Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 100
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker
- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- The Late Lea MacKinnon
- Visitor in the Gallery
- Reliable High-Speed Internet Access
- Black History Month
- Visitor in the Gallery
- Le Parlement jeunesse francophone de la Colombie-Britannique
- University of Manitoba
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Study on Best Practices and On-going Challenges Relating to Housing in First Nation and Inuit Communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Northwest Territories
- The Senate
- Transport and Communications
- QUESTION PERIOD
- Business of the Senate
- Delayed Answers to Oral Questions
- Foreign Affairs
- Small Business and Tourism
- Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
- Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
- International Trade
- Foreign Affairs
- Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Public Safety
- Foreign Affairs
- Canadian Heritage
- National Revenue
- Environment and Climate Change
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- QUESTION PERIOD
- Business of the Senate
- Ministry of Health
- Legalization of Marijuana
- Use of Antibiotics in Food Animals—Antimicrobial Resistance
- Antibiotic Resistance
- Opioid Addiction Crisis—Safe Consumption Sites
- Palliative Care
- Maternal and Child Health in Indigenous Communities
- Legalization of Marijuana
- Opioid Addiction Crisis
- Blood and Plasma System
- Palliative Care
- Business of the Senate
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I have the distinct honour to rise today as Co-chair of the Canada-Bulgaria Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group to mark the one hundred and thirty-ninth anniversary of Bulgaria's Liberation Day on Friday, March 3.
This national day celebrates the signing of the peace treaty of San Stefano between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, which provided for an autonomous Bulgarian state. It is a day for Bulgarians around the world to pause and pay tribute to the brave men and women who stood together and gave their lives in the hopes of a liberated Bulgaria from almost 500 years of Ottoman rule.
In 2016, the Republic of Bulgaria celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of their constitution and is now a thriving nation of over 7 million people governed by a strong parliamentary democracy. Also in 2016, Canada and Bulgaria celebrated 50 years of bilateral relations based on our shared values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Today, Canada is home to over 30,000 people of Bulgarian heritage, who passionately share their vibrant culture, enriching the Canadian multicultural tapestry. Bulgarian-Canadians contribute immensely to our country — they are members of the Canadian Armed Forces, entrepreneurs, teachers and leaders in various public and private sectors.
On February 23, I met once more with leaders of the Bulgarian community of B.C., to break bread and discuss 2017 priorities for the community. Each time I meet with these community leaders I am inspired by their unwavering devotion to community and family, their passion for Bulgarian heritage and culture, and their love of Canada. They were especially excited to tell me about what is taking place on Friday, March 3, Bulgarian Liberation Day, in the historic city of New Westminster, the first capital of B.C. The Bulgarian-Canadian community will gather to raise the national Bulgarian flag at city hall for the first time in the B.C. community's history. I will join them to show my respect and regard to the community.
I also commend His Excellency Dr. Nikolay Milkov for his ongoing leadership and service, as well as Consul General Petar Kraytchev in Toronto and Honorary Consuls Mr. Ignat Kaness in Brampton and Mr. Georges Panitchersky in Montreal, who share Ambassador's Milkov's commitment to Canada-Bulgaria relations.
Honourable senators, please join me in recognizing the Bulgarian-Canadian community in marking Bulgaria's Liberation Day on March 3 and in strengthening Canada's Bulgaria relations.
Thank you. Blagodarya.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, the people of Montague, Prince Edward Island, are saddened by the loss of a beloved town resident, Mr. Lea MacKinnon, who passed away yesterday at the age of 70.
Mr. MacKinnon — or Lea, as he was most known — was a mainstay. He walked everywhere — he was even the first person to walk across the new Montague bridge — and would wave and chat with those who passed. Everyone in town knows his trademark "Gotcha!", and many answer to the nicknames of "Skinny" and "Monkey." He was never in poor humour and was never one to say an unkind word.
Lea loved to help others and that inspired his community service. He regularly ran errands for friends and local businesses and picked up the mail for those who needed an extra hand. He has been recognized as Volunteer of the Year and was granted a lifetime membership with the Lions Foundation of Canada.
The charity most dear to him was the Children's Wish Foundation. He supported this cause for more than 30 years, participating in its annual Wishmaker Walks. For a number of years, he raised the most money, and in 2016 the foundation recognized his long-standing support with a special award and plaque.
I have no doubt that his passing will leave a void in the town and for the people in and around it. Lea shared his love of life with every person he met, and he will be sorely missed by everyone lucky enough to cross his path.
I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Lea's brother, Blaine, and his sisters Beryl, Kaye and Beth, and their families, as well as his many friends and extended relatives.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Duncan McIntosh, Chair of the Board of the Canada-China Friendship and Goodwill Association for Educational and Cultural Collaboration. He is the guest of the Honourable Senator Duffy.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, last week I had an opportunity to meet with small business leaders, business owners and tourism operators in rural P.E.I. They reported that 2016 had been a good year for tourism and with the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Confederation they hope 2017 will be even better.
But they warn that without access to reliable high-speed Internet, they cannot continue to grow their businesses and employ Islanders. They report that when their potential customers call to make a reservation, they say that if they can't access the Internet, then they will stay elsewhere.
Access to reliable high-speed Internet service isn't a luxury; it is essential for both business and leisure.
In 2010, our Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications drafted a plan for a digital Canada. This committee, led by Senator Dennis Dawson, recommended that reliable high-speed service should be made available to all Canadians.
It took six years, but Senator Dawson's important work was finally followed up in Budget 2016, when the Government of Canada launched the Connect to Innovate program. This program proposes to invest $500 million over five years to bring high-speed Internet to rural and remote communities in Canada. This program will support new backbone infrastructure and, most important to rural P.E.I., last-mile infrastructure to households and businesses.
In response to overwhelming public interest, the federal Minister of Innovation has extended the deadline to apply for funding to April 20 of this year.
I would urge colleagues to remind municipalities and community groups in rural and remote regions to indicate their interest by signing on at the Innovation Canada website.
For those of us from rural Canada, this program is critically important. If rural and remote regions are to have the opportunity to innovate and participate in our economy, they must have reliable high-speed access to the net. And I'm not talking about 1 megabit downloads, which some ISPs are selling as high speed.
It is not just for fun. It is much more important than that. From cutting-edge services like Telehealth and telelearning to expanding democracy, high-speed access is as essential today as it was when building the CPR was a priority more than a century ago.
I congratulate the federal government for recognizing this important need, and I assure you no one will be looking for results more than the people of rural Prince Edward Island.
Hon. Marie-Françoise Mégie: Honourable senators, today I am rising in this chamber for the very first time.
It is an honour for me to take the time on this March 1st to thank you for your participation in Black History Month celebrations.
From the beginning of my previous career, I understood that ordinary people have to get involved to make change happen. After 35 years of practising medicine, I am more convinced than ever of the impact we can have within our society.
Dear black Canadians, you are part of the change that makes Canada progress. Our country is thriving today because of the courage you have shown and the efforts you made to get involved in your communities.
Regardless of political stripe and cultural differences, I am appealing to black Canadians to continue to work together to move our country forward.
As we prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, many challenges remain. Indeed, despite the tremendous progress we have made, we can do better.
We need not dwell on the striking inequalities and latent racism, but neither can we ignore these societal problems.
However, as an exemplary people, it is our duty to overcome these obstacles by building on our common growth and progress.
Of course, all these efforts will be for naught without the contribution of other communities that shape Canada's ethnocultural mosaic. The vitality of our country starts with a common awareness of the challenges we must face.
Then, our capacity to properly educate our youth, implement concrete employment access measures and promote an egalitarian environment will allow us all to seize the opportunities that will benefit our country as a whole.
Just talking about these challenges is not enough. We have to implement long-term solutions.
Celebrating Black history for 28 days will obviously not eliminate discrimination. A month flies by when people are overwhelmed by the day-to-day business of living. Only through steadfast solidarity will we achieve our ideals of equality, justice and fraternity.
To close, honourable senators, I want to re-emphasize that ordinary people must get involved to make change happen.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Ms. Chabeli Guerrero-Dumont. Ms. Guerrero-Dumont was the Liaison for the Canadian Delegation at the Twenty-second Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in January 2014. She is the guest of the Honourable Senator Plett.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, in January, I had the privilege of participating in the British Columbia francophone youth parliament at the provincial Legislative Assembly in Victoria.
This annual event brought together 115 young francophones and francophiles from all over British Columbia.
Its purpose is to help young people build their leadership skills and their knowledge of provincial and federal political systems. The event is also intended to increase their community involvement through citizen participation.
The enthusiasm of these young people and their interest in political and social issues showed me just how keen, intelligent and involved our youth are.
That's why I want to applaud this initiative, which enables the francophone generation to preserve and promote its connection to its culture and language in an anglophone majority province. This type of event gives our future leaders an opportunity to meet, to discuss issues that matter to them and to get involved in our society.
We also discussed the important role of youth and their engagement in our society, and, in particular, how important the idea of making Canada a bilingual country is to them.
Therefore, I would like to thank and congratulate the organizing committee and also the volunteers for their incredible work. I would especially like to acknowledge the contributions of Rémi Marien, Executive Director of the Conseil jeunesse francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, his colleague, Sophie Brassard, Chair of the Board of Directors, and their team.
I would also like to congratulate the newly elected Speaker, Moe Younesi, who is responsible for organizing the next edition of the youth parliament.
In closing, I would like to remind senators of the importance we must place on the opinions and different ideas of our young people. It is our duty, as senators, to listen to them, to encourage them to get involved, and to remind them that no matter their gender, sexual orientation religion, or age, they have a role to play in our society, and not just today's society, but also the society of the future.
Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, I rise today in honour of the University of Manitoba's one hundred and fortieth anniversary, whose celebrations were launched yesterday, outdoors, in a wonderful ceremony.
Winnipeg has been the centre of many national firsts, in many fields, over many decades, and one — the founding of Western Canada's first university, the University of Manitoba — was particularly important for the west and Canada as a whole. I had the privilege of being a board member and its board chair for a number of years, years in which past accomplishments certainly proved to be firm foundations as we looked ahead.
Throughout its history, the U of M has provided a solid basis and head start for the work of all its graduates, who have taken their places in myriad fields, nationally and internationally. The U of M is, and will always be, a microcosm of the province and a leader in many national issues.
Research at the U of M over its 140 years has been inspiring, critically important and groundbreaking. Its teaching has stretched and inspired the minds of generations of students, building strong pillars of knowledge in every field of endeavour: agriculture, medicine, law, the arts, engineering, architecture, science, climate change and many more. U of M graduates, some of whom are members of this chamber, are trailblazers, pioneers, challengers, visionaries, explorers and creators.
Yesterday, I applauded the thousands of current students from Manitoba, encouraging them to make as much of the opportunities that lie ahead for them as they can.
With this new strategic plan, plans for future campus development, a serious commitment to indigenizing the campus and the opening of the new National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the U of M is well-poised in its leadership roles in many capacities.
This milestone anniversary is a perfect time to underline the importance of advanced education, providing opportunities for international students to study in Canada and for our students to study around the world, gaining mutual understanding of rich and multicultural diversities and perspectives. In our rapidly changing global landscape, we are on the cusp of new ventures and perspectives as to who we are, and what we are, as Canadians.
If the past has taught us anything, I know the University of Manitoba graduates will make this world a better place, building on the mantra that we are all better off when we are all better off.
While Canada celebrates the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Confederation this year, Manitoba anticipates its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary in 2020. The University of Manitoba will certainly play a central role in those celebrations, just as its faculty, students and staff will help guide Canada to a successful 200.
Here is to the University of Manitoba, to universities, their faculties and students across this country as we prepare our citizens for Canada's vital and vibrant future.
Study on Best Practices and On-going Challenges Relating to Housing in First Nation and Inuit Communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Northwest Territories
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that, pursuant to the order of reference adopted on February 18, 2016, and to the order adopted by the Senate on December 12, 2016, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on March 1, 2017, its fifth report, final, entitled: We can do better: Housing in Inuit Nunangat. I move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting.
(On motion of Senator Patterson, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, in order to allow the Senate to receive a Minister of the Crown during Question Period as authorized by the Senate on December 10, 2015, and notwithstanding rule 4-7, when the Senate sits on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, Question Period shall begin at 3:30 p.m., with any proceedings then before the Senate being interrupted until the end of Question Period, which shall last a maximum of 40 minutes;
That, if a standing vote would conflict with the holding of Question Period at 3:30 p.m. on that day, the vote be postponed until immediately after the conclusion of Question Period;
That, if the bells are ringing for a vote at 3:30 p.m. on that day, they be interrupted for Question Period at that time, and resume thereafter for the balance of any time remaining; and
That, if the Senate concludes its business before 3:30 p.m. on that day, the sitting be suspended until that time for the purpose of holding Question Period.
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, when the Senate next adjourns after the adoption of this motion, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 2 p.m.
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications in relation to its study on the regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of connected and automated vehicles be extended from March 30, 2017 to December 31, 2017.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable Senators, pursuant to the motion adopted in this chamber on Thursday, February 16, 2017, and amended on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, Question Period will take place at 3:10 p.m.
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table answers to the following oral questions:
—the question raised by the Honourable Senator Meredith on May 12, 2016, concerning Ethiopia; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Fraser on June 2, 2016, concerning judicial vacancies; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Enverga on June 8, 2016, concerning employment insurance; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Martin on October 19, 2016, concerning Parks Canada and job opportunities for youth; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Jaffer on October 26, 2016, concerning judicial vacancies; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Oh on October 26, 2016, concerning children in immigration detention; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Housakos on November 15, 2016, concerning the aerospace industry; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Carignan on November 16, 2016, concerning the Canada European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, dairy assistance program; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Enverga on November 17, 2016, concerning financial literacy; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Martin on November 17, 2016, concerning the fight against opioid use; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Ngo on November 17, 2016, concerning the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Status of Hamas;
I am also tabling the answers to the following questions: the question raised by the Honourable Senator Wells on November 24, 2016, concerning the Thalidomide Survivors Compensation Program; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Eaton on November 24, 2016, concerning palliative care; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Marshall on November 24, 2016, concerning medical isotopes; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Cordy on November 28, 2016, concerning medical treatment; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Maltais on November 28, 2016, concerning bovine tuberculosis; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Marshall on November 28, 2016, concerning health; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Jaffer on November 28, 2016, concerning Canada Border Services Agency and the detention of refugee children; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Ngo on November 30, 2016, concerning development assistance and food security.
—the question raised by the Honourable Senator Ngo on December 1, 2016, concerning the victims of communism and the memorial thereto; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Plett on December 7, 2016, concerning grain regulation; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Downe on December 7, 2016, concerning overseas vessel tax evasion; the question raised by the Honourable Senator Griffin on December 14, 2016, concerning Parks Canada, Prince Edward Island Province House; and the question raised by the Honourable Senator Carignan on December 15, 2016, concerning asbestos ban compensation of affected communities.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Don Meredith on May 12, 2016)
The Government of Canada is concerned by the effects of the El Niño-related drought in Ethiopia, which has left more than 10 million people in need of emergency food assistance. Since October 2015, Global Affairs Canada has provided $35 million to the World Food Programme, UNICEF, and other humanitarian agencies to assist drought-affected households in Ethiopia. Canada's support is now helping to provide food, water, and treatment for acute malnutrition to those in need.
In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, Global Affairs Canada announced its renewed support of $125 million over 5 years for the Government of Ethiopia's `Productive Safety Nets Program', which provides predictable food or cash transfers to chronically food insecure households, preventing them from sliding into crisis in times of drought. Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of Canadian development assistance, with a program focused on food security, agricultural growth and sustainable economic growth.
We are continuing to monitor the drought and food insecurity situation in Ethiopia and will consider further humanitarian assistance, as needed.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Joan Fraser on June 2, 2016)
Our Government is committed to filling judicial vacancies in a timely, open, and transparent manner. We have been listening to Chief Justices across the country to understand and meet the needs of those courts operating under serious strain.
That is why, over the past several months, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General has announced the appointment of 41 new judges to superior courts across Canada. In addition, on November 23, 22 Deputy Judges were appointed to the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, the Supreme Court of Yukon, and the Nunavut Court of Justice.
New measures were also announced on October 20 to strengthen the role of the Judicial Advisory Committees (JACs) in the judicial appointment process. The changes to the selection process are aimed at reinforcing public confidence through openness, increased transparency and accountability, and by promoting diversity and gender balance on the bench.
Our Government is dedicated to having effective, diverse, and rigorously trained JACs operational as soon as possible. Moving forward, all judicial appointments made by the Government of Canada will be completed under the reformed appointments process.
We are confident that these reforms to the judicial appointment process will reinforce public confidence while upholding Canada's proud tradition of an independent judiciary that is second to none.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga, Jr. on June 8, 2016)
The Government is taking action to improve Employment Insurance (EI). Specifically, from 2016/17 to 2017/18, investments will include $129 million to create a Working While on Claim pilot project and $126 million to extend the maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements to 76 weeks. The EI premium rate in 2017 will also be decreasing from $1.88 per $100 of insurable earnings to $1.63 (will reduce costs for workers/employers).
Additionally, the Youth Employment Strategy (YES) provides $330 million in federal funding annually to help youth 15-30 get information/job experience. The Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) stream is in particularly high demand, with applications surpassing available funds by over 300% in 2014 and 2015.
Accordingly, Budget 2016 proposed additional YES investments of over $278 million in 2016-2017. Thus, total funding this year will be over $606 million ($165.4 million to create green jobs, increase access to Skills Link, and increase jobs in heritage sector + $113 million for CSJ annually for 3 years, beginning 2016—2017).
The Government is also investing in initiatives such as Post-Secondary Industry Partnership/Co-Operative Placements ($73 million over 4 years, starting 2016-17) and an Expert Panel on Youth Employment to assess barriers faced by vulnerable youth in finding/keeping jobs and examine innovative practices.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Yonah Martin on October 19, 2016)
The Government of Canada is expanding employment opportunities for Canadian youth.
Budget 2016 makes additional investments of over $278 million in the Employment and Social Development Canada's Youth Employment Strategy program for 2016-2017, including funding for new green jobs.
Parks Canada and other federal government departments have successfully begun creating green jobs, starting with over 2,000 green jobs in 2016-2017, by either expanding existing programs or by developing and implementing new programs.
Under Employment and Social Development Canada's Youth Employment Strategy program, Parks Canada created 435 new green jobs in 2016, which is a 35 percent increase in Parks Canada's student staffing compared to 2015.
Students at Parks Canada have the unique opportunity to experience and learn more about Canada's environment and history, and be involved in protecting and presenting the country's most treasured natural and cultural heritage places.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Mobina S. B. Jaffer on October 26, 2016)
Our government is committed to ensuring that the process for appointing judges to superior courts fosters greater diversity on the bench. This renewed process is transparent and accountable to Canadians and will ensure that judges of the highest calibre are appointed to superior courts.
Presently, there are no Indigenous judges or people of colour sitting on the Supreme Court of Canada. However, our government is committed to change. Although diversity statistics are not available with respect to the composition of the federally-appointed judiciary generally, some recent data are available. Of the 41 judicial appointments made by our Government, 23 were women (56 percent), with 2 visible minorities (5 percent) and 3 Indigenous appointments (7 percent).
In addition, our Government is finalizing the reconstitution of the Judicial Advisory Committees (JACs). The new JAC appointees, who are responsible for assessing judicial candidates, will represent an unprecedented level of diversity in these critical roles.
As was announced on October 20, 2016, the Government will instruct the JACs to conduct the assessment of candidates taking into account the government's goal to have a judiciary that reflects the diversity of Canadian society. JAC members will be assisted in this task through training on diversity, unconscious bias, and the assessment of merit.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Victor Oh on October 26, 2016)
The Government of Canada is committed to creating a better, fairer immigration detention system while upholding public safety. The Minister has announced $138 million to support the new National Immigration Detention Framework in order to expand alternatives to detention, significantly improve conditions at Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) holding centres, provide better mental and medical health services, sharply reduce reliance on provincial facilities, improve access for legal and spiritual advisors, and strengthen partnerships with the Red Cross and the United Nations.
CBSA legislation and policy is clear that minors are only detained as a last resort, and only after the best interest of the child is carefully considered. CBSA officers are trained to first consider alternative arrangements with family members or local child care agencies. In the case of accompanied minors, officers work with the parent(s) and child welfare authorities to assess the best interests of the child. If it is deemed to be in the best interest of the child, there may be instances where minors are allowed to remain in the immigration holding centre in the care of a parent or guardian.
As of November 1, 2016, the CBSA has published detentions statistics, including statistics on minors on its website: http://cbsa.gc.ca/security-securite/detent-stat-eng.html.
The CBSA is committed to publishing further detailed statistics on minors by April 2017, as part of the Government of Canada's commitment to transparency under the National Immigration Detention Framework.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Leo Housakos on November 15, 2016)
The Government of Canada is committed to working with the Government of Manitoba to ensure the long term economic viability of the aerospace industry. The federal government is working closely with the Province of Manitoba to strengthen the Manitoba aerospace industry by identifying strategic investments to ensure the sector has the skills and technology to remain competitive and grow in the global aerospace market.
The efforts currently underway build on a strong foundation of collaborative efforts between the Government of Canada and the Government of Manitoba. Over the past five years, Western Economic Diversification Canada has supported 12 major projects that have provided growth opportunities for the aerospace industry in Manitoba. Canada's investment of more than $25 million to support these important initiatives is testimony to Canada's ongoing commitment to a coordinated approach with the Government of Manitoba.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claude Carignan on November 16, 2016)
The Government of Canada strongly supports free trade and the implementation of the Canada — European Union Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). It encourages investment, opens markets, creates jobs, and benefits Canadian consumers.
In anticipation of the CETA's entry into force, the Government is investing $350 million for two programs to support the competitiveness of the dairy sector. The Government will invest in the Dairy Farm Investment Program, which will provide $250 million over five years in targeted contributions to help Canadian dairy farmers update farm technologies and systems and improve productivity through equipment upgrades. The Government will also invest in a Dairy Processing Investment Fund, which will invest $100 million over four years and be driven by processor demand. Projects will be assessed on criteria which are to be established and would include regional considerations.
Ongoing consultations will better inform the program's design. These consults are underway including discussions with stakeholder and all provinces including Quebec.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga, Jr. on November 17, 2016)
The Government supports the strategy that is being implemented under the leadership of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) and the Financial Literacy Leader.
The FCAC is collaborating with the public, private and non-profit sectors in initiatives to strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians. The FCAC has developed tools, workshops, calculators and a comprehensive database of financial literacy resources that can help consumers make informed financial decisions. The FCAC is also supporting the development of new budgeting tools, including mobile applications that teach budgeting skills. In addition, the FCAC is helping to expand the size and number of financial literacy networks.
The Government has also undertaken new initiatives to support seniors' financial literacy. Many of the 36 actions set out in the Seniors' Strategy for Financial Literacy have been fulfilled. The FCAC developed programs with stakeholders, such as the Canadian Bankers Association and Chartered Professional Accountants that are being delivered to seniors and those who work with them. Through public outreach and education, the Government and the stakeholder community are helping seniors and caregivers recognize fraud and elder abuse, and to be cautious consumers.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Yonah Martin on November 17, 2016)
The government is deeply concerned about the increase in opioid abuse and overdoses in Canada.
Among the many actions the government has already taken to combat the opioid crisis, Naloxone was made available without a prescription; the approval and importation of Naloxone nasal spray was expedited; fentanyl precursors were scheduled under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act; and a summit was held in Ottawa to discuss further measures.
Moreover, the Minister of Public Safety signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China to enhance cooperation on combating crime. That led to a commitment between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security to work together to stem the flow of illicit opioids into Canada.
On December 12, 2016, the government introduced Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts. Among other measures, this legislation would expand the authorities of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) by empowering officers at the border to open packages weighing 30 grams or less without the consent of the sender or addressee when an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that the package contains a prohibited, controlled or regulated substance.
To ensure the safety of border officers, safe handling procedures and enhanced controls are in place. These include personal protective equipment to prevent accidental exposure to any unknown substance and the distribution of Naloxone (NARCAN) nasal spray to regional employees for the emergency treatment of an opioid exposure.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Thanh Hai Ngo on November 17, 2016)
Pursuant to subsection 83.05 of the Criminal Code, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness must review the list of terrorist entities every two years and make a recommendation to the Governor in Council as to whether there are still reasonable grounds for an entity to remain listed. The two year review follows a process that is similar to the listing of individual entities. In the most recent review, which was completed in December 2016, it was determined that Hamas should remain listed.
Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamiya (Hamas) was listed as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code on November 27, 2002. The recommendation to list Hamas was based on a security intelligence report produced by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Subsection 83.05(2) provides a process for an entity to challenge its listing on application in writing. To date, Hamas has not put forward such an application.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable David M. Wells on November 24, 2016)
Our Government is committed to supporting Canadian thalidomide survivors. This includes providing an opportunity and a process to assess unconfirmed individuals to determine if they are survivors.
Sadly, each year, a certain number of children are born with spontaneous or otherwise unaccountable malformations similar to those caused by thalidomide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately half of congenital anomalies cannot be linked to a specific cause.1This makes identifying survivors a complex issue.
In 2014, the WHO hosted a meeting of experts, after the UK Thalidomide Trust raised concern over the lack of precise diagnostic criteria for thalidomide embryopathy.
In the absence of a definitive medical test for the drug, the Thalidomide Survivors Contribution Program used an objective process to assess unconfirmed individuals to determine if they are thalidomide survivors.
It is recognized that individuals who applied for support and did not meet the eligibility criteria, may be disappointed with the outcome.
Please be assured that the independent third-party administrator, a well-established provider of claims services, reviewed each file individually and thoroughly, as each case is unique, before coming to an evidence-based decision.
(Footnote to Delayed Answer)
1 World Health Organization (September 2016). Congenital Anomalies — Fact Sheet. Received from http:// www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs370/en/.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Nicole Eaton on November 24, 2016)
There have been and continue to be targeted federal investments to improve palliative care in key areas, including education and training for health care providers, identifying national best practices, building research capacity, and providing supports for caregivers. During the first hour of debate on Bill C-277, An Act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada, our Government indicated its support for the creation of a framework on palliative care which builds on this work, leveraging existing palliative care frameworks, strategies, and best practices being undertaken by provinces, territories and stakeholder groups. This would provide national leadership on the issue of palliative care while respecting provincial and territorial responsibilities for health care delivery.
In addition, our Government has committed to investing $3 billion to improve home care, including palliative care and is working with the provinces and territories to determine how best to invest this money as part of the Health Accord discussions. This ongoing collaboration with provinces and territories will help to create a health care system that is more patient-centred and sustainable, while assisting Canadians to obtain the compassionate care and support they need at the end of life.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Elizabeth (Beth) Marshall on November 24, 2016)
The Government continues to strengthen the diversity of supply of medical isotopes, with a strategy based on transitioning away from reliance on the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor toward a more diversified global supply chain.
Over the past six years, the global isotope market has adjusted, with new supply coming online internationally, and investments made in alternative production, including $60 million from the Government to support the development of medical isotope production from alternative sources. As a result, the Nuclear Energy Agency has projected that the global supply of key medical isotopes will be sufficient to meet demand with adequate contingency. Canada will maintain the capacity to produce molybdenum-99 from the NRU until March 2018.
As Canada's largest science and technology campus, the future of the Chalk River laboratories matters to the Government. It is investing $800 million over five years to renew site infrastructure and build new facilities. These improvements will allow Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to continue delivering world-class nuclear science and technology research.
These investments ensure Canada will continue to make important contributions to nuclear science, including innovative research into new cancer therapies and the effects of radiation on living things.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Jane Cordy on November 28, 2016)
Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), our Government invested more than $640 million between 2010-11 and 2014-15 to support research in neurosciences. This investment contributes to enhancing our understanding of the causes of neurological conditions and to developing new treatments for patients affected by these conditions.
Research supported by CIHR also supports investigations of hypotheses such as the one referred by the Honourable Senator. For instance, CIHR is currently supporting a clinical trial led by researchers at the University of British Columbia to assess the safety and efficacy of the Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) procedure in multiple sclerosis patients. We are looking forward to the results of this important study that are expected in 2017.
Our Government also recognizes the importance of data collection and monitoring in supporting evidence-based policies regarding the care and quality of life of Canadians living with neurological conditions. As such, the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System, supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada, will include the capacity to report the prevalence and incidence of multiple sclerosis (as well as dementia, epilepsy and Parkinson's) in Canada at the national level.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Ghislain Maltais on November 28, 2016)
On November 30, 2016, the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Forestry announced financial assistance under the AgriRecovery Framework for extraordinary costs due to bovine tuberculosis (bovine TB) quarantine measures. The 2016 Bovine Tuberculosis Assistance Initiative will provide assistance to producers to cover the extraordinary costs associated with feed for the animals and feeding and water infrastructure, as well as transportation, cleaning and disinfection and interest costs on loans due to the circumstances. Governments has been working with the industry on the program specifics to ensure the program meets producers' needs while being delivered in a simple and timely manner.
As well, through the Advance Payments Program producers can continue to access immediate help to address cash flow pressures. Under APP, producers are eligible for an advance up to $400,000, with the first $100,000 being interest free.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Elizabeth (Beth) Marshall on November 28, 2016)
Minister Philpott launched Health Accord discussions with her provincial and territorial counterparts last January and reached agreement on shared priorities including home care, mental health, pharmaceuticals and innovation. Since then, officials have worked to flesh out potential actions under each of these priority areas. Minister Philpott engaged with her provincial and territorial counterparts on the proposed Health Accord actions in June and again in October, and has also met bilaterally with several of her counterparts in the last year. She has consistently encouraged provincial and territorial Ministers of Health to share their ideas about improving health care through transformative actions in the priority areas they identified together for a new Health Accord.
Canadians expect governments to make sound investments in our health care system that will achieve measurable, high quality, and cost-effective outcomes. It is clear that all Health Ministers share the same desire to strengthen and improve Canada's health systems so that they can continue to provide high quality care to all Canadians. Our Government remains committed to continuing to work collaboratively with provinces and territories, with the goal of concluding a new Health Accord that will help to modernize and transform care for Canadians.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Mobina S. B. Jaffer on November 28, 2016)
The Government of Canada is committed to creating a better, fairer immigration detention system while upholding public safety. In August 2016, our government announced $138 million to support the new National Immigration Detention Framework in order to expand alternatives to detention, significantly improve conditions at immigration holding centres, provide better mental and medical health services, sharply reduce reliance on provincial facilities and strengthen partnerships with civil society, including the Red Cross and the United Nations.
In addition, under the new National Immigration Detention Framework, the increased availability of community-based alternatives to detention is expected to limit the housing of children in detention facilities and minimize separation from parents.
CBSA legislation and policy is clear that minors are only detained as a last resort, and only after the best interest of the child is carefully considered. CBSA officers are trained to first consider alternative arrangements with family members or local child protection agencies.
In the case of accompanied minors, officers work with the parent(s) and child welfare authorities to assess the best interest of the child. If it is deemed to be in the best interest of the child, there may be instances where minors are allowed to remain in the immigration holding centre in the care of a parent or guardian.
Generally, unaccompanied minors are not detained, but released into the care of provincial child protection services. In the exceptional circumstance that an unaccompanied minor is detained, the minor is not housed with adults.
School-aged minors detained in the Laval and Toronto Immigration Holding Centres have access to classroom instruction with a certified teacher when detained over 7 days.
As noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in August 2016, in accordance with international law, Canada only allows for the detention of minors "in exceptional circumstances, as a measure of last resort, for a legitimate purpose and for the shortest possible period".
As of November 1, 2016, the CBSA has published detentions statistics, including statistics on minors on its website: http://cbsa.gc.ca/security-securite/detent-stat-eng.html.
The CBSA is committed to publishing further detailed statistics on minors by April 2017, as part of the Government of Canada's commitment to transparency under the National Immigration Detention Framework.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Thanh Hai Ngo on November 30, 2016)
The Safe Food for Growth project meets Official Development Assistance Accountability Act requirements, and is classified as official development assistance. It will contribute to poverty reduction by improving the competitiveness of the agriculture sector, which currently employs almost half of Vietnam's labour force. The project design team met with smallholder farmers, particularly women, and integrated their perspectives into the design. By increasing consumer awareness of, and demand for, safe and affordable agri-food, the project will contribute to the promotion of consumer rights and help to alleviate the vulnerability of low-income consumers.
The Safe Food for Growth project will support the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including support to SDG 2 on food security through its focus on ensuring access to safe and nutritious food (Target 2.1); and SDG 10 on economic inequality by supporting almost half of Vietnam's labour force in the agriculture sector, who are most vulnerable to both trade liberalisation and climate change (Target 10.1). The project will also specifically ensure that women equitably participate in and benefit from it.
Human rights issues are addressed through dialogue, and other projects focused on the rights of women, girls, LGBTQ, youth and press freedom.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Thanh Hai Ngo on December 1, 2016)
In response to Senator Ngo's question of December 1, 2016, I am pleased to report that work on the Memorial to the Victims of Communism — Canada a Land of Refuge is progressing well.
Following a national design competition, I announced, on November 7, 2016, that five design teams were short listed to develop concepts for the memorial which will recognize Canada's role as a place of refuge for people fleeing injustice and persecution, and honour the millions who suffered under communist regimes.
After the five concepts have been shared with the public and a winning proposal is chosen by a jury of experts, the next phases of this important and intricate project include design development, the awarding of the construction contract and finally construction implementation.
In order to respect the timelines and steps outlined on April 22, 2016, my department is planning to announce the winning design in Spring 2017, in time for Canada's sesquicentennial.
Major elements of the memorial are expected to be unveiled in December 2018.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Donald Neil Plett on December 7, 2016)
As you are aware, the Government of Canada intends to introduce legislation in the spring of 2017 to advance a long-term agenda for a more transparent, balanced, and efficient rail system that reliably moves our goods to global markets. With respect to extended interswitching, the Government of Canada recognizes that competitive rail service is important to many shippers and is looking at ways to improve access to rail service. In doing this, consideration must be given to the potential long-term impacts on network efficiency and railway investment as we move forward on this issue. It is the Government's intention to strike a proper balance in order to create a freight rail system that is more competitive and efficient in the long term.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Percy E. Downe on December 7, 2016)
It is important the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) use every tool at its disposal to ensure that Canadians and Parliamentarians have confidence in the fairness of the tax system. In this context, the CRA has committed to ongoing work and analysis on tax gap estimation. As a first step, on June 30, 2016, the CRA published two studies: a conceptual study on tax gap estimation and an estimate of the GST/ HST gap. The CRA has further committed to publishing a series of additional papers on other aspects of the tax gap over the next two to three years.
With respect to requests to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with data to estimate the tax gap, expert legal advice confirmed that provisions contained in both s. 241 of the Income Tax Act and s. 295 of the Excise Tax Act clearly prevent the CRA from releasing taxpayer information that could directly or indirectly lead to the identification of specific taxpayers. As a result, the CRA has offered the PBO aggregate-level data. As the CRA continues its work on the tax gap, it looks forward to continued collaboration with all parties involved and acknowledges the work accomplished thus far by all stakeholders.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Diane Griffin on December 14, 2016)
The Government of Canada recognizes the significance of Province House National Historic Site of Canada and its intrinsic ties to the founding of our country.
In 1974, an agreement was signed between Parks Canada and the Province of Prince Edward Island to operate the Site co-operatively for a period of 99 years, which includes the Province of Prince Edward Island occupying and using the Legislative Assembly chambers in Province House.
When the building re-opens after the restoration work is complete, Parks Canada will continue to play its key role in protecting and presenting Province House National Historic Site. Working with Canadians, the Agency will define the future visitor experience at Province House so that the story of the Site and its role in the 1864 Charlottetown Conference can be shared with all visitors.
Parks Canada also looks forward to continued collaboration with the Province of Prince Edward Island in advancing the conservation of Province House.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claude Carignan on December 15, 2016)
As announced on December 15, 2016, the Government of Canada is creating new regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999). These will ban the import, manufacture and export of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Canadians will be consulted as part of the process. The proposed regulations will not address the mining and processing of mining residues.
Investment in research and development is very important; the Government of Canada spent $6.8 billion on this in 2015-16. In Budget 2016, the government provided $50 million over four years to Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) for the SD Tech Fund. SDTC is an arm's-length foundation created to promote sustainable development and support projects that develop and demonstrate new technologies to address issues related to climate change, air quality, and clean water and soil.
Technology development and demonstration activities such as the extraction of minerals from asbestos tailings are being supported through SDTC. In 2014, SDTC committed $3 million to support a project by Quebec-based Alliance Magnesium that would use a new metallurgic process to produce magnesium from asbestos tailings. Investments such as these support jobs and growth, and create opportunities for Canadian companies.
Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED) is currently implementing the Canadian Initiative for the Economic Diversification of Communities Reliant on Chrysotile ($50 million; 2013-2020), which aims to support communities and businesses to transition to new economic activities. Several companies are planning or undertaking tailings recovery projects that could be eligible under this initiative.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lankin, P.C., for the second reading of Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers' Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, the debate on Bill S-5 is adjourned in the name of Senator Seidman. I spoke to her earlier today to say that I would be speaking, and I ask that it remain adjourned in her name after I finish today.
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers' Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. According to Health Canada, Bill S-5 will take measures aimed at preventing Canadians and, in particular, young Canadians from developing nicotine addiction. It will also allow adults to legally access safe vaping products using what Health Canada calls "a likely less harmful alternative to tobacco use" through establishing national regulations.
This will include taking pre-existing regulations and restrictions on tobacco products and extending them to vaping products as well. Certain flavours and ingredients appealing to youth will be prohibited. Promotion of vaping products will be brought in line with current tobacco restrictions and persons under 18 will be prohibited from purchasing vaping products.
Bill S-5 continues the efforts of the federal government to keep cigarettes and other tobacco products out of the hands of children while at the same time making these products less attractive to adults. The strategy is to reduce the visual appeal of tobacco products by implementing mandatory plain and standardized packaging of all tobacco products.
The standardized plain packaging strategy has been implemented, or is in the process of being implemented, by several nations. Canada would join Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and France, who all have some form of plain packaging legislation. Health Canada has indicated that they are looking to Australia's model when developing their plain packaging strategy. Bill S-5 will lay the groundwork to allow Health Canada to develop and implement a made-in-Canada approach to standardized plain packaging for tobacco products.
Bill S-5 will also bring into force much-needed regulation in the growing vaping industry in Canada. Over the last several years, the vaping industry has grown considerably and the pace of growth does not appear to be slowing down. Because of parallels of the tobacco industry and the emerging vaping industry, I believe it is appropriate to regulate vaping products under the Tobacco Act. The act will be rebranded as the "Tobacco and Vaping Products Act" if Bill S-5 passes.
Honourable senators, I must admit that, like Senator Petitclerc, I knew very little about vaping or vaping products, and how they are sold and marketed, before Bill S-5 was introduced. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to vaping products, but as I continue to read and hear more about these products, I am concerned that they are too easily finding their way into the hands of young people. Unfortunately, it appears that in many cases the vaping products are being marketed directly to Canadian youth. This is similar to the practices of the tobacco industry in the past.
My understanding is that data from scientific studies of vaping and the health effects of vaping is still emerging. I believe it is important that regulations and policies be put in place in a timely manner and in a way that can be easily adapted as the science catches up to the industry. It is essential for the federal government to act now. E-cigarettes have been around since at least 2004 and their use and sale has been largely unregulated. I am pleased to see this legislation. We should be proactive when it comes to the health of Canadians.
We hear that vaping "most likely" is a less harmful alternative to smoking and may provide a method to wean off smoking altogether. As scientists and experts study the issue and as the science catches up with the industry, I am cautiously optimistic that vaping will be proven to be less harmful than smoking, but at this time, it is dangerous to assume that vaping possesses no health risk at all. Unfortunately, we also hear that the reverse could just as easily be true and that vaping could be used as a vehicle to introduce young people to smoking. When it comes to marketing these products in the future, it is essential that the claims of these products are supported by the emerging science on the health effects of consuming these products. This can only happen under a federally established regulations system.
The establishment of such a system is not just good policy for the health of Canadians; it is also beneficial for the industry as well. Guidelines will allow the vaping industry to develop responsibly and to put manufacturers and retailers on a level and fair playing field. Senator Petitclerc mentioned in her speech that some in the industry felt that there was a "Wild West" element to the industry. This could probably open the door to unscrupulous practices in the industry, which could only bring harm to the industry. If passed, Bill S-5 would establish regulations to provide for a safe and fair vaping industry. I believe Bill S-5 will set out clear guidelines and provide for a flexible regulation regime which can adapt as the science and the industry evolve.
As a lifelong non-smoker and a smoke-free advocate, I have spoken many times in this chamber against smoking, and I have been very supportive of the legislative efforts of governments to reduce smoking rates in Canada. I congratulate previous governments for their work and particularly in bringing forward legislation that discourages young people from smoking.
In 2009, I spoke in this chamber on another bill introduced by the previous government that amended the Tobacco Act. At the time, a trend in the tobacco industry was emerging to produce and market flavoured tobacco products. Little cigars, or cigarillos, and blunt wraps were being marketed with fruit flavours such as grape, cherry, peach, banana split and tropical punch. It was clear that these products were meant to appeal to young people. Bill C-32 banned the use of flavours and additives in tobacco products, and it passed the Senate unanimously and received Royal Assent.
Honourable senators, we now have vaping products readily available in the marketplace that mirror the flavoured tobacco strategy of a few years ago. A quick Google search and you can find hundreds of flavours of vaping products. Most of the flavours are variations of fruit and candy that certainly seem designed to appeal to young people.
According to Health Canada, in 2015, studies indicate that 26 per cent of Canadian youth aged 15 to 19 reported having tried an e-cigarette. This number is up from 20 per cent in 2013. These numbers are concerning. Health Canada has made great strides over the last 30 years combating smoking rates in Canada and the smoking uptake rates of young Canadians. The new vaping industry has the potential, if unchecked, to undo this progress. As the vaping market continues to grow, the number of young people trying e-cigarettes will likely continue to grow. The potential of children turning to tobacco products after starting with vaping is a genuine concern.
The statistics are clear. Tobacco use continues to be the leading preventable cause of premature death and disease in Canada, and 37,000 Canadians die each year from tobacco use. The statistic that Senator Petitclerc used in her speech was that one Canadian dies every 14 minutes from tobacco-related causes.
It is no secret that the vast majority of habitual smokers begin when they are adolescents. Statistics show that 115,000 Canadians started smoking in 2015. As a non-smoking advocate, I feel that this number is still much too high and I applaud the government for bringing forward this piece of legislation. We must head off the unregulated manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of vaping products before it has a chance to drastically undermine decades of Health Canada's efforts in fighting Canada's smoking rates.
I feel it is essential to the future health of Canadians that access to these products, the marketing of these products and the manufacturing of these products is regulated. That is, I believe, important not only for Canadians but also for the industry.
Honourable senators, Bill S-5 is a significant piece of legislation. Many stakeholders, such as tobacco manufacturers, tobacco retailers, vaping manufacturers, vaping retailers, consumers, law enforcement officers, health officials, health practitioners and scientists, are going to be affected by this bill.
Currently, there is a tobacco industry lead PR campaign on radio and billboards opposing the plain packaging proposed by Health Canada. The tobacco industry is raising an alarm about the effect plain packaging will have in fuelling the counterfeit contraband tobacco industry. There have been several pieces of legislation brought in by previous Liberal and Conservative governments that I have supported in the Senate designed to curtail the contraband tobacco trade in Canada. The Australian government, which has a fairly restrictive plain packaging regime in place, has reported no significant increase in criminal activity or increase in the contraband tobacco trade directly related to the change. It is the Australian approach that the Canadian regulations would model.
Honourable senators, I look forward to hearing more about vaping and the vaping industry and how best to regulate the industry using scientific data so that access to vaping products is done in as safe a way as possible for all Canadians.
Hon. Carolyn Stewart Olsen: Would the honourable senator take a question? I must confess that I'm very hesitant and nervous about the vaping permissiveness in this bill, and I'm wondering if you think that the regulations actually go far enough to protect our young people and to protect people based on the fact that they're already adding nicotine to vaping products. There's already a variety of additives going into them. Kids are already finding ways to add potency to vaping.
I would like to understand. I'm asking a question to better understand. Do you view this as a first step, or do you think that we should be rethinking it and become much more careful about the vaping industry?
Senator Cordy: That's an excellent question. As I said to you earlier, I was in the same boat and have started reading about and researching vaping since this bill came forward. This is a case where the industry is far ahead of the scientific data.
When I was conducting my research for this bill, I looked to the Debates of the Senate because I could remember having asked questions of the previous government during Question Period. It was in May 2014 that I asked how much research was being done. The answer that I got would have led me to believe that there was none, although, when I did research, it said that there were studies and that there was Canadian content in some studies.
It is indeed a very interesting question that you ask. I think it's important that we bring in regulations at this point. The bill allows enough flexibility so that the regulations can change as scientific data becomes available because we hear two things with vaping. We hear, first, that, for those adults who are smoking, it can lead them to quit smoking tobacco products and go to vaping. We're still not sure of all of the safety factors related to vaping because of the liquid or whatever it is that they put in the electronic cigarettes. My understanding is that there are many additives being put into that product, and we're not sure whether or not those additives are safe.
As I said earlier, the science and the research is definitely behind the industry, but if, in fact, vaping is safer than cigarettes, that would be a positive thing for adults. Another concern, on the other end is, is vaping a gateway for young people to lead into smoking cigarettes? That's why Health Canada is also very concerned about the advertising.
In my generation, I remember cigarettes with the Marlboro Man. Men could be the Malboro Man if they smoked Malboro cigarettes, and, certainly, that was directed to young men. The advertising to date, without any regulations, appears to be, with the flavours and with the advertising, definitely directed toward getting young people into vaping, which, unfortunately, may lead to smoking. It's a double-edged sword.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Would the honourable senator take another question?
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Cordy, would you like additional time to respond to the question?
Senator Cordy: Yes, please.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Martin: I will ask only one question, then, since we have limited time. I am concerned, as well, that science is catching up to industry. Of course, industry is ahead; it's profit driven. I'm concerned that science still needs to catch up, and I wonder about whether we should be waiting until science catches up even further. I wanted to just give you a few quotes, senator, and ask if you have come across such research studies in opposition to vaping that say:
. . . among smokers, inhaling e-cigarette aerosol has the same effect on the production of exhaled nitric oxide as inhaling a cigarette whether the e-cigarette has nicotine or not.
. . . E-cigarettes produce more and smaller particles than conventional cigarettes.
So these are very alarming facts, and, if the research hasn't caught up, I'm worried about this legislation being premature and for the need to be very cautious in what we legislate.
Senator Cordy: My answer to the question would be that I'm not sure that science will ever catch up to industry. So if we don't bring in legislation now, we could be standing in the Senate chamber in 10 years' time, saying, "Do you think maybe we should be bringing in legislation on vaping?" I think that the legislation has been designed in such a way that there is flexibility so that, as scientific data is accumulated, they can make changes to the regulations, and that was done for the exact purpose that you've raised today, that the science is still behind the industry because, as you said earlier, the industry is profit driven. I think that it's important to bring it in now. I asked questions in this chamber almost three years ago, and vaping was growing and growing. To your point, as I said earlier in response to the previous question, we don't know enough about it, and more and more ingredients are being added to the vaping product that goes inside the e-cigarettes, which makes me nervous as well.
But I think this is the time to proceed because of the speed of the industry. I think Senator Petitclerc, in her speech, spoke about the industry now being the Wild West. In terms of the industry, I believe they would be glad to have regulations in place so that it becomes a level and fair playing field for everybody.
In response to your comment about the ingredients, that is very concerning to me as well.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser, for the second reading of Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.
Hon. Marc Gold: Honourable senators, I support Bill C-16 for all of the reasons already given in this place and by our House of Commons colleagues. Members of the transgender community, one of our most vulnerable and misunderstood communities, are often victims of discrimination, hatred and violence, even though there can be no doubt that this community is entitled to the same rights all other citizens enjoy. That is perfectly clear.
Nevertheless, I understand and respect those who, in good conscience and good faith, believe otherwise. Their arguments deserve our consideration. I would therefore like to take a few minutes to examine those arguments and share my observations. This won't take long.
The first objection is that the bill is simply not necessary because existing human rights codes already extend protection to people who are transgendered.
Let us leave aside the obvious point that, if that is the case, there would be no harm in making the law that much clearer, but the objection or argument misses a more fundamental point about law and about the different functions that the law plays in our society.
The law sets boundaries for our behaviour. It tells us what we can do and what we cannot do. That much is clear. But the law does more than that. The law also plays an educative and symbolic role, what one writer has called an "expressive role" or an "expressive function." Our laws tell us something about our fundamental values and who we are as a society. Seen in this light, the passage of Bill C-16 would send a message of support and solidarity to a vulnerable and often frightened community, and this is no small thing.
So even if many human rights commissions have already taken the step to formally recognize trans rights, it is important that Parliament does so as well. Respectfully, it's as simple as that.
The second objection is that Bill C-16 would infringe upon our constitutional rights to free speech by both inhibiting criticism and compelling the use of, amongst other things, gender-neutral pronouns.
These arguments have been answered adequately and eloquently, and dare I say conclusively, in this and the other place. In my reading of the law, a failure to use a person's pronoun of choice does not rise to the definition of discrimination under any sensible reading of this legislation, and nor would it amount to hate speech under the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code.
I believe that the objection may be based upon a broader concern about human rights commissions, that they somehow overreach their targets, or about the hate speech provisions in the Criminal Code generally speaking, that they unreasonably infringe upon free speech.
Honourable colleagues, I understand these concerns. Moreover, I must admit that I share some of them, to the great surprise of my friends in the human rights community. However, given that we already have human rights commissions and provisions on hate speech, these objections are simply irrelevant.
It is perfectly legitimate, of course, to argue against the reach of human rights commissions or the limitations on free speech that the Criminal Code sets out, but these arguments should not and cannot be done on the backs of this or any other vulnerable minority group in Canada. It's simply not fair.
I could and maybe should stop here because you've heard all the arguments before, and most of us, I suspect, have fairly settled views on this issue. But I think there is another reason why some Canadians, and why some in this chamber, continue to have serious reservations about Bill C-16, and I want to address these directly. Let me conclude by saying a few words to the people of faith here and beyond this chamber.
For all people of faith, all human beings, all of us on this earth, were created in the image of God, in the image of the Creator. But the "us" that were so created are not simply our bodies — our flesh, our blood, our parts. The "us" are also our identities — our minds, our feelings, our spirits, our souls.
We all know too well that there are places in this world where it is a crime for Christians to practise their religion, where Christians are vilified, discriminated against and subjected to violence. The same holds true in other parts of the world for Jews, Muslims and other religious minorities.
Imagine you were discriminated against in such a way. Would you not feel hurt? Would you not feel aggrieved? Would this not feel hateful to you? Would you not be afraid?
Two thousand years ago, a famous religious leader in Jerusalem was asked to summarize the teachings of his religion in one phrase, and this is what he said:
That which is hateful unto you do not do unto your neighbor. . . . The rest is commentary.
Honourable senators, members of the transgender community are our neighbours. They, too, were created in the image of God. Let us not do unto them that which would be hateful unto us.
Please support Bill C-16. It is the right thing to do.
Hon. Lynn Beyak: Would the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Gold: Thank you.
Senator Beyak: Thank you for an excellent speech. I agree with you 100 per cent. My points yesterday concerned the duplication of this bill under the Charter of Rights.
How would you address Professor Peterson in Toronto, who has been threatened with dismissal if he doesn't use the proper pronoun?
I share your concern about the human rights tribunals. So many things are taken there that are not legitimate. They cost people a fortune to defend when they haven't said anything bad. I agree with everything you said, but I think all of that is covered under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
What advice would you give to Professor Peterson if he ends up at a human rights tribunal because he doesn't use the proper pronoun?
Senator Gold: If Professor Peterson would like my advice, I would be happy to offer it to him. But frankly and respectfully, I don't think that's the issue before us. The issue before us is whether or not we, as parliamentarians, will clarify the law so as to extend the protection that exists in law to this identified group that is worthy of that protection.
For the reasons I stated, it does good, not harm, to clarify the law and send a strong signal of support and solidarity to a group that we must remember is subject to not only vilification and discrimination but to serious risks of harm and violence.
As for other issues that may arise within a human rights commission or a university, I would prefer to leave that for another occasion. Thank you for your question.
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Honourable senators, today I rise to speak to second reading of Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. As senators know, we debate the principle of a bill at this stage, and I declare my fundamental opposition to the bill in its principle.
First, I want to assure honourable senators that I am in no way opposed to equal rights for all Canadians, and I want to share with you that in my private life there are many transgender-identified persons that I care about deeply. I also want to add that I'm committed to the equal and non-discriminatory treatment of all individuals, and that we need to continue to fight against prejudice and bigotry in our society.
However, this bill, no matter how well-intended, does not achieve its intended and stated goal. The inclusion of a new group in the Human Rights Act and in relevant hate crime sections of the Criminal Code does not improve the condition for those who are discriminated against.
I am of the conviction that our laws, especially those laws which are among our heaviest instruments, like the Criminal Code, are no place for an awareness campaign or to build an understanding for those who do not fit into the colloquial norm.
Honourable senators, Bill C-16, as a government reincarnation of unsuccessful private members' business, does not establish a new right or a protection from abuse that is not already found in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The essential right that ensures equal treatment for a transgender-identified person is that of sex. You cannot discriminate against a person because of their sex. It is crystal clear, and with some exceptions like affirmative action to restore historical marginalization, as an example.
I say this because once a person is treated differently, denied an opportunity or victimized based on the fact that this person is a man, yet is wearing clothing and accessories usually designed for women or vice versa, he or she is treated this way because of his or her sex. It is very simple. They are treated differently because some members of our society do not think men should wear dresses or women should wear tuxedos.
Let me provide honourable senators with an example that I recall reading about a few years back. Rohit Singh wanted to find a dress for her wedding in 2013. Rohit Singh went into a bridal shop in Saskatoon to try on a few dresses, but was denied the opportunity to try dresses in the shop because Rohit Singh looks like a man.
The shop owner was quoted by CBC news as saying:
To me it doesn't matter. He looked like a man. There was quite a few brides in the store. If you see a man trying on dresses, you're going to feel uncomfortable.
That, honourable senators, is a clear violation of protections against discrimination based on sex: You are a man, therefore you are not allowed to try on a dress.
I am glad to share that Rohit Singh did get another dress from another bridal shop, and proceeded with the wedding. Congratulations to her.
The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, later that year, ruled that the owner of the bridal shop violated Rohit Singh's rights under section 12 of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code by denying service to a transgender woman.
However, it is sufficient to determine that this case was discrimination based on sex. Rohit was not allowed to try on a dress because she looked like a man.
Saskatchewan's Human Rights Code has gender identity listed as a prohibited ground upon which one cannot be discriminated against, but interestingly, section 12, which was used in this case, has an exception. Subsection 2 reads:
Subsection (1) does not apply to prevent the barring of any person because of the sex of that person from any accommodation, services or facilities upon the ground of public decency.
My suspicion here is that this would mean that one can deny entry to public washrooms that are designated for either sex on the grounds of public decency. I say "suspicion" because there is no definition of the term "public decency." It is dynamic, as is society, which brings me to my next point.
Honourable senators, we have a large number of people in this country who are not comfortable with the scenario that my good friend Senator Jaffer spoke of in her speech to this bill. This means that we are looking at two competing rights: the right of an unidentified number belonging to the transgender-identified group, who do not necessarily have any physical characteristics that make it possible to determine who belongs to that group protected by those rights, versus the right of an unidentified number of people, who belong to various groups with common physical characteristics, to go to the washroom without feeling that the security of the person is compromised.
Honourable senators, one of the causes that I champion in this chamber is inclusion. Inclusion for ethnic minorities through our policy of multiculturalism is one, and inclusion of those with disabilities is another. I consider inclusion to be one of the cornerstones of our society, and I have a strong belief that our multiculturalism, and the inclusion it results in, is uniquely Canadian and is what makes our country stand out. It is with inclusion in mind that I oppose this bill.
I am concerned about the rights of those who are not comfortable in the same washroom as someone of the opposite sex, whatever gender they may identify themselves to be. My suspicion is that that group is larger than the group that is transgender-identified.
Honourable senators, it is not necessarily a fear of criminals committing sexual crimes, as Senator Dyck spoke of yesterday, that makes me reluctant to support this bill, although it does concern me. My big issue is that we are pitting two groups against each other. I am not sure if Canadian society has reached the point toward which we, as legislators in both houses, are pushing it. I am concerned about the scenario where women and men can find a person in their change room at the public swimming pool who is, or appears to be, of the opposite biological sex.
If our society has reached that level of acceptance, why do we still have separate change rooms based on sex? Why does nudity in a movie ensure a higher age rating? Why do we have to cover nudity in the magazine racks? Let's answer all of these questions.
Are we, as individual senators, comfortable being in a situation where a person with the physical appearance of the opposite sex is freely changing and showering right next to us? I am not convinced that is the case.
Honourable senators, our great country prides itself with being open and welcoming to immigrants from all over the world. Those who come to Canada are of different cultural and religious backgrounds. Let us consider Islam as a religion, and the practices that are of utmost importance to those who belong to that faith.
We are aware of the sometimes contentious practice for many Muslim women to wear head coverings, often in the form of a hijab. I do not know the percentage of Muslim women who wear head coverings, but I know that in 2011 there were over half a million Muslim women in this country. The reasons behind wearing a head covering are complicated and not completely agreed upon, but generally we find that it is a symbol of modesty and privacy, or not to show one's hair to men.
If a person is unwilling, for religious or cultural reasons, to show a man one's hair, how are we expected to force such a person to share the most intimate of spaces with someone who appears, in all physical and biological ways apparent to the eye, to be of the opposite sex?
By passing Bill C-16 to ensure the rights of an unknown number of persons, we force values that are not part of our social fabric upon a large majority. Is this going to increase acceptance of diversity? I do not think so.
My last concern, honourable senators, is what qualifies a person to invoke these new amendments when going before a tribunal or court of law? This is not defined in this bill. I know that Senator Mitchell has compared gender identification to that of religion, based on the personal nature of faith.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you.
Senator Enverga: Yes, this may be a valid comparison at an individual level, but that is not what we are concerned with here. Religion is highly regulated at a societal level. We have baptismal certificates, membership lists and so forth that have a significant impact on religious practice and the resources that may be available for this purpose.
What will the qualifier be for a person to be able to take their case to the Human Rights Commission? Does a person have to have submitted a provincial gender-redesignation application? Are we going to see the emergence of a gender identity register?
These are all very serious questions that are left unanswered by the proponents of the bill. I hope that the Senate committee that will conduct the legislative study on Bill C-16 can find more answers than we have been presented with in this chamber to this point.
Hon. Betty E. Unger: I don't have a question, but I would like to move adjournment of the debate.
The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Unger, seconded by the Honourable Senator Housakos, that further debate be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: No.
The Hon. the Speaker: All those in favour will please say "yea."
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker: All those opposed will please say "nay."
Some Hon. Senators: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker: In my opinion, the "yeas" have it.
(On motion of Senator Unger, debate adjourned, on division.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time is now 3:10. Pursuant to the order of the Senate, we will proceed to Question Period.
Pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate on December 10, 2015, to receive a Minister of the Crown, the Honourable Jane Philpott, the Minister of Health appeared before honourable senators during Question Period.
The Hon. the Speaker: I would like to welcome Minister Jane Philpott and ask her to please come forward and take a seat.
Before beginning Question Period, I would like to inform senators that the leadership have come to an agreement regarding the order of questions. There will be a two-one-two rotation for the first two rounds, beginning with two questions from the opposition to be followed by one from the independent Liberals and two from the Independent Senators Group, and only the Leader of the Opposition will be given the opportunity to ask a supplementary question. After the first two rounds, should we reach that point, we will go to a one-one-one rotation.
In order to maximize the number of senators who wish to ask questions, and there are a large number, please keep your questions short.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Minister, welcome to the Senate once again.
Last April, you announced that the government would introduce a bill to legalize marijuana this spring. You also said that your approach to drugs, and I quote:
. . . must have a firm scientific foundation.
However, your government appears to be poised to reject the recommendations of Canadian physicians, who want to prohibit the sale of marijuana to youth under 21 years of age. Their recommendations are based on research on marijuana's harmful effects on brain development. It is obvious that further research is needed to assess other aspects of the impact of marijuana before we legalize it, especially concerning driving under the influence of drugs.
Minister, if your government really wants to take an evidence-based approach, as it claims, then why is it doing the exact opposite in the marijuana file by dismissing the data we currently have and ignoring the data we do not have?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you, honourable senator, for the question. Once again, I'm delighted to be here in the Senate. I'm excited to be here for the third time. I'm always happy to have an opportunity to interact with you.
This is a very good question. You're absolutely right that our approach to the matter of cannabis is to be sure that we introduce legislation that is evidence-based. In fact, there is a significant amount of evidence around cannabis, but I would say it is actually an area where there is a shortage of scientific research in terms of both the potential benefits and risks associated with it.
Having said that, one of the things that we did in preparation for the introduction of legislation was to initiate a task force, which was led by the Honourable Anne McLellan, who went across the country and met with a huge number of special interest groups who gave advice on that. I hope that senators have had the opportunity to read a very excellent report that the task force brought back to us, which we're examining.
This question in terms of age is a very important one. The legislation will be coming out in the spring, so obviously we'll see more about that at that time.
I will point out, one of the challenges around the age is the fact that the highest user group of cannabis is young people between the ages of 18 and 24, in which case one third of Canadian youth in that particular age bracket of young adults are currently using cannabis. That's something that has to be taken into consideration in the determination of what the legislation should look like, and obviously one of the government's goals is to make sure that we minimize the risks associated with the use of cannabis and keep it particularly out of the hands of kids.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Minister, I know you are well aware of the potential catastrophe facing humanity worldwide because of the escalating resistance of bacteria to existing antibiotics and the potential emergence of a post-antibiotic era.
In 2004, the Canadian Committee on Antibiotic Resistance made a number of recommendations to alert Canadians to the impending health crisis caused by the rapidly increasing antibiotic resistance.
In October 2014, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in its report on unintended consequences in the use of prescription pharmaceuticals in Canada demanded a ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in food animals in agriculture.
There have been some inconsistent noises in the agricultural sector with regard to moving to eliminate antibiotic use for growth promoters. The most recent report of the Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System Report in 2016 indicated that the total use of antibiotics in Canada was over a million kilograms, clearly not all of it consumed by you and me.
This month, New Scientist reported that colistin, the antibiotic of last resort, has been detected in hospital patients in the two largest cities in China.
Colistin has only been used in animal feed in China, but it has jumped to humans via bacteria from animals. China has moved quickly to make it illegal to use the antibiotic as a growth promoter in livestock. This is clear proof of the serious threat to human health of the use of antibiotics in animals.
Can you, minister, tell us the specific actions your government is taking in conjunction with Health Canada to eliminate the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in Canadian food animals?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you for the question. It's a very important one and the matter of antimicrobial resistance is something we do not discuss enough here in Ottawa. It's something that I'm very concerned about and I'm glad that you've raised this. I hope the Senate will continue to raise appropriate alarm about the fact that antimicrobial resistance is one of those slow-motion tsunamis we are facing. It's in the same order as things like climate change that will sweep over us if we aren't ahead of the game on this. It's a pressing matter.
We do, in Canada, have a One Health approach to how to address antimicrobial resistance. What I mean by that is that you're absolutely right; we need to look at the use of antibiotics both in humans and in animals. This is the approach that the Public Health Agency of Canada has endorsed, along with a number of other mechanisms looking at better surveillance, looking at more research, innovation into new products both in terms of testing for when people need antibiotics and what antibiotics can be used.
I think it's safe to say there's much more to do particularly in working with our colleagues in agriculture and working as well with colleagues in foreign affairs who will look at this as indeed a global problem, and recognizing, as you've pointed out, that the excessive use of antibiotics in some very large countries around the world has an impact on us as well.
There is a movement afoot to continue to discuss this at the international level in fora like the G7 and the G20. I am in fact working with my colleagues in cabinet to further enhance this One Health approach. I actually will take back your recommendation on this matter in terms of the use of colistin and look for further opportunities so that we can have other mechanisms to address it.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Welcome, minister. My question is also on the coming crisis regarding antibiotic resistance, as my colleague has asked you about, the animal aspect of it. I'm going to ask you about another aspect.
We know the World Health Organization, on Monday of this week, released the first list of the world's most dangerous antibiotic resistance superbugs that pose the most serious threats to human health. They did so to push governments to put in place policies that promote research and development into a new antibiotic discovery by both publicly funded agencies and also by the private sector.
Antibiotic resistance is growing and we're running out of treatment options. There have been no new classes of antibiotics discovered that have made it to market since 1984.
There are predictions that without these new antibiotics, much of the currently available health care will be at risk. It is estimated that within a generation, without new antibiotics, deaths from drug-resistant infection could reach 10 million a year.
Three years ago, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released a report on prescription pharmaceuticals, as Senator Ogilvie has pointed out, in which we examined the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. One of our recommendations was for the federal government to promote research by the pharmaceutical industry into the development of new antibiotics by providing various incentives to them.
Another was a call for the creation of a funding program at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research specifically for antibiotic development.
What is your government doing to address this serious issue?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you again for the question and for raising further facts that need to be taken into consideration. The fact that, as you said, by 2050 it's estimated there will be 10 million deaths a year, possibly outpacing cancer as a cause of death at that point, is something we absolutely must pay attention to.
You raised some important facts. You touched a bit on the concept of antibiotic stewardship. I will say there is some very good work being done in Canada on that matter now. We're supporting organizations like Choosing Wisely who are spreading better concepts of people understanding the risks associated with inappropriate antibiotic use. That is one area where we are working with organizations that are doing this good work.
You also raised the interesting matter of innovation and the fact that there needs to be opportunities to find those new products. In fact, other countries have done some very creative things. If I'm not mistaken, the U.K., for example, has a new award that is potentially out there for somebody who wants to shoot for the stars and develop new antibiotics.
We have had preliminary discussions about how we can continue to support health research. Obviously, we are going to continue to invest through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. I spoke this year to the U15 university presidents and said one of my very top priorities that I would encourage them to address is antimicrobial resistance, and they are doing so.
I hope that you will continue to get the message out that investment in health research, particularly in this incredibly important area, should be a priority. I will certainly be advocating for that.
Hon. Larry W. Campbell: Welcome, minister.
Yesterday, we introduced Bill C-37 in this chamber. It contains a number of different responses law enforcement-wise and health-wise with regard to addressing the opioid addiction crisis.
It's my understanding that it's within provincial jurisdiction and physician's scope of practice to prescribe opioid medication, and that it could be consumed in safe consumption sites or other sites designated by the provincial health groups. Can you confirm to us whether that is, in fact, true or am I mistaken?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you, senator, for this question. I'm very pleased that Bill C-37 has reached the Senate and that you're taking it under consideration. I'll take this opportunity to urge you to consider the matter with the greatest of seriousness, recognizing the fact that people are dying every single day as a result of the overdose crisis that we're facing in this country. Obviously you have important work to do on that piece of legislation, but I certainly hope that it will be done in a manner that recognizes the urgency of the situation.
To speak specifically to your question, it is very important one. We have talked about the fact that the response to opioids in this country needs to be comprehensive, it needs to be collaborative, it needs to be compassionate and it needs to be evidence-based.
Bill C-37, as you've recognized, introduces new measures of harm reduction and facilitates the availability of supervised consumption sites as an important mechanism of harm reduction. It's a way that people's lives are saved because they're able to consume substances in a supervised setting where they're introduced to the health care system.
But harm reduction alone will not solve this crisis, as you've said. People need to be introduced to treatment. Those treatments can take a variety of forms. It includes things like mental health support and allowing people to deal with the trauma in their lives that may have predisposed them to opioid dependence.
It also means making sure they have access to what is called medication-assisted therapy. That can take a couple of forms. One of them is opioid substitution therapy, with products like methadone and Suboxone. They are very helpful for people who are ready for treatment in being able to move them to a product that is safer, that will keep them alive and will deal with the fact that they are dependent upon substances.
If I'm not mistaken, Senator Campbell, you were also speaking about the possibility of looking at other medications that can be used, including things like injectable hydromorphone and even pharmaceutical grade heroin, diacetylmorphine.
We have taken the steps as a government to lift a ban on the use of diacetylmorphine, or pharmaceutical heroin — to be used by physicians or under the supervision of health care providers — for people who have the most severe cases of addiction. There is no longer a restriction upon the use of those things.
I would say that there would be nothing stopping people in those jurisdictions from making sure that these sites are not just supervised consumption sites, but that they are places where, when people are ready to be introduced to treatment, when they need to have their social issues addressed, when they need medication assisted therapy to help them stay alive and prevent them from going out into the streets to find ways, including criminal activities, to support their dependence on substances, they are given clean substances in a safe facility under the direction of health care providers. This will save lives and it is how we've seen internationally that other jurisdictions have responded to a similar crisis.
Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Thank you, minister, for being here with us today. My question concerns access to palliative care, an issue that is very important to me.
You promised that after Bill C-14 was passed you would improve access to quality palliative care. You will remember that, at the time, your government promised to invest $3 billion in palliative care and home care.
Minister, I remember that you said we would have to wait for the new health accord to move forward with these investments. As we know, this accord did not materialize and, instead, agreements were reached with certain provinces.
Could you tell us what the impact of this has been on the objective of increasing the envelope for palliative care? Could you also tell us what initiatives have been put in place to help provinces provide access to palliative care since Bill C-14 was passed?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you, Senator, for the question.
I also want to apologize. I think I've had my back to you as I've been talking to others. I hope that hasn't been seen as offensive.
If I may, I would take the liberty to thank you for your incredible work on Bill S-5, which you've taken a leadership role on. I also thank the rest of the Senate, but of course without your leadership it would not have come this far. I know you're doing very good work on that.
In response to your question on palliative care, you're absolutely right. This was something we discussed the first time that I met with many of you in the setting of Committee of the Whole to talk about Bill C-14. Many of you raised palliative care, which is something we hear about all the time across the country.
One of the things I talked about at that point was our commitment to invest in home care. Hopefully most of you will have heard that we followed up on that commitment by offering the provinces and territories, in our discussions around a health accord, a long-term agreement to continue to grow the Canada Health Transfer, which supports all measures of health care through the provinces and territories.
On top of that, we wanted to specifically target a couple of areas where we felt there needed to be extra investment. One of those was around home care, including palliative care. The offer made to the provinces and territories was $6 billion that would be used by them to support home care, and palliative care would be part of that.
We've come to an agreement with many of the provinces and territories. There's still work to do with some of them, but this is an area where there is a tremendous need. We still know that the vast majority of people in this country die in hospital when they would prefer to die at home. We have to move this metric. In fact, when we enter into agreements with the provinces and territories around the funding, this is one of the metrics that I will be proposing that I would like to see reported on annually so we can see that number gradually come down. We already know how to measure the percentage of people who can die at home if they want to. The tools are there, and that should be something we should be following on an annual basis.
Hon. Salma Ataullahjan: Minister, last February, Health Canada performed an assessment of health care for indigenous people. It found that in almost every aspect, Canada was not delivering adequate medical treatment and services to people living on reserves. With regard to maternal, newborn and child health in particular, the assessment found that maternal and child health programs were not universally available.
Through my work overseas on the MNCH file, I have seen the critical role that midwives play in providing medical care for women in remote areas where doctors and hospitals are not always available.
Therefore, I would like to know whether there have been any steps taken by the government to encourage and ensure that midwifery or doula programs are widely available in indigenous communities across Canada.
With regard to midwifery and doula support for women in indigenous communities, I note that on the First Nations and Inuit health portal of the Health Canada website, there is a section on promoting healthy pregnancies for indigenous women. In the "finding help in your community for pregnant women" section, midwife and doula services are mentioned and a link is provided for women to consult for accessing this important support. However, the link is dead. It leads only to a website that apparently no longer operates. How, then, can we be confident in the government's commitment to providing indigenous women with local community assistance in giving birth when the link to resources on your ministry's website, the primary source for information, is not working?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you for another important question. Every question you raise we could talk about for a couple of hours here, and this is certainly no exception. This is an incredibly important issue.
The gaps in indigenous health outcomes overall are one of the most pressing issues that fall under my responsibility, and to work on with indigenous leaders across the country. This is the result of generations of unfortunate policies that have had an impact on people's health. I could rhyme off a series of statistics, but I'm sure you're well familiar with them.
However, one figure I would point out to make sure that other senators are aware of is that infant mortality rates in indigenous communities in Canada are two to four times higher than those in non-indigenous populations. This is an appalling reality that we have to face. As I travel across the country, I hear the stories, as others have. I've heard of many young women in remote communities — 100 per cent of them — being required to leave their communities to give birth alone because of the current policies that are in place.
Something I have raised and am working to address is the fact that, for one thing, there are a series of unfortunate things that happen when women leave their community to give birth far away in a big city. It sometimes leaves their other young children on their own in a much more vulnerable situation, and it means that sometimes the new baby doesn't have an optimal start in life, which can have all kinds of consequences down the road in a variety of other areas.
You're absolutely right that expanding access to midwifery is very important. It is something I am supportive of. I hope we'll have good news on that in the not-too-distant future, but I recognize there is a serious gap there, and it has been raised with me.
The specific issue with the website I was not aware of. I will look into that immediately and find out about that.
There is much more work to be done, and I look forward to discussing this with you at a later date.
Hon. Linda Frum: Minister, today in response to Senator Carignan, you reaffirmed your government's promise to introduce legislation that will legalize marijuana this spring. Did I hear that correctly? We are 21 days from spring, and the question that comes to mind is that we know that marijuana legalization will directly violate international treaties that Canada is party to, which include the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. These treaties have 185 and 189 members, respectively.
Presumably, you intend to withdraw Canada from these treaties. With the prospect of retaliation from member nations, including our neighbour to the south, what conversations have you had with your international counterparts to address the possibility of lengthier wait times at the border and invasive searches at points of entry once marijuana is legalized in Canada?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: You're absolutely right: We're committed to introducing legislation in the spring, 21 days away. The good news is that spring goes until June 1, so that gives us a little bit of a window there. We are committed to introducing that legislation in the spring.
You've raised an important point, which is the matter of the fact that the legalization of cannabis will put us in the scenario where we will be in contravention of three international treaties. This is something I have discussed with my colleagues. I discussed it with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and it has recently come up in discussions with the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is very much aware of this. We have discussed a range of options as to how Canada could respond to that reality.
The fact is that the world is looking at us very closely on this. I've had numerous international delegations that have wanted to speak to me specifically about this, because it's something that many countries around the world are very interested in. They are watching Canada closely, which speaks to the fact that we have to get this legislation right.
In terms of negative impacts, obviously those things need to be taken into consideration — what that could look like. As we go forward and make a decision as to our response to treaties, it is something that needs to be taken into consideration.
You will no doubt be aware that there are a number of states within the United States that have legalized cannabis at the present time. That doesn't put them in contravention because it's not a federal decision there, but it is a reality that they are also cognizant of. Clearly, we would not want to put Canadians' travel in jeopardy, and we will certainly take these things into consideration. I would be happy to update you at later time.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: My question relates to fentanyl. Minister, I come from an area where everyday I pass by two or three ambulances. And you don't need to be told that we have had almost 800 deaths.
Minister, I see you often in my province. It is a good thing you're not a senator because you would have residency issues because you're there so much. So I know you are really working hard, and I'm not trying to beat up on you. But I feel impotent as a politician when you see these ambulances and you wonder whether a person will make it. What happens to their family? You know overdosing is an epidemic in my area.
I know that you're doing a lot, but what is the whole of government approach with you, Justice and the cabinet? What is your vision? How are we going to address this issue? When I speak to people on the street, people say to me, "This is not a big thing when you think about our great country and all the resources we have, and we can't get a handle on it."
What do we need to do to stop this crisis?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you for raising this question and bringing us back to the topic of fentanyl and the overdose crisis in general, which has hit Western Canada in such a dramatic way, as you noted. It truly breaks my heart every time I hear about the number of deaths that take place. These are young people's lives cut short in what's essentially a preventable crisis.
Our response to this has to be whole of government, whole of society — every level of government. Every Canadian has to get on board with this. Well over 2,000 people died of overdoses in Canada last year. The numbers in British Columbia went up by 80 per cent from one year to the next. If we continue to see an escalation like that, it would be simply unacceptable in every way.
Our response has to be comprehensive in terms of who is involved but also what happens. We've turned away from the anti-drug strategy the previous government put in place, and we have reintroduced a Canadian drugs and substances strategy in which harm reduction has returned. That is probably the easiest way to frame what the response needs to look like, because that allows you to look at four pillars: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law enforcement. It needs to have all of those.
In the area of prevention, there is a tremendous amount that can be done. I could go on all day about this, but in November, we brought together over 30 organizations across the country that work with regulatory and prescriber groups, researchers and all sorts of others who are looking at how we can address the introduction to opioids from the prescription level. There is a lot of work that can be done on the prevention side of that, and I've talked about mental health and the effects that mental illness and unresolved trauma have. Something you may want to emphasize is that people use substances because they are in pain. That pain is sometimes physical pain, but very often it's emotional. Very often it is the pain of loneliness and isolation and the lack of opportunity in people's lives and the fact that people were abused as children, and all kinds of other reasons. We will not solve this crisis until we acknowledge that those are the roots of the crisis that are deep in society. It's not just about people overprescribing medication.
Much needs to be done in the area of treatment. I have spoken briefly about prevention and harm reduction, which I know you are all supporting as you move Bill C-37 through the Senate. We've done a lot of work on naloxone, making sure it is widely available to save lives.
Treatment is the other area where the Senate could have a strong role, and Senator Campbell has already spoken to it and no doubt you have also discussed this, because the response is going to require recognizing that this is a health issue. Addiction is not a crime. Addiction is not a moral failing. Addiction is a health issue, and people need to be treated as if they have a health condition. They need to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect. They need to be given appropriate treatment. We need to have access to appropriate treatment resources in the country.
I truly think the Senate will have an important role. I look forward to what you can do. Of course, this needs to be done in conjunction with many other jurisdictions to get this right.
We can turn this around. Early this morning I met with coroners and medical examiners across the country. I met with people from Statistics Canada and CIHI so we get the data. We are determined to address this in the most rapid and effective way possible.
Hon. Don Meredith: Welcome, minister, back to the Senate. My question relates to Senator Campbell and Senator Jaffer's question. But the fundamental question you have not yet answered. However, thank you for the pillars and the legislation with respect to addressing this crisis of 914 deaths in B.C., an 80 per cent increase, a 73 per cent increase in my province alone. We know that the Ontario Minister of Health has just announced that they're going to fund safe injection sites.
The number one question for me and all Canadians and for my colleagues in this chamber is what is the government doing in terms of funding to ensure that there's sustainability with respect to intervention, prevention and true treatment?
As you indicated, this is a health crisis in Canada and needs the intervention of government in a holistic way. The Justice Department has a role, because we see the overpopulation of individuals being incarcerated because of drug abuse. What is the government doing from an investment standpoint to address this problem going forward?
Dr. Philpott: Thank you for that good question. I am very happy to respond to that. We are investing in significant ways. I spoke earlier about some of our work related to the health accord with the provinces. In addition to the $6 billion we offered to the provinces for home care, we offered an unprecedented investment of $5 billion to expand access to mental health care.
This is something that arose out of the work of the Senate. For many years, the Senate has advocated for a strong investment in mental health, and I'm very proud our government made this investment. If this is used well, as I have no doubt it will, it will go a long way to helping this crisis.
We know that young people in particular have great difficulty accessing mental health care, that they sometimes wait a year and a half or more to get that care, and that many young people never get access to the mental health care they need. As I indicated earlier, people sometimes turn to substances as a way of resolving pain and mental illness in their lives.
That mental health money will be very helpful, but we have also announced some specific money to help with this crisis. About 10 days ago in British Columbia, I announced $75 million to go directly to the opioid crisis. Of that amount, $10 million will go directly to British Columbia to acknowledge the emergency response that they require and the incredible money they have put into the system.
The other $65 million of federal funding will go to things like expanding laboratory testing and toxicology services so we can work to identify which substances are available in different areas and some of the important work on data collection and being able to get a much better surveillance system.
The surveillance around drugs and overdoses is not nearly where it ought to be in this country. I will say that as respectfully as I can. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to get good definitions of what constitutes an overdose death and to get rapid reporting on those things.
If we do this right, we will save money. We all know that the law enforcement approach to substance abuse in this country is costing us a fortune. The number of people who are incarcerated because of drug-related crimes, whether it is something that took place while they were under the influence of substances, or a crime committed to support their dependency, if we can turn this around we will save money in Correctional Services and a whole range of other areas.
You talk to first responders across the country, police chiefs, particularly in Western Canada. I talked to the police chief in York Region, where I'm from, and he said that the burden on their system related to both mental illness and substance abuse is phenomenal. People who are looking at the evidence will acknowledge we're paying a fortune for having addressed this in the wrong way. If we turn to a public health approach around problematic substance use, we will save money and build a society where people will get the care they need, and they won't necessarily need to turn to substances to resolve their pain.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Pamela Wallin: Minister, I want to return to a topic we discussed when you were here last. I know the provinces and territories have a tremendous amount of power and constitutional right when it comes to the blood plasma system. But at the federal level, Health Canada is the regulator of the blood system. It's authorized by the federal government to issue licences for private paid plasma clinics. That means the federal government, as I understand it, has the power to stop private paid plasma clinics by revoking licences and putting a moratorium on future licences.
The federal government could also implement a federal version of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, which we've seen implemented in the province of Ontario, which bans the private sale of blood or plasma in the province, effectively making it illegal. Would you consider such legislation?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you, honourable senator, for the question and for your interest in this topic.
When we discussed this earlier, I started with an acknowledgment that these plasma products are absolutely essential life-saving products for people with many conditions, including hemophilia, who require access to plasma products.
It would be wonderful if a voluntary system around the world would allow enough plasma products to be available for Canadians and others who need them. But the truth of the matter is that 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the plasma products used by Canadians to keep people alive are purchased internationally. The most common source for these products is from the U.S. Upwards of 100 per cent of plasma products that are donated and manufactured in the United States come from people who were remunerated for their contribution. That's a fact to put on table that we need to acknowledge that we can't say overnight we want only a voluntary system and stop the remuneration or compensation to people who are donors, because that would dry up an important supply.
I would also like to clarify where federal responsibility lies and where provincial and territorial responsibility lies. Health Canada's responsibility in the approval of clinics is to prove that clinics are safe and meet a set of regulatory requirements. We don't have a say as to whether a facility will or won't compensate their patients. Everyone knows they often do it in the form of something like a $25 grocery card.
Currently there are only two facilities in the country that offer some form of compensation. One is in Manitoba; it's been open for over 30 years. The second is in Saskatchewan. We approved it as being safe last year and Saskatchewan wanted to go ahead and open up that facility.
This is very largely in the domain of the provinces and territories to determine how they are going to be able to manage this. The provinces and territories are, in fact, those who work most closely with Canadian Blood Services. I acknowledge that we clearly want to find ways to increase the voluntary donor base for plasma because there are concerns about whether it is sustainable for the future, and this is a conversation I'm having even now in my department that we need to be looking at in a very serious way. But I think we need to acknowledge that there is only so much the federal government can do at this point, and it's a conversation we need to have with all of the appropriate partners at the table.
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Thank you for being here with us again, minister. My question is about the $3 billion funding for palliative care that was promised in your election platform. I had the opportunity to ask the Government Representative about it on May 5 last year, to which I received a written response, on September 27, that concluded:
We look forward to announcing details once an agreement has been finalized.
Then, on November 24 last year, our colleague Senator Eaton asked a similar question of your representative in this chamber, and he ended his intervention with:
. . . I will seek an update to answer more specifically the questions that have been posed.
The answer was tabled today, and it says:
. . . which indicated an ongoing collaboration with provinces and territories.
Now that you have finalized agreements with five provinces and three territories, can you please provide this chamber with an update on how your government is ensuring that you are delivering on your promise? How much of the $3 billion has the Trudeau government delivered — I mean delivered, not promised — that went specifically for palliative care?
Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you for the question. Some of this we covered earlier, so I will give a few further details about the fact that, in the Health Accord agreement with the provinces and territories, on which not all have come to a final agreement but we hope we'll have good news on that soon, we did commit $6 billion rather than the $3 billion. We had some indication from the provinces and territories that they wanted a longer term funding model so that they could build out programs and not be concerned about whether the funding would end at a certain period of time, and so we expanded it to $6 billion over 10 years for this. That will, hopefully for many provinces if not all, soon be flowing very quickly once those agreements have been reached.
What we're doing with that Health Accord money is coming to some understanding, with the provinces and territories, about how it will be used, including areas like palliative care, and then asking also for some agreement, some standardized set of metrics, so that we will be able to see that it's being used well. I will give you an example that might help to make it more real to you.
Nova Scotia was one of the early provinces to come on board and agree to accept the money and to use it in this way. Early on, after the agreement was made, I went on a visit to both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to see exactly the kinds of things that they wanted to put the money that they were getting for home care and palliative care into, how they were planning to use it. Nova Scotia had a fantastic project of palliative care where they're actually using paramedics to go to people's homes, and I met with the paramedics who are part of this. They've had a very successful program where, when people are in palliative care and are reaching the end of life, rather than them calling up in distress and being transported to hospital where they might never be able to leave and get back home, they sent out paramedics with instructions and very detailed guidelines as to how people could be cared for at home and how they could make better contact with the hospital, with the goal of trying to keep people at home. The early evidence is that that's been very successful, so it's programs like that that the provinces will choose.
This program was in a certain part of the province. They're going to expand that now to the entire province. We're also going to be able to measure how successful it is so that, if other provinces want to look at this and perhaps replicate it, they can. I think we're going to see some very interesting results about how the provinces use these new, targeted resources, and we'll be able to have good evidence as to the outcomes.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for Question Period has expired. I'm sure all senators will join me in thanking Minister Philpott for being with us again today.
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate), pursuant to notice of February 28, 2017, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be authorized to examine and report upon the expenditures set out in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018, with the exception of Library of Parliament Vote 1; and
That, for the purpose of this study, the committee have the power to sit, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
She said: Honourable senators, I move the motion standing in my name.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate), pursuant to notice of February 28, 2017, moved:
That the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament be authorized to examine and report upon the expenditures set out in Library of Parliament Vote 1 of the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018; and
That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House accordingly.
She said: Honourable senators, I move the motion standing in my name.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Thursday, March 2, 2017, at 1:30 p.m.)