- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- National Health and Fitness Day Bill
- Human Rights
- The Honourable Charlie Watt and The Honourable Anne C. Cools
- Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker pro tempore in the chair.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Colleagues, a month ago I rose in this place to speak to the decision announced earlier that day by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau that henceforth each of the 32 Liberal Senators would be independent of the elected Liberal caucus. I said at the time that it was an historic day for the Senate, and that while we did not know of the decision in advance, my colleagues and I were excited and invigorated by its possibilities.
We recognized that it gave us an opportunity to try to do politics differently — to use our new-found independence to try, insofar as it is within our power as a minority in the Senate, to make Parliament or at least the Senate work better for Canadians. To make it respond to the needs of Canadians, rather than the needs of political parties and their leaders.
This morning, our caucus announced five initiatives: First, beginning March 26, we will open the doors to our Wednesday caucus meetings. The plan is to hold an open caucus on a periodic basis. These meetings will be open to the press and to the public at large. We will invite experts and public leaders to contribute their thoughts and ideas. And we will invite parliamentarians from all parties to participate in a constructive and non-partisan way. I hope that many senators opposite will join us in these open caucuses.
Senator Tkachuk: I can barely wait.
Senator Cowan: Each open caucus will focus on an issue of importance to Canadians that is not getting sufficient attention in Parliament or on which certain voices are not being heard. They will provide an opportunity to hear from Canadians on emerging issues — to allow an open discussion to inform and frame subsequent debate and action by Parliament. Our first open caucus forum on March 26 will focus on missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
Second, we are inviting Canadians to submit questions on our Senate Liberal Caucus website, www.liberalsenateforum.ca, that they want to ask the government. We will then ask those questions, in the name of the Canadians who submitted them, in Question Period here. This will open up the Senate to our constituents from the regions we represent and will give Canadians a direct voice to ask the questions they want answered.
Third, we have confirmed our commitment to proactive disclosure. We have been disclosing expenses on the Liberal Party website, and those are available on that site. Looking to the future, now that this avenue will no longer be available to us, we have been working with Senate administration and with the government leadership opposite to establish an alternate system. I know that this is a goal shared by all senators on all sides of this chamber. It is our hope that indeed we can work out a solution that allows for disclosure by all senators. In the meantime, we will post our expenses on a quarterly basis on our caucus website, Liberal Senate Forum.
Fourth, we have announced that all votes on our side will be free votes. There will be no more whipped votes. The Liberal whip will focus on ensuring that Senate committees have their full complement of members from the Senate Liberal Caucus and on coordinating attendance by members of our caucus in the chamber and in committee.
Fifth, we intend to launch a national conversation on equalization and fiscal federalism. This builds on the Senate's core role of representing the regions, and its proven strength in taking on complex and controversial issues of public policy. I will move a motion on this shortly and look forward to saying more and listening to you and to Canadians in the days and weeks to come.
Colleagues, we are in uncharted waters. The Senate, of course, was intended to be an independent check on the government and the other place, but since its establishment at Confederation, we have paralleled the other place in the role of political parties. We are trying with these initiatives to use our new independence in ways that will enhance accountability and transparency, allow us to better represent our regions and give a stronger voice to minorities, including especially Canada's Aboriginal peoples, whose voices otherwise are not always heard.
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, from August 8 to 24, the 2014 World Acadian Congress will be held in our region under the banner "Acadie of the World: A new Acadie."
The three host regions of the 5th World Acadian Congress — northwestern New Brunswick, northern Aroostook County, Maine, in the U.S., and the regional county municipality of Témiscouata, in Quebec — will be welcoming many visitors and Acadians from the diaspora.
The 2014 World Acadian Congress will be held in our region this August. I would like to extend a special invitation to our colleagues from both chambers. With the theme Acadie of the World: A new Acadie, the CMA 2014 bases its programming on an Acadia that is inclusive, international and in touch with the new media.
Honourable senators, this international gathering in our Acadia of the lands and forests gives us an opportunity to celebrate our Acadian identity, bring our families together and make new friends. The program for this 5th world congress will have a strong community focus.
More than 120 family reunions, 200 community activities and 50 heritage and outdoor projects will take place in the host regions. Honourable senators, I would like to thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his ministers for their generous contribution of $4 million from the Canadian government to make this extensive programming possible across our region.
People in our region will be delighted to welcome our brothers, sisters and friends who have put down roots in other parts of the country. In particular, I would like to highlight the return of our great singer, Roch Voisine, a native of the little town of Saint- Basile. Our singer has signed on as the ambassador for our 5th world congress.
On Acadian National Day, August 15, 2014, another great artist who is a member of the Acadian diaspora, Zachary Richard, will host a major multi-media event showcasing the Acadia of America, in St. David, Maine. Honourable senators, what a wonderful way to experience the richness of Acadian culture across North America.
The "New Beginning Ceremonies" will take place on August 24 in Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac. At sunset, a show called "Nouveau Départ" will celebrate the Acadia of Quebec. This will be a celebration of our rich heritage and the amazing energy of a new generation of artists who are bringing Acadian and Quebec culture to life.
Honourable senators, you will feel right at home with us in Acadia. In closing, I must mention the leadership of Léopold Charest in organizing the 5th World Acadian Congress. Hats off to you and your huge team.
Friends, make yourselves at home with us in Acadia!
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, I rise today to congratulate Olympians Heather Moyse and Kaillie Humphries on their gold-medal win at Sochi. Moyse and Humphries' come- from-behind, back-to-back gold-medal win in the two-women's bobsleigh was absolutely amazing to watch.
Anyone who has followed these two remarkable women since their unexpected gold-medal victory at the Vancouver Olympics knows how inspiring their work ethic and positive attitude is for fellow athletes. Moyse, who had hip surgery just a few years ago, has proven that hard work and determination can go a long way.
To top off a gold medal, they were chosen as the nation's symbol to carry our flag. When announcing the flag-bearers, the Canadian Olympic Committee Chef de Mission, Steve Podborski, said Moyse and Humphries have the values that the Canadian Olympic Team set for the Sochi Games: stoked, proud, inspired, fierce and unstoppable.
Congratulations once again to Heather Moyse, Kaillie Humphries and the team: P.E.I. and Canada's two-time gold- medal Olympians and flag-bearers. Heather returned to the Island this morning to a lively welcome at the Charlottetown Airport. A welcome-home celebration is planned for Friday evening in Summerside. It will be a great celebration.
Well done, girls, and thank you.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I rise on a budgetary matter of great concern: A little-noticed budget line item authorizing the use of hundreds of millions of dollars of state funds for the propagation of terrorism across the globe. For 30 years, the sponsoring of terrorism has been a line item in the budget of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The budget line has enabled Iran's terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, to play a role in the slaughter of 120,000 Syrian civilians, brutalize the Lebanese people and compromise Lebanese sovereignty. This line has enabled Hezbollah to execute terrorist attacks across the globe, including the bombing of the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community centre in Argentina, the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and more recently the bombing of a tourist bus in Bulgaria.
This budget line has enabled Hezbollah to establish terrorist networks throughout Latin America and Africa, to place sleeper cells in 20 European countries and to send high-level operatives to Canada to procure equipment, raise funds and scout for targets.
It is this commitment to global terrorism that underlines Iran's continuing support of al Qaeda, which led an American court to find Iran liable for playing a role in the events of September 11, 2001. There is also evidence that Iran funded, armed and supported Taliban terrorists during the Afghanistan conflict, which cost the lives and limbs of so many Canadian soldiers.
Iran, whose human rights record is also abysmal, has embraced tolerance in one respect and that is in the diversity of the terrorist organizations it supports of differing religious and political ideologies. For over two decades, Iran has hosted an annual gathering of terrorist organizations each February, known as the Ten Days of Dawn. The event attracts terrorist groups from more than 70 countries.
For the government of Iran, terrorism is not merely a tactic; it is a religious and ideological ethic grounded in Iran's revolutionary ideology and constitution. It is this, along with their track record, that ultimately caused Canada to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Qods Force as a terrorist entity and to designate Iran as a state sponsor of terror under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.
Given Iran's overriding commitment to its terrorist ethic and the current unraveling of the international sanctions regime, it is not hard to imagine that the billions of dollars now pouring into Iran will be used to export terrorism — nuclear deal or no nuclear deal.
Perhaps, honourable colleagues, it is time for Canada to consider banning not just Qods but Iran's terror masters, the IRGC, in its entirety and to explore further sanctions against Iran for its dubious distinction as the world's preeminent sponsor of state terrorism, an accolade it has earned many times over.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, the most recent statistics about the burden of preventable injuries are shocking.
Every year, injuries cause 3 million visits to the emergency room and about 200,000 hospital stays. More than 13,000 deaths can be attributed to injury and about 60,000 disabilities. All in all, preventable injuries cost nearly $20 billion a year across the country.
My home province's most recent data is nearly a decade old, but even in our small province, unintentional injuries take a toll. That year, there were nearly 21,000 injuries, which cost $42 million in direct health care costs alone. Taken together, direct and indirect costs total $74 million. There's no doubt we need a way to help prevent some of these injuries.
When the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology did its review of the 2004 health accord, we heard witnesses say this country needs a pan- Canadian injury prevention strategy. Five years ago, it appeared the government agreed. In 2008, this government formed an injury prevention task force in order to come up with ways that governments — federal, provincial and territorial — could collaborate on reducing injuries.
They put together a report called Injury Prevention in Canada: An Action Plan (2011-2020). It was filled with recommendations and contained three priority areas: seniors and falls, sports and recreation injuries, and improved surveillance. But instead of a strategy, the task force was disbanded and the report was completely shelved. The work of these experts in injury prevention was, in the end, disregarded.
This is not the first time the government has brought together experts to come up with policy and then ignored the results. I have spoken in this place about the Sodium Working Group that spent three years working on a sodium reduction strategy. They were uniquely qualified to carry out their work. But, again, the government did not let them finish what they started.
Honourable senators, there's a clear need for a national approach to injury prevention and a national strategy for sodium reduction in this country. I urge the federal government to play its part in achieving them.
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Honourable senators, I rise today as a proud Canadian to congratulate our athletes for their brilliant performances at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Our men and women rose to the challenge, and our country ended with the third most gold medals. I want to thank all our athletes who competed, as well as their support staff and coaches, for this achievement.
However, I want to focus on another dimension of the Olympic Games where Canada clearly came out on top.
Honourable senators, the International Olympic Committee states the fundamental principles of Olympism as follows:
The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
There were two occasions when Canadians acted accordingly.
Honourable senators, during the men's cross-country skiing sprint finals Anton Gafarov of Russia fell and badly damaged his ski halfway through the race. He got up. He tried to continue, but fell again. This time his ski was broken in half and he could not finish. Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth ran onto the track with a new ski. He put the ski on the Russian's foot and the Russian could cross the finish line with pride to a standing ovation, albeit, far behind his opponents. That is true sportsmanship, colleagues, our first gold in Olympism.
Honourable senators, our second gold in Olympism was won by Calgary's Gilmore Junio. I must add that he is of Filipino descent and he dedicated his performance to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. The expectations were therefore very high. Twenty-three- year-old Gilmore qualified for the 1,000-metre speed skating race. His teammate Denny Morrison did not. However, when Gilmore was asked to give up his place to Denny, he did just that and Denny Morrison won the silver medal. This is self-sacrifice in the interest of one's country.
Honourable senators, Canada may be third in gold medals, but we won the most gold in Olympism. I want to thank Mr. Wadsworth and Mr. Junio for showing the world the true spirit of sportsmanship and true teamwork.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise today to condemn the decision of President Yoweri Museveni to approve the anti-homosexual act of Uganda. Yesterday, Uganda's newspaper published the names of Uganda's "top 200 homosexuals." Not only will Ugandan citizens be subject to life imprisonment because of their sexual orientation, the publishing of names constitutes a very real threat of violence or worse against these people. The same travesty has taken place in Nigeria, where the arrest of homosexuals has already begun.
I want to applaud Minister Baird for condemning this action on behalf of all Canadians in the strongest possible terms and making it clear that Canada will not tolerate human rights abuses in any form.
Uganda is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and was present last March when, on Commonwealth Day, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II signed the new Charter of the Commonwealth. The imposition of this new law flies in the face of everything for which the Commonwealth and that charter stands. There were 103 recommendations made by the Eminent Persons Group in support of that charter. One of the key recommendations was the creation of a commissioner for human rights, someone who could monitor, troubleshoot and assist Commonwealth members when these sorts of issues emerge.
This recommendation was rejected on the basis that it might somehow duplicate the efforts made by the Commonwealth Secretary-General. While I don't presume to know what efforts were made by the SG in advance of Uganda's decision, yesterday's statement by the secretariat was meek and gutless in its condemnation of this vile and Draconian law.
Being a developing, sovereign country in Africa is not a licence to oppress and kill homosexuals. It is now up to the international community of civilized and thoughtful nations to make their views known and to put pressure on Uganda to repeal this hateful legislation and recognize that compassionate and enlightened governments do not segregate segments of their own citizens and mark them for persecution, violence or imprisonment.
I urge the Commonwealth Secretary-General and the current members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to inform President Museveni that Uganda and Nigeria will be at the top of the next CMAG meeting and will suffer the consequences of their actions.
I urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada, upon safe return from the Ukraine, to call in the new High Commissioner for Uganda and instruct him as to what our values are in this country and why his country's practices are reprehensible and will not contribute to constructive relationships between our two countries.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence, I will move:
That a Special Committee on Equalization and Fiscal Federalism be appointed to consider whether the current formulae for equalization and other related federal transfers affect the ability of Canadians living in all regions of the country to access a basic standard of public services without facing significantly different levels of taxation.
That the committee be composed of nine members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection and that four members constitute a quorum;
That, the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records; to examine witnesses; and to publish such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;
That, notwithstanding rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the committee have power to sit from Monday to Friday, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week; and
That the committee be empowered to report from time to time and to submit its final report no later than March 31, 2015.
Hon. Bob Runciman: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(a), I move:
That, for the purposes of its consideration of Bill C-14, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act (mental disorder), the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be authorized to meet until 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 27, 2014, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that the application of rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 5-6(2), I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the well- documented connection between health and poverty, and to the pressing need to alleviate the burden poverty places on our healthcare system and on millions of Canadians.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Twenty-two mayors from across the country are in Ottawa as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meets to discuss issues facing Canada's biggest cities. Among them is none other than Canada's gift to late night television, Rob Ford.
The mayor of Canada's largest city is always vocal with his opinions, and he is now weighing in on Canada Post's decision to cut door-to-door mail delivery services. He says this: "I really believe we've got to keep the door-to-door mail." He was quoted by Canadian Press and he added that the service is something "he will fight for" and that he will talk to the federal government about preserving it.
Mayor Ford even proposed that changes — and this makes sense — be grandfathered or grandmothered, suggesting that existing delivery routes be maintained while new developments receive community mailboxes.
Mr. Leader, isn't that reasonable?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Senator Munson, as I recall, you asked me a similar question just before Christmas, on the very day I received your electronic Christmas card, which clearly proved that the postal service management model that works is that of the digital age, and that the current model is increasingly out of touch with reality.
As you know, in this day and age, Canadians like yourself are choosing to communicate by means other than the mail. Because of plummeting demand, postal traffic has decreased by nearly 25 per cent since 2008 and continues to drop. In 2006, Canada Post delivered one billion letters more than in 2012. These are rather astounding figures that show the dramatic drop in the use of postal services.
Since 1981, Canada Post's mandate has required it to be financially self-sufficient. We are very concerned about the fact that the corporation has posted considerable losses. As an independent corporation, Canada Post is responsible for its own activities, including operational and financial decisions.
Senator Munson: Mr. Leader, I'm a new-age kind of guy. There are others who would have difficulty doing what you have proposed in terms of emailing Christmas cards, and so on. I'm hoping that before you and I both leave here some day you'll actually answer the question directly.
I'm asking you a question on behalf of Mayor Ford. Perhaps you can answer him. You don't have to answer me, but answer Mayor Ford, who was here in Ottawa wanting to have his postal service maintained, and said he would like to see it grandfathered in.
You were a mayor just like Mr. Ford — I think it was of Saint- Eustache — and a politician. You were close to the people and their needs, just like Mayor Ford is, and you are a Conservative just like Mayor Ford. Mayor Ford claims to be a man of the people, their mayor, and he is a Conservative. Could you answer the question directly? I'm curious about this: Why do you disagree on this important issue? How can you say no to a fellow Conservative?
Senator Carignan: Senator Munson, I do not personally know Mayor Ford — I do know many other mayors and I was a mayor, but I do not know about that. I was the mayor of Saint-Eustache and, oddly enough, when I was elected mayor, I lived on a street where there were community mail boxes, which I greatly appreciated. One year later, I moved a few streets away and discovered that I had door-to-door mail delivery.
I can tell you that I found it rather strange that in the same city, one area received home delivery, while another area just a few streets over received their mail in community mailboxes.
That said, despite the change or the means used to deliver the mail, I did not feel better served because I had home delivery. In any case, as I explained, that is my personal experience, but these days, many Canadians are choosing modern digital methods of communication. I am pleased to hear a Liberal senator say he is a new-age king of guy, but the fact remains that you are not the only one, and many of us are using email services, which has an operational impact on Canada Post, an arm's length corporation that is responsible for its own activities and operational and financial decisions. This was a Canada Post decision. Over the next few months, it will begin unveiling its plan to implement community mailboxes.
Two cities in my Senate division will be among the first to receive community mailboxes and where the changes will take place.
This was an independent decision by Canada Post.
Senator Munson: Thank you for your response, but the other part of this issue, Your Honour and Mr. Leader, is that there are those who will not be able to, or can't, adapt to the new digital age. In fact, there are still people who are writing cursive these days, who send mail. In the United States of America, if you were to take away the mail delivery, I think there would be a revolution.
Closer to home, my particular area here in the suburb of Kanata will be among the first communities to be a test case. You can say it's arm's-length, but it's the government's sense of direction. The community will lose door-to-door mail delivery. This fall 7,600 homes and 300 businesses in the Ottawa suburb will become the first in the city to be affected by the cuts.
Seniors are, of course, among those who will be hardest hit by the changes. Ken Miller is the owner of the Golden Age Concierge, a local business that provides delivery services for seniors. He told the Ottawa Citizen that his clientele is growing, as they will soon be inconvenienced by the cuts. Mr. Miller added that he knows of a number of seniors who are concerned about the new community mailbox and where it will be located.
Mr. Leader, Canadians with limited mobility, especially seniors and those with a physical disability, must have access to their mail. What is your government going to do? You say arm's- length, but you can talk to these folks. A little common sense wouldn't hurt. What is your government going to do to ensure that these services will be maintained, as Mayor Ford said, grandfathered into the region they're in? I think we need a full answer to that question.
Senator Carignan: Senator Munson, as I said, I already answered your question in mid-December. I would remind you of the following figures: at present, only a third of Canadians receive their mail at home; two-thirds already use community mailboxes.
Your question needs to take into account the fact that two- thirds of Canadians already receive their mail in community mailboxes, and this includes people with reduced mobility, seniors and businesses. There is no discrimination and there will be no greater impact on any one party. I repeat, two-thirds of Canadians already receive their mail in community mailboxes.
As I explained, Canada Post is an independent corporation and this is a business decision that only it can make. Canada Post has to implement the new approach over the next few years and come up with its own plan to rollout the community mailboxes.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Does it never occur to the government or to Canada Post that one reason for the decline in the volume of letters may be the decline in the service offered, not to mention the ever-increasing price?
I cite you the case of one elderly woman I know, who in her mid-80s found herself served by a community mailbox that was more than a kilometre from her house. Her eyesight was failing. She was no longer allowed to drive. She had to walk to the community mailbox. In order to reach it, she had to cross a street — a country road, without even a crosswalk, let alone lights — which was just on the other side of a blind curve. She was terrified. Basically, she, who had been a great letter-writer all her life, stopped writing letters. And in the nature of things, she stopped getting many letters.
Why would this not be the outcome as we increase the number of community mailboxes?
Senator Carignan: As I explained, Canada Post operates at arm's-length from the government. It is an independent corporation and makes its own decisions about its activities. It must make the necessary operational decisions, including those regarding community mailboxes and their accessibility for Canadians.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: May I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate?
I live in a community south of Ottawa called Manotick. It's a growing community with large senior residences, and many seniors' homes are being built there. I've lived there since 1974. I'm a senior citizen. I have never gotten my mail with door-to- door delivery. I get it at the local post office. There are also community mailboxes. All of the new developments have community mailboxes, and the community keeps growing.
I would like the assurance of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, when he talks to his friends in the government, to make sure that Manotick continues to get the great service it gets from the post office, from the post office at the local drugstore and from the community mailboxes.
Senator Carignan: Canada Post operates at arm's length from the government, but thank you for pointing this out. As I was saying, two-thirds of Canadians already receive their mail in community mailboxes.
This makes me think of my in-laws, who were over 75 years old and who unfortunately passed away in recent years. They had a community mailbox. Meanwhile, I train and try to do five- kilometre runs as often as possible and I am getting my mail delivered to my door. The logic of this can sometimes be rather surprising.
Canada Post is making business decisions based on the operational context, new technologies and Canadians' changing habits. Canada Post must ensure that it performs its duties responsibly, taking into account its activities and its financial obligations to Canadians.
Hon. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Yet again, another woman has gone missing in Halifax. New research on an online public database shows that the number of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada is much higher than previously believed.
Maryanne Pearce, a federal civil servant in Ottawa, filed a PhD research thesis called An Awkward Silence: Missing and Murdered Vulnerable Women and the Canadian Justice System. The database contains details of 3,329 women, including 824 who are Aboriginal. The increase in the numbers of Aboriginal women is very distressing, Mr. Speaker. It is clear that it is time to act on this issue. These women and their families deserve better from this government.
In echoing the sentiments of many of my colleagues and numerous organizations, I ask you, what will it take for the government to establish a national inquiry into missing and murdered women in Canada?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): I would like to thank the senator for her question.
As you know, our government is continuing to take meaningful action when it comes to the tragic issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
For example, as part of the 2014 action plan, we proposed $25 million over five years to continue efforts to reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls. We also plan to invest more than $8 million over five years to create a DNA-based missing persons index.
We have passed more than 30 measures pertaining to justice and public safety, including stiffer sentences for murder, sexual assault and kidnapping. We also passed legislation ending house arrest for serious crimes such as sexual assault and kidnapping. In addition, we created a national website for missing persons, developed community safety plans in partnership with Aboriginal communities and supported the development of public awareness materials. This is a deplorable situation and our government, contrary to what you have said, is taking action and will continue to take action for Aboriginal women and for all Canadians.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: As far as I know, some of this funding was cut and put into a database for the RCMP. As most of us know, the RCMP has known beforehand of some of the issues, including the murders of these women.
Senator Carignan: As I said, the goal is to create a DNA-based missing persons index. We are hoping to allocate more than $8 million to creating this missing persons database, which, as far as I know, does not yet exist in this form. It will help move this issue forward.
I hope that you will be on our side, given your new policy on free voting, and vote in favour of the next budget, since this measure addresses your concerns.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Senator Carignan, this newest situation is really tragic. This is probably the first time that it has received attention across Canada in the national news. It was carried on CBC, CTV and in our national papers. I have to say, it just really struck me, how many times does this have to happen? If it has reached the national news, then why hasn't the government come forth and said, "We support a national inquiry"? How many times does this have to hit the national news?
You listen when other women have gone missing, or other children, or when children have been bullied, yet when Aboriginal women disappear or are murdered, nothing concrete happens. No one stands up in the government, takes a position and says, "This has to stop." Who will do that on your side?
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Carignan: We have passed 30 measures pertaining to justice and public safety. I believe you voted against most of them. We have taken action by creating a national website for missing persons, for example. We developed community safety plans in partnership with Aboriginal communities. In addition, we supported the development of public awareness materials.
We will continue to work with the special committee of the House of Commons, which has resumed its study of this very important issue.
I think that your accusations that the government is not doing anything are unfounded and partisan.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Leader, I come from British Columbia. In British Columbia, we had an inquiry on missing women. What the inquiry did was raise the issue among the population of what a terrible situation it was for Aboriginal people.
Second, the British Columbian government put in measures to help Aboriginal women. It would be amazing if the federal government showed the same leadership, because these are our women.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Carignan: Senator, you mentioned measures that the province has taken on this important issue. I answered both of the senators' questions about the measures we have taken and will continue to take to reduce and try to prevent these disappearances and tragedies as much as possible. We hope that, as we apply these measures with the other communities, Aboriginal communities and the provinces, we will be able to reduce the occurrence of these terrible tragedies and hopefully put an end to them altogether.
Senator Jaffer: I appreciate your position and I also know that you are keenly aware of this situation. However, my question is how and when will Aboriginal women stop disappearing?
When will the disappearing of Aboriginal women stop?
If it was any other group of women in this country, if it was visible minorities, women of colour, there would be a great issue. These are our women. When will we stand up and say this is not acceptable?
Senator Carignan: Senator, I must disagree with you. All Canadians are equal and are treated as such by the government. As I was explaining, our government has taken concrete measures and there were announcements made in Economic Action Plan 2014.
I want to reiterate that we have proposed $25 million over five years to pursue our efforts to reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls; and $8 million over five years to create a DNA- based missing persons index. We are also taking preventive action, including creating a national website for missing persons, developing community safety plans with Aboriginal communities and promoting public awareness by distributing handouts.
We hope that these concrete measures carried out jointly with Aboriginal communities, some of them in addition to other provincial policies and measures—you mentioned several examples—will help us prevent these tragedies in the very short term.
Hon. Jane Cordy: As Senator Dyck said earlier, I'm very pleased that the case of Loretta Saunders is in the national newspapers and that it's on national television. Hopefully, all of this publicity will result in a good outcome and that we will find Loretta Saunders. But this is just one of thousands of cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
About a year ago, I had the privilege — and it was a privilege — of meeting with Shannon Buck at Thunderbird House in Winnipeg. Her daughter was one of the missing Aboriginal women.
You said that each Canadian citizen is equal, but it seems that some are more equal than others. It also seems that the Aboriginal women are less equal than other Canadian citizens, because, as Senator Jaffer said, if it was any other group, there would have been an investigation a long time ago.
Why is this great concern of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women not being taken seriously by this government, and why is it being put at the bottom of the government's list of priorities?
Senator Carignan: Senator, I think you should focus on the government's concrete measures. I think it's sad that you're diminishing the impact of these measures. These are important elements.
When I was a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, I remember that the creation of a DNA data bank for missing persons came up in our discussion of Aboriginal women. That concern was raised here in a Senate committee, and the government followed up on it, as announced in Economic Action Plan 2014.
I think that you should focus more on those measures, support those measures with us, and, if possible, support Economic Action Plan 2014, especially in light of these important issues.
Senator Cordy: You will certainly have my support if you bring forward an inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women. I'm not diminishing what has been done. The issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada is a tragedy. All this community is asking for is that the government brings forward an inquiry to look into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
Will you commit that your government will bring forward an inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women? That's all they want.
Senator Mercer: Yes or no?
Senator Carignan: Senator, as you know, whenever a person is murdered or missing, the appropriate authorities investigate. On this file as a whole, the important thing is to implement concrete measures and take concrete action to prevent this kind of situation. That is what the government is doing: taking concrete action.
Senator Dyck: I agree with you, Senator Carignan, that all citizens should be equal and all women should be equal. It's a goal that we all strive for. However, the reality is that Aboriginal women are five times more likely to have been kidnapped, disappeared or murdered. They're at much greater risk of being kidnapped or murdered. Therefore, they are not equal.
We also know that within our laws, Aboriginal women were not equal. We had Bill C-31, wherein our colleague Sandra Lovelace Nicholas was a champion in getting Aboriginal women greater rights. They're still not as equal as they should be.
Therefore, in any plans that the government has, they should take that inequality into account and any programs should be directed specifically towards the Aboriginal women because of that greater risk. The question is: Why hasn't the government done that?
You've put the Aboriginal women in with all the other women, but you have not directed a specific program. Why not?
Senator Carignan: I am sorry, Senator, but when I talked about meaningful action and the fact that Economic Action Plan 2014 includes $25 million over five years to pursue our efforts to reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls, I see that as specific, targeted action. When I talked about developing community safety plans in partnership with Aboriginal communities, I see that as specific, targeted action that will help Aboriginal women and girls.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I wish to draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the Governor General's gallery of many representatives of the family of the Honourable Senator Jaffer.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Raine, seconded by the Honourable Senator Gerstein, for the second reading of Bill S-211, An Act to establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, I am very pleased to speak today in support of Bill S-211, an Act to establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians, which was introduced in the Senate by Senator Raine.
Establishing a national health and fitness day is an important step in getting all Canadians to recognize the many benefits of being in shape. Many people in our country can be more active, and I believe we need to place greater importance on the benefits of physical activity.
Fitness has always been and continues to be a part of my life, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel across the world because of it.
In 1989, I participated in a program called Fit-Trek, an initiative of the ministers responsible for fitness in the former Soviet Union and Canada at the Calgary Olympics to encourage more citizens in each country to experience the fun of fitness in our winter countries. This program was the first version of the ParticipACTION program. Fit-Trek was an information exchange to promote physical fitness in Canada and the former Soviet Union. Ten cities, five in the Soviet Union and five in Canada, were paired to participate in the challenge. In a friendly competition, participating cities scored one kilometre for every 20 minutes of physical activity by a resident. Theoretically, the goal was to be the first to walk to the moon and back.
I represented Ottawa, which was paired with Naberezhnye Chelny in Russia, and I travelled to Naberezhnye Chelny in January of 1989. What I discovered on this visit to Naberezhnye Chelny was a national positive attitude to all forms of physical activity, a culture of physical fitness. Not being physically fit was simply not an option or acceptable.
I witnessed young children participating in various forms of fitness each morning. Children as young as four years old were spending their early mornings before school participating in gymnastics, swimming and other forms of fitness under the watchful eye of master coaches. This was not something we saw at home. Each student was evaluated on body type, natural ability and coordination to establish in what sport they would excel. The same training was present in cultural disciplines as well.
I found a few news articles from this time, and my sentiments were echoed in them. Those involved in Fit-Trek found that Canada was better at promoting leisure fitness and winter festivals that combined culture and outdoor activity, whereas the Soviet Union was better than Canada at encouraging physical activity programs at school, at home and at work.
As well, the article pointed out that American students who were given the same fitness test as Soviet youths found it too difficult. North America's fitness levels were certainly not comparable to the levels in the former Soviet Union.
Today, 25 years later, unfortunately, our physical fitness levels in Canada are continuing to decrease, especially when it comes to children and young adults. The new term for this out-of-doors- deprived condition is "nature deficit disorder."
Children can form good habits at a very early age. Obesity levels, evident in young children, are precursors of obesity levels in young adults.
According to Statistics Canada, growing evidence indicates that the health of Canadian children has deteriorated in the past few decades. Childhood obesity has risen sharply. A quarter of children and youth are now overweight or obese, and physical fitness has declined.
Disappointingly, the results of the 2012-13 School Health Action Planning and Evaluation System, SHAPES, for the province of Prince Edward Island, shows no improvement in the physical activity levels among students since the last survey in 2010.
We need to find a way to get kids off the couch, off their phones and outside being active.
Additionally, physical education programs have undergone many cuts, resulting in less class time devoted to physical education, and too often gym classes are conducted by teachers who do not have proper physical education teacher training.
Yes, sports such as skating, skiing and swimming, which are traditionally taught to young children, are not for everyone, but there are a multitude of other forms of physical activity, such as yoga, cycling, hot yoga, running, dance, Zumba and martial arts, that can be taught. If we make physical activity a part of our lives when we are young, with the discipline learned, we have a better chance of continuing the benefits of being fit throughout our lives.
This being said, I don't believe it is ever too late to start being active. With the baby boomers about to tax many of our social programs, seniors would benefit greatly from physical activity. Being physically active will lessen the strain on our health care system, as physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, depression, stress and anxiety. Additionally, being physically active as you age will give you a greater sense of well-being, belonging, confidence, self-assurance and the capability of a greater degree of independence.
With everything in life, there may be barriers that impact the physical activity, such as accessibility, affordability and time. The good news is you can exercise anywhere, at any time. Opportunities abound. Many seniors choose to walk in malls and use community centres, which often are more affordable than traditional gymnasiums.
Make exercise a way of life, a daily necessity, a choice. Choose to be fit. Walk instead of drive. Take the stairs when possible. Watch your diet and schedule out-of-doors fun activities with families and friends. These should be our goals.
If this bill passes, I hope that municipalities across the country will take up the fitness challenge, encourage the building of walking trails, sports facilities, parks and playgrounds that promote fitness, introduce work schedules to allow and encourage employees to get on a fitness regime, and evaluate workplaces and schools to determine if anything can be done to raise the fitness levels of Canadians.
In the meantime, I challenge you to make physical activity a priority in your life. Statistics show that just 10 minutes of brisk walking a day will go a long way to a fitter future.
(On the motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Jaffer, seconded by the Honourable Senator Ringuette:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights be authorized to study international mechanisms toward improving cooperation in the settlement of cross-border family disputes, including Canada's actions to encourage universal adherence to and compliance with the Hague Abductions Convention, and to strengthen cooperation with non-Hague State Parties with the purpose of upholding children's best interests; and
That the committee submit its final report to the Senate no later than December 31, 2014.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Colleagues, I spoke with Senator Lang last night and he agreed that he would not stand in the way of my saying a few words now, with the understanding that the matter would remain adjourned in his name.
Yesterday, you may recall one of the more confused and confusing moments in Senate debates, and I wish to place firmly on the record that that was my fault. I started it because, as is my practice, when committees seek an order of reference for a study, I stood up and asked if the chair or the deputy chair would tell us more about the study in question. What's the work plan? Will this be a quick thing that they can report back in three weeks, or is it going to be a long study involving a great deal of travel?
I must say I have been very pleased to see how committee chairs and deputy chairs respond favourably to this. I think it is a great help for the Senate to know what we are being asked to vote on. That's what I was driving at with Senator Jaffer's motion for a study of cross-border family disputes — child kidnapping across borders and things like that — which I agree is a very important topic.
My mistake was that at the end of a long day I threw in a question: What kind of budget are you looking at?
Senator Jaffer gave us a work plan — meeting experts, going to The Hague, going to Geneva — and that sounded reasonable to me. I know from personal experience on that committee as on others that there are many things that you can only learn by going to the place where the decisions are made and where things happen.
I shouldn't have asked about the budget, because, as we all know, a committee cannot draft a budget until it has the order of reference from the Senate; therefore, it was unfair of me to put that question to her. I have told her that I apologize for that and I wanted to put it on the record.
As I said, it was the end of a long day and at the very least I misspoke myself. I explained that to Senator Lang and he looked at me, bright as a penny, and said, "I was just waking up." However, he was inspired to leap to his feet and ask about budgets and whatnot, and then it all just unraveled.
I am apologizing to colleagues and to Senator Jaffer. She gave an appropriate response to what was an excessive question and, as far as I'm concerned, I think the study sounds like a fine idea.
With that, I move the adjournment in the name of Senator Lang.
(On motion of Senator Fraser, for Senator Lang, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Cowan, calling the attention of the Senate to the 30th anniversary of the appointment of Senators Charlie Watt and Anne Cools.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, Senator Charlie Watt stands out among Aboriginal leaders in Canada and in the North. I have high respect for him and wish to explain why, now that he has marked his thirtieth year in this place. Our history in Northern Canada has been marked by those who have had the courage to stand up for their people.
You know, the Inuit — or Eskimos as they are still described in some parts of the world — are very well known and highly regarded. One of the best known qualities of Inuit is what has been described as their benign approach to confrontation — reflected in the image of the smiling Eskimo. The great anthropologist, Jean Briggs, who lived among Inuit in the 1960s, wrote a book which celebrated this engaging quality of the Inuit entitled Never in Anger. This is a quality which is admired and has endeared Inuit to all those with whom they have been in contact, from early explorers, whalers, traders, missionaries, and anthropologists to government officials and even politicians.
But this quality has sometimes made Inuit vulnerable and victims of arbitrary authoritarians. They shared their hunting grounds and their knowledge with waves of invaders: explorers, whalers, traders and clergy. Where the visitors to the harsh land and climate occupied by Inuit were wise enough to avail themselves of that generosity of spirit and goodwill of the Inuit, they profited greatly, often to mutual benefit. One thinks of Amundsen, Rasmussen and Arctic explorers of their ilk, who sought the assistance and expertise of the Inuit, wore their clothing, ate their food, and learned how to use dogs for transportation of people and cargo. But those who were stubborn, like the imperious British explorer Franklin — who clung to wool instead of fur clothing, stiff cow leather instead of supple sealskin boots, and who made their own men pull sledges instead of relying on sure-footed Inuit dogs — paid with their lives.
Also in our history, there were some who tried to steamroll over that good nature of the Inuit for exploitative purposes. This happened in James Bay and Northern Quebec in the 1970s, where a powerful premier, intoxicated with a vision of hydro power as the means to turn Quebec into an economic powerhouse, backed by Wall Street and big banks, had a plan to steamroll over the indigenous residents of Nunavik, Senator Watt's lifelong home region.
Many felt powerless to stop this juggernaut, but stop it they did. Charlie Watt, Mark Gordon and a stalwart band of Inuit rebels tied up that massive economic project with a demand that their land claims be settled before it was built. In 1972, the Northern Quebec Inuit Association, an organization Senator Watt founded, joined with the Quebec Association of Indians to apply for an injunction to stop the hydro project of the century in the Quebec Superior Court. It was David against Goliath. But by 1975 the Inuit had successfully negotiated the first major comprehensive land claims agreement in Northern Canada, heralding a new era in Aboriginal land claims.
Charlie Watt was not to be steamrolled. He stood out among his fellow Inuit because he was not willing to see the lands and waters of his home region exploited without respect to his people.
Reviewing Senator Watt's marvellous career to this day, I have a renewed sense of gratitude for his leadership and inspiration to the Inuit and Aboriginal people of Canada. He always stood up for the rights of his people, but was also always a loyal Canadian.
He attracted national attention in the referendum for Quebec sovereignty in 1980 by delivering the Inuit vote against sovereignty. The legend is that Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau rewarded Charlie Watt with a Senate appointment that year for his leadership during the sovereignty referendum. But it was not only that; it was his heroic work as a champion of the Inuit against the James Bay hydro project and also his involvement as co-chair of Inuit Committee on National Issues pushing for the rights of Aboriginal people to be recognized in the repatriated Constitution of Canada — which was also recognized by Senator Joyal during this inquiry — which led to his appointment to the Senate 30 years ago by Prime Minister Trudeau.
That was not the only time Senator Watt was noticed in high offices in Ottawa. As a newly married apprentice in mechanical engineering, working for Indian and Northern Affairs in his home region in 1964, Charlie kept his ear to the ground and became concerned that the Province of Quebec was trampling over the rights of the Inuit, seeking to take over responsibility for the Inuit of his homeland, and that Canada was unaware that this was happening, ignoring their fiduciary responsibilities to the Inuit.
So Charlie wrote and expressed his concern to then-leader of the opposition, John Diefenbaker. Charlie found a willing and understanding ear in Mr. Diefenbaker. "Young man, when you take up a fight, you carry it through," Mr. Diefenbaker told him over the telephone in stentorian tones. Hearing that distinctive voice over the telephone, where he was taking further apprenticeship training in Brandon, Manitoba, all the young Charlie Watt could say was, "Yes, sir."
So began an ongoing relationship with Diefenbaker, a great champion of human rights; and so began the career of Charlie Watt, another champion of human rights, whom we honour in this chamber.
However, this fight was not without struggles. The Department of Indian Affairs was not happy with the political activism of their young employee. He was called to Ottawa to meet the deputy minister who told him, "Young man, you have no right to speak on behalf of your people. Only Bishop Marsh can do that." But Bishop Donald Marsh, Anglican Bishop of the Arctic, was Charlie's friend, and Charlie knew that Bishop Marsh would not agree with that. "Don't you think it is about time we started to voice our own opinions? We are the original people. We were here first," he told the deputy minister, courageously adding, "Are you done?" He turned to walk out of the office.
Now, this was at a time when deputy ministers were like kings in the federal hierarchy. On his way out of that august office, the deputy changed his tone. "Can you work for us as a liaison with the Inuit?" he asked Charlie. "Someday we will meet again when I have my plan worked out," Charlie told him as he walked out the door.
Not long after, a regional administrator newly arrived from France told Charlie he would be transferred from his home community of Fort Chimo, now Kuujuaq, to remote George River, now Kangiqsualujjuaq. Transfer or else, Charlie was told.
Now, with a wife and two young children to feed, he had no choice. He had been sent far away from his home to pursue his education: Yellowknife; Halifax; and Churchill, Manitoba; but I never heard Charlie complain about this and he never lost touch with his culture and connections to the land. Neither isolation nor the residential school experience prevented Charlie from carrying on the struggle for recognition of his people.
With the late Mark Gordon, who lost his life in the struggle, Charlie won recognition of Inuit rights in the James Bay and Northern Quebec land claims settlement. He went on to become the founding President of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association and the Makivik Corporation created by the land claim.
He's known for founding the Inuit Committee on National Issues with Zebedee Nungak and later John Amagoalik and Peter Ittinuar and successfully pushing for the recognition of Aboriginal rights in section 35 of the repatriated Constitution of Canada, a feat recognized by Senator Joyal.
Charlie has stayed involved since his appointment to the Senate in 1984. When he thought something was wrong, he spoke up. In 2008, he spoke up against board members of First Air, an airline he had been president of, saying he was disgusted that they paid themselves large bonuses from the company's profits. "It is wrong," he said, "especially when Nunavik communities are suffering and people are having problems paying their bills, finding suitable housing, and dealing with the high cost of living."
Charlie Watt has been a champion of his people in this place, fighting valiantly for tax relief for his region, speaking out against declining purchasing power and the high cost of living. He introduced Bill S-227, an act to amend the Income Tax Act and Excise Tax Act. He has been a strong advocate for standardizing and strengthening the non-derogation clause through amendments to the Interpretation Act in Bill S-207.
Senator Watt, my friend, I salute you for your service. I'm honoured to have been sponsored by you when I was sworn into this chamber. You bring credit and honour to this place. We may stand on opposite sides of the chamber, but you will always be my friend and you will always have my respect.
[Editor's note: Senator Patterson spoke in Inuktitut.]
(On motion of Senator Watt, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, pursuant to notice of February 25, 2014, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology be authorized to examine and report on the increasing incidence of obesity in Canada: causes, consequences and the way forward, including but not limited to:
(a) food consumption trends;
(b) specific elements of diet;
(c) the processed food industry;
(e) provincial and federal initiatives; and,
(f) international best practices.
That the committee submit its final report no later than June 30, 2015 and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.
He said: Honourable senators, the title and content of our motion is easily recognized by all senators as a major issue in today's society, so I won't belabour that aspect. But the chamber may well be interested in our plans with regard to anything that could incur financial expenditures. Should the motion be adopted, we intend to apply for support for the publishing of one report with an anticipated cost of under $11,000. No travel will be incurred.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Thursday, February 27, 2014, at 1:30 p.m.)