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1st Session, 42nd Parliament
Volume 150, Issue 152

Thursday, October 26, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker


THE SENATE

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.


SENATORS’ STATEMENTS

Me Too Campaign

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Honourable senators, the last few weeks have been a strong demonstration of the power of one plus one plus one. The Weinstein scandal has released the need to speak all over the world, including in Quebec, sending a strong message that enough is enough. Well-known personalities in Quebec now have to live with the consequences of their choice to harass.

This international movement provoked something in all of us. Some were shocked and outraged, and many, including me, were not all that surprised by the magnitude of the problem, but for all, it has been inspiring to see the power an individual can have when they decide to speak up.

I salute the courage of the many women who, despite the social pressure and the risks to their careers, chose to denounce public figures who thought themselves untouchable. They inspired many to find strength.

So I guess the question that remains is this: What next? What now?

[Translation]

Far too many people still face inappropriate comments, persistent sexual advances, unwanted touching, and assault.

It would be a shame if we were to lose this momentum and if the recent surge in shared revelations turned out to be nothing more than an isolated movement. As a society, we need to make sure something positive and concrete comes out of this. Decisions need to be made and action needs to be taken, and there is still much to do. We need to streamline the legal process, provide adequate support to victims, bring back sex education in schools, and help more women reach decision-making positions, because when we take part in decision making, our priorities are heard.

[English]

Last week, some people even called it a small revolution. Why not? Revolution is when there is a break in history, a before and an after. So let’s make sure it is indeed a social revolution, and maybe it is up to each Canadian to take their own oath, to promise ourselves that we will raise our children to be respectful and kind. We owe it to the many victims who had the courage to step forward to promise that, no matter how small or serious the harassment, we will never be silent witnesses. We will speak up, listen and be part of the solution, because when enough people speak up, the world changes.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Dr. Dennis Nimchuk

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a model Canadian whose professional achievements and contributions to the betterment of wider society are worth noting, especially during our nation’s sesquicentennial year.

Dr. Dennis Nimchuk, a certified prosthodontist, has been a trailblazer in the dentistry field for 50 years in British Columbia and across Canada. During this period, he has built an impressive practice with his legion of patients and has contributed greatly to the betterment of the dental industry.

The year 2017 is a milestone for Canada, as we all know, but for Dr. Dennis Nimchuk, whose thriving practice marked its fiftieth anniversary, it is also his silver wedding anniversary with his lovely wife, Lydia.

Over the course of his illustrious career, Dr. Nimchuk has been a director and mentor to over 20 continuing-education study groups in the field of fixed, removable and implant prosthodontics. He is also an author and teaching clinician who has delivered more than 700 presentations across Canada, the United States, Asia, Central and South America, and Europe. So it is no surprise that his outstanding leadership has earned Dr. Nimchuk numerous awards and honours, including becoming a fellow of the Academy of Dentistry International, the Royal College of Dentists of Canada and the American College of Dentists. He has earned an award of merit from the College of Dental Surgeons of BC and the British Columbia Dental Association. He is an alumnus of distinction from the University of Toronto. That is just to name a few.

Beyond his professional activities, he is also widely recognized for his community involvement, including with the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Vancouver Opera, Ukrainian-Canadian Artists, the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies and REACH Community Health Centre; as well, he is a sponsor of the Fraser Academy and the Kerrisdale youth group. How he finds the time to do all that he does is certainly a mystery, but it is an example of his strong character and incredible heart.

He is a devoted husband; loyal friend; kind employer; respected leader; dedicated mentor; generous sponsor, donor, volunteer and author; and above all, a proud Canadian. Dr. Dennis Nimchuk has spent his entire adult life helping others, and I am proud to recognize him in our chamber today.

Honourable colleagues, please join me in recognizing Dr. Dennis Nimchuk, an outstanding Canadian.

[Translation]

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of a group of participants in the Parliamentary Officers’ Study Program.

On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


[English]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Budget—Study on the Effects of Transitioning to a Low Carbon Economy—Eleventh Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Richard Neufeld, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, presented the following report:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources has the honour to present its

ELEVENTH REPORT

Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Thursday, March 10, 2016, to examine and report on the effects of transitioning to a low carbon economy, respectfully requests funds for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018.

Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

RICHARD NEUFELD

Chair

(For text of budget, see today’s Journals of the Senate, Appendix , p. 2559.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Neufeld, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament

Ninth Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Vernon White, Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, presented the following report:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament has the honour to present its

NINTH REPORT

Pursuant to rule 12-7(2)(a), your committee recommends that the Rules of the Senate be amended by:

1.replacing rule 12-8(2) by the following:

Service fee proposals

12-8. (2) When the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Government tables a service fee proposal, it is deemed referred to the standing or special committee designated by the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Government following consultations with the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the leader or facilitator of any other recognized party or recognized parliamentary group.

REFERENCE

Service Fees Act, subsection 15(1)”;

2.replacing rule 12-22(5) by the following:

Approval of service fees

12-22. (5) If a service fee proposal has been referred to a properly appointed and constituted committee, and that committee does not report within 20 sitting days following the day it received the order of reference, it shall be deemed to have recommended approval of the service fee.

REFERENCE

Service Fees Act, subsection 15(3)”;

3.adding the following new definition to Appendix I in alphabetical order:

Service fee proposal

A proposal in relation to a service fee developed under the Service Fees Act.  Similar proposals were previously referred to as “user fee proposals.” (Proposition de frais de service)”;

4.by deleting the definition of “User fee proposal” in Appendix I; and

5.updating all cross references in the Rules, including the lists of exceptions, accordingly.

Respectfully submitted,

VERNON WHITE

Deputy Chair

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator White, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

(1340)

Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

Twentieth Report of Committee Tabled

Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the twentieth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, which deals with the international travel report — Senator Galvez.

Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group

Pacific NorthWest Economic Region Annual Summit, July 17-21, 2016—Report Tabled

Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region 26th annual summit, held in Calgary, Alberta, from July 17 to 21, 2016.

Annual Meeting and Regional Policy Forum of the Council of State Governments’ Eastern Regional Conference, August 7-10, 2016—Report Tabled

Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the 56th annual meeting and Regional Policy Forum of the Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference, held in Québec, Quebec, from August 7 to 10, 2016.

Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance Conference, October 2-4, 2016—Report Tabled

Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Canadian-American Border Trade Alliance Conference, held in Washington, D.C., United States of America, from October 2 to 4, 2016.

Transport and Communications

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Emerging Issues Related to its Mandate and Ministerial Mandate Letters

Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications be authorized to examine and report on emerging issues related to its mandate under rule 12-7(6);

That it be further authorized to examine and report on the elements related to its mandate found in the ministerial mandate letters of the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and the Minister of Canadian Heritage;

That the papers and evidence received and taken and work already accomplished by the committee on this subject since the beginning the First Session of the Forty-second Parliament, as authorized by the Senate on January 28, 2016, be referred back to the committee; and

That the committee submit its final report no later than June 30, 2018.


QUESTION PERIOD

Finance

Disability Tax Credit

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the government leader in the Senate.

Ten years ago in Budget 2007, the former finance minister, the late Jim Flaherty introduced the Registered Disability Savings Plan. These plans helped parents and others to save for long-term financial stability for a person with a disability.

As Senator Martin pointed out yesterday, the government is denying coverage under the Disability Tax Credit to a growing number of Canadians with Type 1 diabetes, despite certification from doctors that their patients meet the criteria. To qualify for a Registered Disability Savings Plan, a person must first qualify for the Disability Tax Credit. By taking away the tax credit, your government is also taking away thousands of dollars of support it provides through these savings plans.

Why has the government chosen to deny both immediate tax relief and long-term assistance to Canadians with Type 1 diabetes?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question, and let me repeat what I said yesterday with respect to the question raised by his honourable colleague. The government is committed to ensuring that all Canadians have access to the credits and benefits to which they are entitled, particularly those dealing with disability tax credits. The concerns raised are worrisome, and both the agency and the minister’s office will be meeting with the groups that are affected.

The minister, as the Senate will know, has asked the agency to improve data collection with respect to the Disability Tax Credit in order to better understand the portrait of Disability Tax Credit claims and the decision-making processes in the agency itself.

That is the process that is under way. As I reported yesterday, the government has assured that hiring of nurses to assess the applications has increased so that the capacity of the agency to deal with these applications is more robust and appropriate for the kind of determination that needs to be made in these cases.

Senator Smith: Thank you, sir.

I had a neat little opening paragraph for my supplementary, but as I said to the government leader yesterday, the government is putting Canada’s future in jeopardy by failing to curb spending now, by taking away access to the Registered Disability Savings Plan. And the government agencies can manipulate it any way they want, but especially for people who are certified by doctors, the government is hurting the ability of families to save for the future of child or a family member with Type 1 diabetes because these expenditures by families are very costly.

However, it is not too late for the government to do the right thing. Will the government reverse course, stop trying to raise revenue from those vulnerable Canadians and reinstate their access to the Disability Tax Credit and Registered Disability Savings Plan?

Senator Harder: Again I thank the honourable senator for his supplementary. Let me reassure the chamber that the actions that have been undertaken are not at all an attempt to deny access to the Disability Tax Credit, nor are they a cost-saving approach. It was designed to ensure that those who are entitled to the benefits receive them quickly. That is why the additional nurses have been hired so that the assessment can be made and dealt with appropriately.

[Translation]

Families, Children and Social Development

Support for Former Employees of Sears Canada

Hon. Ghislain Maltais: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Since July, 16,000 Sears Canada employees have lost their jobs, and although 80 per cent of them are women, I have not heard any outcry from feminist groups or the office of the Minister of Status of Women over the way these women have been treated.

I can hardly believe it. These people will receive no severance pay and will likely collect sharply reduced pensions. These women put in 10, 20, even 30 years of service with this employer, and now they are being forced to beg for scraps.

In this day and age, in a society as advanced as ours, it is unacceptable for women to be subjected to that kind of treatment. They are the ones bearing the brunt. I would point out that these women are not part of the middle class and do not earn $25 or $30 an hour. They earn barely more than minimum wage.

What will the government do to help these people right away?

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[English]

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Let me thank the honourable senator for his question and for his ongoing interest in issues that affect workers across Canada. In this case, of course, it is the workers that are so tragically affected by the decision by Sears to close its operations.

As the ministers affected have said publicly, and as I will report to the chamber, the government is making every effort to connect with the Sears employees and pensioners so that the programs and services that are available will help them through this difficult period. I am informed that 82 such sessions have been arranged already across the country and have taken place, and more will take place in the coming days.

(1350)

These are difficult times for the employees, and it’s important that programs available from the Government of Canada are well understood and the claims can be processed as quickly as possible.

As the honourable senator will know, the court has authorized Sears to close its remaining stores and liquidate its operations. I’m informed that the pension assets of the corporation are under judicial protection. The government is monitoring carefully what further protections for employee benefits and pensions might be undertaken.

You will know that this is a privately sponsored pension plan, and it is governed by provincial laws and regulations.

While the government has no plan to introduce legislation at this time, the minister responsible has made it known that he is willing to meet with interested groups, both parliamentary and outside of Parliament, to determine and to seek whether or not the existing legislative framework is adequate.

[Translation]

Senator Maltais: Government Representative, even worse for these poor employees is that the members of the board then descended on them like vultures. They set aside $6.5 million to be distributed among themselves, including $4 million that was pocketed by a small group of administrators who are no longer employed by Sears. This money should have been used as severance for the women working there. This is unacceptable.

From what I understand, the Minister of Labour does not have a plan because most Sears stores are governed by provincial labour codes. However, the Minister of Justice could act immediately by seizing Sears Canada’s bank accounts and property and redistribute some of the recovered money among the 16,000 women who have lost their jobs. That is the only option. If the government waits another month, Sears Canada will have been completely liquidated, the administrators will have split whatever was left of the spoils, and these women will not get a cent.

I believe that, given the seriousness of the situation, the Minister of Justice of Canada must act immediately.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[English]

Senator Harder: Again, I want to associate myself with the sentiments of the honourable senator with respect to the payments that higher executives in the Sears organization have allocated for themselves. All senators will know that this is under CCAA protection, therefore, the court is administering the distribution of assets. There are court protections for the pension assets of employees.

With respect to the suggestions made in the comments of the honourable senator, I would be happy to draw them to the attention of the appropriate ministers.

National Revenue

Transparency of Tax System

Hon. Percy E. Downe: My question is for the government leader in the Senate, Senator Harder.

On October 20, the government of the United Kingdom announced their tax gap which was 36 billion British pounds. Canada is one of the few countries that has refused to measure the tax gap. The Canada Revenue Agency has resisted. We know that the tax gap measures two things: the difference between what should be collected and what is actually collected, but it also shows how effective the revenue agency is.

CRA continues to hide behind a wall of secrecy and is refusing to explain to Canadians how efficient they are or are not.

When will the government order the CRA to measure the tax gap?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. This is an issue that he has raised in the chamber before and which he continues to champion. I’m happy that he was able to support the increased allocation to the CRA by this government to ensure that there was a strengthened capacity at CRA to go after tax avoidance.

With respect to the specificity of his question, I will make inquiries and report back.

Senator Downe: There is no question the capacity has been addressed; the competence, however, is another question. Many Canadians have serious concerns about the management style of the Canada Revenue Agency.

For example, there is a culture of secrecy: refusing to give the Parliamentary Budget Officer the information to estimate the tax gap; refusing to tell Canadians what they are doing; refusing to tell parliamentarians and hiding behind the wall of secrecy.

I noticed yesterday in the Australian Parliament, parliamentarians were given a full update by the counterpart to our revenue agency on the leak from the Panama Papers. Fourteen hundred Australians were identified with 200 more names to come. They indicated how much money was actually recovered.

The CRA tells none of this to Canadians. Nobody knows what has happened to the Panama Papers. Did people get away with cheating on taxes or not? Did the government recover any money? No.

We hear constantly from the CRA how much they have identified as opposed to how much they have collected. Australia is very different.

Colleagues may be interested to know as well that at that Australian meeting yesterday, there is a fresh leak coming from a law firm called Appleby, which I believe is based in Bermuda. There will be information forthcoming in the next few weeks. We can assume, like all other cases, that there will be Canadians involved, but unlike other countries, unless the government forces the CRA to break down that wall of secrecy to be more transparent, Canadians will never know what has happened. This double standard is most unfortunate.

If you cheat on your taxes in Canada, you are pursued and caught. The CRA does an outstanding job with domestic tax evasion. For overseas tax evasion, they are completely incompetent, regardless of the resources. For years, I thought it was lack of resources. There is something seriously wrong with that agency.

Canadians need to know that the tax system is fair and we are all treated fairly. Will the government intervene at the CRA? Will they call in outside experts to look at what is the root of the problem?

Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for both his preamble and question. Let me assure the honourable senator that I will take up that question with the ministers responsible.

[Translation]

Justice

Supreme Court—Judicial Nominations

Hon. René Cormier: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Honourable colleague, could you shed some light on why Bill C-203, which sought to amend the Supreme Court Act with regard to the appointment of bilingual judges to the Supreme Court, was defeated? The bill was identical to one that the Liberal Party supported when it was in opposition and that our official languages minority communities have repeatedly endorsed.

While we acknowledge the government issued a directive regarding the appointment of judges capable of working in both official languages, why would it not support legislation to enshrine it in law?

[English]

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. This is also an issue he has been following closely, and it gives me the opportunity to state in this chamber, as has been stated in the other chamber, that, of course, the government is committed to ensuring that Canadians have access to justice in the official language of their choice.

It is in keeping with that commitment that a new process was established for Supreme Court of Canada appointments, including a policy that its judges should be functionally bilingual. The government’s actions to date, including the recent appointment of Mr. Justice Malcolm Rowe to the court, demonstrates that the government takes seriously this commitment.

I should also point out that the government has, through its appointment process, appointed 33 per cent of its judges across the country who are functionally bilingual. I should also point out that the government is committed to appointing only judges to the Supreme Court of Canada who are functionally bilingual.

The government is committed to considering the issue of the judicial appointments process and official languages capacity of the judiciary more generally. To that end, the Government of Canada has recently launched a seven-point action plan to enhance the bilingual capacity of Canada’s Superior Court judges. This multi-faceted approach will ensure that people have improved access to justice in both official languages. That is the policy of this government.

[Translation]

Senator Cormier: I thank the Government Representative in the Senate for his response. You must understand the disappointment of Canadians in official language minority communities who saw this as a unique opportunity to send our justice system a clear message.

I trust I can count on you to convey this message to our government

(1400)

[English]

Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for his supplementary. Let me state that I believe the policy of the government, as I stated it, is clear, and I would tell all senators who are interested in this issue to help ensure that Canadians are aware of the policy and the practice of this government in this matter.

Health

Reporting of Adverse Drug Reactions

Hon. Judith Seidman: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In 2014, the federal government passed Vanessa’s Law, which introduced the most profound and important changes to the Food and Drugs Act since it was introduced more than 50 years ago. Of course, Vanessa’s Law is named in honour of Vanessa Young, who was 15 years old when she died tragically of a heart attack after taking a drug prescribed by her doctor.

Three years after Parliament passed this legislation without a dissenting vote, there is still no requirement in place for health care institutions to report adverse drug reactions. When will the government implement mandatory reporting of serious adverse drug reactions and medical device incidents by health care institutions?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question and obviously her long-time devotion to this matter. I will make inquiries and get back as soon as possible.

Senator Seidman: Thank you very much for that answer.

Honourable senators will recall that when I brought forward this legislation three years ago in this place, it was our intent to require the reporting of all serious drug reactions. However, Health Canada’s most recent communication on this matter proposes to regulate only acute care hospitals and to require them to report only unexpected adverse reactions to prescription drugs.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate assure Canadians that the government will respect the spirit and the letter of Vanessa’s Law by ensuring that all serious drug reactions are reported?

Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for her supplementary. Let me simply assure her that the government takes seriously compliance with the law of Canada, and with respect to the specific question raised, I will make sure that is part of the inquiry made.

Canadian Heritage

National Holocaust Monument

Hon. Linda Frum: Leader, the National Holocaust Monument is an impressive memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. This monument was made possible due to the significant financial contributions of the Harper government and private donors. It stands prominently in our National Capital Region as a powerful reminder of the atrocities of the Holocaust and the capacity for evil on this earth against which we must always be vigilant.

For this reason, I am disappointed to learn that the National Capital Commission is planning to close the monument during the winter months. The purpose of the Holocaust monument is to memorialize and to educate, not just on sunny days but every day, all year round. Surely I do not need to put on the record that Ottawa ranks among the coldest, snowiest capitals in the world.

Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate agree that failing to allow visitors from Canada and abroad to visit the monument during the winter is wrong? And will he work with the Minister of Heritage to make sure the monument is open to the public throughout the year?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question and her involvement in the creation of this monument. It is truly spectacular. I had occasion to go see it the other day, and it is a tribute of appropriate memorialization of this horrific event.

As the premise of the question itself suggests, the monument is under the supervision of the National Capital Commission. It is the policy of the National Capital Commission on this and other memorials in the Ottawa capital region that there be protection from potential winter weather damage and to therefore limit access to sites. I’m informed that this is part of the National Capital Commission’s mandate to protect this and other sites.

What I will obviously do is bring the question of the honourable senator to the attention of the appropriate authorities, both ministerial and the National Capital Commission, so that the sentiments of this chamber are well understood.

Senator Frum: Thank you for that, leader. I appreciate it.

It was part of the enacting legislation that responsibility for the maintenance of the monument falls to the Minister of Heritage. It’s a choice that she can make to have the monument shovelled during the winter or not; it’s her responsibility to provide the maintenance. The maintenance could be provided if she wanted it to be so that it would be accessible to all during the winter.

So I leave that with you. If you can come back to me with the reason why she has opted not to have the monument protected from snow and ice so that visitors — it’s not to protect the monument. It’s to make it viable for visitors to come and see the monument when it is snowing in Ottawa.

Justice

Litigation Management Cabinet Committee

Hon. Denise Batters: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Harder, this week I asked the Attorney General about the Cabinet Committee on Litigation Management. Guess who is also a member of that cabinet committee? Bill Morneau.

Media reports about the formation of this committee indicate the Government of Canada is involved in 42,000 legal cases. How many times did Minister Morneau recuse himself from discussions at the litigation management cabinet committee when he had a conflict of interest?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question. Let me make inquiries and respond appropriately.

Senator Batters: Minister Morneau’s potential conflicts of interest have been a major issue in Parliament and in the national media for several days now. As the Trudeau government leader in the Senate, you were sworn in to the Privy Council and you should be aware of discussions around the cabinet table. It’s your responsibility to answer for the Trudeau government in this chamber and not just to serve as the government email inbox.

Senator Harder, my question here is very straightforward. Will you please commit to providing this answer within a few days rather than the usual written delayed answer in six to eight months, which provides nothing other than non-responsive Trudeau government talking points?

Senator Harder: I will respond as appropriate.

Transport

Champlain Bridge

Hon. Leo Housakos: My question is to the government leader in the Senate. When the Harper government awarded a $4.2 billion contract to the SNC-Lavalin consortium for the new Champlain Bridge project in Montreal, we included conditions for on-time delivery and penalties, which is, of course, the responsible thing to do when handing over large sums of taxpayer money.

The bridge project is supposed to be completed December 1 of next year, 2018. I’m told this project is at least a year behind schedule and could be anywhere from $500 million to $600 million over budget already.

Is this project on time and on budget? And if not, will your government carry through on the conditions and penalties put in place by the Harper government to hold SNC-Lavalin financially responsible for failing to carry through on their responsibilities to taxpayers?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. Let me reassert, as his question implied, that the target for having the new Champlain Bridge in service and receiving traffic was and remains December 2018.

Last week, the government announced with its partners that because of the project’s schedule having come under pressure in recent months, the private sector partner has put measures in place to accelerate progress. The new Champlain Bridge will be traversed, as he knows, by the Réseau électrique métropolitain project. The Government of Canada is working closely with the Caisse de dépôt to ensure the successful implementation of the REM project in the new Champlain Bridge corridor.

Senator Housakos: Leader, thank you for confirming in your answer that they are behind schedule and that they are making efforts to accelerate the work so they can get back on schedule, but my question is a simple one. Will your government make a commitment that the penalties that were inscribed in that contract issued by the previous government will be enforced if they’re not on time and not on budget?

Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. Let me take his question as a representation to the government; at this time, the government has not made any such statement.

[Translation]

Justice

Supreme Court—Judicial Nominations

Hon. Claude Carignan: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On Tuesday, I asked the Minister of Justice a question about the appointment of the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. There may have been a problem with the interpretation, but the minister clearly did not answer my question. Therefore, Senator, allow me to again put the question to you, the government spokesperson in this chamber.

(1410)

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court announced that she will be stepping down on December 15 of this year. Does the government intend to honour tradition and appoint a francophone Chief Justice with a civil law background?

[English]

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I was listening attentively to the honourable senator’s question of the minister, as well as the minister’s response. As you will know from the response, she specifically addressed the other aspect of the question that was asked.

Let me say, with respect to the specific question being asked, that the Government of Canada is aware of the precedent. As the minister indicated, this is a matter entirely within the prerogative of the Prime Minister, and he will exercise that prerogative.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: I am pleased to see that the government acknowledges this tradition exists, but what we want to know is whether it intends to respect it.

[English]

Senator Harder: I’m afraid the senator will have to await the announcement of the Government of Canada.

[Translation]

Families, Children and Social Development

Support for Former Employees of Sears Canada

Hon. Ghislain Maltais: I must come back to the thorny issue of Sears.

In order to give a voice to the employees in question, given that Canada’s women are not standing up for them, I urge every senator to boycott Sears’ liquidation sales in the coming months in solidarity with the 16,000 employees who were unceremoniously shown the door and defrauded by a well-established company like Sears Canada.

I invite you, dear colleagues, to support this show of solidarity with the men and women who have been treated in such an unacceptable manner in 2017.

[English]

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Let me say, in response to the suggestion of the honourable senator opposite, that as the son of a small-town merchant whose business was affected by Sears, I had no problem not attending Sears over the years.

[Translation]

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Lisa Gagnon, Zacharie Newbold, Trevor Newbold, Géralda Gagnon, and Léonide Gagnon, family members of our page Maxime Newbold.

On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

National Security and Defence

Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Issues Relating to Creating a Defined, Professional and Consistent System for Veterans as they leave the Canadian Armed Forces

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais, pursuant to notice of October 25, 2017, moved:

That, notwithstanding the orders of the Senate adopted on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, and Tuesday, June 20, 2017, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence in relation to its study of issues related to creating a defined, professional and consistent system for veterans as they leave the Canadian Armed Forces be extended from October 31, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)


[English]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Statistics Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Cordy, seconded by the Honourable Senator Richards, for the second reading of Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Statistics Act.

Hon. Diane Griffin: I will take the adjournment in my name. I will speak to it on Tuesday.

(On motion of Senator Griffin, debate adjourned.)

[Translation]

The Senate

Motion to Affect Question Period on October 31, 2017, Adopted

Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate), pursuant to notice of October 25, 2017, moved:

That, in order to allow the Senate to receive a Minister of the Crown during Question Period as authorized by the Senate on December 10, 2015, and notwithstanding rule 4-7, when the Senate sits on Tuesday, October 31, 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.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

Adjournment

Motion Adopted

Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate), pursuant to notice of October 25, 2017, moved:

That, when the Senate next adjourns after the adoption of this motion, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, October 31, 2017, at 2 p.m.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

[English]

National Anthem Act

Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Lankin, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, for the third reading of Bill C-210, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender).

And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Beyak, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dagenais:

That Bill C-210 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended, on page 1, by adding the following after line 6:

“2 This Act comes into force on the later of July 1, 2017 and the day on which it receives royal assent.”.

Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-210, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender). It is a great honour to add my voice to those of so many other colleagues in this chamber who have already spoken at great length about amending Canada’s national anthem.

[Translation]

I also want to acknowledge the contribution of the sponsor of the bill, the late Mauril Bélanger, an old friend from Ottawa to whom I paid tribute and for whom I had the greatest respect. He was an excellent parliamentarian.

In my short speech today I will focus on Senator Beyak’s proposed amendment, which is based on solid principles and good intentions, namely to get more support for the changes being made to our national anthem that is so dear to us.

The proposal to officially change our national anthem on Canada Day is an idea worthy of our careful consideration and support. All efforts to promote the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Confederation deserve recognition and support.

[English]

I have enjoyed the debate that this proposed legislation has brought to this chamber and the range of arguments both for and against changing the words of “O Canada.” It makes you realize that you don’t have to agree with everybody else, but you can learn a lot more if you pay attention and listen.

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I know there are some who would rather be right than to win, but I believe we can all find a way to win if we are willing to compromise a little.

The great Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “A genuine leader is not a seeker of consensus but a moulder of consensus.” To that I will simply add that this legislation and the amendment offers us all that opportunity to craft and mould our own consensus. We can, as others have suggested, keep and hold our traditions and customs while changing it for the better.

I deliberately use the words “change for the better.” Those were some of the words that my colleague Senator Wells used in his intervention on this legislation. Senator Wells quoted that old proverb, “To change and to change for the better are two different things,” as a way to remind us all that simply change for change’s sake is not a good enough rationale to tinker or temper with traditions.

But Senator Wells and several of my other colleagues also asked us to consider working together to reach consensus, if not agreement. That would seem to be a noble goal and something that is within our power and our reach, if we want it.

As I noted earlier, I have listened carefully to the arguments on both sides of the debate on whether we should make the change from “all our sons command” to “all of us command.”

Those who favour this change claim it to be a more modern and representative wording. I have to admit that I remain unconvinced of the necessity of this change. I certainly would prefer any change at all to be grammatically correct. But I respect your views, and I certainly respect how strongly I know you, the proponents of this change, feel about it. I could sense the passion in your voices and on your faces when you spoke in this chamber. You are trying to claim that the tide of history is on your side, and the amendment that has been offered to make this change come into force on our national birthday, July 1, adds to that sense of occasion.

But I also felt and heard Senator Plett and Senator Wells, among others, talk about preserving history and tradition by keeping our national anthem close to its original form. That is important to many Canadians, not just to those who have the honour to sit and speak here.

[Translation]

There is an interplay between passion and patriotism. Even though Canadians are generally not known for loudly voicing their opinions, the debate over this issue seems to have sparked far more interest than we usually see. That is a good thing. It is also a good thing that some parliamentarians want our national anthem to be, in their words, more modern and representative.

[English]

Motion in Subamendment

Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That the motion in amendment moved by the Honourable Senator Beyak be amended by replacing the words “the later of July 1, 2017 and the day on which it receives royal assent” with the words “December 1, 2017”.

I urge you, honourable senators, to support this important subamendment.

The Hon. the Speaker: On debate, Senator Plett.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Your Honour, I really would like to speak to this, but I know that time is short and, of course, this came very quickly. So I would like to take the adjournment and speak to it next week.

The Hon. the Speaker: I notice that Senator Lankin wanted to pose a question to Senator Ngo. Before we move to the adjournment motion, we’ll go to Senator Lankin.

Senator Plett: I apologize. I thought she was calling for the question.

Hon. Frances Lankin: Senator Plett, thank you. That was very gracious of you.

Will the honourable senator take a couple of questions, please?

Senator Ngo: I will try to answer your questions.

Senator Lankin: Thank you.

My first question has to do with the impact of your amendment. You said, given the context of your speech and the things that you put forward around seeking compromise as being something that we should look to do in the chamber, that your subamendment is very important. I am having trouble understanding the import of it related to words of compromise, seeking consensus and moving forward.

Would you explain the import and impact of your subamendment to us, please?

Senator Ngo: Thank you for your question. The compromise is that we don’t know what we are going to do with that. The date of July 31 has already passed. July 1, the sanction is not there, and I propose the change to December 1. The compromise is that you can put your own subamendment on my subamendment.

Senator Lankin: I think I appreciate the offer but I won’t buy into that, if that’s okay with you, senator.

I would ask you again — and I’m sorry; I’m not trying to be difficult. I am having a great deal of trouble understanding the import of this. The amendment of Senator Beyak had the date of July, as she referenced, but also “or Royal Assent.” Of course, that is a latter date and that would come into effect later. I don’t know how the date of December 1 helps us in this chamber in any way or how it can be described as being “important” in the context of your speech about wanting to find a compromise.

Senator Ngo: Thank you for your question. As I said, I proposed the subamendment moving the date to December 1. The compromise is that you can move a subamendment to my subamendment, such as November 31 or November 15. Just put it on the table.

Senator Lankin: One more question. I realize the time is probably running out for the honourable senator, but thank you for entertaining my questions.

I actually think the date on which it comes into force is less important than the date on which we vote on the bill. I think you probably know that would be my opinion.

I want to ask you a really straight question, no games here: Is your subamendment simply not another delay tactic?

Senator Ngo: I don’t know whether I should answer your question, because you always say that it’s always delay and delay. If that is what you think, it is your prerogative to do so, but I put the date, because the subamendment is July 1 and that has passed.

Senator Lankin: Honestly.

Senator Ngo: Honestly. I just put that date so we can work on it.

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So I put the date on December 1. The compromise is between the two sides. You can put the date, and see what happens. That’s what I think.

But I have no bad intentions. As you say, we have nothing to gain. I don’t think that December 1 is difficult because we are already at the end of October. You have the month of November to work on it. I think the compromise can be there. Or you accept my subamendment of December 1, and we go from there.

(On motion of Senator Plett, debate adjourned.)

Constitution Act, 1867

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Patterson, seconded by the Honourable Senator Enverga, for the second reading of Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Property qualifications of Senators).

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): I move to adjourn debate in my name.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator Smith, debate adjourned.)

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Bill

Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Vernon White moved second reading of Bill C-211, An Act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder.

(On motion of Senator White, debate adjourned.)

Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training Bill

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Andreychuk, seconded by the Honourable Senator Seidman, for the second reading of Bill C-337, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault).

Hon. Ratna Omidvar: This item is currently adjourned in Senator Mercer’s name. I would like to take the adjournment in Senator Sinclair’s name.

(On motion of Senator Omidvar, for Senator Sinclair, debate adjourned.)

Study on Issues Related to the Government’s Current Defence Policy Review

Tenth Report of National Security and Defence Committee—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Lang, seconded by the Honourable Senator Smith, for the adoption of the tenth report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, entitled Military underfunded: The walk must match the talk, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on April 13, 2017.

And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Eggleton, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Day:

That the tenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be not now adopted, but that it be amended by deleting the second recommendation.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): This item currently stands in Senator Lang’s name, so I will move the adjournment in my name.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)

Eleventh Report of National Security and Defence Committee and Request for Government Response—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Lang, seconded by the Honourable Senator Martin:

That the eleventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, entitled Reinvesting in the Canadian Armed Forces: A plan for the future, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on May 8, 2017, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 12-24(1), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of National Defence being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report.

And on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eggleton, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Day:

That the eleventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be not now adopted, but that it be referred back to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence for consideration, particularly in light of the document entitled Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy, tabled in the Senate on June 7, 2017.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): With this item, I would like to move the adjournment of debate in my name.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)

Non-Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran Bill

Third Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, seconded by the Honourable Senator Carignan, P.C., for the third reading of Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations.

Hon. Linda Frum: Honourable senators, I rise at third reading of Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred and human rights violations. I commend Senator Tkachuk for sponsoring this important piece of legislation and for his tireless dedication to this issue.

Bill S-219 is grounded in a moral and ethical purpose, and that is to monitor one of the most malign nations in the world and to calibrate our nation’s sanctions accordingly.

Bill S-219 requires the Government of Canada to publish an annual report on Iranian-sponsored terrorism and human rights abuses. This report must be published on or before March 31 each year and include statistical information on the incidence of terrorist activity, support for terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations emanating from Iran during the preceding year. This report must include the measures the Government of Canada has taken during the preceding year to address these activities by Iran and name anyone who has been convicted of offence under the Special Economic Measures Act.

Within 15 days of being published, the report must be tabled in both houses of Parliament. This approach not only creates an evidence-based record of what abuses the Iranian government has participated in but sets out the pathway for Canada to lifting its remaining sanctions against Iran, which include prohibitions against financial transactions involving individuals and entities identified by Canada as being involved in the development of Iranian weaponry, and the export, sale, supply and shipment of goods such as aerosol generators, riot gear and precious metals.

Should there be a period in which two consecutive annual reports demonstrate that there is no credible evidence of state-sponsored terrorism or human rights abuses, the Government of Canada would be able to lift sanctions against Iran.

The legislation lays out the various ways this evidence can be demonstrated and includes: the Iranian government allowing the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran to investigate conditions without restrictions; ratifying and implementing the UN convention against torture; unconditionally releasing all political prisoners, including the citizens of Iran detained in the aftermath of the 2009 election; allowing freedom of expression; and prohibiting all forms of discrimination on the basis of colour, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

These are practical standards that Canada can set as a precursor to lifting sanctions that are currently imposed against Iran. They add a layer of accountability for any government considering relaxing sanctions in the future.

Furthermore, Bill S-219 applies existing Special Economic Measures Act sanctions to the so-called Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, EIKO, and to entities that are owned or controlled by EIKO or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the IRGC.

Adding these two groups to the Special Economic Measures Act would bring Canada’s sanctions regime in line with the Government of United States’ recent announcement that it will sanction the IRGC and EIKO through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

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Finally, this legislation calls on the Minister of Public Safety to consider whether to recommend that the IRGC be listed as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code.

Put together, these provisions form a well-thought-out policy that sets a clear standard for how Canada should move forward with its engagement with Iran.

I have listened to the criticisms against this legislation, particularly from those who believe that an annual audit of Iran’s terrorist activity and human rights abuses will disrupt diplomatic relations between our two countries. Well, that may very possibly be true, but if Canada wishes to be a beacon of moral leadership in the world, that is as it should be.

Honourable senators, the legislation before us is precisely about leadership and demonstrating to the world that practical and responsible steps can be taken to compel the Iranian government to end both their domestic reign of terror and their worldwide campaigns of chaos and war.

Last month, I joined the Iranian community of Toronto to commemorate the victims of the 1988 Iranian massacre, a massacre which claimed the lives of up to 30,000 dissidents and perceived enemies of the state. Thirty years on, the political situation in Iran has not improved and the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre remain at the nucleus of power.

Executions for crimes such as drug offences, apostasy, same-sex relations and blasphemy continue at an unrelenting pace. Journalists and online media activists are jailed and tortured for attempting to exercise their right to freedom of speech. Women’s rights and minority rights are non-existent. And Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program has in fact accelerated since the signing of the JCPOA nuclear agreement in 2015, posing a serious threat to the international community.

We can all hope that a “revolution from below” may overthrow the present regime, but it is a fallacy to think that the current regime can itself be reformed through closer engagement.

There are those who have argued in this chamber that current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is a moderate who can bring change to Iran. To those who accept this view, I ask for evidence. Because here is the evidence to the contrary.

Under the leadership of the so-called moderate Rouhani, Iran’s list of terrorist clients continues to include: Shia terrorist groups in Iraq; Hamas; Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Last month alone, the Iranian-backed Assad regime in Syria murdered 3,000 individuals and is responsible for the violent deaths of almost half a million total.

Iran is also responsible for the chaos unfolding in Iraq and Yemen, and it’s responsible for financing Hezbollah’s arms race against Israel.

Domestically, Iran continues to execute hundreds of people every year and comes only second to China in the number of executions carried out annually. Amnesty International recorded nearly 1,000 executions in Iran in 2015 and at least 567 in 2016.

Honourable senators, let us not fool ourselves: neither the lifting of economic sanctions nor the alleged appeal of diplomatic re-engagement has changed anything about the behaviour of this rogue, nihilistic regime.

I believe everybody in this chamber agrees that we must do everything we can to promote human rights across the world. Canada must be a leader among civilized nations and not be afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if such a principled stand comes at an economic cost to ourselves.

In order to stand up for what is right, real action, not just through pretty words, is required. That is why, honourable senators, I urge all of you to support Bill S-219.

(On motion of Senator Cools, debate adjourned.)

Study on Issues Relating to Foreign Relations and International Trade Generally

Sixteenth Report of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee and Request for Government Response Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the sixteenth report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, entitled The Deepening Crisis in Venezuela: Canadian and Regional Stakes, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on July 20, 2017.

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk moved:

That the sixteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, entitled The Deepening Crisis in Venezuela: Canadian and Regional Stakes, tabled with the Clerk of the Senate on Thursday, July 20, 2017, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 12-24(1), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report.

She said: On behalf of the committee, I thought that we should provide some comments about this report, as I believe the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade should be given great credit for taking up the issue of Venezuela when others were not.

The committee has brought in evidence and allowed the opposition to air their comments here in Canada, and it culminated in this last report that we filed in July.

As we speak today in the chamber, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada is hosting the Lima Group of the OAS, who are continuing to take up the issues in Venezuela. I thought it was timely to make sure our report is on the record and in Hansard.

As part of our ongoing interests in developments in the western hemisphere and their implications for Canada, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has been closely following developments in Venezuela. These developments have become particularly concerning for Canada and for the region in recent years given the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the country and the crisis threatening its governance.

In 2016, the committee tabled a report which focused on the serious economic challenges and the plight of political opponents in this country, including elected members of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

Events in Venezuela have escalated since then. In particular, President Nicolás Maduro has undertaken several worrisome initiatives to entrench the government’s tenure at the expense of the country’s democratic processes and constitutional structure.

Such initiatives have notably affected the function of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, Venezuela’s legislative body, and the Supreme Court. They have included the suspension of the campaign that would have resulted in a recall election for the office of president as well as the declaration of a state of emergency.

In May 2017, President Nicolás Maduro announced that a “constituent assembly” would be convened to circumvent the function of the National Assembly and rewrite the constitution.

In view of these escalating events in Venezuela since the 2016 report, the committee held several hearings in May and June of this year to obtain an update on the situation and on Canada’s response. Witnesses included a member of Venezuela’s National Assembly, members of the Venezuelan community in Canada, Canadian and international experts on Venezuela and officials from Global Affairs Canada. A report on the committee’s findings was tabled in July, the timing of which was deliberate in order to coincide with the convening of President Maduro’s Constituent Assembly.

On behalf of the committee, I rise to share some of our findings. The report focuses on witnesses’ testimony regarding Venezuela’s deepening democratic crisis, particularly the unconstitutional nature of the Constituent Assembly and the disempowerment of a duly elected legislative body. Some witnesses suggested that its results would in effect confirm that Venezuela is a full dictatorship. The report also outlines testimony about the country’s severe economic decline, evidenced in part by triple-digit inflation, currently the highest in the world.

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The report also details the distressing consequences of these political and economic developments for the welfare of the Venezuelan people. In effect, the committee was told that the Maduro regime’s entrenched control over the country’s economy has precipitated a large-scale humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

In particular, basic goods that are not produced by the oil-focused economy, such as food and medicine, are no longer imported at previous levels. As a result, Venezuelans continue to face food insecurity and malnutrition at a critical level.

The lack of basic medicines and medical supplies, as well as collapsing health services, has resulted in increases to Venezuela’s infant and maternal mortality rates and the resurgence of diseases such as diphtheria and malaria, among other distressing health indicators.

Salaries, if paid, are inadequate to support the basic living conditions of workers. Accordingly, and notwithstanding the country’s oil-based economy, poverty, including extreme poverty, has become more prevalent among the Venezuelan population.

For its part, the Maduro government denies that a humanitarian crisis exists and, despite repeated offers of humanitarian assistance, has refused access to the country for any credible international group in order to determine the specific food and medical needs of the Venezuelan population.

The committee was informed that the Venezuelan minister of health recently paid the price of being dismissed from office for releasing statistics that contradict the government’s official position on the country’s humanitarian situation.

The committee was also told that the Venezuelan military has assumed control of all food and medical provisions imported into the country. In this respect, the military allegedly distributes this food for its own purposes or prices it out of reach for those who need it.

In other respects, the committee’s report documents the deterioration of human rights conditions in Venezuela as told to it by witnesses. Such testimony echoed much of what all of us were already seeing in the media coverage of Venezuela’s crisis. More specifically, the committee heard that the government has used force to repress the large-scale protests that have been taking place to oppose the government’s initiatives and to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

The committee was told that government has detained thousands of protesters, including anti-government leaders, human rights activists and Venezuelans of all ages, and is subjecting them to a military judicial process rather than civilian trials. According to witnesses’ testimonies, the government’s measures have resulted in more than 60 deaths, 3,000 casualties and over 2,000 arrests since early April 2017. Recent statements and reports by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as those by international monitoring groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, substantiate the witnesses’ testimonies about these human rights abuses.

The remainder of our report covers the efforts on the part of United Nations, the Organization of American States and the United States to resolve the crisis in Venezuela. It also, of course, documents Canada’s pressure on Venezuela’s government, either by way of direct statements or through coordinated action at various fora, including the OAS, as well as Canada’s support for initiatives that, in particular, aim to alleviate Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.

In its conclusions, the committee underscores the leadership role that Canada should play across a number of areas related to the Venezuelan crisis. These include ensuring that humanitarian assistance is delivered to those most in need, encouraging regional and international stakeholders to undertake meaningful and constructive international measures that fundamentally improve the political, economic and humanitarian conditions in the country, as well as sustaining the momentum of initiatives that aim to benefit the Venezuelan people.

As timely as the committee’s hearings and subsequent report were, since then there have been a number of key developments in recent weeks and months. As distressing as these developments are, they reinforce the timeliness of the committee’s work on this crisis and the importance of our part as parliamentarians for remaining vigilant.

For instance, the Government of Venezuela seized the assets of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz and banned her from leaving the country after she alleged human rights violations and the deterioration of the country’s democratic condition under President Maduro.

Armed civilians allegedly supporting President Maduro have entered the National Assembly and physically assaulted elected deputies.

Despite an unofficial referendum in which the Venezuelan people rejected the government’s proposal to establish the Constituent Assembly and rewrite the constitution of the country, the National Constituent Assembly was formally established on August 5, 2017, and has assumed the legislative functions of the democratically elected National Assembly.

Two of Venezuela’s opposition leaders, Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez, already serving out sentences of house arrest, were briefly seized and detained by law enforcement officers under suspicions of plans to leave the country, only to be returned to their homes after a few days.

The National Electoral Authority has taken decisions that illegally favoured President Maduro’s supporters in the regional elections that were held October 15, 2017, and that were ultimately dominated by his party.

Among the more positive developments to resolve this crisis have been the appointment by the Secretary General of the OAS of an independent panel of international experts to assess whether the situation in Venezuela should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

As further evidence of Canada’s leadership on such matters in the western hemisphere, one of our former colleagues in Parliament, Irwin Cotler, was appointed one of the three members of the panel. This panel will be supervised by Luis Moreno Ocampo from Argentina, a former jurist in the trials against his country’s former military leaders for mass killings and human rights violations, as well as being the former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

In response, Canada, together with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru, issued the Lima Declaration in August 2017 on the situation in Venezuela. Among its 16 items, the countries, all of whom are members of the OAS, condemned the “rupture of the democratic order in Venezuela” and decided not to recognize the National Constituent Assembly or any of its decisions due to its illegitimacy.

On September 22, Canada also announced sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act against key members of the Maduro regime and those closest to it. In effect, these sanctions impose asset freezes on the targeted individuals and prohibit persons in Canada and Canadians outside Canada from dealing in any property of these individuals or providing financial or related services to them.

Pursuant to a formal association Canada created with the United States on such actions in early September, these sanctions are similar to those that the U.S. had already imposed on Venezuela in previous years and had updated this summer.

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In this context, I’m certain that I speak on behalf of the members of the committee in affirming in this chamber that the main recommendations of our July 2017 report remain on point. More specifically, in light of the continued urgency of these efforts, given the deepening political, economic and humanitarian crisis facing the Venezuelan people, it is more important now than ever that President Maduro exercise the full authority of his office in a positive manner that respects the rights and responsibilities of Venezuelan citizens.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator, your time is up. Are you asking for five more minutes?

Senator Andreychuk: Yes.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Andreychuk: In particular, we hope he will abide by and respect the elected representatives and judicial officers, and we suggest that the Government of Canada leverage its network bilaterally and regionally in the framework of OAS and other institutions to help resolve Venezuela’s crisis.

I have further notes, but I would ask you to read the report in full. It clarifies the one fundamental point: What happens in our hemisphere affects Canada very directly. Venezuela was one of the most forward countries many decades ago with health markers moving in the positive direction, and since the assumption of, first, the Chavez and, now, especially the Maduro regimes, people are in crisis. They’re in a situation that should be not be tolerated within our hemisphere, and it affects our stability and security.

We heard about corrupt officials. We also heard about criminal networks, and these move within our hemisphere.

We applaud the efforts of our committee, on behalf of the committee, who were almost the first group in Parliament to seize this situation and point to this and underscore it. I’m pleased that the government has responded. The OAS has responded. I believe that continued light being shone on this issue by parliamentarians needs to occur. I am sure that the Foreign Affairs Committee will continue its diligence.

I thank all the members who contributed in the committee. We all came from different perspectives, but we came to the conclusion that it was our responsibility to continue to monitor this.

Thank you, honourable senators.

Hon. David Tkachuk: I would like to ask a question of Senator Andreychuk. On a comparative scale, how would Venezuela fit with Iran and China on their human rights records?

Senator Andreychuk: As you know, I study human rights. Two comments I would make. You would have to give me quite some time to monitor. We don’t, I believe, in the human rights field, and the documents they have, compare human rights abuses. Any life lost, any violation of human rights, has to be addressed. There are many ways to do so. And we must continue to find new ways.

As human rights abusers they use every mechanism, every means at their disposal, and we have to keep updating our attitudes, procedures and laws to attack them.

I don’t believe we need to compare them. We need to address concerns of human rights in Iran, in China, in Venezuela and in many other countries. We also have to look at ourselves. The Magnitsky law, which I’m very grateful this chamber adopted, talked about a gap in Canada, not outside, and we addressed that.

I hope that we will be diligent to look at Iran, China, and any other issue that’s raised by any honourable senator here.

I support your diligence in tracking Iran. I will support you in that, but I resist making comparisons because I think all lives are necessary. One life, one human rights deviation, leads to another and another. The sooner we stop them, the better. We should all consider how and when, and I will gladly respond to your inquiry within your inquiry. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, and report adopted.)

Palliative Care

Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Cordy, calling the attention of the Senate to the importance of identifying palliative care as an insured health service covered under the Canada Health Act and to the importance of developing a national strategy for uniform standards and delivery of palliative care.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I wish to adjourn this debate in my name, please.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)

Banking, Trade and Commerce

Motion to Authorize the Committee to Study the Operations of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments and the Chambers Banking Ombuds Office—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion, as amended, of the Honourable Senator Ringuette, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lankin, P.C.:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce be authorized to:

(a)Review the operations of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI), and ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office (ADRBO);

(b)Review the agencies’ interaction with and respect for provincial jurisdictions;

(c)Review and determine best practices from similar agencies in other jurisdictions;

(d)Provide recommendations to ensure that the FCAC, OBSI, and ADRBO can better protect consumers and respect provincial jurisdiction; and

That the Committee submit its final report no later than March 18, 2018, and retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.

Hon. Frances Lankin: Your Honour, I wish to speak to Motion No. 146. This item is on day 15, and I wish to move the adjournment in the name of Senator Omidvar.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator Lankin, for Senator Omidvar, debate adjourned.)

Autism Families in Crisis

Tenth Anniversary of Senate Report—Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Munson, calling the attention of the Senate to the 10th anniversary of its groundbreaking report Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis.

Hon. Kim Pate: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on the inquiry of Senator Munson calling attention to the Senate of the tenth anniversary of its groundbreaking report Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis.

[Translation]

I congratulate Senators Munson, Housakos, and Bernard for their exemplary leadership on this file and for raising public awareness about autism.

[English]

Autism affects every sector of society. A national autism strategy must be alive to the systemic barriers and negative attitudes that impede access to ASD-related services across multiple sectors.

The criminal justice system is no exception. In fact, research over the past two decades shows that people with ASD and other developmental disabilities are seven times more likely than the general population to come into contact with law enforcement during their lifetime. Since co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are common in individuals with ASD, prisoners with ASD suffer in prison environments.

Honourable senators, we must ensure that people with ASD and other disabling mental health issues are not imprisoned because they cannot access the resources and therapeutic support they need in the community.

Yet, just this past week two such situations were brought to my attention.

One is a young man whose parents, one a police officer, were encouraged to call the police when their adolescent son’s aggressive outbursts became difficult for them to manage. They were incorrectly advised that there would be more services for their son in the criminal justice system. This was not true, and now they have a more unruly son whose trust in his parents has been severely shaken and whose parents are now expending thousands of dollars on lawyers and medical assessments to try to extricate him from the system. If they manage to do so, they will then continue to experience the pre-existing series of challenges a result of the inadequacy of the supports, services and resources available to provide much-needed assistance.

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The other situation involves a woman serving a prison sentence, a woman the prison staff consider to be so incapacitated that they have argued that she is not capable of consenting to assessments, much less treatment. Her mother has advised that her daughter was previously diagnosed as autistic.

She is segregated in a maximum-security unit, as this is the easiest place for staff to manage her self-harming behaviour. When they deem her to be out of control, they pepper-spray her. Then when they take her to the shower area to decontaminate, instead of staff turning on the water for her or advising her to do so herself, they leave her there. Instead of turning on the water to relieve the burning sensation of the pepper spray, she responds to the pain by punching herself in the face. One videotaped incident records her bashing herself some 100 times. The day after that incident, not only was her skin burned from the spray, but she was so battered that she was described as looking as though her head and face had been beaten with a bat.

These are but two of the reasons we need to invest now in community-based supports and services. It is also why we must ensure that those we do not prevent from being criminalized or imprisoned are moved out of prisons and into provincial or territorial health services. In the federal prisons, section 29 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act allows for such transfers for prisoners for the purposes of accessing necessary health care.

Families must be equipped with adequate resources and guidance to support children with ASD. As senators who have spoken before me have underscored and as research supports, intervention at an early age can improve a child’s chances of reversing some of the effects of autism. However, most families struggle to bear the enormous costs of raising a child with autism.

The situation is particularly dire for children and their mothers who are incarcerated and those who live below the poverty line. Most mothers who are incarcerated are the sole providers of their family’s needs at the time of their imprisonment. Their imprisonment carries with it devastating consequences of depriving their children of care. This burden is especially unbearable for children in need of special care, including children with autism.

When Nelson Mandela, himself a former prisoner, came into power in South Africa, he ordered that all mothers with children under the age of 12 be freed from prison. In justifying his decision, he characterized it as part of “A collective effort [that] has to be launched by the government, civil society and the private sector to ensure that every child is looked after, has sufficient nutrition and health care.”

As we look toward a national strategy for autism, we too must recognize and support the role that mothers play in caring for their children’s health on a day-to-day basis, particularly in families lacking other resources for care. We must ensure that the correctional system does not continue to further burden impoverished children with ASD by sentencing mothers and their children to separation.

We also need to address the stigma that prevents parents with criminal records from providing educational supports to their children with ASD. Some of the mothers I know who wish to volunteer to provide in-class support for their children are prevented from doing so because they have criminal records. Community-based alternatives to imprisonment, as well as increased access to resources envisioned by the report Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis, will be instrumental components of any viable strategy to help people with ASD.

We must also be mindful that autism does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity or socio-economic status. As such, it is a grave injustice to allow these differences to obstruct a national autism strategy. Indigenous communities have struggled to access ASD-related services because of systemic racism and social isolation. Any framework for a national autism strategy must be sensitive to the needs of marginalized groups if we are to ensure fair and effective delivery.

Honourable colleagues, many of us call on you to endorse the recommendations of the report Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis, as well as the removal of systemic barriers across diverse communities and within the criminal justice system. Both approaches are integral to a nationwide strategy committed to helping people with ASD and the families that support them.

Thank you. Meegwetch.

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak today to Senator Munson’s inquiry calling our attention to the tenth anniversary of the report Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis. I was fortunate to have been a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology 10 years ago when we studied the issue of autism in Canada and the challenges that Canadian families faced accessing specialists and support programs.

I want to thank Senator Munson so much for continuing his excellent work with the autism communities across Canada over the past 10 years.

Honourable senators, a lot of progress has been made over the last 10 years. The federal government has brought forward assistance and tax benefits, and there have been investment and employment assistance initiatives. The committee’s report was also the catalyst for the creation of the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance, CASDA. It was formed in July 2007, shortly after the release of the Senate report. The alliance’s mission states:

CASDA is a coalition of organizations and individuals developing a comprehensive National ASD Framework. It is committed to ensuring the implementation of a comprehensive National ASD Strategy that addresses critical gaps in funding and policies, which are preventing individuals with ASD and their families from exercising their equal rights as Canadians.

Our report made it clear that for real progress, a unified effort would be required, by both government and the autism spectrum disorder community. Unfortunately, honourable senators, what has not changed is the need for a national autism strategy in Canada. One of the most important recommendations — if not the most important recommendation — from our report was the development of a comprehensive national autism spectrum disorder strategy here in Canada.

It is now 10 years later, honourable senators, and we still do not have a strategy.

Progress has been made in the areas of autism advocacy, awareness, understanding and diagnosis, thanks to the work of people like Senators Munson, Housakos and Bernard, and those families facing the challenges of autism. It can be disheartening, however, to hear time and again that the same issues and challenges families face today are many of the same issues and challenges we heard about 10 years ago when the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology tabled the report Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis.

Senator Munson pointed out in his speech that a child who was eight at the time the report was released is now 18 years old and is an adult. As an adult, they can no longer access programs that are available to children. Assistance programs and supports become more limited as children with autism spectrum disorder become adults. ASD is a lifelong disorder, and Canadians on the spectrum require lifelong support programs to thrive and fully participate in their communities.

I remember when I was teaching elementary school, and people referred to autism as a children’s disorder. It’s not a children’s disorder. It’s a lifelong disorder that you will be faced with for the rest of your life. We can’t stop programs for children and not have them for adults.

Yesterday was Autism Awareness Day at the Senate. To mark the occasion, Senators Munson, Housakos and Bernard took part in a Senate of Canada first: They hosted a Facebook Live panel discussion. The panel included participation from various autism spectrum disorder stakeholders on Parliament Hill. The event was truly a success, and I was able to watch it on YouTube later in the day. Honourable senators, it was a wonderful event, and I encourage those of you who did not have a chance to attend or watch the panel live to seek it out later today or over the weekend on YouTube.

Over 1,400 people checked in on the panel online during the broadcast and participated with positive comments. And as of this morning, the communications team has told me that the event has now reached almost 9,000 people.

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That number continues to increase, and will increase further if each of you watches it this weekend. The panel discussion touched on many of the issues the autism community faces, including lack of services, children aging out of programs and therapy, and lack of concrete statistics.

At the end of the panel, the floor was opened to those in the room who wished to speak. Jack, a 13-year-old son of one of the presenters, spoke to the panel about his experience of being teased at school because of the stigma attached to living with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the lack of understanding regarding it. It was very moving to listen to Jack speak. As Autism Nova Scotia says in its mission statement: Understanding—Acceptance—Inclusion.

Another panel participant, Esther Rhee, National Program Director of Autism Speaks Canada, succinctly addressed the one major missing piece on true progress on autism in Canada when she said:

In order for us to move forward, we must work collaboratively. And the federal government is the driver of collaboration and in-field advancement.

She went on to say:

In order to make the monumental gains that are required in our community we do require the federal government to come onboard and support the development of a national autism strategy.

I want to thank Senators Munson, Housakos and Bernard for their participation in such a positive event. I would also like to thank the Senate Communications team for their hard work in making the event happen. The Communications team in the Senate continues to excel at sharing what is happening in the Senate.

Honourable senators, it is encouraging to see the Senate speak with one voice on such an important issue that affects so many Canadians and their families — families who are still in crisis. After 10 years, I am hopeful that the federal government will hear the Senate’s call to action. It is time for the federal government to move forward with a national Autism Spectrum Disorder strategy and to be the driver of collaboration.

(On motion of Senator Mercer, for Senator Eggleton, debate adjourned.)

National Finance

Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on the Study of the Minister of Finance’s Proposed Changes to the Income Tax Act respecting the Taxation of Private Corporations and the Tax Planning Strategies Involved

Hon. Anne C. Cools, pursuant to notice of October 18, 2017, moved:

That, notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance in relation to its study on the proposed changes to the Income Tax Act be extended from November 30, 2017 to December 15, 2017.

The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved that notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted — shall I dispense?

Hon. Senators: Dispense.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Committee Authorized to Study the Impact and Utilization of Canadian Culture and Arts in Canadian Foreign Policy and Diplomacy

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk, pursuant to notice of October 24, 2017, moved:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade be authorized to examine and report on the impact and utilization of Canadian culture and arts in Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy, and other related matters; and

That the committee submit its final report no later than March 31, 2018, and that it retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings for 180 days after the tabling of the final report.

The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved by Senator Andreychuk seconded by Senator Carignan that the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs — may I dispense?

Hon. Senators: Dispense.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

(At 3:24 p.m., the Senate was continued until Tuesday, October 31, 2017, at 2 p.m.)