The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before
we proceed, I ask all honourable senators to rise and observe one minute of
silence in memory of Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake whose tragic death
occurred yesterday while serving his country in Afghanistan.
Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake was a member of
Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic), based in Shearwater, Nova Scotia.
Hon. Judith Seidman: Honourable senators, mental
health challenges affect one out of every five of Canada's children and youth.
This amounts to more than two million young people. Another way of looking at it
is that, in every Canadian classroom, four to five students have mental health
However, only one in six children and youth ever receive
treatment or services. This lack of treatment is due both to a lack of mental
health services as well as the stigma associated with mental illness.
Honourable senators, mental illness and physical illness
are not perceived in the same way. When a parent has a child with cancer or a
heart condition, they are met with support and resources. However, when a son or
daughter is suffering from depression there is often a fear or shame associated
with reaching out for help.
There are walkathons and telethons in support of cancer
and heart disease, but not yet for suicide prevention, mental health promotion
or mental illness prevention. Why is that?
More than 70 per cent of adults living with mental health
challenges developed their symptoms in childhood or early adolescence. It is
important that supports and services are in place to provide the help needed,
especially for youth early in their lives, to prevent or reduce the likelihood
of more serious problems as individuals grow older. We should not forget mental
health promotion programs, which help to sensitize and educate youth, their
families, teachers and friends.
No one is immune — no matter where they live, what their
age is, or what they do in life. Good health is not possible without good mental
Do honourable senators know that in the 1800s, the colour
green was used to identify people labelled "insane"? The children's mental
health community is now using the colour green, but with a completely different
focus. Green signifies new life, new growth and new beginnings.
Honourable senators, please join me in showing your
support of child and youth mental health by wearing a green ribbon this week.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, this
week, people across Canada are celebrating National Hospice Palliative Care
Week. Hike for Hospice Palliative Care, a national fundraising and awareness
event held in approximately 100 communities across the country, kicked off the
week on Sunday.
National Hospice Palliative Care Week is a time to share
the achievements of hospice palliative care, to honour the commitment and caring
of those who work in the field and to raise awareness for the need for
This year's theme is "Discovering Your Voice." It
encourages people with a life-limiting illness, their caregivers and family
members to share what hospice and palliative care means to them to help others
understand the importance of palliative care.
The motto of the Hospice Palliative Care Association of
Prince Edward Island is "Make Each Day Count." This motto is particularly
appropriate as hospice palliative care is not about dying as much as it is about
living well until the end. It focuses on persons living with a life-limiting
illness and their families to address not only physical needs but also social,
emotional and spiritual needs. Palliative care seeks to bring care, compassion,
comfort and hope for a peaceful and pain-free death as well as bereavement
support and "aftercare" services to loved ones left behind.
Dying is a natural process. It is an experience we will
all share. It is beyond time for us to accept the need for improved palliative
care and to work toward providing it for all Canadians.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, this
year we mark the centennial of the Canadian Navy. Canada, as a maritime nation,
came into its own through its actions during conflicts over the past 100 years,
in large part due to our navy.
Many events and activities are taking place throughout
Canada this year to mark the impact of Canada's navy. Indeed, many Canadians
celebrated the Battle of the Atlantic this past Sunday.
Additionally, His Honour was one of the hosts of a
ceremony held in this chamber just hours ago. The ceremony was held to mark the
centennial with the dedication of the Canadian Naval Centennial Bell, since
today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Naval Service Act, which was
given Royal Assent in this chamber 100 years ago today.
This truly moving ceremony was to rededicate the navy to
the next 100 years of service to Canada. The bell was christened with the
combined waters of Canada's oceans and seaways, as well as the oceans of the
world. Honourable senators would have been so proud of all of our Senate pages,
some of whom read poems while others in the gallery sang music and did a moving
rendition of "Hallelujah." We should be very proud of the young people working
with us in this chamber.
Honourable senators, the theme of the Canadian Naval
Centennial is to "bring the navy to Canadians." My family is no stranger to
service in the Royal Canadian Navy. My sister-in- law's father, Petty Officer
Laurent Bertrand, went down with the HMCS Athabaskan in the English
Channel in 1944. My own father, Chief Petty Officer Bob Mercer, and his
shipmates captured an enemy U-boat off the coast of Nova Scotia as the Second
World War was coming to an end.
As a proud son of a sailor and the proud father of a son
who today wears a naval officer's uniform in the reserves, teaching young
cadets, I encourage all honourable senators to take part in other events to
commemorate the impact the navy has and will continue to have in Canada. I
congratulate the Canadian Navy and all the men and women who do so much to
protect Canada's way of life. I offer this to all of them and to all of those we
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea!
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, pursuant to the Social Security Act, subsection 42(1), Order
in Council P.C. 2010-556, regarding the Agreement on Social Security between
Canada and the Republic of Macedonia.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, the Report on the State of Inuit Culture and Society for the
2007-08 fiscal year.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, the 2006-07 and 2007-08 annual reports of the Nisga'a Final
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I have the
honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian NATO
Parliamentary Association, the NATO PA, respecting its participation at the 2009
annual session held in Edinburgh, Scotland, U.K., from November 13 to 17, 2009.
Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, I give
notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Senate of Canada encourage the Minister of
National Defence, in view of the long service, sacrifice and courage of
Canadian Naval forces and personnel, to change the official structural name
of the Canadian Navy from "Maritime Command" to "Canadian Navy" effective
from this year, as part of the celebration of the Canadian Navy Centennial,
with that title being used in all official and operational materials, in
both official languages, as soon as possible.
I might say, honourable senators, that it gives me great
honour to give notice on the very day that the Naval Service Act received Royal
Assent in this chamber.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, in a few
short weeks, a major international conference on maternal health, sponsored by
the group Women Deliver, will be held in Washington, D.C., which is not too far
from Ottawa. Yet, while 3,500 leaders, practitioners and special policy-makers
from around the world will attend that conference, it appears that Canada will
not send a representative of the Government of Canada. That is odd, honourable
senators, since the Government of Canada is making such a big deal out of its
maternal health aid program. This makes one wonder if the Conservative view of
foreign aid might not simply be foreign aid for domestic consumption.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us why
Canada has no official or ministerial representation at this extremely important
conference? This conference is significant to Canada, since the government seems
to have little, if any, understanding of the standard accepted protocols for
maternal health aid in the world.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I
thank the honourable senator for the question. With regard to the conference and
Canadian representation, if any, I will take that question as notice.
However, honourable senators, I do not need to repeat to
Senator Mitchell that the initiative undertaken by the Government of Canada as
host of the G20, and particularly the G8, in the field of maternal and child
health is an endeavour that has been widely applauded. Despite the efforts of
some to make this an internal domestic political story, as I quoted the other
day, many aid organizations are applauding Canada's efforts. Our mission is to
promote health and wellness for mothers and children, and nothing will steer us
away from our intentions in that regard.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, I will
accept the leader's reply at face value; however, I will tell the leader
something that will inhibit her from properly achieving the government's often-
stated lofty goals, which are most often used for political consumption. One
must build consensus with people around the world. Thirty-five hundred
representatives will be in Washington. Why would the leader not know,
absolutely, that we have a minister or two, such as Ministers Oda and Cannon,
going to that conference so they could begin to build consensus with the people
who will help to deliver the government's program around the world?
Senator LeBreton: As I have already said to the
honourable senator, I will take his question on that conference as notice. I did
not have a chance this morning. It was probably because I was at the navy
celebration and that one little drink of rum got in the way of my thought
process. I will blame the rum.
Senator Mercer: I tried that before and it does not
Senator LeBreton: I can tell the honourable senator
has tried it many times before. He does not need to convince me.
Honourable senators, I saw that article and I made a
mental note to myself; I was sure if Senator Mitchell did not ask about it,
someone else would.
Now the lights are dimming. Is it me or the rum?
In any event, I intended to find out what the story was
before Question Period. Perhaps someone will hear my pleas and send me the
answer so I can give it to the honourable senator.
Senator Mitchell: I wondered why the leader's
answers seemed so much more forthcoming. Then I thought that maybe the rum was
making it seem like the lights had gone down.
President Obama has stated that he will likely go to this
conference. Given our experience with Copenhagen, where the Prime Minister did
not go until Mr. Obama decided to go, is this another one of those cases where
Mr. Obama says "jump" and Mr. Harper says "how high?"
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is
misinformed. President Obama was going to stop on his way to receiving the Nobel
Peace Prize, and the Prime Minister had committed to attend Copenhagen. As a
result, Minister Prentice and the Canadian delegation were successful in
Copenhagen, and an agreement came out of Copenhagen that all of us can work
Obviously, we do not follow President Obama's schedule on
a daily basis. If he has indicated that he is attending, that is something I was
not aware of. However, the conference is being held in Washington, as Senator
Mitchell pointed out.
The end result of all of this in terms of maternal health
is that we are hosting the meeting this year and, together with our G8 partners,
we will come up with a plan. We will concentrate on our efforts for third world
countries, and do everything we can to increase the services — facilities,
nutrition, good medicines and hygiene — to ensure that mothers and children have
long, healthy lives.
Honourable senators, someone heard my plea, and I was
given notice that Minister Oda will attend the conference in Washington on
behalf of the Government of Canada.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Mitchell: Does that mean that the
government makes its decisions after it reads reports in The Globe and Mail?
Senator LeBreton: Senator Mitchell has trouble
understanding the meaning of the word "yes."
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators,
my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In early April,
the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity found out that Status of Women Canada
had turned down its application for funding. This is the first time that Status
of Women Canada has denied the coalition funding since it was founded in 1998.
The Coalition for Pay Equity receives no core funding and
works exclusively on a project-by-project basis. The organization's mission is
to actively and realistically advocate for pay equity to enable women in New
Brunswick to contribute to the provincial economy.
This particular project targets New Brunswick women and
focuses on media relations and networking. The project is perfectly in line with
the government's public position. After its funding application was turned down,
the coalition found out that a new minister had been put in charge of Status of
I know that the minister cannot tell us why the former
minister decided to turn down the funding application, but has the government's
position changed since the new minister was appointed?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, I am not familiar with each and every application made for
funds from Status of Women Canada. I do not imagine that a ministerial change
would affect the policy. These decisions are made by not only one minister, but
on the advice of bureaucrats and other cabinet colleagues.
I cannot answer specifically for that one project, except
to say that we increased the budget of the Women's Program at Status of Women
Canada to the highest level ever. Obviously, many organizations apply for
funding and some of them are not successful. The number of individual projects
funded has increased by 69 per cent, and 47 per cent of the groups are receiving
funding for the first time.
This one particular project, unfortunately, did not
benefit from their application. For some reason, it was not encapsulated in the
69 per cent. However, 47 per cent of the funding has gone to new organizations
and groups, and I think that is the way it should be.
As I have said before, because programs were in place year
after year, it does not mean that they have a lock on that program forever and
no one else can access the program. We have increased funding for Status of
Women Canada, and I am sure that the 47 per cent of the new programs that have
received money are grateful that they were able to receive funds this year.
Senator Losier-Cool: The coalition submitted a very
specific project. In fact, the coalition has been recognized as one of Canada's
10 best organizations in the field of managing status of women programs.
We asked the new minister, Rona Ambrose, to take another
look at how the funding application was dealt with. Can the government leader at
least ask the minister to check whether she received the application?
Senator LeBreton: I will be happy to pass along the
comments of the honourable senator to Minister Ambrose. Again, we have
significantly increased the funding of Status of Women Canada. We have increased
the number of community-based projects that receive money.
As honourable senators know, despite the allegations that
we had cut funding, that was not the case. We took the money and put it into
programs that help women more at the community level.
Obviously, when this application came in, it was
considered. I do not have any knowledge as to what happened to that exact
project. However, with all the applications — and 47 per cent are new applicants
— that to me is good news. It means that the government and Status of Women
Canada are reaching out and including women's groups that had been overlooked
for many years in the past.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, my question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate and concerns Foreign Affairs
and International Trade Canada and its communication practices.
If Canada really wants to project its linguistic duality,
as enshrined in the Official Languages Act, in its dealings with other
countries, does the leader not believe that any public document from Foreign
Affairs and International Trade Canada should be issued in both official
languages, with the English and French text in a single document?
Does she not agree that this new communication practice
would be a perfect example of a positive measure to promote the equal use of
Canada's two official languages? Lastly, could the leader discuss this with the
Some Hon. Senators: Bravo!
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, I do not have the exact details of the issue raised by the
honourable senator. Canada is an officially bilingual country and all
publications sent out on behalf of the Government of Canada must be in Canada's
two official languages.
Hon. Pierre De Bané: Honourable senators, I would
like to point out to the leader that there is a big difference between issuing
one document in both languages, as Senator Chaput is suggesting, and issuing two
separate documents, each in a single language. Two documents, one in French and
one in English, would be like the old expression once used in the United States:
separate but equal. The philosophy here must reflect Canada's linguistic duality
and, obviously, the way to do that is to have both reports, one in each
language, in a single publication.
On the Internet, all a user has to do is click "French" or
"English" for the desired version.
If there are separate printed publications in each
language, then, inevitably, there will be few documents in French.
Let us take the example of the Department of Justice.
Every law is published in a single document, in French and English. Anglophone
and francophone legislative drafters work together, and both languages are
included in the same document.
Honourable senators, I would very much like Senator
Chaput's recommendation to be taken into consideration.
I remember that when I became a parliamentarian, all
Government of Canada publications were issued in a single volume, in French and
English. The French and English versions were together in a single document.
Senator LeBreton: I thank Senator De Bané for the
question. The practices of various departments have not changed, as far as I
know, since Canada's Official Languages Act was first enshrined. The other day,
an invitation was brought to the attention of honourable senators by Senator De
Bané, which was a worthy thing to do. I will read the honourable senator's
suggestion carefully, but I do not believe there is or was any act by this
government or a previous government to do anything other than respect Canada's
Official Languages Act. I do not have a definitive answer for the honourable
This government, led by the Prime Minister, is absolutely
committed to ensuring that both of Canada's official languages are respected
fully and implemented in government publications.
I am proud to be part of the party that brought
simultaneous translation into the House of Commons under the Right Honourable
John George Diefenbaker. Certainly, revisionist historians would not want me to
point that out.
Other than being sympathetic to the honourable senator's
comments, I have not seen any change in policy by this government or any
previous government that has not been committed fully to the implementation of
Canada's Official Languages Act.
Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, my
question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Government agencies
across the country have provided an essential mechanism for businesses and
communities to provide an avenue for assistance in rural and regional economic
development. Following four years of continuous cuts to the budgets to many of
these agencies by the former Liberal government, our government not only
maintained existing budgets but also created two new agencies in our country.
Coming from Newfoundland and Labrador, and having worked
with many communities and regions on economic development in my years at the
municipal, provincial and federal levels, I realize the important role that the
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, plays in our part of the country. As
always, we need to be mindful of how government spends Canadians' hard-earned
My question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate
is this: As our government looks at expenditures across the board, what role
does it see for ACOA and the other regional government agencies across the
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I
thank Senator Manning for his excellent question. There has been a considerable
amount of fear-mongering across the country about the efforts of the President
of Treasury Board, the Honourable Stockwell Day, in terms of strategic review of
all government departments to try to find savings.
The government made a commitment in the Speech from the
Throne to take a serious look at all government expenditures with a view to
deficit reduction. There is never any harm, honourable senators, in exploring
ways to improve programming and make it more efficient in achieving real results
ACOA is an outstanding organization with a proven track
record of creating jobs and building economic growth in the region. This
government has demonstrated its support for ACOA and the Atlantic region. For
example, as the honourable senator knows, Budget 2010 provides $19 million per
year to extend the Atlantic Innovation Fund. Although the government is looking
for savings within departments, it is committed to regional development.
The honourable senator is quite right: Before the
Conservative Party won the 2006 election, there was fear-mongering that it would
get rid of all regional development agencies. However, this government created
two more agencies. The government's commitment to regional development, in
particular to ACOA, remains strong and firm.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators,
my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Along the same
lines, but regarding matters not nearly as serious as the publication of
official reports, on April 22, 2010, you said you would make inquiries regarding
the translation errors that abounded in an invitation from your colleague Gary
Lunn that was sent to all parliamentarians, the French version of which was
Today's Le Devoir published — on the front page no
less — this invitation addressed to all parliamentarians, including everyone
here today, in French that was so terrible that the journalist summed it up as
How could anyone possibly understand the French
version of the invitation?
The title of the invitation read as follows:
"Pour la Libération Immédiate" . . .
I do not know if that means the liberation of the
government, but really!
. . . the press release proclaims, instead of the
usual "Pour diffusion immédiate."
It really takes some imagination to understand. Perhaps if
you understand it, you could explain it to me.
The text reads as follows:
Le Ministre de Défense Peter MacKay, le Ministre de
Sécurité Publique Vic Toews et M.P.s de tous les partis politiques tiendra
un événement sur la Colline de Parlement dans le soutien de troupes
canadiennes servant en Afghanistan.
An MP or "member of Parliament" should be rendered as "un
député" in French. The text continues:
L'événement doit lever de l'argent pour acheter des
cartes de cadeau pour le retour à la maison de membres CAF de l'Afghanistan.
Pour l'instant, $45,000 a été levé. Le sénateur Pamela Wallin exercera les
fonctions du maître du soir de cérémonies.
Based on the distribution list, the message was sent to at
least 1,100 people. Messages that contain a typographical error are sometimes
recalled by the sender, usually minutes after the message is sent. Five hours
after the message was received, the invitation had not yet been recalled.
It was sent at noon yesterday. Today, it was on the front
page of Le Devoir and, so far, no changes have been made. The journalist
concluded that Vic Toews must be blushing from embarrassment or perhaps he was
not informed by his assistants that a French message, obviously translated using
software, was unintelligible.
Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate know when
her government will truly value the francophones of this country and send
invitations in correct French?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, I saw the report in Le Devoir by Hélène Buzzetti
with regard to this particular invitation.
When I first heard about this event, I thought, what a
wonderful idea, what a terrific cause and what a great location. I then read the
comments of Hélène Buzzetti.
I think it is a stretch for Senator Hervieux-Payette to
try to impugn motives of the government; that somehow the government is being
disrespectful to one of our official languages.
When Senator De Bané raised the issue of the invitation
sent from the office of Minister Lunn, the minister was apologetic and
embarrassed by the incident and indicated he had taken steps to ensure that when
invitations are sent from his office, careful measures will be taken to ensure
they are properly communicated.
In this particular case, I cannot answer for the people
responsible for sending invitations like this out, but I believe, honourable
senators, that no one, whether anglophone or francophone, whether bilingual or
not, would see any ulterior motives in mistakes made by various officials,
whether the mistakes are made in English or in French. It is regrettable, but it
is hardly an indication that the government is somehow, as the honourable
senator seems to indicate, not being respectful of Canada's official languages,
in particular the French language, when we have a Prime Minister who always goes
out of his way to demonstrate the importance of both official languages in this
country, French and English.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators,
first, I would like the minister to confirm that this message will be corrected
and sent to francophone guests in a language they can understand. Second, would
she please indicate what steps have been taken by her government to ensure that
representatives of all departments have sufficient knowledge of French to draft
messages? Given that we still have the impression that these messages go through
the Prime Minister's office, who in that office is responsible for verifying
language quality? Who allowed such an unintelligible message to be sent?
Senator LeBreton: We do not have language police in
some jurisdictions in this country.
Senator Mercer: No, they police everything else.
Senator Ringuette: Is there a mandatory sentence in
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, this
invitation was sent out by a minister, as was the case with Minister Lunn. To
suggest that, for some reason, this was indicative of a lack of respect is
troubling. It is beneath any of us to impugn motives that are not intended.
Honourable senators, obviously, a staffer in this
particular minister's office sent this invitation, but I do not know the exact
process that they followed. As with all areas of government, with respect to
anything sent out from the government or from ministers' offices, we urge
senders to be careful to use the proper language, whether it is French or
English. As I mentioned to the Honourable Senator De Bané, I see errors in
English on almost a daily basis.
Having said that, in this case, let us take the matter for
what it is. It was a well-intended invitation that, in the view of some, was not
properly communicated. I take that criticism as genuine, and, as I did with
Minister Lunn, I will refer the matter to Minister Toews and ask him to ensure
that these things do not happen again.
With regard to the Prime Minister's Office, we were
accused enough and unfairly so. Honourable senators can imagine what the media
and the opposition would say if we went around checking everyone's invitations.
There would be no end to criticism over that.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to present delayed
answers to oral questions raised by Senator Poulin on March 18, 2010, concerning
Heritage, foreign ownership; and by Senator Fox on April 15, 2010, concerning
Infrastructure, broadband access to remote areas.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Marie-P. Poulin on
March 18, 2010)
As announced in Budget 2010, the government is acting
to remove the existing restrictions on foreign ownership of Canadian
satellites. This will allow firms to access foreign capital and know-how and
to invest in new and advanced technologies. The removal of restrictions will
also allow Canadian firms to develop strategic global relationships that
will enable them to participate fully in foreign markets.
The removal of existing restrictions on foreign
ownership of Canadian satellites will be carried out by way of amendment to
the Telecommunications Act. The appropriate amendment is contained in
Bill C-9, The Budget Implementation Act. Bill C-9 passed second
reading in the House of Commons and is now before the Standing Committee on
Only an Amendment to the Telecommunications Act
is being made. No change is being made to the Broadcasting Act.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Francis Fox on
April 15, 2010)
Broadband Canada received 570 applications, requesting
close to $1B in funding.
Due to the high response to the program, the
application assessment phase took slightly longer than anticipated and many
of the projects had partial or full overlaps with each other in terms of
area to be served with broadband connectivity.
The Broadband Canada program has now completed its
assessment of applications and has begun contacting applicants to notify
them of their status and, where appropriate, request additional information
regarding their applications. This information is required to assist the
Broadband Canada office in determining which of the applications will
maximize available funding to bring broadband connectivity to as many
unserved and underserved households as possible.
All applicants will be notified within the coming
weeks as to the status of their applications.
The goal of the program is to bring broadband
connectivity to as many unserved and underserved households across the
country as possible. Therefore applications were assessed on that basis,
with no regional allocations.
No recommendations for project approval have been made
at this time. All inquiries from applicants should be addressed to the
Broadband Canada program and its staff.
Hon. Stephen Greene moved third reading of Bill
S-3, An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and
Colombia, Greece and Turkey for the avoidance of double taxation and the
prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government), pursuant to notice of April 29, 2010, moved:
That a Special Committee of the Senate be appointed to
consider any matters relating to anti-terrorism that may be referred to it
by the Senate from time to time;
That, notwithstanding rule 85(1)(b), the special
committee comprise nine members namely the Honourable Senators Furey, Joyal,
P.C., Jaffer, Marshall, Nolin, Segal, Smith, P.C., Tkachuk, and Wallin, and
that four members constitute a quorum;
That the committee have power to send for persons,
papers and records; to examine witnesses; to report from time to time; and
to print such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the
That, notwithstanding rule 92(1), the committee be
empowered to hold occasional meetings in camera for the purpose of hearing
witnesses and gathering specialized or sensitive information;
That the papers and evidence received and taken and
work accomplished by the Special Senate Committee on the Antiterrorism Act
and the Special Senate Committee on Antiterrorism since the First Session of
the Thirty-Eighth Parliament be referred to the committee for the purposes
of its work; and
That, pursuant to rule 95(3), the committee be
authorized to meet on any Monday that immediately precedes a Tuesday when
the Senate is scheduled to sit, even though the Senate may then be adjourned
for a period exceeding a week.
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. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, I am pleased to join in the debate initiated by Senator
Finley on the issue of freedom of speech in our country.
The concept of freedom of speech or freedom of expression
comes to us from the very earliest times. Moses had the temerity to argue with
God in the Old Testament. Far from being struck down for such audacity, he is
revered by adherents of different faiths as one of the great leaders in history.
From the ancient Athenian democracy, we read in Plato's
Socratic dialogues that freedom of discussion among citizens is an absolutely
essential component of a great democracy.
In our country, the concept of freedom of speech can be
traced back directly to the British Bill of Rights of 1689. Interestingly, that
Bill of Rights enshrined freedom of speech in Parliament. It stated, in relevant
That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings
in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place
out of Parliament;
A century later, the French National Assembly's
Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789 took the leap of
characterizing this right of free speech as a right for all times and for all
nations. Article 11 reads:
The free communication of ideas and of opinions is one
of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly,
speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such
abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law."
This declaration was, of course, not without controversy.
Indeed it was truly revolutionary. Senator Finley and other colleagues opposite
are no doubt very familiar with Edmund Burke, the so-called father of modern
conservatism, who railed against these "metaphysical rights," as he dismissively
called them. In retrospect, he was not on the right side of history because this
was an idea and an ideal which spread throughout the world.
Twenty-eight years ago, building on what Prime Minister
John Diefenbaker started with the Bill of Rights in 1960, Canada enshrined in
its Constitution its own declaration concerning freedom of speech. Section 2 of
our Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and
expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
The Charter, of course, emerged from Prime Minister
Trudeau's vision of a "just society" for Canadians.
What is the Harper government's vision of Canada as a just
society? A criminal code filled with ever-longer prison sentences, and Canadians
kept busy building and paying for more and bigger prisons to hold all these
convicted under those laws. It is a small wonder that Prime Minister Harper has
little appetite to draw attention to the contrast his approach provides with the
principles and vision reflected in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I was pleased to hear Senator Finley initiate this
inquiry. As he stated in his motion, his purpose was to call the attention of
this chamber to the erosion of freedom of speech in our country.
First and foremost, freedom of speech relates to
government action. Our Charter is a statement of Canadians' fundamental rights
and freedoms vis-à-vis their government — not vis-à-vis their neighbours, family
members or employers. To properly examine whether our freedom of speech is being
eroded, we must look first and most critically at the actions of our government.
Honourable senators, I agree with the premise of Senator Finley's inquiry: The
actions of the Harper government indeed are seriously eroding freedom of speech
in this country.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Cowan: Senator Finley apparently was
prompted in part to initiate this inquiry because of the incident when Ann
Coulter was supposed to speak at the University of Ottawa. I do not propose to
address this at length. I do not agree with much of what I have read or heard of
Ms. Coulter's views, but I have no difficulty with her being free to express
those views in Canada.
The actions in question were actions of the university or
of Ms. Coulter's organizers, not the government. Of far greater concern to me
are the actions taken directly by the Government of Canada that have the effect
of preventing or impeding individuals from expressing their views.
Ms. Coulter, an American citizen, had no difficulty
entering Canada to speak at the University of Ottawa and subsequently did speak
at the Universities of Calgary and Western Ontario. Others whose views may not
meet with the same support and approval by members of this government have not
been so fortunate.
Senator Downe asked Senator Finley whether he believed the
government had made a mistake by restricting people who want to come to Canada
to speak by not allowing them entrance to the country. Senator Finley replied
that he assumed Senator Downe was referring to George Galloway and that he,
Senator Finley, was disappointed that Mr. Galloway was not given an opportunity
to express himself here in Canada.
In recent days, we have read in the press that, while at
the time the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the
Honourable Jason Kenney, stated that neither he nor his staff had been in direct
contact with Canadian Border Services Agency officials over Mr. Galloway's
status, in fact, documents released since suggest that there was, as one report
described it, "a short but intense campaign on the parts of Kenney's office and
government officials to keep Galloway out of Canada."
Indeed, this campaign proceeded notwithstanding strenuous
objection by the Canadian High Commissioner in Britain, who wrote to senior
officials in both the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office,
saying, among other things:
. . . my suspicion is that the Brits will be somewhat
taken aback by such a Canadian decision, and some (possibly including the UK
Government) will feel compelled to defend his freedom of speech, especially
as he is a sitting MP.
In the end, of course, our government did not take the
advice of our high commissioner and refused to give Mr. Galloway, a duly elected
member of the British Parliament, permission to enter Canada.
Unfortunately, honourable senators, the Galloway incident
is but one incident in what appears to be a pattern of conduct by this
On February 6, an American journalist was denied entry
into Canada. Martin Macias, Jr. was reportedly detained by border officials at
the Vancouver International Airport, questioned for several hours, and then
denied entry and put back on a plane to Seattle. Mr. Macias is a reporter for,
amongst other bodies, the online and news media outlet for Chicago Public Radio.
He is also a member of No Games Chicago, an organization that opposed Chicago's
bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. According to a CBC news report, he was
travelling to Vancouver to attend various political events, including a two-day
conference organized by the Olympic Resistance Network. He was to leave
Vancouver on February 11, before the start of the Olympics. There was no
suggestion that he was planning anything nefarious to interfere with the Games.
According to Mr. Macias, he was questioned aggressively
for two hours about what he was going to do in Vancouver, who he was meeting
with, who organized the conference, and even what they looked like. They took
all his contact information, as well as the business cards of journalists and
others he planned to connect with in Vancouver.
Amy Goodman is another American journalist. She is known
as the principal host of "Democracy Now!," a U.S. syndicated radio program. She
encountered problems when she sought to enter Canada. She was coming here as
part of a book tour to promote her new book Breaking the Sound Barrier.
I will read to you from the CBC News story of November 26:
Goodman, 52, known for her views opposing the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan, told CBC News on Thursday that Canadian border agents
asked her repeatedly what subjects she would cover at scheduled speaking
engagements in Vancouver and Victoria. . . .
Goodman said her car was searched and officials
demanded to look at her notes and her computer. . . .
"I am deeply concerned that as a journalist I would be
flagged and that the concern — the major concern — was the content of my
speech," said Goodman.
I guess the border officials were satisfied with what they
heard of Ms. Goodman's planned content of her speech. They allowed her to enter
Canada but returned her passport with a document demanding she leave the country
within 48 hours. So much for her freedom of expression.
As I say, honourable senators, these incidents cause me
even greater concern than the one at the University of Ottawa. Unlike the Ann
Coulter case, these incidents involve actions by the Government of Canada to
prevent expression in Canada of views that the government, for whatever reason,
does not want expressed. Government officials are demanding to know what someone
— journalists in both cases — will say, before deciding whether to allow them to
enter and speak, as with Ms. Goodman, or deny them entry and put them on a plane
back out of Canada, as happened to Mr. Macias. Interestingly, there is no
suggestion that Ms. Coulter, whose views are often aligned with those of the
Harper government, was even questioned at the border.
I hoped that when Senator Wallin and Senator Duffy, who
both have impressive journalistic pedigrees, participated in this inquiry, they
would have said something about their fellow journalists, Mr. Macias and Ms.
Goodman. Both Senator Duffy and Senator Wallin travelled to the farthest corners
of the globe during their journalistic careers, but now sit in this chamber
supporting a government that denies other journalists entry into their own
Yes, honourable senators, we indeed have a serious problem
with the erosion of freedom of speech by the Harper government and it is not
confined to selective harassment of individuals at the border.
Frankly, I was somewhat surprised that it was Senator
Finley who initiated this inquiry. Perhaps these months of serving in the Senate
have opened his mind on some issues.
Judging from a report in the Toronto Star in 2008,
freedom of speech was not particularly high on Senator Finley's priority list
while he was national campaign director for the Conservative Party.
The story describes how, in 2007, Mark Warner, an
international trade lawyer who had been chosen as the Conservative Party
candidate in the riding of Toronto Centre and had already been actively
campaigning, received a letter informing him that he would not be allowed to run
as the Conservative candidate. Honourable senators, guess who signed that
dismissal letter. It was our good friend Senator Plett.
The 2008 Toronto Star article went into some detail
about what reportedly happened:
"I wasn't supposed to talk to the media," says Warner.
"I told them I couldn't have a non-existent media campaign when I was
running against Bob Rae because I'd get killed."
He was told he could go to a Star forum on poverty
where Rae spoke, but "not to say anything."
Warner says Finley's office summoned him to Ottawa,
where he met with Finley on the 12th floor of Tory headquarters at 130
Albert Street. Finley apparently yelled at Warner several times during the
five-hour session, including over his edict Warner couldn't fill out a
questionnaire about equality from a gay-lesbian alliance. "He said if I
answered it, I would be denounced by the Prime Minister and everybody else
Warner, according to the news report, called the session a
"Star Chamber." The article notes:
Warner was officially fired by senior official Don
Plett, in a hotel room near the Toronto airport.
Honourable senators will understand why I found myself
scratching my head listening to Senator Finley extol his heartfelt commitment to
free speech. If duly nominated candidates for election are not allowed to
exercise free speech — if Canadians are not allowed to learn where a particular
candidate or his or her party stands on an issue — then what role is there for
Of course, we know this incident was not an isolated one.
Candidates refuse to attend all-candidate meetings. Cabinet ministers apparently
are kept on a short leash, if indeed they are allowed out at all. God forbid
that Canadians should actually hear what a cabinet minister thinks about a
particular issue within his or her portfolio.
How many times have Canadians listened to news reports
that conclude with the words, "The minister responsible declined our invitation
to appear" or "declined to comment"? "The Current," a CBC Radio current affairs
show, ran a segment entitled "Request Count," in which they tallied the number
of requests made to members of the Harper government and tracked how many were
accepted and how many refused. They finally stopped the on-air component — there
were so few requests that were accepted. As of a few days ago, so far there have
been 46 requests; 6 accepted and a full 40 declined — in this season alone.
Last week's issue of The Hill Times had a
front-page article about the "unprecedented" control being exerted by the Prime
Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office, the arm of the bureaucracy that
serves the Prime Minister. It described how "Tory political staff have seized
almost total control of routine government communications."
Diplomats are notoriously muzzled — one diplomat said that
the Harper government's approach has "killed public diplomacy, outreach and
media relations." Jeff Davis, the author of the piece, writes, "the Tories have
wrapped all government communications up in political red tape, radically
reducing the amount of information disclosed to the public." He quotes a
diplomat who questions the government approach, noting that "public servants
have not given up their freedom of expression."
David Akin, the respected Canwest reporter, wrote in his
blog on January 29 about the continued limitations imposed on the Parliamentary
Press Gallery by the Prime Minister's Office under Mr. Harper. He described the
trip with the Prime Minister to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, where
members of the press galley were collectively afforded only two questions — one
in English, one in French. One reporter who dared to ask a question at a photo
op was warned immediately that if she continued, reporters would no longer be
allowed to attend such photo ops — access would be denied. PMO staff also made
veiled threats that the individual's organization might suffer further sanction
— all because of the impertinence of asking a question.
Honourable senators, as is explicit in the language of the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of expression and freedom of the press
go hand in hand. As Senator Fraser, Senator Munson, Senator Wallin and Senator
Duffy in particular know, to choke a free press is to kill free speech. Yet this
is business as usual for the Harper government.
In view of all I have described, I was not surprised to
hear that yesterday, which was World Press Freedom Day, the Canadian Journalists
for Free Expression awarded this government an "F" — a failing grade — for "the
countless delays and roadblocks" put in the way of access to information.
Several colleagues opposite used the term "Orwellian" in speaking to this
inquiry. The phrase is more appropriate than perhaps they intended.
I mentioned the marketplace of ideas — a concept I thought
would be understood by a Conservative government, which presents itself as
committed to the principle of free markets. The fundamental premise of freedom
of speech is to allow wide, open discussion — a busy, free marketplace of
competing ideas from which citizens may choose, bringing to bear their own
ideas, knowledge and critical, thoughtful analysis. However, the free market of
information under the Harper government more closely resembles a store under the
old Soviet regime: sparsely stocked — empty shelves with only a few closely
controlled, government- approved goods — and long lines of hungry citizens
waiting outside in the cold.
Honourable senators, there can be no meaningful freedom of
speech if the government refuses to provide information to its citizens about
the government's actions and activities.
Guy Giorno, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, told a
committee in the other place that freedom of information is "the oxygen of
democracy." This government's actions repeatedly belie that statement.
Robert Marleau, the former clerk of the other place, who
was appointed Information Commissioner of Canada in 2007, reported in 2008 that,
contrary to Mr. Harper's election pledge to make transparency a hallmark of his
administration, a "fog over information" had crept across the government's
activities. He said that restrictions on the access to information process
effectively put a stranglehold on communications.
Mr. Marleau's successor, Suzanne Legault, Interim
Information Commissioner of Canada, recently issued a special report to
Parliament containing the 2008-09 report cards on systemic issues affecting
access to information in Canada. Ms. Legault entitled the report Out of Time.
She did not mince her words. She said that Canadians' right to timely access to
information "is at risk of being totally obliterated."
Honourable senators, my friends opposite would like
Canadians to believe that the threat to free speech is some university students
behaving badly towards an American political pundit. Imagine, university
students behaving badly. How unprecedented. How shocking. Meanwhile, the Interim
Information Commissioner reports that the right of Canadians to timely
information from their own government is being "totally obliterated" — not just
restricted, but "totally obliterated."
There is no story here for my friends opposite. Let us get
our attention back to the real threat — to university students behaving badly.
Talk about being both Orwellian and, in the words of Neil Postman, amusing
ourselves to death.
We have repeatedly seen this government trying to prevent
Canadians from being in a position to exercise their freedom of speech, by
denying them the necessary building blocks of accurate information. The Director
of Communications for the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources
and Skills Development, was reported to have recently intervened to try to
suppress the release of information under the Access to Information Act that
would have revealed that Ottawa spent $5 million on a television advertising
blitz surrounding the Vancouver Olympics.
Those stories followed a February 7 report of a
Conservative political staffer who, when working for then Public Works Minister
Christian Paradis, had apparently ordered the "unrelease" of a sensitive report
on the government's real estate portfolio last July. According to the news
reports, public servants, Department of Justice lawyers and consultants had
agreed that there was no legal basis to withhold any of the 137-page document;
yet this staffer reportedly ran — yes, ran — to the mail room to prevent a
package of documents from being sent out in response to the access request. He
subsequently pressured officials to release only 30 pages of that 137-page
The Hill Times then ran a story with the headline,
"Cabinet ministers' offices regularly interfere in ATI requests, says Tory
staffer." They quoted a Conservative political staffer who, understandably, did
not want to be identified, as saying that Sebastian, the staffer who was running
around trying to get things "unreleased" . . .
. . . has not, from my experience, done anything that
is significantly different than what ministers' offices are expected to do
by the PMO.
According to The Hill Times, the staffer said that
the Prime Minister's Office has pressured ministerial staffers to head off the
release of explosive information.
That article appeared on February 22. The next week, March
1, The Hill Times ran another story, which reported the following:
Early last week, a Tory staffer who asked not to be
identified, encouraged The Hill Times to "keep going on this story
about the ATIPs."
The staffer said despite PMO statements that all
staffers have been directed to abide and uphold the Access to Information
Act, the PMO interference continues.
"This still continues and staff are told publicly to
`respect the process' but are expected to find ways to thwart the process,"
the staffer wrote. "Trust me — despite the public musings — political staff
were told `not to interfere,' nudge nudge, wink wink."
The Harper government's wall of secrecy and muzzle on
freedom of expression extends throughout the halls of government. I spoke
earlier of the collective vow of silence that appears to have been adopted by
all cabinet ministers, but this government muzzles even its scientists. Just
last month, on March 15, the National Post, usually a determined
cheerleader for the Harper Conservatives, ran an article headed "Scientists
`muzzled' by Tories' media policy." This was too much even for the National
Just 10 days later, Lawrence Martin, the columnist for
The Globe and Mail, could not hold back any longer. He wrote an article
entitled "A capital where freedom's in short supply." I will quote just a few of
Silencing orders were going out all over Ottawa — to
caucus members, civil servants, agency heads and military brass. They may
have been able to state their view in the past. But not in the new
Harperized capital. Not without prior approval from the Prime Minister's
Office or the Privy Council Office.
The scope of the clampdown was unprecedented. 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. Restrictions on the access-to-information process effectively put a
"stranglehold" on communications, information commissioner Robert Marleau
The long arm of the Prime Minister's Office has not
stopped at the walls of its own public servants. According to a CBC report last
year, a series of government emails showed that the Harper PMO directed the
contents of news releases issued by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, a
supposedly arm's- length advisory body and, more than that, told the board to
hold off on the release of the safety report into the high-seas death of Laura
Gainey until after the October 14 general election. Indeed, the report, which
was ready for release on September 24, was not released until October 30, two
weeks after the election.
Perhaps it is no surprise that the safety board acceded to
the Prime Minister's request. We have all seen what happens to independent
watchdogs who fall out of favour with this government. It is the same old stuff;
it is a story that bears repeating.
Linda Keen was fired from her position as chair of the
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. This firing came the night before she was to
testify before a parliamentary committee in the other place.
Peter Tinsley was chair of the Military Police Complaints
Commission. In that capacity, he was attempting to conduct an investigation into
the allegations around the Afghan detainee issue, an investigation that the
Harper government was working to thwart and impede in every possible way it
could imagine. In the middle of this investigation, Mr. Tinsley sent what I
would have thought would have been a pro forma request for an extension of his
term to complete his work. Instead, he received a letter from Defence Minister
Peter MacKay, which said: "I encourage you to begin arranging your personal and
professional affairs and start your career planning as soon as possible."
Mr. Tinsley told reporters at the time, last December,
that it was unprecedented for the Harper government not to reappoint someone in
the middle of a significant inquiry. He was quoted as saying:
Lack of cooperation by the government, or resistance
[to] the roles of administrative tribunals, and the effect on the [cabinet]
appointees, can have nothing but a . . . chilling effect across the field.
The article continues:
He said the fear is that watchdog chairs could be
cowed by "an environment where the government of the day sends signals that
if you don't guess right what the government of the day wants" there will be
Linda Keen spoke in January about the attitude of the
Harper government to independent watchdogs like herself and Peter Tinsley. She
did not mince her words. She said:
Administrative tribunal heads and, by extension, their
tribunals and administrative law are under attack today in the federal
Honourable senators, under the Harper government, even
independent watchdogs have lost their right to freedom of expression. They have
lost their right precisely where it is needed most, on the issues where
Canadians depend on their ability to speak openly and freely, without fear of
reprisal, guided only by the Canadian public interest as they see it.
Mr. Tinsley's successor at the Military Police Complaints
Commission, hand-picked by the Harper government, has not fared any better in
prying open the clamp of secrecy, and the government has not hesitated to let
the commission know just exactly who tells who what will happen and when. Just
last week the new chair, Mr. Glenn Stannard, asked the government's
representative, Justice Department lawyer Alain Préfontaine, for a date when the
commission could expect to receive certain requested government documents. Mr.
Préfontaine replied: "This is not something I am at liberty to discuss with
Mr. Stannard, understandably dumbfounded, asked the
question again. Mr. Préfontaine replied: "The documents will be given to your
counsel when they are good and ready."
Mr. Stannard later told The Globe and Mail that
since mid- February disclosure to the commission has nearly dried up. Thousands
of documents have yet to be released and those documents that have been released
have been heavily censored. Indeed, of even greater concern is that there
appears to be a "weeding out of material" even before packages are handed over
to the censors for scrutiny. Journalists are managing to obtain documents that
it now turns out were never even given to the commission.
This government claims to be the government of
transparency and accountability — the government committed to justice, and law
and order. What sort of justice can result when documents are hidden from the
commission? There is no transparency; there is only delay, censorship and
arrogance. Instead of accountability to Canadians, there is disdain and
Honourable senators will understand why I find it
difficult to take seriously this government's pious assertions of its devotion
to the cause of freedom of speech, or the direction in which my friends opposite
want to take this inquiry. They would rather not talk about Richard Colvin, who
found himself in Afghanistan waging a different war from the one he accepted.
His was a personal battle against the very government he was representing, as he
tried to tell them his concerns about Afghan detainees.
Of course, honourable senators, as we all know too well,
the Harper government's attempts to prevent Mr. Colvin from speaking out did not
end in Afghanistan. Invoking national security yet again, the government tried
repeatedly to prevent him from appearing before the Military Police Complaints
Commission. Finally, after members of the other place stepped in so Mr. Colvin
could speak here on Parliament Hill, the government resorted to that last refuge
of scoundrels and shamefully tried to discredit Mr. Colvin's testimony. That is
the true face of this government's commitment to freedom of speech.
Honourable senators, speak to people who work for non-
governmental organizations across the country. Too many are afraid to speak out
on various issues for fear of incurring the wrath of the Harper government and
losing their critically needed funding.
Senator LeBreton finds this situation amusing, but I do
not think the NGOs who are affected by this fear on a day-to-day basis find it
nearly as amusing.
This past weekend, The Globe and Mail published an
interview with Joanna Kerr, Chief Executive Officer of ActionAid International.
She told the Globe:
It's so hard for NGOs to speak out, because they get
their funding cut. That's what's been going on. If your mandate is to help
people around the world, you're not going to rock the boat. It's a very,
very unusual time in Ottawa, the kind of censorship that is happening.
Before I conclude, I want to speak briefly about section
13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which several senators have focused on in
their remarks in this inquiry. I appreciate that there have been some real
concerns about some cases that have been initiated under this section of the
Canadian Human Rights Act. We should, of course, always be looking for ways to
improve the laws of Canada. I was impressed with the arguments presented by
several senators in this debate, in particular Senator Nancy Ruth and Senator
Fraser, explaining the value served by having the provisions of that act in
addition to those in the Criminal Code; the fact, for example, as pointed out by
Senator Nancy Ruth, that the Canadian Human Rights Act covers hate propaganda
based on sex, while this would not be covered by hate crimes under the Criminal
Code. As Senator Fraser pointed out, the remedies available under the two acts
are distinct and are intended for different purposes.
I also believe that we should not lose sight of the
reasons for particular laws. It is often said that bad facts make bad law —
something this government should do well to remember when it jumps to introduce
certain of its so-called law-and-order bills. The same logic applies when
looking at certain questionable or even wrong decisions. The fact that one
investigator, or even one adjudicator, has made a statement or decision we may
disagree with cannot be sufficient cause to have us throw out the whole process.
There have been many decisions over the years that I have disagreed with, even
some by the Supreme Court of Canada, but that is surely not grounds for
dismantling the court system.
Honourable senators, racism and hate propaganda are not
issues for another time or another place. Sadly, they continue to have relevance
here today, here in Canada, as well as around the world. As Senator Nancy Ruth
eloquently reminded us, words are often not "only words." Words can be powerful
and, indeed, sometimes dangerous.
Scholars have observed that every modern case of genocide
has been preceded by a propaganda campaign. Some go so far as to suggest that
such a campaign may, in fact, be indispensable to genocide — a prerequisite, if
you will. As Senator Dallaire could tell us, in Rwanda the genocide was preceded
by several years of hate propaganda. The same was true in Bosnia and
Herzegovina, and the same was true in Hitler's Germany.
Before genocide can occur, large numbers of people must be
brought around to condone mass killing of the group in question. That is not to
suggest that all expressions of racism or hatred are to be censored as
necessarily leading to genocide — by no means. However, it does suggest that
Canada is right to take hate propaganda seriously and we are right to struggle
to find the line between free speech and inflammatory speech that requires
The issue, as is often the case, is one of balance; in
this case, between speech that is and must be fully protected under our
fundamental, critical right of freedom of expression and those communications
that would constitute hate messages and run afoul of Canadian law.
Are there adjustments that can be made, such as procedural
safeguards, to guard against abuses of the law and to underscore the importance
we place on freedom of speech? Perhaps, but, again, bad facts inevitably make
bad law. We should always be open to considering proposed improvements, but the
law as it stands now has proven effective in addressing serious cases of hate
In conclusion, I want to thank Senator Finley for
launching this inquiry. I agree with him: We indeed face a serious erosion of
freedom of speech in this country, which is being affected as we speak by the
Harper government. I look to Senator Finley and other colleagues who have risen
to defend freedom of speech with such eloquence. I look to these honourable
senators to join with us on this side and call the Harper government to account
for its numerous actions that undermine free speech in this country. I am
confident the honourable senators will join us and publicly denounce those
actions by their government and work to uphold real freedom of speech in Canada.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Will Senator Cowan take a question?
Senator Cowan: I will be delighted to.
Senator LeBreton: I could not help but notice
Senator Cowan's reference to bad facts make bad laws. I can up him one better.
Bad facts make bad speeches, and also inflammatory speeches.
Honourable senators, Senator Cowan represents the epitome
of what my colleague Senator Finley supports. Senator Cowan exercised his right
to free speech, which all of us support. Senator Cowan missed the point
completely in Senator Finley's speech. Senator Cowan seems to be fixated on Ann
Coulter. I am no particular fan of Ann Coulter, but the honourable senator
missed the point.
I cannot, as a member of the government of Prime Minister
Harper, sit here and listen to unfounded allegations, using unnamed sources,
outlining a litany of activities that claim to have been done, and that somehow
members of our government are all complicit in a system whereby none of us are
allowed to speak, which is absolutely false.
Since the honourable senator talked about his great hero
Mr. Trudeau and the Charter, what about the rights of those hundreds of
Quebecers who were thrown in jail during the time of the War Measures Act? I
will go to the next Prime Minister of the honourable senator's party, Prime
Minister Chrétien. What about the rights of the protester in Hull, when he dared
to protest and was strangled for his trouble?
What about the rights of Mr. Beaudoin, the former head of
the Business Development Bank of Canada, when he stood up against Prime Minister
Chrétien and refused to give money to one of Mr. Chrétien's friends for a golf
course in which they had an interest? Mr Beaudoin was subjected to an
unbelievable abuse of power, a witchhunt and a raid by the RCMP where he had to
spend a great deal of time defending his name.
Those are actual facts, whereas the honourable senator
cites The Hill Times and the CBC. As a long-standing member of the
Conservative Party, I can tell the honourable senator that I have never been
part of a government that has worked so hard to gain the trust of the Canadian
public as this government has. We know what we are up against. We are up against
these anonymous, faceless people around the city of Ottawa who are so used to
their Liberal connections that they feed this information, The Hill Times
prints it and, all of a sudden, it becomes fact.
I must say, honourable senators, that I was quite offended
by Honourable Senator Cowan's speech. It is an insult to parliamentarians and to
the government of the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. It is an insult to all of
us who serve in cabinet and, by the way, it is an insult to the Canadian public,
who continuously indicate their support.
Senator Dawson: Question.
Senator Fraser: Is this a speech or question?
Senator LeBreton: I guess the old saying of
Confucius — he who throws dirt loses ground — is exactly what happened.
My question is this: How does the honourable senator
explain the actions of Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Chrétien where there was real,
tangible evidence of abuse of power?
Senator Cowan: I am sure neither Mr. Trudeau nor
Mr. Chrétien would need my assistance in trying to explain their actions. They
do that very well.
I encourage Senator LeBreton to expand her thoughts here
into a speech and to participate in this debate. I will try not to be as
insulted by her speech as she claims to be my mine.
Obviously, there is a little bit of paranoia not far below
the surface. I must have scratched that surface a little too much, but I
encourage the leader to put her thoughts down, to expand on them and to
participate in this debate.
Senator Mercer: Do not hurt her feelings.
Senator Cowan: Again, I congratulate Senator Finley
for initiating this inquiry, and I encourage all honourable senators on both
sides of the chamber to express their views. Surely, if we cannot express our
views in this chamber, then there are not many places in the world where we can
Senator LeBreton: "Paranoia" is a word that the
honourable senator used. There is a difference between paranoia and having
someone say something that is blatantly false. I will go through Senator Cowan's
speech. Many of the statements are blatantly false and protected by the
privileges of Parliament, no doubt.
Again, when the honourable senator is talking about
freedom of speech, he is like his leader, Mr. Ignatieff.
Senator Cowan: I think that is a compliment.
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator shows no
respect for the Prime Minister. He calls him "Harper" all the time.
Senator Rompkey: You say "Iggy."
Senator LeBreton: Iggy is not the Prime Minister
and never will be.
Again, I would ask Honourable Senator Cowan this: If he is
to make a speech that he thinks is based on fact, should he quote unnamed
sources in Parliament? It is a terrible affront to everyone, because an unnamed
source is a person against whom one has no defence.
Senator Mockler: Unbelievable!
Senator Mercer: Read your talking points, Percy.
Senator LeBreton: I am not reading talking points.
Does the honourable senator not believe that when people
have something to say and speak out in the name of freedom of speech that, at
least, they should have the courage to say who they are before they make such
statements? Does he not think that one should rely only on real people who
Senator Cowan: I wish to thank the Honourable
Senator LeBreton for that. I encourage her to read my speech. If there is
something in there which is incorrect, I am sure she will draw that to my
On every occasion, where these were not my own views, I
have given the source of that view. It is entirely appropriate to quote from
commentators who have their own sources.
Senator Hubley: Like Mike Duffy.
Senator Cowan: Senator LeBreton might laugh at
that, but I have heard her day after day stand up and say, "Here is an article
from a newspaper." She quotes that as a perfectly valid backup and support for
Senator LeBreton: I use the name.
Senator Cowan: I have said that those were the
views of the journalists. I did not take them to be my own views. I put those
views before the house and, in every case, to the extent that I had a source, I
gave the source. If the leader can find that I have made an error of fact, I ask
her to draw that to my attention.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Would Senator Cowan take another
Senator Cowan: Yes.
Senator Fraser: Honourable senators, dealing with
the matter of unidentified sources, that is, unidentified in the public report
of their comments, would the honourable senator agree that there are occasions
when it is not possible to get information to the public unless one gives a
guarantee of anonymity to the source? Thinking back in our time, probably the
most famous example was the gentleman who for many years was identified only as
"Deep Throat," but who provided to journalists, on the guarantee of
confidentiality, vitally important information for the health of democracy in
the United States of America. I would argue there have been other comparable
Are the examples the honourable senator cited perhaps
illustrative of a climate of fear in which people are afraid to say in public
what they know to be true?
Senator Cowan: I am sure that Senators Fraser,
Duffy, Wallin and Munson, and others, perhaps, whom I do not need to name, who
have far more experience than I in journalism and reporting, have had
information given to them on condition that they not disclose the source. As I
understand it, responsible journalists would try to check that information with
another source. If it turned out that they had the appropriate level of
verification, then they would print it, even though they were not able to
identify publicly the source of that information. I understand this would meet
the accepted standards of responsible journalism.
I can speak only from my own experience, not so much in
preparation of this speech, but a year or so ago when I spoke on scientific
research in Canada. At that time, I spoke to many scientists across the country,
in universities and health institutes, about their funding, the prospects for
scientific research and development in Canada, and how we would stack up against
I was told repeatedly that they would give me the
information, but that I could not publicly identify them. They feared — and I
cannot say whether their fear was justifiable or not — that there would be
retribution on them as individuals or against the institution they represented.
I cannot say that was true. I can say that is what I was
told. I suspect that my journalistic friends here have had experience with that.
I am sure Senator Mockler, who is an experienced provincial politician, has had
people come to him and give him information, which, after appropriate
verification, he would have used in the practice of his craft, but was not able
to identify the individual involved.
All of us have a responsibility, when we speak to issues
like this, to verify the information as best we can and to identify the source
of it, even if the source is only a report from a newspaper. The journals that I
quoted and that other senators have quoted are well-known, respected journals in
this country. I think we can assume that the journalists who write for those
periodicals by and large respect those standards of journalistic verification,
which we all think is entirely appropriate.
Senator Fraser referred to the American experience. Had
people not been able to report on that experience, one wonders where democracy
would be today.
(On motion of Senator Andreychuk, debate adjourned.)
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable
Senator Carstairs, P.C., calling the attention of the Senate to the Impact
of Dementia on the Canadian Society.
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, I want
to comment briefly on this inquiry of Senator Carstairs calling the attention of
the Senate to the impact of dementia on Canadian society. As Senator Carstairs
pointed out, dementia is rapidly becoming a huge problem, especially as it
relates to Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is expected to increase from
500,000 cases to 1.1 million cases within a generation, and the cost of caring
for dementia patients will increase from $15 billion to $153 billion a year.
While these numbers are estimates, they are truly alarming.
Senator Carstairs' call to action, especially for people
over 65, includes a dedicated program under ParticipACTION, a healthy diet and
lifestyles program, and a skill-building support program for informal caregivers
such as spouses and children of dementia sufferers. These measures can reduce
the cost of caring for patients with dementia by about 50 per cent.
Senator Carstairs also pointed out that Canada does not
have a strategy to deal with this situation, despite the existence of one in
several other developed countries. She emphasized the importance of doing
something as opposed to doing nothing, since 40 per cent of people will suffer
from Alzheimer's disease at age 85.
Senator Hubley addressed the fact that we know little
about, and do not understand, dementia and Alzheimer's disease in our native
peoples. There is a real need to study this area in detail until the problems
are fully understood.
I want to emphasize the need for research on this subject.
Most important is that new imaging techniques and methods are now accurately
finding the presence of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Although the
so-called white spots are still not fully understood, they are opening a door to
a whole new understanding of the phenomenon. Perhaps more important than
anything else we can do at this time is to be supportive of our outstanding
researchers in the field and to encourage the development of young scientists to
pursue their studies in this direction.
Progress is being made by combining drug therapy with
healthy lifestyle initiatives. For example, the careful control of blood
pressure throughout the life course has a dramatic effect in delaying the onset
of, or indeed preventing, the disease altogether.
No one knows how long it will take to fully understand
this terrible disease, but we have made tremendous strides in the last decade.
Tremendous strides are possible in the next decade, and hopefully the horrible
projections that we have heard about the numbers of cases and the burden on
society will not apply because Alzheimer's disease will be prevented in large
Hon. Grant Mitchell rose pursuant to notice of
April 27, 2010:
That he will call the attention of the Senate to the
relationship between the environment and human rights.
He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to have the
opportunity to talk about something that was brought to my attention by Senator
Carstairs. Senator Carstairs has a way of seeing things that others do not see
and clarifying things for those people. She is perceptive and insightful.
About a month ago, she invited me to speak with her and
Senator Jaffer on a panel on human rights at a conference in Manitoba. I had not
spoken on human rights before, so I asked her why she asked me to speak and what
she wanted me to focus on. She suggested I talk about the relationship of human
rights and the environment. I took that to mean climate change because, as
honourable senators may be aware, I am interested in climate change.
The moment Senator Carstairs said that, it seemed so
obvious, and I wondered why I had not recognized the relationship between the
environment and human rights before. As I began to look into the subject, it
became clear there might be a couple of reasons for that lack of recognition,
which relate to the literature on human rights and the literature and arguments
on climate change. Both contain almost no mention of the relationship between
human rights and climate change. Two or three years ago, some of the literature
coming out of the United Nations began to address the relationship, but the
philosophical human rights literature has argued against it, although it is
beginning to migrate to what should be obvious.
In one column, I listed what we can all presume to be, and
in some cases must acknowledge are, the effects of climate change, and in
another column, I listed the classic human rights that we all understand and
most of us accept. When we put the two together, we see not that they mesh but
that they collide head on. There is little doubt that climate change profoundly
affects generally accepted human rights.
The major impacts of climate change include drought from
less water, which is obvious in the case of drought; drought from more water,
which seems to be counterintuitive, but we can have more rain in certain places,
and we probably are, but, because these places are warmer, the water evaporates
faster and, still leaves the region affected in greater drought; and glacier
melt, which will lead to drought and the inability to find water.
There are also violent storms, which I argue are already
occurring because of climate change. Science supports that view. Some might
argue against it, but arguing against something that obvious is like denying
The sea level is rising. People will say, "so what?" Many
people live in communities at the edge of bodies of water that will or are
beginning to rise because of climate change. Sceptics say there is not enough
ice to melt and, if ice already in the water melts, it will not raise the water
level appreciably. The melted ice water will not account for the bulk of the
rise in sea levels. Sea levels will rise because the water will heat and things
that heat expand, and the water will rise. This phenomenon is already occurring.
We have only to look around the world. I was in
Tuktoyaktuk a couple of years ago with the Standing Senate Committee on Energy,
the Environment and Natural Resources. That community is losing its shore line
and many houses are threatened by rising sea levels.
The world will experience many other impacts. There will
be floods, higher temperatures and forest fires. These events are already
Honourable senators can take any one of those impacts and
relate it to human rights that result in serious problems. These human rights,
for example, include the right to health, food, safe water, secure access to
water, subsistence, housing, security and culture.
Consider drought. It will clearly affect the food supply.
Drought will affect the water supply and it will likely affect housing when
people cannot live in a location any longer.
Consider violent storms. Honourable senators have already
seen their impact. Perhaps we take such violent storms for granted because of
the powerful image left in our minds. For example, if honourable senators were
to go to New Orleans or other communities now following Hurricane Katrina, they
will see houses that are still uninhabitable and communities that have been
destroyed. People living in those communities had to leave, perhaps, losing
their means to economic sustenance. The economy in many communities has been
dramatically altered or destroyed.
I do not want to belabour the Hurricane Katrina crisis,
but honourable senators can pick an impact of climate change and its effect on
human rights. There is a direct relationship. They do not mesh; they collide.
All such impacts are compounded because wars and mass
migration will result from climate change. In the Sudan, Darfur is a climate
change war. The land utilized by two cultures with different modes of
subsistence has been reduced in area by virtue of desertification in the region.
There is less arable land. Those who previously grew crops and those who grazed
animals both had plenty of land. There is not now enough land for both groups.
Therefore, Darfur has become a climate change war.
It is interesting to note what will happen to certain
other regions. If climate change affects the Middle East, as it is likely to do,
by increasing temperature to levels hotter than they are currently, it might
have a profound impact on what is already a highly sensitive region of the world
with significant security implications for our allies in the region as well as
for Canada and our global allies.
It is unfortunate that the poor will inevitably be most
disadvantaged by climate change because they have the fewest resources with
which to respond. The largest portion of the poor is women and, therefore, women
will bear the disproportionate burden of climate change. Is it not almost
inevitable that women seem to bear the burden in such unfortunate circumstances?
Canada is by no means exempt from the impact of climate
change. The massive annual forest fires in British Columbia occur, in large
part, because the warmer weather has not killed the pine beetle, which, in turn,
has killed the trees that provide kindling for the fires.
Fisheries on the East Coast and the West Coast have been
fundamentally disrupted. Some of the disruption may be because of the way the
industry was fished and managed, but it is unlikely that accounts for the entire
situation. Why did the salmon not appear on the West Coast a year or two ago? It
is probably because changing temperatures have moved their food source elsewhere
and disrupted their traditional feeding grounds.
Drought is causing problems for farmers in northern
Alberta. Edmonton is losing a large number of trees in our beautiful river
valley. The climate has been dry for 10 years and the trees cannot be sustained.
Our committee saw significant climate change impacts
during our trip to the North. Permafrost is melting, roads are warping and
buildings are beginning to sink. The patterns of animal migration upon which
Aboriginal people depend greatly are being altered. People told the committee
that they had gone out at the normal time of the year to hunt certain birds and
the birds had migrated through the area two or three weeks earlier because of
warmer weather. I indicated that Tuktoyaktuk is in danger of losing much of its
shoreline and could lose many homes located on the shore.
It is particularly unfortunate that Aboriginal people will
be impacted the most because they often make up a large portion of the poor.
Aboriginal people also often depend on the land and wildlife for their
livelihood, which are particularly affected by climate change.
In Canada, the effects of climate change probably will not
relate generally to a human rights problem with the exception of Aboriginal
peoples who tend not to receive the necessary support for, or resolution of,
A prima facie case can be made that climate change impacts
affect and create human rights problems. A few steps must be put in place to
ensure the link between climate change and human rights is clear so that no one
can deny it.
The idea that society has an obligation to someone not yet
alive is new to human rights thinking. Many of the people who will be affected
by climate change are not alive today. Two arguments highlight that for me.
First, many people affected by climate change are alive today and are affected
now or their children will be affected in the future. Every honourable senator
feels a profound obligation, if not to everyone, certainly to our children. They
will be affected by climate change in the future.
Second, the argument is strengthened by an analogy
provided by the Honourable Senator Banks who said that climate change impacts on
subsequent generations is like someone waking up 50 years from now to find that
they had had a $50,000 debt irrevocably imposed on them that they must pay. That
debt was incurred by someone who lived 50 years before. If they do not pay it
today, they lose their house.
That is exactly the kind of obligation that climate change
involves — we create climate change today to impact someone who may not even be
born yet. That concept makes the precise link to climate change being a human
I know all honourable senators in this house agree with
the assertion that we are causing climate change. Is there any honourable
senator who would raise his or her hand to tell us people are not causing
An Hon. Senator: Oh. Oh.
Senator Mitchell: All scientific evidence suggests
that people are causing climate change. To those who say climate change is
occurring but people are not causing it, I repeat that we had better hope people
are causing climate change because if we are not, we cannot fix it. We will have
no chance to do so. We are not capable of moving sun spots to keep the
temperature right. Some will then say that it has been happening for a million
years. I will say it has been happening for a billion years, but the world has
been uninhabitable for most of that time.
If honourable senators do not think we are causing climate
change, they should drop to their knees and pray we are so we have a chance to
fix it. The science is powerful; there is a great deal of scientific consensus.
All those skeptics who argue against climate change can never demonstrate
science that defends what they say. They can pick something apart from a room
full of scientific data and taint it, and say that, because that piece is
tainted, it is all wrong. That is like saying one line of the National Post
is wrong; ergo every National Post article ever published is
My point is that there is irrevocable science. We are
causing global warming. It is within our grasp to fix it and that finishes the
link for me. Human rights are affected by climate change today. Human rights
will continue to be affected, unfortunately, with greater intensity in the
future and with even greater intensity still if we do not start to act in a way
that we should, and provide leadership in a way that a country like Canada can
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (The Hon. the Acting
Speaker): Honourable senators, do you wish to grant the Honourable Senator
Mitchell five more minutes?
Some Hon. Senators: Yes.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you very much. I appreciate
It helps us to make the case. I have often said that we do
not need more technology to reduce greenhouse gases; we need a new technology to
help us convince the government and people to reduce greenhouse gases. Part of
that case comes from the focus: The debate has been on what happens to
economies, states and countries. With human rights, we begin to focus on what
happens to people and the suffering they will experience because of climate
change. That realization leads to a greater sense of obligation.
We, in Canada, have benefited from all those industrial
processes that have created climate change to give us a standard of living
beyond the imagination of people in most parts of this world — beyond the
imagination of hundreds of millions of people — and that sense of obligation
underlines human rights. It also underlines that sense of obligation
internationally, not only to people we live with and amongst in our own country,
but also to people around the world because our pollution contributes to this
problem elsewhere and around the world.
I think the lens of human rights helps in developing
public policy, prioritizing where that public policy needs to be applied and
what it needs to be applied to. It gives one an understandable frame of
reference about how we should cut through all the various possibilities and
begin to focus on what, where to deal with climate change and to mitigate
climate change for those people now suffering so profoundly by it.
It also raises the possibility of a discussion and of an
implementation of a right to information. People have a right to information on
things like climate change and climate change science, a right that could be
defended by this government and has not been. In fact, it is quite the contrary.
The government has stopped their climate change scientists from talking about
what they know, which only exacerbates the problem.
Honourable senators, I appreciate the time to talk about
this subject. I conclude by saying, yes, there are climate change effects. There
will be more in the future. These effects relate to human rights. What that says
to me, and what it should say to all of us, is that climate change does not
relate to human rights only in some abstract way. It relates to people — people
in our country, in our North, Aboriginal people and people all around the world
— who could use our leadership to mitigate, offset and prevent the kinds of
effects they surely will experience if this government does not start doing what
it should on climate change.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire, pursuant to notice of
April 21, 2010, moved:
That in the opinion of the Senate, the government
should establish a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities
on April 23 annually, the birthday of former Prime Minister Lester B.
Pearson's, in recognition of his commitment to peace and international
cooperation to end crimes against humanity.
He said: Honourable senators, I rise today because a
motion similar to this one was presented in the other place and was passed
unanimously. I hope to influence honourable senators in a similar fashion today.
Also, we received today the visit of the Under-Secretary-
General of the United Nations in Genocide Prevention who spoke to the
Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group on genocide prevention this
morning and was also a witness before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs
and International Development in the other place today. He will speak again
tomorrow at other venues, in addition to staff.
I would like to speak on this motion this afternoon.
Honourable senators, I would like to take advantage of a
rare opportunity we have to remember the victims of mass atrocities and honour
their memory through concerted action.
I will also indicate that 16 years ago today, the Security
Council finally commenced the debate on whether the slaughter in Rwanda was a
As you know, I have moved a motion to establish a National
Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities on April 23 annually. This
motion is very similar to a motion put forward in the other place. April 23 is
the birthday of our fourteenth Prime Minister, the distinguished Lester B.
Pearson, and was chosen in recognition of his commitment to peace and
international cooperation to end crimes against humanity.
As Canada's foremost statesman, Mr. Pearson ensured that
the nation's opinion was not only heard but also taken into account. His career
showed that a middle power such as Canada can carry a great deal of weight on
the international scene when talk is combined with action.
For more than 20 years at the Department of External
Affairs, Mr. Pearson played a key role in building Canada's international image.
From his visionary strategy for keeping the peace during the Suez crisis in 1956
— which saw the establishment of peacekeeping, that much-vaunted Canadian
institution — to his involvement in defending our neighbours, friends and allies
through the creation of NATO, Mr. Pearson became the best- known Canadian in
When he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 in
recognition of his efforts during the Suez crisis, the Nobel Committee said that
he had, and I quote, "saved the world." Thanks to Mr. Pearson's leadership in
Canada and elsewhere in the world, that time became a turning point in the
promotion and defence of the core values Canadians hold dear.
Although Mr. Pearson is known mainly as the father of
peacekeeping, history shows that this dynamic, pragmatic man was a sportsman and
even a soldier, an intellectual and a statesman, a politician and a prime
minister. His outstanding achievements are proof of his determined pursuit of
idealism in action — achievements that Canada badly needs to repeat.
He believed in a dynamic and tough diplomatic corps, and
in a large military force that could be deployed to help maintain peace and
security beyond our borders.
However, before Mr. Pearson became involved in politics in
Canada and had the opportunity to develop our international conscience, our
community of nations witnessed a terrible, heinous and avoidable tragedy, on a
very disturbing scale, but this was not the first, and would certainly not be
Our own nation's early relationship with the Holocaust is
not a particularly proud chapter in Canadian history. At the 1938 Evian
Conference, held to discuss the "problem" of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi
Germany, Canada steadfastly refused to increase its quota and accept more Jewish
More disturbing was the decision in 1939, when the SS
St. Louis, a passenger ship carrying 907 German Jews, was turned away from
Canadian shores. Upon receiving its docking refusal, the SS St. Louis was
forced to return to Europe, where most of its passengers were condemned to
perish in Hitler's death camps.
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Canada and the
international community recognized the horrific consequences of their
indifference and vowed never again to allow systematic killings on the basis of
nationality, ethnicity, race or religion.
It was a pivotal moment when, in 1948, the new United
Nations General Assembly — an organization that Mr. Pearson presided over —
adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
Genocide, declaring that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time
of war, was a crime under international law, which the parties undertook to
prevent and to punish.
In 1946, the General Assembly defined genocide as:
. . . a denial of existence of entire human groups, as
homicide is the denial of the right to live of individual human beings.
It went on to say:
. . . such denial of the right shocks the conscience
of mankind . . . the punishment of the crime of genocide is a matter of
Lofty rhetoric, indeed; but far from heeding this
international call to action — one expressly demanded as an obligation under
international law, a legal obligation Canada acknowledged when it ratified the
Genocide Convention in September 1952. How have the nations like Canada, which
ostensibly stand as beacons of equality, justice, and fairness, responded to
atrocities in places like Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda?
There have been some successes, but there have also been
too many failures, cases where empty rhetoric is the only response. The
platitudes are used to appease the international community's collective moral
conscience in the face of inaction. Ongoing atrocities in places like the
Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan continue to test our resolve and our
willingness to robustly defend those at risk of becoming victims of mass
The perpetrators and victims of mass atrocities know all
too well what this lack of concern means. Perpetrators believe that they have
carte blanche to continue carrying out their reprehensible crimes, and victims
realize that powerful nations, those that claim to be defenders of decency and
the supposedly unshakeable and inalienable rights of individuals, consider their
lives to be of little value.
Recognizing genocide is just the first step. Unless we
take appropriate action, we are just playing political semantics when we use the
term "genocide." I have experienced this personally, and I have felt the
consequences ever since.
I once asked whether we are all human or whether some of
us are more human than others. If we believe that all human beings are human,
how do we prove it? We can only prove it by our actions. That is the only way we
can do our part to help humanity evolve and to stop crimes against humanity.
There are many ways to bridge the gap between good intentions and concerted
efforts on local, national and international levels.
However, for the transformation to take place, we have to
introduce conceptual and normative changes. We have to understand that taking
action to curb mass atrocities is in Canada's best interest.
There is no doubt that saving the lives of innocent people
in the next Rwanda, or Kosovo will also save lives in Canada. Our safety is
increasingly threatened by crises that we allow to persist in faraway places.
Because more and more business people, tourists and
humanitarian workers are travelling abroad, epidemics and infectious diseases
that erupt in countries we once ignored, such as the Democratic Republic of
Congo, Sudan and Zimbabwe, now pose a greater risk to our public health.
Moreover, mass atrocities undermine political stability in
entire regions. In a global economy, that threatens our economic prosperity.
Our international security interests now intersect with
our humanitarian interests more than ever before. We have to create a broader
definition of our national interests not only to help at- risk states but also
to help ourselves and protect ourselves so that we can do more to rid the world
of mass atrocities.
The key to mobilizing the international community in order
to prevent mass atrocities is to secure national support. It has to start at
home. Prevention and the fight must start here: Canadians definitely need
leaders who are determined to push this crucial issue. Solid and convincing
leadership from our political and legislative authorities will strengthen the
public's will to intervene. May God send us these leaders, and soon.
The leader of our country, Prime Minister Stephen Harper,
has a unique opportunity to make the prevention of mass atrocities a priority
for Canada. In addition, Mr. Harper has an unmatched opportunity to align
himself strategically with the Obama administration, which took concrete
measures to make genocide prevention a "national security priority." I was with
his team at the White House two weeks ago mapping out our positions.
During the Holocaust remembrance ceremony in April 2009,
President Barack Obama declared:
Today, and every day, we have an opportunity, as well
as an obligation, to confront these scourges . . . to commit ourselves to
resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they
may take — whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing
everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place
in Rwanda, those taking place in Darfur. That is my commitment as President
. . .
He does not beat around the bush. He is a very determined
In his annual threat assessment presented to the United
States Congress in February 2010, America's Director of National Intelligence,
Admiral Dennis Blair, said:
. . . within the past three years, the Democratic
Republic of the Congo and Sudan all suffered mass killing episodes through
violence, starvation, or deaths in prison camps. . . . as well as
inexcusably high rape statistics. . . . Looking ahead over the next five
years, a number of countries in Africa and Asia are at significant risk for
a new outbreak of mass killing.
Furthermore, recognizing the national security problems
presented by genocides and mass atrocities, the U.S. Quadrennial Defence Review,
published in February 2010, stated that the United States Department of Defence
should be prepared to provide the president with options for "preventing human
suffering due to mass atrocities or large-scale natural disasters abroad."
President Obama is building upon Albright-Cohen Genocide
Prevention Task Force and a special recommendation by the Will to Intervene
project to prevent mass atrocities. In passing, I would like to salute Doctor
Shaw, with whom I had the pleasure of working at Concordia University and who is
present in the gallery today. The U.S. President has created a new,
inter-institutional policy group on reconstruction and stabilization within the
National Security Committee, which will help ensure that the prevention of mass
atrocities receives greater attention from the American government as a whole.
Honourable senators, I wonder if I could have another five
minutes to conclude my speech.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to grant Senator Dallaire five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Yes.
Senator Dallaire: Despite these efforts, no one
country can single-handedly resolve the problem of mass atrocities. The
credibility of our country and its ability to cooperate with our allies are on
the line. To be effective and responsible leaders, Canada and its politicians
must be at the forefront and create our own policies and programs for preventing
How can we prevent genocide and other crimes against
humanity? That is a good question. Once again, we must transform our commitment
to abstract principles into concrete action. We must insist that our laws and
national policies reflect and support our international political and legal
obligations. It takes more than just signing conventions in Geneva. We must also
pass laws in Ottawa. We must provide our citizens and organizations with more
powerful tools in order to exert pressure on future governments, given that
moral pressure is often not enough to ensure that politicians respect our
We cannot be proud of that.
These are not high-minded pleas rooted in fanciful
idealism. They are echoed by our strongest allies. They are based on scholarly
research. They are supported across party lines.
In the 2010 Speech from the Throne, Mr. Harper committed
his government to standing up for what is right in the world, including global
security, human rights, maternal and child health care, financial market
regulation, and international climate change. In many ways, I found this to be
very encouraging; but, as always, it is the leap from words to action that
As the Prime Minister is no doubt aware, standing up for
what is right depends on leadership, and it involves standing up for those whose
voices have been silenced by the din of hatred, ignorance and intolerance. As
empowered leaders, committed humanitarians and concerned citizens, we must give
the marginalized and the disempowered reason to hope. Hope will come from
adopting a new approach and from recognizing that the prevention of mass
atrocities should be a national priority of the Government of Canada.
Resources must be assigned to construct appropriate
long-term strategies to prevent mass atrocities by using Canada's foreign aid;
our diplomatic experience, if we ever plan to rebuild our diplomatic corps; and
our military capabilities. These resources can be realigned in such incredible
missions that go beyond the use of force to the educated use of force in
restraint in advancing human rights and the protection of the innocent.
Our government must recognize the nexus between Canada's
national interest and the prevention of mass atrocities, and pledge to work with
our allies to protect the voiceless and powerless from massive human rights
Time is limited, so I will close with the following: In
recognizing April 23 as an annual national day of remembrance and action on mass
atrocities, it is my hope that all Canadians will be provided with a regular
opportunity to remember victims of mass atrocities; to remember the lessons
learned after the Holocaust, after Bosnia, after Cambodia, and after Rwanda; and
to push forward with efforts to make Canada an international leader in the
prevention of mass atrocities and not the international follower we seem to have
become for some undefined reason.
Honourable senators, I will quote from the conclusion of a
book I wrote called Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in
Rwanda. "The failure of humanity in Rwanda" encompasses the whole of
humanity having failed the Rwandans. I quote.
As soldiers we have been used to moving mountains to
protect our own sovereignty or risks to our way of life. In the future we
must be prepared to move beyond national self-interest to spend our
resources and spill our blood for humanity. We have lived through centuries
of enlightenment, reason, revolution, industrialization, and globalization.
No matter how idealistic the aim sounds, this new century must become the
Century of Humanity, when we as human beings rise above race, creed, colour,
religion and national self-interest and put the good of humanity above the
good of our own tribe. For the sake of the children and of our future.
Peux ce que veux. Allons-y.
Hon. Joan Fraser, pursuant to notice of April 29,
That the papers and evidence received and taken and
work accomplished by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs during its study of Bill S- 210, An Act to amend the
Criminal Code (suicide bombings), during the Second Session of the
Thirty-ninth Parliament, and of Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Criminal
Code (suicide bombings), during the Second Session of the Fortieth
Parliament, be referred to the committee for the purposes of its study on
Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings) during the
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, May 5, 2010, at