriginal people, particularly women and
children living on reserve. In addition, on March 11, Bill C-3, the gender
equity in Indian registration act, was introduced to respond directly to the
McIvor decision rendered last year to the Court of Appeal for British
Columbia. Ultimately, however, Bill C-3 is about justice and striving to ensure
that Canadian men and women are equal before and under the law.
As the title of the proposed legislation indicates, Bill
S-4 addresses the full range of matrimonial interests and rights associated with
family homes on reserves. For the sake of brevity, I will use the acronym for
matrimonial real property, MRP, when referring to this concept.
As a matter of family law, MRP falls under the
jurisdiction of the provinces and territories. Every province and territory in
this country has laws that protect the MRP rights and interests of both spouses.
For instance, these laws protect one spouse from selling the family home without
the approval of the other spouse. These laws also authorize a judge to order an
abusive spouse to leave the family home for a specific period.
Two decades ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that
these laws do not apply on lands governed by the Indian Act. This ruling means
that no MRP laws protect First Nations people who live on reserve. The
consequences have been nothing less than devastating. Abuses of MRP rights in
First Nations communities have left people homeless, impoverished and
ostracized. Mothers and children are thrown out of their family homes and,
often, they have to leave their communities.
This legislative solution has been a long time coming. In
2003, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights published A Hard Bed to
Lie In: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve which stated:
. . . the Committee recommends that the Federal
Government adopt as soon as possible adequate measures to end the
discrimination endured by First Nations women on reserve with respect to the
division of matrimonial property and ensure that they enjoy the same rights
as other women in Canada.
The Committee strongly believes that each and every
government, be it the Canadian government or First Nations governing bodies,
has a duty to respect and protect the rights of Aboriginal women, including
the rights of First Nations women on reserve to their share of the
matrimonial property. It is matter of law and a matter of honour and
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Our solution features two main
elements. Each First Nation could design and implement laws governed by MRP
rights and interests on their reserve lands. This approach is valuable as First
Nations could design MRP laws that meet the particular customs and traditions of
The bill requires that these laws receive the approval of
the community as expressed through a vote that would help build governance
capacity in these communities. I believe this approach would also strengthen
relations between the federal government and First Nations communities. It is
important to note that MRP laws developed by First Nations would not be subject
to review by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development or by
departmental officials. The bill recognizes that First Nations are best placed
to develop their own MRP laws.
The second part of Bill S-4 is an interim federal regime
that applies to First Nations that do not have MRP regimes of their own. This
would ensure that the residents of First Nations communities enjoy special legal
protection similar to that afforded to all other Canadians. This interim regime
would provide legal resources to residents of First Nation communities. However,
it is hoped that the courts will be a last resort and that any dispute
resolution can be mediated through elders' councils or traditional practices.
Honourable senators, Bill S-4 is fundamentally all about
justice. It would address a legislative gap that undermines our justice system.
Bill S-4 proposes to strengthen the system in two ways: by eliminating the gap
that leaves First Nations people vulnerable and without legal protection, and by
engaging the people directly affected by the gap in the design and ratification
of an appropriate and effective solution.
How did we get this bill? It is the culmination of a
comprehensive and collaborative consultation and engagement process that has
gone on for several decades. This government provided funding to the Assembly of
First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada to hold a series of
consultations. More than 100 such consultations took place.
Bill S-4 is not perfect. It is almost difficult to say any
bill is, but no proposed legislation that addresses such a complex issue could
approach perfection. That is why Canada's Constitution assigns Parliament the
power to review and revise proposed legislation.
As senators, we have a responsibility to ensure there is
legislative protection of basic rights and to adopt Bill S-4. We would send a
signal to the hundreds of current and potential victims of MRP abuses that
Parliament is willing to help. It would indicate that we have responded to the
multitude of research studies and international calls for action. It would
indicate that we have listened to and acted upon the exhaustive and
collaborative consultation, engagement and consensus-building sessions that
informed Bill S-4. Most of all, such a move would embrace the worthy purpose of
Bill S-4 — protecting vulnerable Canadians.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Nancy Ruth: In conclusion, I call the
attention of honourable senators to a quote from Ms. Shirley Williams, a
professor of native studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario and a
respected Ojibwa and Odawa elder. When asked about the proposed legislation, Ms.
Williams provided a concise answer: "It's time."
Honourable senators, I urge us to move this bill along.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Would the honourable senator
take a question?
Senator Nancy Ruth: Yes.
Senator Dyck: The honourable senator noted in her
speech that the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples supported this bill. What about
other Aboriginal organizations such as the Native Women's Association of Canada
and the Assembly of First Nations?
Senator Nancy Ruth: My understanding is that some
Aboriginal groups would like changes or do not like parts of the bill. The
Native Women's Association of Canada is concerned with the section regarding how
the law will be administered rather than the law itself.
Senator Dyck: The honourable senator also said that
this is a complex issue and that she is providing compelling reasons to support
the bill. If it is complex, it must mean something within this issue is not
supported by people. What are those issues? Is there any downside to the
Senator Nancy Ruth: I would hesitate to speak for a
group of which I am not a part. When I look at the gender equity side of the
bill, there will be problems as there are in any part of Canadian society. If a
court order, band or reserve committee — whatever body is responsible — requires
one party to pay one half of the interest on the home, for example, to the other
party who is leaving, it might involve severe financial issues if both parties
are in receipt of social assistance.
There are problems in the bill's implementation and
enforcement yet to be seen and it is up to the bands to take a crack at solving
Senator Dyck: The honourable senator mentioned that
a number of women are essentially being forced to leave the matrimonial home
after a family breakdown, separation or divorce. Do we know how many women are
affected from any of the documentation?
Senator Nancy Ruth: I do not have that information,
but I also did not say that. My understanding of Bill S-4 is that it will
correct such a situation if that is the present situation.
(On motion of Senator Cowan, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable
Senator Poirier, seconded by the Honourable Senator Runciman:
That the following Address be presented to Her
Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean,
Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and
Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the
Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the
Senate of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble
thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has
addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
Hon. Fred J. Dickson: Honourable senators, I am
humbled and energized to represent my province, Nova Scotia, in this chamber.
Over the past few months, I fought a difficult health battle. Having been
recalibrated, I am honoured, with the indulgence of honourable senators, to give
my maiden speech in response to the Speech from the Throne.
I thank Your Honour, all honourable senators and officials
of this chamber for their warm and kind words of support over the past few
months. I also thank my family, especially my wife Kay, for their unceasing
support. On the day I took my oath of allegiance to Her Majesty, my five
grandchildren were here. They all have lasting memories of the history of
Parliament and especially the many courtesies extended to them for which I will
be forever grateful. My sixth grandchild, Matthew James Wing Lee, arrived a
couple of weeks ago.
Regarding my summons to this chamber, I sincerely thank my
sponsors the Honourable Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the
Senate, and the Honourable Gerald Comeau, Deputy Leader.
I was honoured and surprised to receive the phone call
from the Right Honourable Stephen Harper to ascertain my interest in joining the
Senate. After some discussion with the Prime Minister and upon my reflection of
my interest in public policy, especially health care policy, I accepted. I
express my appreciation to the Prime Minister for my appointment.
At the same time, I commend Prime Minister Harper for his
continuing commitment and the progress that has been made in implementing all
elements of Advantage Canada, which is the long-term plan for the economy set
out by the government in 2006. This plan sets forth our government's strategies
in this era of globalism, when economic power is shifting to developing
countries, including Brazil, Russia, India and China.
The pillars of this plan that the government is building
on include a tax advantage, reducing the tax burden on Canadians and Canadian
businesses; a knowledge advantage, fostering skills, training and education; an
infrastructure advantage, building a modern, world-class infrastructure; an
entrepreneurial advantage, making product and financial markets more efficient;
and, last, a fiscal advantage, strengthening Canada's fiscal position for
current and future generations. Advantage Canada is visionary yet concrete,
pragmatic and results-oriented.
Is the work on these strategies delivering results? The
answer is yes. Canada now holds a 5 per cent business cost advantage over the
U.S., according to KPMG's Competitive Alternatives 2010 study. One of the
study authors said:
Canada has pulled its weight in terms of contributing
to the global stimulus response to economic crisis, ranking fifth among nine
countries in terms of relative stimulus spending. However, this has been
achieved while maintaining a reasonable long-term government debt outlook —
with Canada expected to rank first among the G7 in 2014 in terms of low
I will subsequently refer in greater detail to this plan
and Canada's Economic Action Plan.
Since Confederation, Nova Scotia senators have provided or
are providing their advice to continue to build a stronger federation for future
generations. I hope my background, experience and the life lessons I have
learned and am learning will help me contribute to building a strong,
progressive Canada. The best lesson I learned was from my first employer, the
Nova Scotia industrialist R.A. Jodrey, whose motto was: "There is no substitute
for hard work."
Today I express, on behalf of all Canadians, our
appreciation for the service and dedication of the men and women who serve so
gallantly in our Armed Forces. Also, I offer our deepest sympathy and
condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in the Canadian Armed
Forces, NGOs and media on foreign missions, particularly in Afghanistan.
Being a Nova Scotian, and like all honourable senators, I
feel real sympathy for the people of West Virginia on the tragic loss of 29
hard-working coal miners in the methane disaster on April 5.
Turning now to the global recession, last year Timothy
Geithner, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, described the global downturn as not
being a typical recession. Rather, it is an abrupt correction of financial
excesses that has overwhelmed economies' and markets' self-correcting
mechanisms, and can only be ended by extraordinary global policy responses
implemented systematically by global leaders.
Through Canada's Economic Action Plan, our government has
done just that, and coupled with implementing the strategies of Advantage
Canada, our government is committed to building a Canada focused on the
opportunities of the future. The Harper government has both vision and, even
more important, a mission. We are making real progress in implementing that
mission, which includes jobs, growth and opportunities.
In Nova Scotia, the economic action plan has already made
a difference. Infrastructure projects, including roads, water, sewer and
recreational facilities, are being built across the province.
On March 3, we heard the Governor General lay out our
government's plans in the Speech from the Throne. In that document, she
referenced the improvement in job growth across Canada. She noted the fact that
our federal government has taken "decisive steps to protect incomes, create
jobs, ease credit markets, and help workers and communities get back on their
feet." She further stated that jobs and growth remain the top priority.
It was most satisfying to hear the Governor General say:
Balancing the nation's books will not come at the
expense of pensioners. It will not come by cutting transfer payments for
health care and education or by raising taxes on hard- working Canadians.
Canadians are concerned about their jobs and the jobs of
their children, about the effects of globalization, and about whether or not
their pensions will be there when they retire. Our federal government
understands and is working hard to respond to these concerns.
Here are just some examples that Her Excellency referenced
in the Speech from the Throne. Across Canada, 16,000 economic action plan
projects are putting Canadians back to work. Businesses are hiring, with 180,000
new jobs since last July. Incomes and confidence have been restored, and hope
and security renewed.
Furthermore, our economic action plan is supporting skills
and apprenticeship training for Canadian workers; expanding opportunities for
university graduates to pursue post-graduate studies; helping post-graduate
students and academics commercialize their ideas; bolstering the science and
technology strategy; launching a digital economy strategy; investing in clean
and renewable energy technologies; cutting red tape; and helping seniors by
protecting and strengthening our pension system.
When I came to this chamber, I was asked what my
priorities were. I said that I would focus first on strengthening the
effectiveness and sustainability of our health care system. My choice of health
care was in part driven by a friend of mine, the late Jim Connors of Dartmouth,
a lawyer, executive and alderman who served his community faithfully. He was the
lead advocate in the successful campaign for the public funding of Avastin by
the Government of Nova Scotia.
Dr. Anne Doig, President of the Canadian Medical
Association, in a recent speech set forth the CMA's call for action to transform
health care under five basic pillars, the idea being to build a health care
system that puts patients first. She noted that ten years ago, health care
spending comprised over 34 per cent of all program spending. Today it is over 40
per cent and soon will reach 50 per cent in some provinces. Furthermore, if we
continue the present style of service delivery and funding, health care is
projected to consume 100 per cent of program spending in all provinces and
territories within the next 25 years.
Our American neighbours have just finished a year-long
debate on the future of their health care system. President Obama has signed a
bill that in time will provide 95 per cent of U.S. citizens with health care
Although all Canadians have health care coverage, our
system is not perfect; indeed, its very sustainability is in question. The door
for health care debate is now wide open. We all understand just how sensitive it
will be but, if we do not take action now, then who will, and when?
That is why I am studying the 2002 report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology entitled The
Health of Canadians: The Federal Role, the Kirby- LeBreton report. This is
one of the most important parliamentary reports in Canadian history.
Furthermore, it demonstrates the effectiveness of the work of the Senate at a
time when our government is initiating Senate reform. I believe we, honourable
senators, have both the responsibility and opportunity to address in a
significant way the big issues affecting Canadians, such as health care.
The first recommendation of the Kirby-LeBreton report was
the creation of a National Health Care Council. The council has again been
allotted $10 million in the 2010-11 estimates. The council's mandate is the
production of an annual report on the state of the health care system and the
health status of Canadians.
The council, in February 2009, issued an insightful report
entitled Value for Money: Making Canadian Health Care Stronger.
The goal of the council is to provide a system-wide
perspective on health care reform for Canadians, with particular attention to
accountability and transparency. The report's executive summary opens with the
challenging quote: "If you have only five minutes, read this." I strongly
suggest that honourable senators take the five minutes to read the summary or,
if you have read it, to read it again. It may be sourced at
The executive summary sets out key facts and concepts to
engage Canadians in thinking about value for money and health care. Simply put,
the report explores the question: How can we make the best possible use of the
40 per cent of all federal, provincial and territorial government programming
spent on health care? The council shares the view of the overwhelming majority
of Canadians and their governments that a high quality and sustainable health
care system is achievable.
I respectfully and strongly suggest that all honourable
senators give consideration to assisting the Kirby-LeBreton committee members in
achieving their objective by promoting meaningful discussion along the lines the
council recommends, because we, like all Canadians, care deeply about the
sustainability of our health care system.
I intend to look carefully at where we are today in
relation to the Kirby-LeBreton report, the Health Council report and the targets
set out in the 2004 federal-provincial health care accord. Are the changes made
to date working? Do they need modification? I plan to introduce further inquires
in this chamber in this regard.
Honourable senators, I think we all agree that healthy
Canadians make a prosperous Canada. We have a wonderful health care system that
was once the envy of many countries. It is up to us to return it to that status.
My political motto is best expressed by the quote, "Do
what you can to show you care about other people and you will make our world be
a better place." I believe our Governor General's Speech from the Throne put us
on course to do just that.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Will the honourable
senator accept a question?
Senator Dickson: Yes.
Senator Callbeck: I first want to compliment
Senator Dickson on his speech. He spoke a lot about the Kirby-LeBreton report,
which I agree is a wonderful report. I was fortunate to be a member of the
One strong recommendation in that report was on a
catastrophic drug plan, the bottom line of which is that no family will pay
above a certain percentage of their income for medications. After the report was
submitted, talks started between the provinces and the federal government. There
were several meetings, and then the government changed in 2006. Since that time,
the federal government has not been active on this file. Activity on it has
The honourable senator has obviously read the report. How
does he feel about the catastrophic drug plan?
Senator Dickson: Honourable senators, since coming
to this chamber, I reviewed volume 6 of the report and subsequently had the
Library of Parliament prepare a spreadsheet on the action that has been taken on
certain recommendations. It appears, as the honourable senator knows, that the
major responsibility for health care rests with the provinces. The report
prepared by the Library of Parliament indicates that the federal government has
moved expeditiously where it has the power to do so. However, as provincial
governments change, there are roadblocks to moving forward and achieving
unanimity among the provinces on to how to proceed.
I will need to study the catastrophic drug plan further,
and I look forward to discussing it with other senators who served on the
(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Jim Munson moved second reading of Bill S-211,
An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day.
He said: Honourable senators, I will speak briefly — for
the third time — on my bill, an act respecting World Autism Awareness Day. This
bill has been given different numbers in different Parliaments and has received
support and been spoken of generously by many honourable senators, including
Senator Keon, Senator Oliver, Senator Mercer and the former Senator Trenholme
Counsell. Despite the support this bill has received, it has become the victim
of prorogation. I hope that the third time is indeed third time lucky or a lucky
charm. Given our light-to- moderate legislative agenda, perhaps we can move
quickly on this bill.
I hope honourable senators will humour me as I remind them
of some of the contents of this bill and why it is important. This bill, as the
name implies, will raise awareness of autism, a neurological condition that
affects a growing number of families in Canada. Autism now affects more children
worldwide than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. Health Canada
conservatively estimates that 1 in 150 families live with autism. Others argue
that it is closer to 1 in 110.
However, this bill is not about numbers; it is about
people, people who need our help. Autism isolates those who have it from the
world around them. It is a health issue, but the treatments involve many
different therapies and professionals — speech therapists, occupational
therapists, educational experts, social workers, and the list goes on. Many of
these services are not paid for through our health care system, and they can
cost up to $65,000 a year. Some provinces fund autism treatment but, as we all
know, there are long waiting lists for treatments and therapies.
While we do not know much about autism, we do know that
the earlier treatment can begin, the more successful it tends to be. Imagine for
a minute how stressful it would be if your child or grandchild had autism and
you knew that they would not receive treatments for several months, or even
years, because of waiting lists. Imagine the anguish you would feel.
It is a tragedy when people with autism do not receive
timely treatment, because it means that they are denied the tools they need to
succeed and contribute to society.
As we learned in the Standing Senate Committee on Social
Affairs, Science and Technology and later documented in our report, Pay Now
or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis, the stress on families is enormous.
Far too many families have to remortgage their homes, work two jobs, or make
other sacrifices to ensure the child receives the treatment he or she needs. One
parent must often give up a satisfying and well-paying career to be a full-time
caregiver and advocate for their child with autism. Financial strain, fatigue
and constant worry for their child erode the mental and physical health of
parents. They need our help too.
This modest bill to respect World Autism Awareness Day
will not change their reality, their day-to-day struggle to find and pay for
care, but if a nation for one day acknowledges their reality, they will not feel
so alone. On April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, people with autism and their
families will feel the respect and admiration they deserve from their fellow
Such a day will show support, but it will also send a
message about autism to those who do not know about this condition. It will be
an opportunity for people to learn about autism and recognize that in their
community there are families living with autism, neighbours, friends and
colleagues who deserve to have their reality acknowledged and supported.
Honourable senators, before we can mark World Autism Awareness Day, we need to
pass this piece of legislation.
All children have the right to succeed, and we as adults
and as lawmakers have the responsibility to ensure they have the tools and
opportunities they need to succeed. I remind honourable senators that Canada is
a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These
international conventions commit us to take action to see that children with
disabilities enjoy a full life with dignity, self-reliance and full
participation in society.
Honourable senators, let us take one more step forward and
join the 192 other countries of the world that have made April 2 World Autism
Hon. Michael Duffy: Would the honourable senator
take a question?
Senator Munson: Yes.
Senator Duffy: I applaud the honourable senator for
his valiant work on this subject. In my own life, I have known a number of
people who have been affected by this condition and every word the senator told
the chamber this afternoon is true in spades. It is a tremendous struggle for
Given that the jurisdiction of health in this country is
with the provincial governments, could the honourable senator bring us up to
date on what the various provinces are doing? I am not sure of the chronology,
but I have friends in Ontario who found it was covered and then it was not
covered; there is apparently an argument that this is not a disease but a
condition. Could the honourable senator elaborate on where the provinces are on
Senator Munson: I thank the honourable senator for
the question. The answer is that the provinces are everywhere and in no
particular place on this. The Ontario government has spent a lot more money to
alleviate some of the waiting lists, but those lists are still too long.
I am of the view that we should dare to think outside the
box. The honourable senator and I have covered Parliament Hill and we have
covered many federal-provincial conferences. We have often heard the argument
that an item falls under provincial jurisdiction.
My argument to that is that autism has no borders. When it
comes to jurisdictional disputes, we should erase those borders. I do not care
what government is in power. I want the federal health minister to sit down with
the social affairs or health ministers from each province and dare to think big.
Think about this country and think about the young men and women with their
families who are travelling from Nova Scotia and my own province of New
Brunswick to Alberta, not for oil but to get better treatment. I do not think
that is fair.
At this point in our society, if we have national health
programs dealing with heart disease and cancer and so on, surely we can dare to
sit down and look at autism again. Let us look at having a national research
base, having a system set up where we have common values on how to treat autism
and that the money is spent equitably across the board.
I challenge the present government and, hopefully, one day
I will challenge my own government to reach out, sit down and develop a national
autism spectrum disorder strategy.
(On motion of Senator Seidman, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Terry M. Mercer moved second reading of Bill
S-203, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.
He said: Honourable senators, I do intend to speak at some
length on this bill, but I propose to wait. I move adjournment of the debate.
(On motion of Senator Mercer, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable
Senator Finley calling the attention of the Senate to the issue of the
erosion of Freedom of Speech in our country.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I would like
to start by commending Senator Finley on initiating this debate on an extremely
important subject to which we should all pay careful attention. I listened
carefully to the speeches by the four senators who have already participated in
the debate. I hope many of us will join in.
It must be pointed out that in this chamber, we are all
most definitely in favour of freedom of expression.
We all support freedom of speech and freedom of
expression. That should go without saying, although sometimes one is led to
Like Senator Duffy and Senator Wallin who preceded me in
this debate, as a journalist I benefited from and exercised freedom of speech
every day in my work.
I was often attacked for it, but nobody ever said that
exercising your freedom of speech ought to give you a free ride against other
people's freedom of speech. If you go into the public arena, you have to be
prepared to face criticism, some of it vehement. Indeed, on a couple of
occasions employers and I parted company after I exercised my freedom of speech.
My experience was small potatoes, however, because I am fortunate enough to be
I will never forget an experience in Cuba a few years ago
when I was there as part of a parliamentary delegation. I gave a speech
extolling freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and I suggested that Cuba
could benefit from the application of this principle. The Cubans,
understandably, were not delighted. The next day, a Cuban parliamentarian stood
up to deliver an impassioned rebuttal, saying that, yes, everyone understands
freedom of speech and Cubans have that freedom. She went on to say, "Is it not a
pity that Senator Fraser is not here to hear my rebuttal of her ill-informed
remarks." I was not there because I and other Canadian parliamentarians were, at
that precise moment, meeting with a group of Cubans who had done hard time in
prison for exercising their freedom of expression. In comparison to what they
and so many others have suffered around the world, we should almost be ashamed
to complain about events that may or may not occur here.
Still, honourable senators, that experience was a reminder
that possibly the first reason for defending freedom of expression is that
without freedom of expression, citizens are not free to criticize their
government, and that is the foundation of democracy. It is the foundation of the
system in which we are free to say that we either agree or disagree with those
who govern us and, by extension, to choose others to govern us.
In that context, I was a little puzzled by the particular
focus of my predecessors in this debate who tended to express great concern with
the case of an American polemicist, Ms. Ann Coulter, and did not address issues
that seemed to me to be of considerably greater concern. I note, for example,
that the other day, Globe and Mail columnist Mr. Lawrence Martin produced
a handy reminder of facts that we are all aware of in which he stated:
The government tried censoring coverage of dead bodies
returning from Afghanistan. It tried to curtail freedom of the press like
never before, at one point having the police move out journalists from a
Charlottetown hotel lobby. . . .
And, I would add here, also by setting up what appeared to
be friends and enemies lists about who was allowed to ask questions. Mr. Martin
Restrictions on the access-to-information process
effectively put a "stranglehold" on communications, information commissioner
Robert Marleau reported.
As we have heard today, freedom of access to information
continues to be a source of shame in this capital at this time. Mr. Martin
continued by saying:
The Prime Minister's operatives put out a secret
handbook instructing members how to muzzle parliamentary committees. . . .
Minister of State Diane Ablonczy lost some of her
responsibilities because, a colleague said, she tried to give gays a voice
to fund their parade. A noted academic, Michael Behiels, was attacked for
criticizing the Harper government's Quebec policy; Government Senate Leader
Marjory LeBreton went all the way to the University of Ottawa's chancellor
in a bid to have him disciplined.
Senator LeBreton: That is not true, by the way.
Senator Fraser: I thank senator LeBreton for that
The fact is that there are many examples of efforts by the
present Government of Canada to muzzle various people, and I find them to be far
more disturbing than the incident of the unfortunate Ms. Coulter — "unfortunate"
in several senses.
I would like to address a couple of misunderstandings that
tend to be quite common in discussions of freedom of expression. First, in
Canada, freedom of expression does not trump other rights. In Canada, all
constitutional rights are equal, and for good reason.
Honourable senators, I can remember having heated debates
with some American colleagues back when I was a journalist because they believed
for them it was an article of faith that freedom of the press trumped everything
else. I do not believe that to be true. I believe that freedom of expression
does not, for example, trump the right to a fair trial. The courts in Canada,
including the Supreme Court of Canada, have confirmed that freedom of
expression, while essential, is not more important or more sacred than the other
A second misunderstanding which is linked to the first is
the notion that any limit on freedom of expression is inherently wrong. That is
not true in Canada, either. Section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it, subject only to such
reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free
and democratic society — limits that can be demonstrably justified, that is, and
any such exceptions must be narrow. The courts have confirmed that they must be
In the case of freedom of expression, the core point to
remember here is that it, like other freedoms but perhaps even more than other
freedoms, must be exercised responsibly. It must be exercised vigorously over a
wide range of opinion, but responsibly, because words have power. We were
reminded when this debate began by Senator Dallaire of the power of the words of
Radio Mille Collines in Rwanda, the radio station that incited genocide. Words
have power. Therefore, we must use our words with a reasonable degree of
prudence about the consequences that our use of those words may have.
Sometimes, there is a tendency to say, "Oh, bad things
happen over there, on other continents, in poorer, less wonderful countries than
Canada." However, we have examples in this country of how words can be misused
and can lead directly to terrible consequences for people here. Just ask the
minorities in Canada. Ask Aboriginals, Blacks, Jews, Chinese; the list is long.
Indeed, ask women whether the words deployed against them have not had, too
often, devastating consequences up to and sometimes including the loss of life.
In comparison to those abuses of freedom of expression, I
would argue that the case of Ms. Coulter is not very important. University
students have, for as long as there have been universities, engaged in
overheated adolescent displays of intolerance. This seems to go with the
territory of being a student. Honourable senators will recall the old saw about
how, when you were young, your father did not know anything and how, as you got
older, it was amazing how the old man learned stuff. Generally that first stage
is where many university students are.
We have other present examples of the power of words,
honourable senators. I would draw to your attention the, in my view, most
unfortunate tenor, too often, of the debate in my own province of Quebec on what
is called "reasonable accommodation," which too often seems to take the view
that any accommodation of minorities is not reasonable. The most recent example
is the appalling quality of the debate surrounding the wearing of the niqab by
perhaps a few dozen Quebec women. We are not immune from abuses in this country,
abuses of freedom of speech which lead to actions with real consequences.
Some speakers earlier in this debate explained that they
want to abolish section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which they see
as establishing government censorship. I find that explanation odd because
section 13(1) is about repeated communication of hate messages by electronic
means, so I am not sure why that particular section of the act has attracted
such extraordinary venom.
Be that as it may, the Supreme Court upheld the validity
of that section of the act, with the careful enunciation of narrow grounds upon
which it may be interpreted, but it has upheld the constitutionality of that
section of the act. My colleagues, I think, are suggesting that the Canadian
Human Rights Act is no place to address hate messages at all, whatever the means
of communication, and that the Criminal Code gives us all the protection we
I submit to honourable senators that we need both because
the acts serve different purposes. The Criminal Code has as its object
punishment — punishment of offenders one after the other after the other if
necessary, often after long and costly trials — whereas the Canadian Human
Rights Act is designed to be remedial. The act is designed to remove hate
messages that cross the line from being expressions of opinion, even if
benighted opinion, to that danger zone where they create true dangers for groups
Several people have referred to the famous case of Mark
Steyn and Maclean's magazine. The Canadian Human Rights Commission
dismissed the complaint against Maclean's magazine, but as the Canadian
Human Rights Commission itself pointed out, there is room for improvement in the
act, which might have helped Maclean's and Mr. Steyn. The commission
suggested that the act be amended to add a statutory definition of hatred and
contempt in accordance with that applied by the Supreme Court of Canada, which
specified that section 13 refers to unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of
detestation, calumny and vilification that are ardent and extreme in nature: in
other words, truly extreme expressions of hatred and contempt.
The commission suggested that it be allowed to award for
costs in exceptional circumstances.
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (The Hon. the Acting
Speaker): Honourable senators, Senator Fraser's time has run out.
Senator Fraser: May I ask for five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Fraser: The commission has suggested that
it be allowed to award costs in exceptional circumstances where the tribunal
finds that a party has abused the tribunal process, and it has suggested that
the law be amended to provide for early dismissal of section 13 complaints when
messages do not meet the narrow definition of hatred or contempt. With those
amendments, it seems to me that even those Canadians who fear the application of
the Canadian Human Rights Act would have good reason to sleep more easily in
However, honourable senators, do not forget that words
have power. When someone suggests that all Muslims are terrorists, for example,
that is a powerful and dangerous message. The speaker does not need to go on and
say, "Therefore, go out there and commit violence against Muslims." If someone
persuades somebody that members of a given group are all terrorists or are all
out to get them in some way, the consequence will follow as the night, the day.
That group will be subject to dreadful persecution in this country as in others.
Some of us have had the misfortune in our lives to see
race riots in other countries. I pray to God that we never have to see them
again in this country, but I do not believe that we should sleep lightly and say
the possibility cannot exist. That possibility, honourable senators, is why I
believe it is so important to hedge about our freedom of expression with the
responsibility to exercise it properly.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: On debate.
Hon. Nicole Eaton: Honourable senators, I am sorry
I am not prepared to answer the house today but I will say my piece. Like other
senators who have spoken before me on this matter, I am alarmed by the erosion
of this most essential right, alarmed because freedom of speech is part of our
Canadian identity. If we lose that freedom, we lose part of our Canadian-ness.
Freedom of expression in all its forms, including freedom of speech, the press,
the arts and religious and cultural expression, has always been one of Canada's
most famous national qualities. In our increasingly multicultural pluralistic
society, it ensures that everyone in Canada can find their voice and have their
Freedom of speech is the great equalizer for Canadians who
seek to address their claims by appealing to our national conscience. In Canada,
one does not need to have power or money to make a case, merely a passion to
express an idea.
Freedom of speech is one of the most attractive qualities
we offer to new immigrants, many of whom come from countries where political or
even religious dissent is a crime, but free speech is not only part of our
Canada today. It is also a great Canadian tradition. In his opening remarks on
this subject, Senator Finley mentioned in passing the case of Joseph Howe. I
will expand on that case because it sets an important precedent for the freedoms
we enjoy to this day.
In 1835, nearly 200 years ago and a generation before
Canada was born as our own country, Joseph Howe was put on trial for seditious
libel because the newspapers he published had embarrassed local Halifax
politicians by exposing their corruption. Mr. Howe knew that his own freedom was
at stake. If he lost, he could have been imprisoned, but he knew that much more
was on trial that day. The right to scrutinize and criticize their government
was in question. Some would call that right the right to offend.
Here is what he said to the jury about what would happen
politically if he were convicted:
Were you to condemn me, these men would say there is
no truth in these charges, there is nothing wrong, and matters would
continue in the old beaten track. If you acquit me, as I trust you will,
they must form themselves into a court of inquiry for self-reformation; they
must drive out from among them those men who bring disgrace on their ranks,
and mischief on the community in which they reside.
Mr. Howe's case would set a precedent for Nova Scotia and
the rest of Canada for centuries to come. Had the jury chosen to side with the
Halifax elites, the politicians and other polite company who had been offended
and embarrassed by him, corruption would have flourished and democratic
criticism would have withered.
Howe's passionate defence of freedom worked. The jury
defied the judge's instructions and acquitted him. That great triumph set Howe
on course to one day become Nova Scotia's premier.
Let me quote one more passage from Howe's speech.
Remember, his trial was not long after the American Revolution and the War of
1812. Canadians and Americans had taken two separate paths and were still wary
of each other.
Howe clearly rejected the American way. He regarded their
revolution as an act of rebellion and disloyalty. He was a fiercely proud Nova
Scotian, but here is what he said:
Let not the sons of the Rebels look across the border
to the sons of Loyalists, and reproach them that their press is not free.
Howe was not trying to impress the Americans, and he
certainly did not believe that freedom of speech was only for Americans — in
fact, the opposite. In his defence, he constantly referred to Canadian and
British traditions of liberty. To Howe, all modern free peoples enjoyed freedom
of speech. Far from being merely an American concept, Howe regarded it as
Joseph Howe set a great precedent, that the nature of
freedom of speech is that it constantly must be supported for there are would-be
censors in every generation.
In 1935, exactly a century after Howe's acquittal, across
the country in Alberta, William Aberhart became premier. Like the political
elites of Howe's Halifax, he found Alberta's newspapers to be troublesome and
Aberhart's election came in the face of nearly universal
opposition by the newspapers of the day. By 1937, he was so frustrated that he
introduced the Accurate News and Information Act, which required every newspaper
in the province to run a rebuttal, correction or amplification when ordered to
do so by the government.
Alberta's lieutenant governor refused to proclaim the law
until the Supreme Court could assess its constitutionality. He was punished by
being stripped of his official residence, car and staff.
Even without the law, Aberhart prosecuted his war against
the press. The Alberta legislature ordered that a reporter for the Edmonton
Journal, Don Brown, be jailed for misquoting a government backbencher.
Luckily, national ridicule caused the government to back down before they could
In the spring of 1938, the Supreme Court ruled that
Alberta's press act was illegal and that it violated Canada's unwritten bill of
rights, the same code of freedom that had protected Joseph Howe. For its efforts
in fighting against Aberhart's censorship, the Edmonton Journal was
awarded a special Pulitzer Prize, the first time the citation was awarded
outside the United States. It was a great Canadian moment.
There are many other of these moments in our history, some
much more recently. It was not until 1955 that the University of Toronto shut
down its art room where, until then, students had to prove they were free of
mental problems before reading controversial books like Ulysses. The
books were later moved to open shelves.
In the 1980s, in the case of Vancouver's Little Sisters
bookstore, Canada Customs followed Memorandum D-911, which arbitrarily declared
any description of gay sexuality to be obscene, a vague rule that was eventually
thrown out by the Supreme Court.
Little Sisters continued its fight against Customs and
Canada Post well into the 1990s; and until Prime Minister Mulroney overturned
the order 48 hours later, Customs police briefly made Canada the only Western
democracy to seize copies of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses after Iran's
We are in the 21st century now and one would think that
censorship would be obsolete, universally considered a relic of less enlightened
times. However, nowadays it is not prudish Customs officers or thin-skinned
politicians who are the main threat; it is Canada's human rights commissions —
for which I disagree with my honourable colleague — that would have struck
George Orwell as being perfectly named.
These commissions were started with the best of
intentions, to help the poor and the weak from being bullied out of a job or an
apartment. They have become censors, policing not death threats or incitement to
violence or any other real crime, but rather the fake crime of hurt feelings.
They have become what author Kathy Shaidle calls a "tyranny of nice."
Section 13 of our Canadian Human Rights Act makes it
against the law to invoke feelings of hatred or contempt, but hate is a normal
human feeling. What is not normal is to make these feelings against the law.
Of course we do not want people to turn their hard
feelings into crimes. That is why we have the Criminal Code; but to have a
government agency monitoring the Internet, searching for certain political views
to prosecute, is anathema to a liberal democracy.
Senator Fraser already addressed the question of Mark
Steyn. Maclean's magazine was put on trial for a week for publishing
excerpts from his best-selling book on Islam. That is very stressful and
expensive, and as Senator Fraser pointed out, it was overturned.
The Western Standard publisher, Ezra Levant, was
prosecuted for 900 days — that is over three years — for publishing pictures of
the controversial Danish cartoons of Mohammed.
Those are two famous cases, but many other people have
been investigated by the government merely for having a certain point of view.
Honourable senators, I refer you to Pastor Stephen Boissoin, who was given a
lifetime speech ban by the Alberta Human Rights Commission; Father Alphonse de
Valk of Toronto's Catholic Insight magazine; the Christian Heritage
Party; and Bill Whatcott of Saskatchewan. Each man was prosecuted for expressing
his religious beliefs — not for doing anything harmful, just for saying
something that someone else found offensive.
Why do we have to buy the magazines? If we do not like
them, do not buy them. If you do not like what is being said on television, turn
off the television set. If you do not like an entertainer, walk out.
All these human rights issues show a systemic bias in our
human rights commissions, and that is exactly the problem with vague political
censorship. It is not about the law; it is about political favourites. It is
about the way the wind is blowing.
There is a common thread to each one of these free speech
battles. In each case, the targets of censorship were declared offensive or
troublesome; but in each case, the success of these troublesome critics helped
make Canada more inclusive and democratic.
Canada is the most peaceful and tolerant country in the
world precisely because we allow people to disagree with each other passionately
and even offensively. That clash of ideas is often noisy and occasionally
upsetting, but through these vigorous discussions we have been able to navigate
our way through hundreds of years of challenges and our national purpose has
never been stronger.
Honourable senators, freedom of speech is not an abstract
Canadian ideal; it is an active, living part of being Canadian. It is an
integral part of the Canadian identity. Our citizens use it every day, more
often than any other freedom.
To study our history is to see each generation of
Canadians stand up for that freedom when it is challenged, as it has been
several times recently with Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant and yes, Ann Coulter. These
are small episodes but they all add up; and to learn from our history is to know
that we must protect that great inheritance today and whenever in the future it
may be challenged again.
Hon. Patrick Brazeau: Honourable senators, I rise
in this chamber today to add my voice to the inquiry on the status of freedom of
speech in Canada. As has been so eloquently pointed out by my honourable
colleagues, the concept of freedom of speech is fundamental to democratic
It has been said that the test of democracy is freedom of
criticism. Indeed, healthy, provocative, even intense debate is the truest
essence of the basis for participatory democracy.
Freedom of speech is not, as some may have suggested, an
American idea. It is an extension of free will. It is a by-product of democracy
and it is reflective of the notion that all men and women were created equal.
Freedom of speech knows no political station, no power structure, no race,
colour or creed.
Given this, how sad is it that we seem as a society to
place the notion of freedom of speech as less important than ensuring none might
become offended by the hard truths of 21st century living?
I took note of several senators' questions about the fine
line between freedom of speech and respect. As an Aboriginal person, I am
personally aware of how freedom of speech can be used as a tool to promote
prejudice and hatred. It was presumably that situation, as reflected in the Ann
Coulter incident, which has given momentum to our deliberations on this most
important subject. Equally important is that the recent incident highlights
another fine line between one person's freedom of expression vis- à-vis
another's, and this warrants further study.
I do not know, personally, whether it was University of
Ottawa professors who prevented Ms. Coulter from speaking or whether it was the
organizers who decided to cancel her speech. Nor do I know whether she was
intimidated by the crowd of students or whether she was truly indifferent to
their demonstration. I do know for a fact that the students felt free to limit
her freedom of expression.
There are those who believe that freedom of expression and
free speech work in only one direction: those who insist on being able to
express views and opinions while denying others the opportunity to challenge
those views. The line between speaking freely and being spoken to freely should
not exist but, sadly, it most assuredly does. If the students were free to
protest Ms. Coulter's presence on their campus and the nature of her
presentation she was expected to give, why was she not equally free to be there
and speak her mind?
The erosion of many of these freedoms is nowhere more
evident than in First Nations communities. In many instances, the utter absence
of accountability and transparency that has plagued Aboriginal politics for so
long can be attributed, in large part, to the infringements of the rights of
grassroots Aboriginal people to their freedom of speech. For many reserve
residents, the price for their attempts at free speech and the expression of
their concerns in an open manner is often restriction of access to essential
services such as housing and post-secondary education. The price of speaking out
against corruption and demanding accountability can at times be even more
severe, involving physical violence and threats to family and friends.
There are also people who advocate free speech and freedom
of expression and then turn around and do everything they can to prevent others
from enjoying that same freedom. I experienced that type of situation in 2008,
in a previous role, during discussions surrounding the repeal of section 67 of
the Canadian Human Rights Act. The discussions eventually resulted in the
provisions of that legislation also applying to the First Nations peoples for
the first time in over 30 years.
Who, in your opinion, was most opposed to this important
improvement to human rights for members of the First Nations? It was none other
than their own leaders.
There are numerous examples whereby freedom of speech has
resulted in positive change that has and will benefit generations of Aboriginal
peoples. John Corbiere spoke up against being prevented from voting in band
elections in his community because he lived off-reserve. Sharon McIvor recently
spoke out on the injustices in the area of gender inequalities regarding the
Indian registration system, as did Senator Lovelace Nicholas in the 1980s at the
international level. Donald Marshall spoke out on the matter of Aboriginal
Each of these people served their communities and their
own rights by exercising their freedom of speech all the way to the Supreme
Court of Canada and other venues.
Honourable senators, as Canada's first peoples, the
Aboriginal community needs to be able to freely define its aspirations, to
debate the real root causes of poverty in Aboriginal communities, and to
compellingly prescribe the cure for its ills. This cannot happen in a vacuum
where people live in fear of retribution and retaliation if they have the
courage to speak out.
This will not happen if divergent opinion is termed
racist, and it surely will not happen without the full engagement and
participation of grassroots Aboriginal peoples convicted and convinced enough of
the need to embrace the need for change.
Full engagement means just that. It is not the
flow-through of funding to organizations or leaders who are all too eager to
accept the cash and purposefully stifle any divergent opinions or possibly
troublesome comments from grassroots Aboriginal peoples.
Honourable senators, I will make full use of my right to
free speech and, in so doing, will affirm that our government has no intention
of doing what was done in the past, dealing what I term to be "shut-up money."
Let us bear in mind that the fundamental with which we are
dealing is freedom of speech, and not freedom of entitlement.
Let us aspire to a non-partisan debate in which everyone
can enjoy complete freedom of expression: internal solutions to overcome the
problems of poverty among Aboriginals, presented by and for the First Nations,
Inuit and Metis; a deeper commitment by the Aboriginal community to the
political process and even to political life, where Aboriginals could
voluntarily run for office and elect representatives who are responsible and
accountable; and a Canada where Aboriginals are recognized as an integral part
of the fabric of our country and essential to the debates needed to ensure our
The time-worn saying that the truth shall set you free is
a dream for many Aboriginal peoples. The sad reality, however, is that the truth
will most often set you back — to the back of the line for housing repairs, for
job training, and for employment opportunities.
Honourable senators, we must not take on this complex
matter lightly. There are numerous fine lines that are to be found intertwined
in this subject. There is the line between freedom of speech and freedom of
expression which must not be crossed, and that is in the instance where freedom
of expression can lead to resorting to violence. Equally, there is the line
between freedom of speech and the freedom to knowingly misrepresent the truth.
There is the line between our rights to free speech and our rights to protect
ourselves from slander and libel.
This is a highly complex matter and one from which we in
this chamber should not deter ourselves from addressing. It will only be through
an open exercise of free speech that Aboriginal poverty will be overcome and the
aspirations of Canada's Aboriginal peoples will be achieved. It is only by
ensuring the essential right to freedom of speech is respected and affirmed that
Aboriginal people will have the fair opportunity to participate fully in
Honourable senators, freedom of speech is often a right
that we in Parliament take for granted. However, in Aboriginal communities, the
affirmation of the right to freedom of speech is something that needs to be
taught, exercised and, most importantly, rigorously defended in light of
anything that attempts to trump it. It is essential to understand that, in the
hearts and souls of Aboriginal peoples, Canada is indeed their home and native
land, and one in which their ability to prosper and to speak should be equally
as strong and as free as our great nation is.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Would the honourable senator
take a question?
Senator Brazeau: Yes.
Senator Cools: As the honourable senator knows, I
have great respect for the Aboriginal peoples of this country. To my mind, their
treatment has been beyond intolerable. It has been unacceptable, really. I was
listening with interest to what the honourable senator had to say, as I listened
with interest to Senator Eaton. I have no doubt that Helena Guergis is suffering
terribly because she has been exposed to such calumny.
I want to ask Senator Brazeau two questions. First, has
Ms. Guergis' freedom of speech been considered in this debate?
Since the honourable senator said that we must not take
our freedom of speech here in this chamber for granted, the other thing I wish
to say is that I do not. However, three times in a row in this chamber in the
last two weeks, I rose to express my interest in speaking and three times in a
row I could not. Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, but three times is
Second, does the honourable senator think that my freedom
of speech was offended when, in this chamber, at the behest of colleagues across
the way, my ability to speak in debate was terminated and denied?
Senator Brazeau: I thank the honourable senator for
her questions. First, with respect to Ms. Guergis, she has the freedom and the
right to speak and to defend herself, just like anybody else across the country.
She has already indicated that she will do that at a later date, so I do not
think that her freedom of speech has been trumped until she cannot exercise it.
With respect to the specific question involving the
honourable senator, obviously I have not been here long enough to be able to
comment, except in terms of process and procedure in this chamber. However, to
be quite honest, it was a little bit odd at face value. I will leave my comments
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I think Senator
Finley has done us a service in bringing forward this issue. The debate should
proceed on the fact that the Canadian Human Rights Act or any of its sections
are not before us. Until such question is before us, it is not proper to debate
it because opinions are being expressed in the abstract, and that is not a wise
Senator Finley quoted that brilliant and well-known
statement by Mr. Voltaire where he says something to the effect that he may hate
what you say, but he will defend to the death your right to say it.
Maybe someone of the honourable senator's background,
knowing as much suffering as his people have known, can give me what I am
looking for in this debate. Can we find a balanced approach where we practice
what we preach on a daily basis, where we continue to act based on the fine set
of parliamentary principles evolved over a thousand years, and where we invoke
our Judeo-Christian background in its expression of principles? We will do
humanity a great service if we were to find a balance in the application of the
law within this place.
Finally, maybe these questions are too many and maybe all
of this will unfold as the debate continues. In my view, Ann Coulter talks a lot
of idiocy. However, I still think she should be allowed to speak. I will tell
Senator Brazeau, and invite him to consider, that there is no place in this
country where freedom of speech is more violated than in this chamber.
Honourable senators, think on that.
Hon. Jim Munson: What does the honourable senator
mean by "shut-up money"?
Senator Brazeau: Honourable senators, I am happy to
tell the honourable senator.
For far too many years in my opinion, Aboriginal
organizations and groups have had to submit proposals for different initiatives,
issues, conferences, et cetera to obtain federal monies. Having been in the
position I held previously, I have seen a lot of money wasted on conferences and
meetings where there is a lot of talk and no action or results.
However, I have seen governments — time and time again —
allow this funding to flow to these organizations basically to shut them up.
Governments give them funding for their conference, but essentially say, let us
not have the real debate on issues of potential treaty rights or other rights
flowing from section 35 of the Constitution. That is what I mean by "shut-up
money." A lot of it has been going around in past years.
Hon. John D. Wallace: Honourable senators, I am
pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you today regarding the inquiry
initiated by Senator Finley, in respect of one of the fundamental rights and
freedoms guaranteed to each of us under the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms, namely our freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. In
speaking today, I want to acknowledge the thoughtful and meaningful
contributions to this inquiry previously presented in this chamber by Senator
Tkachuk, Senator Wallin, Senator Duffy and, of course, Senator Finley and others
I begin by drawing the attention of honourable senators to
the underlying fundamental basis of this guarantee of rights and freedoms that
each of us is entitled to, and enjoys, within our Canadian democracy. That
guarantee includes our guaranteed right to freedom of speech. This underlying
fundamental basis is found in section 1 and section 2 of the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedom.
In this regard, section one of the charter reads as
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees
the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits
prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic
Those reasonable limits were referred to earlier by
Senator Fraser in her presentation.
We can see at least two key issues and resulting questions
that arise from section 1. First, what are the guaranteed rights and freedoms?
Second, what reasonable limits prescribed by law can be imposed on our enjoyment
of these guaranteed rights and freedoms?
Regarding the first question, section 2 of the Charter
clearly outlines each of the guaranteed fundamental freedoms to be enjoyed by
everyone. They include "freedom of conscience and religion" and "freedom of
thought, belief, opinion and expression. . . ."
Regarding the second question concerning reasonable limits
prescribed by law that can be imposed on our enjoyment of, and entitlement to,
these guaranteed rights and freedoms, I will refer to existing statutory
limitations that prohibit what is commonly known as "hate speech" and "hate
propaganda." Before doing so, I will outline for honourable senators some of the
legislative history behind these limitations.
After the Second World War and the defeat of Nazi Germany,
nations of the world recognized the dangers that hate propaganda can create by
fomenting hatred against minorities. In January 1965, then Minister of Justice,
the Honourable Guy Favreau, appointed a special committee to study the problems
with respect to the spread of hate propaganda in Canada. The committee released
its report in 1966 and recommended specific criminal legislation against hate
propaganda. Hate propaganda provisions were added to the Criminal Code in 1970
and followed the recommendations of the committee.
Currently, the Criminal Code still includes hate
propaganda and hate speech prohibitions. Both of these prohibitions are
considered to be reasonable limitations imposed on the rights and freedoms
guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Two prohibitions or
limitations can be found in section 319 of the Criminal Code.
Section 319(1) prohibits "inciting hatred" against an
"identifiable group" by "communicating," in a public place, statements that are
likely to lead to a breach of peace. Section 319(2) prohibits communicating
statements, other than in private conversation, to "wilfully promote hatred"
against an "identifiable group." Within each of these sections, "communicating"
specifically includes communicating by telephone, broadcasting or other audible
or visible means.
The critical issue that arises from a consideration of
these sections is how do we, in an open and progressive democratic society,
distinguish statements that are made publicly and that to many of us may be
considered to be disrespectful, unflattering, outrageous, offensive or — in some
social or educational circles — unpopular or politically incorrect from other
public statements that would be considered to "incite hatred" or "wilfully
promote hatred" against a identifiable group? Statements inciting hatred or
wilfully promoting hatred would be in direct violation of the provisions in
section 319 of the Criminal Code and, consequently, outside of the protection of
the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This critically important issue has been considered by the
Supreme Court of Canada. The questions of what constitutes "hatred" and what is
meant by "wilfully promote hatred" were considered in the 1990 case of R. v.
Keegstra. In that case, the Supreme Court had to rule on the
constitutionality of section 319. This ruling required a balancing on the part
of the court of the democratic right of the freedom of expression against the
right of society to protect its citizens against destructive and humiliating
public communications. The Supreme Court emphasized that the offence is one of
wilful promotion of hatred and not holding or expressing outrageous, offensive
or unpopular opinions.
In the Keegstra case, the Supreme Court set a high
standard for a statement to be considered hate propaganda. The term "hatred" was
interpreted as connoting emotion of an intense and extreme nature that is
clearly associated with the most severe and deeply felt form of vilification and
detestation. It is an emotion that the individuals against whom it is exercised
are to be despised, scorned, denied respect and made subject to ill treatment.
Therefore — and this is extremely important to realize — not all statements that
may offend Canadian values or minority groups constitute hate propaganda, but
only those that meet this criteria.
The "wilful" element in section 319(2), that is, the
wilful promotion of hatred, requires a Crown prosecutor to prove that the
statement was made with the conscious purpose or intention of promoting hatred
or the knowledge that hatred will be certain or substantially certain to result.
In other words, it is a crime of intention, not recklessness.
This was exactly the same criteria that was referred to in
the decision of the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan in the 2009 case of R.
v. Ahenakew. In that decision, Justice Tucker made specific reference to the
Keegstra case. He stated that the prohibition contained in section 319(2) of
the Criminal Code — that is, the prohibition against wilfully promoting hatred —
was in fact a reasonable limitation imposed on the guarantee of the fundamental
freedoms of thought, belief and expression, which are part of our Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, but only if that Criminal Code prohibition was strictly
limited by a very narrow definition of intent.
In this regard, Justice Tucker went on to say:
The opinions, distorted historical facts, and general
views expressed by the accused can only be viewed with revulsion and disgust
by ordinary Canadians. . . . however, the accused is not charged with
holding disgusting, inhumane opinions. With respect to the charge against
the accused of wilfully promoting hatred . . . the intent necessary to
constitute the offence has not been proven by the Crown.
Clearly, our courts are distinguishing opinions and
statements that constitute hate speech and hate propaganda, which of course are
unlawful, from other opinions and statements that some may consider unsettling,
unflattering, disrespectful, rude, politically incorrect, and even in some cases
outrageous, but despite that fall within what is considered to be legally
acceptable and included within one of the fundamental freedoms that is protected
and guaranteed under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, namely, our
freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.
I also draw to the attention of honourable senators the
fact that there are specific defences included in section 319(3) of the Criminal
Code that are also available to an accused charged with the offence of wilfully
promoting hatred. In section 319(3)(c) these particular defences include
that no person convicted under section 319(2) will be convicted:
(c) if the statements were relevant to any
subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public
benefit and if, on reasonable grounds, he believed them to be true.
In addition to section 319 Criminal Code prohibitions, the
imposition of which are considered to be reasonable limitations on our guarantee
of rights and fundamental freedoms as set out in the Charter of Rights,
additional limitations that are also relevant to the issues of hatred and
contempt are included in the Canadian Human Rights Act, in particular in section
13 of that act, as well as in various human rights codes and acts of the
provinces and territories.
As time is limited for my presentation today, my comments
will be directed only to the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was enacted by
Parliament in 1977. That particular section declares that it is a discriminatory
practice to communicate repeatedly by telecommunication or Internet any matter
that is likely to expose persons to "hatred or contempt" on the basis of certain
characteristics like religion and race. In this regard, section 13 has obvious
similarities to the prohibition found in section 319 of the Criminal Code.
The original purpose of section 13 was to address a
situation where people advertised telephone numbers that one could call to hear
pre-recorded anti-Semitic or white supremacist messages. Section 13 of the
Canadian Human Rights Act does not prohibit public lectures, nor does it
prohibit speech that is merely offensive. It prohibits only repeated and extreme
hate messages that are sent by telecommunications or the Internet. The Supreme
Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of section 13 in 1990, and section
13 was later amended by Parliament in 2001 to explicitly confirm that it applies
to the Internet.
In 2009, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal refused to
enforce section 13 in the case of Warman v. Lemire. It decided that the
combination of section 13, the $10,000 fine and a non- conciliatory process for
section 13 complaints imposed an impermissible limit on the freedom of
expression as guaranteed in section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms. The Warman case also referred to the 1990 Supreme Court of
Canada decision in the case of the Canadian Human Rights Commission v. Taylor.
In that Supreme Court decision, it was stated that the reference to "hatred"
speaks of "extreme" ill will, and an emotion, which allows for "no redeeming
qualities" in the person to whom it is directed.
The Supreme Court also noted that "contempt" is to be
viewed as similarly extreme, and in this regard, "contempt" is a term that
suggests a mental process of looking down upon or treating as an inferior the
object of one's feelings. Thus, the court concluded that the language of section
13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act refers to "unusually strong and deep felt
emotions of detestation and vilification." The court pointed out that the
tribunal is expected to pay heed to the "ardent and extreme nature of feeling
described in the phrase "hatred or contempt"" and not allow "subjective opinion
as to offensiveness" to supplant the proper meaning of the section. The Canadian
Human Rights Commission has filed an application for judicial review of this
decision in the Federal Court.
In recent years, there has been debate about section 13 as
well as the role of the commission and the tribunal in combating hate speech on
the Internet. In the previous session of Parliament, the Standing Committee on
Justice and Human Rights began a study of the Canadian Human Rights Commission's
mandate and operations as well as the application and interpretation of section
Having said all of this, I believe it should be more than
readily apparent just how important the Charter's guarantee of rights and
freedoms, including, of course, the fundamental freedoms of thought, belief,
opinion and expression is thought to be within the functioning of an open, free,
progressive and democratic society. Of course, there is no better example of
such a democratic society, nor should there be, than Canada. For those who would
suggest otherwise, for those who would attempt to restrain, limit or prohibit
this fundamental right of freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression
because in some cases the views that are expressed may be considered by some to
be controversial, socially or politically unpopular, or even in some cases
outrageous, is a clear reflection on their part of a fundamental lack of
understanding and appreciation of the essential principles that must always
remain as core elements of any properly functioning and successful democratic
society, in particular here in Canada.
Undoubtedly there are times when each of us finds
ourselves entirely at odds with certain thoughts and opinions that we hear
expressed publicly. We may find them to be rude, irritating, insincere,
unsettling, and in some cases offensive. However, as long as these thoughts and
opinions do not cross the line and contravene our laws that prohibit hate
propaganda and hate speech, then that is the way it is, and the option in those
circumstances that is available to each of us, if we so choose, is simply not to
Freedom of speech and the guaranteed right to be able to
express one's opinion are among the most cherished rights we enjoy in our
Canadian democratic society. We must not let our guard down. We must always
remain vigilant in protecting and preserving our Canadian democratic ideals,
none the least of which is our guaranteed, fundamental right of freedom of
Senator Munson: Will the honourable senator take a
Senator Wallace: Yes, certainly.
Senator Munson: Freedom of speech or freedom of
expression can be stifled in different ways. Does the senator believe that there
is a healthy, competitive free speech environment in the newspaper business in
the province of New Brunswick?
Senator Wallace: Honourable senators, that is an
interesting question. Canadians do not want to have our options closed to us. We
want to have many sources from which we can draw our news and opinions and, even
in the small province of New Brunswick, we have that ability. We have one
provincial paper. We have access to many national papers. We have information
available to us on the Internet. Yes, we have Internet in New Brunswick. I do
not think any of us in New Brunswick feels at a loss to understand what is going
on in the world. We have the opportunity to appreciate fair balance, arguments
and positions. In New Brunswick, we feel well served in understanding what is
Senator Munson: I have a quick observation. Whether
it is business or baseball, getting somebody out of the way is a squeeze play.
Senator Cools: The honourable senator mentioned the
creation of the 1970 Criminal Code provisions on hate speech. Is the honourable
senator acquainted with the fact that when those provisions were created, Dean
Cohen of McGill University had a lot of involvement, and some of the major civil
libertarians of Quebec brought forth serious objections to the creation of those
provisions? For example, Frank Scott did. Is the honourable senator acquainted
with their objections? If not, it is pointless to continue.
Senator Wallace: The answer to the question is no,
I am not familiar.
Senator Cools: En passant, they raised tremendous
cautions about the phenomenon of criminalizing speech at all, especially for
what at the time appeared to be isolated incidents. That is a matter of
The honourable senator mentioned the Warman case,
and it is an ugly case. Is the honourable senator aware that Mr. Warman
supposedly made extremely offensive and unspeakable comments about a female
member of this house, remarks that were the subject of great exchange on the
Internet, as repugnant as the statements were? Is the honourable senator aware
that a female member of this house was deeply offended in that whole situation?
Senator Wallace: I cannot say I know the details of
that case, but I would say that sounds regrettable.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, I have one
question relating to the Criminal Code provisions to which the honourable
Am I correct in my impression, first, that for at least
some of those provisions, before a prosecution can be launched, the fiat of the
Attorney General is required, and second, that in the years since those
provisions came into force, there have been literally only a handful of
prosecutions launched, and a smaller number succeed? It suggests to me that the
provisions are of limited applicability, as they should be in free and
Senator Wallace: As to the honourable senator's
first question, the consent of the Attorney General is required in any
prosecution. As the honourable senator said, there are a limited number of
cases, and perhaps that is a good thing. From my presentation, honourable
senators will gather the provisions deal with the extreme. I agree that use of
the provisions is limited, and perhaps we should be thankful it is.
(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable
Senator Segal, seconded by the Honourable Senator Nolin:
That the Senate approve in principle the installation
of equipment necessary for broadcast quality audio-visual recording of its
proceedings and other approved events in the Senate Chamber and in no fewer
than four rooms ordinarily used for meetings by committees of the Senate;
That for the purposes set out in the following
paragraph, public proceedings of the Senate and of its Committees be
recorded by this equipment, subject to policies, practices and guidelines
approved from time to time by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy,
Budgets and Administration ("the Committee");
That proceedings categorized according to subjects of
interest be prepared and made available for use by any television
broadcaster or distributor of audio-visual programs, subject to the terms
specified in any current or future agreements between the Senate and that
broadcaster or distributor;
That such selected proceedings also be made available
on demand to the public on the Parliamentary Internet;
That the Senate engage by contract a producer who
shall, subject only to the direction of that Committee, make the
determination of the program content of the proceedings of the Senate and of
its committees on a gavel to gavel basis;
That equipment and personnel necessary for the expert
preparation and categorization of broadcast-quality proceedings be secured
for these purposes; and
That the Committee be instructed to take measures
necessary to the implementation of this motion.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I rise to
speak on and to make an amendment in respect of the matter before us. Many of us
have talked about this issue before. This is also about expression — our
expression. It is about the expressions we make here and in our committee
I know that honourable senators have all carefully and
assiduously read and taken into account all the implications of the motion
presently before us. The initiatives are Senator Segal's, and they have
widespread support among many of us on this side and I hope many honourable
senators on that side. The idea is to bring light into the business and
proceedings of this place, to let even more light in, and to allow Canadians to
see and read things that they can see now only with the greatest of difficulty,
and those things that we say in this place and the deliberations and questions
we ask in our various committee meetings. The proceedings of this place ought to
be public and made available to Canadians on the basis of subject area and
interest in such a way that Canadians can most easily find them. As we have
heard before in this place and in the committees to which this matter has been
previously referred, making the proceedings available to Canadians is
technologically relatively easy to do. We should deal with this issue with some
Honourable senators, the Standing Committee on Rules,
Procedures and Rights of Parliament has been in the process of considering the
implications of this motion, and they are nearly able to make a report to us on
Hon. Tommy Banks: Therefore, honourable senators, I
move the following amendment:
That the matter now before the Senate be referred to
the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and Rights of Parliament for
That the committee submit its final report no later
than September 15, 2010.
Honourable senators, if we adopt that motion in amendment,
we will then, when we come back in September, have a report from the Rules
Committee on their views about how this matter will affect the operation of this
place, and we can then deal with the matter in substance. I commend to the
attention of honourable senators this motion in amendment.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?
Hon. Anne C. Cools: The honourable senator did
provide some explanation, but it was very brief. Could he amplify on it a little
Senator Banks: I could. We have discussed this
motion and previous amendments to it at great length in this place. I could
describe it in great detail, but I think that the time for us to describe it and
discuss it in great detail is after we have heard the report from the Rules
Committee, because it will pronounce on certain aspects about which questions
have previously been raised in respect of the motion.
If, for example, the Rules Committee were to suggest to us
that this is inappropriate in some way, that it impinges in some way on the
privileges of senators or that it has those kinds of effects, then we would take
a different approach when we discussed the substance and application of the
matter. We would be well advised to have that opinion before we get into the
meat and potatoes, if I can put it that way. That is the reason for the
shortness on my talk today about the motion.
Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, I too,
have a great interest in this, and I see Senator Segal is with us, as well as
I only raise one issue, which I think Senator Cools was
alluding to peripherally. We had a meeting of the Rules Committee this morning,
in camera, but basically it was about our workload. I am concerned about the
deadline, because we have before the committee the issue of concordance of the
rules, which is a highly technical, long overdue and very important review.
The chair of the committee is unfortunately not in the
chamber at the moment and away on other business, but I wonder if we should
consult to see whether we could meet the date put forward in the honourable
Senator Banks: I have done that, and I have it on
the best authority that September 15, 2010 is a good date.
I am acting on advice that I have received to that effect.
I think it is probably right. The substance of the advice was that the report on
this matter is very nearly complete and that it could, with some safety, be
delivered in the middle of September.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Did you have a
question, Senator Cools?
Senator Cools: Yes, I was asking Senator Duffy a
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, on a point of order, the honourable
senator cannot ask Senator Duffy a question because the debate is under the name
of Senator Banks.
Senator Cools: I am sorry, honourable senators; I
meant to say Senator Banks.
I think this is a good initiative and I am a strong
supporter of Senate proceedings being broadcast. I am a member of the Rules
Committee, and Senator Segal can tell honourable senators that I have been
supportive of this. I have no objection at all to the question being put today.
My concern is the proposed date for the committee's report.
Remember, report dates set the outer limit, not the inner
limit and, when in doubt, one should go further away than closer. September 15
is right around the corner. We will break in another six weeks and then we will
not be back until after September 15.
There is no harm done in putting a later date; that gives
the committee a bit of latitude. It does not mean they have to use the latitude,
but it is a far better thing to have it. Perhaps the honourable senator might
want to consider moving the date forward a couple of months. There is a large
workload before the committee right now and we do not want this study to founder
— at least I do not.
Senator Banks: Taking that into account, and
assuming the assiduousness of the committee in its undertakings, I would ask
leave of the Senate to amend my motion in amendment. I do not know what the
procedure is here, but I am asking leave of the Senate to amend my motion in
amendment with respect to the date and to make it December 15, 2010.
Senator Comeau: Leave has not been granted.
I would like to move adjournment of the debate. We can all
consider this and reflect on it in our own time and come back with possibly a
subamendment to the amendment of Senator Banks, at which point we can consider a
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable
Senator Cowan calling the attention of the Senate to the issues relating to
realistic and effective parliamentary reform.
Hon. Bert Brown: Honourable senators, I am speaking
to the inquiry by the honourable senator opposite concerning parliamentary
reform. My answer to comments by the honourable senator is that there is a
litany of reasons for not supporting Senate reform. I will address only two of
First, the honourable senator opposite said that Senate
reform would take power away from the provinces. The fact is that the provinces
have influence at the federal level, but they have very little power. The
provinces have no vote to oppose anything a prime minister might put forward as
a program to be nationally imposed on the provinces themselves.
The second comment I want to address is the questioning of
why I had not been vetoing a number of bills since joining the Senate. That
exposed a huge lack of understanding of the voting system and process, simply
that one must have a majority vote to veto or pass anything in this chamber.
The most amazing thing about the wide range of Senate
options for reform that the honourable senator opposite supposedly could not see
passing by the Senate is the simple fact that it was wrong on every criticism —
not just wrong, but dead wrong. His comments are found on pages 122 to 124,
March 17, under "Parliamentary Reform, Inquiry," in Debates of the Senate.
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Hugh Segal, pursuant to notice of March 23,
That the Senate
(a) recognize the danger posed by the
proliferation of nuclear materials and technology to peace and security;
(b) endorse the statement, signed by 500
members, officers and companions of the Order of Canada, underlining the
importance of addressing the challenge of more intense nuclear
proliferation and the progress of and opportunity for nuclear
(c) endorse the 2008 five point plan for
nuclear disarmament of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary- General of the United
Nations and encourage the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations
for a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the United Nations
(d) support the recent initiatives for
nuclear disarmament of President Obama of the United States of America;
(e) commend the decision of the Government
of Canada to participate in the landmark Nuclear Security Summit in
Washington, D.C., in April, 2010 and encourage the Government of Canada
to deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support
of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear
That a message be sent to the House of Commons
requesting that House to unite with the Senate for the above purpose.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators,
I oppose the adjournment.
Senator Segal: I moved the motion so I could speak
to it for the first time.
Senator Dallaire: I thank the honourable senator
Senator Segal: Honourable senators, my purpose in
submitting this motion for the consideration of honourable senators is
straight-forward: to encourage our Prime Minister, Secretary- General Ban
Ki-moon and U.S. President Obama in their vital work on nuclear arms reduction
that they have begun.
Our southern and northern neighbours, the Americans and
the Russians, have reached a profoundly encouraging agreement on further nuclear
weapons reductions — the New START treaty signed in Prague on April 5 by
President Obama and President Medvedev — the first such progress since the
important steps taken by General Secretary Gorbachev and President Reagan at
Reykjavik in October 1986.
However, there is far more to accomplish on this file, as
was pointed out by William Perry and George Shultz in a recent piece in the
Sunday New York Times. The START treaty is a modest step and should be
built upon with future arms talks seriously exploring a "joint United
States-Russia program that would provide a bulwark against Iranian missiles."
Working with Russia as a partner is vital.
The meeting that took place in September 2009 at the UN,
chaired by President Obama, and the meetings in Washington yesterday and today,
at which our Prime Minister is present, reflect a new president's rational and
constructive initiative, an initiative that appears to have constructive Russian
engagement. This is a remarkable open window we must not let pass.
Canadian history is interesting on the nuclear issue.
Chalk River in the post-war years was an important contributor to weapons
technology. Howard Green, Mr. Diefenbaker's foreign minister, was a staunch
global campaigner for nuclear disarmament and, as history records, the
Diefenbaker government essentially divided and collapsed on the nuclear- tipped
Bomarc anti-aircraft missile issue, amongst other things. Lester B. "Mike"
Pearson, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on creating the United
Nations Emergency Force in the Sinai, campaigned against Diefenbaker as was his
job, and for the nuclear-tipped option as was the Liberal policy preference at
the time. In this, he was consistent with Prime Minister St. Laurent, who had
nuclear-tipped ordinance on Canadian fighter jet squadrons as part of the
deterrent force of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in what was then West
The old shibboleth one hears worldwide of the right being
for nuclear weapons and the centre-left being opposed does not, and did not,
apply in Canada. This issue is not about right or left, honourable senators; it
is about sanity and humanity.
In Canada, we have been formally free of nuclear weapons
for some decades, and that is a good thing. The historic agreement announced by
Prime Minister Harper yesterday to ship fissile stocks to the United States for
safe protection is of immense and historic value. However, being free of nuclear
weapons does not free us from the responsibility of diminishing the global
nuclear threat, slowing and defeating proliferation at every opportunity.
History tells us that much of what drove Secretary of State for External Affairs
Lester Pearson to engage with such creativity and purpose on Suez was his
concern that, with Egypt then being a Russian proxy in the region and a Soviet
client state, and Israel being on the other side, escalation on the ground in
Suez could have moved the hands on the nuclear clock much closer to midnight for
the entire world.
Interacting with allies, the international community and
even sometime enemies has always been, in part, about managing the nuclear
threat for Canada's military, politicians and diplomats. That imperative remains
with us today.
The 500-plus Canadian members of the Order of Canada to
which this motion makes reference, and who signed the statement underlining the
importance of addressing the challenge of more intense nuclear proliferation and
progress of, and opportunity for, nuclear disarmament did so because they
earnestly seek to encourage our own government to continue the work our Prime
Minister has begun on this issue. I am delighted that Dr. John Polanyi, Murray
Thomson and former Senator Doug Roche were able to meet with the Prime Minister
last Friday to share their views and encourage him in his work. I am especially
grateful to the Prime Minister for setting aside time to meet with them before
going to Washington yesterday.
I believe in deterrents. They sustained NATO's missions
since the Atlantic charter of 1941 and saw the end of the former Soviet
thermo-nuclear threat without a shot being fired.
NATO solidarity, a NATO strategic concept that never
excluded responsive or prophylactic use of nuclear weapons, served to keep the
more extreme nationalist voices in Soviet politics and strategic circles from
gaining influential ground. I dare say that the Russian nuclear capacity had the
same restraining effect on more extreme factions in the American far right and
their allies in the U.S. defence world.
The premise was called MAD, appropriately, for "mutual
assured destruction." Both sides concluded that the guarantee of mutual
destruction was too pervasive. Rational people, however divided by ideological
and geopolitical differences, are not suicidal.
In today's world, however, we face a problem that is more
alarming, namely, the rise of non-state, non-rational actors not driven by
geopolitical interests where negotiation is preferable to war but by nihilist
fundamentalist goals that see suffering, terror, panic, torture, death and
suicide bombings as ends in and of themselves. There is no greater protection to
keep these forces from the use of nuclear technology than ensuring they have no
access to that technology.
While Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Egypt and others in the
region have deep and abiding concerns about Israel and her policies, none of
these Canadian partners are feared as potential nuclear aggressors throughout
the region or beyond.
However, if, as Sunni Islamic countries, they were driven
by global complacency to face a nuclear-armed Iran clear on intimidating those
countries that do not seek the military destruction of Israel, we would face a
serious and well-heeled nuclear arms race in that oil-rich part of the world. It
would not take a wildly unimaginable turn of events to see that powder keg not
only destroy the cradle of civilization but the rest of civilization itself,
were it to blow.
The meetings in Washington are in part about a common work
plan to prevent nuclear materials reaching those who would relish their use in
the terrorist cause.
Saudi Arabia's security, as is Canada's, is a vital
national interest for the United States for, among other common interests, the
same energy-focused regions. A nuclear-armed Iran, not reconciled to peaceful
negotiation on regional issues, dominated in its governance not by the immense
decency, culture, civilization and history of the Persian people but by a
revolutionary guard, government and fundamentalist faction more of the nihilist
school, would be the most serious threat we have faced to peace and civilization
since Mr. Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939.
That is why I, as a Canadian, deeply regret Prime Minister
Netanyahu's absence from Washington this week. Of all people, he should have
However, this resolution is not about Iran, but about the
weapons that would render her threat to the world catastrophic in ways her
hateful rhetoric presages but hardly matches. Any reticence to walk through the
open window made possible by the recent initiatives of Russia and the United
States in modest but exemplary progress would be a catastrophic failure of will.
Those who worry intensely about climate change might well
reflect on the catastrophic implications of what a nuclear exchange between
Israel and Iran or Pakistan and India could have. De facto defence links between
India and Israel and India and Russia countervail equally important links
between Pakistan and China. As we speak, multiple flights between Tehran and
Caracas, on which civilians cannot buy tickets, are happening weekly.
What 9/11 taught us all is the clear inability of distance
to protect us from the inherently irrational. Only a rational negotiation on
nuclear restraint and ultimate nuclear arms control and reduction can manage
this catastrophic risk. Investment in deployable, technologically advanced,
precision- guided, intelligence-based capacity and training on land, on and
beneath the sea, and in the air must be robust and ongoing. While focusing on
global poverty eradication will generate its own momentum for a more peaceful
world, civilization cannot shuffle the nuclear threat to one side. It is too
real, too uncontainable once released and too threatening to civilization itself
to be of second order.
In a recent article by Martin Rees and Des Browne in the
Guardian, they urge the scientific community to take an active role in
assisting in the reduction and disarmament of nuclear weapons. They cite Harvard
professor Graham Allison, head of the Kennedy School, whose seminal work on
decision theory and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is still fundamental to
security and foreign policy studies worldwide. It bears repeating:
The global nuclear order may be as fragile today as
the global financial system was a few years ago. But if the non-
proliferation regime collapses, there will be no bailout.
Our Prime Minister, his American colleague and the Russian
leadership have embraced new steps with momentum and promise. The Prime
Minister, in the name of all Canadians, has indicated his commitment as chair of
the G8 and co-chair of the G20 with our friends in Korea to broaden the Global
Partnership Program for the conversion of fissile material and sites at risk in
the old Soviet Union and elsewhere. Today, Canada, Mexico and the United States
have reached an historic agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency
for the conversion of fuel from Mexico's research reactor and the conversion of
that reactor itself.
Honourable senators, I think we have a chance to embrace
this momentum of promise. The motion before you and the inherent sanity and hope
it reflects on all our parts is something I hope we can pass upon rapid
Senator Dallaire: Will the honourable senator
accept a question?
Senator Segal: I will be honoured to accept a
Senator Dallaire: I thank the honourable senator
for speaking to the motions. It will give us the opportunity for rebuttal and
I wanted to raise the point that I find interesting
regarding the change of atmosphere that exists with our Prime Minister and the
initiatives coming from the United States in regard to nuclear disarmament. Over
18 months ago, former Conservative Senator Doug Roche published his most recent
book on the Middle Powers Initiative. We were able to do the launch of the book
in the chambers of the speaker from the other place. No one from the Prime
Minister's Office or the Conservative party dared to attend and show interest in
Doug Roche's work.
I am the patron of Pugwash under Doug Roche's leadership
and was not invited by the Prime Minister to attend. It does not offend me. It
may not have been done for reasons of political colour, but lack of knowledge on
the depth of the subject.
The honourable senator referred to Mr. Diefenbaker and Mr.
Pearson in regard to having or not having nuclear weapons in our country. The
honourable senator will recall that the Canadian Forces, as part of NATO,
maintained capabilities throughout that entire time, and still does, to deliver
nuclear weapons. Although our hands are clean of not producing nuclear weapons —
and we tend to feel good about not having them on our terrain — we are fully
compliant in the operational concepts of NATO to use those weapons through our
Senator Segal: I understand that the existing
operational concept for NATO — and this is in the public domain — is premised
upon several of our non-American allies having the capacity to deliver nuclear
weapons in the event of a conflict. That capacity is an expensive one for those
countries. They are not major military powers. The West Germans, now the
Germans, the Italians and others are part of that capacity. They are going
through the process of retooling and reassessing their aircraft and their
respective capacities in the future. The NATO process of updating its strategic
concept under the chairmanship of a former Secretary of State in the Clinton
administration and the issue of first use of nuclear weapons as an option in the
broad strategic context is very much on the table.
I speak on behalf of no one other than myself. My view is
that it will probably be impossible to reduce the total presence of nuclear
weapons in the strategic balance, but fighting against proliferation and
assessing the broad range of options that are not —
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable Senator
Segal, your time is finished.
Senator Dallaire: May we have an additional five
minutes for questions?
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is there consent to
give the honourable senator five more minutes to ask a question?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Dallaire: I have an additional question
regarding disarmament and non-proliferation in the big equation. We are pursuing
non-proliferation without pursuing disarmament in a real way. The British have
signed a contract for £40 billion to upgrade their nuclear submarines to handle
the new generation Polaris. As we are talking about non-proliferation, we are
maintaining our capability. It is rather a hypocritical exercise to hold that
The recent signing of an agreement between the United
States and Russia is most encouraging in regards to disarmament.
The honourable senator raised the point of the Middle
East. In an open debate on the Middle East at a Pugwash international
conference, the Israeli representative was asked whether Israel would use the
nuclear weapon in extremis if it were losing a conventional war in a
potential assault from foreign countries. The response was yes.
Does that not continue to maintain a real demand for
nuclear weapons on the other side as opposed to their getting rid of them as an
initiative to bring about peace in the Middle East?
Senator Segal: I think a new nuclear weapons
convention involving a series of partners, including our friends in the Middle
East, might be an opportunity for a "no first use" agreement among all the
players to diminish the risk of nuclear weapons being used somewhere in the
cycle before an existential moment has been reached.
Clearly, peace and peaceful cooperation between countries
in the region will make unnecessary the anticipation or use of any nuclear
weapons. That is what Canada is fighting for, and always has, with its balanced
position in the Middle East. The convention the Americans are seeking with Ban
Ki-moon of the United Nations and Russian support represents a significant
opportunity to move forward.
(On motion of Senator Dallaire, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)