- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- International Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
- Visitors in the Gallery
- Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
- Murmansk Run
- Halifax Explosion
- Mary River Iron Ore Project
- Halifax Explosion
- Northwest Territories
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Information Commissioner
- Justice and Attorney General
- Visitors in the Gallery
- Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
- Canada—Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Bill
- Statutory Instruments Act
- Jobs and Growth Bill, 2012
- Aboriginal Peoples
- Fisheries and Oceans
- Banking, Trade and Commerce
- Agriculture and Forestry
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Study on the Use of the Internet, New Media and Social Media and the Respect for Canadians' Language Rights
- Study on Management of Grey Seal Population off Canada's East Coast
- The Senate
- Multiple Sclerosis and Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency
- Human Rights
- Food Safety System
Thursday, December 6, 2012
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before we proceed, I would ask you to rise and observe one minute of silence in memory of the victims of the tragedy that took place 23 years ago on December 6, 1989, at École Polytechnique in Montreal.
Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, 23 years ago, on December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine shot 28 people at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. Early in the evening, Lépine entered a mechanical engineering class of about 60 students. He separated the nine women from the men and ordered the men to leave. He declared:
I am fighting feminism. You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.
Then, using a legally obtained semi-automatic rifle, he shot the women, killing six and wounding three. Lépine killed 14 women during his 45-minute-long attack. The École Polytechnique massacre remains among the largest attacks against women in Canadian history.
The young women were killed just because they were women. Today, honourable senators, we remember the 14 women who died that day. Today, as we cherish our own sisters and daughters, our own mothers and grandmothers, our own female neighbours and women friends, we also struggle to imagine the pain and sorrow of losing someone we love to violence and hatred.
Many among us know that terrible pain. That is why, on this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, we need to resolve with every fibre of our being to do more to confront violence. We need to do more as senators to confront violence in the media. We need to do more as senators to confront poverty, isolation and alienation. We need to do more as senators to prevent gun violence.
The statistics on violence against women are disturbing. Today, in Canada, more than 3,000 women, along with their 2,500 children, live in emergency shelters to escape domestic violence. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Sixty per cent of women with disability experience some form of violence. As of 2010, there were 582 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.
Honourable senators, today we remember, we mourn and we reflect. We reach out to the families of the 14 young women who were killed 23 years ago.
We know that the pain of loss from losing a loved one lives with you. We remember all young women who have suffered violence, and we reach out to their families. Today we remember the 582 missing Aboriginal women and we reach out to their families.
We have not forgotten you, and we have not forgotten your daughters and your sisters.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Josée Verner: Honourable senators, on this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada, I invite you to reflect on the horror of gender-based violence.
We remember and must never forget that, on December 6, 1989, 14 young women were murdered at École Polytechnique in Montreal because they were women.
Honourable senators, this important reflection is taking place not just across Canada, but around the world. In fact, we are approaching the end of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign that is taking place from November 25 to December 10. This scourge takes many forms and weakens the fabric of our society, which values the protection and promotion of fundamental rights such as the right to life, the right to security and the equality of the sexes. Contrary to enduring myths, it makes no exceptions for age, income, level of education, race, nationality or occupation of the women who are victims.
Honourable senators, I have three children, and two of them are young women. I deplore and condemn the far too many incidents involving girls and young women that have occurred in recent years and have crushed dreams and lives, even after the tragedy that occurred 23 years ago.
The government is deeply committed to combatting this scourge by supporting a variety of community projects across the country involving many non-profit organizations whose work deserves our recognition. Since 2007, Status of Women Canada has invested over $54 million in combatting violence against women and girls, an amount unprecedented in Canadian history.
For example, on November 14, the Minister for Status of Women, Rona Ambrose, announced a number of projects designed to engage young people in preventing violence against female students on university and college campuses. On October 17, the Honourable Senator Fortin-Duplessis told us about the launch of Quebec's Vixit project, a web series that promotes greater understanding of the unique problems that young women face and improves their quality of life. Senator Fortin-Duplessis is Vixit's mentor.
Honourable senators, as the saying goes, "Hope is stronger than fear." We have to work every day, not just today, to eliminate violence against women and girls in our workplaces, our communities and our families so that hope and human dignity can triumph over fear and suffering.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like to draw your attention to the presence in the Governor General's gallery of delegates from the Gwich'in Tribal Council in Inuvik. With us today is President Robert Alexie, Vice-President Norman Snowshoe, and Chief Operating Officer Fred Koe. They are guests of the Honourable Senator Sibbeston.
On behalf of all honourable senators, welcome to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, earlier today the Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration instructed the Senate administration to conduct an audit to assess whether all senators' declarations of primary and secondary residences are supported by sufficient documentation.
The auditor proposes to work closely with the Internal Economy Committee. The audit process and the resulting report will be treated with strictest confidentiality and with due regard to the rights of all senators.
As well, on November 22, the committee struck a bipartisan subcommittee to review allegations raised in media reports with respect to Senator Brazeau's living allowances. The subcommittee has now also been directed to review allegations raised with respect to Senator Harb.
The Chair of the Subcommittee on Living Allowances is Senator Elizabeth Marshall, former Auditor General of Newfoundland and Labrador. Other members are Senator Larry Campbell and Senator Gerald Comeau.
The committee, which acted unanimously in all these matters, thanks all honourable senators for their support and cooperation as these reviews progress.
Hon. JoAnne L. Buth: Honourable senators, on Tuesday, December 4, I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at the National War Museum. The ceremony was hosted by the Russian embassy in honour of the Canadian seamen who sailed the perilous Murmansk Run during the Second World War.
Beginning in the late summer of 1941, a total of 41 Allied supply convoys sailed from North American cities, such as Halifax and New York, to the Soviet ports of Murmansk and Archangel to deliver supplies for the Russian war effort. The ships delivered millions of tonnes of much-needed supplies, including aircraft, tanks, locomotives, arms and ammunition, fuel, and sometimes even boots.
The Murmansk Run, as it became known, was one of the most important and dangerous supply routes of the war. Sailors came under constant attack from German U-boats and aircraft, and in one particularly devastating battle, one convoy lost 24 of 33 ships at a cost of 153 lives. In fact, more than 20 per cent of all cargo transported on the Murmansk Run was lost at sea.
Many of the runs took place during the winter when the almost constant darkness of the Arctic provided cover from the enemy. The weather was harsh, with waves reaching heights of 25 metres. Sea spray froze instantly on the ships' surfaces, and routine tasks became a great challenge in such conditions.
The Canadian contribution to the success of the Murmansk Run was not insignificant. Canadian merchant seamen manned Allied supply ships, and after 1942, Royal Canadian Navy destroyers and frigates became involved as convoy escorts and participated in 75 per cent of subsequent convoys. Remarkably, not one Royal Canadian Navy ship was lost.
There is no doubt that the selfless efforts of those involved helped turn the tide of the war.
The Russian embassy paid tribute to those who risked their lives on the Murmansk Run and bestowed the distinguished Medal of Ushakov to six veterans from the Canadian Merchant Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy.
The Medal of Ushakov was first given in 1944 to members of the Soviet navy for courage and bravery. A total of 67 Canadian veterans were awarded the medal in September by decree of the Russian Federation. Other veterans will also receive their medals from Russian diplomatic officials in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, St. John's and Halifax.
We must never forget the legacy that these brave sailors and all veterans have left to us, a legacy of freedom, security and democracy.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, while today we remember the women who were killed at École Polytechnique, it is also the anniversary of another Canadian tragedy. On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in Halifax Harbour.
When the carnage ended, 2,000 Canadians were dead. It was the single largest man-made explosion before the explosion of the first atomic bomb in Japan. To add insult to injury, the day after, the anniversary tomorrow, they had a nice blizzard to go along with that as the city was burning and people were in chaos.
I have a personal story about my grandmother on my father's side. She was home that day with her two children, my two oldest uncles, and as every mother would do, she was bathing both her boys, who were close to the same age. She had them in the bathtub and was home alone. Normally she just was in the bathroom and kept the bathroom door open so she could tend to other things as she was tending to her children. For some reason, that morning she closed the bathroom door. After the explosion, she opened the door. Sheets of glass were stuck into the door that would have cut her to shreds. Since my father was the next born, I would not have been here had she not closed that door. That is good news as well.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Day: Whoever knows what goes on behind closed doors?
Senator Mercer: Honourable senators, those of us of my age and from Halifax will all remember that our grandparents or great-grandparents would have had visitors or friends over the years. It was not unusual for them to be blind or missing one eye or to have a limb missing or some other infirmity. I did not understand when I was a young lad that the cause was due to this disaster on December 6, 1917. I would like us to remember those people and also to thank the people of the city of Boston who came to our rescue the next day.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, earlier this week the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development gave Baffinland's Mary River iron ore project the green light to move ahead with its iron ore mine on north Baffin Island.
The iron ore deposit, estimated to be approximately 400 million tonnes, is located on the northern tip of Baffin Island. The estimated capital costs of the project are in excess of $4 billion with a construction workforce of approximately 3,500. The mine is expected to have a mine life of over 20 years and an operating workforce of over 700.
This is a spectacular and challenging project. It will feature a 149-kilometre railroad built on permafrost with 24 bridges and two tunnels, three 64-car trains making two round trips per day, the building of seven new Arctic-class icebreaking 190,000-tonne capacity ore carriers and the building of a year-round deepwater port.
Do not underestimate the impact this project will have on our Canadian economy and GDP. Almost all the equipment, supplies and mining infrastructure will need to be imported from Southern Canada and some foreign suppliers. Shipping of most supplies, fuel and equipment will originate from ports in Eastern Canada. Ottawa and Nunavut will receive significant tax and royalty revenue from this project. Most important, due to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement signed by the Conservative government in 1993, the Inuit of Nunavut in the Baffin region have had a strong voice in the project's socio-economic and environmental review and approval and will get a significant share of revenues and business opportunities from the project in the form of taxes, royalties and an impact and benefit agreement.
The formula for a stable investment climate in Nunavut is simple: Inuit have a say in project reviews and approvals, and they are guaranteed a significant royalty and benefits share if the project is approved.
The sign-off by Minister Duncan represents the next step forward. Now Baffinland will work on land lease negotiations and an impact and benefit agreement with the regional Inuit association and will work on a water licence with the Nunavut Water Board.
If all goes well and the company makes a decision to commence construction, activity could be under way during 2013 with production starting in 2017.
Honourable senators, this project is a remarkable achievement, a testimonial to the effectiveness of the regulatory process in Nunavut. I want to congratulate the Nunavut Impact Review Board established under the Nunavut land claim for its thorough, professional and timely approach to reviewing and reporting on this massive project.
I want to congratulate the Baffinland team, the federal and territorial officials and the representatives from the QIA and affected Nunavut communities who made the review process work, culminating in a 356-page report outlining the positive recommendations by the Nunavut Impact Review Board to the minister, which included 184 terms and conditions to regulate the project. The vast majority of these recommendations are aimed at minimizing the environmental impacts associated with such a project to meet community concerns about impacts on wildlife and the sensitive Arctic ecosystem.
In closing, I want to congratulate Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, officials from affected departments, including CanNor, for their timely analysis of the NIRB decision.
Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, I also rise today to remind all of us of what transpired 95 years ago on this day in the city of Halifax.
On an early wintery, sunny morning in Nova Scotia, people were going about and getting ready for their daily business, oblivious to what was about to happen and how their lives would be changed forever.
Halifax was an important port in the Allied war effort during the First World War. A French munition ship, the SS Mont Blanc, was in the harbour that morning laden with explosives for the war effort in Europe. She carried 2,300 tonnes of picric acid, a key ingredient for artillery shells at that time; 200 tonnes of TNT; 35 tonnes of benzol; and 10 tonnes of gun cotton. In short, the Mont Blanc was a floating bomb.
The other actor in this dramatic event was the SS Imo, a chartered steamship for the Commission for Relief in Belgium. She was heading to New York City, sailing empty. She was simply refueling with coal in Halifax to finish her journey from the Netherlands.
Just before nine o'clock in the morning, whether it was miscommunication, carelessness or difficult navigation, these two freighters were on a collision course in the Narrows of Halifax Harbour. The initial collision caused little damage to either ship, but the crew of the Mont Blanc knew they had a problem. Sparks from the collision caused a fire to break out. The fire quickly spread from the deck to its volatile cargo, and the Port of Halifax's fate was sealed.
At 9:04 in the morning, the Mont Blanc exploded, flattening over 400 acres of the city. It was an event of unparalleled destruction. The 3,000-tonne Mont Blanc splintered and disintegrated, with shards, shrapnel and debris propelled in all directions. The explosion was so violent that one of the Mont Blanc's guns flew 5 kilometres and was later found in Dartmouth. Its half-tonne anchor was found 3 kilometres away in Armdale, on the Halifax side of the harbour.
Devastation is an understatement. An 18-metre tsunami ensued, with the shock of the blast being felt as far away as Prince Edward Island and even Cape Breton Island. The shock wave travelled at nearly 23 times the speed of sound. It was, and remains today, the largest man-made, non-nuclear explosion in the history of the world.
The population of Halifax at that time was 50,000. The immediate death toll reached 1,600 men, women and children, with over 9,000 injured. Hundreds of people were permanently blinded.
To compound the disaster, Halifax was later hit with the worst blizzard seen in years. The first relief arrived on a train from Boston, where many expatriate Maritimers helped lead relief efforts by sending blankets, medical supplies and medical personnel to the devastated city. To this day, Nova Scotia sends annually a 50-foot Christmas tree, which is lit on the Boston Common every December, as a thank you for their generosity at that terrible time.
The Halifax explosion reminds all of us that in times of war, unexpected sacrifices can be imposed upon people, sometimes many thousands of miles from any battlefield. It is also a testament to the human spirit and illustrates how people will pull together during times of great adversity.
Honourable senators, I ask you to join me in remembering the events that transpired 95 years ago today and reflect on the sacrifices of all those who came before us and helped to build this great country.
Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, last Friday I was in the Northwest Territories, in my constituency, at Fort Providence, where there was the opening of the Deh Cho Bridge. This is a bridge that spans the Mackenzie River. It is a project that had been thought and dreamed about for many decades.
Last Friday, the $200-million bridge was officially opened. It was a great occasion for the people of the North, because it will make it possible for people to have cheaper foods and goods brought to the North. Usually in the spring and fall, because of the ice freezing and then melting, the crossing is closed for about a month. Now we have a bridge and it will be very good for the North.
It was a Christmas-like atmosphere, with a celebration, a feast and an official opening with lots of government and other people. There were even fireworks. It was really a great occasion, and I just wanted to tell honourable senators about this wonderful thing that happened in the North last Friday.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the special report containing the results of the 2011-12 report card exercise.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2010-11 annual report of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government response to the 2010-11 annual report of the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of the participants of the Ontario Legislative Internship Programme. This non-partisan program, under the auspices of the Canadian Political Science Association and of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario at Queen's Park, provides interns with the opportunity to learn more about Canada's federal Parliament.
On behalf of all senators, we welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the sixteenth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, which deals with diversity in the workplace.
Hon. Percy E. Downe, for Senator Andreychuk, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, presented the following report:
Thursday, December 6, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, has, in obedience to the order of reference of November 21, 2012, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment.
A. RAYNELL ANDREYCHUK
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Bob Runciman, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, presented the following report:
Thursday, December 6, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill S-12, An Act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act and to make consequential amendments to the Statutory Instruments Regulations, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Tuesday, November 6, 2012, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment.
Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report.
(For text of observations, see today's Journals of the Senate, p. 1794.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Runciman, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Hon. Vernon White: 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 Thursday, June 16, 2011, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in relation to its study of issues relating to the federal government's constitutional, treaty, political, and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and on other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada be extended from December 31, 2012 to December 31, 2013.
Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans be authorized to meet at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 11, 2012, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
Hon. Irving Gerstein: 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 Tuesday, January 31, 2012, Tuesday, May 15, 2012, Tuesday, June 19, 2012, and Tuesday, June 26, 2012, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce in relation to its review of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (S.C. 2000, c.17) be extended from December 31, 2012 to March 31, 2013.
Hon. Percy Mockler: 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 Thursday, June 16, 2011, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry in relation to its study of research and innovation efforts in the agricultural sector be extended from December 31, 2012 to December 31, 2013.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I would like to follow up on questions I raised a few weeks ago regarding generic OxyContin, which has been approved for manufacture by Minister Aglukkaq. The Leader of the Government in the Senate mentioned several times in response to my questions that the responsibility for delivering health care falls to the provinces and territories. However, the federal government does have a responsibility for delivering health care and is, in fact, the fifth largest provider of health care in Canada. The federal government is responsible for the health care of veterans, military personnel, the RCMP and First Nations.
Considering the consequences this drug has had on a number of Aboriginal communities, has the government done a study to determine the usage of OxyContin among the groups for which the federal government has a responsibility — and in particular for the uses of OxyContin among our First Nations peoples — before approving the manufacturing of generic OxyContin?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, as Minister Aglukkaq has stated, we are taking action within the federal jurisdiction. We have tightened the rules under the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program and have seen a 50 per cent reduction in the amount of these drugs provided. This program is also applicable to First Nations and Inuit.
Honourable senators, the answer is: Yes, the federal government is taking action. We have seen major improvements in the amount of these drugs that are provided.
Senator Cordy: My question was: Has Health Canada done a study to determine the usage of OxyContin with First Nations peoples?
Senator LeBreton: I believe that was part of a question the honourable senator asked last week. If it is not, I apologize. I will take that particular question as notice.
Senator Cordy: Grand Chief Harvey Yesno and Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of Nishnawbe Aski Nation are very concerned that the production of generic forms of OxyContin will jeopardize the health of their people. In 2009, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation declared a state of emergency in all 49 of its communities due to epidemic levels of addictions to OxyContin among its residents.
Has Health Canada conducted any studies on the addictiveness of OxyContin and the effects that a generic form of OxyContin may have, particularly in First Nations communities?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for her question. I will add that to the question she just asked regarding the effects of generic OxyContin. I will get back to her as soon as possible.
Senator Cordy: The provinces and territories have asked whether Minister Aglukkaq would at least delay the introduction of generic OxyContin manufacturing until studies of the First Nations peoples — for whom the federal government is responsible for providing health care — have been completed to determine whether generic OxyContin will have a detrimental effect. It would be easier, I believe, to investigate and to get the information now rather than after the damage has been done by addiction.
Will the minister at least delay the manufacturing of generic OxyContin?
Senator LeBreton: The minister actually has been working with the provincial and territorial health ministers. She has implored them to work with the federal government to tackle the issue of prescription drug abuse. Ultimately, we also would ask our doctors, when they are prescribing these drugs, to be mindful of their impact. The minister has therefore asked the provinces if they have evidence of doctors breaking the law or misuse in the prescribing of prescriptions drugs, to forward this information immediately to Health Canada so that their ability to do so can be removed in terms of prescribing these types of drugs.
Senator Cordy: It is a great idea to ask the provinces and territories to get that information, but it is the federal government that has the responsibility for First Nations people. Will the federal minister follow her own advice and get the information specifically related to First Nations peoples, whether or not there is a problem with addictions?
We know there is a problem with addictions for First Nations people. Will she follow her own advice and get the information that she needs to work with the First Nations people, where the federal government has the ultimate responsibility for health care?
Senator LeBreton: I think I already acknowledged that Minister Aglukkaq, who happens to be from Northern Canada and is an Aboriginal herself, is very well aware of the situation in the Aboriginal community. The tone of the honourable senator's question would indicate that this is something that the minister is not doing. That is absolutely not the case.
As I indicated to the honourable senator, I will take the question as notice as to the various studies that have been done or any other information with regard to drug abuse in our Aboriginal communities, which clearly are the responsibility of the federal government. I can assure honourable senators that Minister Aglukkaq takes her responsibilities as Minister of Health very seriously.
Hon. Pana Merchant: Honourable senators, my question is regarding the K to 12 First Nations education funding. Yesterday the leader talked about the $275 million in the last budget — the $100 million for literacy and the $175 million for infrastructure. At the same time, $64 million was budgeted for promoting Canada's Economic Action Plan in advertisements for television, billboards, et cetera.
If all this money were instead dedicated to the Saskatchewan on-reserve students, of whom there are 15,365, actually, the funding gap would be totally eliminated.
Why are we spending that amount of money on advertising Canada's Economic Action Plan rather than dedicating funding to eliminate the gap for the 15,365 on-reserve students in Saskatchewan?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, yesterday I answered this question. An incredible effort is being made by the government, by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, working with First Nations leadership and following up on the First Nations-Crown meeting last January.
One can get up any day in Question Period and ask about a government program in any one department and ask why that money was allocated to one department and not to another department. The fact is that significant sums of money are allocated to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Significant sums of money are allocated to other departments in the government to work on files directly related to our First Nations community. It is not a question of this department versus that department. It is a question of significant sums of money being allocated to each department of government to implement the programs that they are required to implement within their department.
Yesterday I put on the record a long list of programs and projects that the federal government has implemented with regard to our Aboriginal community. On the website, there is a great deal of information about all of the programs that the government has implemented specifically with regard to education. I do believe that the proper resources have been allocated and that the federal government, the leadership in the First Nations and the parents and the teachers are working together, as I said yesterday, collaboratively in the shared interest of improving education for young Aboriginals. As I said yesterday, young Aboriginals are entitled to and should have access to the same education as any other Canadian.
Senator Merchant: It is a question of this government's priorities. For instance, $3.1 million has been spent on litigation against First Nations child rights court challenges. Again, had this money been spent instead to close the education gap for Saskatchewan First Nations students living on-reserve and attending K to 12 band schools, 855 students would have benefited.
Why is the government spending $3.1 million on legal fees fighting against First Nations child advocates rather than for the First Nations, by closing the gap in education funding in Saskatchewan?
Senator LeBreton: Again, honourable senators, we could go through this until the cows come home, as they say. However, the fact is that there are many programs in government. I think of the amount of money the government set aside to settle the residential schools issue. Incredible sums of money were spent on legal fees. I do believe, and I am sure the honourable senator would agree, that you do not stop one program and say, "I have spent enough money there, and why did I not spend it here?" because that is not the way it works, and Senator Merchant knows that more than anyone else.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): In Alberta, approximately 9,000 students attend on-reserve schools. The on-reserve per student funding is $4,000. Provincial student funding is $7,000. There is, therefore, a $3,000 funding gap. If all the monies spent on advertisements for Canada's Economic Action Plan, for example, were to be used to close this funding gap, every single on-reserve student in Alberta would receive funding equal to non-reserve students. How can this government justify this double standard, and when will this Conservative government correct this inequity? All Canadian students should receive high-quality education.
Senator LeBreton: I also said yesterday — I suppose no one was listening; otherwise you would not be asking me again today — that there has been a 25 per cent increase in transfers to the provinces for education programs.
I would not think anyone would suggest that the government should not communicate with its citizens on programs and initiatives that are important to Canadians, such as what we had to do a few years ago with regard to the H1N1 crisis, such as programs that are available to make Canadians aware of the serious issue of elder abuse, and such as programs with regard to job training and retraining in our apprenticeship programs. These are all important initiatives, and the government uses its advertising dollars to inform Canadians about them.
Again, honourable senators, each department — certainly with regard to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Department of Health, Department of National Defence and Department of Canadian Heritage — is allocated sums of money in the budget to implement its programs. To compare one department's expenditures which have been approved in the budget and say, "Well, if you did not spend there, we could have spent here," is an argument that could go on forever.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, the Leader of the Government in the Senate said she did not think we were listening. We have been listening carefully, but we have not heard an answer to our question. Some $30 million was spent on the War of 1812 celebration. How many students could that educate? How many students could have been educated with that $30 million?
We heard in the news the other day that the reserve next to Attawapiskat has declared a housing emergency. How many homes could have been built on that reserve with just the plywood used for the Canada's Economic Action Plan ads across Canada? The housing problem probably would have been solved overnight if they had taken the plywood and money and put it where it was needed.
The leader talks about priorities. The priorities are that we take care of the people of this country. No one needs our help more than our First Nations people. No one needs our help more than First Nations youth. No one needs our help more than the people who find themselves living in these awful conditions.
Would the leader please convince her colleagues to stop spending money on things like celebrating the War of 1812 and Canada's Economic Action Plan, and put it where it belongs in helping to educate young Aboriginal children.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator LeBreton: I read into the record yesterday the significant sums of money that have been expended by the government, more than any other government in the history of this country, on a host of programs, not only for education for Aboriginals.
First, I do not understand why the other side has such a problem with educating Canadians about our wonderful history. I do not understand that. If one wants to get into comparing what it costs, we could talk about this very chamber. Is the honourable senator arguing that we should not be spending money on this very chamber because it might educate x number of students? That is how ridiculous the honourable senator's argument is.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I wonder if I could direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate on the broad issue of funding for Aboriginals. As she and honourable senators on both sides will know, Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations, a thoughtful and competent leader, has made the case that it is time to get rid of the Indian Act. One analysis that I saw a few years ago suggested that if we added up all the money now being spent — including the bureaucracy at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and the various programs — and did what Shawn Atleo has suggested and got rid of those programs, then we could give every First Nation family in this country $60,000 a year in perpetuity.
Could I impose upon the minister to raise that issue in the councils and cabinet committees where she is such a prominent voice, so that going forward in budget planning and other issues it may be one of the options that Her Majesty's government considers?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): As the honourable senator knows, a member of the other place, Rob Clarke, an Aboriginal himself, has a private member's bill before Parliament on that very subject. There has been general positive response to it.
The honourable senator mentioned National Chief Atleo who was just re-elected this past summer. He is absolutely right; we have a good working relationship with him. He represents a new style of leadership for the AFN.
The honourable senator mentioned Chief Atleo and I mentioned the Crown-First Nations Gathering last January. In less than a year since the gathering, we have made real progress and continue to do so. We have invested an additional $275 million for First Nations education; an additional $331 million since last January to improve the safety of First Nations drinking water; and additional funding in the Family Violence Protection Program. We have launched a joint task force on economic development with Chief Atleo and his officials. We have also committed to intensive consultations with First Nations on education legislation. In other words, as I pointed out yesterday, no legislation with regard to where we go forward on the education front will be drafted until we have had intensive consultations with the First Nations.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, if I may just return to the issue of federal funding for on-reserve students, I do not think there is any question education is a shared responsibility in some cases and a provincial responsibility in other cases.
However, in the case of Aboriginal students on-reserve, it is purely and simply a federal responsibility. My colleague Senator Tardif gave the leader the figures for Alberta. My colleague Senator Merchant gave the leader figures a few minutes ago for Saskatchewan. For Manitoba, the provincial funding per student is $10,500 and the federal funding for on-reserve students is $7,500.
The simple question is this: How can the government allow this discrepancy to continue when it is purely and simply the federal government's responsibility? All the other programs the leader has talked about and all the other good things she says the government is doing to deal with the Aboriginal situation are fine. The specific question has to do with the discrepancy in those three provinces between what the provincial governments provide when fulfilling their responsibilities for off-reserve students and what the leader's government has in its sole responsibility for on-reserve students. How can the government allow this to continue?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I am absolutely talking about on-reserve, and the questions that the honourable senator's colleagues raised are about Aboriginal students who are not on-reserve.
Every year, we invest in education for over 117,000 on-reserve students. The budget commits significant funding, $275 million, for more schools and early literacy programs. Since 2006, we have completed 263 school projects, including 33 new schools. We will continue to take concrete actions to improve educational outcomes for First Nation students. With regard to First Nation students in those provinces who are not on-reserve, I have already indicated a 25 per cent increase in funding to those provinces.
Senator Cowan: The questions have to do with on-reserve students. There is a $3,000 to $3,500-gap per on-reserve student in each of those three provinces between what the provincial governments provide for students in their educational system and what the federal government provides for the students that are its sole responsibility on-reserve. We are not talking about other programs for other kinds of issues. We are talking about funding by the federal government, which has the sole responsibility for funding on-reserve students. In each of those provinces, according to the information that we were provided and have put before the leader now, there is a $3,000 to $3,500-gap per student. That is the issue. Talking about how much money the government has transferred to the provinces, or how many houses were built, or whatever is completely irrelevant to the question we are asking. Why does the government allow this gap to continue?
Senator LeBreton: I do not think that providing housing to Aboriginal people is irrelevant.
With regard to education, I am fully cognizant of the government's responsibility for on-reserve students. I have put on the record all of the programs that the government is involved with, but specifically for education on-reserve. The honourable senator cited figures for which I have no verification. I am simply answering about what the government does. With regard to the figures that the honourable senator has cited, I will seek to clarify these for myself.
Honourable senators, all I can say is that the federal government is fully cognizant of their on-reserve responsibilities. We work with the First Nations. We have made a commitment to them with regard to the education of our young Aboriginal Canadians, particularly those on reserve.
Again, with regard to any further commitment or any more changes that we make in education legislation, we have committed to the First Nations that we will not take any further steps on this until we have their intensive consultation.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, there is this compelling irony that one sees when one observes this government. This is a government that hates government; that thinks that government cannot do anything; that thinks that government can only be incompetent; and then it fails to act in exactly the way that proves that every single day. This government is, in fact, incompetent. That was impressed upon me the other day in a speech.
I will talk about incompetence, but one just cannot list the incompetence in a 20-minute speech, and I certainly cannot do it in Question Period. I will get to that later this afternoon or next week.
Jim Prentice, a former senior minister in this government who clearly could not stand it any longer, made the point in a speech that I heard a while ago when he said that "the Crown obligation to engage First Nations in a meaningful way" in these pipeline projects "has yet to be taken up." Again, the government is shirking responsibility. This is not me saying that; this is Jim Prentice saying it. He went on to say that "Ottawa's neglect of the Aboriginal relations could doom proposed oil pipelines," which clearly this government seems to want to build. He said "The obligation to consult with and accommodate First Nations . . . these are responsibilities of the federal government," and the federal government is not fulfilling them.
Why will the government not take the advice of its own former minister, Jim Prentice, a senior Conservative and an intelligent person, and start to get directly involved in consulting with Aboriginal peoples in B.C. so that it can begin to show them the respect that is needed to get the kind of social licence that the government, in turn, needs to build these kinds of projects?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, when Senator Mitchell started asking his question and I was trying to figure out what he was saying when he was talking about being incompetent, I thought to myself, I must be completely incompetent, because I do not have a clue what he is saying.
An Hon. Senator: Agreed.
Senator LeBreton: I would expect you to agree with me; absolutely. However, I will not go there.
In any event, I think we saw the Minister of Natural Resources the other day when he was speaking to some of the leaders of the First Nations community outside of the House of Commons. He made it very clear that, absolutely, in the consultation process with regard to building the pipeline, of course they will be involved in the consultations.
Senator Mitchell: Is the leader suggesting that they have not been involved in the consultation yet? We are seven years into its mandate and the government has the responsibility to do that. The leader just stood up and told us that the government has not involved them in the consultation process yet; that it is okay to delegate that to the private sector and to some companies? What about the government fulfilling its responsibility? Take the responsibility and quit shirking it.
Senator LeBreton: Again, as I have said many times to Senator Mitchell, try as he might, he will never put words in my mouth. I never said such a thing. Since we have come into government, we have been in many consultations with Aboriginal groups and have settled 80-some land claims.
Minister Oliver was simply reassuring the leadership of the Aboriginal group that was here in Parliament the other day that, absolutely, as we move forward on the proposed pipeline development, they are very much a part of these negotiations.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, one of the key elements that Mr. Prentice pointed out that needed to be negotiated is an agreement that ensures native communities can support a pipeline project without affecting their unsettled land claims. There is only one entity in this country that can negotiate such an agreement and that is the federal government. Enbridge cannot do it; Kinder Morgan cannot do it. No one else can do it.
When will the federal government engage the Aboriginal peoples at that level and begin to negotiate that kind of agreement?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is suggesting that the federal government is not doing that and the suggestion is flat out false.
Senator Mitchell: Is the leader suggesting that Mr. Prentice is wrong when he says that the federal government is not doing that, because he is saying it all over the country and all over the world, in fact. He is discussing it in Europe; he has discussed it in Canada. Is the leader saying that Mr. Prentice is wrong? Is he misleading Canadians, or is the government misleading Canadians?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I have not spent a lot of time, obviously, going over everything that Minister Prentice may have said. Minister Prentice was an outstanding Aboriginal affairs minister; he was an outstanding industry minister. Thanks to Jim Prentice when he was the minister, and later ministers, as I have mentioned, we have settled over 80 land claims.
Obviously, with the future of the pipeline, science will play a big role in this, as will the interests of our Aboriginal population.
Study on the Use of the Internet, New Media and Social Media and the Respect for Canadians' Language Rights
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Chaput, seconded by the Honourable Senator Munson, that the fifth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, entitled: Internet, New Media and Social Media: Respect for Language Rights!, tabled in the Senate on October 25, 2012, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 12-24(1), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the Government, with the President of the Treasury Board being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report, in consultation with the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and the Minister of Industry.
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis: Honourable senators, I rise here today to address this chamber regarding the most recent report of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, entitled: Internet, New Media and Social Media: Respect for Language Rights!
This report is the result of the work we did to assess the use of the Internet, new media and social media in terms of respect for Canadians' language rights. Considering the growing popularity of social media and information technologies, we examined how our official languages fit into the equation. Along with the many briefs received, the committee also heard from more than 50 groups represented by 83 spokespeople. I wish to share with you, honourable senators, the results of that work.
Pablo Picasso once said, "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." You are no doubt wondering about the context in which Picasso said this, since today, no one would dare proclaim that computers are useless; on the contrary. When it comes to giving answers, however, Picasso was right, and that is even truer today. With just one click, the entire world is at the fingertips of any Internet user in search of knowledge. The Internet is single-handedly breaking down barriers.
In light of that, we have to wonder where Canada, its people and its institutions stand in this new era where accessibility has become the norm. Every day, Canadians share all kinds of information using the Internet, new media and social media. Federal institutions also want to participate in this information sharing in order not only to better serve Canadians, but also to find out who they are. From coast to coast, hundreds of communities are sharing their culture — what sets them apart and what brings them together.
Web platforms provide excellent opportunities for federal institutions to interact with Canadians. We were curious to learn how the two official languages fit in.
Recent data show that nearly 80 per cent of Canadians have access to the Internet. This provides an excellent opportunity to reach Canadians, and federal government institutions have responded to the interest shown by Internet users. A representative from the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages estimated that federal institutions have made about 30 million web pages available to the public — 15 million pages in French and 15 million in English. That is huge. Government websites are being visited more and more by Internet users who want to find information, conduct transactions and consult files online.
As for social media, representatives from the Treasury Board Secretariat told us that 36 institutions had bilingual Facebook accounts, and 66 institutions had bilingual Twitter accounts. As the public hearings continued, this number only increased.
However, a representative of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada had this to say:
I am not sure to what extent people are aware that federal institutions are present and active in both official languages.
This is a challenge faced by our government, because promoting linguistic duality now means that the government must have a presence on the Web in both official languages.
Another aspect that was of great interest to me during our consultations was the emancipation of a number of official language minority communities through the use of the Web. These communities are often scattered over a vast area and far removed from one another.
Therefore, new technologies represent an opportunity to break through the barriers of isolation. A number of witnesses commented on the fact that the Internet and social media are helping official language minority communities flourish and providing new avenues for collaboration.
When he appeared before the committee in October 2011, the Commissioner of Official Languages said:
The new media, the new technology, is a tool. It can be used to homogenize, to assimilate, but also to differentiate, to create new communication links and make information accessible for people who would never have had contact with the outside world.
This is especially true of our young people, because they are the greatest users of these new technologies. Statistics Canada data indicates that daily use is highest among young people between the ages of 16 and 24.
I would like to quote a representative of the Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française who appeared before the committee:
We need to create francophone online spaces where young people can experience their francophonie, spaces for freedom, content creation, the exchange of ideas, discovering others, other cultures and the world. Spaces where young people can be known and recognized as francophones, proud of themselves, wishing to interact as members of a francophone community and of a bilingual and forward-looking Canadian society.
This is the goal we must strive to meet. The first step in achieving that goal is the education of our young people. We must promote the use of new technologies in schools. Did you know that the Internet is used by nearly four out of 10 Canadians in the field of education?
The Commissioner of Official Languages gave the example of a francophone school in British Columbia that offers an online concentration course. He said:
The class was in Victoria, and francophone students were attending it in Vancouver, Campbell River and a host of other schools that did not have the opportunity to have a grade 11 physics teacher. Through this method of communication, it was possible to give the class to all grade 11 students in the small schools all across British Columbia.
The growing accessibility of these new technologies and the ease with which young people use them have transformed teaching practices in many minority schools. Many of these schools are already using leading-edge technologies. In Quebec, the degree of use of digital material in schools is estimated to be between 25 per cent and 30 per cent.
Again with regard to francophones, a representative from the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada noted that the situation varies depending on the location. He said:
The intensity varies across the country. In some places, students come in to class with their iPad 2. The children of the future generation are at that point and are using these technologies more and more. The question is to what extent they are able to find French content on those platforms.
The issue of access is at the heart of our report. We believe that we must continue to make an even greater effort to ensure that all Canadians have access not only to broadband Internet and digital networks but also to French and English content. New technologies seem promising in many respects, whether we are talking about fostering the development of official language minority communities, promoting linguistic duality or making services accessible online to as many people as possible.
There is no doubt that progress in the information technology sector will not be meaningful unless we pursue a common goal of ensuring access everywhere for everyone.
This report is encouraging. One of its recommendations is to invite the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat to share the good practices of a number of departments and agencies with all federal institutions. We must also keep in mind that technology will continue to evolve, creating a major challenge for the government, which will have to ensure that its content remains available in French and in English. The government must continue to show leadership in this area, because in so doing, it is directly supporting community development.
In closing, honourable senators, I would like to thank the staff who worked with us week after week to help us fulfill our mandate successfully, including our analyst, Marie-Ève Hudon, and our clerk, Danielle Labonté. I would also like to thank my fellow Senate committee members. I enjoyed working with them to carry out this mandate.
Honourable senators, I hope that you will adopt this important report, and I thank you very much for your attention.
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the seventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans entitled: The Sustainable Management of Grey Seal Populations: A Path Toward the Recovery of Cod and other Groundfish Stocks, tabled in the Senate on October 23, 2012.
Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, I move:
That the report be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 12-24(1), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the Government, with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report, in consultation with the Minister of Health.
He said: Honourable senators, grey seals are believed to be an important factor limiting the recovery of the Atlantic groundfish stocks since their collapse in the early 1990s. They are also viewed as a potential threat to other stocks, such as shellfish, which have replaced groundfish as the most important fishery resource on the East Coast of Canada.
The total population of grey seals in Eastern Canada has increased from approximately 13,000 animals in 1960 to between 330,000 and 410,000 animals in 2010. In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, the grey seal population reached a record 104,000 animals during the same period.
In June 2009, answering calls for some type of control of the grey seal population, the Honourable Gail Shea, then the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, directed the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to ensure the targeted removal of grey seals that are preying on southern gulf cod as part of its conservation approach.
In October 2010, DFO organized a five-day workshop in Halifax, assembling 57 Canadian and international experts in the fields of marine mammals, marine fish, marine ecology and predator-prey relations. These experts reviewed 31 scientific papers on topics such as grey seal pup production, diet, population estimates, fish population trends and distribution.
In March of 2011, as a follow-up to the workshop, the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat advised that the weight of evidence suggested that grey seal predation in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence was an important factor inhibiting the recovery of Atlantic cod and of other groundfish stocks, notably white hake and winter skate, and that the number of grey seals feeding on cod would need to be reduced by 73,000 over five years to allow stocks to recover. An experiment was outlined to test this hypothesis.
In September 2011, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, known as the FRCC, recommended that DFO proceed immediately with an experimental reduction of grey seals in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to maintain the number of seals foraging in that area at fewer than 31,000 animals and that a comprehensive monitoring of the effects of the groundfish and ecosystem parameters be continued for a time sufficient to definitely test the effect on groundfish population processes and parameters in that area.
The following month, in October 2011, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans immediately put into place a plan, based on scientific evidence, to mitigate the impact of the rapidly growing population of grey seals on the snow crab resource in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, including the targeted removal of grey seals.
Following these events, the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was authorized, in late October 2011, to examine and report on the management of the grey seal population off Canada's East Coast. In particular, the committee endeavoured to investigate the impacts grey seals are having on cod stock recovery and to recommend options to address the problem, including the possibility of a targeted removal of the grey seals in some areas where they aggregate.
The committee started its hearings in October 2011 here in Ottawa and finished in Halifax with a full day of meetings on March 29, 2012. In total, the committee heard from more than 40 witnesses and received many briefs. Witnesses included the following: government, university and independent scientists; federal government officials from both DFO and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade; representatives from provincial governments; animal welfare organizations; environmental groups; fishermen; harvesters and processors; and representatives from coastal communities and First Nations. This report provides a review of the evidence heard by the committee and recommends actions for the federal government.
Honourable senators, adult male grey seals may grow to more than 2.3 metres, 7.5 feet long, and weigh up to 880 pounds, whereas females grow to 1.8 metres, 5.9 feet long, and weigh up to 250 kilograms or 550 pounds. Grey seals are the longest-lived pinniped, with females living as long as 45 years.
Honourable senators, I will not read all of the recommendations, but I will touch on a couple. The main one is Recommendation 3, which states:
That starting with the 2013 season and for a period of four years, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans implement and manage a grey seal targeted removal program in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to reduce the level of the herd by 70,000 animals; and, that this program, based on the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council's report entitled "Towards Recovered and Sustainable Groundfish Fisheries in Eastern Canada", work in conjunction with continuing research and evaluation which should lead to a long term sustainable management plan of grey seals in Atlantic Canada and Quebec;
That research protocols to be performed during the removal of grey seals be established to test the hypothesis that predation is the major factor preventing recovery of groundfish stocks in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, as well as to better understand and monitor the effects of the target removal; and,
That Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans at the earliest opportunity after the first harvesting season to report on the progress made with the grey seal targeted removal program.
I want to thank all our witnesses for coming forward and making presentations at our committee. I want to thank the members of the committee on both sides of the Senate chamber for their time and effort in addressing this very important concern in Eastern Canada at the present time. As always, when you deal with seals, there are people who are of different opinions. The committee has welcomed all opinions, but decisions have to be made. We believe that based on the evidence we received, we have made a recommendation that will address some of the concerns that people have put forward. Are we saying as a committee that this is the only issue that faces the recovery of the cod in Atlantic Canada and off the coast of Quebec? Not a chance. That is not what we are saying; but we truly believe that this will be part of the important recovery that is needed. Therefore, we ask that the report be adopted.
(On motion of Senator Harb, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ataullahjan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Martin:
That the Senate of Canada express its support for Malala Yusufzai in light of her remarkable courage, tenacity and determined support for the right of girls everywhere to an education; offer its best wishes for her full recovery; express its gratitude for the courage of her family and the work of the staff at the Birmingham hospital in the United Kingdom; and offer its solidarity with girls and young women everywhere whose absolute right to equality of opportunity and quality education in every country of the world is and must always be universal and real.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I will say a word in support of the very thoughtful and all-embracing motion put before us by Senator Ataullahjan in respect of the brave young Pakistani girl who is recuperating from gunshot wounds in a hospital in Great Britain.
The opportunity for honourable senators to express, as the upper chamber of the Parliament of Canada, a collective expression of solidarity and support should not be underestimated. It will be covered in the newspapers of Pakistan and throughout the South Asian commonwealth in a way that will send a constructive message to young girls everywhere that this chamber is on their side, believes in their core right to an education, and is prepared to say so openly and frankly, with some measure of coherence and, hopefully, bipartisan support.
I report that thanks to the great work of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade chaired by Senator Andreychuk, we have, at its final stage of approval, a Commonwealth charter that lays out a series of rights and principles, one of which, of course, is a core principle with respect to gender equality. I will read two short sentences to honourable senators:
We recognise that gender equality and women's empowerment are essential components of human development and basic human rights. The advancement of women's rights and the education of girls are critical preconditions for effective and sustainable development.
Honourable senators, that specific reference to the education of girls was added when the 54 foreign ministers of the Commonwealth met a few weeks ago in New York City adjacent to the UN General Assembly and gave their approval to this document. However, it was Her Excellency the Foreign Minister of Rwanda who sought an amendment to mention specifically the education of girls. Of course, it received unanimous support right across the Commonwealth.
I commend this motion to the most constructive consideration of honourable senators. I hope that, following Senator Ataullahjan's leadership, we are able to speak as a chamber on this core underlying value that separates the civilized from the uncivilized and reflects the very best of the Canadian tradition.
(On motion of Senator Jaffer, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Cordy, calling the attention of the Senate to those Canadians living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), who lack access to the "liberation" procedure.
Hon. Pana Merchant: Honourable senators, I wish to thank and commend my colleague, Senator Cordy, for her exemplary commitment to giving voice to the plight of Canadians living with multiple sclerosis and chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, for which an angioplasty procedure was pioneered by Dr. Paolo Zamboni, a medical researcher at the University of Ferrara in Italy.
Canadians, the 75,000 with multiple sclerosis and those without personal involvement who observed the Zamboni procedure debate, expect from government care and safety. We also expect that progress will not be delayed by an overcautious stodginess or, worse still, that better health care for the cruelly afflicted will not be delayed by discussions to save money, not lives.
MS sufferers and many Canadians are justified in their suspicion that the government's agenda is about dollars, not sound science, when it refuses to allow first-hand witnesses of the liberation procedure to testify orally in front of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
Over time, both houses of Parliament have welcomed witnesses who offered direct first-hand knowledge of the matter being considered. Science took a suspicious and political step in refusing to hear witnesses' first-hand accounts — witnesses like Michelle Walsh, a 39-year-old woman from Beechy, Saskatchewan, and mother of two young children, one and three years of age, who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 18 years. Ms. Walsh sought venous angioplasty treatment for her CCSVI abroad in Bulgaria in July 2010, twice in the United States in January 2011 and again in March 2012.
She said that all three times she had symptom relief that greatly improved the quality of her life immensely, which no MS drug had ever done for her in 21 years. Most importantly, the MRIs of her brain have shown scientific evidence that since her first procedure for CCSVI, she has had no lesion activity in her secondary progressive MS. The MRI also showed that some of her brain lesions are getting much smaller and some have gone away. She has not needed to take any medications for over two years.
Honourable senators, it is significant that in Saskatchewan, in an apolitical decision earlier this year to approve funding for Phase II and III clinical trials, Premier Brad Wall and Saskatchewan's Minister of Health, the Honourable Don McMorris, met with at least 15 MS patients in person to hear from and learn about their experiences with their CCSVI procedures abroad.
The Saskatchewan government felt that in this way they could make an informed decision about the involvement in trials of the liberation treatment. Yet, the federal government in Ottawa refused to allow any such input in their decision-making process.
In this chamber on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 52 Conservative senators voted to block from testifying those who were treated, and they refused to support the position of Senator Cordy that sufferers of multiple sclerosis have the right to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. It was politics over people.
Multiple sclerosis is a devastating neurological disease that impairs the communication ability of the nerve cells in the brain and in the spinal cord. Such impairment often leads to the destruction of these cells. The cause or causes are not known. The end state of the illness is paralysis.
Each year, there are 1,000 new Canadian MS cases, and each year, 400 Canadians die from this disease. There are more than 75,000 MS sufferers in Canada. It is a medical challenge of huge proportions, one on which the Canadian Department of Health continues to take a back seat.
My home province of Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, with 340 cases per 100,000 of population. An estimated 3,500 people in Saskatchewan have been diagnosed with MS.
Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, CCSVI, is a vascular condition that arises often in multiple sclerosis patients. According to the MS Society, it describes a theory in which portions of the venous system in the head and the neck are narrowed or blocked and therefore unable to efficiently remove blood from the brain and spinal cord. The current CCSVI diagnosis is based on Doppler sonography. Prevalence estimates of CCSVI provided by different groups using various imaging methods of assessment vary widely, from none to 100 per cent. There is an urgent need to define and validate the spectrum of cranial and extra-cranial venous anomalies and to establish reliable diagnostic standard tests.
This year a controversial treatment for the illness by way of clinical trials has begun in Albany, New York, and it will be available to a small number of Saskatchewan MS sufferers in spite of the reservations of Canadian health authorities. The medical focus in these clinical trials is the condition of vein abnormalities in the form of blockages, which are more common in MS patients than in those who do not have MS. The liberation procedure involves angioplasty to open blocked veins in the neck and stem.
Canadian participants in the New York clinical trials are from Saskatchewan since the government of my province is the only government authority in Canada to provide funds to the extent of $2.2 million to cover all of the clinical trial expenses for Saskatchewan participants. In total, 682 individuals applied before the deadline of Friday, February 24, 2012, for a space in the New York program. Currently, 86 Saskatchewan residents have been randomly chosen to participate.
One can be critical of the Government of Saskatchewan for not engaging in its own clinical trials. It attempted that. However, to be fair, we must wonder why the provincial government did not get any help from the Government of Canada when it originally planned to go that route.
There are two outstanding issues: Why is the Province of Saskatchewan alone in its aggressive approach to fighting MS, and why is the federal government a mere passive observer in this process?
This medical procedure needs no longer to be termed "controversial," although the treatment in these clinical trials is relatively new. It is called liberation therapy, which is in fact a venous angioplasty procedure. There is increasing worldwide interest in the treatment provided in these trials, and while this treatment is occasionally unsuccessful, there is dramatic and growing evidence worldwide of medical benefits to sufferers of MS.
Specialists at the Albany medical facility where Saskatchewan MS patients are participating in their clinical trials have already confirmed more than a 25 per cent increase in quality-of-life scores. As our colleague Senator Cordy related to this chamber on June 5, 2012, the suicide rate for MS patients is a staggering seven times higher than the national average. This is a shocking statistic and indicative of the hopelessness many MS sufferers feel about finding relief from their symptoms.
To date, this procedure is being undertaken in 60 countries, and 30,000 procedures have been performed worldwide. There are now over 200 people with MS who have had the CCSVI procedure in Australia, and there are many more treated every day in the United States, Poland, Bulgaria, Kuwait, Serbia, Germany, Italy, Scotland, Mexico, Egypt and India. Thousands of people have been treated worldwide. Kuwait, Serbia and Italy have government-funded programs in place to provide for all their citizens with MS.
Honourable senators, today we have no national strategy and no proper follow-up health care for a patient following CCSVI treatment. There have been issues with having the proper follow-up care and there have been reported incidents of doctors reluctant or refusing to provide follow-up care for patients who have sought the liberation treatment abroad, of doctors fearing that they may lose their licence for doing so and of doctors fearing that they may not be able to bill for providing follow-up care.
Canadians with CCSVI should have access to our medical system. One of the five principles of the Canada Health Act is accessibility.
Honourable senators, I will conclude with comments we have received from patients who themselves were not allowed to appear before our committee. One patient wrote:
We as MS/CCSVI patients have not only been orphaned in our entire Canadian medical system but we have been treated like second-class citizens which in my opinion is unethical and immoral.
Another patient said:
I am being buried alive. Don't forget me. I'm still in here, trapped in a body that can't move, that can't talk. But I think and feel like you do, and I hurt. I hurt physically and mentally.
Finally I want to repeat for honourable senators the words in the obituary notice of Roxane Garland from Saskatchewan:
Rocky would want people to keep on trying to get CCSVI treatment available in Canada and more importantly, the follow-up care that she so desperately needed but could not attain.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Would the honourable senator accept a question?
Senator Merchant: Yes.
Senator Cordy: That was an exceptional speech. I thank the honourable senator very much for the care she has shown to all of the 75,000 Canadians who have MS. Their families certainly appreciate what she has done today to educate people about MS.
I want to congratulate the Province of Saskatchewan. They have moved on their own, without any support from the federal government, for clinical trials in Albany, New York. As Senator Merchant said, there has been a lack of action on the part of the Conservative government in the whole file of multiple sclerosis.
Conservative senators voted unanimously in a standing vote against a motion I moved that MS patients be allowed to appear before the Social Affairs Committee. That was unfortunate, because their voices were not heard, although they did send written submissions, from which the honourable senator quoted.
Even though the federal Conservatives would not allow patients to appear before the committee, did the honourable senator say that Premier Wall and his health minister met with MS patients from Saskatchewan and talked to them about their concerns with MS, whether they were receiving follow-up care and their overall concerns with the way they were being treated with MS?
Senator Merchant: I thank the senator for the question.
Michelle Walsh, the woman from Beechy whom I spoke of who has had MS since she was 18, has had three treatments out of the country. The first one was in Bulgaria. She reported to me that because of the language barrier she found that a little bit difficult. However, she said that as soon as the procedure was over and for about four months following it she noticed a huge difference, including improved sight.
She said the very first treatment was not very aggressive, as they were reluctant to have an aggressive treatment because they knew nothing about it. However, the next two times she went to the United States. After each treatment she found that the length of time she was feeling better was longer.
She is an advocate for MS patients. She is the person who went to see the premier of Saskatchewan. She sat down with him. Along with that, 15 other people were called in by the premier and by the then health minister. They met and they spoke about their experiences and about the positive differences they had noticed. She told me that patients have started to go to New York. They send two at a time. They expect this to be finished by next spring. I am not exactly sure about the actual time.
She continues to communicate with the Government of Saskatchewan. They keep them informed of what is going on.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to advise the honourable senator that her time for speaking has expired.
Is more time granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Merchant: The Government of Saskatchewan has been exemplary in their approach to the treatment of the patients themselves.
Senator Cordy: Does the honourable senator think it would have been helpful for MS patients to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, although they were not allowed to because Conservative senators voted against that? Second, does she think it would be helpful if the federal Minister of Health were to sit down and meet with MS patients to discuss their concerns?
Senator Merchant: My opinion is not an expert one, but honourable senators may recall in our committee that we asked the witnesses, the doctors who appeared before us, whether they felt that we ought to hear from people who had received the treatment. I believe every single one of them said that it would be very helpful and appropriate for us to see the witnesses and not just to hear from them through letters. I believe one of them said there is nothing like looking someone right in the eye and hearing their report.
The letters they write us are very moving, but it is not the same as having the people there. I think that we, out of respect for every Canadian, owe it to people, because we have done this before with committees. We have always allowed individuals to appear before us. This time we were barred from hearing anyone who had been involved in this treatment.
We had people appear before us on the study on poverty and the issue of mental illness. There was a different procedure followed here. I think that the Minister of Health should hear from these people. I hope she will meet with them and hear about their experiences.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Will the honourable senator accept a question? Both Senator Merchant and Senator Cordy are members of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology and have the experience of this study. For those of us who have not been part of that study, can she explain to us what difference it would have made to the bill the committee was studying to have heard from people suffering from this terrible illness?
Senator Merchant: There are several people on the committee. Certainly, I believe that we ought to have allowed people who have had this treatment come and appear before us. Why would we treat these individuals afflicted with MS any differently from the way we treated people in our previous studies?
I think it would have made a great difference, because we would have seen them, been able to interact with them and seen how they are. I think it would have made a great difference.
Senator Jaffer: In the Legal Committee when we were studying an extensive bill, Bill C-10, we had many victims speak to us. When we heard from them, it made a big difference for us in understanding the challenges the victims faced. I wonder if that was the same kind of testimony the honourable senator was looking for.
Senator Merchant: I think it was, of course. Also, those people who are facing great challenges were prepared to travel to Ottawa. I do not think that would have been simple for them. It is not like one of us getting on a plane and coming here. However, they were anxious. They wanted to come and speak to us. They appealed to us repeatedly. Unfortunately, certain people on the committee decided not to hear from them. The majority ruled.
(On motion of Senator Harb, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer, pursuant to notice of December 5, 2012, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights have the power to sit on Monday, December 10, 2012 at 4 p.m., even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that Rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Terry M. Mercer rose pursuant to notice of October 17, 2012:
That he will call the attention of the Senate to the current state of the food safety system in Canada, the faith Canadians have in that system, and the negative impact of changes made by the federal government on that system.
He said: Honourable senators, I do want to speak at some length on this inquiry but I do not have my notes together, so I would like to reset the clock, if I could.
(On motion of Senator Mercer, debate adjourned.)
Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(g), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Monday, December 10, 2012, at 6 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Monday, December 10, 2012, at 6 p.m.)