Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 34
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Information Commissioner
- Speaker of the Senate
- Motor Vehicle Safety Act
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
- Criminal Code
- Criminal Code
- Visitor in the Gallery
- Banking, Trade and Commerce
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Point of Order
- Canada Post Corporation Act
- Medical Devices Registry Bill
- Supreme Court Act
- Foreign Affairs and International Trade
- National Finance
- The Senate
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on Friday May 28, Senator Kochhar and I had the privilege of attending the foundation ceremony for the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and Park in Toronto hosted by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan and his royal family.
After the ceremony was completed, I struggled to find the words to describe the significance of the Aga Khan's generous contribution. Nothing I could say would do this project justice. It was not until I awoke the following morning to a Toronto Star article that read: "Of all the gifts ever given to Toronto, none is more beautiful than the Aga Khan's" that I realized what the Aga Khan had bestowed upon not only Torontonians, but all Canadians.
The Aga Khan's project, which will be crafted by several world-renowned architects, comprises three elements. These elements include: an Ismaili Centre that will feature a circular prayer hall; an Islamic museum that will be the first of its kind in the English-speaking world; and a welcoming park that will connect these two buildings together and will be designed to resemble the traditional Islamic gardens in Alhambra, which flourished during the great era of Spanish history when Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together harmoniously.
Although the Ismaili Centre, park and museum will indeed be rich in beauty, this beauty extends far beyond the aesthetic and architectural merit of its design. The true appeal of the Aga Khan's project lies not only in the vast gardens, glass domes or serene pools that these grounds will showcase. The true beauty lies in the concepts and ideologies this project seeks to promote, and in the message it sends to the world.
This message is one that Prime Minister Harper described at the ceremony as being ". . . dedicated to the promotion of ethnic, cultural and religious interchange . . ." and is one that ". . . truly inspires our own hopes for a better world."
Honourable senators, Muslim societies constitute over a quarter of the world's population. However, many people, particularly those who reside in the Western world, have limited knowledge of Islam.
The Aga Khan's project will help those who are currently misinformed and blinded by a veil of ignorance with an insight into the plurality within Islam and the relationship that Islam has with other traditions. The Aga Khan continuously assures us that once this veil is lifted, we will be able to recognize what our societies are experiencing is not a clash of civilizations, but rather a clash of ignorance.
Honourable senators, in our great country, we are open to understanding and embracing diversity. We no longer dwell on the differences between various religions and cultures. Instead, we embrace our commonalities and this embracing, in turn, enables us to live together in peace and harmony. As the Aga Khan so eloquently stated in his closing remarks, this project is ". . . a proud gift from our generation to future generations — even as it celebrates so fittingly what past generations have given to us."
Hon. Carolyn Stewart Olsen: Honourable senators, I rise before you today in recognition of the Canadian Navy and our sailors who have defended Canada for the past century.
I rise today to pay tribute to the Canadian Navy and to our brave sailors who have been defending Canada for the past century.
They stood fast through two world wars, two battles of the Atlantic and innumerable conflicts abroad for our country. Our navy has produced many heroes — men and women of iron, sailors who guarded our shores and those of distant countries.
I especially want to mention Lieutenant-Commander Allan Easton, who served with great distinction in the last world war. I learned about Lieutenant-Commander Easton while I was preparing for an event in my hometown of Sackville, New Brunswick, where a plaque was erected for the HMCS Sackville as part of the naval centennial celebrations.
HMCS Sackville was built in Saint John, New Brunswick. In 1941, the entire town council of Sackville journeyed to Saint John to attend her launch. Throughout the war, the Sackville sailed the stormy North Atlantic Ocean protecting convoys that carried crucial supplies for the war effort. In 1942, with Lieutenant-Commander Easton at the helm, the Sackville, in a time span of 12 hours, faced three enemy submarines, capturing two and damaging a third. For his superb performance, Lieutenant-Commander Easton was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross.
The good ship Sackville is a little vessel, measuring only 210 feet. She carried a crew of less than 90, but she could make 18 knots. Over four long years, she stood guard in the Atlantic. She punched above her weight, as our whole military does today.
HMCS Sackville was not a luxury ship. Her crew were packed tightly for living space. Food was bad and it was said the ship rolled on dew. Honourable senators can imagine what that was like in the North Atlantic. However, no matter what comforts they lacked, the Sackville's crew performed their duty with no thought of themselves. They fought with an unwavering dedication to protect our shores.
HMCS Sackville was the last Flower Class Corvette. She lies in Halifax Harbour, a symbol and reminder to us all of the monumental effort it took to defeat tyranny. She made us proud.
Honourable senators, please join me in saluting our men and women like Lieutenant-Commander Easton who serve our country today with great heroism and sacrifice. Hats off to HMCS Sackville, lest we forget.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, Little Warriors, an organization preventing child sexual abuse, is launching its new media campaign today.
Glori Meldrum, chair and founder of Little Warriors will appear in radio and television advertisements across Alberta saying:
My name is Glori. I was eight. I lived with my offender. He was family. He was a monster. I was robbed of my innocence and my childhood. Two years of sexual abuse took me twenty-eight to recover. This may have happened to me, but it doesn't have to happen to other kids. That is why I founded Little Warriors.
Along with Glori, 25 survivors of child sexual abuse are raising their voices in similar radio advertisements. They bring testimonies of abuse by parents, neighbours and teachers, or indicate the pain they share with a loved one who has been abused as a child. They also tell us of the difficulties of coping with such a terrible secret for so long; the repercussions on their health, self- esteem and trust; and the long journey out of depression and permanent nightmares toward healing.
In a time when the topic of child sexual abuse is still taboo, difficult to bring up and painful to hear, I commend Little Warriors for its media campaign and all the sponsors for taking a stand against child sexual abuse. I commend their bravery to speak up, especially in light of the possibility of reliving their trauma. I admire the incredible courage, the strength and resilience they show to rise above fear, self-esteem and mental health issues.
I also encourage all Canadians to step up against this scourge and to take workshops in child abuse prevention.
Thank you, Anita, Carrie, Chris, Glori, Gloria, Jessica, Jodie, Jolene, Kristine, Laura, Pam, Rebecca, Shannon, Tasha, Trista and Vicki for participating in this campaign. Thank you for raising your voices and for sharing with us a message of hope — a survivor's hope of being able to face the past, a hope of being able to help other victims, and a hope to prevent further harm.
May your voices be heard, and may child sexual abuse be abolished for our future generations.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis: Honourable senators, on May 28, 2010, as a representative of the Government of Canada, I joined a number of relatives, friends, military dignitaries and veterans who attended the military funeral of Colonel Jean- Charles Forbes, an unsung hero of the Second World War.
Born in 1921, Jean-Charles Forbes studied with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. After completing his military training in Kingston, he sailed for England in December 1942. Assigned to the Régiment de Maisonneuve, which landed in Normandy on July 6, 1944, he led his platoon in a number of campaigns before returning to England after being injured in Groesbeek, Holland, near the German border.
Colonel Forbes participated in heroic battles and captured many German soldiers, which earned him the Netherlands' highest military decoration, the Knight's Cross of the Military William Order, which was awarded by the Queen of Holland on the square in The Hague.
Upon returning to Canada in the spring of 1945, he was demobilized, but re-enlisted to fight in the Korean War with the 2nd battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment. He left the army in 1965.
One of the most heartfelt tributes to a man considered to be one of the greatest members of the Royal 22nd Regiment came from Holland's honorary consul, Willeke Pierik Blanchet, who spoke with emotion when she said:
The Dutch people are in mourning too. He called us his brothers. We will always consider him a hero. We will always remember him.
She reminded listeners that thanks to the bravery of Colonel Forbes and his men, thousands of Dutch people were saved in the fall of 1944.
He made a tremendous contribution to the liberation of Holland. He fought to prevent the retreating Germans from destroying dikes and flooding vast tracts of land. If they had been successful, thousands of civilians would have drowned.
She also said that every year, her country remembers the contribution of young Canadians to the liberation of her country. And she went on to say:
Colonel Forbes is a well-known name in my country... Students in our primary schools are taught that he risked his life to free us.
Sixty-five years later, we still remember.
One of the colonel's friends, the former commander of District 4 Saint-Laurent and member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Georges Lanier, said that Colonel Forbes was like a father to him. He told us:
Everyone liked him and enjoyed spending time with him. He was an excellent orator, painter and musician. He was generous with his time and sought no honours. His soldiers were his first priority.
Colonel Forbes passed away at the age of 89 on May 19 in Beaupré. Once again, my sincere condolences to his wife, Nicole, his two sons and his grandchildren.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, on May 13, the United States Senate approved an amendment to their financial reform bill that will help small businesses by reducing swipe fees, also known as interchange fees, charged by major credit card companies on every debit transaction. The amendment received broad and bipartisan support, even from some of the most conservative of Republican senators.
I would like to congratulate our counterparts in the U.S. Senate for taking such an important step towards protecting the interests of small business.
In the U.S., these debit interchange fees are around 1 per cent to 2 per cent — far higher than the cost to process the transaction. These fees cut into the razor-thin profit margins of small businesses on every sale using a credit or debit card.
Senator Durbin's amendment will authorize the U.S. Federal Reserve to create capping rules that will ensure that debit interchange fees are reasonable and proportional to the actual processing cost of the transaction. The amendment will also prevent credit card companies from penalizing businesses for offering discounts to consumers using competing card networks, cash, cheques or debit cards. It will allow businesses to decline credit cards for small purchases, as the fees may be higher than the profit of the sale.
These measures will give small businesses more power in dealing with the large credit card companies and will work to limit uncompetitive practices.
Honourable senators, we have the same issue in Canada and we should not sit back and allow our small businesses to be taken advantage of.
Last year, a number of recommendations were made by the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce during its study of credit and debit cards in Canada that would help put control back into the hands of small businesses and consumers.
One recommendation was that the federal government create an oversight board that would monitor and ensure fairness in credit and debit card payments systems through recommendations on fees and rates to the Minister of Finance. The government should extend this mandate to the existing Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, which already has access to and works with the Canadian financial industry.
Increased competition is often cited as the cornerstone of a healthy economy. However, as shown by the U.S. experience, these new competitors use their significant network of credit card holders and considerable assets to drive small players out of the marketplace to quickly achieve market dominance.
As their market share increases, so do their fees, with one particular point of concern being the introduction of fees that reflect a percentage of the purchase cost. With zero risk involved in the transaction, and processing costs being even, honourable senators, the approval of the U.S. Senator Durbin's amendment shows that this is an issue that transcends political partisanship and that proper legislation has a place in ensuring a healthy, competitive marketplace.
I am happy to see the U.S. Senate is following the steps of Australia, New Zealand and other nations. I urge honourable senators to listen to the needs of Canadians. Let us not be the last developed country to adopt changes that would provide reasonable fees and rates for Canadian consumers and Canadian small businesses.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, "As the world's attention turns — finally — to the heart-wrenching issue of maternal mortality, it finds Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, . . . from Hamilton, Ont., at the forefront of the issue." That was written by Patricia Paddey, in the May/June 2010 issue of Faith Today.
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his intention to make maternal and child health the focus of the G8 summit in June, the ramifications of that decision echoed in the heart of a Canadian doctor living thousands of miles away in Uganda.
Dr. Froese said:
I can barely share the news with people here without choking up, thinking of how important this decision is. I've slogged through the field of maternal mortality for the past 14 years, and honestly, this is the first time any kind of significant Canadian attention has been showered on this modern day tragedy.
This significant Canadian attention turned out to be an understatement. In the weeks following Prime Minister Harper's announcement, something of a political and ideological firestorm erupted, and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff insisted any foreign aid funding for maternal and child assistance should include funding for abortion. That motion was defeated.
The news must be heartening to those who work in protecting and promoting child and maternal health. These individuals insist that, rather than abortion, the main issues are clean drinking water, access to safe and healthy food, shelter, medicines and quality health care. Such practical measures are clearly working. Maternal deaths have decreased from 526,300 in 1980, to 342,900 in 2008.
Dr. Froese knows from experience that without the political will, little real change occurs. She says:
I am learning more and more that maternal and child health is very related to politics in developing countries. . . .
. . .
From the time you had your coffee today until the same time tomorrow, 1,600 women will have died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
Ninety per cent of these women lived in Africa and Asia.
Put another way, a woman in Africa has a lifetime risk of one in 16 of dying from pregnancy-related complications. In the industrialized world, it is one in 4,000.
The article goes on to say:
Chamberlain Froese says that, incredibly, more women and babies have died of pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications in the developing world over the past 25 years than have died of AIDs.
. . .
. . . In Canada we lose 10 mothers a year, but in a country like Uganda, . . . which has the same population as Canada, every year 6,000 mothers die from pregnancy-related complications.
Later, the article says:
The obstacles, she insists, are not merely medical ones, for maternal mortality is not just a medical issue — it's a social issue.
The knowledge that the G8 will turn its attention to the cause that Chamberlain Froese has worked long and hard for only adds to her conviction. As she recently wrote in the National Post:
Not that Harper, or any one person can work miracles. But maybe for the first time this issue will get the political backing from rich Western powers that it so desperately needs.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Dr. Yahya Mahfoodh Al Manthri, Chairman of the State Council of the Sultanate of Oman. Dr. Al Manthri is accompanied by Her Excellency the Ambassador of Oman to Canada and a distinguished parliamentary delegation from Oman.
On behalf of all honourable senators, welcome to the Senate of Canada.
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 certificate of nomination for the office of Information Commissioner.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant to section 38 of the Access to Information Act, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the annual report of the acting Information Commissioner for the period from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella: Honourable senators, I ask leave of the Senate to table a document entitled: "Report of the Visit of the Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate, and a Parliamentary Delegation to Albania, Italy, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Holy See and Malta," October 11 to 18, 2009.
Is permission granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Dennis Dawson, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, presented the following report:
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environment Protection Act, 1999, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Wednesday, May 12, 2010, examined the said bill and now reports the same without amendment.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Joan Fraser, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, presented the following report:
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime), has, in obedience to the order of reference of Wednesday, May 26, 2010, examined the said bill and now reports the same with no amendments.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Wallace, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, presented the following report:
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), has, in obedience to the order of reference of Wednesday, April 21, 2010, examined the said bill and now reports the same without amendment.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Martin, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Ian Robertson, a teacher at the Coquitlam School District in British Columbia. He is one of the leading educators of physical education and physical literacy and is a guest of the Honourable Senator Martin.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Wednesday, March 24 2010, the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, which was authorized to undertake a study of the extent to which Canadians are saving in Tax-Free Savings Accounts and registered retirement savings plans, be empowered to extend the date of presenting its final report from June 30, 2010 to December 31, 2010: and
That the Committee retain until March 31, 2011, all powers necessary to publicize its findings.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am sure that the leader was as surprised and disappointed as was I to read the report in La Presse yesterday of an interview with Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister's spokesperson. Mr. Soudas is reported as saying that the Senate has not passed a single bill, including the budget bill, during this session. This morning, I wrote to the Prime Minister and delivered a copy of the letter to the leader's office. I asked the Prime Minister to correct the record and pointed out that not only has the Senate passed six bills this session but also that the budget bill is not even before the Senate, having not yet passed the House of Commons.
Mr. Soudas' comments reflect not only on the good work that has been done and is being done in the Senate but also on the ability of the Leader of the Government to advance the government's legislative agenda.
Would the minister please assure all honourable senators that she will speak to the Prime Minister as soon as he returns from Europe to ensure that he publicly corrects the record and retracts this unwarranted attack on the Senate and the good work that she is doing on his behalf as Leader of the Government in the Senate?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank Senator Cowan for the question. I saw the article in La Presse yesterday and wondered how Mr. Soudas could be so misinformed about the work of the Senate. I raised the matter with colleagues in cabinet and in caucus. They acknowledged the great work done in the Senate and that more government bills have passed the Senate than the House of Commons. They are well aware of this effort. I have not had an opportunity to speak to Mr. Soudas and I regret that he was so misinformed. When I do speak to him directly, I intend to report that fact to him.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Earlier this week I learned that the Harper government is set to pull its support from the Canadian Council for International Co-operation. Why is that?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, all programs under the Canadian International Development Agency are being reviewed, including the one mentioned by the honourable senator, to ensure that good value is being obtained for Canadians' tax dollars and that the funds are directed to communities in developing countries where the need is greatest.
Senator Munson: Honourable senators, the three-year contract with the Canadian International Development Agency expired on March 31, 2010. The leader talked about programs being under review. How long does a review take? The CCIC has the backing of 90 Canadian organizations — "troublesome" groups like Oxfam, the Red Cross, the Canadian Labour Congress, Save the Children —
An Hon. Senator: Radical groups.
Senator Munson: "Radical groups," he said sarcastically.
March 31 was the expiry date on the contract. How long does it take to conduct a review? Would the leader have any positive remarks about the good work that these groups do?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I do not find organizations like the Red Cross and Oxfam troublesome, though the honourable senator might
Senator Munson: That was sarcasm.
Senator LeBreton: Given the work of the Canadian Red Cross in Haiti, it cannot be considered a troublesome organization.
A proposal from the Canadian Council for International Cooperation are under review by CIDA. As I said a moment ago, all projects are reviewed to ensure that Canadians receive good value for their tax dollars and that the money will help relieve poverty in the developing world. That is an important point to remember.
Senator Munson: Honourable senators, another important point to remember is that I skated to raise funds for Haiti. I did my small part for the Red Cross but it is about the bigger picture for all of these organizations.
Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada, said that the silence regarding such an established organization worries the entire humanitarian aid sector. Mr. Fox said, "It sends a signal to the NGO community that is very, very disturbing."
I ask the leader again: How long will it take to conduct this review? For the life of me, I do not know why this review was necessary in terms of the amount of money spent for these groups. I believe that CIDA supplies about $1.7 million of the CCIC's $2.7-million budget. I do not understand.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, aid organizations need not be concerned because we have increased our funding to foreign aid. I simply state, once again, that CIDA officials are reviewing various programs to ensure that Canadians receive good value for their tax dollars and to ensure that those dollars will help relieve poverty in the underdeveloped world.
Hon. Francis William Mahovlich: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As we are all aware, a massive and ongoing oil spill off the Louisiana coast began on April 20. It is reported to be the worst oil spill in history, spewing between 19 million and 43 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, destroying countless acres of sensitive eco-systems and detrimentally affecting thousands of people who live in the area.
While efforts have been made to stop the gushing oil spill, unfortunately, they seem to have failed. Reports are now suggesting that it may be only by August, two full months from now, that the situation will finally be under control.
One Coast Guard official has stated that the United States government has reached out to foreign governments, including Canada, to help with cleanup efforts.
My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is this: What is the Canadian government doing to help with this disaster? The U.S. is reaching out for leadership. Can we deliver?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, obviously, we are all horrified by the pictures we see every night on the news. There appears to be some good news today in that the submarines were finally able to cut off the pipe and are now hopefully in a position to put a device over it in order to bring most of the oil up to the surface and into oil tankers.
As the honourable senator mentioned, there are many people from Canada who worked on repairing the damage from the Exxon Valdez spill and others who are working with the Americans in the Gulf of Mexico. I would be happy to get a list of the various groups — some people have gone independently — for Senator Mahovlich and provide it by written answer.
Senator Mahovlich: Honourable senators, while the spill took place off the Louisiana coast, there is already evidence of the oil moving toward Florida and the Florida Keys. One reason that the oil is traveling in that direction is the Gulf Stream. If the oil continues to travel toward the Gulf Stream at three miles per hour, it could affect our shores soon. What is the Canadian government doing to ensure that our fisheries and the public are safe from the oil spill?
Senator LeBreton: Obviously, that is a great concern at the moment, because if the oil gets around through the Florida Keys and into the Gulf Stream, it will travel right up along our coastline and then across the Atlantic.
I will take the honourable senator's question as notice. I have not been privy to any conversations yet with anyone from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as to what might be done in the eventuality that happens. I do know there are increased efforts in the Gulf to capture the oil by using many different devices, including big oil-collecting booms.
Hopefully the honourable senator's scenario will not happen. Of course, the added problem of the hurricane season upon us now is creating a situation no one could have ever contemplated happening. In any event, I will make the appropriate inquiries.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, the oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico and last week President Obama imposed a six-month moratorium on new offshore drilling permits while a panel investigates the causes of the accident and reviews the regulations that are currently in place.
After saying for years that his government would wait and see what the United States would do on the environmental front instead of putting forward a made-in-Canada policy, it would have been reasonable to expect the Prime Minister to take a similar position to that of President Obama.
As a senator from Nova Scotia, I understand the value of such projects, but I also have major concerns about the environmental and safety precautions we have in place to protect us from such disasters as we now see happening in the Gulf of Mexico.
Why is the federal government unwilling to take the time to ensure that we have the highest level of safety and environmental protections to prevent such disasters in our own waters?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, first, Senator Mercer misstated what the Prime Minister said. Second, he indicated that we have not taken the time to give serious consideration to this issue. As the honourable senator knows, being from an Atlantic province, Canada already has strong drilling regulations.
Our government will continue to enforce strong environmental and safety standards across Canada. Canadian regulators will not allow any action unless they are convinced that the safety of the environment and workers can be assured. Canadian regulators, in view of what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico, are reviewing our already strong regulations in an effort to be able to respond to what is happening there.
Having said that, we do have strong regulations in place and our people are looking at what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. Honourable senators may have seen the article in the paper today about the depth of offshore drilling in Canada. We should have great confidence in the strong regulations that we already have in place.
Senator Mercer: Honourable senators, despite calls for the Prime Minister to impose a moratorium on future exploration in the Beaufort Sea, until the government can ensure that environmental standards that address Arctic vulnerabilities are in place, the Harper government appears to have only loosened the rules. In fact, the federal government has proposed, in the other place, changes to the Environmental Assessment Act that would give the Minister of the Environment the power to dictate the scope of environmental assessments, again in an effort to fast- track projects of this magnitude.
Unfortunately, it does not appear as though the Prime Minister shares the concerns of Canadians about the possibility of a similar incident happening in Canada.
Why is the leader's government refusing to adopt policies that are necessary to ensure that an ecological disaster such as the one unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico never happens in Canadian waters?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, we do not have to refuse to adopt policies as we already have those policies.
With respect to the Arctic, there is no offshore drilling taking place in Canada's Arctic currently. As I said earlier, no decision to drill will be made unless we are convinced that the safety of the environment and the safety of workers will not be placed at risk by any such action. Again, there is no drilling in the Arctic that is currently under way.
Senator Mercer: I am afraid I cannot take much solace in what the minister says.
According to an article in today's Ottawa Citizen, the Harper government has quietly affirmed that it is not legally bound to maintain a moratorium on oil drilling off the coast of British Columbia. I am sure colleagues from British Columbia will be concerned about this. The article states:
In 2004, a panel appointed by the Chrétien government completed a public review of these moratoriums. The panel concluded that the public opposition was too strong to consider lifting the bans.
But last year, Natural Resources Canada attached a correction to the report that takes issue with the former Liberal government's interpretation of the bans. The correction states that, "the moratorium on oil and gas activities offshore British Columbia does not apply to tanker traffic."
That was one of the things that was banned. The article continues:
It also notes that there is no legislation requiring the government to maintain the ban on offshore drilling, which was imposed through cabinet orders that have since expired. And it leaves the door open —
— wide open, I would say —
to converting offshore permits held by oil companies into new exploration licences.
Will this government say that they will not allow any further offshore drilling, whether in the Beaufort Sea or off the Pacific coast of our country, without having the proper regulations in place to avoid the disaster that is happening in the Gulf of Mexico?
Senator LeBreton: I only briefly read that report in the Ottawa Citizen this morning. I think it was pointing out the inadequacies of the legislation that was brought in.
Therefore, simply because the inadequacies were pointed out and because we have not commented on them, it is quite a leap to say that we are leaving the door open to drilling off the West Coast when, in fact, as Senator Mercer well knows, there is no oil drilling off the West Coast.
Hon. Tommy Banks: I do not want to pre-empt matters on which I think other senators may wish to speak early next week, but would the leader please undertake to find out whether there are now lease agreements in place that not only permit but require the drilling of offshore petroleum wells in the Beaufort Sea in the years 2014 or 2016?
I ask the question because, while I cannot verify it, we have heard testimony at the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by the Honourable Senator Angus, that there are leases in place, signed and concluded, that require, as they are presently constituted, that drilling by the leaseholder commence no later than, I believe, 2016. I know the leader will take that question as notice, and I look forward to her response.
Senator LeBreton: I will indeed do as the honourable senator suggests. I am not sure if these leases are in place and what the expiry date is, but I will certainly get the information for Senator Banks.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Madam Leader, the Canadian government recently provided $190 million in grants to attract 19 internationally renowned scientists to Canada.
Canada may have succeeded in attracting 19 outstanding scientists but it is difficult to imagine that it will keep them in the long term because laboratories are closing. Professors and researchers are being let go and university class sizes are increasing across the country.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate indicate how the government will ensure that this initiative will benefit the Canadian scientific community as a whole and its individual components?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, talk about doom and gloom. I was wondering if I would ever get a question on this issue. Honourable senators will remember that a year and a half or two years ago we were accused of being science Luddites — we were not doing anything to attract scientists, there was a brain drain and Canada would be without scientists.
As honourable senators know, there are 19 Canada Excellence Research Chairs. Forty-one universities submitted 130 proposals and 40 of the proposals were short-listed.
The senator mentioned women. None of the names put forward were women. Minister Clement and the Prime Minister immediately recognized this inadequacy, and an ad hoc panel was appointed of female academics to find out why the universities had not put women's names forward. The panel recommended changes to foster more desirable gender outcomes.
With regard to the scenario about how we will keep these people here, the honourable senator knows the government has spent significant money. The CERC program has been applauded far and wide. The universities have attracted scientists. For the first time, Canada will have world leading scientists in many fields. The program, just announced, has received many laudatory comments. We should at least let the program begin its work before we start worrying about whether the scientists will be able to stay here.
Senator Tardif: Honourable senators, I heard Senator Tkachuk's comments on which universities were being cut. My own University of Alberta, which has recruited four of these research chairs, has done very well, but has recently had to cut back staff, and has asked staff to take cuts in salary in order to meet their deficits. The executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers commented when this amount of monies was announced, and said that it is a piecemeal approach, that we are bringing in "stars" at the same time that courses are being discontinued and labs are being shut down.
What is being done to assure that our researchers at all levels, and especially women, are being encouraged, and what is the government doing to reduce these inequities?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, it is not the government's responsibility to tell universities how to manage their affairs. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think the University of Alberta is headed by a woman.
To ensure the honourable senator understands, and I kept saying this although she did not want to believe me until the proof was before her, we recognized the importance of science and technology three years ago when we announced Canada's Science and Technology Strategy, and we backed that up with one of the largest investments in science and technology of any government. No country in the G7, including the United States, is better than Canada at supporting basic discovery-oriented university research.
Our government is committed to developing, attracting and retaining the world's finest researchers. In addition to the other things we have done, we have created the new Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship program and the Canada Excellence Research Chairs. We have invested more in the Canada Graduate Scholarships Program, more in the Industrial Research and Development Internship Program, more in the Canada Foundation for Innovation and more in the federal granting councils.
With regard to the particular case the senator raised about her own University of Alberta, I was aware that that university had managed to attract a number of these research chairs. However, it is not up to the government and certainly not me to question any university on how it decides to allocate programs and funds within the institution.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, after Question Period on Thursday, May 13, 2010, Senator Tardif rose on a point of order respecting an intervention during Senators' Statements earlier in the sitting. That statement had referred to a line of questions put to the Leader of the Government during Question Period the previous day. Senator Tardif argued that it is unfair to make statements of this type, since Senators' Statements is not a period for debate.
Senator Comeau, on the other hand, did not see that there was a valid point of order. He noted that the statement being challenged had not anticipated an item on the Orders of the Day. When Senator Cools spoke, she quoted rule 22(4), and explained that it envisions a period of time during which senators can highlight particular events, but interventions are still subject to the normal rules about the content of speeches. Statements, Senator Cools urged, should be of a positive nature.
As was noted by all three senators who spoke on this point of order, there have been several rulings in recent years dealing with Senators' Statements. I invite all honourable senators to review those decisions and to consider how we can best use this period of the sitting. Since the Senate remains a largely self-regulating chamber, each of us must assume responsibility for the maintenance of order and decorum.
Rule 22(4) requires that a matter raised during Senators' Statements must be one the senator considers should be brought to the urgent attention of the Senate. The rule also requires that the issue be one of "public consequence" that cannot be raised through other means. This gives senators considerable freedom in determining issues to raise as statements.
The rule does, however, also impose some limits on statements. First, a statement must not anticipate any item on the Orders of the Day. Second, matters raised during statements are not to be the subject of debate. Finally, statements must respect the usual rules governing the propriety of debate, which would include rule 51 prohibiting "personal, sharp or taxing speeches." When framing their statements, honourable senators should be aware of these limitations, which are built into the very structure of rule 22(4).
In practice, Senators' Statements are normally used to comment on events, accomplishments, or anniversaries that the senator giving the statement views as important. This includes, for example, paying tributes or offering congratulations to distinguished Canadians or international figures.
I again ask all honourable senators to remember that this chamber functions best when its business proceeds in a courteous and dignified manner. All honourable senators have a part to play in ensuring that this continues to be the case; they should show care in framing remarks, to ensure a useful and respectful exchange of ideas and information, without giving offence. The possibility of using the caucuses and the usual channels for consultations to address the appropriate topics for statements has been raised in the past, and could again be used to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the purpose of Senators' Statements.
Hon. Robert W. Peterson moved second reading of Bill S-219, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (rural postal services and the Canada Post Ombudsman).
He said: Honourable senators, in many regions of our country, government services are sparse. In their haste to cut spending and reduce the scope of the federal government, our Conservative colleagues are leaving millions of rural Canadians in their wake.
As I have said before in this place, rural Canada is at a crossroads. Over the years, its fabric has slowly started to unravel. It seems that no matter in which region of the country we find ourselves, stories of the demise of rural Canada can be heard loud and clear: a lack of doctors, nurses and emergency workers; young people lured from the family farm by bright city lights; entire regions left behind by the digital divide; and First Nations people languishing in Third World conditions.
These are but a few examples of the challenges facing our rural regions.
How can we assure a high quality of life for the millions of people who have decided to remain in Canada's smaller centres? How do we accommodate the young family who recently took over the family farm or the senior citizens who have lived in small- town Canada all their lives to ensure that they will not be penalized because of where they chose to live? It should not mean having to accept hospital bed closures, the closing of schools, or having to drive for two hours to see their doctor.
However, the reality is that rural Canadians are being asked to give up services that we would never ask people living in cities to give up. Rural Canada is struggling to maintain an acceptable lifestyle with dignity and confidence. Unfortunately, they have not seen the federal government as supportive over the past four years. They have observed the closure of 43 rural post offices and 55,000 rural mail boxes. This cannot continue. We cannot stand by and allow another part of rural Canada to fall by the wayside.
The great irony is that rural Canadians do not ask for much. In fact, for many, their only link with the federal government is mail service. Sadly, even this most basic of government services is now in peril.
Yesterday I raised questions about the privatization of Canada Post after CEO Moya Greene made lofty claims before the Senate Finance Committee that the corporation is fully compliant with the service charter and fulfilling its mandate. She stated that she understood the important role that post offices play in rural areas. Unfortunately, the facts do not support her claims.
Just check with the Village of Elbow, a thriving resort community in central Saskatchewan, where Canada Post closed the post office at the end of May. The residents there were not consulted and were not even given notice. This is far from an isolated incident.
Honourable senators, I am deeply concerned about the state of rural mail service in this country.
That is why, on April 20, I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate to confirm that there was a moratorium on all post office closures.
Unfortunately, all I received was more banality about the service charter.
In my opinion, there is only one end game, and that is the privatization of Canada Post. In fact, the same Moya Greene who testified before the Finance Committee has just been recruited by the U.K.'s new government to head the privatization of the revered Royal Mail in Britain. In order to avoid a similar fate here in Canada, we need to act now.
The government needs to understand that shutting down a post office means taking away a piece of the community. It is not business as usual after a post office is closed down and super mail boxes are set up. One can no longer send parcels nor register a letter without driving up to 15 kilometres to the nearest postal outlet. Even buying postage stamps becomes a hardship because nobody wants to carry them, and rural areas do not always have a Shoppers Drug Mart handy.
This makes life difficult for the elderly. Many do not have a means of transportation. It goes beyond the line items and budgets to the very core of rural life. Our country is vast. Towns cities and villages are separated by hundreds of miles.
Canadian mail service binds communities. It connects people and it unites our country. That is why this legislation is so important. That is why I am proposing we show leadership by making sensible amendments to the Canada Post Corporation Act, which would help rural Canadians to maintain their quality of life.
Honourable senators, I ask you to join me in standing up for rural Canada.
(On motion of Senator Di Nino, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Harb, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lapointe, for the second reading of Bill S-217, An Act to establish and maintain a national registry of medical devices.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, Senator Comeau has this adjourned in his name. We have discussed it and, since it is day 14 and this issue is one we need to continue to talk about, I would like to move the adjournment in my name for the remainder of my time.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It has been moved by Senator Di Nino, seconded by Senator LeBreton, that further debate be adjourned to the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, this bill has been introduced for the third time in the Senate. The first time the bill was introduced, the Senate decided to send it to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The bill was introduced a second time, and because of the election we were not able to deal with it. This is third time the bill has been introduced. I hope my colleagues are not using this tactic to kill the bill.
This bill is in the interests of the public. It is an important bill that deserves thorough and proper debate in the Senate through a committee. If, in the end, the government does not want to see the bill passed through the Senate, that is perfectly okay, but let us give the bill its day in court. Let us not use tactical strategies that in the end do not serve democracy. That is the kind of thing we should avoid in this house.
(On motion of Senator Di Nino, debate adjourned.)
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. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, first, I want to pay homage to all the senators who have spoken in this debate and those who I expect will speak in it. This bill is one of the great subjects that has brought careful reflection to all members of this chamber. I say sincerely that I have great respect for all the views that have been expressed. I know they are based upon serious reflection. However, I cannot say that I agree with all the different views that have been expressed.
This bill may need amendment. A number of senators have made thought-provoking comments about ways in which the bill might be amended. I think, for example, of Senator Banks' suggestion for a coming-into-force date to be set five years hence or, indeed, Senator Banks' comment about the incongruity between the English and French versions of the bill. Senator Comeau, I think, raised the point that perhaps this bill should also look at other pieces of legislation that should be addressed in this context. All these suggestions are worth serious consideration, and I hope that the committee will undertake that consideration. However, I believe, honourable senators, that the principle of this bill — and that is what we discuss at second reading — is profoundly right and profoundly Canadian.
I will address some of the vigorous mythology that has grown up around this bill. The first element of that mythology is that Bill C-232 will require all judges of the Supreme Court to be bilingual. The bill does not say that, nor does it require that. The bill says that in order to be appointed a judge of the Supreme Court, they have to understand French and English without the assistance of an interpreter.
Let me repeat that: understand French and English without the assistance of an interpreter.
There is a vast difference between being bilingual, which normally means being able to speak a language, and understanding it. Any of us who has ever taken three hours of instruction in another language knows that it is far easier to understand and to read than it is to speak. All that is required under this bill is that judges understand the language. That is a far lower test than being bilingual.
Another myth is that the bill is not necessary because there is no problem at the Supreme Court now. We have been assured of that by, among others, former Justice Major, who does not speak both official languages. However, we have the testimony of at least two jurists on the public record that there is a problem now.
Michel Doucet, a law professor at the Université de Moncton, and Sébastien Grammond, the Dean of the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law, have both said that they have noticed inaccuracies, missing information and poorly translated concepts in the interpretation at the Supreme Court of Canada. These issues affect the perceived logic of arguments presented by lawyers before the Supreme Court.
Obviously, if one does not know that there is an error in translation, one simply thinks that the lawyer has presented an illogical argument that is not overly convincing, which is not the goal of arguments to the Supreme Court of Canada.
I do not know how many honourable senators are aware of something the Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament found out when it was studying the matter of simultaneous interpretation into Inuktitut, when we looked at the matter of simultaneous interpretation in general. I am quoting from the relevant report of the Rules Committee. We were advised that:
Simultaneous interpretation only captures about 80 per cent of the original speech, on average.
Simultaneous interpretation misses, in other words, about 20 per cent of the original speech, on average. Frankly, honourable senators, I think that for someone to be pleading before the Supreme Court of Canada and to know that it is likely that 20 per cent of his or her argument will be missed is not in the greatest interests of justice.
Furthermore, as I understand it, all those documents that Senator McCoy spoke about so eloquently the other day that are submitted to the Supreme Court are not translated. They are circulated in the language in which they are submitted. If the justice does not speak the language of the documents, the justice's clerk provides a summary. A summary made by a clerk is not the same thing as being able to consult the documents directly oneself. Once the case has been heard, the draft decisions are written and discussed in English, because in practical terms, given the structure of the Supreme Court today, that is the only language that all the justices understand.
Honourable senators, if you are a francophone trying to write a judgment in English turning on fine points of law, you probably will be operating with one hand tied behind your back. It is rare for anyone to have such perfect command of two languages that they can write and argue as cogently and precisely in their second language as they can in their first language. A few people can, including Senator Tardif, Senator Comeau and Senator Fox. However, this command is rare. We are not asking for that command to be the criterion for Supreme Court justices; only that they be able to use their mother tongue when they speak or write to their colleagues.
Another problem is that justices who do not have the capacity to read or understand the other official language, mostly French, thus do not have the capacity to read or understand the rich body of jurisprudence and commentary that exists in French in Canada.
Let me address another myth, which is that somehow this bill is concerned only with Quebec and civil law. The commentary and jurisprudence that is written in French has to do with Canadian law, not only civil law but all Canadian law — constitutional law, criminal law, all Canadian law. If we cut ourselves off from 25 per cent of the legal reasoning of this country, I submit that we are not in the best position to deliver true justice.
We know, of course, that cases come from other provinces than Quebec that are argued before the Supreme Court in French. Indeed, Maître Doucet, whom I quoted, is from New Brunswick. Even the cases from Quebec are not all concerned with civil law and, therefore, the province of the three judges who, by law, represent Quebec on the Supreme Court of Canada.
Honourable senators may be interested to know that of the judgments the Supreme Court rendered in 2007, 2008, and 2009, 34 concerned cases coming from Quebec, excluding cases from the Federal Court of Canada, only 13 pertained to civil law and 21 pertained to federal law, constitutional law, or international law, having nothing to do with civil law. There were, of course, other cases in those three years, namely 12, where the Attorney General of Quebec intervened — and, of course, the Attorney General of Quebec intervenes before the Supreme Court of Canada in French.
Honourable senators, it has been suggested that requiring the ability to understand both languages would mean that we chose Supreme Court justices from too small a pool of talent. I do not think that is necessarily true, even in the West. It may have been true in the past, but I am not so sure that it is true today, and I am sure that it will not be true in the future.
Honourable senators should think of Calgary. How many times have we heard the wonderful news about the great number of students in Calgary who went to immersion classes? That was not true when we were all young, but it has been true for a generation now.
Judges already hear cases in French in every province and territory of this land, and I believe that anyone who seriously wants to be a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada is capable of learning French. French can be learned, honourable senators. It is not an arcane, mysterious something to which only a chosen few have access. It can be learned, particularly when what we are talking about is command of a specific technical vocabulary. We are not asking that justices of the Supreme Court be able to change diapers in French or buy their breakfast grapefruit; we are asking them to understand the law.
A number of years ago, I heard an interesting interview with a language teacher here in Ottawa who was asked, "Who are your best students?" The answer was, "Judges are the best students. Because judges are already so trained in precision of language and in the grasping of specific vocabulary, they are my best students."
Senator Segal raised the interesting question of who would test judges to be sure that their understanding of the other official language at the Supreme Court was sufficient. Well, the same people who test the other judges who are already required to demonstrate understanding of the other official language; the same people who test the senior civil servants of whom we demand that they have not just the ability to understand, but the ability to use both official languages.
There seems to be some sense that it would be beneath the dignity of Supreme Court judges to face any such inquiry into their capacity. However, in order to be a lawyer considered for the Supreme Court of Canada, one must have already demonstrated to impartial examiners one's competence in many different fields. The key point is that there is no divine right to be a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. These are not beings on a higher plane than the rest of us. These are, in the most fundamental sense of the word, public servants. They have the privilege of being perhaps the most important public servants in the land, but they are there to serve us, not the other way around.
We have already recognized in law the principle that judges should be able to understand the proceedings before them without an interpreter. We did that a generation ago — that is, about 22 years ago — in section 16 of the Official Languages Act which uses the same language as this bill. It says that every judge should be able to understand English or French, as the case may be — that is, the language of the proceedings — without the assistance of an interpreter. I would draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that this section of the Official Languages Act covers all federal courts, including the Federal Court of Appeal. For me, it is not a persuasive argument to say that because the Supreme Court of Canada is an appeal court, it does not need to have the same linguistic capacities as other courts. I would argue the reverse, in fact.
Yesterday, Senator Comeau made the important distinction between institutional and individual bilingualism. However, for institutional bilingualism to exist, certain key individuals must be individually bilingual themselves. In the Supreme Court of Canada, I submit that that means that all judges must be able to understand both languages, because there are cases where we need all those justices to sit, to hear, and to decide. Some cases are too important to be decided by less than the full court. For the sake of argument, I would cite the references on patriation of the Constitution and on Quebec's secession.
Might I have five more minutes, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Fraser: This is one reason I cannot agree with Senator Carignan's impressively reasoned arguments that the bill before us would be unconstitutional in relation to section 133 of what we used to call the British North America Act.
If it is unconstitutional to say that the Supreme Court must have this capacity, why is it constitutional to say that the Federal Court of Appeal must have it? More specifically, section 133 enshrines the right of any person to use either the French or the English language in any court of Canada or in any court of Quebec — and, I repeat the word "use." Honourable senators, I submit to you that that means any person may speak either language. There have been arguments that the right to speak does not necessarily include the right to be understood, but I would suggest to you that in the case of the Supreme Court of Canada, it must mean the right to be understood.
Some people have argued that we trust interpreters here in Parliament, in the Senate, for example, so why do we do not trust them at the Supreme Court of Canada? There are vital differences. To use a word that Senator Nolin used yesterday, we in Parliament have layers and layers of redundancy. We have 105 members. We have, in most cases, almost unlimited debate, at second reading, in committee, at third reading, and, if we still do not get it right, if we have been the first house to consider a bill, it then goes through the same process all over again in the House of Commons. There are many opportunities for any misunderstandings or imprecisions to be addressed. If we still get it wrong, there then lies an appeal to the court. However, the Supreme Court of Canada is where we go to have those imprecisions elucidated for us. They are the last safety net. We have to require of them that they are capable of understanding all the necessary arguments and law.
Honourable senators, this bill may need amendment, but I submit to you that its principle is profoundly Canadian, profoundly faithful to what this country represents, stands for and believes in, and I urge you to support it.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Would the Honourable Senator Fraser accept a question?
Senator Fraser: I will, if there is time.
Senator Comeau: In her comments, the honourable senator mentioned section 16 of the Official Languages Act in referring to all Federal Courts, which can provide services in both official languages in that the judges themselves are bilingual. That is absolutely true. The Official Languages Act does indicate that such should be the case.
However, the honourable senator failed to mention that there is no section 16 with regard to the Supreme Court; and this bill makes no reference whatsoever to the Official Languages Act. That is where the problem with this bill lies. It is not subject to the Official Languages Act and therefore there are no protections.
Let me refer honourable senators to what the Official Languages Commissioner said on the issue of institutional bilingualism in response to a question before the Official Languages Committee. This was in response to a question as to why the Senate and the House of Commons would not be subject to the same policy.
In a word, no, I never argue that this should be the case for members of Parliament, senators or ministers. Those people have the same rights as members of the public. The very nature of the Official Languages Act is that institutions that have to be bilingual, not individuals. The right of the public takes precedence over the right of the public servants to work in their language. The entire system is based on that principle.
So the Supreme Court is not subject to the Official Languages Act, and this bill does not give it that right either.
Senator Fraser: Honourable senators will be aware that I never comment on the words or acts of the Commissioner of Official Languages, for family reasons. I tried in my remarks to make reference to Senator Comeau's comment that perhaps other legislation would need to be amended, and I had in mind particularly this section of the Official Languages Act. It could be amended by amending this bill to include that provision or by companion legislation. That is one of the technical elements we would need to look at, but I do not think it goes to the fundamental principle of this bill, which is to do with the fact that we need judges of the Supreme Court to be able to understand all of the pleadings and the arguments brought before them.
Senator Comeau may not agree with me about that, but that is what I believe.
(On motion of Senator Meighen, debate adjourned.)
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk, pursuant to notice of May 27, 2010, moved:
That notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, the date for the presentation of the final report by the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on the rise of Russia, India and China in the global economy and the implications for Canadian policy be extended from June 30, 2010 to December 31, 2010 and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until March 31, 2011.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Irving Gerstein, pursuant to notice of June 1, 2010, moved:
That, until June 30, 2010, for the purposes of any study of a bill, the subject-matter of a bill or estimates, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance:
(a) have power to sit even though the Senate may then be sitting, with the application of rule 95(4) being suspended in relation thereto; and
(b) be authorized, pursuant to rule 95(3)(a), to sit from Monday to Friday, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Will Senator Gerstein explain his motion?
Senator Gerstein: Honourable senators, I thought it was evident we wanted to have the ability to deal with Bill C-9 to its fullest extent and not curtail any discussion on the matter and so provide the Finance Committee with the opportunity to meet 24 hours a day to deal with it.
Senator Day: As Chair of the Finance Committee, I would like to thank Senator Gerstein for that. Would the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Gerstein: I would be pleased to.
Senator Day: Senator Gerstein mentioned Bill C-9. Has the honourable senator any information as to when this chamber might have an opportunity to see that bill?
Senator Gerstein: I do. As soon as it comes out of the other place, we will be delighted to deal with it here.
Senator Day: I thank the honourable senator for that. As a follow-up question, I see the honourable senator has put the date of June 30 as the limitation on this matter. Since Bill C-9 has now been 36 days in the other place, why has the honourable senator chosen June 30 as the termination date for this motion?
Senator Gerstein: I am delighted the honourable senator asked that question. As I recall, 36 days includes the weekends and every day. I believe it was 16 and a half hours, to be specific, in committee. Of course, it then came back to the house and is now being discussed. Certainly, every effort will be made to get it out as quickly as possible. With the support of the senator's colleagues, I am sure it will get here quicker rather than later.
With regard to the end date, as I indicated, our approach is that we would be very happy to entertain any time the opposition would like to suggest if it needs more study.
Senator Day: I intend to speak on this item, honourable senators.
I would like to ask His Honour whether I should propose a friendly amendment when I speak, or would it be appropriate at this stage to perhaps extend that time to a mutually convenient time?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: One moves an amendment not when one is asking questions but when one is actually speaking. Is the honourable senator still posing questions of Honourable Senator Gerstein?
Senator Day: I am about to ask the honourable senator if he would agree to a friendly amendment to his motion.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: There is a further question, Senator Gerstein. Are you ready for a friendly amendment?
Senator Gerstein: I am always open to a friendly amendment. How friendly is it?
Senator Day: The honourable senator has me at somewhat of a disadvantage because we have not received the bill yet, and he is proposing a motion to deal with a bill we have not seen. I would propose that June 30 is far too soon. As soon as that bill comes, I will be asking honourable senators, in the interests of cooperation within this chamber, to deal with this bill in an expedited manner, as has been proposed in this motion. I would suggest that July 31 would be a more reasonable time than June 30.
Senator Gerstein: I would be absolutely delighted to receive that friendly amendment.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Does the senator have a written amendment?
Senator Day will now make his friendly amendment.
Senator Day: I was afraid the senator might come back and say July 15, so I appreciate his indications of July 31 and I will, at the end of these remarks, move that amendment to the motion. I want to set out a number of other points to this motion.
Honourable senators, this motion is for the purpose of allowing the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance to sit out of our normal sitting time and to sit when the Senate may not be sitting. We understand that. I have made this comment before, so senators will know there was discussion in the steering committee to deal with Bill C-9 and other bills, because we have more items than Bill C-9 coming to the Finance Committee over the next while. We have main supply, and we have not seen the bill on supply but we will be expected to deal with that bill expeditiously, and before the end of June with respect to supply because that is the end of the supply cycle. We understand that, and we have been working diligently on the Main Estimates so we can have a report in the chamber for you, and I thank honourable senators for their cooperation in that regard.
We also have Supplementary Estimates (A) that will be forthcoming, which also must be passed before the end of June to fit in with the government's supply cycle. We started our hearings last evening on that bill, having received the Supplementary Estimates (A) only a few days ago. We started immediately on our hearings and we hope to deal with that item expeditiously as well. I have asked all members of our committee to sacrifice other matters to be there when we have our hearings and to try to deal with these matters that are critically important to the parliamentary fiscal cycle.
This motion of the Honourable Senator Gerstein asks for more sacrifice and more cooperation from the members of our committee. I recognize that and I want to state publicly that we are doing that. I thank those honourable senators who will be asked to sit out of their normal times and to sit when their colleagues from the Senate have gone home.
I thank the Honourable Senator Gerstein for providing me with a copy before he brought this motion. I note that in addition to the fact that it is limited to June 30, which we have discussed and we will deal with, for the purpose of any study of a bill, presumably that is Bill C-9 but it could be any other bill that might be forthcoming, and then it goes on to say "the subject matter of a bill or estimate." The subject matter of a bill is a pre- study, as I understand it in normal parliamentary jargon.
We offered to have a pre-study of this particular bill and I want senators to know that. The steering committee was in agreement on the pre-study. Each of us went back to our respective caucuses. I spoke to the Liberal caucus and the Liberal caucus said yes, they approved a pre-study on this bill. Then, regretfully, I was informed we would not proceed due to lack of agreement on the other side.
Honourable senators, we are now in need of this particular motion to allow us to study outside of our normal time, to the end of July of this year, because the committee was not able to pre- study this matter. That aspect of this motion does not need to be there any more: the subject matter of a bill. There is no pre-study offered, no pre-study requested and none was agreed upon. Therefore I wonder why that particular portion was put into this motion. The third portion is the estimates. The estimates are the two that I referred to, Supplementary Estimates (A) and main supply. We will be prepared to deal with those bills.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Therefore, honourable senators, with those comments indicating that we are prepared to be cooperative on the theme of this motion, although we have some question about why the subject matter of a bill appears in this matter, I move that:
The motion be amended by replacing the words "June 30, 2010" with the words "July 31, 2010".
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It has been moved by the Honourable Senator Day, seconded by the Honourable Senator Losier-Cool, that:
The motion before us be amended by replacing the words "June 30, 2010" with the words "July 31, 2010".
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I apologize for my ignorance in this respect, but do I understand correctly that although the committee might sit and study the substance of bills it might also be necessary, in order for those bills to be given effect, that the Senate might, in fact likely will, be called back to sit to give effect to the committee's report on those bills, or have I got that wrong?
Senator Day: My understanding — and I think honourable senators will understand — is our committee, in studying, will report back to this body once the study is complete. This body, being the Senate Chamber as a whole, must be here to receive our report and deal with that report.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud: I have a hard time understanding why they refused to begin studying the content of this bill. If they had agreed to study the content of this bill, an amendment would not be necessary, and there would be no need to recall the Senate during the summer, correct?
Senator Day: Thank you for the question, Senator Robichaud. I do not understand either.
I asked for the reason and there did not appear to be any particular reason, so I started speculating, and one of the points I came up with was the possibility that this bill might be divided into component parts in the other place. If that happens, in the Finance Committee we would have been studying matters much more appropriately studied by other committees. If that is not the reason — and I hear comments that it might not be the reason — then I would be pleased to know the reason for our offer being rejected.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Senator Day is the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. I am a member of that committee. After seven and a half years of participating in the different committees of the Senate, when a motion is addressed in this chamber, to guide or to instruct a committee, the committee members have adopted such a motion at the committee meeting.
It is my recollection that this motion was not introduced and agreed upon by the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. This chamber has been told that Senator Day, as chair of the committee, agreed to this motion. Could Senator Day advise honourable senators if he agreed to this motion, even though the committee was not advised of such a motion?
Senator Day: Honourable senators, I thank the honourable senator for that question. Has time run out for the day yet?
Senator Ringuette is correct with respect to the normal procedure. Normally one would expect this particular motion to have been brought by the chair of the committee. As Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance — I have been chair for some time thanks to all honourable senators — I would have consulted members of the committee before moving forward with this motion. That procedure was not followed in this instance.
In relation to whether I agreed to this motion, I was favoured with a copy of the motion on the day it was filed. I thanked honourable senators for providing me with the copy.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, I have a brief question for Senator Day. He will not be surprised by my question; it is that time of year again. It is June and we do not have Bill C-9, Supplementary Estimates (A) or supply. Is that correct?
I draw to the attention of honourable senators the frustration of many of us that, again, we receive this treatment from the other place. They will move this measure down the hall some time at their pleasure and then expect honourable senators and, in particular, the Finance Committee to work overtime. No honourable senators mind working those long hours, but there must be a better way to manage the affairs of a government. It is not only this government; the previous government did the same thing. I take the time every year in June and December to express this frustration.
Are honourable senators facing the same situation again?
Senator Day: Honourable senators, yes, Senator Mercer is again frustrated for the same reasons as he was previously. His frustration is shared by a good number of honourable senators on both sides, many of whom hope to go home for July 1 to be in their communities. We now know that unless something significant happens, honourable senators will have to carry on with these three bills, none of which we have yet seen.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Honourable senators, the problem I have with this motion, notwithstanding the mover of the motion, is that it does not refer specifically to Bill C-9. In 2005, this chamber ended up in a last minute rush. The New Veterans Charter was sent to the Finance Committee and not to the Subcommittee on Veteran Affairs where we had competent members with expertise in that area. A number of honourable senators were on both committees at the time, but that is not the way things should work.
I hope there will be some restrictions or a friendly agreement that the bills going to the Finance Committee until July 31 will be finance-related, and the committee will not become a dumping ground for other legislation rushed through at the last minute.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Does Senator Day wish to respond? His time is up, but he has time for a brief answer.
Senator Day: Honourable senators, I do not believe the intent of this motion was to deal with other than supply and Bill C-9. However, the wording of the motion is somewhat loose. We will ensure that there is not an abuse of this motion if it is passed.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I am pleased to support the friendly amendment made by Senator Day. It is important that the Finance Committee is granted the time needed to deal with this important bill.
I want to return to a point that Senator Day raised on pre- study. I think honourable senators know my long-standing personal support for the concept of pre-study. Pre-study is a tremendous tool when it is practical to use it. It is not practical on all occasions.
At least two weeks ago, Senator Day and I discussed the possibility of using pre-study on Bill C-9, when he said there was a hitch that would not permit pre-study. I think I said at the time that I was receptive to pursue pre-study further to make it happen.
Honourable senators, I do not think blame can be laid completely on this side, that we were not receptive to pre-study. Sometimes, I am able to persuade my side to follow certain measures by which to expedite matters in this place.
I take note of, and appreciate, the sacrifice of members of the Finance Committee. However, I do not think honourable senators should be under the illusion that this motion will be limited to members of the Finance Committee. If we decide to continue until July 31 or beyond, I can assure honourable senators that not only will the Finance Committee sit, but the chamber itself will sit.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, while we were discussing this subject, I was looking at some of the bills we still need to address. We have plenty of work to do until July 31.
Senator Robichaud: Am I to understand that the Honourable Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate is saying he is prepared to consider a pre-study of the subject matter of the bill and, in that case, there would be no need for us to vote on this motion?
Senator Comeau: Absolutely. I am now prepared to propose a pre-study of the subject matter of the bill.
Senator Day: Honourable senators will know that pre-study is extraordinary for this chamber. Typically, we are a chamber of sober second thought. We like to receive a bill after all amendments are made in the House of Commons. We look at a bill in its final form as passed by the House of Commons.
A pre-study is an opportunity for the Senate to look at a bill before it is finalized in the House of Commons and, as I understand it, before it exits committee in the House of Commons, which is where the majority of amendments are made. In order to effectively change our rules regarding sober second thought and conduct a pre-study, it should occur when the bill is introduced in the House of Commons so they would have the benefit of our report and understand honourable senators' concerns with the bill.
When this bill was introduced in the House of Commons, knowing we would have the song and dance in June and July of this year, we suggested the pre-study.
The discussion I had with the Honourable Senator Comeau, and the discussion we are having today, to do a pre-study after the bill is out of the committee and in report stage, does not achieve the basic reason for changing our fundamental rule here. It makes no sense to do a pre-study of a bill that we will receive in a week, and which is in third reading and report stage.
Senator Comeau: In response, I beg to differ with the honourable senator. The issue of starting at the same time as the House of Commons is not the idea behind a pre-study; that is not the case whatsoever. The purpose is not to send a signal to the House of Commons about how smart we are.
Pre-studies deal with having certain witnesses come in and talk to us about the non-contentious issues, or the issues on which we might have questions, as the bill arrives here in the chamber. The concept of starting at the same time as the House of Commons makes no sense; if there are major amendments to the bill, a lot of work we will do in this chamber will not be worth it. It will be a waste of time, as one of the honourable senators said.
The concept of a pre-study is to allow us to have witnesses and study non-contentious items of the bill as we move closer to the bill arriving in the Senate, knowing there are a few contentious issues that we may put aside until the bill reaches us. I am hearing from the honourable senator that he does not like the concept of pre-study, and I can accept that. If the honourable senator has changed his mind on pre-study, so be it.
I, for the most part, have been open. I have never hidden my long-standing support for the concept of pre-study. I realize we have to be careful how we use it.
I think I indicated a few moments ago that I had a discussion with Senator Day on this bill at least two weeks ago and we were receptive to lobbying for pre-study on this bill. It did not happen.
Senator Day: When I first arrived in the chamber, I heard the debate between Senator Lynch-Staunton and several others in relation to pre-study. Senator Lynch-Staunton was at the time, leader of the Progressive Conservative group in the Senate, and I listened closely to his comments. He strongly disapproved of pre- study.
Others believed pre-studies are a good idea, from time to time. I am persuaded to follow the comments I made, in relation to when it is appropriate to have a pre-study based on my experience here. All I can say to the honourable senators who are newer to this chamber and who have not been involved in the concept of a pre- study is that there appears to be a clear divergence of views between the Honourable Senator Comeau and myself. I suggest this might be an interesting point of research honourable senators might want to follow up on.
(On motion of Senator Moore, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Doug Finley, pursuant to notice of June 1, 2010, moved:
That the Senate condemns last Friday's barbaric attacks on worshippers at two Ahmadiyya Mosques in Lahore, Pakistan;
That it expresses its condolences to the families of those injured and killed; and
That it urges the Pakistani authorities to ensure equal rights for members of minority communities, while ensuring that the perpetrators of these horrendous attacks are brought to justice.
He said: Honourable senators, last week on May 28, Canadians were dumbfounded when it was reported that two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, Pakistan, were left in ruins after being attacked in separate coordinated terrorist strikes. Over 90 people were killed, with hundreds injured, by suspected Pakistani Taliban fighters.
This mass murder of innocent Ahmadi Muslim worshippers emphasizes how senseless terrorist killings in Pakistan or anywhere in the world can be. To kill in a place of worship is the ultimate insult to faith and religion. These are Muslims killing other Muslims in their own state. Unfortunately, because their beliefs on Mohammed diverge, a clash rather than dialogue has formed.
Ahmadiyya is a religious movement fostered by the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad at the end of the 19th Century. Mr. Ahmad was a reformer, not a prophet. However, during the 1950s, an anti-Ahmadi sentiment was brought forward by the Pakistani government.
This is an absurd war against a peace-loving people. Numbering over 4 million followers in Pakistan alone, they are not allowed to call themselves Muslims or call their place of worship a mosque, according to adopted Pakistani laws from 1974. This religious minority was, and continues to be, chastised for its progressive Muslim beliefs. Members are considered to be non-Muslims and are therefore a persecuted people in the Islamic state.
Only a couple of days after the terrorist attacks, the chaos continued to plod along into a downward spiral. Gunmen dressed in police uniforms burst into the local Lahore hospital where survivors and one of the alleged attackers were being treated and killed another eight people.
The use of suicide vests, Kalashnikovs and hand grenades are not the right means to deal with ideological or religious differences. Yet, inexplicably, people somehow feel justified in fighting and killing so-called heretics.
During the funeral procession, Pakistani politicians and other prominent dignitaries were absent in paying their respects to the families and friends of those killed, perhaps fearing for their own lives or reputations. An unnamed Pakistani politician conceded in a recent article that:
Only to call a dead Ahmedi a martyr is enough to send you behind bars for three years under the laws of the land. . . . Such religious matters are quite complicated here. On the one side, there are religious extremists and on the other are the persecuted ones.
It is a sad time in our lives when we hear things like this. I wish to convey my condolences to the families of those killed and injured recently in Lahore.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there further debate? Are honourable senators ready for the question?
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, June 8, 2010, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, June 8, 2010, at 2 p.m.)