Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 27
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I should
like to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Lu Yongxiang,
Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of the
People's Republic of China, together with an accompanying delegation.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would
also like to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Gifford
Cooke, President of Cooke Aquaculture Inc.; Mrs. Margery Cooke, St. George, New
Brunswick; and Greg Dunlop and Peggy Dunlop, Quispamsis, New Brunswick.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, also in
the gallery we have Mr. Hans van Baalen, President of the Liberal International
and Leader of the Dutch Liberal Delegation in the European Parliament; and Mr.
James Patava, Political Advisor, Liberal International. They are all guests of
our colleague, the Honourable Senator Poulin.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
The Hon. the Speaker: Finally, and certainly not
least, I am happy to draw your attention, honourable senators, to the presence
in the gallery of Mrs. Anne Keon and members of the Keon family.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant
to rule 22(10), the Leader of the Opposition has asked that the time provided
for consideration of Senators' Statements be extended today for the purpose of
paying tribute to the Honourable Senator Wilbert Keon, who will be retiring from
the Senate on May 17, 2010.
I wish to remind honourable senators that, pursuant to our
rules, each senator will be allowed three minutes and may speak only once.
Is it agreed that we continue our tributes to Senator Keon
under Senators' Statements?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: We will, therefore, have the
balance of the 30 minutes for tributes, not including the time allotted for
Senator Keon's response.
Any time remaining after tributes would then be used for
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, this is a day that I did not want to see come to pass. I am
sure that view is shared by all of our colleagues in this place.
Honourable senators, after almost 20 years of service in
the Senate of Canada, we say goodbye to our respected colleague and dear friend,
the Honourable Senator Doctor Wilbert Keon. I know I speak for all honourable
senators in saying that we will miss Senator Keon
tremendously. First and foremost, throughout, his work in
this chamber and beyond has been as a result of his dedication to the health and
well-being not only of Canadians but also of our citizens worldwide.
It is difficult to overstate all that Wilbert Keon has
meant to the city of Ottawa and its residents. I am happy to say that he was
born in the Ottawa Valley, in Sheenboro, Quebec. He received his MD from the
University of Ottawa, and, after studying at McGill, at the University of
Toronto, and at Harvard, Dr. Keon returned to Canada in 1969 to found and build
the Ottawa Heart Institute. Since it was established in 1976, the Ottawa Heart
Institute has become Canada's largest and foremost cardiovascular health centre
dedicated to understanding, treating and preventing heart disease.
Dr. Keon turned his dream into a reality and his life's
work has changed for the better the lives of countless people — numbers far too
many to even try to imagine. He made this contribution not only to our beloved
city of Ottawa but also throughout Canada and around the world.
Dr. Keon is a true pioneer in the field of cardiology and
has received many accolades as a result, including the highest honour of the
Canadian Medical Association, the F.N.G. Starr Award; and an induction into the
Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. The hall of fame citation reads in part:
He is regarded by colleagues as an icon and by
patients as the essence of the caring spirit in medicine.
As I have said many times, including at the Canadian
Medical Association reception, had Dr. Keon been an American, he would have been
TIME's Man of the Year and been on the cover of that magazine.
In September 1990, Dr. Keon was named to the Senate of
Canada by former Prime Minister the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney. During his
almost two decades of service in the Senate of Canada, our colleague has made a
meaningful, lasting contribution to the work of this place; most particularly as
a long-standing member of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs,
Science and Technology. Senator Keon provided valuable input toward the
committee's 2002 report on the federal role in our health care system, in which
many of us participated. I was fortunate to have been deputy chair of the
committee at the time of this comprehensive study, and I know that all
honourable senators who contributed to that study believe it has made a more
lasting impact on public policy in our country than any other report published
before or since.
Senator Keon served as the deputy chair of the committee
during its study on mental health, mental illness and addiction in Canada, which
produced a Senate report in 2006, entitled Out of the Shadows at Last.
All honourable senators who took part in that study are proud and humbled to
have played a role in bringing national attention to this painful, often hidden
problem facing families across the country. Dr. Keon was a leader in ensuring
this report came to fruition. The report ultimately led to the creation, under
our Conservative government, of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which is
chaired today by our former colleague, the Honourable Michael Kirby.
For all his impressive accomplishments, Senator Keon
remains a kind, thoughtful and delightful person to know, someone whose giggle
makes us giggle too, and it will surely be missed by all of us who got caught up
in how this all happens.
Although we say goodbye today to Senator Keon with
considerable sadness, we know that as a resident of Ottawa, he will never be too
With great affection and thanks for all you have
contributed to this chamber, Senator Keon, our Conservative caucus, the Senate
as a whole, our city and our great country, I wish you and Anne a happy, healthy
and well-deserved retirement.
I also would like to bring greetings to your son Ryan and
your daughter-in-law Cindy, who are in the gallery with your grandchildren and,
of course, your daughter Claudia, who is in the United Kingdom, and your son
Neil, who lives in Dallas.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, Hippocrates, the so-called "father of medicine," is reputed
to have said that wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of
humanity. Although Hippocrates lived in the 4th century BC, his words could well
have been inspired by Dr. Keon because they describe his work so perfectly.
Medicine for Senator Keon has never been primarily about
medical procedures, however skilled or groundbreaking. Medicine is first and
foremost about helping people.
Given Senator Keon's determination to help people, it
should have come as no surprise to anyone that when he was asked by Prime
Minister Brian Mulroney in 1990 to serve here in the Senate, he agreed. Although
he came during a tumultuous time, in the middle of the GST debate, he quickly
earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the chamber.
I have spoken here before, in other contexts, of the
exceptional wealth and depth of talent and experience that we have gathered
around us in this chamber, and the myriad ways this has contributed to the
Senate as an institution and its contribution to public policy in ways that help
Canadians. Without question, Senator Keon exemplifies the very best of this
I should add that Senator Keon's presence here has been a
source of comfort to us and to our families. It is a good thing to know that one
of the world's foremost cardiac specialists is in our midst. One never knows
when that might come in handy.
Throughout his almost 20 years here, Senator Keon has
devoted himself to advancing good health for all Canadians. He was, as Senator
LeBreton has said, a driving force behind the two landmark reports of the
Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology: the 2001-02
study entitled Study on the State of the Health Care System in Canada,
and the groundbreaking 2006 report, Out of the Shadows at Last,
Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada.
These have taken their place among the finest reports ever produced by this
chamber. In the best tradition of this place, they focused and advanced public
debate on critical issues facing Canada.
Last year, Senator Keon was deputy chair of the Special
Senate Committee on Aging, which produced the report entitled Canada's Aging
Population: Seizing the Opportunity. A month after he spoke in this chamber
on that report, he rose as chair of the Social Affairs Committee's Subcommittee
on Population Health to table and speak to their report, entitled A Healthy,
Productive Canada: A Determinant of Health Approach.
As Dr. Keon said in 2007:
The health-care system is one determinant of health,
but it counts for very little in the overall health status of the
population. To produce a healthy population, you have to eliminate poverty,
at least poverty as it affects nutrition, and you do that by providing
adequate housing and particularly education institutions.
Honourable senators will understand why I began these
remarks by quoting Hippocrates. This is a man who may love the art of medicine,
but it is because he loves humanity.
Senator Keon, all of us have been proud to serve in this
chamber with you. We may have sat on opposite sides, we may have disagreed from
time to time, but there is no question that our goals are the same: to work to
enable Canadians to lead the best and healthiest lives possible.
While you may be replaced, there is some comfort in
knowing that the political tradition in the Keon family will continue after the
next election, when Ryan will be joining our caucus as the new Liberal member of
Parliament for Nepean—Carleton.
Senator Keon, we will all miss you; our very best wishes
to you, to Anne, to your three children, Claudia, Ryan and Neil, and to your six
grandchildren and another who is almost here.
Congratulations and thank you so much.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, to be
named to the Senate is, for any Canadian, an honour and a unique privilege.
However, there are a few rare individuals whose appointment adds honour and
lustre to our chamber and to Parliament. We bask in the reflected glory of such
as the Honourable Wilbert Keon, who came here in September 1990. Senator Cowan
has properly described the period as "tumultuous" and he was not even here.
That the appointment was truly an inspired choice was lost
on some Ottawa media types who, in their obsessive, almost pathological malice
towards the then Prime Minister, poured out a full measure of their venom and
bitterness on Senator Keon's head, thus inciting even more extreme elements in
the community to do likewise.
That was a brief and shameful episode in our political
history. Our new colleague, who must have been shaken by such an introduction to
political life, nevertheless endured it stoically. Twenty years later, those
unhinged media tirades look pathetically foolish when measured against Senator
Keon's contribution to public policy over all this time.
As I reviewed the record of the past 20 years, the quality
of Wilbert Keon's contribution is hardly surprising, given the renowned academic
and professional achievements that he has to his credit. What is truly striking,
however, is the sheer quantity and breadth of Senate studies and reports on
which he has been able to concentrate with such discipline and thoroughness and
make a significant contribution to them.
In passing, I may say that Senator Keon has numerous
unpublished and politically unprintable views on various matters of public
policy. I assure him these have been carefully noted but will not be divulged
now, rather will remain in the National Archives of Canada for the entertainment
and edification of future generations.
I should also state, because he asked me to do so, that
our former colleague Senator Norman Atkins is much in Senator Keon's debt. In
fact, he believes he owes his greatly increased life expectancy to Senator
Keon's professional attention, to which I would add only that if this is so,
then Senator Keon has a lot to answer for.
I am sure we are all better educated, better informed and
should be more resolute on many health matters — from tobacco, one of his first
statements, to dementia, one of his most recent — that Senator Keon has spoken
about here. These and other more impromptu and always concise clinical seminars
are warmly appreciated.
Senator Keon has shared his knowledge and experience with
us most impressively. Although he says he has retired from the active practice
of his profession, the information he gives us is always of the most recent
Senator Keon's contribution here, like his professional
career, has been one of surpassing excellence. We have been honoured by his
presence and his collaboration these past 20 years.
Hon. W. David Angus: Honourable senators, one
September day in 1990, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney confided to me: "Keon is
going to the Senate. What do you think?"
"That is just super," I exclaimed. "Davey Keon was always
my favourite player and a tower of strength with the Leafs for many, many
"No, no, David," he replied, "not Davey Keon. I am talking
about his distant cousin, the brilliant Ottawa heart surgeon with the worldwide
reputation, a real non-partisan appointment, and the people will just love it;
don't you think? And he is a fine Irish Quebecer to boot."
Honourable senators, Mr. Brian Mulroney was right on the
money, and what a wonderfully inspired appointment it was.
Dr. Wilbert Joseph Keon, for over 20 years, as my
colleagues have already said, has truly enhanced this place simply by being
here. His dignity, wisdom, integrity, professionalism and gentle demeanour,
which some of us call his "Senate-side manner," have been a shining example to
senators on all sides of this chamber. Senator Keon has proven to be diligent
and hard-working at all times and made excellent contributions to Canada in a
variety of fields, not just those related to medical science and research.
As well, Senator Keon was friend, comforter, physician
and, yes, even surgeon to a long list of senators serving in this chamber.
Honourable senators, I am confident you will agree that
Willie Keon is a very special gentleman, the kind of individual the Fathers of
Confederation surely had in mind for prime ministerial appointment when they
created this place. Yes, I said "appointment."
I have shared almost no committee time with Senator Keon,
just a quick stint on Rules when he chaired that committee briefly two years
ago. However, we have been friends, neighbours and co-conspirators on the ninth
floor of the Victoria Building for well over a decade. Some of our exploits must
remain private, but there we have together conducted a vigorous campaign for
urgently needed additional government funding for medical research in Canada — a
major academic need that is sadly lacking. Our results, unfortunately, thus far,
have been mixed and rather disappointing to us both. We have empathized and
bonded in striving to meet this critical challenge. This mission remains front
and centre with our departing colleague, and I know full well that he will be
retired in name only. The reality is that, going forward, Senator Keon will be
pressing harder than ever for more, better and properly funded medical research
Honourable senators, Dr. Keon ardently believes, and has
done so all his life, and he is right, that the health and well-being of all
Canadians, especially our children and grandchildren, hang in the balance.
Therefore, let us all wish Senator Keon much success as he continues to pursue
this noble cause, and let us, too, assure him of our full support in
accomplishing his goal.
Senator Keon, may God bless you and thank you for these 20
memorable years of valuable public service. We will all miss you.
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, I
also have plenty of nice things to say about Senator Keon, who will be retiring
next Monday. Some may think his retirement is well- deserved, but I find it
I have a hard time believing that this medical expert,
this gracious, thoughtful and committed man, will be able to sit at home
twiddling his thumbs. He still has so much to offer and contribute to society in
Canada and Quebec, that I am sure he has secretly lined up one or two, or even
more, professional or volunteer activities that will keep him as busy as the
On a more personal note, I sincerely thank you, Senator
Keon, for always being kind and courteous to me, and for being available, in
particular when you were deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages and filled in for a chair who was recovering from two
surgeries after taking a bad fall.
I feel honoured, Senator Keon, to have worked with you and
laughed with you. Your urbanity, fairness and intellect will be greatly missed
in this chamber, much more than you may think.
Thank you for being who you are and for having
accomplished all that you have, and may you be blessed with a long, healthy,
prosperous and active life after the Senate.
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, I also
rise today in tribute to a truly remarkable man, my friend Senator Willie Keon.
While Dr. Keon has built an impressive career as a world-
renowned cardiac surgeon and researcher, I consider him, first and foremost, to
be a health care pioneer and a healer. Anyone who has had the honour of working
with Senator Keon on the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science
and Technology can attest to his passion and drive to build a better health care
system for all Canadians. He helped to lead the committee through landmark
studies on mental health and the health care system, and was the visionary
behind the groundbreaking study on population health.
The list of Dr. Keon's professional achievements and
accolades seems endless. His many clinical innovations include Ottawa's first
cardiac transplant and the first Canadian infant heart transplant. He has been
awarded — to name just a few — the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario and the
Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II.
As I reflected on what to say about our honourable
colleague today, I was reminded of many examples which illustrate Dr. Keon's
commitment to health and to the service of everyone. In my experience, he has
been willing to help anyone, anytime, anywhere.
In one particular example, Dr. Keon's intervention helped
a 39- year-old mother get the diagnosis and surgery she needed. In her case, she
suffered from a condition that is rarely detected. I can say unequivocally that
many individuals are alive and families are still together today as a result of
the actions of this remarkable man.
Honourable senators, as I was reading up on our esteemed
colleague's career, I noticed that the word "saint" was used repeatedly to
describe him. I think businessman Rod Bryden put it best when he said, "This is
as close as Ottawa has come to having a saint in our midst. He has done absolute
marvels for the city overall, and, of course, for a great many individuals."
Honourable senators, despite the accolades and
achievements, Dr. Keon remains among the most human, most humble and most
down-to-earth people you could ever meet.
Willie, I thank you for choosing to be a person of
compassion, of strength and of leadership. You have touched so many lives in a
meaningful way, and we are all the richer for it. We have been blessed to have
you with us in this place since 1990, and I simply do not know what we will do
without you. Trust me, you will be sorely missed.
I thank you for all your help to me over the years, and I
wish you, Anne and your family many happy and healthy years ahead.
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, today we
mark the upcoming departure of our fellow senator who has contributed a great
deal to the institution. For the past 20 years, Senator Keon has graced us with
his broad experience and strong commitment to his fellow Canadians.
Senator Keon will be greatly missed by the Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, where I served alongside
him since 1997. In this committee and in the Senate as a whole, Senator Keon has
fostered a better understanding of illness.
The committee reports to which Senator Keon contributed so
much have improved policies affecting the well-being of Canadians. As mentioned,
Senator Keon played a major role in the production of the Kirby report, the
report on public health and the report on mental illness.
Senator Keon led the Subcommittee on Population Health's
study on the determinants of health approaches. That report was favourably
received. I hope our fellow parliamentarians will ultimately adopt its
conclusions so that the root causes of illness in Canada may finally be
Senator Keon is a person of great intellectual rigour.
With his subtle sense of humour, he has a talent for refocusing the debate and
bringing everyone back down to earth. With the precision and confidence
befitting his career as a surgeon, Senator Keon got straight to the point, never
straying from the essential issues. His pragmatism set a strong example for
politicians who try to resolve everything all at once.
Senator Keon's ability to work as part of a team meant he
could always look beyond our political differences to focus on our common
purpose of improving the daily lives of Canadians.
We are losing a valuable member of our team, Senator Keon.
Thank you again for your many years of loyal service to our health system and to
medicine. We wish you well in the next phase of your life, which will certainly
be equally busy. I have no doubt that you will continue to strive to improve
health services, with as much dedication and effectiveness as ever. Please take
good care of yourself, also. Fair winds, dear friend.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise today
to contest the entire notion that Dr. Keon is retiring. Senators like Dr.
Wilbert Keon never retire; they do not even fade away. They simply change the
place to which they go to work in the morning and continue to serve. He will nag
When I first came to this place, on my second or third day
in the chamber, Dr. Keon rose to remind us of a disease whose national day it
was. He continued to do this frequently. Whenever he would rise in those days
when I sat in the second row with him on my right and Senator Murray in front of
me, Senator Murray would warn, "Under the desk, Segal, here comes another bone-
chilling, heart-stopping disease from the good doctor."
Once, when he lectured us on trans fat, I heard the great
infectious giggle to which Senator LeBreton referred. When I said, "Why not just
tie us all up to an intravenous, give up on solid food and get on with it," we
got the giggles, and it was wonderful.
Senator Keon is a man of compassion. When he was
unceremoniously ripped by our heartless leadership from between Senator Meighen
and myself in the second row and was given a seat on the front bench, he came
back to Senator Meighen and me in the second row to say that clearly our
political careers were over. Our political careers were over and we could no
longer get free medical advice. I might add, there is objective evidence to be
found everywhere you look that our careers are over, but Senator Keon was glad
to offer advice and counsel on how they might be revived.
Senator Keon is not the kind of man who retires. Can you
see him trying to figure out how to spend his time but not his money? I doubt
it. He did, after all, donate his entire salary to the Ottawa Heart Institute
for his first 16 years here, when he served in both places — a precedent, thank
God, that has not caught on, but which gives us all the measure of the man.
He has absolute paternity for the Canadian Institutes of
Health Research, which he warmly shares with Dr. Henry Friesen of the Medical
Research Council; Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who started the ball rolling;
and Prime Minister Chrétien and Finance Minister Martin, who were the attending
obstetricians at the birth.
His global role as a heart surgeon, innovative
cardiologist and cardio research heavyweight brought health and life to
I do not see Senator Keon living a life where research
seminars are replaced by naps and new research initiatives are replaced by golf.
I suspect he is only a day or two away from the speech that many spouses make to
retiring great men, "Love, honour and obey, Willie, does not include lunch."
He will become involved in advocating for the kind of
preventive research population health initiatives that keep people healthy,
manage health care costs and keep Canada and Canadians strong. All here today
can see the remarkable effect he has had as my personal fitness and nutrition
adviser for the last five years. I will miss him terribly.
When I consider Churchill's reassuring advice — "don't run
when you can walk, don't walk when you can sit, don't sit when you can lie down"
— advice which, after all, saved civilization, I will always take Dr. Keon's
advice given to me in those few short months we sat together — "Take vitamins
and drink red wine."
Godspeed, Dr. Keon, and do not even think of retiring.
Canada and Canadians cannot afford for that to happen.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I am pleased
to join with others in honouring Senator Keon. Shortly after I came to the
Senate, I became a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs,
Science and Technology. Senator Keon was a member of the committee, which was
studying Canada's health care system at that time. He was and continues to be
very well respected across the country, and his Senate salary was a bargain
price for the expertise he provided to the committee and to the Senate,
particularly since, as Senator Segal has said, he did not collect the salary for
Indeed, when I speak about the advantages of an appointed
Senate, I most often use Senator Keon's name as someone who would not likely
have run for office but has made a tremendous contribution to social policy in
Canada through the Senate.
At the Social Affairs Committee, Senator Keon would listen
to the discussion of the witnesses and the senators and then, in a calm, quiet
way, he would start with, "Well, you know," and immediately he would get to the
crux of the issue. His comments were rarely partisan. He wanted our reports to
develop strong recommendations to help Canadians.
Senator Keon, you are a gentleman and you have taught me
so much about the development of social policies, particularly those related to
health care. I feel very fortunate to have worked with you.
My best wishes to you and to Anne — I do believe you were
very lucky to have married a schoolteacher — and my best wishes to your entire
family. Enjoy your trip to Ireland. Hopefully, now that you are retired, you
will have more time to become involved in the next federal election, which would
probably be the first time you were ever politically active because, as Senator
Cowan said, we would be very fortunate to have another Keon in Parliament.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, for
all of the reasons my colleagues have already given, I want to remind all
honourable senators how important it is to have people of Dr. Keon's calibre
Senator Angus mentioned the Fathers of Confederation.
Senator Keon's departure inspires me to thank them for having created an
institution in which individuals like our colleague can serve their country and
their fellow citizens, not because they are popular or were elected in a
popularity contest, but because they are competent.
We need individuals like him. Those of us who have been
here longest will remember what things were like when Senator Keon first came to
the Senate. People who think that there is acrimony and partisanship in the
Senate now do not know what they are talking about. Back then, in 1990, it was
absolute warfare. The Speaker was held hostage by the senators.
Then Senator Keon, who shunned partisan behaviour, arrived
in this pit of partisanship and made his mark thanks to an institution that
allows any Prime Minister of Canada, despite fear and acrimony, to appoint an
individual and transplant him into an environment desperate for the wisdom of a
person as brilliant as Senator Keon.
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the Fathers of
Confederation and to wish Senator Keon every happiness in the future. I do not
know if he is capable of spending the rest of his days peacefully, but that is
my hope for him and his family.
Senator Keon, thank you very much for serving your
institution and your country so admirably.
Hon. Pierre De Bané: Honourable senators, I think
that there is no more eloquent way to speak to a person's values than to
consider his actions.
After completing his specialization and his education in
the United States, Senator Keon received the most attractive offers an
outstanding surgeon could possibly get. He could have earned a huge amount of
money had he accepted the offers he received from Harvard and the big hospitals
in the United States, but he refused them.
He came to Canada where he could have just practised his
profession in a major centre, but once again, because of his concern for the
common good, he devoted all his energy to founding a heart institute that today
is one of the finest centres in the world.
It is his constant concern for the good of the community
that impresses me to no end.
Like many others, I was fortunate to have Senator Keon
take care of me when I had my heart attack. I still remember the day when I was
at a reception, and it happened that I was with three or four colleagues who had
also been cared for by Dr. Keon the heart surgeon. He entered the reception, saw
us together holding our glasses of wine and said: "Oh, I see you all have your
medicine. That is good."
I will not forget that, Senator Keon. I simply want to say
to you, from the bottom of my heart, that I know I am alive today because of
you. You are one of the people who, when you join an institution, it is not you
who is honoured; instead, it is the institution that is honoured.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, I take
this opportunity to rise and pay tribute to, undoubtedly, the finest man that
has sat in this Senate since I have been here.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator St. Germain: I came to know Senator Willie
— as I call him — because we have been residents of the Victoria Building
together — I for 17 years; he for 20 years. I came to know how hard he works,
how dedicated he is and how kind a human being he is. He always had time
whenever anyone asked him anything.
Fortunately, I have not had the health problems some have,
but I had a minor situation with my heart. I knew Senator Willie was busy, but
he took the time to sit down and to explain to me that what I had was really
nothing and not to worry about it. However, Senator Willie took the time and
this is about time. Most of us do not take time for each other as human beings,
whereas Senator Willie always did and I am sure he always will.
I will not go on at great length because everything was
well said before I rose. To paraphrase a well-known American president: There
are no great men, only ordinary men, ordinary men who rise to great occasions.
You, Senator Keon, are one of those men. To your family
and to you, may God bless you.
Hon. Jean Lapointe: Honourable senators, you will
forgive me for starting with an excerpt from a song that is not to be taken
literally. It was popularized by the Compagnons de la chanson a number of years
It goes like this:
He was so big, so very tall, we thought he might well
reach the sky.
In my opinion, Senator Keon is not only a great senator,
but also a great humanitarian. Over the years, I have always appreciated what he
has done for the upper chamber, for the whole country and for other countries of
His talents as a heart surgeon and his extensive knowledge
of the medical field led him to chair the foundations of the University of
Ottawa Heart Institute and the Ottawa Civic Hospital. Thanks to Senator Keon,
these institutions are world- renowned today in the field of cardiology.
After working for decades on the most important organ in
the human body with the ultimate goal of saving lives, Senator Keon is someone
whom I would describe as having an extremely generous heart.
Although we sat on opposite sides of this chamber, we were
always reaching for the same goal. Thank you for everything, my dear friend.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones.
Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, I rise to
endorse everything that has been said here today about a truly remarkable
Canadian. We have all heard of Senator Keon's exploits as a brilliant surgeon,
but perhaps not as many honourable senators know that he is also a marriage
On the day Senator Keon was sworn into this chamber twenty
years ago, I was sitting in the press gallery watching this remarkable man from
Sheenboro, Quebec, I had heard much about, who had married a woman from
Pembroke, Ontario. Wilbert Keon was a legend in the Ottawa Valley and he was,
even then, considered to be a saint. I came from the Press Gallery to witness
the swearing-in ceremony.
This man underwent the most vicious, vile and mean attacks
in the media. I hope the people at the Ottawa Citizen who demanded his
resignation are ashamed of their conduct because, in the 20 years since, Dr.
Keon has shown the entire world and not just the citizens of Ottawa what it is
to be a great Canadian and a superlative senator.
He was pretty down on the day he was sworn in. I went out
of my way to meet him and have a conversation. I suggested that, given all my
time in the media, I had seen such things before and that this, too, would pass.
I was pleased to see that after some reflection, he decided he would carry on,
and carry on he did — to the great heights we have seen.
A couple of years later, three days before I was due to be
married, I had a heart attack and was taken to the University of Ottawa Heart
Institute, which, as Senator De Bané has pointed out, is world renowned. I was
taken there at 7 o'clock in the evening. The next morning, at 7 o'clock, into
the room comes Dr. Keon. My wife woke me up and she said, "Honey, Dr. Keon is
here to see you." I said, "That is not Dr. Keon; that is Senator Keon." He said,
"Well, you can't be too sick if you're already making jokes at this hour of the
Here is where the humanitarian comes in. Three days hence,
we were due to be married. My future wife said, "Let's cancel everything. You
have had a heart attack." We had people and family coming from all over. Right
away, I started making deals. At 7 a.m., I said to Dr. Keon, "If I don't get any
worse, would you mind if we got married here in the Heart Institute on
Saturday?" Willie, being the great humanitarian he is, said, "If you don't get
any worse, it will be all right, but I don't want any kind of big event." I said
"No, no, just 10 minutes; just here in the room. Everything will be fine."
Sure enough, I went along. They got me into the shower and
got a suit and tie on me on the Saturday. Then the TV and still cameras arrived,
along with Peter Mansbridge and Wendy Mesley and all my family. We were in the
reference centre and Senator Keon said, "I thought this was going to be a
low-key affair." Anyway, we got married, and he was my sponsor when I arrived in
the upper chamber.
He is a most remarkable human being, as honourable
senators have noted, and we will miss him dearly. To Anne and the family: God
bless you for sharing him with us. He has done so much for so many and never
asked for anything for himself.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I
rise today to pay tribute to Senator Keon as he prepares to take his leave from
this chamber. The close of Senator Keon's remarkable 20-year Senate career gives
me pause and makes me reflect on the hard- working, knowledgeable voice we will
surely miss in this place.
To speak of Senator Keon is to speak of many people: the
doctor, the politician and the caring person. As a senator, Dr. Keon has
continually reminded us that preparation is our best defence against the
afflictions that ail us. As he said in 2007, in an interview with
InnovationCanada.ca, "The gospel I'm preaching now is to try to get out in front
of the problem, because many diseases are preventable."
Upon receiving the 2007 F.N.G Starr Award from the
Canadian Medical Association, which has been described as the Victoria Cross of
Canadian medicine, Dr. Keon remarked that: "It means a great deal since I gave
my life to medicine and made many sacrifices. . . ."
Honourable senators, today we are reminded of the many
contributions Dr. Keon has made, both to medical science and to public policy in
Canada. Today, we turn to one of our own to say that, in the wake of his
sacrifices, we stand to benefit.
Today, we say thank you to your family and to you for
helping to save the lives of our loved ones.
Honourable senators have all spoken so eloquently about
Senator Keon, the doctor and the politician, but I want to speak of him as my
neighbour on the ninth floor of the Victoria Building. As a neighbour, he has
always been there for me. When I have had personal challenges, he has come to my
office with caring and supporting words. When my father suffered a heart attack,
Senator Keon helped me through it. He has been there through all my mother's
illnesses, as well.
Dr. Keon and his staff have always been there for me.
Diane Desrochers has always helped my staff and, without hesitation, Diane was
always available when there was a query.
Senator Keon, your presence among us will be sadly missed.
Senator Keon, in my mother language, there is a saying
that your first relative is your neighbour. You have been my relative. When you
leave today, I will lose a relative on Parliament Hill. We will all miss you and
your staff tremendously. Thank you for your friendship.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Honourable senators,
I, too, rise to add my voice to those paying tribute to a truly remarkable
individual. Wilbert Joseph Keon is a surgeon, innovator and inventor, builder,
leader, visionary, based on thought, experience and ultimate benefit to Canadian
Let me briefly remind honourable senators of a numerical
recognition of his many contributions as a scientist and as a surgeon without
peer: More than 200 scientific publications; more than 175 scientific abstracts;
hundreds of special lectures; and numerous chapters in books and films. These
contributions are the record of his achievements through scientific
investigation for the benefit of humanity.
That this work had impact — and enormous social benefit —
can be seen through his more than 40 distinguished awards, including Officer of
the Order of Canada. No less than four major awards and permanent events,
including a building, have been named in his honour.
I have long known of the man held in awe and near
reverence by all who have known and worked with him, but to have had the
remarkable privilege to work with him in the Senate of Canada is an experience
that I will treasure. My deep regret is that this wonderful opportunity has been
far too short.
I close by reminding honourable senators that few people
have impacted their spheres of influence in such a complete and immensely
positive way as Wilbert Joseph Keon. Think of the lives he has saved with the
skill of his own hands. Think of the countless more he has helped through the
impact of his work that I referenced before. Think of the leadership he has
brought to medical science, and the inspiration he has provided for generations
of new medical researchers and practitioners.
I remind honourable senators that, beyond all of this, his
demonstrated managerial approach, if widely copied throughout our hospital
system, Canadians would greatly benefit from better services at much lower
Senator Keon, as you move to the next phase of your
remarkable life, take with you the gratitude, the admiration and the warmest of
personal affection from your colleagues in this chamber.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the
Honourable Senator Keon.
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, I have
often been a part of conversations that note that tributes go on far too long
and that we should do something about them in the Rules of the Senate. As
a matter of fact, when I was Chair of the Standing Committee on Rules,
Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, the subject came up. Senator Fraser, it
came up; you should have pushed it and something would have happened. If you
had, you would not have had to suffer this today!
It is truly an honour to be here on this occasion with my
family. I am deeply, deeply touched by the tributes. Who could not be? They were
It was a wonderful honour to be appointed to the Senate. I
considered it an honour from the first minute that Prime Minister Mulroney
mentioned it to me, even though I had no warning. I never learned until last
night how it happened, when Senator LeBreton told me how my name got in the mix.
I had no idea it was coming. Anyway, I really considered that a great honour. I
did not think I could do it at the time, but I am so glad I did.
I must say that honourable senators on both sides and the
staff at the Heart Institute made it possible. I could not possibly have managed
my responsibilities at the Ottawa Heart Institute and managed to be a senator
here had I not been treated so supportively by everyone.
I am very proud to be one of you. You are a wonderful
group of people — all of you, both sides. This is a wonderful chamber; it is
underestimated. There is tremendous intellectual wealth in this chamber.
I have had the great privilege of circulating with Nobel
laureates, great scientists and so forth, but the wisdom that comes out in this
chamber is truly tremendous. It is such a wonderful cross-section of Canadian
society. When we go to a different method of appointment — and I will say a few
words about that later — I hope that we can sustain the cross-section of society
that I have had the privilege of encountering here over the last 20 years,
because it truly is impressive.
I also want to say, Your Honour — Your Honour, you have to
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Keon: We have been privileged with an
absolutely wonderful Speaker, have we not?
Most of you probably think that Speakers are appointed by
the prime minister. Well, I have news for you. Our Speaker arrived here through
divine intervention. I learned of his appointment at church on Sunday, after
mass, from the nephew of Mackenzie King, who was the priest in the church. If
that is not some sort of spiritual continuity, I do not know what is.
In any event, I do want to compliment the Speaker because
he is a wonderful Speaker. When he was appointed, I told him he was born to do
the job and he has done a wonderful job for us.
I also want to say that I am honoured to be a
Conservative. I did not choose a political party until I was appointed to the
Senate. I had financially supported both Liberal and Conservative parties over
the years because I felt these two parties were very important to sustaining our
However, I was smitten by Prime Minister Mulroney. I
thought he was great. I really believed in what he believed in. When he had that
magnificent victory that pulled the whole country together, when we, for the
first time, had representation across the country, I thought that was a
I was a huge believer in free trade. It was my philosophy
of life. In research and medicine, if your grants could not compete on the
global level, the research was not worth pursuing. Do it over again until it was
good enough to compete on the global level, and that is what free trade is all
about. We have really benefited a great deal from that initiative.
We have a wonderful Prime Minister at the present time,
also. He is serving us well around the world. I fully appreciate that senators
opposite have to find a way to defeat him. You will have a difficult time
because he is awfully good. There is no question about it. He does represent us
with tremendous pride on the international scene.
We should be terribly proud of every prime minister we
have ever had in Canada. I was mentioning only last night what a privilege it is
to be part of the governance of Canada. This is a tremendous governance no
matter what party is in power. When one looks back at the prime ministers, the
leadership, and the governments we have had since Confederation, they have been
absolutely wonderful compared to the rest of the world.
We have to do better, and I appreciate that, so I will
deal with Senate reform right now. Senate reform was the number one item on the
agenda when I came in here 20 years ago. It is the number one item on the agenda
when I will leave here now; and I said last night, it will be the number one
item on the agenda when the rest of you go out of here, too.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Keon: The major defect, I believe, as
someone who was not involved in active politics, is the appointment process. It
is considered to be patronage, and the system has to be improved.
The current proposal for a combination of election and
selection I think would be an improvement and may add a great deal. I do not
think it will have a particularly smooth ride, but those of you here will
consider the subject carefully and I am sure you will come up with something
Until I was appointed to the Senate, I simply followed my
nose in politics. I had to be somewhat politically inclined to get the money I
needed to build the Heart Institute, but I was not particularly committed to any
party. I guess I was a member of the 30 per cent that had no real political
However, I want to tell honourable senators on both sides,
I truly admire those of you who have made that commitment, who have built your
parties, who have sustained your parties and who have made them work, especially
when your parties were down a bit, for it kept them alive so there could always
be an alternative for the Canadian electorate.
I am a committed Tory now, but thanks to the commitment of
people like you, people like I used to be had a choice when they went to the
polls and it made the system work. There were two good, solid, healthy parties
and a government in waiting all the time. I will not talk any more politics
because I am intimidated by Senator Murray.
Senator Murray was my leader when I came into the Senate.
Those were difficult days.
Let me relay a little anecdote. We were sitting through
the night, and Senator Neiman was speaking and speaking. She was a lovely person
and a great senator, but she was speaking in French and she could not speak
French. I sat over there beside Senator Finlay MacDonald, and Senator Nathan
Nurgitz was sitting in front of me. Finlay leaned over his seat and said to me:
"Those French girls drive me wild."
On a more serious note, during most of my time here, I was
honoured to serve on the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee.
Indeed, I had to serve on many committees at one time when we were down to 22
people on this side. I truly enjoyed that committee. The 2002 Kirby-LeBreton
report on the federal role in the health of Canadians was tremendous. Senator
Kirby handled that so well. It was followed by his report on mental health,
which has made a great contribution to mental health in Canada.
Early on, I wanted the committee to study and report on
population health because I sincerely believe, at age 75 with over 40 years'
experience in the health and science field, that the only solution lies in
population health. We cannot continue to spend the way we are spending and
achieve the kind of results that we are getting because 50 per cent of what we
treat in the health care delivery system now is preventable upfront. In
addition, about 35 per cent of the procedures we do are not effective.
Therefore, we have to start measuring what we are doing, and the Canadian
Institutes of Health Research can do that and we should make use of those
services. Everything should be measured and, if it is not effective, it should
not be funded. We have to bring objectivity into the whole system and, in
particular, we have to convince the population that their health is their
responsibility. We have to build healthy communities on a platform of the
determinants of health and look at the life cycle throughout.
As part of that study, I went to Cuba to study the Cuban
system. They spend 1/47 of what we spend on health, and they have the same
outcomes. They have the same maternal mortality, infant mortality and life
expectancy as we have. How do they do that? They have done it through a system
of polyclinics for primary health care integrated with education, sport,
nutrition, housing and all other determinants of health. We published our
report, entitled Maternal Health and Early Childhood Development in Cuba,
and I like to think that it had a real influence on the government of the day in
selecting maternal and child health as a priority at the G8 and the G20
conferences. I know there is some controversy about the details, but there
cannot possibly be a better mission in the world than maternal and child health.
Senator Mitchell, I say this to you: You spend a lot of
your time talking about the environment, and I thoroughly enjoy the questions
that you throw at our leader, although I do not think she enjoys them. The most
serious problem confronting the world and global society is overpopulation, and
it will not be controlled until we have the empowerment of women worldwide. We
should get our priorities straight because this is a serious problem. We must
have the empowerment of women worldwide.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Keon: I cannot possibly leave without
plugging research again. Research is part of my soul, and we do not do enough. I
appreciate that the government has many places to spend its money, but the
private sector in Canada could do much better. Our American friends spend eight
times as much from the private sector as we spend, so it is time that industry
stepped up to the plate and made an investment in research. When coupled with
other private sector endeavours, the government platform and the efforts of
NGOs, we could be one of the leading nations in the world for research. We
likely cannot catch up to the Americans because they have too many clever people
and too much money. Apart from them, we can come in second worldwide in
discovery if we truly address research.
One of my most gratifying experiences since I came to the
Senate has been my participation in the birth of the CIHR, about which there is
an interesting story that I will not tell, and the Canada Foundation for
Innovation. The combination of the CIHR and the CFI and the way that they
integrate was a stroke of real genius. I know there was a small problem a year
or so ago with the overfunding of the CFI compared to the CIHR, but it will
balance out. It has been a truly marvellous thing.
The CIHR, which was started under Prime Minister Mulroney,
is such a complement to our political system. It had not moved along very far
when Mr. Mulroney was replaced by Prime Minister Chrétien, who continued with it
and the CIHR was born. I was sitting on the other side on April 10 when the bill
passed third reading in the Senate. This has to be one of the greatest moves we
have ever made in Canada from a research and discovery point of view. It is a
great tribute to our political system that it did not fall off the agenda just
because the government changed.
I was also associated with the Public Health Agency of
Canada. Following the SARS epidemic, for one reason or another, I ended up on
all the committees dealing with it. Everybody wanted a Public Health Agency of
Canada. When I was young, I used to say repeatedly that this country needed a
surgeon general to prepare an annual report on the health of our nation. Today,
we have such annual reports between the Public Health Agency of Canada and the
Health Council of Canada. They might not be perfect, but they are happening.
Another great thing is the Canada Gairdner Awards. I am
indebted to Senator LeBreton for booting that along. With $20 million, the
Canada Gairdner Awards rose to international status just below the Nobel Prizes.
As well, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has been a tremendous step
I am deeply concerned about our National Research Council,
as Senator Ogilvie knows. He has all the necessary expertise to correct the
problems that exist there. I hope the committees of the Senate will stand behind
him, get on with this and put our National Research Council back to where it
Finally, I will miss life here very much and I will miss
all of you. You have been great. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, and I
hope I have helped by contributing. In closing, I say thank you to all of you on
To my wife Anne, up there in the gallery, thank you. We
will celebrate our fiftieth anniversary on July 2. Anne kept food on the table
for the first 10 years of our life and trucked around after me as I moved from
one university to the other, trying to put myself in a position to know all the
reviewers and everything in a subsequent life, and I did very well at that.
Meanwhile, she kept the cash flowing in our budget, subsequently raised three
children on her own and all along the road of life, kept me out of trouble. She
is still high-school cute. Do you not think so?
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Keon: We have three wonderful children.
Claudia is in England. She will be joining us in Ireland for my seventy-fifth
birthday. She has three boys: Jack, Chris and Ethan. Her husband Mark, is a
heart surgeon and Claudia is a practising family physician. To our despair, she
said she married her father — she married a heart surgeon — but they are very
happy. Neil is in Dallas with a lovely wife and son. They cannot be here, so
Ryan and Cindy are carrying the torch, and Will and Emily are up there propping
I extend a big thank you to everyone. I must not forget my
staff in the gallery, Diane and Gail. They are wearing white, as they should be,
for taking care of me. They have been wonderful.
I will miss all of you. God bless all of you. I will be
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, the United Nations National Report submitted in accordance
with paragraph 15(A) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, the Report of the United Nations Working Group on the
Universal Periodic Review.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, the Report of the United Nations Working Group on the
Universal Periodic Review Addendum.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, the United Nations Human Rights Council Report on the
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I give
notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and
Communications be authorized to examine and report on emerging issues
related to the Canadian airline industry, including but not limited to:
(a) its performance and long-term viability
in the changing global market;
(b) its place within Canada;
(c) its business relationship with their
(d) its important economic effect in the
Canadian communities where airports are located; and
That the committee report to the Senate from time to
time, with a final report no later than June 28, 2012 and that the committee
retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after
the tabling of the final report.
Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, my
question today is about infrastructure funding in the North. My colleagues
Senator Lang and Senator Patterson I am sure will be interested in the response
from the government leader.
We are now in the final year of stimulus spending. The
ministers responsible for infrastructure spending have frequently stated that
any projects not completed by March 31, 2011, will lose their federal funding.
Municipal, provincial and territorial governments will be on the hook for the
full cost of the projects that go over the deadline.
The North being what it is, remote, distant, with some
areas subject to summer sealift, winter ice roads and short summer work seasons,
it is difficult and challenging to start and finish projects. What assurance can
the minister give us that planned projects in the northern territories will
receive all the promised funding and that small, remote communities and
financially strapped territorial governments will not be penalized if the
reality of northern construction is in conflict with federal government- imposed
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, Senator Sibbeston is quite correct in that the
infrastructure and the stimulus programs were designed to deal with the
worldwide economic downturn. He is absolutely right that the program is designed
to end at the end of the fiscal year, on March 31, 2011, and he is also quite
right that all levels of government that have participated in putting these
projects together understood the requirements clearly going in.
The honourable senator asked specifically about certain
projects. There are some projects, honourable senators, in the North that fall
under other areas of government funding. I will have to take the question as
notice. Obviously, there are programs under the stimulus fund that must be
completed by the prescribed time. There are other projects under way that do not
fall into that category, so I will have to obtain a status report for Senator
Sibbeston on the various projects and development in the North and where they
fit into the overall scheme of things.
Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, to add to
Senator Sibbeston's question and emphasize points he has made, the construction
season in the North is very short. It is really the summer months. If there is
inclement weather and the ship does not get in and supplies do not arrive,
construction is delayed, if not terminated.
Rules and regulations are often made, in my experience, by
central Canadians that do not apply to the extremities of the country,
particularly to the Arctic.
Would the minister seek some latitude for unusual
circumstances that exist in construction in the Arctic so that that region may
participate fully in what is essentially a pan- Canadian program?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator
for the question. The government fully understands the complexities and
diversity of the country and the difficulties in project funding, particularly
in the North and more remote areas where the conditions are not as they are in
other parts of the country.
Many programs that the government has negotiated with our
northern partners fall within other funding areas of the government. I am quite
sure that when they were working with our partners in the North they took into
account all of the factors involved. If a program did not fit within the
stimulus program's stipulated time frame, I am certain that other programs could
have been used in order to make accommodations.
As I said to Senator Sibbeston, I will obtain a full
report on the various projects and their status and what government programs are
Hon. Robert W. Peterson: Honourable senators, my
question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It has never been
more obvious that this government takes Saskatchewan and Western Canada for
granted. On the issue of the First Nations University of Canada, this government
refuses to address the concerns of students, faculty and staff who do not know
whether they will have funding to offer classes next year. The uncertainty has
proven to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The President of the First Nations
University of Canada, Shauneen Pete, announced last Monday that they have been
forced to sell the Saskatoon campus.
The university's new administration has earned the support
of the community, including the Government of Saskatchewan, the University of
Regina, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, Canada Foundation for
Innovation and the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. The university has bent
over backwards to address the serious issues that plague them, but all this
government can tell us is that they received a proposal and are considering it.
The Government of Saskatchewan is firmly behind the First
Nations University of Canada. On Tuesday of last week, the provincial government
announced the signing of a $5.2 million funding agreement between the First
Nations University of Canada, the University of Regina and Meyers Norris Penny
Limited. Under the agreement Meyers Norris Penny will administer the funding and
provide regular financial reports.
Minister Norris said:
This agreement is the result of the hard work of all
the partners to fulfill their obligations under the MOU that was signed in
March and I congratulate them on their efforts.
Honourable senators, while the federal government is
thinking, an entire community is twisting in the prairie wind and the university
is under severe stress and uncertainty.
Can the leader confirm that, in view of these new
developments, her government will accelerate negotiations with the objective of
a successful conclusion by reinstating long-term funding?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I
thank Senator Peterson for the question.
I must take issue with the honourable senator's opening
preamble. The government has demonstrated on many fronts that it is very well in
tune with and connected to the concerns of Western Canada, particularly
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
With regard to the First Nations University of Canada,
honourable senators know full well that this university has experienced a great
deal of difficulty. This is a troubled institution. There have been incredibly
difficult financial problems. It was obvious that tough decisions were needed to
deal with them. We continue to encourage the institution to keep working with
all of its partners, the University of Regina, the Federation of Saskatchewan
Indian Nations and the province, as it restructures.
As I have said in this place many times, the government
remains committed to supporting First Nations learners and encouraging and
ensuring that they graduate with the skills needed to enter the labour market
and share fully in Canada's economic prosperity.
Our focus has and always will be the students. That is
why, on April 29, we announced $3 million to help students complete their
academic year through August 31. As announced, Indian and Northern Affairs
Canada will continue to work closely with the University of Regina to finalize
details and ensure the timely distribution of funding.
The present situation was a long time in coming and
developed over a period of many years. There are huge problems here. The
government is seized with dealing with this issue, and we have two priorities
when dealing with this serious matter. The first priority is the students; and
the second is the proper use of taxpayers' dollars.
Senator Peterson: Honourable senators know that if
long-term funding is not reinstated the university will not survive. I really
cannot understand the government's unyielding resistance to this situation.
In my province of Saskatchewan the fastest-growing cohort
is the 18 to 25 age group, and they are mostly First Nations. They will become
the workforce in the decades ahead. Why would we deny them the opportunity of a
higher education by refusing to fund this most important institution, the First
Nations University of Canada?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, we are not
denying anyone anything and we are not refusing anything, either. I have just
stated what the government has done and is prepared to do, and that it is
encouraging the university to continue to work with the various partners. I
cannot imagine how the honourable senator could come to his conclusion.
It is obvious that the university has had severe
managerial and financial difficulties. The government has worked hard with them
and with our partners to resolve these problems. Our focus has been on the
students. That is why we put in the additional funds, in order to allow those
students to complete this school year. We continue to work with the various
As I said a moment ago, our priority is the students. The
government has taken many initiatives in many areas where we feel it is very
important for our Aboriginal communities to fully participate — in the North and
in the communities in which they live — in Canada's economic prosperity.
Whether or not one is an Aboriginal Canadian, one would
understand that the government wants to ensure that the money invested in these
facilities is properly managed and assists those who require the assistance, and
that is the students.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, as the
Leader of the Government in the Senate knows, 15 per cent of the Saskatchewan
population is Aboriginal. As our honourable colleague has indicated, that
population is growing rapidly, so that in a few years' time, 50 per cent of the
population under the age of 25 will be Aboriginal.
Currently, 40 per cent of First Nations students in
Saskatchewan who are enrolled in post-secondary education attend the First
Nations University of Canada. We all know that post-secondary education is a
major means to escape the cycle of poverty and to contribute socially and
economically to the well- being of the whole province. It has recently been
shown that Aboriginal women with degrees earn as much or more than non-
Aboriginal women with degrees. It is vitally important that Aboriginal women get
If this government truly believes in the advancement of
women — that we need to look at the empowerment of women, as Senator Keon has
stated earlier — how can it not then fund the major institution that is
educating and empowering Aboriginal women?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, in my
previous answers I dealt specifically with the First Nations University in
Regina. The government absolutely believes in the importance of education in our
Aboriginal communities. That is why since 2006, we have invested $395 million
for the completion of 94 school projects. Canada's Economic Action Plan provided
for 10 new schools and three major renovations. The Building Canada Plan
provides for eight new schools or renovation projects. I have said this to the
honourable senator before. Last year we also invested more than $100 million
over three years for the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership and $75
million in the new Aboriginal Skills and Training Strategic Investment Fund.
I cannot understand how the honourable senator could stand
there and say the government is not taking this issue seriously, when clearly we
are taking the issue seriously and investing considerable sums of money into the
betterment of the education system for Aboriginals.
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate and concerns the Marquee
Tourism Events Program. I would also like to follow up on a question I asked her
Last Friday, 33 days before the opening of an
international- scale event that is well known in Montreal and by all senators
who come from Quebec and who sit by the leader's side, the organizers of the
FrancoFolies de Montréal learned that their application for $1.5 million in
assistance from Industry Canada would not be renewed this year.
I would like to draw to the minister's attention that this
decision penalizes the FrancoFolies, obviously, which is the biggest francophone
music event in Canada and in the world, and it tarnishes Montreal's reputation
as a city of festivals.
Allow me to suggest that she consult her colleagues from
Quebec in the chamber today before making a final decision. I see that Senators
Nolin, Angus, Seidman, Carignan and Brazeau are here. After this consultation,
would the leader be prepared to recommend to the Minister of Canadian Heritage,
who may have a better understanding of the issues involved, that the Minister of
Industry review this decision and try to find the $1.5 million that was
foolishly cancelled — by means of a press release — with just a few days'
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, the question of funding various organizations is one that
the government takes seriously. We have increased funding in arts and culture by
8 per cent. The fact is, and we all understand this, organizations that receive
funding are not entitled to funding in perpetuity. Many organizations apply for
funding every year. Neither the previous government, this government nor future
governments would ever have enough money to fund all of the programs for which
there are applications.
I will have to make an inquiry about the specific program
to which the honourable senator referred but, as I mentioned to him the other
day, we increased spending on arts and culture by 8 per cent. Our campaign
promise was to maintain or increase our spending in arts, culture and heritage,
and we have kept our word.
We have increased direct support to the arts and cultural
organizations by putting a record amount into the Canada Council for the Arts,
$181 million. We doubled support for the National Arts Training Program across
Canada. This year and last year we gave cultural industries a shot in the arm by
building arts infrastructure for future generations. We are investing more money
than ever before in our artists and we are ensuring that every dollar delivers
results for them and for Canadians.
Our government, through Canada's Economic Action Plan, has
also invested more than $500 million in arts and culture. Arts training
programs, festivals, theatres, museums, youth programs and cultural
infrastructure have all received more support than ever before from our
Every single day, in this place and in the other place,
someone can complain about a program that did not get funding this year; or that
got funding last year and not this year; or that had funding for 10 years and
all of a sudden their application was not approved this year. That,
unfortunately, is the reality. Many organizations have received funding and are
grateful for that funding. Unfortunately, no one stands up and asks me questions
about this funding or thanks the government for this funding; they simply stand
up and ask about organizations that feel they are entitled to their entitlements
and funding in perpetuity.
Senator Fox: Honourable senators, I might add that
the honourable leader should also consult the Senator Champagne and Senator
Fortin-Duplessis, as members of her own caucus, before making a decision.
I am simply pointing out that this decision not to fund
the FrancoFolies de Montréal festival this year comes as a surprise, because it
is contrary to the very goals of the Marquee Tourism Events Program, which is
described as a program established to assist existing marquee tourism events in
enhancing their offering. A marquee event is then defined as "an annually
recurring world- class event that is well established and has a long-standing
tradition of programming and management excellence."
I would say that the festival we are talking about
fulfills that condition.
I think, Madam Leader, that the honourable senators will
also tell you that the FrancoFolies de Montréal is an international festival
that meets that requirement. I might add that the decision that was made is
contrary to the commitment made by the government at the Montreal Culture
Summit, to which then Heritage Minister Josée Verner and the Minister of Public
Works and Minister responsible for the Montréal region at the time, Mr. Michael
Fortier, were sent to say how supportive the government was of the idea of
Montreal becoming a cultural metropolis.
Honourable senators, we have here a world-class cultural
event, the largest francophone music and song event in Canada and around the
world, as I said earlier, and the government is about to say no to it.
I am not trying to be partisan. I just want to encourage
the honourable leader to reconsider that decision, so that it can be reversed
and that the FrancoFolies de Montréal international festival can take place and
continue to foster Montreal's identity as the city of festivals.
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator assumes
there was no consultation. I would suggest to him that the Department of
Heritage consults widely when it assesses these various applications.
The fact is that many of the programs that have received
funding in the past, in order to build a profile and to become the successes
that they are, are capable of standing on their own two feet. There are now
well-established festivals. People know of these festivals and attend them. Once
festivals are established as bona fide national attractions, there is nothing to
say that they cannot continue along with great success. Some of these festivals
no longer require the assistance of government.
I have a long list of the various cultural organizations
in Quebec that receive funding that I will be happy to provide to the honourable
senator. There is a long list of organizations that need funding in order to
obtain the profile that some of these other organizations now have and benefit
from. Why would we not try to bring other organizations up to the same level and
enable them to have people attend their functions, as is the case with the
festival the honourable senator mentioned?
Senator Fox: Honourable senators, I have a
supplementary question. I would like to point out to the minister that this
program, the MTEP, is part of the Government of Canada's economic stimulus plan
and the objective of this program, as written in the program guidelines, is to
help annually recurring world-class events — new ones are not excluded, however.
Do not try to tell me the government will cancel their funding because they are
I am not the one who wrote these guidelines; it was the
government, to help organizations, such as this one, overcome the economic
crisis and allow them to not only survive but also to flourish during this time.
I cannot imagine that the Government of Canada would
tarnish Montreal's reputation as Canada's city of festivals or as Quebec's
cultural metropolis. If that comes into question, I would like to know about it.
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is
referring to the Marquee Tourism Program. That is a two-year program. Last year,
75 per cent of the funds from this program went to the large centres. That was
great. It assisted them last year. Why does the senator think it is not fair
then to assist some different events this year? That is all the government is
It is a two-year program, and for year two of the program
the government, in fairness to all those who did not get funds last year, wanted
to ensure that other cities or smaller cities are also able to benefit and put a
higher profile on their events so that they become must-see events in the future
for tourists who come to Canada.
Senator Comeau: Come to Western Nova Scotia.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Honourable senators, my
question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Last year, Confederation Centre in Charlottetown received
funding under the program. Did the centre receive funding for this year or was
there any other funding available for Prince Edward Island? If the leader does
not know, could she find out, please?
Senator LeBreton: I do not know and I will find out
for the Honourable Senator Downe.
I am sure there was funding for Prince Edward Island,
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, a delayed response to an oral question raised by Senator
Mercer, on April 28, 2010, concerning Agriculture and Agri-Food — Farm Income.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Terry M. Mercer on
April 28, 2010)
The federal government contributes to a variety of
programs to assist farmers faced with financial difficulties, including the
Business Risk Management (BRM) programs:
- The federal-provincial-territorial BRM Suite of
- AgriInvest — producer-government matched-
contribution savings accounts;
- AgriStability — an improved margin-based
income stabilization program;
- AgriInsurance — expanded insurance options
and other benefits; and;
- AgriRecovery — a disaster relief framework
that allows a quick and coordinated response to disasters affecting
- Since the inception of the BRM programs for the
2007 program year, producers have benefited from nearly $5 billion in
support through these programs, including the federal AgriInvest
Kickstart program. Of this, producers in Atlantic Canada have benefited
to the tune of $131 million. Atlantic Canada's share of BRM payments
(2.62%) is consistent with its share of total farm market receipts
(excluding supply-managed commodities) for 2007 and 2008 (2.68%). Given
the protection of supply-management, these producers rely less on BRM
- New Brunswick: $45.0 million
- Nova Scotia: $25.8 million
- Prince Edward Island: $58.9 million
- Newfoundland/Labrador: $1.3 million
- The BRM programs have and continue to provide
significant levels of assistance to producers across Canada, including
the Atlantic Provinces.
- Payments under these programs are targeted to
financial need. Therefore a significant portion of these funds have
gone to embattled cattle and hog producers and will continue to do
so as long as producers in these sectors are facing losses.
- It is expected that more than $1 billion will
go to livestock producers across Canada for losses they incurred in
2008 and 2009.
- Governments are working to get this money
into producers' hands as quickly as possible.
As governments work towards Growing Forward 2, they
are in the process of undertaking a comprehensive review of the current BRM
programs to gage their effectiveness and ensure they will continue to
provide the support producers need. As part of this process, governments are
now consulting with producers and agricultural groups on their long-term
objectives, their challenges and opportunities, and how governments and
industry can work together for the long-term success of the sector. These
national and provincial sector engagement sessions will also present the
initial findings of the current review of BRM programming. The results of
the consultations will be reported back to Ministers at their next meeting
in the summer, and they will inform governments as they work towards the
next phase of the national agricultural policy framework, including BRM
In addition to the BRM programs, the federal
government has shown support for producers through:
- Recent changes to the Advance Payments Program
(APP) which have resulted in increased access to government-backed
loans, including a Stay of default until September 30, 2010 for APP
advances to hog and cattle producers during the 2008-09 production
- Announcing three new programs to assist the hog
industry, including the International Pork Marketing Fund ($17 million)
for market research, promotion and access initiatives to find new
customers for Canadian pork products, Hog Industry Loan Loss Reserve
Program to help the Canadian hog industry by providing government-backed
credit to help viable operations weather the current economic
uncertainty and the Hog Farm Transition Program ($75 million) to help
struggling operations to transition out of the industry.
- The recent federal budget included a number of
measures to support the beef industry, including an additional $10
million for the $50 million Slaughter Improvement program, $25 million
for plants processing over thirty month (OTM) cattle and $40 million for
new technologies to reduce costs or add value for specified risk
- The Government of Canada also continues to work
tirelessly to expand global market access for commodities produced by
Canadian farmers and to defend Canada's trade rights through venues such
as the World Trade Organization.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government)
tabled the response to Question No. 9 on the Order Paper—by Senator Downe.
Hon. Bob Runciman moved third reading of Bill S-2,
An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts.
He said: Honourable senators, it is a privilege to sponsor
Bill S- 2 for passage at third reading. The bill before us today would implement
both fundamental and administrative reforms to the National Sex Offender
Registry, ensuring that our streets and school grounds are safer for everyone.
It includes important measures to ensure that sex offenders are properly
identified so that police have the tools to do their job. It also addresses
concerns raised by law enforcement and victims' groups.
As many of you may well remember, some of the key changes
being proposed include having all sex offenders included in the registry, as
opposed to the current system where the Crown must first make an application and
the judge has discretion to refuse the order; ensuring international sex
offenders no longer escape registration; and ensuring that all sex offenders are
included in the National DNA Data Bank. In addition, this bill will give police
the power to use the registry not only to investigate but also to prevent sex
Honourable senators, I am confident that we all see the
value in giving the police a proactive tool to prevent these crimes from
occurring in the first place, something especially true for sex offences.
Under the changes proposed by Bill S-2, registry officials
would also know when sex offenders are released or readmitted into custody. This
is not the case today. Sex offenders would be required to provide notice in
advance of any absence from their home address of 7 days or more, rather than
the current 15 days. The amendments the government is proposing will also allow
police in one part of Canada to notify police in another part, as well as police
services in a foreign country, when registered sex offenders are travelling to
their jurisdiction. Canadians who return to Canada after having been convicted
of a sex offence outside of Canada will also be required to register on the
National Sex Offender Registry.
Honourable senators, all these provisions and several more
would mean that our children are safer, and perhaps we can help prevent some of
the tragic stories all of us have heard with regard to sex offences.
As Jim Stephenson, whose son Christopher lost his life to
a sex offender, noted during committee hearings:
With the changes contained in Bill S-2, much will be
done to enhance the National Sex Offender Registry.
I urge all honourable senators to support the legislation
before us and work to ensure its speedy passage.
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin: Honourable senators, during
my speech at second reading of Bill S-2, the Protecting Victims From Sex
Offenders Act, I made a number of observations and suggestions that I and other
senators on this side of the chamber felt were valid and reasonable and that
could improve the bill.
While it was examining the bill, the Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs heard from a large number of expert witnesses —
over 30 of them. Some of them had concerns about certain provisions in the bill,
and others called for stricter monitoring of sex offenders. However, many of
them were in favour of the bill and supported the principles of an effective sex
offender registry, and I emphasize the word "effective."
The Liberals felt that this bill had merit and supported
it, despite some concerns about one of the central points, the automatic
inclusion in the national registry of sex offenders who are found guilty of one
or more of the 18 primary designated offences in the Criminal Code.
Honourable senators, the difficulty with the mandatory
placement is that there is no room for judicial discretion. Conviction equals a
mandatory registry order no matter the severity of the crime. This will not
increase the effectiveness of the registry. An example cited in committee
described the scenario of an intoxicated 19-year-old at a Christmas party
inappropriately patting a woman. As far as the mandatory order provision is
concerned, that offence is on par with aggravated sexual assault, bestiality and
I submit, honourable senators, that there is a difference
between inappropriate touching and egregious assault that should be taken into
account at sentencing. Nevertheless, under Bill S-2, all crimes demand registry
placement without benefit of judicial discernment. Without discretion, we are
hamstringing our judges. Without discretion we are inferring that while aiming
for justice and balance in our judicial system, we are supporting a
one-size-fits-all approach with Bill S-2.
A new question could also be raised: Will judges be less
inclined to deliver a guilty verdict because of the added stigma associated with
being placed on the registry? There is no doubt that the registry will aid
police in tracking down sex offenders, perhaps even preventing a crime but, as
asked at second reading, is the mandatory provision not being overzealous?
Honourable senators, I do not understand the government's
statement that it would oppose the purpose of Bill S-2 to authorize some degree
of discretion. Let us not forget these points: that the Sex Offender Registry is
not a public document; that it is available only to legal authorities; that
convicted individuals must comply with certain obligations, including notifying
the police of their comings and goings; and that nearly 40 per cent of those
convicted of a sexual offence are not listed in the registry.
Honourable senators, we are discovering, along with other
aspects of this government's tough on crime policy, that the costs of jailing
and tighter supervision of all offenders are soaring to unknown heights. Would
it not be more fair and cost effective to allow judges to exercise some
We in this chamber all agree that sexual crimes are
repulsive and guilty offenders must be penalized. However, in protecting
society, Bill S-2 would be more effective with some judiciary discretion given
to judges regarding guilty offenders of more minor offences.
That said, it is with reservations — and as we say here,
on division — that I support Bill S-2.
Hon. George Baker: Honourable senators, I have a
few words concerning the bill and references to the amendments attempted at
This chamber is not providing sober second thought to this
bill, but sober first thought, after which it will go to the House of Commons
for consideration. If the House of Commons amends the bill, it will be sent back
here for sober third thought.
I want to take a couple of minutes to explain the
amendment I proposed, why I proposed it and make one further suggestion on how
to toughen the legislation if that is what the government wishes to do. Perhaps
that is what all members wish to do on sober second thought. Let me explain.
The bill will close a loophole in the Sex Offenders
Information Registration Act in Canada, which says that the Crown prosecutor is
to make an application for the person's name to be placed on the registry upon
conviction for a designated offence. For the past five years that this law has
been in effect, over 40 per cent of those people convicted of a designated
sexual offence did not have their names placed on the registry. That is the
problem facing the government; the names of 42 per cent of all those convicted
of a designated sexual offence are not on the registry.
Senator Manning: Shame!
Senator Baker: This bill eliminates the need for
the Crown prosecutor to put forward an application upon conviction for the judge
to consider the application. No one disagrees with that. In other words, upon
conviction, the judge shall issue an order if the person is convicted of a
designated sexual offence to place that person's name on the registry.
Honourable senators, a House of Commons committee
completed the Sex Offenders Information Registration Act's five-year review
following the act's coming into effect on December 15, 2004. The committee and
the Quebec Bar recommended that the act no longer require the Crown prosecutor
to make application to put the person's name on the National Sex Offender
Registry if that person is convicted of a designated offence under the Criminal
Code. The judge would automatically do so. The House of Commons committee was
chaired by MP Garry Breitkreuz. The committee indicated that, in what they
called rare circumstances, the judge should have discretion where the offence
could be prosecuted by summary conviction.
As all the lawyers on the other side know, there are two
ways that we can prosecute someone. If an offence is hybrid, we can proceed with
a summary or indictable conviction. "Indictable" are serious offences, while
"summary" are less serious offences.
The Quebec Bar wrote a letter to the chair of the
committee and to Senator LeBreton to say they wanted that change made in the
legislation. In other words, in the rare instances where the offence could be
classified as summary in nature, the judge should have discretion. That is why
the amendment was moved.
Honourable senators on the other side of the table voted
against the amendment. I am not criticizing the honourable senators for voting
against the amendment.
Look at the senators on the other side of the chamber. We
have Senator Wallace who is a well-known and respected lawyer with many years of
experience in New Brunswick. Senator Lang served in eight or ten administrations
in the Yukon Territory as a cabinet minister for several departments. Senator
Angus appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada arguing in French at the age
of 31. Who was the person next to Senator Angus?
Senator Segal: Stikeman.
Senator Baker: The person next to Senator Angus was
H. Heward Stikeman — the famous H. Heward. Next to him was the "to-be" famous W.
David, as they called him. If honourable senators look at the records of the
Supreme Court of Canada, we see that over the next few years as appeals rose
from the Exchequer Court, it was Senator Angus appearing, but not Mr. Stikeman.
Senator Angus was a brilliant lawyer by the age of 31.
Senator Carignan appeared before the Quebec Superior Court
at the age of 25. Senator Boisvenu is an expert on the subject of the sex
Sitting next to him is the mover of this motion, Senator
Runciman, who was for 29 years a member of the Ontario legislature and who held
seven cabinet positions. Senator Runciman is one of the key people who ensured
that Christopher's Law came into existence and that it was passed in the Ontario
To be quite honest, honourable senators will not see a
line-up like this were there to be elections in the Senate.
I say the following for the record, because the House of
Commons will take these debates and read them prior to consideration of the
bill, if they use due diligence, as I am sure they will. Their rationale was
simple. Five courts of appeal in this nation took the original registry bill on
Charter challenge and said that being on the registry was not considered
punishment. Senator Angus is nodding his head yes; he knows it quite well. The
Courts of Appeal said it is not considered punishment. It was appealed to the
Supreme Court of Canada and refused. It is not considered punishment, but it is
considered a minor inconvenience. Those were the judgements of our Courts of
Appeal across the nation. Therefore, that was the logic used by the Conservative
side in refusing the amendment.
Honourable senators, I would like to make one more point.
An amendment was not moved which perhaps should have been moved. I think it
bears examination. How do we ensure that the names of the 42 per cent who escape
the registry and who are now on sentence in jail — some of them for the
commission of first- degree murder — are put on the registry?
I have an institutional memory regarding this bill going
back to the House of Commons on the actual act, the Sex Offender Information
Registration Act. I refer honourable senators to section 490.019 of the Criminal
Code. That section of the Criminal Code allows attorneys general the permission
to issue to those on sentence a registration. The request is because the matters
we are addressing here are prosecuted in the provincial courts. That is the
Therefore, the attorneys general turned around and passed
regulations in each province after we passed the bill in 2004, after it was
debated in the House of Commons in 2002-03. However, only one province actually
completed the process of registering those on sentence. The words "on sentence"
not only covers those in prison but those under sentence, on conditions, such as
those on probation, et cetera.
Why did only one province do it? Unfortunately, we put in
the bill that going back and applying it to those on sentence would terminate in
one year. You can find that at section 490.021 in the Criminal Code. That was
done because the Department of Justice said there might be Charter challenges to
this; you are going back.
That was the major argument against my suggestion.
However, honourable senators, it is a complicated argument, and we had it out in
the Senate committee. There were three words. What are the meanings of
"retroactive," "retrospective" and "progressive"?
One cannot be retroactive in the application of a law and
increase someone's penalty after the fact. However, our Courts of Appeal have
approved retrospective application of this law. In other words, we could put
someone on sentence on the sex registry because it is not a punishment; it is an
Therefore, if the House of Commons might consider it, the
simple omission of section 490.021 is needed, which is only one sentence in the
Criminal Code. It would accomplish the application of the law to all those who
are presently on sentence for these designated offences.
Honourable senators, in closing, let me say that Senate
committees do a great job. I was in the House of Commons for over 29 years, and
I am still amazed at the wonderful work the Senate does compared to the House of
Commons. It is why our courts today reference committees of the Senate four
times more in their judgments than they do committees of the House of Commons.
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (The Hon. the Acting
Speaker): Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: On division.
(Motion agreed to, on division, and bill read third time
Hon. John D. Wallace moved second reading of Bill
S-10, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make
related and consequential amendments to other Acts.
He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to
Bill S-10, entitled the Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act. This is an act
to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and
consequential amendments to other acts.
Honourable senators, you may recall that this is the third
attempt of our government to have this very important legislation adopted and
brought into force. This bill is specifically aimed at tackling a problem that
is of the most serious concern to all Canadians, and that is the problem of
illicit drug crimes, particularly drug trafficking and drug production, both of
which occur within all regions of our country.
Honourable senators, Bill S-10 is being reintroduced
exactly as it was passed by the other place in the previous session of
Parliament. It includes the amendments that were adopted by the Committee on
Justice and Human Rights after hearing from the Minister of Justice, officials
from the Department of Justice Canada, as well as a wide range of stakeholders
and experts, including representatives of law enforcement.
These committee amendments were then adopted by the other
place, and this is the bill that is now before us.
Honourable senators, I believe it is extremely important
to point out to you that this bill must be viewed within the context of Canada's
National Anti-Drug Strategy that was announced by the Prime Minister in October
2007. Moreover, this bill follows through on one of our government's key
priorities, namely, to tackle crime and, particularly, organized crime.
In this regard, Canada's National Anti-Drug Strategy is
composed of three action plans, one of which is a plan for combating both the
production and distribution of illicit drugs. This particular action plan
contains a number of key elements, which include ensuring that strong and
adequate penalties are in place for serious drug crimes.
Bill S-10 falls clearly within this particular action
plan. The bill proposes a number of mandatory minimum penalties to ensure that
the appropriate, significant sentences are imposed on those who commit serious
Honourable senators, it is also important to realize that
Bill S- 10 is not about applying mandatory minimum penalties for all drug
crimes. It introduces targeted mandatory minimum penalties for serious drug
crimes and ensures those who carry out these crimes will be appropriately
Before addressing the specifics of Bill S-10, I would like
to take a few moments to explain the nature of the problem that this bill seeks
During the last decade, domestic operations related to
both the production and distribution of marijuana and synthetic drugs have
dramatically increased, resulting in extremely serious problems in some regions
of our country, problems which often overwhelm the capacity of law enforcement
agencies. These illicit drug operations pose serious health and public safety
hazards to those in or around them. They produce environmental hazards, pose
cleanup problems and endanger the lives and health of Canadians and their
These operations are lucrative businesses and attract a
variety of organized crime groups. Huge profits are available with little risk
to operators, and these profits are used to finance other criminal activities.
Existing penalties and sentences related to these offences are considered by
many to be far too lenient and not commensurate with the level of harm imposed
upon our communities by such criminal activities.
According to Statistics Canada, the rate of marijuana
cultivation or production offences has more than doubled from approximately
3,400 offences in 1994 to 8,000 in 2004. According to a study on marijuana grow
operations in British Columbia in 2003, approximately 39 per cent of all
reported cultivation cases, numbering 4,514, were located in British Columbia.
Between 1997 and 2000, the total number of these cases increased by over 220 per
Although the number of individual operations in British
Columbia levelled off between 2000 and 2003, the estimated quantity of marijuana
produced increased from over 19,000 kilograms in 1997 to a seven-year high of
over 79,000 kilograms in 2003. That is a fourfold increase due directly to the
size and sophistication of individual operations.
Honourable senators, these observations are provided to
you so there can be a full appreciation of the seriousness of the drug crime
situation in our country.
The Government of Canada has recognized this. It has
recognized that serious drug crimes, such as large-scale grow operations and
clandestine labs, most definitely pose significant threats to the safety of our
streets and our communities. In this regard, Bill S-10 is a vitally significant
part of our government's strategy to address this very serious problem.
This bill proposes certain amendments to strengthen the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act provisions in regard to penalties for
serious drug offences by ensuring that these types of offences are punished by
the imposition of mandatory minimum penalties. With this bill, our government is
demonstrating its commitment to improving the safety and security of Canadians
and communities across our country.
As has been stated before, our government recognizes and
acknowledges that not all drug offenders and drug offences pose the same risk of
danger and violence. Bill S-10 recognizes this fact, and that is why it proposes
a focused and targeted approach in dealing with serious drug crimes.
Accordingly, the new penalties will not apply to the offence of drug possession,
nor will they apply to offences involving all types of drugs. This bill focuses
on the more serious drug offences that involve the more serious illicit drugs.
Overall, the amendments included within Bill S-10
represent a tailored approach to the imposition of mandatory minimum penalties
for serious drug offences, including trafficking, importation, exportation and
production involving such drugs as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and
cannabis. This bill provides a seamless approach to dealing with serious drug
offences and, to this end, proposes a number of significant amendments to the
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
The illicit drug offences being targeted by Bill S-10 are
trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, production, importing,
exporting and possession for the purpose of exporting drugs. The drugs that
would be covered are described as Schedule I drugs, which include cocaine,
heroin, methamphetamine, and also Schedule II drugs, such as marijuana.
Bill S-10 does not apply to drug possession offences or to
offences involving less serious drugs, such as diazepam or Valium.
For Schedule I drugs — that is, drugs which include
heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine — Bill S-10 proposes a one-year mandatory
minimum penalty for the offence of trafficking or possession for the purpose of
trafficking in the presence of certain aggravating factors.
These aggravating factors include: the offence is
committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with
organized crime; the offence involved violence or threat of violence or weapons
or threat of the use of weapons; or the offence is committed by someone who was
convicted in the previous 10 years of a designated drug offence.
If youth are present during the commission of the offence,
or if the offence occurs in a prison, the mandatory minimum penalty is increased
to two years.
In the case of importing, exporting and possession for the
purpose of exporting, the mandatory minimum penalty is one year if these
offences are committed for the purpose of trafficking.
A one-year mandatory minimum penalty will also be imposed
if an offender abuses his authority or his position, or if the offender has
access to a restricted area and uses that access to commit these crimes.
The mandatory minimum penalty will be increased to two
years if these offences involve more than one kilogram of a Schedule I drug. A
mandatory minimum of two years is also provided for a production offence
involving a Schedule I drug.
The mandatory minimum sentence for the production of
Schedule I drugs increases to three years where the aggravating factors relating
to health and safety are present. These particular factors include: the illicit
drug production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to
children who were in the location where the offence was committed or in the
immediate area; the illicit drug production constituted a potential safety
hazard in a residential area; or the person who committed the offence placed or
set a trap.
For Schedule II drugs, including marijuana and cannabis
resin, the proposed mandatory minimum penalty for trafficking and possession for
the purpose of trafficking is one year if certain aggravating factors are
present, such as violence, recidivism or organized crime. If factors such as
trafficking to youth are present, the mandatory minimum penalty is increased to
For the offences of importing or exporting and possession
for the purpose of exporting marijuana, the mandatory minimum penalty is one
year imprisonment, if the offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking. A
one-year minimum penalty will also be imposed if an offender abuses his
authority, or his position, or if the offender having access to a restricted
area uses that access to commit these crimes.
For the offences of marijuana production, Bill S-10
proposes mandatory minimum penalties based on the number of plants involved: The
production of six to 200 plants cultivated for the purpose of trafficking would
bring a minimum of six months imprisonment. In this regard, it is significant
that the minimum number of plants was increased to six plants from one plant as
a result of an amendment that was proposed in the other place by the Justice
Committee. The production of 201 to 500 plants would bring a minimum one year
imprisonment. The production of more than 500 plants would bring a minimum of
two years imprisonment. The production of cannabis resin for the purpose of
trafficking would bring a minimum one year imprisonment.
The mandatory minimum extensions for the production of
Schedule II drugs increase by 50 per cent when any of the aggravating factors
relating to health and safety, which I have just described, are present. The
maximum penalty for producing marijuana would be doubled from 7 to 14 years
imprisonment. Amphetamines and the "date rape" drugs GHB and Rohypnol would be
transferred from Schedule III to Schedule I, thereby enabling the courts to
impose higher maximum penalties for offences involving these drugs.
Honourable senators, it is extremely important to
recognize that Bill S-10 also provides the courts with the discretion to impose
a penalty other than the mandatory minimum on a serious drug offender who has
entered and successfully completed a court drug treatment program. As honourable
senators will recall, when predecessor Bill C-15 was introduced last year in
this chamber, a number of amendments were made to it. I would like to speak to
two of those amendments.
Predecessor Bill C-15 also proposed mandatory minimum
penalties that were based on the number of plants involved in the marijuana
production operation. It provided for a mandatory six months imprisonment in
cases involving the production of six to 200 plants and if the plants were
cultivated for the purpose of trafficking. Once again, the minimum number of
plants had already been raised to six plants from one plant as a result of the
amendment that was adopted by the Justice Committee and passed by the other
Under Bill C-15, persons who cultivated five plants or
less would not have been subjected to a mandatory minimum penalty. Rather, the
minimum penalty would have applied only where the offender cultivated more than
five plants and fewer than 201 plants, and the offender was growing the plants
for the purpose of trafficking. It is not a possession offence, but it is a
production offence for the purpose of trafficking.
One of the amendments proposed and adopted by the Senate
committee in respect of the predecessor Bill C-15 changed this approach in a
very significant way. That particular amendment removed the mandatory minimum
penalty for persons producing between five and 200 plants if the production was
for the purpose of trafficking. It removed that mandatory minimum. This
amendment would have meant that any person would have been allowed to operate a
production grow operation of up to 200 plants with the intent to traffic and not
be exposed to a mandatory minimum penalty of any kind whatsoever if convicted of
Honourable senators, this amendment amounts to an
invitation for criminals to become involved in the business of producing 200
marijuana plants or less for the express purpose of trafficking and to not fear
imprisonment. In my view, such an amendment would send out the absolute wrong
message and most definitely should not be repeated.
I draw the attention of honourable senators to another
amendment proposed and adopted by the Senate committee in respect of Bill C-15.
It would have given judges the discretion to impose a penalty that would be less
than the mandatory minimum for any of the serious drug offences covered by that
bill when the court is satisfied that, where the offender is an Aboriginal
person, the sentence would be excessively harsh under the circumstances and
another sanction would be reasonable and available. That particular amendment
would have meant that an Aboriginal offender who committed a serious drug crime
of any kind would not face a certain term of imprisonment, as would all other
offenders in similar circumstances. I also remind honourable senators that Bill
S-10 provides the courts with the discretion to impose a penalty other than the
mandatory minimum for a serious drug crime offender who enters and successfully
completes a drug treatment program. That is regardless of whether the program is
monitored by a drug court or an ordinary court.
Our government recognizes that Aboriginal offenders
constitute a significant percentage of the inmate population in our jails and
penitentiaries. Moreover, our government is cognizant of the Criminal Code
provisions that permit courts to pay particular attention to the circumstances
of Aboriginal offenders during sentencing. However, as the Supreme Court of
Canada found in R v. Gladue in respect of the Aboriginal offender, this
is not to be taken to mean that, as a general practice, Aboriginal offenders
must always be sentenced in a manner that gives greatest weight to the
principles of restorative justice and less weight to goals such as deterrence,
denunciation and separation. It would be reasonable to assume that Aboriginal
people believe in the importance of these goals and that such goals must be
given due consideration in appropriate cases.
Even when an offence is considered serious, the Supreme
Court of Canada has held that the length of a term of incarceration must be
considered. In some circumstances, the length of the sentence of an Aboriginal
offender may be less and in others, it may be the same as that of any other
offender. In this context generally, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that
the more serious and violent the crime, the more likely it will be, as a
practical matter, that the terms of imprisonment will be the same for similar
offences and offenders, whether the offender is Aboriginal or non- Aboriginal.
With this in mind, I remind honourable senators that Bill
S-10 is about dealing with serious drug offenders. The bill proposes that
mandatory minimum penalties be imposed when serious aggravating factors are
proven to exist. In my view, and under these circumstances, the Aboriginal and
non-Aboriginal offender should be treated in the same manner in consideration of
the imposition of the minimum penalty. It would still be open to the courts to
impose less severe maximum penalties in appropriate cases involving Aboriginal
offenders. It would also be open to the courts to refer, in appropriate cases
and where possible, Aboriginal offenders to drug treatment programs and to
impose a penalty other than the mandatory minimum if the offender has
successfully completed the drug treatment program.
Honourable senators, Bill S-10 is a vital part of our
government's continuing commitment to take the steps necessary to protect
Canadians and make our streets and communities safer. Canadians want, and
expect, a justice system that has clear and strong laws that denounce and deter
the commission of serious crimes in this country, and this includes, of course,
serious drug crimes. Canadians want laws that impose penalties that adequately
reflect the serious nature of these crimes, and Bill S-10 does just that.
Thank you, honourable senators.
Hon. Hugh Segal: I wonder if the senator would take
Senator Wallace: Certainly.
Senator Segal: I am a great admirer of Senator
Wallace and the tremendous work he has done on some of these difficult Criminal
Code, sentencing and related issues. I am particularly impressed by the fairness
and balance he has brought to the arguments that he has made on behalf of the
government both he and I support.
I am worried, though, about laws that, in their
specificity, may have the unintended circumstance of bringing the administration
of justice into disrepute. I am not a lawyer, and I defer to others in this
chamber who are. I have no experience with marijuana. I was once asked by Craig
Oliver in 1998 if I had ever tried marijuana. I said that I did not like it very
much. I was not a smoker and I preferred smoked meat.
Having said that, there is a big difference between 200
plants and six plants. If one looks at the studies on what might be going on in
university residences across the country, I am led to believe by those who
understand this more than myself that there might be as many as three, four or
five plants found on occasion in a student's room, maybe as many as six or
seven. The notion that that constitutes prima facie evidence of the intent to
traffic and sell strikes me as putting an undue burden on our police. Last I
checked, the police are pretty busy dealing with serious crime, such as the real
traffickers and the big grow-ops that the OPP and the RCMP, as Senator Runciman
knows, have found in rural eastern and northern Ontario, where there are serious
issues of people conspiring to break the law in a big way.
Does Senator Wallace think there is any give in the gap
between 200 plants, which may be excessively, if you excuse the expression,
liberal with respect to some protection, and six plants? On occasion, local
police officers may find that hard to enforce. Local Crown attorneys might find
it puts them in the circumstance where they have to prove intent in face of
competent defence lawyers who would argue that six plants may be excessive in
terms of the specificity of the law, but by no means constitute intent to
traffic or give to others for reasons that are intrinsically unlawful.
I put the question to the senator, knowing that he may
want to reflect on it, but hoping that he might give some consideration to the
prospect of a modestly more relaxed approach.
Senator Wallace: I thank the honourable senator for
the question. The issue of marijuana production is significant in this country.
We know from our study of Bill C-15 and the evidence that came before us at that
time that there are differences of opinion on the topic. There is no question,
though, with our government, and I firmly believe this myself, that marijuana
production is a serious problem, and it is one that fuels organized crime to a
great extent. As the honourable senator may know, in the United States, British
Columbia is thought to be a major source of marijuana production and
exportation, and it is a serious concern.
Regarding the range of six plants to 200 plants,
production has to be proven to be for the purpose of trafficking. The Crown is
required to prove that. The subject is not taken lightly. It is a serious matter
to prove that it was for the purpose of trafficking. At the upper end of the
scale, and I remember this from the work we did with Bill C-15, the wholesale
value of 200 plants equates roughly to $350,000, so it is significant money.
At the lower end of the scale, as I mentioned in my
presentation, the initial thought in the house was to start at one plant. There
was a lot of discussion about where between 1 and 200 that limit should fall.
There was considerable discussion with all law enforcement throughout this
country on where that figure should start. The departments of justice in the
various provinces were very much involved in that whole consultative process. As
a consequence of that, the one was increased to five, so now it is anything that
is less than six. Having gone through that exercise and taken it seriously, the
number was not grabbed out of the air. It was done through consultation with
those who are knowledgeable about these issues and, in particular, serious drug
crime in this country, which is what this is all about. We are focusing on this
to make our streets safer and protect our children. That is what this is about.
It is to impact in a significant way the serious problems that organized crime
Having said all of that, the question was about the
chance, at this stage, having gone through this process, that there would be a
change in that, and I would think not.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Will the honourable senator take
Senator Wallace: Yes.
Senator Fraser: My question follows on from the
interesting line of reasoning advanced by Senator Segal. I would tend to agree
that six to 200 is too broad a range. It is the range the House of Commons sent
to us. Perhaps this is an occasion for some sober second thought.
However, looking at the lower end of that range, six, 10,
or maybe 15 plants, my recollection of the work of the Senate committee is that
one of the concerns was that, true, the plants would have to be being produced
for the purposes of trafficking. Unlike Senator Baker, I do not have my Criminal
Code with me. Can Senator Wallace confirm for us that the Criminal Code
definition of trafficking is extremely broad? It includes giving or even
offering to give. Someone in a suburb who grows 20 plants so that he can have a
nice pot party once or twice a year with his neighbours, just good, respectable
suburban folks, would be considered to be growing those plants for the purposes
of trafficking even if it were only for the three or four immediate neighbours.
Am I correct in my recollection about what the Criminal Code says about
Senator Wallace: I thank the honourable senator for
the question. This is not from personal knowledge, but my understanding is that
five marijuana plants, which is the average that is being used for
consideration, do produce a significant amount of marijuana. To answer
specifically the honourable senator's question, it is true that trafficking does
include more than the sale of product, and it would cover giving as well.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: I have two questions, and I
will ask one at a time.
The honourable senator was making the point that this will
reduce organized crime, which is somehow fuelled by marijuana trafficking. Can
he tell me how it is that organized crime would be interested in six plants?
That does not seem like a significant amount for an organized crime operation to
be worried about, so why would we be worried about it in that context?
Senator Wallace: The bill, as the honourable
senator knows, involves a far broader range of serious drugs: heroin, cocaine,
methamphetamine, and marijuana. There is no question that production and sale of
those drugs are a financial lifeline for organized crime. We have heard that
from law enforcement and I fully believe that.
As to the honourable senator's question of where the
interest of organized crime begins and where to slot in the beginning point in
production to gear to that, that could be an endless debate. The point is that
there has to be a beginning — the beginning point of six plants was one that was
not taken lightly — and there is no question that the focus of this bill is to
deal with serious drug crime. It is the government's view that production from
six plants and up does constitute serious drug crime.
Senator Mitchell: The real fear is that a
university student growing some plants in a few rooms in a university residence
or a house near campus could literally have their lives ruined by something
that, in fact, is not particularly pernicious, does not lead to organized crime
and might well be commensurate with any number of events that senators in this
house got themselves into when they were 19 and 20 years old. When quantifying
the level at six plants or five plants, that is the risk you will run. We will
start to see what we have seen in the United States, where people who make a
relatively minor mistake are in jail for five and ten years — admittedly, you
are saying for six months — and their lives are literally ruined. I make that as
This bill will undoubtedly result, the government would
hope, in many more people going to jail. Its tough-on-crime bills always tout
that purpose, which is the irony because, if these measures actually worked
fewer people would go to jail due to the disincentive for committing the crimes
this kind of penalty represents.
Has the government done any analysis of how many more
people will go to jail for who knows how much longer, into facilities we do not
yet have but must build and operate, because this bill increases the number of
people who will be creating the demand for them? Remember that one cell costs
$100,000 to build and one person in that cell costs $100,000 a year to operate.
Have you an estimate on what this bill will actually cost the Canadian people?
Senator Wallace: I have a couple of comments. You
suggest it is the government's hope or my hope that many more people will go to
jail because of this measure. I would hope just the opposite. We can debate the
deterrence impact of mandatory minimums and stiffer sentences. It would
certainly be my hope that there will be a deterrent effect and as a result fewer
who would involve themselves in criminal activity. That is an endless debate, I
realize, but the point that we would somehow hope more people will go to jail
and that is what we stand for is not the case.
Having said that, criminal activity is a significant issue
in this country and I believe it is necessary for law enforcement and for
legislators to support the efforts of law enforcement to disrupt that criminal
activity. Yes, to do that there are times that separating those who will be
involved in trafficking, production, importation, and exportation of serious
drugs and incarcerating them is what will have to be done to protect our
citizens and to make our streets safer. Quite frankly, if that is what it takes
to do it, I fully support it.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, I wish to follow up on Senator Mitchell's question.
Assuming this bill goes forward and goes to the committee,
will Senator Wallace ensure or alert the officials in the department that we
would like access to any studies that might have been done by the government
that show what impact this measure might have to deter criminal activity, as the
honourable senator would hope it would, and also the cost of implementing this
bill as a result of increased incarceration rates? Would the honourable senator
ensure that appropriate witnesses are available to the committee for that
Senator Wallace: The full gamut of issues that this
bill involves will be considered at committee, as it was when we dealt with Bill
C-15. I know there are a number of witnesses within the Department of Justice
and otherwise who will speak to all of the issues that this bill involves. It is
not the first time the issues you raise have been raised, as you are well aware.
They will be raised again and I am sure will be adequately addressed at
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Linda Frum moved third reading of Bill S-215,
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings).
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable
Senator Tardif, seconded by the Honourable Senator Rivest, for the second
reading of Bill C-232, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding
the official languages).
Hon. Claude Carignan: Honourable senators, I would
like to share my reflections and response at second reading, to Bill C- 232, An
Act to amend the Supreme Court Act, which proposes to add to section 5 of this
act a condition for eligibility to Supreme Court appointments, namely, to
understand English and French without the assistance of an interpreter.
This bill could have major repercussions on linguistic
minorities of both official languages. Honourable senators, I have conducted a
very serious examination of this bill, and hope that I can move the debate out
of partisan bounds and thus enable our chamber to fulfill its role of sober
To begin, I would like to quote the Supreme Court decision
in the 1988 Ford case on language issues. The court writes:
Language is so intimately related to the form and
content of expression that there cannot be true freedom of expression by
means of language if one is prohibited from using the language of one's
choice. Language is not merely a means or medium of expression; it colours
the content and meaning of expression. It is a means by which a people may
express its cultural identity. It is also the means by which one expresses
one's personal identity and sense of individuality.
It is this fundamental right to use the language of one's
choice that is addressed in Bill C-232.
All will agree that in a modern Canada respectful of its
two official languages, bilingualism constitutes a desirable, indeed an ideal
individual objective which must be considered when one aspires to the highest
echelons of our society, whether at a political, judicial or social level.
A poll conducted by Decima Research in 2006 revealed that
seven out of ten Canadians are in favour of bilingualism for Canada as a whole
and that eight Canadians out of ten believe it is essential for their children
to learn a new language.
However, there is a wide gap between the ideal of a
bilingual population and reality. The rate of bilingualism in Canada is about 17
per cent of the population. Analyzed more closely, this average shows that the
bilingualism rate is highest in Quebec, at 40 per cent, that is, 66 per cent
Quebec anglophones are bilingual and 36 per cent of Quebec francophones.
New Brunswick is in second place, at 34.2 per cent. All
other provinces are at less than 12 per cent, from P.E.I. at 12 per cent to
Nunavut at 3.8 per cent. This means that the pool of individuals who can fill
bilingual positions in Canada, Quebec excepted, is reduced by approximately 90
per cent. For the francophones in Quebec, the pool of individuals who can
fulfill bilingual duties is cut by almost 70 per cent.
Beyond these demographic aspects, I examined the
constitutional validity of the bill and its impact on future interpretation of
individual language rights. But first, a historical and judicial background is
needed to assess the impact of Bill C-232.
Before 1867, there was what some authors have called an
institutional indecisiveness, which created a series of sometimes contradictory
obligations relative to linguistic rights, especially in the judicial arena.
Section 133 of the British North America Act enshrined in
the Constitution the fundamental right to use the language of one's choice. This
section is still in effect and is one of the pillars on which linguistic rights
in Canada were built.
Section 133 provides that, "Either the English or the
French Language may be used by any Person in the Debates of the House of the
Parliament of Canada and of the Houses of the Legislature of Quebec; . . . and
either of those Languages may be used . . . in or from all or any of the Courts
Therefore, Section 133 guarantees the use of either
English or French in the Parliament of Canada and that of Quebec, in Canada's
courts under federal jurisdiction, and in Quebec's courts. So, this right that I
am exercising today in the Senate to address you in the language of my choice,
the French language, is this constitutional right provided for in section 133.
All the parties in courts of law have exactly the same constitutional right as
members of Parliament.
Since its inception, section 133 has been the object of
several Supreme Court decisions which have shaped linguistic rights in Canada.
Section 133 spearheaded the great judicial victories of linguistic minorities,
as well as the recognition of their inalienable right to use the language of
Among others, I will quote the 1975 judgment in Jones,
which confirmed the federal jurisdiction in passing the Official Languages Act,
and confirmed that section 133 gives linguistic rights which cannot be reduced
but that the state has the power to allow for extra rights and privileges.
A few years later, in Blaikie in 1979 and 1981, the
Supreme Court used a broad and liberal interpretation of section 133, and
declared unconstitutional the legislative obligation of unilingualism in Quebec,
reiterating that the capacity to use one of the two official languages applied
to all procedure and oral arguments and to all organizations or courts who have
the authority to administer justice.
In 1986 the Supreme Court, in the MacDonalds,
Bilodeau and Société des Acadiens decisions, identified specific
linguistic rights. In MacDonalds, the Supreme Court stipulated that the
fundamental right to use the language of one's choice applied to litigants,
lawyers, witnesses, judges and court officers who speak at a trial. While this
right is to be able to use the official languages of one's choice, it does not
include the right to be understood without the help of an interpreter.
In 1986, the Supreme Court, through Judge Beetz — a
bilingual judge from Quebec — gave a restrictive interpretation of the law. He
said that, just as the accused exercised his constitutional linguistic right to
speak in English, the judge exercised his constitutional right by giving a
decision in the language of his choice, a decision rendered partially in French
and partially in English.
Therefore, the rights of one party end where the rights of
another begin. Judge Wilson, who dissented, has a wider interpretation and
confirms that the right to choose your language applies in the same manner to
judges, and that the state fails to respect its obligations if it does not take
into account the language used by all parties.
Judge Wilson said that the law:
. . . validates them for a reason and that reason is
that the person before the Court will be dealt with in the language he or
she understands. To say otherwise is to make a mockery of the individual's
language right. Regardless of whether a judge acting in his or her official
capacity retains the right as an individual to write judgments in the
language of his or her choice, this cannot, in my view, detract from the
state's duty to provide a translation into the language of the litigant.
Therefore, Judge Wilson believes the state must provide a
translation, and this translation is the means through which the constitutional
rights of the parties and those of the judges are taken into account, the rights
to express oneself and the right to be understood. She uses an approach to
interpretation based on the object which is used in the 1999 Beaulac
decision through Judge Bastarache.
So, right now in this chamber, simultaneous translation
enables me to exercise my constitutional right to express myself, to be
understood by many of you in the language of my choice, the French language, and
enables my unilingual anglophone colleagues to understand me and to speak to me
after my speech by using their constitutional rights to address me in the
language of their choice.
Other constitutional guarantees have been added to the
1867 historical compromise, most notably in 1982 with the passage of sections
16, 17, 19, 20 and 21 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
These sections explain section 133 in greater detail and
extend their application to New Brunswick. Section 16 includes a clause on the
advancement of status and use of the official languages and requires the state
to promote the equality of status of both official languages.
Section 20 creates an obligation to provide services in
both official languages under certain conditions, namely, where there is a
significant demand. Section 21 provides for the continuation of existing
constitutional provisions, including those provided for in section 133 of the
Constitution Act, 1867.
In 1988, Parliament modernized the 1969 Official Languages
Act by passing the Act respecting the Status and Use of the Official Languages
of Canada. Courts have given a quasi- constitutional status to this act, thereby
insisting on the importance of language rights in Canada. Section 2 of the
Official Languages Act stipulates that its purpose is to ensure respect for
English and French as the official languages of Canada, and ensure their
equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in federal
institutions, in Parliament and in the administration of justice.
Section 4 of that act reformulates the principles of
English and French are the official languages of
Parliament, and everyone has the right to use either of those languages in
any debates and other proceedings of Parliament.
Subsection 14 says:
English and French are the official languages of the
federal courts, and either of those languages may be used by any person in,
or in any pleading in or process issuing from, any federal court.
Section 15 gives the right to interpretation in any
federal court and section 16 creates a duty to understand official languages to
make sure that every federal court, other than the Supreme Court, which hears
the proceedings can understand the case in the language of the party without the
help of an interpreter.
Section 16 creates a duty for the judicial institution to
ensure that the judge who hears the case understands the language of the party.
It does not require the judge to be bilingual. There is no prerequisite for a
judge to be bilingual because that would violate a judge's right guaranteed in
section 133 of the BNA Act. It is incorrect, contrary to what some people
pretend, to say that all judges should be bilingual, except for Supreme Court
judges. The state has the duty to designate a judge who understands the language
of the parties. Therefore, the individual right guaranteed by the Constitution
to use the language of one's choice is respected for all parties in the case.
Why should there be an exception for the Supreme Court?
Let us remember that the Supreme Court is made up of only nine judges, which
would make it practically impossible to apply this standard without violating a
judge's constitutional right. Incidentally, Parliament's deliberations when the
act was passed in 1988 confirm this interpretation. The Honourable Ray
Hnatyshyn, then Minister of Justice, said:
. . . Bill C-72 does indeed preserve the immunity, the
privileges and the powers of judges.
In fact, judges retain their rights as individuals
defined in section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867 to choose to preside
over the court in French or in English.
Honourable senators, should we accept the violation of the
constitutional right to use the language of one's choice guaranteed in section
133, even if it is the right of a judge?
We must remember that section 133 spearheaded the rights
of language minorities in Canada, that it is one of the pillars on which was
built the edifice of linguistic rights in Canada and which requires the state to
offer services in both official languages. Accepting the violation of the
constitutional right to use the language of one's choice is a step back for
linguistic rights. The only way to ensure the continued evolution of linguistic
rights is to find a balance so that each individual's constitutional rights are
respected. This constitutional right to use the language of one's choice creates
a duty for the state, but the individual who hears a case has a right and not a
In the Supreme Court, in particular, legislators have
created a way to balance the rights of all individuals by ensuring high- quality
simultaneous translation. Also, the Supreme Court, as a bilingual institution,
ensures that all communications with the public are bilingual and that litigants
can speak in the language of their choice and be understood.
I would like to warn you against making the mistake of
rejecting the methods of exercising language rights concurrently, for example
through simultaneous translation, a method we employ every day in the Senate to
exercise our constitutional right to use the language of our choice.
I would like to give an example of the danger of bypassing
such a method that creates a balance between individual rights of the same level
that are guaranteed by the Constitution.
In 1998, the Court of Appeal of Quebec was to rule on the
constitutional validity of section 530.1(e) of the Criminal Code. The
Code's section 530 and subsections provide for a series of language rights to
ensure the respect of official languages and the right of accused persons to be
tried in the language of their choice. According to section 530.1(e), the
Crown prosecutor in charge of the trial must speak the language of the accused.
In 1998, the Attorney General of Quebec was Serge Ménard, currently a Bloc
Québécois member of Parliament. Through his lawyers, Attorney General Ménard
raised the constitutional invalidity of the right of the accused set out in
section 530.1 because of the non-compliance with section 133 of the Constitution
Act, 1867, and spoke up for the right of the Crown prosecutor, as a party to the
trial, to use the language of his choice, in this case French.
For Serge Ménard, even though section 530.1 served to
promote linguistic rights, it was not constitutionally possible through section
530.1 to reduce the rights guaranteed by section 133 without amending the
The Attorney General of Quebec added that if an accused
does not understand the language of the trial, his or her rights can be ensured
through the help of an interpreter, as guaranteed specifically in section 14 of
the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court of Appeal summarized the
jurisprudence, which is that section 133 guarantees the rights of all parties,
including lawyers, judges and the accused, to use the official language of their
choice, that the system can only be changed through an amendment to the
Constitution, and that it would be illegal for a judge to prohibit the use of
one or the other official language in the court.
Fortunately, the court ensured an interpretation
respectful of the constitutional rights of counsel and the accused, and let the
state fulfil the linguistic obligation.
Therefore, in this case, the Attorney General of Quebec
invoked the lawyer's constitutional right set out in section 133 and violated
another constitutional right set out in section 133, that of the accused,
setting aside the methods of assigning cases which do provide for the respect of
the right of all parties to use the language of their choice.
If Serge Ménard, Quebec's Attorney General at the time,
had succeeded, through his attorneys, in invalidating section 530.1, he might
have made a few short-term political gains with his sovereignist base in Quebec,
but it would have represented a disastrous step back for language rights in
Canada. This decision was quoted in approval by the Court of Appeal for Ontario
in the 2004 Potvin decision.
Honourable senators, the right to use the language of
one's choice is at the base of all the state's constitutional obligations
relative to bilingualism. We cannot accept that the rights of one party are used
to violate the rights of another without risking, in the long term, a weakening
of the foundations of linguistic rights in Canada. We must resist condoning this
type of violation.
The cause of minority language rights in Canada is too
important and fundamental for the future of our country to accept the violation
of individual language rights. Are there other methods as efficient and less
prejudicial to individual linguistic rights as simultaneous translation for the
Supreme Court, where only questions of law are debated, without witnesses?
Together, we could perhaps identify other mechanisms to
create a balance between rights. The state has a duty to seek them and to select
those which will be least prejudicial to individual rights.
Other Supreme Court decisions contributed to shaping the
linguistic picture of Canada for the next decades. There is the Beaulac
decision, written by Judge Bastarache, supported among others by Judge Major,
who is unilingual. These judges declared:
Language rights must in all cases be interpreted
purposively, in a manner consistent with the preservation and development of
official language communities in Canada.
This rule of interpretation adopted unanimously by the
Supreme Court and, I repeat, signed by the unilingual Judge Major, is currently
followed in all decisions of lower courts which interpret linguistic rights on a
wide and liberal basis depending on their object.
Honourable senators, the more the individual right to use
the language of one's choice is protected against all encroachments, the more
the constitutional duties of the state to offer services to minority language
communities can be extended.
Other nuances are important to protect the fundamental
status of language rights. An important section in Beaulac summarizes the
linguistic right and establishes a subtle but important distinction with the
right to a fair trial. It states:
I wish to emphasize that mere administrative
inconvenience is not a relevant factor. The availability of court
stenographers and court reporters, the workload of bilingual prosecutors or
judges, the additional financial costs of rescheduling are not to be
considered because the existence of language rights requires that the
government comply with the provisions of the Act by maintaining a proper
institutional infrastructure and providing services in both official
languages on an equal basis.
As mentioned earlier, in the context of institutional
bilingualism, an application for service in the language of the official
minority language group must not be treated as though there was one primary
official language and a duty to accommodate with regard to the use of the
other official language. The governing principle is that of the equality of
both official languages. . . .
Another important consideration with regard to the
interpretation of the "best interests of justice" is the complete
distinctiveness of language rights and trial fairness. Unfortunately, the
distinctions are not always recognized. . . . The right to full answer and
defence is linked with linguistic abilities only in the sense that the
accused must be able to understand and must be understood at his trial.
But this is already guaranteed by s. 14 of the
Charter, a section providing for the right to an interpreter. The right
to a fair trial is universal and cannot be greater for members of official
language communities than for persons speaking other languages. Language
rights have a totally distinct origin and role. They are meant to protect
official language minorities in this country and to insure the equality of
status of French and English.
This Court has already tried to dissipate this
confusion on several occasions. Thus in MacDonald v. City of Montreal,
Judge Beetz states that:
It would constitute an error either to import the
requirements of natural justice into language rights or vice versa, or
to relate one type of right to the other. Both types of rights are
conceptually different. To link these two types of rights is to risk
distorting both rather than re-enforcing either.
Honourable senators, at the risk of perverting and
weakening linguistic rights, we should avoid using theoretical arguments like
those invoked by Maître Doucet before the House of Commons committee, when he
said he lost a case because the judge did not understand him.
First, this does not appear to have ever happened in the
course of history, but if it had happened and the appellant could prove that the
simultaneous translation was deficient, that it caused him or her a prejudice,
it is possible to ask for a new hearing of the appeal, both before and even
after the decision is made, according to section 76 of the rules of the Supreme
Second, this theoretical possibility is based on fairness
of the trial and not on linguistic right. This accusation does not take into
account the whole proceedings of the Supreme Court, where nine judges, most
being bilingual, each assisted by three research analysts, hear the appeal of a
law dispute which has already gone through two other courts. It omits the fact
that arguments were cleverly written in submissions, were read and re-read,
commented on by numerous barristers, and the whole process was supported, for
people who do not understand the language perfectly, by a translation system
among the best in the world which is complementary when the judge may not
understand everything perfectly.
If you remove translation, you will never be able to find
nine judges with language skills equal or superior to that of translators. How
many nuances will be missed by the brains of nine human beings who are
functionally bilingual? Would adjudicative fairness be better served? Is not the
current system, with bilingualism as an important selection criterion, supported
by simultaneous translation, the best possible guarantee of a fair trial?
If the translation is somewhat deficient and one fears
that one has not been understood accurately, it is possible to have a new
hearing based on the record of the transcription.
With no translation, and therefore no transcription in
both languages, one could never say that one was not understood and prove that
the judge gave a wrong interpretation due to an error in translation.
Honourable senators, language rights are fundamental,
inalienable and closely linked to an individual and his or her identity. The
quality of translation mentioned by Maître Doucet concerns the right to
adjudicative fairness. It is the duty of the state as an institution to ensure
that simultaneous translation is of a superior type which respects the
principles of quality and fundamental justice.
In the Tran decision of 1994, the Supreme Court
specified that an optimal translation must be one of "continuity, precision,
impartiality, competency and contemporaneousness." If the simultaneous
translation is deficient, we need to change the translator, not the judge. It
has nothing to do with linguistic rights.
Paraphrasing the Supreme Court, I say that with this kind
of argument, Maître Doucet risks perverting linguistic rights and weakening
Honourable senators, I would like to raise other issues of
a constitutional nature which make me doubt the validity of this bill. The
Supreme Court is established by the Supreme Court Act, which stipulates that
judges are selected from among current or former judges from a provincial
superior court or from among lawyers who have been members of a provincial bar
for at least ten years.
At least three judges are chosen from the Court of Appeal
or the Superior Court of Quebec or from among the judges of that province. The
six other judges are appointed by constitutional convention providing for three
judges from Ontario, two from the West and one from the East. In consequence, it
is incorrect to pretend, like some, that the effect of this bill will be to
increase Québec's representation.
The Supreme Court was enshrined in the Constitution with
the adoption of the Constitution Act, 1982. We must now question the impact of
this bill on the Supreme Court. Can we reduce the pool of candidates to the
Supreme Court by 90 per cent outside Quebec and by almost 70 per cent among
Quebec francophones? Changing the criteria for appointment to the Supreme Court
surely constitutes an issue of concern to the Supreme Court itself. However,
section 41.1(d) of the Constitution Act, 1982 says that any changes to
the Constitution of Canada concerning the composition of the Supreme Court have
to be passed unanimously by the federal government and the provinces. We could
pretend that this only applies to the number of judges and not to the conditions
for appointment. Well, then, what about section 42.1(d), which sets out
the 7/50 formula, seven provinces representing half of the population,
applicable to any amendments to the Constitution of Canada concerning the
Supreme Court of Canada?
Since the conditions for appointing judges to superior
courts are included in the 1867 Constitution, does the addition of a
discrimination criterion based on language not risk changing the historical and
political compromise set out in section 133, and would that not call for a
constitutional amendment in accordance with the amending formula? I do not have
the answer to this question, but it would surely require a more in-depth
examination, which obviously has not been conducted to date by the committee of
the House of Commons. Some will say that there is surely a way to find bilingual
judges in the 10 per cent of bilingual Canadians. However, we must push this
analysis a bit further. Our parliamentary system is based on the principle of
the rule of law, that is, the supremacy of law and legality. To ensure an
optimal determination of the rights, it is necessary to appoint the most
competent candidates, without discrimination.
Judge Kelly of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia gave a
lecture to the United Nations on the important elements of judicial independence
as a basic principle of the rule of law. After he spoke about the criteria of
the rule of law in matters of judicial independence, he said that the selection
process of judges must guarantee that there are no irrelevant or discriminatory
criteria, including those based on race, colour, sex, religion, and national or
While Judge Kelly did not mention it specifically,
language also constitutes a motive for discrimination recognized by authors as
illegal where there is no rational link between the motive and the required
skill. What are we to think when, on top of that, the use of the official
language of one's choice is guaranteed by the Constitution? The rule of law
enshrined in the Constitution calls for judicial selection criteria that are not
discriminatory and for the appointment of the candidate who is the best legal
Bilingualism is an important asset to consider, but it
cannot be an essential condition to the eligibility of a judge.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Carignan: Honourable senators, the Supreme
Court is the jewel in the crown of our judicial system, where only Canada's best
legal scholars must sit. Members of this court are picked from a pool of lawyers
and judges where, unfortunately, bilingualism has made very little progress.
I would like to quote the Commissioner of Official
Languages, Graham Fraser, in his 2007 speech to the Canadian Bar Association.
Among other things, he said:
I am confident we have accomplished much in matters of
access to justice in the past 40 years. That is not to say that our work
here is done. Much more is needed. Members of official language minority
communities continue to be underserved by the legal profession and to
encounter difficulties in exercising their language rights before the
courts. When they do choose to exercise their rights, they are faced with
numerous obstacles and administrative delays, which can discourage some of
the most tenacious litigants. In large parts of the country, there is a
shortage of lawyers able to represent their clients before the courts in
both official languages. Most Canadian law schools do not adequately make
their students aware of the existence and importance of these language
The majority of law students graduate knowing only
half of the laws they studied — either the English or the French half. Once
called to the bar, lawyers are rarely made aware or reminded of these rights
and their importance for their clients. Institutional hurdles are also
There continues to be a shortage of judges able to
hear cases in either official language — particularly before provincial and
territorial trial and appellate courts. An insufficient number of judges
able to hear cases in both languages are being appointed to the bench;
bilingualism is often not given enough weight in the selection process for
members of the judiciary, despite language being demonstrated as an
important aspect of access to justice. A shortage of bilingual court
personnel and legal and administrative resources often compounds the lack of
Honourable senators, we must acknowledge that beyond
constitutional amendments justifying the rejection of this bill, the real work
of advancing the equality of both languages must start at the base of the
The statements of the Commissioner show that at the base
of the judicial pyramid, few legal officers are bilingual, services in both
languages still leave much to be desired, and the pool of bilingual potential
candidates is too small to ensure that eminent scholars are also bilingual. The
risk of missing the best possible scholar is still too high. When the judiciary
has done its homework at the base, when the state increases the number of
bilingual attorneys and judges of the inferior courts, then Parliament will be
able, while ensuring the constitutional validity of the process, to impose a
condition of bilingualism without running the risk of missing out on the best
legal minds of the country.
Notwithstanding this duty to advance the linguistic
equality of the judiciary, the state must adopt efficient measures to advance
the situation of linguistic minorities who are threatened, especially in the
From 1996 to 2006, the relative weight of francophones in
Canada dropped to 22.1 per cent from 23.5 per cent, while that of allophones
went up from 16.6 per cent to 20.1 per cent. French as the language spoken at
home has decreased by 5 per cent since 1971, and is now at 21 per cent of the
Language transfer, which means using a language at home
other than the mother tongue, is not good for the French language. In 2006, 42
per cent of francophones outside Quebec used English at home, compared to 39 per
cent in 2001. Experts say this number is an early sign that the situation of
francophones will not improve for the next generation.
Honourable senators, francophone minority language
communities need efficient laws, real progress, not simply symbols. Their
constitutional rights must be determined by the best legal minds in the country.
Some people have claimed that appointing only bilingual judges would be an
important symbol for Canadians.
Honourable senators, we must beware of symbolic arguments.
A symbol could be a lighthouse serving as a guide, which can both illuminate and
blind francophone minorities by letting them believe that all is well and that
equality has been reached. The minority status of linguistic communities
requires constant vigilance, a true defence of language rights and an active and
efficient promotion of these rights, not through symbols, but through concrete
and real actions.
We cannot build and evolve by violating the rights of
others, but by claiming our own rights. We must base our actions on
institutional bilingualism while we promote the inalienable right to speak in
the language of our choice. We must pick our battles and never make gains by
violating the individual rights of others.
The Hon. the Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the
honourable senator, but his time is up.
Senator Carignan: May I have another five minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Carignan: Thank you. We must remember that
the distinction between the individual right to use the language of one's choice
and the institutional obligation of bilingualism is at the base of the
development of our linguistic rights. The gains of francophones were made by
requiring the state to provide services in French, and not by violating
individual rights. Crossing this fine line could push back individual language
rights which were at the heart of francophones' historical claims. Violating the
linguistic and constitutional rights of a unilingual anglophone means tacitly
accepting the ulterior violation of the individual rights of a unilingual
francophone under the constitution, and vice versa. I do not believe that this
is the way to go.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the
Opposition): Will the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Carignan: Of course.
Senator Tardif: You referred to section 133 many
times in your remarks. Now, section 133 of the Constitution simply states that
either English or French may be used in courts established by the authority of
the Act. Bill C-232 therefore does not prevent Supreme Court justices from using
the language of their choice when addressing lawyers. Bill C-232 is about
understanding both official languages without the help of an interpreter. Judges
will not lose the right to use the language of their choice.
That being said, you did refer to section 133 frequently,
and those arguments were very strong 20 or 25 years ago. They do not take into
account the changes made in 1988 to the Official Languages Act or the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enshrines language rights in sections 16
Also, when you spoke about this, you did not mention, for
example, Chief Justice Dickson's ruling, in which he stated that there is
another interpretation of section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and of
section 19 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to his
interpretation, section 19 gives rise to a much broader interpretation. While
section 133 gives rights to an individual, section 19 gives rights to
individuals with regard to the state. That is the important part: the rights of
individuals with regard to the state.
The Beaulac ruling spoke of real equality. Do you
believe that real equality is respected when one official language group is
subject to the filter of an interpreter and the other is not?
Senator Carignan: I would like to thank the
honourable senator for her question. First, it is important to distinguish
between the Official Languages Act, which is a quasi-constitutional statute, and
section 133 of the British North America Act, which is constitutional law.
Second, in the Constitution Act, 1982, section 21 states
that the 1982 act does not affect rights and privileges previously recognized in
other provisions of the Constitution Act, including section 133. Therefore, the
1982 Act does not diminish the importance of the rights in section 133.
Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to — I will not
say plead — refer to the numerous Supreme Court and appeal court rulings with
their various nuances. Understandably, 45 minutes is not enough time to argue
the constitutionality of a law. That would normally take a lawyer four or five
hours in front of a judge speaking the language of his choice.
(On motion of Senator Mitchell, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, May 12, 2010, at