- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- The Estimates, 2016-17
- Study on the Increasing Incidence of Obesity
- Transport and Communications
- Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study the Development of a Strategy to Facilitate the Transport of Crude Oil to Eastern Canadian Refineries and to Ports on the East and West Coasts of Canada
- Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study the Regulatory and Technical Issues Related to the Deployment of Connected and Automated Vehicles
- The Senate
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Speech from the Throne
- Canada Border Services Agency Act
- Boards of Directors Modernization Bill
- Latin American Heritage Month Bill
- The Senate
- Inter-Parliamentary Union's Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians
- People's Republic of China
- Appendix - Senators Lists
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of representatives of the International Women's Club of Ottawa, led by their president, Lia Mazzolin. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Enverga.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: I would like to welcome these women. In a way, my remarks are a tribute to my female colleagues, and I invite all of my colleagues to join us as feminists.
Honourable senators, on this International Women's Day, March 8, I want to talk to you about why feminism is relevant in 2016. First of all, the facts. Feminism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is "the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities." That makes perfect sense, and I am sure we can all agree with that definition.
In a nutshell, feminism refers to a set of movements and political, philosophical, and social ideas with a common goal: to define, establish and achieve the political, economic, cultural, personal, social and legal equality of men and women. It is a movement for gender parity and equal pay for equal work.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest appointed the first cabinet made up of equal numbers of men and women in 2007, and I am very proud of that. He did so again in 2008. He also made gender-balanced Crown corporation boards possible. In Canada, we got our first gender-balanced cabinet when the Liberals came to power thanks to Prime Minister Trudeau's vision.
Honourable senators, the Senate has the highest level of female representation in Canada, but it's still just 36 per cent, which is a far cry from the goal of 50 per cent. This can be rectified with future appointments.
According to Historica Canada, in the 1960s, feminism rejected all limits to the equality of women's rights and showed that equality in daily life cannot be obtained through simple legal, political or institutional modifications. The proof in Canada is that the vast majority of legal texts and statutes are gender neutral.
The reality in 2016 is that a lot remains to be done before women are truly equal to men. Look at the lack of women in key positions in corporations and their glaring absence from boards of directors. Look at the pay gap for women who occupy the same positions as men, which can be up to 30 per cent less in some sectors.
The lack of equality for women can also be found in the disproportionate number of wrongs committed against them in every aspect of life, whether through specific acts, condescending attitudes or misconceptions. The recent cases involving Mr. Ghomeshi, Mr. Aubut, and General Lawson are examples of people with no understanding of feminism.
I invite all my colleagues, the men and women of this chamber, and all Canadians, to celebrate Canadian women today so that we can work together, as parliamentarians, to achieve real equality in the future.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of a delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union led by Secretary General Martin Chungong. He is accompanied by the Honourable Paddy Torsney, PC, Permanent Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the United Nations, and Her Excellency, the Ambassador Anda Filip, Director for Member Parliaments and External Relations.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Elaine McCoy: I rise today to pay tribute to Don Getty, the former Premier of Alberta, who sadly died recently and was buried in Edmonton last Saturday. I had the privilege of serving with him in his cabinets, from the first one he formed after he was elected as premier until the day he stepped down as premier. I remember him very fondly.
The words that come to my mind when I think of Don Getty are four: He was collaborative, inclusive and generous; and he was deeply, genuinely and innately respectful of all the people around him, male and female.
One of the first things he did when he was a premier in 1986 was to convene the first ministers from across Canada in Edmonton. From that meeting emerged the Edmonton declaration. Don Getty believed passionately in Canada, and it had always distressed him that Quebec had not seen it possible to sign and agree to the repatriation of our Constitution in 1982. He wished very deeply to bring Quebec fully into the family.
The first thing he did on a national basis was to reach out and to start a process — a conversation, a collaboration, an inclusive process — with the hope to bring Quebec back in as a full member. The result, ultimately, was Meech Lake — we know the result of that — and then Charlottetown. Don Getty never lost faith that one day we would all be a family again, together.
In that process, as you know, he was also a great believer in Senate reform. This was based in large part, unfortunately, on his belief — and many Albertans' belief, mine included in those days — that the Senate had failed in its responsibility to stand up for regional interests. Of course, in those days, the discussion was around the national energy policy. We felt that the Senate could have done more if it had stood by us in those days and had stood firm in its responsibilities for regions. Don Getty never did believe ultimately in an elected Senate, but he was keen to see the Senate move into a far more robust expression of its regional responsibilities. I'm pleased that we are now in fact re-examining our responsibilities in those regards and will consider it, if we are successful, as one of his legacies.
I want also to mention that he brought in the Metis settlements. That was another inclusive matter.
In conclusion, colleagues, he was a big man and he had a big heart. If in the last 20 years we had had more people like him in leadership positions — leaders who invited people and provinces to come together instead of pushing people and provinces apart — Canada would be a better place.
We are lucky that we had Don for a brief time in Alberta. Canada is lucky that we had him in Alberta for a brief time. I will remember him and honour him, as many of you will remember and honour him in your memories. Thank you very much.
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Honourable senators, I rise today to join my colleagues in celebration of International Women's Day and to say a few words about this year's campaign, Pledge for Parity, and what it means for me, a man, a politician, a father and a husband. A minority like myself in our home, I know the plight of women very well because I am the only man in my house, surrounded by four lovely women. I want to thank my daughters Reeza, Rocel and Rystle, and my wife Rosemer, for being great examples of Canadian women from coast to coast to coast and for allowing a minority like myself a voice — sometimes! It is partly for them, and for their future, that I support the Pledge for Parity.
Honourable senators, International Women's Day is an important day for all of us to join forces to make our country's institutions more representative, for our citizens to achieve equality and for our leaders to lead with this as a paramount priority. It is quite evident that our electoral political system is not providing the gender parity that we may want to see. Our political leaders and representatives should be more of a reflection of our country's composition when it comes to ethnicity, gender and other characteristics. On many occasions, I have stood here in the Senate and applauded the multicultural composition of our upper house. This has been possible due to our appointment system.
Honourable senators, of our members in the other place who were elected after the last federal election, only 26 per cent are women. In the Senate, 37 per cent of us are women. This is not perfect, but it is a much better representation than in the other place. Several provinces have more than half of their senators who are women. Saskatchewan is the decisive leader, with 83 per cent of its senators being women.
Honourable senators, the reason I list these percentages is that our appointed upper chamber is essential in order for minorities to have federal representatives. Our former colleague, the Honourable Marcel Prud'homme, made the call several times for prime ministers to take gender equality seriously and recommend more women for appointment. I want to echo his words when he said, "The way to give the women of this country the place they deserve is to start with the Senate."
Honourable senators, our current Prime Minister is claiming that gender parity is a priority. I want to urge the Trudeau government to make the Senate a representative body and to consider the composition of this chamber when he is making his much-awaited recommendations and to make the parity of women and men more in line with the reality that we live.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, every day in this chamber we reaffirm our commitment to fight for equality and for the rights of minorities. We commit to representing the voices of those who cannot speak for themselves.
Today, on International Women's Day, I ask that we also commit to fighting for those who can speak for themselves but who are not given the chance to do so. I ask that we stop thinking of women as victims and as voiceless and that we stand with women to help them be heard and be seen as leaders in our society.
Every day atrocities occur around the world. Often, and importantly, our global conversation focuses on the victims of these conflicts. We all know about the disproportionate way that conflict affects women and girls, but too often we forget to discuss the incredible strength women and girls have and the key roles they play in creating peace in their communities and in the world.
Honourable senators, in 2000, Canada was on the United Nations Security Council, and we played a lead role in the unanimous adoption of UN Resolution 1325. This resolution recognized not only that war uniquely affects women but also that peace processes cannot work without the inclusion of women at all levels and that women should be seen as leaders.
Honourable senators, the sad fact is that in the recent peace negotiations, women have been fewer than 8 per cent of participants and fewer than 3 per cent of the signatories, and not one woman has ever been appointed chief or lead mediator in the UN-sponsored peace talks.
As parliamentarians, we can do something about this. This International Women's Day, I ask us to focus on what we can do to change these numbers. I ask us to focus on empowering women. In keeping with this today, I released an e-book on the important role we play as parliamentarians in protecting our national commitment to UN Resolution 1325.
Honourable senators, I hope we can commit to this important task together, and I hope to see you at the open caucus event being held this Wednesday to continue our conversation on women, peace and security.
Honourable senators, I'm pleased to celebrate International Women's Day with you, and I am pleased to recommit to the important work of fighting for women's voices all around the world. Peace processes do not mean anything if they are not sustainable. If we have to stop the conflict — if we want to stop the conflict — we have to include women.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Diane Bellemare: Honourable senators, on this International Women's Day, I would like to pay tribute to some of my colleagues, namely Senators Ruth, Dyck and McCoy, by acknowledging their contributions to the cause of women.
However, I recently completed my examination of my role in the Senate. Consequently, I have chosen to take the opportunity provided today to share my thoughts with you.
On Tuesday, September 25, 2012, I was sworn in as a Senator in this chamber. I would like to thank the Right Honourable Stephen Harper for choosing me for this position. I remember with emotion the summons read by the Clerk during the oath of allegiance. The texts states and I quote:
Know you, that as well for the especial trust and confidence We have manifested in you, as for the purpose of obtaining your advice and assistance in all weighty and arduous affairs which may the State and Defence of Canada concern, We have thought fit to summon you to the Senate of Canada and We do appoint you for the Division of Alma in Our Province of Quebec. And We do command you, that all difficulties and excuses whatsoever laying aside, you be and appear, for the purposes aforesaid, in the Senate of Canada at all times whensoever and wheresoever Our Parliament may be in Canada convoked and holden, and this you are in no wise to omit.
I can tell you that, at that moment, this solemn text evoked in me the sense of constitutional duty that was already at odds with the party line.
I understood later, when I read the Honourable Serge Joyal's book, Protecting Canadian Democracy, that this summons is in fact a constitutional document, which, in his words, is "of the utmost importance from a legal standpoint." A senator receives the order from the Crown to provide advice on all affairs of the state and to represent a particular region.
Senators are therefore different from members of Parliament entering the House of Commons, because members of Parliament have received a mandate from voters under the banner of a political party.
The Senate is currently in the midst of a critical phase in its evolution, and we cannot take this lightly. Canadians have lost their trust in this institution. In spite of the criticism, many people agree that a bicameral system is important to Canada's political stability, which means that we have a House of Commons and a complementary upper house. As is the case in many federations around the world, this upper house may — and must — improve legislation, and also represent the provinces, territories and the vastly diverse groups that make up this country.
I will soon celebrate my fourth anniversary in the Senate. I have experienced many emotions here, and I will experience many more. As I have watched the Senate going through this crisis, and as I have read the words of experts, I have determined that the Senate must be more independent and less partisan in order to fulfill its role and regain the public's trust. I am firmly convinced of this.
That is why I'm announcing today that I will now be sitting as an independent senator. I believe that this will help me better represent the interests of my province and of Canada as a whole. I will be able to work on making this institution less partisan, to make it a true chamber of sober second thought.
In a few weeks, we will be joined by several new independent senators. We must welcome them and include them. I believe that we need to make some major structural changes to formally recognize an organized group of independent senators. The creation of a third recognized group or caucus will help establish the institutional conditions required to promote independence and non-partisanship in the Senate. I therefore hope to fully participate while maintaining the friendly relationships I have developed with many of you.
Hon. Richard Neufeld: I rise today to draw your attention to British Columbia's promising liquefied natural gas sector.
Natural gas, the cleanest burning fossil fuel, is converted to liquid form at minus 162 degrees Celsius for ease of storage and transport. British Columbia is home to some of the largest gas reserves in North America.
Allow me to quote some numbers that underline its potential: 2,933 is the number of estimated trillion cubic feet of natural gas supply in northeast B.C.; 150 is the number of years B.C.'s gas supply can support energy needs in Canada and around the world; 50 is the number of years LNG has been transported safely worldwide without a significant incident at sea or port; 20 is the number of active LNG projects at various stages of development in British Columbia; and 20 billion is the number of dollars already invested by industry to further B.C.'s LNG opportunity.
Moreover, a vibrant Canadian LNG industry would bring tens of thousands of direct, indirect and induced jobs and billions of tax revenues for all levels of government.
Of the 20 proposed projects, Pacific NorthWest LNG is probably the closest to putting shovels in the ground. Petronas has committed $36 billion, including $11 billion for an export terminal. To my knowledge, this would represent the largest corporate investment project at this time in Canada.
Like any resource development project, it has been subject to some resistance from groups concerned about its environmental impact. One of the contentious issues was the impact of the terminal on the juvenile salmon population and the Flora Bank. In response, Petronas designed a 1.6-kilometre suspension bridge to vastly minimize dredging in the area. To put that in perspective, this is more than half the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. In January, scientists at Fisheries and Oceans Canada agreed that the terminal would have little impact on the Flora Bank.
Three weeks ago, Canada's Environmental Assessment Agency released its draft environmental assessment report. Although it determined the project would likely harm harbour porpoises and contribute to climate change, the agency concluded that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, taking into account the implementation of the key mitigation measures.
On the issue of climate change, while Canadian LNG production will increase GHG emissions here, one should look at the greater picture. LNG will replace high emission fossil fuels abroad. For example, China is the largest greenhouse gas emitter representing a quarter of global emissions. Should it replace its coal burning plants to natural gas, its emissions could drop by 40 per cent. This would significantly reduce world GHG emissions and must be taken into consideration by the federal government.
I urge all senators to voice their support for this project by providing the agency with a letter before the March 11 submission deadline.
The federal government has been saying it would rely on scientific data to assess the viability of energy-related projects. Their own experts have concluded that this project would result in few negative impacts.
I hope the government will agree that the benefits far outweigh the risks and that it will sign off on Pacific NorthWest LNG.
The government is in a unique position to help kick-start Canada's LNG industry. We are talking about thousands of jobs, huge investments, the production and distribution of a clean energy source and considerable economic spinoffs.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 14-1(3), I ask for leave to table the Reports on Plans and Priorities, Main Estimates, 2016-17.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that pursuant to the order of reference adopted by the Senate on January 26, 2016, and to the order adopted by the Senate on Wednesday, February 17, 2016, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology deposited with the Clerk of the Senate, on Tuesday, March 1, 2016, its second report entitled Obesity in Canada: A Whole-of-Society Approach for a Healthier Canada, and I move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting.
(On motion of Senator Ogilvie, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications be authorized to examine and report on the development of a strategy to facilitate the transport of crude oil to eastern Canadian refineries and to ports on the East and West coasts of Canada;
That the committee also examine how to share the risks and benefits as broadly as possible throughout the country; and
That the committee report to the Senate no later than June 30, 2016, and that it retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications be authorized to examine and report on the regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of connected and automated vehicles. In particular, the study would consider the long-term implications and challenges of these technologies, such as the impacts on privacy, energy, land use, transportation demand and employment; and
That the committee report to the Senate no later than March 30, 2017, and that it retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.
Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Senate urge the government to take all necessary steps to bring into force as soon as possible by order-in-council the provisions of C-452 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), chapter 16 of the Statutes of Canada (2015), which received royal assent on June 18, 2015.
Hon. George Baker: I rise to ask a question under rule 4-8(1)(c), which is to ask a question of a committee chair without notice.
As you know, senators, the committees of the Senate are quoted three times more than the committees of the House of Commons in court proceedings in Canada. In some months, it's four times.
I ask this question to the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, because I notice that in the past several weeks, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice quoted the Senate Banking Committee's report at paragraph 24 in Shah v LG Chem, Ltd. Also, the Tax Court of Canada quoted the Banking Committee report at paragraphs 41 and 42 of Presidential MSH Corps v. The Queen. Finally, the B.C. Superior Court quoted the Banking Committee of the Senate in Mallory (Re). It quoted the proceedings, that is, questions and answers — questions from senators and answers by the authorities — concerning student loans and bankruptcies. That's at paragraph 72.
I'd like to ask the Chair of the Banking Committee to give us an idea of what the committee has been doing over the past couple of months.
Hon. David Tkachuk: As you know, Senator Baker, I've been reading up on all those court cases.
Senator Baker and honourable senators, over the last number of weeks — actually, since the first week when we came back in February — the Banking Committee has been studying currency, the Canadian dollar. We thought as a committee that even though we didn't have a particular subject matter, we should try to keep on top of current issues and have a number of hearings, whether it resulted in a report with recommendations to the Senate or not, but that it be part of our ongoing business to try to inform ourselves on the major economic issues taking place.
We decided as a group that we would look at the Canadian dollar and what was happening to it. We had hearings that brought in Export Development Canada, the Bank of Canada and the Department of Finance. All the major banks supplied their top economists, which was terrific; and then we had the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and they sent their economists as well.
The hearings went well. We spent three weeks, and we're now producing a report that will be a summary, really, of what the witnesses said. Hopefully students and academics can use the report. It's rare that you would get a group of economists of this calibre at a table all at one time to offer their thoughts on what was happening to Canadian currency.
Senator Baker: I have a supplementary question. Before I put it, I'd like to recognize that apart from the chair, we have Senator Hervieux-Payette as the deputy chair, Senator Bellemare, Senator Black, Senator Campbell, Senator Enverga, Senator Greene, Senator Maltais, Senator Massicotte, Senator Ringuette, Senator L. Smith and Senator Tannas all on this remarkable committee — like a great many others of our Senate who are quoted daily by our courts — three times more than the House of Commons committees are.
So my supplementary question is, what does the committee hope to be doing in the near future?
Senator Tkachuk: What we plan to do and will be doing — and actually we're going to start hearing our first witnesses this coming week — is to study interprovincial trade. We had started a couple of studies a number of years ago and didn't finish — in 2006-07, I believe.
With all the discussion on the pipeline issue and the movement of goods and service by rail, there are all kinds of impediments to trade going on in this country. The more impediments there are, the more difficult it will be to hold the country together, I believe. So we've undertaken not only to hold hearings here in Ottawa but also — maybe to the consternation of the house leader on the other side — to maybe go on a trip or two that we're sort of planning. Internal and the Senate haven't okayed that yet, but it's in our plans, and we think it's important to get out in the country.
Hon. Jim Munson: I have a question to the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. I was away last week and returned to hear about your report on obesity, and it's a fascinating read. It certainly has attracted the attention of the media and government.
Would you please give me your assessment of this report?
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Honourable senators, I assess it as an absolutely superb report, covering the issues related to obesity in great detail and clarity. We will be delighted to expand upon that in the days to come in this chamber.
Senator Munson: There was an intensive lobby from the beverage groups dealing with the proposed tax on beverages and so on. Could you explain to the Senate and Canadians what the advantage would be of having that tax on beverages?
Senator Ogilvie: First, I think it's important for us to realize a couple of things relative to the report. The report identifies sugar as one of the major issues in the obesity epidemic. I won't go into all the ways it leads to the problem, but the amount of sugar consumed, the way it's consumed and its many impacts on the body are major issues.
Second, with regard to taxation, we looked at the impact of direct taxation in certain other countries. For example, in Hungary they levied a 29 percent tax directly on sugary beverages and they have observed a 27 percent reduction in the consumption of those beverages and, perhaps equally important, they have seen the manufacturers repackage and change the constituents of beverages aimed for the market to reduce the amount of sugar.
I think it's important that the committee recognize that the very best way for government to use tax policy is probably better known by the government itself. We recommended that the government consider the various taxation levers to address this problem in the most effective way.
Let me give you another example of taxation that seems to be a little out of kilter. If you were to go into a grocery store and look in the fresh vegetables section and saw a package of prepared salad — not just individual vegetables on the shelf, but they actually receive minimum handling to put them in a package so you can take it home and use it quickly as a salad — it's taxed as a value-added product. But, across the aisle, the heavily sugared breakfast cereals have no tax.
Yes, we identified direct taxation on sweetened beverages only as a very important consideration for the government, but we also recommended they look at other tax issues and come up with a package that effectively addresses and impacts this issue.
Senator Munson: Thank you for that answer.
The tax received a lot of media, but there are other elements in this report. The government is about to announce a new budget, and I'm sure Minister Philpott has seen what's in this report.
Is there something that you and the deputy chair, Senator Art Eggleton, have seen in this report that you would like the government to pay attention to, as opposed to saying "Thank you very much for this report," that you would like to see in this budget?
Senator Ogilvie: Thank you again for the question. That's obviously a fundamental question in terms of timing.
It's hard for me to say that one area of a report is more significant than another but, to come to your question, I would say that the changes in Canada's Food Guide are absolutely essential and that those can be dealt with in the near future. These seem to fall well within the minister's mandate, her appointment letter and so on.
Another issue we consider to be extremely important is advertising to children. We consider that a very serious issue.
Within the overall issue of the food guide, we would like to see the food guide changed to become a much more user-friendly document, giving immediate information to citizens in a manner they can address quickly.
To give you some simple examples, we'd like to see the food guide focus on whole and freshly prepared foods. For instance, the Brazilian manner of showing various plate options for breakfast, lunch and dinner provides a consumer with an idea of what constitutes a healthy meal.
The emphasis must be on fresh and minimally processed foods and be completely against highly processed foods in the diet.
Senator, these are some examples. I'm sure my colleagues will be addressing many more as we go forward.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, not long ago, the previous government received a report from a panel of experts on the use of salt in prepared foods. Let me give you an example: a package of smoked meat might use 250 mg as a reference, so one-quarter of the product would correspond to a certain amount of salt. However, the whole package would be 1000 mg. A different reference point is used every time, sometimes 100 mg, 250 mg or 500 mg. That information could be harmonized, and I would like the committee to examine this issue, as well as the issue of salt in general.
The report set out very clear recommendations. Since we know that thousands of people die every year from high blood pressure related to salt consumption, I would hope that we could make this a unanimous decision. Even the United States, which does not always set the best example, has guidelines on salt consumption, while in Canada consumption is left up to the individual. Will there also be specific recommendations to address this matter?
Senator Ogilvie: I'll start at the beginning of the question with the issue of labelling. Labelling is one of the issues we identified in the report as being a very serious one.
The average person going into a supermarket and picking up a sample, you've got to be really dedicated to read every single box to see what it has on the back and try to figure out what it is. The corollary to salt, which you mentioned, is sugar. There are often two or three different categories of sugar on a single package. They're all sugars; carbohydrates are sugars. There should be a total quantity in those categories.
We've come at this issue from a number of ways. We'd like to see labelling change significantly in this regard. We would like to see labelling be much clearer and indicate which foods are really healthy.
For example, in Sweden they put a green label on the front to indicate a food that's healthy. With regard to the issue of salt, salt occurs to a very great extent in highly processed foods. The more user-friendly the complete meal is, that is the less you have to do with it in picking it off the shelf before you get it on your plate — simply taking it from the shelf in the store, putting it in the microwave for a few minutes and then sitting down to consume it — the more highly processed that food is and the greater the degree of salt.
Without getting into salt and milligrams and that sort of thing, our recommendations are to indicate the foods that are far healthier overall and with a far lower quantity of salt and sugar.
I hope that comes close to answering your question.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Thank you for the interesting answers and explanations of your report. Unfortunately I've not had a chance to read it, but was intrigued by your earlier comment about breakfast cereals.
I discovered a number of years ago the difference in other countries. For example, a company making the same cereal has different ingredients. Canada tends to have a higher salt and sodium content than many of the same cereals sold in the United States and other countries in Europe because their governments have put in quality controls and regulations. Is that covered in your report? Is that part of your report, in addition to tax as a way to control this problem?
Senator Ogilvie: We did not go into comparing foods directly at the level that you're asking about across a variety of countries. We know there are different regulations in most economic zones, for example, and that's an issue more for the marketers.
The issue we had was to try to give recommendations on how we should deal with foods in this country to give Canadians a sense of the really healthy ones.
I might add, to answer an aspect of two of the previous questions, that we do not think Health Canada is doing a good enough job regulating the kinds of wording that producers put on the front of packaged foods available to them in the store. For example, allowing the use of the terms, "A healthy choice," or "More healthy than . . ." or other terms like that without any apparent evidence to suggest that the food is particularly healthy. In fact, there are examples where that certainly wouldn't be the case.
What we are saying is that if you, for example, go into a market and see a beautiful, fresh orange on a package of juice and it says, "A healthy choice," in actual fact, many of those contain more sugar than does Coca-Cola per unit of volume. Fruit juices are among the most highly processed products on the shelf. They have largely lost much of their fibre content, and possibly even some of their nutrient content, but are concentrated in sugar because they are concentrated from a large number of samples.
We dealt with a number of aspects like that without directly comparing the labels in our country to labels in other countries.
Senator Downe: I'm struck by the requirement for increased taxes as a way of controlling consumer behaviour and what appears to be a bit of a void of corporate responsibilities. If General Foods is making a cereal across the border and it has less sodium and less salt than the same item sold in Canada, the answer from the corporation is, "Well, people like it better; it tastes better." That doesn't mean it's healthier. In fact, it's unhealthy. Why would the government not also insist on corporations taking more initiative in addition to the taxation increase that you're proposing?
Senator Ogilvie: Thank you, senator. In the end, the committee has to reach a decision on what it thinks is actually possible and what might have a major impact.
I don't want to go into this in too much detail, but we know a number of factors were tremendously important in transforming society with regard to tobacco. It didn't happen overnight; likewise, the obesity epidemic isn't going to turn around overnight. It's a major issue in society, so we try to identify those actions that could have a major impact in the short term in changing attitudes towards which products are really good for us and which ones aren't.
In the case of soda pop, it is very difficult to identify any redeeming value, yet it is a major source of sugar consumption in children, and adults, too, of course, but certainly among young people in society. The evidence shows that in countries where a significant tax has been implemented directly on those products, it has led to a change in consumption. To be frank with you, if it gets the message across that something isn't good here, as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Would the honourable senator entertain another question?
Senator Ogilvie: Certainly, senator.
Senator Joyal: Let me say in opening, senator, that I want congratulate you on this report because it helps to focus the attention of Canadians on a very important issue, which is how one manage one's health, because essentially it comes back to that.
You mentioned in your answer to a question that sugar is not a healthy product. The cigarette, of course, is a deadly product. There is a difference in terms of danger. One leads you to what we know is a cancer of some sort. The other one diminishes your capacity to maintain good health. Of course, in some extreme instances it could lead to death due to, for instance, diabetes, but they're not exactly within the same parameters.
Did you discuss in the hearings and the reflections that you conducted the line between a health issue and a personal choice? There is a border between those two, and as you know, those two domains are not easy to balance. It's a judgmental operation.
As much as I support your conclusion, as an individual, I might want to restrict people from consuming those drinks that are made from concentrate. When I read "made from concentrate," I pass on to another product because I know it's only chemistry. As much as an individual has to be led to make responsible decisions for himself or herself, where do we draw the line in terms of public responsibility? That's essentially the reflection that I made.
I want to commend you again for this report because it helps us to redefine the line between what is each person's own decision in relation to how we feed ourselves.
Senator Ogilvie: Thank you, senator. That's a complex question.
I would argue that the major difference between tobacco and sugar is that the tobacco is in a product area that is unnecessary to us under any normal circumstances except as psychological or as a habit, whereas food is essential. We have to eat, so the issue we were looking at is sugar as a part of healthy and unhealthy diets.
With regard to the health impact, senator, we were informed that the cost to Canadian society of obesity on an annual basis is in the vicinity of $7 billion. Furthermore, if we look at the impact on life expectancy, it shows that a life will be shortened by somewhere between 5 to 15 years, or will lead to a very unhealthy life. Type 2 diabetes, as we know, is directly stimulated by obesity and the factors that contribute to it.
I think, senator, that you're probably aware of the impact of obesity as it progresses: the loss of feeling in the extremities, and the other problems that occur. A very common thing is bone fractures in feet, for example, and when you try to operate you don't heal well because your ability to heal, if you have severe diabetes, is severely restricted. Often, gangrene sets in, and on and on it goes.
Remember, we identified that 66 per cent of Canadians are either overweight or obese today, a rate which has doubled in the last 30 years. This has an enormous negative impact. If we look at the diminished quality of life, I think we would argue that government has a responsibility, through Health Canada, to inform of the best possible ways for governments to implement policies that are helpful to Canadians in leading healthy and active lifestyles, and to encourage them to do so.
Senator, my final comment would be that it seems only reasonable that the government should protect its citizens in some way, or perhaps try to counter the contrary movement, which is an extensive barrage of advertising for foods that are not healthy and that will ultimately lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. That is done without any guidance whatsoever, and it is even aimed at children.
Senator, we would argue that government does have a role in this. Whether we've got it 100 per cent right or not, we're trying to indicate we believe the government has a significant role in helping Canadians develop and live a healthy lifestyle.
Hon. Jacques Demers: Before I ask the senator a question, I'd like to say, to the people who think senators don't do anything, your report was great, and I congratulate you and your team for that.
One of our concerns with our young kids is that we have Gatorade, and athletes get paid millions of dollars to advertise it. We have the Formula 1 Grand Prix, where you get paid millions for advertising Red Bull. We have diet cola; we have Coke Zero. We're going into a new generation of young people. Where does that stop? Now young kids, 12, 13, 14 years old, are going to school and buying Red Bull. Where do we stand with that, senator? Thank you so much for your answer.
Senator Ogilvie: Senator, this is at the root of the issue. Both products you've described are aimed at consumption largely by youth, where possible. Quebec is the only province in the country that has regulations on advertising directly to children — children under 13, in their case. We recommend that the Government of Canada study Quebec's policy and its impact and determine whether this could be carried out on a broader scale in Canada to deal with advertising directly to children.
In addition, you've given a good answer to my attempt to answer Senator Joyal with regard to why we think the government has a role in trying to give advice to Canadians and set symbols that are meaningful to Canadians. High taxes on products such as those send a real signal to Canadians, both by the actual cost of a product that they don't need and, second, by singling it out for attention as being something that is perhaps not in the best interests of the consumer. Thank you, senator.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Jaffer, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cordy:
That the following Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the Senate of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
Hon. Stephen Greene: Honourable senators, I rise today in reply to the Speech from the Throne, given in this place by His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General and Commander in Chief of Canada, on Friday, December 4, 2015.
Now, colleagues, much like the Speech from the Throne delivered in the previous place by His Excellency the Right Honourable the Earl of Aberdeen, the Governor General of Canada on Thursday, March 25, 1897, the drafters of both speeches, in 1897 and in 2015, promised a different way of doing things, a new "sunny ways," if you will.
Friends, of course you know that I'm referring to the speeches prepared by the governments of Canada's seventh Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and of our current Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau.
As Prime Minister Trudeau has raised the flag of sunny ways, which was first flown by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, I have decided to compare the Speeches from the Throne as delivered by their respective Governors General. In other words, what would "Laurier the Only" think of "Trudeau the Second?" Would he smile upon the fortunes of the Liberal Party, or would he frown?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, front and centre in both speeches is the issue of investments in infrastructure. Prime Minister Laurier made specific nation-building infrastructure promises. One was the expansion of the St. Lawrence canal system, the predecessor to today's seaway. Another was a promise to link the Intercolonial Railway to Montreal. To be sure, these were good nation-building projects. Like Laurier, our current Prime Minister also promised to invest in infrastructure, but the government was very light on specifics. Not a single project was announced.
Another major issue in 1897, as it continues to be today, was Canada's financial condition. As we all know, the Trudeau government has openly promised deficit spending with no regrets — something that would have appalled Laurier.
Allow me to quote from Laurier's speech of 1897:
The Estimates for the coming year will be presented at an early day. They have been framed with every regard for the economy consistent with the efficiency of the public service. I regret that the receipts from ordinary sources continue to be inadequate to meet the charges against the consolidated revenue.
Let us note two things about that quote. First, Laurier promised his budget "at an early day," while we are still waiting for ours. But more important is the tone of regret that the budget is not balanced. We have don't find that today.
It is true, honourable senators, that in the first year of Laurier's government, the government posted a deficit of roughly half a million dollars, a considerable sum at the time. But that's where the comparisons end.
I say this because Laurier, through his Governor General, the Earl of Aberdeen, offered a plan for deficit reduction and elimination. This was described in the speech as follows: "the application of strict economy in the administration of the Government."
The result was that the fiscal outlook improved very soon and very dramatically. In the following year the Laurier government posted a surplus of over $1.7 million and then almost $5 million in the year after. While it's difficult to compare the Canadian government of seven provinces and its services of 1897 with the 10-province Canadian government of today, there is proof that the government can invest in infrastructure and still run a surplus.
The real difference between Trudeau and Laurier in presenting Canadians with their respective fiscal outlooks is striking. Unlike Laurier's Throne Speech, Trudeau offers no plan to get to balance. How many sunny days will we have if we aren't able to get to balance?
What about the other economic initiatives? The current government says in its speech that it will "negotiate beneficial trade agreements." However, honourable senators, the government, while having signed the former government's Trans-Pacific Partnership, has not indicated when it will bring the treaty before Parliament for ratification, if ever. This is quite different from the actions of Laurier on trade.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier negotiated the reciprocity treaty on the elimination of tariffs with the United States, even going so far as to campaign on it in 1911, which I admit was an election he lost.
Nevertheless, there was no question that free trade coupled with controlled finances was the centrepiece of Laurier's sunny ways policy. But while Laurier actively sought agreements to expand the markets for our resources and engaged in nation-building infrastructure, the present government can't decide if it will ratify the largest trade agreement in history or support the most environmentally friendly infrastructure project to get one of our most valuable commodities to market. Of course, I'm talking about the Energy East pipeline.
While on the topic of trade and our relationship with the United States, Canada is ending prematurely our bombing mission in Syria and Iraq. Today the U.S. is unquestionably our closest ally and friend. In the fight against terrorism, we have stood shoulder to shoulder, but the act of removing our jets, and prematurely at that, seems more to serve political ends than national goals. What would Laurier have thought?
Well, during Laurier's time in politics, our closest ally was Great Britain. While he was no longer Prime Minister but Leader of the Opposition in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, Laurier was quick to reassure our friend and ally by stating:
It is our duty to let Great Britain know and to let the friends and foes of Great Britain know that there is in Canada but one mind and one heart and that all Canadians are behind the Mother Country.
For Laurier it was not a sentimental attachment to Great Britain or the "Mother Country," as he put it, that led him to want to support our ally. He was a believer in the strength of individual freedom and responsibility, which was at the root of British liberalism in the 19th century.
What has the current Prime Minister done? In an act loaded with symbolism, he has removed our Queen's portrait from the Department of Global Affairs.
As a classical liberal, Laurier felt the best thing for government to do was to stay out of the way of the people. This is unlike the growth in size and scope of government we are likely to see under the present administration.
Senators are sure to ask why I, a Conservative senator, am praising Laurier and his liberalism. Well, colleagues, much like Laurier, I, too, believe in less interference by government, which is the essence of classical liberalism. Moreover, I believe in promoting good ideas, regardless of where they come from.
In the same vein, I admit there is something quaint, almost anachronistic, about a reply to the Speech from the Throne by an opposition senator. It feels a bit odd, not quite right. I think it is because we, the Senate, are in an environment of change. We are moving towards a Senate that is more autonomous from the other place and towards senators being more independent than we have ever been. Increasingly, we believe we must fill our constitutional role of legislative review and leave our partisanship to activities outside the chamber. I personally look forward to the time when a reply to the Speech from the Throne by an opposition senator, such as mine, is a very unusual thing. Maybe this is one of the practices we should end.
In closing, I have a confession to make. I cannot resist making one, possibly last, partisan shot. You see, I have a personal connection to Laurier and his sunny ways. When I was a teenager, I read a biography of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. During the course of it, I became captivated by the phrase "sunny ways." Because, after all, it captures the kinds of attitudes to which I naturally gravitate. It is warm, embracing, optimistic, open, transparent, humane, hopeful and kind of "hail fellow, well met." It appeals to our better angels.
I resolved that should I ever go into politics I would make "sunny ways" my own, and I did. During my 1993 Reform campaign in Halifax I used the phrase extensively in the speeches I gave. As you can see, it didn't do me any good. But as far as I know, Trudeau didn't steal "sunny ways" from Laurier, he stole it from me.
But experience has taught me that sunny ways are only half of what government is all about. The other half is making tough-minded decisions that benefit the nation, such as Laurier made in his unequivocal support of reciprocity. For tough decisions like these from Mr. Trudeau, we are waiting.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore moved second reading of Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act (Inspector General of the Canada Border Services Agency) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
He said: Honourable senators, I would move the adjournment of the debate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Moore, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette moved second reading of Bill S-207, An Act to modernize the composition of the boards of directors of certain corporations, financial institutions and parent Crown corporations, and in particular to ensure the balanced representation of women and men on those boards.
She said: Honourable senators, I move the adjournment of the debate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Hervieux-Payette, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr. moved second reading of Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month.
He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to my Senate public bill, Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month, and to urge senators to support it.
As senators know very well, I came to Canada as an immigrant, and I am one of many in this chamber who have been fortunate to be welcomed here to contribute to our society. Few countries in the world are as open and accepting to people who come from other countries to settle and make a new life for themselves as our country is. The Canadian policy of multiculturalism is a great success when it comes to allowing for, and celebrating, the various cultural backgrounds and languages we have.
During the month of February, we saw the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of Black History Month. This month, so proclaimed by the House of Commons in 1995 and much later, in 2008, by the Senate, provides all Canadians a significant platform around which they can celebrate, commemorate and remember achievements by Black Canadians.
Last month many school children learned of the contributions of Black persons to our country, from the first arrival of Mathieu Da Costa to Canada in 1604 to the first Black person being appointed to this chamber in 1984, our esteemed colleague Senator Anne Cools. This is knowledge often left out of regular curriculum, but is included during Black History Month because it provides the very real reason why we should include that part of our history and our cultural composition.
Another month we celebrate in Canada is Asian Heritage Month, after our chamber adopted a motion for the government to declare it so. During Asian Heritage Month, many non-Asian Canadians learn about the many different cultural heritages from the Asian continent, often taking place around food and entertainment.
These months also provide a very important aspect of multiculturalism beyond learning about the culture and legacy of others. They can provide a meaningful vehicle to explore one's own culture and history. They can provide a series of events that strengthen one's own sense of identity. They can provide persons of immigrant background a sense of understanding and pride in one's heritage. This is why our country is unique. We celebrate diversity rather than enforce assimilation. A Latin American heritage month would be part of this continuous exercise in nation building.
Honourable senators may wonder why we should do this by bill rather than by motions, as was done for Black History Month and Asian Heritage Month. It is quite simple.
Black History Month was first celebrated in 1996 by the Government of Canada following a motion, moved by the Honourable Jean Augustine and passed unanimously by the House of Commons in December 1995. The Senate only confirmed its support by the same motion, moved by our former colleague Senator Donald Oliver, in 2008. That is a delay, so to speak, of 13 years until Parliament's three constituent parts agreed upon the measure.
Asian Heritage Month, as I mentioned earlier, comes out of Senator Vivienne Poy's motion, passed by this house, and then proclaimed by the government in 2002.
By establishing a Latin American heritage month by an act of Parliament, all three constituent parts — the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons — unite in their support of this initiative and offer the appropriate honour to the contributions of Latin Americans to our economy, our culture and our society.
Honourable senators, as you may recall from the last session, I introduced Bill S-228, An Act respecting Hispanic Heritage Month. This was to be in harmony with the provincial legislation in Ontario and the City of Toronto's declaration. On May 5, 2015, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, assented to Bill 28, An Act to proclaim the month of October as Hispanic Heritage Month. Ontario is home to almost half of the nearly 900,000 who identified Spanish as the non-official language spoken at home in the 2011 National Household Survey.
The City of Toronto made a similar declaration in February 2014. In that declaration, the City of Toronto formally requested the Government of Canada to declare October Hispanic Heritage Month for the whole country.
Honourable senators, after some consultation with members of the public whom we are here to serve and some further consideration of what would be the most inclusive and neutral wording, I decided to change the focus of this bill to "Latin America" as a geographic linguistic community, which would not only add lusophone and francophone communities but also those of indigenous peoples of the region.
In addition, as one person stated, it: ". . . allows inclusivity of all/any multiple identities because it allows self-identification meanwhile celebrates a land and histories that connect us all." This is another example of how important it is to keep learning about our diverse backgrounds. With a Latin American heritage month, issues of self-identification within the multicultural context of Canada will enhance our understanding of the complexities that are involved. The complexities of what it means to be Latin American may not be as evident to most Canadians.
It is in this spirit, honourable senators, that I propose this legislation. It is also in line with the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988, which senators should note is the first national multicultural legislation in any country.
Latin American Canadians are of diverse cultural and national backgrounds but are united by geography. Many Latin American countries also have a shared colonial history stemming from the time when Spain and Portugal were world powers, as were, with less impact, France, Holland and Great Britain. One can find many definitions of which countries are included in the geographical term Latin America. The online version of Encyclopaedia Britannica, states:
Latin America is generally understood to consist of the entire continent of South America in addition to Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean whose inhabitants speak a Romance language.
Further, Romance languages include Spanish, Portuguese and French. For the purpose of this bill and in the name of inclusion the widest possible interpretation should be used. Not only would this bill include those who identify as Hispanic and lusophone from South and Central America, but also those whose heritage is from francophone and Hispanic Caribbean islands.
In Canada, the Latin American community is large, vibrant and growing rapidly. Canadians of Latin American heritage contribute to their communities and to the economy in a positive way from coast to coast to coast. A sign of the rapidly growing Latin American Canadian community is that there are civic and cultural organizations spanning all professions and fields that claim and celebrate the common heritage and unite around this commonality to improve their ability to succeed.
Some may see this as an attempt to create barriers between groups and a way of fragmenting our society, but as an immigrant, I see it as the opposite. By maintaining a strong sense of belonging to our origins while sharing it with our neighbours, we enrich the multicultural mosaic that Canada has become.
A national Latin American heritage month would be a vehicle that could be used to strengthen the efforts of the Latin American Canadian community to enlighten others about their contributions to and achievements in Canada. It is a platform from which stereotypes can be broken down by showing the positive aspects of the various cultures and to fight ignorance that often causes prejudice.
One of the greatest challenges for new immigrants is the lack of Canadian experience, which is considered a "must" to gain entry into our labour market. Civic organizations often provide a vehicle for newly arrived immigrants who need training, recognition of foreign credentials or simply employment to obtain Canadian experience. I want to thank all those who work or volunteer for such organizations for the good work that they do in order to help individuals succeed, thereby helping Canada succeed.
Honourable senators, October is a significant month in many Latin American countries. October 12 marks Dia de las Culturas in Costa Rica. The day is known as Dia de la Resistencia Indigena in Venezuela, Dia del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultura in Argentina and Dia de las Americas in Uruguay, to mention a few. In Brazil, they celebrate October 12 as the Feast Day of Our Lady of Aparecida and Dia das Crianças, or Children's Day. It is the day that the Empire of Brazil achieved independence from Portugal, its colonial power, although it was declared a month earlier, on September 7.
October also marks the end of a season that celebrates several Latin American independence days. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Chile all celebrate their independence days in the last half of September. The month of October ends with the start of the three-day celebration of the day of the dead, or Dia de Muertos, mainly in Mexico, but with variations celebrated in many Latin American countries.
In the Philippines, we observe All Saints' Day and the Day of the Dead at the beginning of November, one of the many cultural or heritage events that my country of birth has received from Spain and maintained in observance of our own traditions.
Honourable senators, in an article of The Globe and Mail written some years ago, the headline described the Hispanic community as invisible. It is a good example of how Hispanic and Latin Americans may be mixed in trying to describe a community by language rather than by geography. The writer and his sources moved back and forth between the two terms, yet the author acknowledges that the number of members of the group ranges from 600,000 to 1.2 million.
Based on the definition given above, using the latest official numbers from the 2011 National Household Survey, there were nearly 750,000 people of Latin American heritage.
Other indicators suggest that Latin American Canadians contribute in a highly positive way to our society and economy. Based on employment rate numbers over the last five years, persons born in Latin America top the employment rate compared to those born on other continents.
By 2013 they had overtaken the employment rates of those born in Canada. In addition, tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers from many Latin American countries come every year to work here for a limited time in places and sectors that do not manage to find Canadian labour. This is especially true in the agricultural sector, where labour shortages are a huge challenge. The Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program for citizens of Mexico and some Caribbean countries ensures that workers receive fair wages and work in a protected and regulated work environment.
Honourable senators, the highly skilled Latin American immigrants now entering Canada to live here permanently are evidence of a new wave. Until a few decades ago, many Latin American immigrants fled political turmoil and persecution in their homelands. These immigrants have a strong sense of civic involvement and public service for the betterment of all. Their voices contributed to Canadians' understanding and knowledge of conditions that led to their flight. They came to Canada to live in a country where the rights and freedoms they were denied elsewhere are entrenched.
Honourable senators, our former colleague the Honourable Vivienne Poy put it well when she spoke to her motion to declare May as Asian Heritage Month in 2001:
Canada is benefiting from the diversity of these new voices. Nationally, our culture is maturing as we recognize and integrate new visions of our past, present and future into our collective story.
Declaring the month of October "Latin American Heritage Month" will be a wonderful opportunity for us to contribute to our collective story, a uniquely Canadian story increasingly filled with symbols of multiculturalism and a shared history that has led us to the society in which we now live, where our rights and freedoms are protected under the principles of peace, order and good government. I urge honourable senators to participate in the debate on the bill and support this legislative initiative.
Thank you very much.
(On motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition), for Senator Carignan, pursuant to notice of February 25, 2016, moved:
That, in order to allow the Senate to receive a Minister of the Crown during Question Period as authorized by the Senate on December 10, 2015, and notwithstanding rule 4-7, when the Senate sits on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, Question Period shall begin at 3:30 p.m., with any proceedings then before the Senate being interrupted until the end of Question Period;
That, if a standing vote would conflict with the holding of Question Period at 3:30 p.m. on that day, the vote be postponed until immediately after the conclusion of Question Period;
That, if the bells are ringing for a vote at 3:30 p.m. on that day, they be interrupted for Question Period at that time, and resume thereafter for the balance of any time remaining; and
That, if the Senate concludes its business before 3:30 p.m. on that day, the sitting be suspended until that time for the purpose of holding Question Period.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals) rose pursuant to notice of January 28, 2016:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union's Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians.
She said: Honourable senators, a fair number of you know how highly I esteem the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on many fronts. In particular, today I would like once more to recognize the work that the IPU has done for women parliamentarians around the world and to recognize that Canadian women senators have been prime movers in this area, including our colleague Senator Ataullahjan most recently. That work is precious and not sufficiently appreciated in countries like this one where we tend to think we don't need help from organizations like the IPU.
But there is another branch of the IPU that is even less understood, known, and that is the Inter-Parliamentary Union's Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. That committee, because it does its work in camera, is not as well-known even to those of us who have participated in the IPU because, by definition, it's meeting in camera and we don't get to see those meetings. We don't get to participate in the absolutely harrowing discussions of the work that is needed to defend the human rights of parliamentarians around the world.
We see their reports, but we don't see the impact the work of that committee has, in particular, in a country like Canada, where we are blessed with strong observance of human rights and of the rights of parliamentarians. It's not a subject that has the kind of direct impact upon us that it can have in many countries around the world.
That committee does precious, unique work to defend the rights of parliamentarians. When I speak of the rights of parliamentarians, I mean, for example, rights to be free from imprisonment because you insulted the head of state; rights to be free from assassination; and rights to be free from torture. All over the world there are parliamentarians who face those terrible fates and others too numerous to mention.
The IPU does invaluable work to defend them. One of the elements of that committee's work that I most admire is that it will keep at a case for 10, 12 years, if necessary. It becomes, if you will, a pest to the guilty who are oppressing the parliamentarians of the world.
But what makes it effective, in my view, is that the sometimes very harsh criticisms that it levels against the offending governments — because it's always governments that are doing the offending, one way or another — are coming from our peers, from us, from fellow parliamentarians. It's much harder to ignore criticism from your peers than it is to ignore strangers.
In January, for example, the IPU's Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians had before it cases involving the human rights abuses of some 300 MPs in 40 countries. Those abuses involved death, torture, threats, arbitrary arrest and detention, lack of fair trial, violation of freedom of expression, or the unlawful suspension or loss of their parliamentary mandate.
At its meeting in January, that committee undertook to send missions of its members to Cambodia, the Maldives and Venezuela to examine cases of attacks on MPs, legal action taken against the leader of an opposition, the murder of an MP, and cases where opposition MPs have been prevented from taking their parliamentary seats.
The committee is also preparing to undertake missions to Belarus, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Lebanon.
In its annual report to the IPU at its meeting in Geneva in October — a weighty report because there were so many cases to discuss — it reported on decisions involving parliamentarians in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Niger, Colombia, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Russia, Iraq and Palestine. There were dozens of cases, far too many involving assassination or just ordinary, common murder.
It is hard to do that work. It is very hard. If you speak to members of the committee, they will tell you that it is a soul-searing experience to listen to some of the evidence brought before them. They do it because they know it matters, and the IPU knows it matters. The Secretary General of the IPU, Martin Chungong, who was here in our gallery earlier this afternoon, thinks that the work of that committee is absolutely unique in the world, and I tend to agree with him. He's trying very hard to give it more visibility and more understanding.
They've started doing things like bringing in members of the families of victims to explain, not only to the committee but to the IPU in general, what they are going through. In many of these countries, when a parliamentarian is under attack, so is every member of that parliamentarian's family. In Iraq there are cases where members of a given parliamentarian's family are themselves taken off to places of secret detention and tortured just because they're part of the unpopular opposition member's family.
And that's not the only place where these things occur.
Does it matter to have a committee of parliamentarians sit in Geneva and study things or go on missions, and come back and write reports? Well, yes, it does. It matters in part because, as I said, it is more difficult for the offenders to hear criticism from other parliamentarians — their peers — than from other well-meaning bodies. But it also matters a very great deal to the victims.
I would like to read to you, in part, remarks from a delegation from Chad to the IPU in 2014. The delegate said:
In February 2008, Chad was shaken by events you have all heard of. A famous opposition parliamentarian called Yorongar was caught up in this upheaval and had to leave the country. The IPU assured his return to Chad and has since 2008 worked to secure reparation for him for the injustice he has suffered. On 1 May 2013, six members of parliament were . . . charged for their connection to a conspiracy to overthrow the institutions of the Republic.
In that case, I must tell you that, virtually unanimously, the members of the National Assembly of Chad protested against these attacks.
The delegate said:
. . . the IPU had to come to our rescue and the President of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians . . . travelled to Chad. . . . since the judge has ordered that the case be dismissed, today we would like to take this opportunity to thank the IPU for being by our side. . . . This is a clear example of international solidarity. . . . dear friends, we really think that the IPU is an instrument for us; it is an organization that is at our side because the protection of human rights is the best shared thing in the world.
Canada has played an important role in that committee for many years, and it is one of the elements of our international activity as parliamentarians of which I think we should be most proud.
(On motion of Senator Ataullahjan, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo rose pursuant to notice of February 24, 2016:
That he will call the attention of the Senate to the hostile behavior of the People's Republic of China in the escalating territorial claim dispute in the South China Sea.
He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to call your attention to an issue of grave importance to the peace and security of Canada, and of the Asia-Pacific region: the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
Several states have claimed the islands and waters of both seas, including Brunei, China, Malaysia, South Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. The overlapping maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea are mainly focused on two archipelagos: the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands. Control of the Spratly Islands to the southeast is contested by every coastal state, and every state apart from Brunei has established a military presence there.
The South China Sea is an area of vital concern for Canada and for the world. The region plays an important role in the global economy, as approximately US$5.3 trillion in trade passes through the region each year. Canada has a growing interest in this region and our eyes should look to Asia-Pacific closely, especially as we prepare to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Indeed, the South China Sea also contains significant energy resources. In 2012, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that the sea bed holds 11 billion barrels of oil and over 300 billion cubic metres of natural gas.
Each of the states concerned bases its claims on historical information. Fishermen from China, Vietnam and the Philippines in particular have had a presence in the Paracel and Spratly Islands for centuries. Nonetheless, these islands are largely uninhabitable and it wasn't until World War II that a permanent presence was established.
When Japan relinquished control of the islands in the South China Sea in 1951, the coastal countries began exerting their sovereignty over the islands through military occupation. The militarization of the conflict exacerbated tensions and fighting broke out among several countries over the years. However, China was the most forceful in making its claim.
In 1974, in violation of the Paris Peace Accords, to which it was a signatory, China seized control of the Paracel Islands after attacking the Republic of Vietnam naval forces that were stationed there.
Tensions mounted in 1987 when China's armed forces took control of the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratley Islands region. The dispute escalated into a naval confrontation between China and Vietnam in 1988, in which over 70 members of the Vietnamese navy lost their lives. Many minor conflicts have occurred since then.
Over the last years, China's land reclamation efforts have intensified. The artificial islands that China occupies and builds have grown significantly for a single purpose: to expand its military purpose and to assert its contested claims. The speed and scale of China's building spree in the South China Sea last year alarmed other countries with interest in the region. Since announcing in June that the process of building seven new islands by moving sediment from the sea floor to reefs was almost done, China has focused its effort on building ports, three airstrips, radar facilities and other military buildings on the islands.
Honourable senators, China is not alone in militarizing the South China Sea; nearly every state has done so to some extent. But the scale of China's assertive actions in the region far outpaces everyone else, and island reclamation is just one example of this.
According to a report by the U.S. Congress released in September, as of June 2015, China has reclaimed over 2,900 acres of land at its outpost in the Spratly Islands alone since the reclamation began in December 2013. To put that in perspective, China has reclaimed 17 times more land in a year and a half than Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Brunei and the Philippines have over the past 40 years combined. Chinese land reclamation activities represent 95 per cent of all land reclamation performed in the South China Sea.
The Chinese government claims that its intentions are peaceful and that it remains committed to resolving the dispute diplomatically.
Here are just some examples of the assertive actions that Chinese forces have carried out in the past year alone: Last June, the Chinese oil rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 was deployed off the Vietnamese coast in an area claimed by Vietnam. The same oil rig was deployed in the same area in 2014, and that incident led to the worst breakdown in relations between Vietnam and China since their war in 1979.
On January 2 this year, a civilian aircraft landed on the airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. Two passenger airliners followed on January 7, 2016. This airstrip is the longest in the region and the only one capable of supporting long-range bombers.
As of February 12, satellite imagery has shown that the Chinese military has constructed radar stations at Johnson South Reef, Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef and Cuarteron Reef, while several helipads and a high-frequency radar station have been built on Duncan Island, which places Chinese helicopters well within range of Vietnam's waters.
On February 17, it was confirmed that surface-to-air missiles with a range of 200 kilometres had been placed on Woody Island. This sends an ominous signal that gives falsehood to Chinese claims that its infrastructure development in the region is primarily for civilian purposes.
It is difficult to square China's peaceful intentions with the fact that it is aggressively changing the facts on the ground in defiance of international law and the international community. By doing so, China is undermining the claims of other states.
The Chinese government has continually and emphatically stated its desire to resolve the maritime disputes peacefully, but it has also consistently undermined attempts to reach a diplomatic solution. Unfortunately, a diplomatic solution seems further away than ever before.
In 2002, China and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations signed a non-binding Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, affirming their shared commitment to the principles of international law, the freedom of navigation and to resolve disputes peacefully. Negotiations on a more stringent code of conduct for the South China Sea were unsuccessful after China published its claims to the islands and asserted its "indisputable" sovereignty over the South China Sea.
In 2009, the Chinese government published the infamous nine-dash line map outlining its claim to the South China Sea, which includes all the islands and roughly 90 per cent of the sea. The nine-dash line is invalid as a maritime boundary according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but China continues to overstep the bounds of the convention by exercising its sovereignty in contested waters, even if it ratified United Nations convention in 1996.
The International Court of Justice issued a ruling on sovereignty, but the consent of all parties would be required before it could examine the case. China, however, rejects international legal arbitration as a means to resolve its territorial, border or maritime boundary disputes. In Beijing's view, the disputes can only be resolved bilaterally, between China and each of the claimants a one-on-one basis. However, even if the tribunal rules that the nine-dash line is incompatible with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Beijing will likely ignore the ruling, leaving the problem unsolved.
In January 2013, having exhausted all diplomatic channels, the Philippines launched an international arbitration process against Chinese conduct in the South China Sea to invalidate China's nine-dash line and to uphold the rights of the Philippines under the United Nations convention. It also wanted to clarify the status under international law of the islands and reefs claimed by both China and the Philippines. Rather than participate, China rejected the Philippines' argument and reasserted China's "indisputable" sovereignty over the islands and claimed that the islands controlled by the Philippines were illegal occupations of Chinese territory. While the Philippine government reportedly submitted 4,000 pages of legal evidence and analysis to support its position, the Chinese government boycotted the arbitration process.
On October 29 of last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case. The court will issue a legally binding verdict sometime this year. The ruling is widely expected to support the Philippines' position.
An Hon. Senator: Hear, hear.
Senator Ngo: China has already announced that they will not recognize the ruling.
Honourable senators, rather than commit to a diplomatic solution based upon international law and focused upon reaching a peaceful solution, China has instead begun to change the facts on the ground through its extensive land reclamation and militarization policies, undermining the claims of other states to the disputed islands and ultimately creating instability in the Asian Pacific.
China's commitment to existing international legal regimes is indeed questionable. In China's new order of priority, history comes before the law.
According to the Chinese government, the greatest threat to peace in the region is the United States. Honourable senators, I have brought this inquiry forward as I feel this ongoing territorial and maritime dispute is escalating to a level that Canada cannot continue to ignore. A serious diplomatic and military crisis caused by an accidental clash at sea is a distinct possibility, especially in the absence of clear agreements.
Canada can drive diplomatic talks to be more oriented towards outcomes rather than oriented towards process, as is presently the case. I believe our territorial claim dispute in the Arctic could stand as a model to help those involved in Asia-Pacific issues. Stakeholders in the South China Sea have much to learn from how Arctic states are managing their disputes and working to resolve them.
As a driving force behind the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Canada can play an important diplomatic role, upholding the same convention we rely on to claim our northern territory. If the South China Sea dispute is to be resolved, Beijing must bring its claims in line with international law.
Finally, as a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, I believe Canada can use this summit as a crucial springboard to promote talks on the South China Sea issue.
Honourable colleagues, I hope that this will be an opportunity for us to explore this complex and escalating issue that deserves our attention and your input.
I hope that I have drawn your attention to an issue of great importance to peace and security in Canada and the Asia-Pacific region, namely the situation in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
(On motion of Senator Enverga, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)