- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- The Late Mauril A. Bélanger, P.C.
- Leadership of Senate Liberals
- Olympic and Paralympic Games 2016
- Visitor in the Gallery
- Commemoration of Events of September 11, 2001
- The Honourable Janis G. Johnson
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Privacy Commissioner
- Public Safety
- Natural Resources
- Income Tax Act
- Food and Drugs Act
- Banking, Trade and Commerce
- Senate Modernization
- The Senate
- QUESTION PERIOD
- Foreign Affairs
- Foreign Affairs
- Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Natural Resources
- Answers to Order Paper Questions Tabled
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship—International Experience Canada Program
- Veterans Affairs—Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
- Veterans Affairs—Benefit Provided by Government for Veterans' Funeral and Burial Expenses
- Veterans Affairs—Bonuses at the Department of Veterans Affairs
- Transport—Government's Expenditures and Revenues under the Ferry Services Contribution Program from 2005 to 2016
- Delayed Answers to Oral Questions
- The Senate
- Public Safety
- Infrastructure and Communities
- Foreign Affairs
- Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
- Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
- Canadian Heritage
- Fisheries and Oceans
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Citizenship Act
- Budget Implementation Bill, 2016, No. 1
- Financial Administration Act
- Appendix - Senators Lists
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Late Mauril A. Bélanger, P.C.
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our friend and colleague, the Honourable Mauril Bélanger, who sadly passed away this summer. I did not know Mauril very well, but I had the honour of working in the public service for many years with his wife, Catherine. Ottawa is my senatorial division and I have been living in this city long enough to know how highly regarded Mauril is around here.
As you surely know, Mauril represented the people of Ottawa—Vanier for more than 20 years. He was a staunch defender of Canada's francophonie from coast to coast to coast, including at home in Ottawa—Vanier. For example, in 1997, when the Montfort hospital was on the brink of closing its doors, Mauril fought to keep it open. The Montfort is the only francophone university hospital in Ontario and the only francophone hospital west of Quebec.
Thanks to Mauril's efforts, Franco-Ontarians in the region have equal access to medical care. On the day of Mauril's funeral, the hospital flew its flag at half-mast in honour of what he did for that institution, its professionals and its patients. When he was minister, Mauril carried on his work to protect linguistic duality by strengthening the Official Languages Act.
Mauril also worked to preserve national unity and played a key role in Parliament's decision to recognize Beechwood Cemetery as a national cemetery.
He knew full well that a strong Canada is a Canada that promotes inclusion and diversity. In 2007, he moved a motion at the other place to make October Canadian Islamic History Month.
Mauril believed in a just society, and his convictions were rooted in moral principles, not partisanship. Perhaps, thanks to him, people will sing the national anthem differently someday, and it will be equally meaningful to all Canadians, men or women. I am sure this chamber will consider the merits of Bill C-210 in due course.
Honourable senators, we are grateful for everything that the Honourable Mauril Bélanger accomplished. Our country salutes him, and we will never forget him.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
The Honourable Janis G. Johnson
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable colleagues, today I rise to honour a recent colleague of the Conservative Senate caucus. She has been a pillar of distinction in this institution for over a quarter of a century. She was the longest-serving Conservative member of the upper chamber, looks half her age and has four times the wisdom.
It was with deep regret that I received the news last week that the Honourable Senator Janis Johnson is retiring, as well-deserved as that retirement may be.
Her presence in the Senate will be irrefutably missed. Honourable senators, there are not many things we can say are irrefutable here in the Senate Chamber. Our Conservative Senate caucus will feel the void of her ideas, experience, zeal and camaraderie.
None of us will forget Senator Johnson's dynamic and respected contribution, particularly her contribution to women's rights just a year after she arrived in the Senate.
In 1991 she had a critical role in defeating Bill C-43, the last attempt of the Government of Canada to introduce legislation to restrict abortion rights to women in Canada.
We have always counted on her to stand up for women's rights. Her recent focus was on eliminating violence against women and girls.
For over a quarter of a century, Senator Johnson has made an enduring contribution in the Senate in international relations, women's rights, the environment, advocacy for persons with disabilities, Indigenous Canadians and the arts.
She graced the Senate with her enthusiasm and elegance, and she served Canadians with distinction.
Senator Johnson has earned a reputation for her principles, confidence, determination and diligence. You earned those characteristics. They are not flattery, nor are they amply handed out, at least not by me.
She was a member of many committees for more than two decades. She brilliantly co-chaired the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group over the past six years, where her remarkable skills in parliamentary diplomacy guided her work with members of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate to represent Canadian interests in our relations with our neighbours.
Senator Johnson was a friend to the entire Conservative caucus and to all members of this illustrious institution. She symbolizes what this institution represents and what we want to be known for.
She will go down in history as a senator with an exemplary work ethic and sense of duty to Canadians. She has left an indelible mark on the Senate and has made our caucus, Canadians, Manitobans and, I am quite sure, her family very proud.
We are returning her to her family and friends, and we thank them for sharing her with us and all of Canada.
Thank you, Senator Johnson, and I wish you well.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Leadership of Senate Liberals
Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): Welcome back.
I trust that we all enjoyed the summer. We now return recharged and re-energized as we begin this sitting of Parliament to do the people's business.
There have been a few changes in the Senate since our last meeting, and I wanted to take the time to present them here. As you probably know, there is a new team leading the party. Last June, Senators Cowan, Fraser and Munson stepped down from the leadership roles they had held for so long in our caucus.
Senators Cowan, Fraser and Munson stepped down from leadership roles on this side of the chamber this past June, but we were so busy that we didn't get a chance to thank them publicly.
They steered our caucus through some unprecedented changes, as we worked to rethink the role of our Senate caucus, and fashioned one where we share and build on each other's insights, knowledge and expertise on a given issue, without feeling the need to find a common position. There is no expectation on our side that all of us must vote the same way.
Our questions from Canadians initiative and our open caucuses are two examples of the innovative thinking that helped our caucus as we moved into the new reality. I think our institution as a whole is better for those initiatives.
Senator Munson reinvented the role of a whip in a caucus where there were no whipped votes. Since January 29, 2014, our caucus has not whipped votes, whether on a private member's bill or a complex government bill. Even with his whip put away, now a mere office decoration to hang on his wall, Senator Munson has been an invaluable member of our team and has our gratitude for all the work he has done.
Senator Downe has graciously agreed to take on the task of our caucus whip. I know he will have Senator Munson's support and assistance. We will be ably assisted by Senator Hubley, who has kindly agreed to stay on as deputy whip in a position she has held since 2006.
Senator Downe was our Senate Liberal caucus chair. He has been replaced in that role by Senator Mercer. Senator Mercer, of course, has been a long-time pillar of our caucus, and it seems quite fitting that he should now chair our caucus meetings, where I'm certain he will display his typical apolitical approach to all matters.
Honourable senators, I will speak tomorrow, if I can get on the Order Paper, to talk about the other members of our leadership team who are changing. But for today, I would like to thank those whom I have mentioned and spoken about, for the fine work that they have done to help all of us here in the Senate.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Olympic and Paralympic Games 2016
Congratulations to Canadian Team
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, this past summer history was made when Brazil became the first South American country to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I rise today to pay tribute to the Canadian athletes who competed and represented our country so well at Rio 2016. They also made history.
I would like to make a special point of congratulating and thanking our accomplished colleague Senator Petitclerc on the remarkable job she did as Team Canada's Chef de Mission at the Paralympic Games. Senator Petitclerc was able to draw on her experience as a five-time Paralympian, Olympian and one of our country's most decorated and dedicated athletes to help lead and inspire Team Canada to exceptional results in Rio.
For the Olympic Games, Canada sent 314 athletes to Rio to compete in 37 sports. The athletes were supported by 98 coaches and 106 support staff.
Canada, of course, had a very successful Olympics, winning 22 medals, including 4 gold, 3 silver and 15 bronze, to match the country's best-ever total at a non-boycotted Games. Of those 22 medals, 16 were won by our exceptional female athletes, marking the first time in 40 years that women have won the majority of medals.
Sixteen-year-old swimmer Penny Oleksiak became the first Canadian in history to win four medals in a single summer Olympic Games. This young woman delivered one of the greatest performances in Canadian sports history.
Canada's success continued during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Our country was represented by 162 athletes competing in 19 sports. Our Paralympic athletes earned 29 medals, including 8 gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze.
Once again, it was a swimmer, 20-year-old Aurélie Rivard, who led the way by setting two world records and earning three gold and one silver medal in Rio. She too delivered one of the greatest performances in Canadian sports history.
Team Canada's success at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games extends well beyond the number of medals that were earned. In all sports, Team Canada competed with heart, courage and grace. Canadians are justifiably proud of what our high-performance athletes accomplished in Rio, and we continue to be inspired by their relentless pursuit of excellence.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I extend my sincerest congratulations to the athletes, coaches, support staff and all those who supported them on their journeys to Rio 2016, on their remarkable success at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Visitor in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Ms. Shami Netonze. She is the spouse of the Honourable Senator Greene.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Commemoration of Events of September 11, 2001
Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, I want to share a story today that I hope will continue to inspire us all.
Since 2002, I have had the privilege to spend the anniversaries of 9/11 with members of the 26 Canadian families who lost a loved one that day. We have gathered in New York, in Ottawa, in Toronto and this year in Gander, Newfoundland.
It's hard to believe it has been 15 years. The monstrous acts remain incomprehensible to the rational mind; yet, there were also so many stories of heroism, the first responders and the ordinary people who helped others find their way through the devastation and unimaginable heartache.
At that same moment, dozens of planes, carrying some 6,600 citizens from around the world, were forced to land in a place called Gander. The "plane people," as they were called, could not reach family or get home. They were fearful and hostage to the unknown. Officials believed there might still be terrorists aboard these grounded planes and warned locals to keep their distance, but that is not who Newfoundlanders are.
The people of Gander and Appleton and Gambo and Lewisport and Norris Arm, in an extraordinary but completely predictable way, opened up hearts and homes and gave comfort to these lost souls and embraced the strangers as family — just as people were welcomed again this year — an amazing group of Americans, survivors and families of victims and those working to preserve the legacy of 9/11.
They were there to say thank you and to participate in an extraordinary commemoration ceremony in Gander, with music and prayer and wise words. And then we all gathered at the airport, as a piece of the steel beam from the south tower of the World Trade Center arrived, after a 2,400-kilometre journey from New York City, escorted by 80 current and former NYC firefighters on motorcycles. It was quite a sight, and it was a powerful symbol of the spirit that is the legacy of the kindnesses of 15 years ago.
Canadians such as Maureen Basnicki, who lost her husband on 9/11, have been reaching across the border for years to keep the memories and lessons of that day alive. Maureen and others appealed to me to see if we in this chamber would follow U.S. legislators and declare 9/11 to be a national day of service. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, that plea was finally heard and formally recognized. Now a day of sorrow, grieving and remembrance has also become a day to inspire others to engage in quiet acts of kindness to honour the thousands of those gestures by the first responders and ordinary citizens on 9/11 and since. In other words, it is to take a nation's tragedy and make it a force for good.
The folks in Gander and those who gathered there are paying it forward every day. Let it be an inspiration to all of us.
The Honourable Janis G. Johnson
Expression of Thanks
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Johnson: Thank you all, and thank you for your kind remarks today, Mr. Leader of the Opposition, Senator Carignan.
I know I haven't departed in the traditional fashion, but after 26 years of service, I believe my time has now come to return to private life. Many new opportunities have come my way. Isn't that marvellous? Yes.
I'm the last of the class of 1990, appointed by former Prime Minister the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney as a GST senator. A young mother with a family. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for the privilege of serving here. But as my friend Michael Meighen said when he called me the other day, "Jan, you're the `last of the Mohicans.' Say goodbye to everyone for us, from the GST group."
But we did the right thing. It was a tumultuous time, with incredible debating. There were no ceremonies; we were rushed through the dark and dirt-floored tunnel that was under construction and that is now so elegant, and we were rushed to our new seats. I think I had a kazoo blown in my face when I walked in, because people were so upset on the other side. "The Queen's senators have arrived," they announced.
Despite the haste, it was an amazing experience. It was through the long and rigorous hours of debate that I realized the critical role this institution plays in our Canadian parliamentary system. I
I feel that I have made a contribution on a number of fronts. And I am very proud; I am very proud to be a senator, and I am very proud to be called a senator, and I'm very proud of the fact that I will continue to be called a senator. It's a very honourable thing.
My first test came early, friends. In January 1991 — and my leader has alluded to this — when Bill C-43, the then government's highly restrictive abortion bill, arrived here in the Senate, I had been here a mere three months. In my maiden speech, I expressed my opposition to the bill from the very government and Prime Minister that appointed me. When he asked me to serve, I said, "Mr. Prime Minister, you know my position." He said, "That's fine. It's a vote of your conscience." I thanked him.
As it turned out, it was a very long and raucous debate, but we defeated the bill in the Senate with a tie of 43 to 43, and the legislation was stopped. It remains one of my lasting contributions, friends. The fact that women have had for over 25 years the choice about their reproductive lives makes me feel good about one of the roles I have played.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Johnson: It was after those wrenching GST and abortion debates that I decided to stay on as a senator. I was still a very young woman, and I'd decided maybe I wouldn't stay, but after seeing first-hand what we as senators can do, including the review and debating of legislation to refine it and, in very rare cases, defeat it, I decided to stay on.
The Senate is a platform, a unique opportunity for Canadians to advocate on behalf of issues not always front and centre in the other place. That is why it is critical that we work across party lines and end the hyper-partisanship that affected us all so dramatically over the last few years. Not that partisanship isn't an important part of any democratic system — we all know it is — but it cannot take over everything, especially not here in the chamber of sober second thought.
My goal throughout the years has been to serve. I come from a family committed to public service. My late father's example has served me throughout my life.
Departure speeches are difficult and emotional. When this place has been your second home, it is hard to keep your emotions under control. I leave here, and others will, have and always will — but the Senate is here to stay, I think — having experienced something very few Canadians have ever had the honour of having.
Colleagues, I wish you all the very best, and I look forward to seeing the new Senate appointments take their place in the coming weeks. I leave you with a quote from Václav Havel's Summer Meditations, a book I have often referred to in my good and bad times in politics. He has been one of my political heroes among many.
Genuine politics — politics worthy of the name, and the only politics I am willing to devote myself to — is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community, and serving those who will come after us.
Thank you all. A special thank you to my dear son Stefan Moores, who has always been there for me as a boy and now a father of three. I hope to see you all with him and my family at the reception that the Speaker is kindly having for me in another five weeks.
Thank you, and God bless.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
2015-16 Annual Report Tabled
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2015-16 Annual Report of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Privacy Act.
Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016—Document Tabled
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a document entitled Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016.
The State of Canada's Forests—2016 Edition Tabled
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2016 edition of The State of Canada's Forests.
Income Tax Act
Bill to Amend—First Reading
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Harder, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Food and Drugs Act
Bill to Amend—First Reading
Hon. Nancy Greene Raine introduced Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children).
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Raine, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Banking, Trade and Commerce
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study the Development of a National Corridor in Canada as a Means of Enhancing and Facilitating Commerce and Internal Trade
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce be authorized to study and report on the development of a national corridor in Canada as a means of enhancing and facilitating commerce and internal trade.
That the committee submit its final report no later than Tuesday, February 28, 2017, and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study the Operation and Practices of the Copyright Board
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce be authorized to study, and make recommendations on, the operation and practices of the Copyright Board of Canada.
That the committee submit its final report no later than Wednesday, November 30, 2016, and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Deposit First Report with Clerk During Adjournment of the Senate
Hon. Tom McInnis: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization be permitted, notwithstanding usual practices, to deposit with the Clerk of the Senate its first report, if the Senate is not then sitting; and that the report be deemed to have been tabled in the Chamber.
Notice of Motion to Strike a Special Committee on Senate Structural Transformation
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That a Special Committee on Senate Structural Transformation be appointed to consider;
1. methods to reduce the role of political parties in the Senate by establishing regional caucuses and systems to provide accountability to citizens;
2. methods to broaden participation of all senators in managing the business of the Senate by establishing a committee to assume those responsibilities, and to provide for equal regional representation on said committee;
3. methods to allow senators to participate in the selection of the Speaker of the Senate by providing a recommendation to the Prime Minister;
4. methods to adapt Question Period to better serve its role as an accountability exercise;
5. such other matters as may be referred to it by the Senate;
That the committee be composed of nine members; 2 Liberal, 3 Conservatives, and 4 Independents, to be nominated by their respective groups and that four members constitutes 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 April 30, 2017.
China—Possible Negotiation of Extradition Treaty
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Liberal government is sending mixed messages regarding possible negotiations for an extradition treaty between Canada and China, a country that, I hardly need to remind my colleagues, regularly imposes the death penalty.
In August, according to media reports, the Minister of Immigration promised that Canada would never negotiate an extradition treaty with China so long as China still had the death penalty. A month later, after the Prime Minister's recent trip to China, we learn that the two counties agreed to hold formal talks on an extradition treaty, and the Prime Minister has publicly confirmed this.
Last weekend, however, the Minister of Foreign Affairs denied the existence of any such negotiations. Here is what he said in The Globe and Mail, and I quote:
Your paper should check the facts. There is no negotiation. To write like pretending it is, it is wrong. Stop that please . . .
My question is rather straightforward, senator. Who is right, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs? Is Canada negotiating an extradition treaty with China, yes or no?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. Like the honourable senator, I share and welcome the Prime Minister's visit to China, as well as hosting the Premier of China last week.
China is an important country globally. Engaging with China regularly on a wide range of issues where we agree and where we disagree is part and parcel of the appropriate modern international discourse.
With respect to the extradition treaty, senators will know that Canada does not presently have an extradition treaty with China. Discussion on the possibility of such a treaty could provide opportunities for further clarifying our mutual expectations and concerns with regard to this issue.
We have ongoing legal cooperation with many countries, including China, to combat transnational crime and corruption. While we do not speak publicly about specific cases involving such issues, I do share with the government the view that the newly established national security and rule of law dialogue which has been instituted as a result of these high-level meetings will enable us to address many issues, including counterterrorism, cybersecurity, cybercrime, nationalized aspects of international crime, legal and judicial cooperation and such discussions as an extradition treaty. But we do not have an extradition treaty at this point, and obviously, should we ever have such a treaty, it would have to address and Canada will have to be answerable to Canadians for the quality of that extradition treaty. And the Prime Minister has made very clear publicly what criteria would not be negotiable in respect of a possible extradition treaty.
Senator Carignan: A simple yes or no would have been a clearer response to my question.
In its 2015-16 report on China, Amnesty International wrote, and I quote:
Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in detention and during interrogation, largely because of shortcomings in domestic law, systemic problems in the criminal justice system, and difficulties with implementing rules and procedures in the face of entrenched practices.
When he visited Parliament Hill last week, Premier Li did not give any indication that China might consider abolishing capital punishment. In fact, Mr. Leader, Premier Li stood beside the Prime Minister of Canada and defended the use of that practice.
Why is the Liberal government prepared to compromise Canada's human rights values by agreeing to negotiate an extradition treaty with China?
Senator Harder: I reject the premise of the question. The government has not forfeited anything by agreeing to have discussions on this matter. In fact, in the process of the last number of weeks, it was made clear what standards would have to be a part of any potential agreement.
I am sure the honourable senator does not wish to fall into a Trumpian view of relations with China. The Canadian government's view is that we ought to engage and be clear in expressing both of our values, where they are shared and where they are different, and advancing Canada's interests. We will do that in all aspects of our relations with China.
Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: Honourable senators, this question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Prime Minister Trudeau is offering a velvet platform for officials visiting Canada from China, a country that not only berates our press but now publicly defends the death penalty. The Chinese criminal system is only getting stronger against dissent. It has classified religious groups outside its control as evil cults and identifies human rights lawyers and activists as criminal gangs that seriously disrupt public order.
China routinely uses torture and executes those who stand in its way, and its judges work under the supreme leader of the Communist Party. This means, Mr. Leader, that Chinese politics motivate courts and use oppressive laws as an instrument of coercion and to limit the rights of common people.
So why is the Trudeau government giving China's judicial system its rubber stamp of approval?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I appreciate the question, but I don't accept the premise of it. Simply engaging with countries with whom we have differences does not infer in that engagement an agreement with all aspects of that government.
The Government of Canada is of the view that a country that represents 25 per cent of the world's population, that represents the second-largest economy in the world and that represents both opportunity and challenge for our engagement is one we ought to engage with regularly and on a broad range of issues, and they are pursuing just that.
China—Protocol During Visit of Chinese Delegation—Right to Protest
Hon. Linda Frum: Leader, it is easy to make things look bright and sunny when you build a wall to hide the bad news. That is exactly what happened last week when a wall was erected in front of the Westin Hotel to hide peaceful democratic Canadian protesters from the view of the Chinese premier and his visiting delegation. And walls are Trumpian, by the way.
Leader, can you tell us what role, if any, Global Affairs Canada and/or the department's Chief of Protocol played in signalling to the Chinese delegation and the Westin Hotel that this affront to our Canadians values of free speech and free assembly was even remotely acceptable?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I can assure the honourable senator that in all aspects of visits by heads of state, heads of government or prominent individuals with whom there is an attached point of difference or demonstrations against that visit, the protocol of Global Affairs and the incoming government representative are in close collaboration with assuring, from a Canadian point of view, that the very legitimate rights of protest that you so rightly refer to are able to be conducted as they represent Canadian values; and to ensure that the incoming visitor is well aware of the democratic practice in this country. I have no doubt that that was entirely the case in respect to the visit last week.
Senator Frum: So can I infer from that answer that, in fact, the protocol officer from Global Affairs would have been aware of this wall and did nothing to stop it?
Senator Harder: I can neither confirm nor deny. I don't know.
What I can tell you on practice that I am well aware of is that any visitor, the prominence of which that visit represented, would be reminded by protocol of the ability of Canadians to protest, the right to demonstrate that Canadians enjoy so rightly.
Senator Frum: Was it only a reminder that the Chinese delegation received?
Senator Harder: Again, I wasn't privy to the discussions, but a reminder is in fact a statement of our expectations of the right to protest and to show difference from a Canadian point of view. They would want to make sure that was well understood by all sides, particularly the incoming visitor side.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Perhaps you could provide in writing, Senator Harder, what the guidelines are for security from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office and of how we set the balance between the right to protest and security issues for incoming visitors.
I recall very vividly the reaction from the opposition, both in this place and in the House of Commons, when the perimeter was set at what I thought was a reasonable distance at the APEC meetings in Vancouver. After that, there were guidelines to be set as to what would be taken into account for those perimeters.
Could we have the current Prime Minister's guidelines on that balance? It is a question for security but also a question for Foreign Affairs. It would be extremely helpful as we watch the debate about human rights and other issues.
Senator Harder: I will take that question as notice.
Senator Andreychuk: Thank you.
Genetic Non-Discrimination Legislation
Hon. David M. Wells: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Bill S-201, An Act to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination — also known as the genetic non-discrimination act — seeks to prohibit any person from requiring an individual to undergo genetic tests or disclose the results of genetic tests without that person's permission.
Senator Cowan is the champion of this bill, and I support him fully and applaud his efforts. If passed, this legislation will protect Canadians from having their genetic information used against them and from being discriminated against by future employers and insurance companies.
You may know that I have a life-threatening condition that was confirmed through genetic tests. I'm one of the fortunate ones, Senator Harder, because I can mitigate the negative effects of this condition. I would not have known this had I not had the genetic test.
The government has not signalled a review on this bill, and it seems the Senate would be an ideal place for them to signal that. As the Government Representative in the Senate, does the government support this legislation?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question and for his notice that he would be asking a question with respect to this bill.
As senators will know, this bill is now before the other chamber. While there are rules, as I understand it, between our chambers with respect to whom I can quote and whom I can't, let me say that in the debate of recent days, the parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for the legislation did speak and indicated the government's position with respect to this bill.
I can share with the house that the government has welcomed, first of all, the initiative by Senator Cowan and other senators with respect to this issue. Also, the government is welcoming of the amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act that the bill provides, but as some senators will be aware, and undoubtedly some members of the other place, there are issues with respect to provincial jurisdiction and commercial relationships on which, in the view of the government, there need to be conversations, discussions and further clarification before legislation can be adopted.
So it is in that context that the parliamentary secretary for the minister indicated that there are parts of the bill that the government will support, the human rights amendments, and other parts that it wishes to have broader consultations on as it deals with jurisdiction outside the scope of the competency of the Government of Canada.
Hon. Don Meredith: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
You alluded to engaging with those that we disagree with. Leader, we recently saw the release of a Canadian from Iran. I live in a mostly Persian community and get asked all the time when we will reopen our embassy. In that part of the engagement, leader, can you elaborate for us the steps that are being taken to see further building of that relationship so that Canadians can feel protected when they do travel?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. It is very thoughtful and gives me the opportunity, on behalf of government and in this chamber, to thank those governments with embassies and representation in Tehran which have been helpful in the discussions around this case. Significant help has been afforded Canada. As a result of withdrawing our embassy, we have had to rely on others. That's unfortunate.
Your suggestion that we reopen is one that the government is reviewing. There are obviously diplomatic issues involved that require discussion; however, I, like you, hold the view that Canada's interest in the protection of Canadians is best afforded when we actually speak with and have representation in countries that are particularly difficult and ones in which there is a significant number of Canadians of origin from that country.
Western Canadian Grain Transportation
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Leader, although the Liberal government decided to extend the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act for another year — and of course we are thankful, and I appreciate your involvement in it — there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding western grain transportation.
Leader, of the eight round-table meetings held this summer on the review of the Canadian Transportation Act, only one meeting formally included just two grain producer associations. Many other producer groups, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, have publicly expressed surprise they were not consulted.
It is well known that the Canadian Transportation Act is being reviewed a year earlier than scheduled due to the rail capacity challenges that have negatively impacted Western Canadian grain farmers. Given that fact, producer groups were not unreasonable in their belief that the Liberal government would consult with them on this. Unfortunately, that did not come to pass. Could the Leader of the Government tell us why that did not come to pass and whether it will?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question and, like him, share the value of consultation. In fact, it has been one of the hallmarks of this government, to the point of actual criticism that it is consulting too much. I appreciate that, when attention is drawn to consultations, that should go further, and I can assure the honourable senator that I will bring to the attention of the minister responsible his concerns with respect to the specific consultation that he is wishing to see.
Senator Plett: Thank you very much, leader. I appreciate that.
Would you also bring to the attention of the people you will be talking to that the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba were not invited to take part in the formal consultation process? Could you check, leader, and tell us why they were not consulted or invited to the process?
Senator Harder: Indeed, I will.
Agriculture and Agri-Food
United States—Bilateral Trade—Countervailing Duties
Hon. Ghislain Maltais: Honourable senators, my question is for the government facilitator. In July, the Minister of Agriculture met with his counterparts from the 10 provinces and the territories. There were many subjects on the agenda, including diafiltered milk. Unfortunately, in his news release, the minister failed to mention that this subject had been discussed. As unbelievable as it may seem, the Quebec agriculture minister had to issue his own news release to say that the subject had been discussed extensively.
When the Minister of Agriculture appeared before another committee, he said that you can't change everything all at once, and I understand that. However, is it not high time that the government — the Prime Minister — appointed a minister of state for agriculture to help the minister with his work? While the government is dragging its feet, Canadian dairy producers are losing millions of dollars a day. A decision needs to be made as soon as possible. When will a decision be made for farmers?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I want to assure the honourable senator and all honourable senators that the Minister of Agriculture takes full responsibility and deep interest in all aspects of agriculture, including, appropriately, dairy and related matters. The Minister of Agriculture was before the Senate for a full period of questioning last June, I believe, in which a wide range of subjects, including the ones you have raised, have been ventilated in this chamber. I am sure that the Minister of Agriculture will continue to be a vigilant proponent of the interests of Canadian producers both in Quebec and outside of Quebec.
Senator Maltais: Honourable senators, that answer will not make Canadian dairy farmers very happy.
With regard to another issue that also concerns the government, after today's deadline, the American government will be free to impose additional duties on softwood lumber producers. Tomorrow, hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs in Canada will be threatened. We understand that these are difficult negotiations. However, could the Prime Minister not urgently request that the application of this countervailing measure be suspended for a period of 30 days to give the governments more time to negotiate and prevent the loss of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in Canada?
Senator Harder: The honourable senator raises a very important matter in our bilateral trade with the United States. It is one that the Minister of International Trade has been vigilant in attending to, which has been the subject of the Prime Minister's interaction with the President of the United States, and with others; and it is one for which I am sure that, as the deadline approaches, the Government of Canada will make appropriate announcements as to how the path forward might take place. It is not one which I am at this point able to articulate to this chamber, except to again remind all senators that this is a long-standing issue over many years, which we have had periodic bouts of peace around, but an extraordinarily difficult one, and the timing for political interactions with our friends in the South is not without its challenges.
Senator Maltais: I agree with you, senator, but this is an urgent matter. When a situation becomes urgent, then measures need to be taken immediately. I would like the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada, or the minister responsible to ask the U.S. government to suspend the enforcement of these rules for a 30-day period. This is not a new procedure. It has been done in many other cases. It was done for NAFTA. I am asking that these rules be suspended immediately so that businesses are not penalized. I am thinking about the people in Eastern Canada and those in British Columbia who might not be able to punch in their time cards when they arrive at work tomorrow.
Senator Harder: I am happy to take the suggestion of the honourable senator forward.
Pacific Northwest LNG Pipeline Project
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The Pacific Northwest LNG project represents tens of thousands of jobs and will help support the services that British Columbians depend on, like health care, education and infrastructure development. This critical project for B.C., which has the potential to positively impact every community in the province, has been the subject of multiple delays throughout the approval process.
With the legislated deadline for a decision on this $36 billion liquefied natural gas project just days away, what assurances can the Leader of the Government provide that the Liberal government will not introduce further delays into the already drawn-out process?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her important question on a matter that is not just of interest to British Columbia but indeed to all Canadians, because the access to saltwater for our natural resources is not just one LNG product but a wide range of issues attendant to it. So this is a significant economic opportunity for Canadians and we recognize that as a government.
The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that decisions on major projects such as this are made in a timely matter. But we have also gone through an appropriate scientific-based assessment, including an assessment on greenhouse gases. There is also appropriate consultation with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's public consultations on the draft environmental assessment report. In the process to which I refer there have been calls for further information as a result of those consultations, and we need to ensure that there is sufficient time for federal experts to assess the information.
The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, as you know, extended the timeline so that could be accomplished. I hope and expect that timely decision making is upon us.
Senator Martin: Yes, time is definitely of the essence as we continue to fall behind in this very important industry and opportunity for not just British Columbia but Canada, as you said.
I would also put on the record and bring to your attention, leader, to perhaps communicate again with the government that the British Columbia provincial government has argued that LNG exports from the province will help reduce the use of coal in Asia, thereby reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
In making its decision, I'm asking you, leader, whether the Liberal government is considering the impact this project will have on global emission reductions and how that would be of interest to many Canadians on the impact we will have in the world by doing this.
Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for her question. Quite properly, she reinforces my earlier comment about the contribution of LNG to greenhouse gases. It's one of the subject areas that the Government of Canada views as important in the public consultation process and in the scientific-based analysis of this project and other projects so that we can assure Canadians that this project meets our public policy objectives.
Senator Martin: Lastly, in terms of this long-awaited decision, which is days away, are there indications, have you had an opportunity to speak with the minister about the timeline of that decision?
Senator Harder: As much as you would like me to, I of course will not reveal private conversations with the ministry.
Answers to Order Paper Questions Tabled
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship—International Experience Canada Program
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the answer to Question No. 2 on the Order Paper by Senator Downe.
Veterans Affairs—Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the answer to Question No. 8 on the Order Paper by Senator Downe.
Veterans Affairs—Benefit Provided by Government for Veterans' Funeral and Burial Expenses
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) tabled the answer to Question No. 9 on the Order Paper by Senator Downe.
Veterans Affairs—Bonuses at the Department of Veterans Affairs
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the answer to Question No. 15 on the Order Paper by Senator Downe.
Transport—Government's Expenditures and Revenues under the Ferry Services Contribution Program from 2005 to 2016
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the answer to Question No. 17 on the Order Paper by Senator Downe.
Delayed Answers to Oral Questions
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the following answers to oral questions raised by Senator Carignan on April 14, 2016, concerning the selection process for new senators; by Senator Martin on April 19, 2016, concerning national building and fire codes; by Senator Meredith on April 21, 2016, concerning the allocation of resources; by Senator Frum on April 21, 2016, concerning the UNESCO resolution condemning Israeli activity in Jerusalem; by Senator Meredith on May 5, 2016, concerning the crisis on reserves; by Senator Frum on May 5, 2016, concerning the designation of IRGC as a terrorist organization; by Senator Enverga on May 5, 2016, concerning palliative care; by Senator Lang on May 5, 2016, concerning transfer payments for Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut; by Senator Patterson on May 11, 2016, concerning the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; by Senator Beyak, on May 12, 2016, concerning the recreational use of marijuana; by Senator Stewart Olsen on May 18, 2016, concerning food banks; by Senator Carignan on May 19, 2016, concerning the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, French-language music industry; by Senator Greene Raine on May 19, 2016, concerning chinook salmon; by Senator Martin on May 19, 2016, concerning foreign home ownership investment.
I look forward to tabling more in the coming days, but I thought that's all the Senate could tolerate for today.
Selection Process for New Senators
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claude Carignan on April 14, 2016)
The constitutional qualifications for senators, including the property qualifications, are set out in section 23 of the Constitution Act, 1867 (the Act). The Act is the authoritative text for information about the constitutional qualifications.
As part of the Senate appointments process, due diligence is undertaken to ensure that all individuals meet the constitutional qualifications at the time of appointment.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Yonah Martin on April 19, 2016)
The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) develops and maintains the National Building Code (NBC). Although fire fighter safety has never been a specific NBC objective, the safety of first responders has historically been covered under the code's core safety objectives.
The CCBFC reviewed two proposals (2009, 2010) from various firefighting associations, requesting inclusion of a fire fighter safety objective in the NBC. At the time, there was insufficient information to grant the requested code change. In an effort to secure the additional information required to reconsider these proposals, the CCBFC has committed to undertaking a project examining the fire performance of homes — challenging and validating assumptions that were made when code requirements were first introduced.
It is believed that the information and data resulting from this project will enable the CCBFC to reassess the 2009 and 2010 proposals. Firefighting organizations active on the CCBFC's various technical committees and task groups will continue to be consulted on this issue and the development of the next edition of the NBC.
Infrastructure and Communities
Allocation of Resources
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Don Meredith on April 21, 2016)
Budget 2016 announced historic investments in infrastructure, including $11.9 billion in new funding for transit, green, and social infrastructure. Much of Phase 1 focuses infrastructure investments over the next two years, targeting capital rehabilitation that will optimize the performance of existing assets.
Different funding allocations were used to support different funds. For example, funding for public transit under the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF) is allocated to provinces and territories on the basis of transit ridership. Within each PT that receives an allocation, each transit system will receive a minimum allocation of $50,000.
Funding to support wastewater under the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund (CWWF) is allocated to provinces and territories using a $50 million base amount plus per capita.
The annual $2 billion Gas Tax Fund (GTF) is allocated on a per-capita basis for provinces, territories, and First Nations, but provides a base funding amount of 0.75 per cent of total annual funding for Prince Edward Island and each territory.
For information on the 2014 New Building Canada Fund please see our website at: http://www.infrastructure.gc.ca/ plan/nbcp-npcc-eng.html.
Tailoring the allocation formulas to the program objectives ensures that funding is distributed in a way that is both responsive to the needs of individual communities while targeting the national objectives of each program.
UNESCO—Resolution Condemning Israeli Activity in Jerusalem
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Linda Frum on April 21, 2016)
Canada is a close friend and steadfast ally of Israel. Canada is committed to fighting anti-Semitism, racism, and all forms of discrimination. Canada opposes attempts to delegitimize or unfairly single out Israel, including in multilateral fora.
The decision in question was voted upon by UNESCO's Executive Board. Canada is not a member of this Board and thus did not vote on the decision. Member States are well aware of Canada's views. Member States have a responsibility to support UNESCO's mandate to promote dialogue, tolerance and peace.
In June 2016, Canada participated in the international meeting chaired by France on how to re-energize the Middle East peace process. Canada has not participated in such talks since 2007. Canada will work constructively with the global community to encourage a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Canada works closely with the Israeli Delegation and other like-minded countries at UNESCO. In 2014, Canada co-sponsored an exhibit entitled "People, Book, land: The 3500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land". Canada has also contributed to UNESCO's Holocaust Education program.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Crisis on Reserves
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Don Meredith on May 5, 2016)
The Government fully agrees that the health and mental wellness issues facing First Nations communities across the country, including Attawapiskat, are serious and unacceptable. In fact, the Minister of Health visited the community personally on June 2nd.
When the Government learned of the tragic incidents occurring in Attawapiskat, we responded immediately, working together with First Nations leadership and the province. This started with efforts to increase capacity on the ground, helping Attawapiskat during this time of need. To that end, two additional mental health counsellors from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation crisis response unit were dispatched to add to the complement of two permanent youth counsellors already in the area. In addition, the Government committed to funding two additional permanent mental health workers for youth, and a case manager, and are working with First Nations leadership to move this forward.
Health Canada has been coordinating weekly with the province of Ontario to ensure that immediate supports are made available and to work with First Nations leadership, federal and provincial partners to addresses medium and longer term needs. To that end, a Health Canada senior manager is in the community on a regular basis to discuss with the First Nation leadership and the Province how best to address medium-term and ongoing needs.
Making real, lasting change in First Nations communities across the country requires a new fiscal relationship with First Nations, one that provides sufficient and sustained funding. This is why this Government has laid out historic investments in Budget 2016, which includes $8.4 billion for better schools and housing, cleaner water, cultural and recreation facilities and improvements for nursing stations.
Designation of IRGC as Terrorist Organization
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Linda Frum on May 5, 2016)
Canada's sanctions regime against Iran is in line with our like-minded allies. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been listed under the Special Economic Measures (Iran) Regulations since 2012. Individuals and entities listed under these regulations are subject to an asset freeze. Any person in Canada and Canadians outside Canada are prohibited from conducting transactions involving property with individuals and entities listed under the Special Economic Measures (Iran) Regulations.
IRGC's Quds Force is listed under the Criminal Code. Canada has an established and rigorous process to list terrorist entities under the Criminal Code and the assessment process for possible new listings is continuous. However, I cannot disclose which entities are being considered for listing in the future. No other country has designated the IRGC as a terrorist entity pursuant to their domestic criminal legislation.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga, Jr. on May 5, 2016)
In October, Canadians elected us on a platform that would, among many other things, work to strengthen our publicly funded universal health care system and ensure that it adapted to new challenges. As part of this goal, we will follow up on our campaign promise to work with the provinces and territories in the development of a new health accord that includes the delivery of more and better home care services, including palliative care.
Budget 2016 reaffirms our government's commitment to working in partnership with provinces and territories to negotiate a new multi-year health accord. This commitment has been applauded and welcomed by major health care stakeholders across Canada, including the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association.
With regard to home care investments, we feel a responsibility as a government to first ensure that there is agreement with provincial and territorial governments as to how these investments will be used, and what Canadians should expect to see as a result.
To this end, federal, provincial, and territorial discussions are ongoing, and we are working continuously toward the development of a new long-term agreement, including a $3-billion investment in home care and palliative care. We look forward to announcing details once the agreement has been finalized.
Transfer Payments—Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Daniel Lang on May 5, 2016)
Statistics Canada's Provincial and Territorial Economic Accounts were revised in the fall of 2015. Budget 2016 proposes to amend the TFF legislation to mitigate the impact of these revisions by removing the requirement to recalculate each territory's expenditure need going back to 2013-14 and to enable the Minister to re-determine the 2016-17 payments for each territory. This will provide an additional $67 million to the territories and will improve the stability and predictability of TFF payments.
While the revisions had no impact on the total amount of Equalization paid to provinces in 2016-17, they did affect the allocation amongst receiving provinces. There were a number of instances where data revisions affected provincial equalization amounts; to preserve the policy intent of the Equalization regulations with respect to the treatment of the revenues of the Ontario Electricity Finance Corporation, a regulatory change was made in only one instance in advance of the 2015 December payment calculation. This regulatory change came into force on December 11, 2015, and was published in the Canada Gazette on December 30, 2015 (http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2015/2015-12-30/pdf/g2-14926.pdf).
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on May 11, 2016)
The Government of Canada is now a full supporter, without qualification, of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, advancing the vital work of reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada. The Government is committed to adopting and implementing the Declaration.
The Government of Canada will engage with and work alongside First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, as well as with provinces and territories on how to develop an Action Plan to implement the Declaration. Existing federal/ provincial/territorial fora will be used to engage provinces and territories.
Recreational Use of Marijuana
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Lynn Beyak on May 12, 2016)
Dispensaries and other sellers of marijuana are illegal in Canada. These types of establishments operate outside of the legal framework and provide products from illegal sources that are untested, unregulated and unsafe. There are no controls in place to ensure quality and stop diversion to and from the illegal channels, such as organized crime.
Canadians who need marijuana for medical purposes can access it through the legal system currently in place under Health Canada's Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. Access first requires proper authorization from a patient's physician or other qualified health care provider. Legitimate medical marijuana producers are licensed by Health Canada and operate within a strict regulatory system to ensure safe production and distribution practices.
The Government has committed to legalizing, regulating, and tightly restricting access to marijuana in order to keep it away from our children and to stop criminals from profiting from the illicit trade.
The Government recognizes that marijuana legalization is a complex issue. This is why a Task Force will soon be established to advise on the design of a new system. Provincial/territorial governments, experts and the public will have an opportunity to provide input. Based on the outcomes of this consultation, the Government will introduce legislation in the House by spring 2017.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Food Banks—Comments of Minister
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Carolyn Stewart Olsen on May 18, 2016)
Minister McCallum has said that his remarks were insensitive and that he regrets making them.
Canada's food banks provide a valued service across this country, helping address food insecurity for over 850,000 people a month, according to Food Banks Canada. Food banks reflect Canadians' generosity to help those in need.
That same generous spirit supported the Government's effort to bring over 26,000 Syrian refugees to Canada with unprecedented speed, but we know it will take longer to leave their experience of difficult circumstances behind.
Resettlement Assistance Program service providers will also assist newcomers by teaching them where and how to shop on a limited budget knowing that, for many newcomers, there is an initial transition period where financial resources may be limited. As well, once families begin to receive the Canada Child Tax Benefit cheques, their income situation will improve.
Finally, we have connected with the Canadian Association of Food Banks to understand what is happening across the country and are tracking the use of food banks through our regional offices.
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission—French Language Music Industry
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claude Carignan on May 19, 2016)
On November 2, 2015, the CRTC announced that it was postponing the hearing on the review of the regulatory framework for French-language vocal music applicable to the French-language commercial radio sector that was to begin on November 16, 2015, and that the hearing date would be announced at a later time.
The CRTC is responsible for the regulation and supervision of the Canadian broadcasting system and operates at arm's length from the Government. It is up to the CRTC to announce when its hearings will take place.
Fisheries and Oceans
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Nancy Greene Raine on May 19, 2016)
DFO is committed to ensuring healthy and abundant salmon populations for Canadians.
Overall abundances and trends have decreased in some chinook stocks and have increased in others over the last decade. Chinook stocks of concern have detailed management plans in place addressing harvest measures, habitat restoration, and enhancement; details are in the 2016/17 Salmon Integrated Fishery Management Plan.
DFO is currently collaborating with Omega Salmon Ltd., a private aquaculture company, to examine a specific alternative enhancement rearing technique intended to increase survival rates for enhanced chinook salmon.
The use of this enhancement strategy is one of many possible salmon management tools, but it may have biological risks to wild stocks. This technique would only be used where strong, peer reviewed scientific evidence demonstrated a consistent benefit that is sufficient to off-set the technique's known risks. Such evidence has not been demonstrated to date.
Foreign Investment—Home Ownership
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Yonah Martin on May 19, 2016)
The primary concern of the federal government is ensuring the longer term financial and economic stability of Canada's overall housing market.
In this context, and given the pressures in the Vancouver and Toronto markets, one of the first actions taken by the government was the announcement of a series of coordinated and prudent measures to address borrower vulnerabilities and reinforce market discipline on lenders. These measures included changes to the rules for government-backed mortgage insurance to require a 10 per cent borrower down payment on the proportion of a house above $500,000.
The government is also constantly analyzing and assessing the housing market, using a wide variety of data sources and research, from assessment realtors, federal agencies, and academics.
However, it is currently not possible to fully understand the role of foreign homebuyers in Canada's housing market since a comprehensive and reliable data set on the number of homes sold to foreign homebuyers does not exist.
To address this important data gap, the government, in Budget 2016, has announced funding to Statistics Canada to develop and implement methods for gathering data on purchases of Canadian housing by foreign homebuyers. This initiative could involve collaboration with the provinces, such as British Columbia, which recently announced its intention to have homebuyers disclose whether they are citizens or permanent residents of Canada or another country.
Acquiring better data on foreign homebuyers will allow the government to more fully understand some of the dynamics driving the Canadian housing market.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Ratna Omidvar moved second reading of Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act.
She said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to present to you Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act.
The bill's provisions change elements introduced by an earlier bill, Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.
Before we get to the substance of the bill, I would like to start with some poetry, because if ever there is poetry in legislation, then I think it is in the lofty aspirations of citizenship. I think I know something about this. After all, I have possessed three passports in my life. One I was born into; the second I married into. The first two you could say were accidents: the first an accident of birth, the second an accident, and I would say a very happy accident of love and a lifelong partnership.
But it is this third passport that I have, this blue one, the one that states I am a Canadian, which is the true manifestation of citizenship. I aspired to it. I worked hard for it. It is my earned right, and it signals to me that I belong because it is in this country that I have walked the avenues of contribution, which are the real hallmarks of engaged citizenship.
But it was not always easy. There was a great deal that I had to learn and unlearn. There were written rules and there were unwritten rules that I needed to navigate. I was advised to change my name to something more usual for Canadian ears, but I decided to stick with it because my name is as much a part of me as the colour of my skin, and I can't and won't change that.
I had a hard time finding work because a quirk of fate led me to become a teacher of German, and even though I was a really good teacher, I understood that no one in Canada in their right mind would want to learn German from an Indian who had just fled from Iran. So I gave that up and I started to reinvent myself, and with reinvention came resilience, innovation, change and renewal, and slowly but surely I found the rhythm to my new life.
I remember very distinctly the first time I felt a tug of belonging, when I, along with other parents in my daughter's rhythmic gymnastics club, made mountains of a very strange Canadian culinary confection called peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to feed the kids and the moms and dads at the regional meet. But as much as I wondered about this sticky combination, the habit of participating in a common cause with others like me and unlike me has stuck, and, directly or indirectly, it has led me to you today.
These pathways of contribution are open to all of us, regardless of whether we were fortunate enough to have been born in Canada or fortunate enough to have been naturalized. This is the glory of Canada: It does not matter whether you came to this country 100 years ago or 50 years ago or even 10 years ago, and it does not matter where you came from, a small town in Quebec, a village in Italy, Toronto or Calgary, or Iqaluit, Mumbai or Berlin. We all get to stand shoulder to shoulder, side by side, and play our part in building this wonderful country. This is the promise of Canada — equality of rights, guaranteed by our Charter and enhanced by our understanding of multiculturalism.
Part of our success reflects our unique history, a history borne of accommodation of our founding people — Indigenous peoples, French and British — an officially bilingual country, which also became a country of many immigrants, over one quarter of a million immigrants each year in our recent history. Think of more than 2.5 million immigrants over the last 10 years.
Every immigrant I know has a different story, but there are threads of commonality in every story — exodus, arrival, rejection, survival, renewal and, finally, redemption. In each of these words, I think, there are thousands of narratives and thousands of strands of poetry.
However, much as I would like to stay with the narrative and with the poetry, I must get to the prose or, as some have called it, the plumbing of this bill, and there are lots of nuts and bolts and a great number of pipes in this bill. So, in order to help me present it to you, I am going to try to paint a picture of a house, a house with a strong foundation, lots of windows and lots of light, but with a strong protective roof.
The foundations of this house are grounded in a few essential principles. The first and most important is equality among citizens. Equality sees all citizens — by birth or naturalization, mono citizens or dual citizens, whether citizens for 50 years or 10 years — treated equally under the law. Equal rights, equal responsibility and, when necessary, equal punishment. These are not aspirational goals. These are the floor, the absolute foundation of how equality is expressed in Canada.
Second is the principle of facilitating citizenship. This bill finds a more appropriate balance between fulfilling reasonable requirements, on the one hand, and facilitating citizenship, on the other, because evidence shows that citizenship is a facilitator of integration.
When immigrants integrate, they prosper. When immigrants prosper, Canada prospers.
Think of this as the main floor of the house — a welcoming living room; a big, warm fire, blazing to keep out the wretched cold; lots of windows and a big welcoming door.
But every house needs protection, a strong roof to guard it against storms and ice, so this house too has a third principle. The bill introduces new elements that will enhance program integrity and ensure that the house stays strong.
I will return to these principles as they are woven into the bill's key provisions, which I will summarize in six parts: first, repealing the authority to revoke citizenship for dual citizens convicted of crimes like treason, terrorism and espionage; second, repealing the requirement for citizen applicants to declare an intent to reside in Canada; third, reinstating previous reduced residency requirements to obtain citizenship; fourth, reinstating residency credit for temporary residents; fifth, reinstating previous age requirements to meet language and knowledge criteria to obtain citizenship; and sixth, introducing new measures to protect the integrity of the citizenship program.
I should point out that Bill C-6 is also notable for what it leaves in place, and this is a nod, I believe, to the many good policies introduced in Bill C-24 and, indeed, why I believe the government did not choose to repeal Bill C-24 in its entirety.
But the changes before us are the ones that now require discussion, and I have heard, over the last two months, arguments on all sides. I will try to present the more thoughtful of these to you, beginning with one, repealing the authority to revoke citizenship for dual citizens convicted of crimes like treason, terrorism and espionage.
Let me repeat this, with a small clarifying word added in, repealing the authority to revoke citizenship for dual citizens only, not all citizens but dual citizens only, convicted of crimes like treason, terrorism and espionage.
Honourable senators, these are grievous crimes. If committed by any citizen, they should be punished and punished severely, but here is the problem: Under the current law, different kinds of citizens are punished differently for the same terrible crime. If a Canadian citizen commits any of these crimes, he or she is tried in court and punished, but if a Canadian who happens to be a dual citizen does, whether knowingly or unknowingly — and I will get back to this fine point later — an additional punishment of banishment, or citizenship revocation, as it is called, is added.
This is not an abstract situation but a very real one. Consider that the people charged and convicted of terrorism-related crimes to date include a mix of Canadians without any other nationality and those who are dual nationals or where another nation has a claim on them. Two people, same crime, two different responses, creating two different outcomes, when our laws, our Constitution, our Charter all say that citizens are equal under the law.
The political narrative on this is, I know, familiar to all of you. On one side, our Prime Minister says a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and the other side says a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist. Allow me to revise both narratives. A terrorist who is a Canadian is a Canadian terrorist and must face nothing more or less than the full force of the Canadian justice system and the Canadian criminal system. Canadians who commit crimes should face the same legal consequences — same crime, same punishment. That, I think, is how Canadians understand justice.
Bill C-24 negates this notion of equality and sets a dangerous precedent that dual citizens are less than mono citizens. This affects anyone who has another citizenship. It affects anyone whose parents or ancestors were born abroad and who may be eligible for another citizenship. It affects individuals born in Canada who possess another citizenship through marriage, and so it affects millions of people, making some passports, I believe, more valuable than others.
Further, it is not completely clear which dual citizens the current law covers. Bear in mind that there is diversity among dual citizens. Some individuals may actually have two passports, such as dual citizens of Canada and the U.S. or Canada and the U.K. Some, however, hold no second passport and have no desired claim to it. It is the second country that may lay its claim on them. Iran is one example. Syria is another. That is one reason I don't ever dare to go back to Iran, because I know that the minute I land there, I revert to being an Iranian. Whether I like it or not, Iran has a claim on me. We should remind ourselves of what happens to citizens of another country when they are forcibly sent there against their will. We all remember Maher Arar.
Another word about punishment: Arguably, the brightest sign of civilization is civil punishment. We do not allow capital punishment or torture or stoning because we are a civil society and these practices are immoral. We should not, therefore, allow a practice that Audrey Macklin, one of Canada's brightest legal minds, has argued is akin to the medieval practice of banishment.
Bill C-6 will restore citizenship to anyone who has lost it since June 2015. One person's citizenship was revoked under the national interest grounds, and that person is Zakaria Amara, a member of the Toronto 18. Let us face that fact soberly and soberly decide to favour civil punishment.
I also want to consider the practical ramifications, which I understand were intended to make us safer. As I will point out, I think they actually make us less safe.
For one, removing terrorists does not remove the threat they pose to Canadians or Canadian assets. Canadians and Canadian interests and assets are not only physically located in Canada. We have Canadians travelling and living abroad. We have embassies, diplomatic staff, our men and women in the Canadian Forces, and the offices and operations of Canadian companies — all these could still be the target of a deported terrorist.
For another, removing terrorists risks letting them go in every sense. There is no guarantee that a foreign government or court would punish the individual to the extent that our own justice system would. There is no guarantee a foreign government would even count this person as a terrorist.
Further, removing terrorists risks losing intelligence. No less an authority than Ray Boisvert, who is the former Assistant Director of Intelligence at CSIS, said that once we deport a terrorist they are very hard to track. Our intelligence "goes black."
This contradiction is not lost on the intelligence community. We ask our security and intelligence agencies to do everything in their power to stop radicalized people from leaving Canada. Revoking citizenship and deporting these same individuals directly conflicts with this mandate.
I also wonder why we think this measure is a deterrent. Why would the threat of losing citizenship stop a terrorist? Terrorists are not the type to be influenced by losing citizenship of a country they act against. Several security experts have underlined this.
Finally, if radicalization in Canada is the main problem we're talking about when we talk about terrorism in this country, revoking citizenship does not solve it. Instead of distracting ourselves with deportation, we should be thinking of serious and effective counter-radicalization strategies.
There are questions that I would like to try to preempt and answer.
One is this: Why, if we revoke citizenship on other grounds like false representation and fraud, would we shy away from revoking citizenship of the worst criminals? Here's the difference: When false representation or fraud is used to obtain citizenship, revocation takes away something that was never genuinely granted. This is why war criminals lose their citizenship and will continue to lose it. Not because of crimes committed as a Canadian citizen, but because of their conduct before becoming a citizen and their misrepresentation to us.
Bill C-6 does not change this. Bill C-6 will continue to pursue revocation of citizenship gained as a result of fraud or misrepresentation, but it draws the line at revoking the citizenship of a citizen.
To summarize: Revoking citizenship is likely unconstitutional, it offends basic principles of equality and justice for all, and it makes us less safe.
Let me go on to the second provision. There are six of them, so I'm sorry but I'm going to have hold your attention for a rather long time.
A second major change in Bill C-6 is to repeal the requirement for citizen applicants to declare their intent to reside in Canada. Bill C-24 introduced a requirement for all citizen applicants to declare their intent to reside in Canada. This is in order to signal to all applicants that their connection to Canada ought to be an enduring and physical one. "No thank you" to the so-called "citizens of convenience."
But this law has created a great deal of confusion because it is nebulous and vague. It is also likely unconstitutional. Section 6 of the Charter states that:
Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.
So naturalized citizens who have signed off on the intent do not know whether they can leave or not. Again, it creates two classes of citizens: those who have to think twice before moving abroad and exercising their mobility rights, and those who do not.
Naturalized citizens take this seriously because the consequences of breaking such a promise are uncertain. One consequence might be revocation of citizenship on the grounds of false representation, however genuine the declaration was at the time it was made. For example, a naturalized citizen might well plan on living in Canada and honestly declare so. But plans change. Over time, Canadians move for work, for study, for love or for adventure. I think that is a good thing. As President Obama told Parliament, the world needs more Canada.
I know of a globally connected Canadian citizen whose work as an investment banker takes him around the world for long periods of time. Deepak Dave wrote to me expressing his concern for people like him, who face a choice between conducting their business and their profession or Canadian citizenship. Deepak was lucky and was granted citizenship before 2015, but he has many peers who are permanent residents and face deep anxiety about their future as naturalized Canadians. Should they declare their intent to reside, knowing their work will take them outside of Canada? What will the consequences be for them and for their children? Naturalized citizens, he says, will always be second-guessing their rights.
These stories remind me — and should remind us — that the laws we discuss here affect the lives of individuals in deeply personal ways. This rule has created uncertainty, ambivalence and confusion with real and harmful consequences. One is that future citizens are hesitant to take out citizenship because they fear that they could be charged with fraud and misrepresentation if their lives change, so they stay outside the full circle of Canadian inclusion. Secondly, it forces citizen applicants to forgo opportunities to be global citizens in the global marketplace.
I think we all agree that Canada's immigrants are natural ambassadors to new cultures, markets, products and thinking. Let us not put an artificial noose around their neck.
If the intention of the "intent to reside" clause was to ensure a physical presence in Canada, to create that glue with the new country, I would point out that all citizen applicants must provide proof of physical presence in Canada before qualifying for citizenship. The glue that we are seeking to find, I think, is already there, a bit like that sticky peanut butter jelly sandwich that I made.
A third change addresses the length of time one must spend in Canada before applying for citizenship.
Bill C-6 returns the residency requirement for citizen applicants to three years of physical presence in Canada, the same number required before Bill C-24 came into effect and lengthened it to four of six years. This is a return to the status quo with some additional flexibility: three of five years instead of three of four years. For more flexibility, Bill C-6 also removes the requirement for a minimum number of days spent in Canada for each calendar year.
I believe that returning to three years strikes the right balance. Choosing residency requirements is a balancing act, on the one hand desiring that immigrants connect and identify with Canada and on the other hand enabling them to fully contribute to this country in ways that permanent residents cannot.
This law has, again, very practical considerations attached to it. I spoke to Edward, who works at the University of Regina. Edward is an American citizen who became a permanent resident in 2013. He intends to apply for citizenship as soon as he can, but at this point he has not applied because he does not qualify.
Edward has aging parents in the U.S. whom he visits often to care for. Because of his family duties he does not meet the residency rules. These rules require four of six years of physical presence and 183 days of physical presence per calendar year. If this sounds confusing, trust me, it is. The rules have pushed him into keeping detailed spreadsheets of his whereabouts.
He knows he does not meet the current residency requirements but he would if the rules proposed in Bill C-6 were adopted. These new rules bring greater flexibility and clarity. Applicants like Edward need only meet one physical residency requirement. He would be able to fill in his application and become a citizen as soon as Bill C-6 becomes law, and then he could be both a good Canadian and a good son.
A fourth change is that Bill C-6 would reinstate residency credit for temporary residents. I will not dwell long on this because I think the value for Canada is straightforward. It would allow temporary residents to count each full day of their time in Canada as a half day up to a maximum credit of one year. Those who will benefit are international students, temporary foreign workers, visitors like parents and grandparents, and protected persons and recognized refugees.
Many of them, like international students and workers, are among the best and brightest immigrants. It is not only fair but forward-thinking to give them due credit and encourage them to permanently invest their life in Canada. We often hear about the war for talent, and Canada needs to win this so-called war. Here is one tool in our toolbox to do so.
The fifth requirement would reinstate the previous age requirements to meet language and knowledge criteria in order to obtain citizenship.
As you may know, under the previous government, a great deal of attention was paid to the language and knowledge tests that applicants for citizenship were required to pass. A new knowledge guide was developed called Discover Canada. It is a fascinating document. I would encourage you to look at it every now and then. Bill C-24 required all citizenship applicants between the ages of 14 and 65 to pass a knowledge exam based on this guide, in addition to meeting the official language requirements.
Meeting the official language requirements and knowing about Canada does not change. What will change are the age requirements. Bill C-6 returns the age requirement for demonstrating capability in an official language and knowledge of Canada to those aged 18 to 54. We are talking about two groups: youth between the ages of 14 and 18 and older Canadians aged 55 and up who would be exempt from taking these tests.
This is a reasonable and practical change. Youth aged 14 to 18 years of age will naturally learn the language and learn about Canada in the schools they attend during their three-plus years while they earn their residency credits. It is unnecessary and possibly wasteful for the government and for families to be tested to prove their language capacity.
But concerns have been expressed about the upper end of the age bracket. What is the rationale for scrapping language and knowledge tests for those aged 55 to 64 years? This policy is a compassionate one that recognizes that language acquisition gets much harder as one gets older. I can promise you I would not be able to learn German today. That knowledge and language testing is a barrier with a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged groups, for example, women from certain parts of the world with lower rates of literacy.
Parents and grandparents in the family class who arrive in Canada later in life are impacted by this policy, as well as older refugees who are accompanying their children to Canada. I ask my honourable colleagues to think of your parents, grandparents or whichever generation first arrived in Canada, if you do not trace your heritage to one of the First Nations. Maybe they were lucky enough to be fluent in one of our official languages but maybe not, yet they, too, became citizens.
Today, people who come to Canada later in their lives contribute in so many ways. Some are lucky enough to find work in the communities, whether or not they are fluent in one of our official languages. Others may live at home with their children and grandchildren, may speak a smattering of English, walk the kids to school, are relied on by other parents on the street for help, and as such become an essential part of the fabric of the community. I have lived most of my life in Toronto in Little Italy, and it was a comfort to us that there was a resident Italian grandmother on our street, who we all called Nonna.
I think older citizens are committed to this country and want to belong and share Canadian citizenship and not be left behind because they may not speak English or French as well as their children.
My mother, who has lived with me for 30-plus years, speaks to me in a fantastic mix of Hindi, Punjabi and English. For most of her years in Canada, she has cooked at home, helped raise her grandchildren and helped me raise my grandchildren. She has supported our household as much as my husband or me.
She applied for citizenship three years after she arrived and got it in the 1990s, under the old rules and the old citizenship exam. And thank God she passed. As I look at the requirements today, especially the knowledge test, I am not sure she would pass.
As a Canadian citizen whose command of English is not perfect, she avidly watches Canadian politics on OMNI Television. Thank God for OMNI. She insists on voting at every election, even though mobility issues now get in her way. She questions me constantly on the issues confronted by our Parliament and country.
Removing testing requirements for younger and older Canadians removes a potential barrier to citizenship and the sense of belonging that comes with it.
Finally, Bill C-6 invests in the integrity of Canadian citizenship by introducing new measures.
Allow me to list just a few: Bill C-6 enables citizenship officers to seize fraudulent documents, and it adds conditional sentences as a situation in which a person would be prevented from being granted citizenship, or from counting that time toward meeting the physical presence requirement. It plugs a gap that would prevent citizenship applicants from taking the Oath of Citizenship if problematic issues arise between the date their application is approved and the date of taking the oath.
In all of these issues of citizenship testing, citizenship revocation, residency provisions and language fluency, the question is asked, "What are our peers doing?" And by "our peers," we are talking about a small handful of countries that are alike, such as the U.S., the U.K., France, Australia, New Zealand and now maybe Germany. The answer is that in some cases we are with the pack, and in some cases we are not. Sometimes the difference is minimal; sometimes it is not.
But here is the real kicker: We are not just in the pack; we are the leaders of the pack. In the context of immigration, Canada leaves its peer countries behind. Our immigrants do better, their children do better, our society is more cohesive, and therefore safe; immigrants aspire and reach the highest positions in public life and have ample role models in our history to guide them. These countries should be looking to us for answers, not the other way around.
I am often asked what the secret of our success is. And there are many answers to this. One answer lies in the fact that Canada has a global soul. But a more practical answer lies in that when we select immigrants, we are actually selecting future citizens.
In closing, I will remark that the immigration system in general and the Citizenship Act in particular are not perfect. It is a work-in-progress.
In fact, there are elements in our citizenship laws that can be strengthened. The absence of a hearing for those whose citizenship is revoked for reasons of fraud and misrepresentation concerns me. On this and other matters, I look forward to discussions and findings at committee that will help the Senate improve and approve this bill in a timely and collegial manner, as a complementary house of sober second thought.
Before I close, let me harken back to the house that Canada built. When immigrants come to Canada, they enter this house. In the beginning, everything is new to them; they sit on the edge of the chair in the living room. But over time they begin to feel comfortable. They figure out how the dishwasher works, where the electrical fuses are, how to pay the bills and how to save 10 per cent. One day they may figure out how to pay some of the mortgage payments. And then they decide to paint the house another colour and rearrange the furniture, because, after all, it is now their house, too. It is where they belong; it is home.
I believe that belonging — in law and in all its expressions in practice — is the spirit and letter of this bill. Thank you.
Hon. Don Meredith: I have a question.
The Hon. the Speaker: There is a motion for adjournment, but would you like to ask a question?
Senator Meredith: Certainly.
The Hon. the Speaker: On debate.
Senator Meredith: Thank you so much, Senator Omidvar, for an eloquent speech. I also reflect on my time as an immigrant to this country, and what would also accompany that jam and peanut butter is a ripe banana and a glass of milk.
The stakeholders in our community are very concerned about this piece of legislation. I would like to get your feedback as to their concerns and how the changes that Bill C-6 proposes, moving forward, will enhance their lives, especially the family members who are, as you eloquently stated, at risk of not getting citizenship because they are concerned about their economics. Can you elaborate on that?
Senator Omidvar: I wonder if the senator would clarify whether he was speaking about the fees attached to citizenship.
Senator Meredith: I didn't say "fees." I said, "How do they feel about this particular piece of legislation?"
Senator Omidvar: The stakeholders I have spoken to are all in support of this bill. They would like to have some things added to it, but I don't want to pre-empt the discussions in committee and that process before I can propose other changes. But my understanding is that if the intent-to-reside provision in particular is very worrisome to them — the level of citizenship uptake has been declining, and some of it can be attributed to this bill; some of it is at attributed to other external factors.
In general, I know that including people in the Canadian circle fully as franchised citizens who not only work, live and pay taxes but have the right to vote is a very important step in their becoming Canadians. I hope that answers your question.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Senator, would you take another question?
Senator Omidvar: Absolutely.
Senator Moore: I want to make sure I have the facts correct. There was a story last week in the press with respect to a young woman who was born of Canadian parents outside Canada. The family returned to Canada when she was an infant, and unbeknownst to her, she was required on her twenty-eighth birthday to reaffirm her citizenship to Canada. She had no knowledge this was a requirement; she didn't know the original citizenship was conditional.
I'm wondering if you were aware of that and if you'd consider maybe trying to fix that so that when you become a citizen, you are a citizen and acquire all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that go with that.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you for that question, senator.
Our citizenship law is more complex than I would have thought. It has requirements and conditions attached to leaving and departing that are fairly confusing. Some people, as in this particular case, are not aware that they have to exercise a proactive right as opposed to accepting the passive designation of a Canadian citizen. There are thousands of cases like this.
I look forward to clarifying some of these questions in committee and coming back to you in the house with appropriate answers. But all I can tell you is that it is a very common story.
Hon. André Pratte: Would the honourable senator take another question?
I'm intrigued about the age issue for the test. These are not tests for the fun of a test. They are tests, especially language, for the capacity of a future citizen to have a successful integration.
At 55, you would be part of the workforce. If you do not have knowledge of one of the official languages, you may have difficulty in getting or keeping a job.
Why is it 55 and not 65 or 70? I understand your idea of being older and it's more difficult to learn a language, but 55 seems to be pretty young as a standard.
Senator Omidvar: Since I'm no longer 55, I think it's very young. I will restate that the demographics of immigration are changing rapidly and have changed in the last five or more years. Older immigrants are adapting very well to work and language requirements.
And we're talking about a very small percentage of people. I can't give you the exact percentage but it is not the general population. I'm not saying that knowledge of English and French is not essential. I know it is one of the most important indicators of successful integration, but I also recognize, Senator Pratte, that there are certain groups of people who may not be able to gain that facility, especially if they came when they were older. As we know scientifically, language is harder to learn the older you get.
I am particularly concerned about refugee women and people in what we would call the "precarious employment sector." They have to work one to three jobs. Even though language classes are available — and that is a great gift to our country — they can't afford to take them because they have to work to pay the rent.
There are classes of people for whom this becomes a real barrier. It's not the whole demographic of 55 and over, but it is a demographic that is of particular concern to me because of the inherent disadvantages that I described.
(On motion of Senator Eaton, debate adjourned.)
Budget Implementation Bill, 2016, No. 1
Third Report of National Security and Defence Committee on Subject Matter; Third Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee on Subject Matter; Fourth Report of Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee on Subject Matter—Reports Withdrawn
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I ask for leave of the Senate to withdraw items numbered 1, 2 and 3 under Government Business, Reports of Committees, Other, because they are related to Bill C-15, which received Royal Assent on June 22, 2016.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Financial Administration Act
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Order Withdrawn
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Moore, seconded by the Honourable Senator Day, for the second reading of Bill S-204, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (borrowing of money).
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, Bill S-204 was included, I'm happy to say, in the budget bill passed in June. I therefore ask that this bill be withdrawn from the Order Paper.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)