Skip to content
Previous Sittings
Previous Sittings

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 42nd Parliament
Volume 150, Issue 231

Thursday, September 27, 2018
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker


Thursday, September 27, 2018

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


Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, there have been consultations and there is an agreement to allow a photographer in the Senate Chamber to photograph the introduction of new senators.

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

New Senators

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that the Clerk of the Senate has received certificates from the Registrar General of Canada showing that the following persons, respectively, have been summoned to the Senate:

Beverley Busson

Martin Klyne



The Hon. the Speaker having informed the Senate that there were senators without, waiting to be introduced:

The following honourable senator was introduced; presented Her Majesty’s writ of summons; took the oath prescribed by law, which was administered by the Clerk of the Senate; and was seated:

Hon. Bev Busson, of North Okanagan Region, British Columbia, introduced between Hon. Peter Harder, P.C., and Hon. Gwen Boniface.

The following honourable senator was introduced; presented Her Majesty’s writ of summons; took the solemn affirmation, which was administered by the Clerk of the Senate; and was seated:

Hon. Marty Klyne, of White City, Saskatchewan, introduced between Hon. Peter Harder, P.C., and Hon. Murray Sinclair.

The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that each of the honourable senators named above had made and subscribed the declaration of qualification required by the Constitution Act, 1867, in the presence of the Clerk of the Senate, the Commissioner appointed to receive and witness the said declaration.

Congratulations on Appointments

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, it is my pleasure as the Government Representative in the Senate to welcome our newest colleagues to this chamber.

Senator Busson’s career is marked by many firsts. She left many glass ceilings in shatters in the area of law enforcement as one of the first women to enter the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, one of the first women to work in plain clothes and undercover, and, of course, as the first woman to be named Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. These proud achievements are firsts and they are extremely important. What is vitally more important is that those firsts are not to be the only or the last.

Through her leadership and by her example, Senator Busson blazed a trail for others to follow to ensure that more women could enter and rise through the ranks in the field of their choosing.

Senator Busson worked tirelessly to help advance women in the workforce, especially in the area of public security. In recognition of her contributions, Senator Busson has received many honours, including the Order of Canada.

I would also mention, because perhaps not all will be aware, that the sponsoring senator who accompanied Senator Busson here, Senator Boniface, as the first woman Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, was a contemporary of Senator Busson when they both first joined as cadets and were mutually supportive in their career paths ahead. And it is no coincidence that they are now here in this chamber together.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Harder: Moving to Saskatchewan, I want to welcome Marty Klyne to this chamber. Much of Senator Klyne’s career has been spent boosting economic development in his region and especially among his people, the Indigenous Canadians.

He has shown himself a Renaissance man with a wide range of interests, from sports and entertainment to media interests, including as publisher and CEO of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post.

For his tireless dedication to the economic well-being of his province and region, the Cree people, the Metis people and other efforts to benefit Canada’s Indigenous people, Senator Klyne has received honours too numerous to mention. But let me mention the eagle feather he received from a Sun Dancer of the Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation, which is the highest honour one can receive in Indigenous culture.

I would also like to reference the senator’s chair of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board in the early 2000s when I was deputy of Industry and we first got to know each other in that role, which he performed so very well.

Finally, senator, I notice that you once served as president of the Grey Cup. Please allow me, Senator Klyne, in my role as a senator for Ottawa, to welcome you to Redblacks country, the Grey Cup champions of 2016.

Colleagues, welcome our new senators. We look forward to working together.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today to offer congratulations to our two new colleagues, Honourable Senator Bev Busson and Honourable Senator Martin Klyne, who were named to the Senate of Canada on Monday upon the recommendation of Prime Minister Trudeau. Members of our Conservative caucus in this place are looking forward to getting to know you both and having you know or learn about us, not just as individuals but also about the collective work that we do as the official opposition in the Senate of Canada.

Senator Busson is our newest representative from British Columbia and is well-known to Canadians as the first woman to lead the RCMP in 2006 and 2007. Senator Busson is also no stranger to the Senate, having previously appeared as a witness before our committees.

Senator Klyne will represent Saskatchewan. By all accounts, he has an extensive background in business and civic engagement.


I would also like to note, Senator Harder, that he was president of the 2003 Grey Cup, which was held in Regina that year — I’m starting to cry. As former president of the Montreal Alouettes, my memories of the ninety-first Grey Cup game are painful, as Montreal lost to Edmonton that year, 34 to 22.

I’m not going to welcome you to Alouettes territory because I’m outside of the venue, but welcome. I don’t hold anything against you for being someone from Saskatchewan because, as a former player, my first year as a rookie I had two carries for minus three yards as George Reed ran for 500 yards against the Alouettes and we lost. Go Riders go.

I couldn’t run that far.


On behalf of all honourable senators, I wish our new colleagues and their families all the best as they take up their new responsibilities in the Senate today.


Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Honourable senators, I rise today to add a few words of welcome and to congratulate Beverley Busson and Marty Klyne on their appointment to the Senate of Canada.

It is a special pleasure for me to welcome a fellow British Columbian, Senator Busson, to the upper house. She has a long track record as a trailblazer. We have already heard that she was one of only 32 women who joined a male-dominated RCMP in 1974, the same year that the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada made a recommendation to allow women to become members.

At the same time that Senator Busson worked tirelessly to fight serious crimes, both in uniform and undercover, she was also fighting for the advancement of women in law enforcement. She excelled beyond all expectations, becoming the first woman to be appointed as commanding officer of a province and, as we have heard already, in 2006, the first woman to be appointed as Commissioner of the RCMP.

Following her retirement from the RCMP, Senator Busson took on a number of volunteer positions with organizations such as the Justice Institute of British Columbia, the Women’s Executive Network mentorship program and the Okanagan College Foundation.

She has been recognized with numerous awards for her work in security and law enforcement, including the Canadian Forces Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Commendation, the Order of British Columbia, the Order of Canada and the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.

Another trailblazer who joins us today is Senator Marty Klyne. He comes to the upper house with a track record in business, including as a small-business owner, the publisher and CEO of two major papers in Saskatchewan, the president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation and the head of the Regina Regional Economic Development Authority.

Senator Klyne is a proud Cree Metis. In a province that is home to over 1 million Aboriginal people, Senator Klyne is an ardent supporter of Aboriginal interests and of greater participation of Aboriginal peoples in economic development.

He has been an active member of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce Labour Market Council, the National Indigenous Economic Development Board and the Ignite Adult Learning Corporation.

Like Senator Busson, Senator Klyne has been recognized for his many achievements. As we heard, he received the highest honour possible, the eagle feather from a Sun Dancer of the Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation. He has also received the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal as well as an Alumni Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement from the University of Regina.

Senator Busson and Senator Klyne, we are honoured to have you among our ranks, and we look forward to working with you.

On behalf of the Independent Senators Group, welcome to the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable colleagues, I am delighted to welcome two new senators to this chamber, Beverley Busson and Marty Klyne.

Senator Busson is a familiar face to those of us who served on the National Security and Defence Committee. During her tenure as the first female commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, she appeared before the committee on a number of occasions, and I was always impressed by her candour, her attention to detail and her firm grasp of the issues we were dealing with.

She has been a trailblazer throughout her career, in fact, as we’ve heard, from her early days as a member of Troop 17 — the first female troop to go through the Regina training depot — until she reached the position of top cop in 2006.

Our second new colleague, Senator Klyne, has had a wildly successful career in his own right. A proud Cree Metis, this businessman from Regina has long promoted economic development, not just for First Nations and Metis, but for his home province as a whole. He has served as CEO of a number of organizations in Saskatchewan, served on a variety of committees and boards, and for five years was the publisher of the Leader-Post and StarPhoenix newspapers.

Given their accomplished careers, I am certain that our new colleagues will bring valuable perspectives to our deliberations here in the Senate Chamber. The people of British Columbia and of Saskatchewan are fortunate to have you join their current team of fine representatives serving in this chamber. You will find that there is a wealth of varied experience here representing all Canadians.

Anyone who has served in this chamber can attest to its peculiarities, and it does require a period of adjustment. This chamber of sober second thought is, as it probably has been since it was created, in the midst of a transformation, but our fundamental goal remains the same: to make our provinces, our regions and our country a better place for all Canadians. Do not hesitate to seek out any of us here in this chamber for support or advice at any time.

Senator Busson, Senator Klyne, my independent Liberal colleagues and I welcome you both to the Senate of Canada, and we look forward to working with you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


Matthew House

Congratulations on Twentieth Anniversary

Hon. Victor Oh: Honourable senators, I rise today to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Matthew House, a nationally recognized leader in welcoming and assisting refugee claimants.

This non-profit was founded by Anne Woolger. She was inspired by the shortage of shelters geared towards the unique settlement needs of refugee claimants in the city of Toronto. This motivation continues to be relevant today as there is still no system in place to adequately support the arrival of refugee claimants in Canada.

Since its first location opened in 1998, Matthew House has welcomed close to 2,000 people from over 100 different countries and inspired the opening of 10 additional shelters, including in Ottawa, Windsor and Fort Erie.

Matthew House now consists of four homes spread across the city of Toronto. One is a reception house and three are long-term transition homes where additional care and support is provided to extra-vulnerable residents, such as unaccompanied refugee youth and single mothers.


Matthew House has also established a leading-edge program that provides refugee claimants with practical experience, emotional preparation and constructive feedback ahead of their refugee status hearing. This program has increased the rate of positive refugee determinations among residents.

When I visited Matthew House, I had an opportunity to meet with staff, residents and volunteers. I was truly touched by the deep commitment to giving back and making a difference in the lives of individuals seeking protection in Canada. Thank you.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Ms. Anita and Mr. Ben Saunders. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Omidvar.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

The Honourable Joyce Fairbairn, P.C., C.M.

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, earlier this week, you heard the warm words about an event two weeks ago in Lethbridge, Alberta. Those words about former Senator Joyce Fairbairn were delivered by Senator Mobina Jaffer. Here was Mobina on Tuesday talking about Joyce and the fact that a middle school in her home city of Lethbridge had just been named the Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School.

Imagine: a school in your own name.

Former Senator Fairbairn could not make that ceremony, but somehow I think she knows something very special happened in honouring her life’s work. I’ve been thinking a lot of Joyce lately. I sometimes look across the aisle at the front-row seat where she once sat, the woman in red, always smiling.

I don’t think former Senator Fairbairn ever thought a day would come when she would be honoured in this way. By the way, at the school each student will pay a user fee for a Joyce Fairbairn Laptop Initiative, and once they graduate to high school, they get to keep the laptop.

A little history: Joyce was a trailblazer and a woman of many firsts, a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in 1962 when there were no other women. Imagine: She wasn’t even allowed to go to the Press Gallery Dinner.

In the early 1970s she joined the PMO. It was day one of the FLQ Crisis, and here she was advising Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau on what to say in Question Period. Joyce became close to the Prime Minister and the children, so much so she was considered as the boys’ auntie.

But there was so much more to Senator Joyce Fairbairn than her natural warmth and kindness to others: an honorary Blood Chief of the Kainai Nation in Alberta; and the first female Leader of the Government in the Senate.

I’m saying these things today because I want the new senators who never knew Joyce to know that she was a fighter for rights on many levels. From the creation of literacy programs to the Paralympic Games, Joyce Fairbairn was a driving force behind these initiatives, so much so that I don’t believe we would have the Paralympic movement today without Joyce being the first chair of the Paralympic Foundation. Imagine being saluted by the Paralympic sledge hockey team at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. It was very emotional as they raised their sticks.

Honourable senators, I watched the senator at work for some time. I was her whip during an extremely difficult time for her, but she was determined to be in the Senate and vote on a number of important issues.

It was during that time she had invited me to the annual Whoop-Up Days festival in Lethbridge. There I was in the Whoop-Up Days Parade, standing in an open automobile. Nobody had a clue who I was, but everyone knew Joyce. They loved her.

The parade was long. I asked her, “Joyce, how long is this parade going to be?” Her response — and I’ve used this as a motivator in my life — was, “Jim, never mind how long the parade is, just keep on smiling.”

The next day, Joyce and my wife skipped rocks in a nearby river. She just wanted to talk about her childhood — a rich childhood — a quiet moment for a good senator who, in her own way, was seeking peace of mind.

Peace be with you, Joyce. You are never forgotten, the woman in red. Thank you.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Adam Black, son of the Honourable Senator Black (Ontario), and Jordan Petros. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Black (Ontario).

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Hon. Robert Black: Honourable senators, I rise today to give a shout-out to the men and women of the Ontario Provincial Police who are collectively grieving the recent loss of three colleagues in uniform.

My home community of Centre Wellington is not immune to this recent spate of OPP suicides this summer. A young constable who grew up in the community of Alma left this world in mid-August, and a wife, daughter, mom, dad, sister, family and friends now miss him dearly.

As we can all say, within the communities in which we live, we have the finest and very best officers and first responders working on our behalf every day as they undertake their duties to keep us safe. That said, the work they do is so very stressful. I can’t imagine what it’s like to do what they do.

I know in my home community that our Wellington County OPP officers are resilient, but they will also need our collective and ongoing support to get through this terrible time. The same can be said across the province and across the country.

Josh’s passing has had a significant impact on the Wellington County OPP detachment, and I’m aware that their senior management is monitoring the situation every day, every shift, at all levels.

Certainly, the cumulative effects of repeated exposure to the stressors that first responders face every day is a very real concern. In Centre Wellington, I understand that several officers have sought help and taken advantage of various support services as a result of Josh’s passing and because of the ongoing day-to-day activities that each of them undertake.

Thank you to the Wellington County OPP’s Inspector Lawson and his senior management team for doing what they need to do to support Josh’s colleagues: being vigilant, ensuring a supportive environment to encourage wellness and help in reducing the stigma for those seeking help.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental illness. It is often involved with exposure to traumatic or terrifying events that involve abuse, serious injury, threats, death and catastrophe. It is a lasting consequence of the cumulative effects and nature of these traumatic events.

By nature, our police officers and first responders are part of a culture that frowns upon weakness. The job comes first, and feelings, wellness and family are likely to come second. When lives are affected by PTSD, families are left behind to pick up the pieces on their own. This is not a battle they should have to fight themselves. They need to know we care — and we do care.

Our brave men and women put on their uniforms every day knowing full well that they are putting their lives on the line during their service to our communities and our country and that, in their service and dedication, they may indeed make the ultimate sacrifice themselves.

It is my hope that my few words provide yet another voice of support and caring for the women and men of our police services and first responders across the province and across the country as they go about their very necessary work today and every day.

Finally, to Josh’s family, while I didn’t know Josh, I do mourn with you. May he rest in peace.

Distinguished Visitor in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of our former colleague, the Honourable JoAnne L. Buth.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Jimmy Engineer, a world-famous Pakistani artist and Samir Dossal, President of the Canada-Pakistan Business Council. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Ataullahjan.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

National Police Memorial

Hon. Gwen Boniface: Honourable senators, this Sunday, members of Canadian police services and their loved ones will gather on Parliament Hill for the thirtieth annual memorial service honouring police and peace officers who have been killed in the line of duty. This tradition began in 1978 to ensure that such great sacrifices were properly recognized by Canadians. Each year on this day all flags on federal buildings in Canada are set to half-mast from sunrise to sunset.

Twenty years ago, the last Sunday of September was proclaimed National Police Memorial Day by the Solicitor General of Canada, giving Canadians an opportunity to formally express appreciation for the dedication of police and peace officers who make the ultimate tragic sacrifice to keep our communities safe.


The six officers being commemorated this year are 53-year-old Constable John Davidson, a 24-year veteran of the Abbotsford Police, killed in November 2017 as a result of a gunshot wound. He was trying to arrest a suspect who opened fire in a parking garage. He left behind his wife and three adult children.

Constable Sara Burns, 43, of the Fredericton Police Service is survived by her husband Steven and their three children. Burns had been a member of the service for only two years. She decided to pursue her dream of becoming a police officer at the age of 40.

Constable Robb Costello, a 20-year veteran of the Fredericton Police Service and father of four, died at the age of 45 and was survived by his life partner, Jackie. He was known for his community involvement and interest in mental health issues affecting first responders.

Constable Ian Jordan of the Victoria Police was involved in a car collision while attending to a burglar alarm in downtown Victoria. He suffered a traumatic brain jury and remained in a coma from 1987. He passed away in April 2018 at the age of 66. He left behind a son, who was only 16 months old at the time of the collision, and his wife, Hilary.

Thirty-five-year-old Constable Francis Deschênes of the RCMP was struck by a utility van last September along Highway 2 in New Brunswick while he was helping a motorist change a tire. He had been hailed in the past for heroic efforts, in particular when he used his cruiser to push a car stuck on railroad tracks in Nova Scotia, preventing the occupant from being killed by a train that was speeding towards her vehicle.

Constable Jacques Ostigny, a 24-year veteran of the Sûreté du Québec, at the age of 51 died of a heart attack while trying to locate hikers in Saguenay Fjord National Park.

Their names will appear along with the names of 865 police and peace officers who have been killed in the line of duty since 1867 on the Wall of Remembrance here on Parliament Hill.

Earlier this month, Canada Post issued a stamp honouring Canadian police and the civilians who support them, a tribute of appreciation for the important work they do. I hope, senators, that we will all pause on Sunday and reflect on the officers who have served our country, the loved ones whom they have left behind and those who continue to serve and protect. Thank you.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Mrs. Betty Plett, spouse of the Honourable Don Plett; Kevin and Larissa Plett; Travis and Rose Penner; Jaime Spyksma and her sons, Lane and Camryn Spyksma. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Plett.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Betty Plett

Congratulations on Fiftieth Anniversary

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Colleagues, on December 26, 1950, Mr. Erdman Harder called his parents and announced, “For unto us a child is born. Unto us a daughter is given. She will be called Betty, and she will be a wonderful counsellor, a princess of peace.”

Seventeen and a half years later, this girl, mature beyond her years, stood trembling inside the Landmark Church and took Don Plett, an 18-year-old, immature young man, to be her lawfully wedded husband.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Plett: To have and to hold; for richer and for poorer; in sickness and in health; and most importantly, for better or for worse; till death do us part.

That, colleagues, will be 50 years ago tomorrow.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Plett: Since then, Betty has raised four boys — for many years by herself. We have four great daughters-in-law and 12 wonderful grandchildren.

Betty sacrificed her ambitions and her career to be a mother, a grandmother, a wife and the best friend I have ever had.

Colleagues, if I thought it possible, I would bring a motion to this chamber to erect a sixth statute to be added to the Famous Five displayed outside of this building.

For the first 10 years of our marriage, Betty needed to be both mother and father to our children, as I spent much of that time away from home, working in my dad’s plumbing company.

Betty told me a story of how, during her pregnancy with our first boy, she was at our doctor’s, Dr. Peters. Dr. Peters was our doctor, our parents’ doctor, as well as my grandparents’ doctor, so he knew our family well. Betty was in his office in tears, worrying about how she, a young girl herself, would be able to raise a child. Well, Dr. Peters patted her on the shoulder and said, “Now, now, you can grow up together with your children.” And while the jury is still out on me, Betty did just that.

I would also like to pay tribute to our parents, my father and mother, Archie and Ruby Plett, who stood by us through thick and thin and never gave up on me. As well, Betty’s parents, Erdman and Ann Harder, who accepted me with open arms as part of their family. I know they must have asked God many times, “What did we do to deserve this?”

Colleagues, I would like to invite all of you to join Betty and me as soon as the Senate rises for a drink and some snacks to celebrate our 50 years of marriage in room 279 East Block.

As I said to Senator Mercer the other day, “Terry, we both got so much better than we deserved.”

Colleagues, please join me in a round of applause to honour my best friend and my wife, Betty Plett.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Janet Wood, Jane MacKenzie, Joan Murphy and Valerie Duffy. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Griffin.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!




Charter Statement in Relation to Bill C-81—Document Tabled

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a Charter Statement prepared by the Minister of Justice in relation to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Natural Resources

State of Canada's Forests—2018 Report Tabled

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report on the state of Canada’s forests for the year 2018, pursuant to the Department of Natural Resources Act, S.C. 1994, c. 41, sbs. 7(2).


Newfoundland and Labrador’s Contribution to the Armed Forces during the War in Afghanistan

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:

I will call the attention of the Senate to Newfoundland and Labrador’s contribution to the Armed Forces with reference to the war in Afghanistan.



Foreign Affairs and International Trade

NAFTA Negotiations

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate concerning our NAFTA negotiations.

All Canadians — I’m sure everyone in the room here today — want to see a deal that’s good for our families and our businesses. This summer Canada was shut out of the NAFTA negotiations as the United States and Mexico worked towards a bilateral agreement announced on August 27. Both the Americans and Mexicans have said that they want to have U.S. congressional approval on this deal before December 1 in advance of the next Mexican president taking office. This coming Sunday, September 30, is the deadline for the United States and Canada to present a text to the Congress which includes our country in this new trade deal.

Senator, could you help us out: What happens if we pass the deadline? Are there potential contingency plans, alternatives? What will happen to Canadians? As important is the ability for parliamentarians in this room to understand what is really going on in terms of notice, evidence and information coming from the other side.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. He will know, as the Prime Minister has indicated particularly in the last few days, that the Government of Canada is examining and prepared for all eventualities. The Government of Canada continues to believe an agreement is possible. Discussions between and amongst the parties continue to this day. The reality, of course, is that the NAFTA agreement remains in place until notice is given for its termination. The Government of Canada is confident that the best interests of Canada will be achieved through a negotiated agreement amongst all parties that is a win-win-win for all.

Senator Smith: Thank you, sir.

In his press conference yesterday, as he has done many times before, the President of the United States threatened to tax cars coming into the U.S. from our country. Earlier this year the U.S. President threatened to impose tariffs on our steel and aluminum industries. At the end of May he followed through on that threat. Auto tariffs would be devastating for Canada. A TD Bank report in June estimated we could lose up to 160,000 jobs.

Could you give us some information as to what the government will do to protect Canada’s auto sector and the hundreds and thousands of direct and indirect jobs it represents across our country?

Senator Harder: Again I thank the honourable senator for his question. Let me simply say that it is premature at this point to be specific about what measures might be taken, except to say that the Government of Canada is very concerned about the possibility of further tariffs. They would be both unfortunate and be of disadvantage to both the United States and Canadian consumers, workers and the auto sector itself. The threat is not one that is easy to be implemented. The Government of Canada remains of the view that the best way forward is for an agreement to be reached amongst all of the parties.


Public Safety

Incarceration of Terri-Lynne McClintic

Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Tori Stafford was an eight-year-old girl who was kidnapped, brutally assaulted and murdered in 2009. Her family is still in shock after learning that her murderer, Terri-Lynne McClintic, was transferred to a minimum-security penitentiary a few years into her sentence.

Senator Harder, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights adopted in 2015 recognizes the right of families and victims to be informed. This means that the family should have been notified before this criminal was transferred. This decision by Correctional Services Canada violates the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

My question is as follows: Why didn’t Correctional Services Canada inform the family before the transfer took place?


Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question and for his appropriate concern for the family of Tori Stafford. Their loss, which they have endured for all these many years — I think it’s nine — is one that we continue to share and mourn with them.

I should inform all senators that Correctional Services Canada makes offender placement decisions based on what is in the best interest of public safety. The factors that inform these decisions have not changed for the last number of years, certainly not in the mandate of this government.

The offender in question was transferred to medium security in 2014, and she remains in a medium security correctional institution.

I would note, though, that the minister concerned has asked the new commissioner of corrections to undertake a full review of the placement decision by her predecessor in order to ensure that it was compliant with all Correctional Services policies.


Senator Boisvenu: I would like to remind the Leader of the Government that since 2015, all federal institutions have been required to adapt their rules to the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. It is supra-constitutional, meaning it is above all laws. Victims’ interests must take precedence over the public interest.

Does the Minister of Public Safety plan to apologize to the family for failing in his duty to inform them before the transfer?


Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. Honourable senators will all be aware that the minister has responded directly and personally to this matter in the other place and outside. As I said, the minister has asked for a review of the decisions made to ensure that they were compliant with the policies that have been established over many years.


Medical Assistance in Dying—Advance Directives

Hon. Pamela Wallin: My question is for the Government Representative.

Two years ago, as you will well remember, the government rejected the concept of an advance directive in the medical assistance in dying act, Bill C-14. After the bill passed, the government appointed a panel to study the issue. The panel will submit their findings this December, but they have been instructed by government not to make any specific recommendations.

My questions for you, leader, and through you to the Minister of Justice, are: What is the point of this panel? What are the next steps that the government plans to take to address the overwhelming and growing public support for an advance directive option?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again I thank the honourable senator for her question and for her years-long interest in this subject. I certainly will bring the views of the honourable senator to the attention of the minister, but it is not unusual for a review panel to in fact review the parameters of the situation — that is, what is their legal experience over the last two years of practice and what have the physicians that are directly involved raised as concerns — so that the government might benefit from the research base before policy options are determined.


Public Safety

Indigenous Police Services

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I know that you may not have the answer on hand, but I want to stress the urgent nature of the situation.

Your government settled the issue of funding for 20 of the 21 Indigenous police forces in Quebec. There remains that of Nunavik, the largest police force and the one that covers the largest territory, consisting of 14 communities. This police force may have to close its doors due to a lack of personnel and money, a situation that will only get worse with the upcoming legalization of marijuana.

Replacing this police force with the Sûreté du Québec would cost the Province of Quebec at least $110 million. My understanding is that it would take only $2 million to settle all this.

Why are Public Safety officials dragging their heels and refusing to negotiate the federal contribution based on the needs of these remote Indigenous communities, given that it can take 30 hours for Sûreté du Québec officers to lend a hand to their colleagues in Quebec’s far north? In cases of domestic abuse, 30 hours can be the difference between saving a life and opening up a murder investigation.


Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. As his preamble suggests, I will bring this to the attention of the minister and ensure a timely response.

Canada Border Services Agency—Detention of Refugee Children

Hon. Victor Oh: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. The stated policy of the federal government does not meaningfully protect children or preserve their right to family unity.

Canada continues to detain migrant children for immigration purposes and in some cases separates them from their parents. Canadian-born children are also being held in immigration detention centres or separated from their families.

These practices are a clear violation of the human rights of children. There are alternatives that are more cost-effective and better aligned with the humanitarian and compassionate values shared by Canadians.


My question is: Will the federal government introduce legislative reform that can more successfully ensure the respect, protection and fulfillment of the rights of all children in the context of detention and family separation now and in the future?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again I thank the honourable senator for this question. It is related to the question I answered from the Honourable Senator Jaffer last week, in which I brought to this chamber the policy changes the minister put in place as recently as August, I believe, where policy direction was given and there are consequences to incarceration levels. As I reported last week, in terms of unaccompanied minors, I believe we now have two cases under detention. That’s a reduction from what I believe was 36 when I last reported previous to that.

Of course, the Government of Canada continues to be concerned that the best interests of the child are always placed in the decision-maker’s mind. That is the reason the minister has undertaken both the funding of additional services and staff and, more importantly, direction to ensure that only the minimum number of cases where it is absolutely in the child’s best interests are those that continue to be in detention.


Canadian Heritage

Netflix Broadcasting Agreement

Hon. Claude Carignan: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Mr. Leader, a year ago, Minister Mélanie Joly made a grand announcement about her new cultural policy, a policy that was supposed to catapult Canada into a new cultural era. The cornerstone of her policy was the deal with media giant Netflix, which supposedly included $500 million for Canadian content production. I use the word “supposedly” because the government is still refusing to make the agreement public. All we know is that Netflix is exempt from Canadian tax laws.

Senator Harder, can you tell us how much Netflix has invested in Canadian content in the past year? How much money is earmarked for French-language content? And how much of the promised $500 million has been spent on French-language content in the past year?


Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. I will certainly ensure the appropriate response from the department and the minister concerned.


Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Human Rights in Venezuela

Hon. Leo Housakos: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Earlier this week, the Trudeau government joined certain South American countries in filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court against the Maduro regime in Venezuela for crimes against humanity.

Obviously, I want to congratulate Prime Minister Trudeau and his team for doing this and for understanding that, once again, applying socialist economic theories can only ruin a country. However, I am curious to know why the Trudeau government is capable of being so firm when it comes to Venezuela, and yet it continues to woo the brutal Iranian regime.

Senator Harder, why the double standard in your government’s foreign policy? Why is it giving Iran a free pass?


Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question and ongoing interest in these matters. I certainly welcome the support that he’s expressed with respect to the decision the Government of Canada has made in concert with like-minded countries in response to the crisis we see unfolding in Venezuela. That crisis is leading to an exodus of citizens from Venezuela, causing huge dislocation and pressure on its direct neighbours, particularly Ecuador. The Government of Canada stands ready to work with others to do what is necessary to alleviate some of those humanitarian concerns.

The economic consequences of what is happening in Venezuela are absolutely catastrophic for a country that was once one of the economic jewels of South America. That is why the Government of Canada in this case, as you would expect, in concert with like-minded countries, is pursuing the criminal court option.

Now the honourable senator asks about Iran. There, too, the Government of Canada continues to express its views but also to work in concert with like-minded countries in continuing to put pressure on the Government of Iran and also to support the agreement reached by the principal parties, which is so important to containing the nuclear proliferation implied by the action that was taken.

Senator Housakos: Government leader, also during his trip to New York, Prime Minister Trudeau strongly criticized the Government of Myanmar for the treatment of Rohingyas. Once again he is right and we applaud that, and we applaud whenever the Government of Canada stands up for human rights, as they are doing right now appropriately in Venezuela. But why is the Trudeau government keeping silent in front of the treatment, for example, of the Chinese government when it comes to the Uighur Muslim minority?

Senator Harder, why is your government again applying double standards when it comes to our foreign policy? They seem to pick and choose when human rights are important, but for us human rights are human rights in Iran, in Venezuela, in China, all over the world, and we should treat everyone the same way.

Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for his question. The question actually deserves more than a question-and-answer setting because, quite frankly, how the current Government of Canada and previous governments have pursued human rights since the declaration, shall I say, of human rights — so let’s say since the Second World War — is worthy of a more in-depth conversation.

What is important is that there isn’t just one tool in the toolbox of human rights response, and that one tool, of course, is ridicule or sanctions. There are also other tools. I have accompanied prime ministers of all parties on their visits to China where issues of human rights were raised by all parties with respect to the Uighurs or other case-specific issues of human rights. They were, in their time, entirely appropriate venues and mechanisms of raising concerns and seeking to have the best influence possible in ensuring that human rights issues are addressed.

I would hope that we can develop a conversation on the broader set of tools, the partnerships that we ought to and we continue to establish with like-minded countries, so that our shared interests in human rights advocacy does not become a partisan issue or just a one-tool response.

Human Rights in Iran

Hon. Leo Housakos: Government leader, I think in the case of Iran we’re looking at a circumstance of a country that without doubt is sponsoring terrorism around the world on a regular basis. Their leadership is coming out and calling for the obliteration of a particular religious group and a racial group, the obliteration of a neighbouring country.

I think in the case of Iran, instead of just maintaining a sense of dialogue, we have to recognize it’s becoming a case which is even more urgent of a country that is sponsoring terrorism around the world and on a daily basis attacking and threatening our Western values. I think our government has an obligation to do more than dialogue with them. They have an obligation to take a stand when it comes to our values.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator because it gives me an opportunity to reiterate that the government is doing more than simply having a dialogue with the Government of Iran. It is continuing to meet with and support those groups that are raising concerns, both in Iran and outside of Iran. It is working with like-minded countries to ensure that ongoing real pressure continues to be exercised, but it is not going so far as some countries have in terms of withdrawing support for the nuclear deal that is so important in the prevention of proliferation.



Bill to Amend Certain Acts and Regulations in Relation to Firearms

Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. André Pratte moved second reading of Bill C-71, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms.

He said: Honourable senators, on January 29, 2017, in Quebec City, Alexandre Bissonnette killed six people outside a local mosque. Although he was suffering from psychological disorders, Bissonnette had a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence. The Glock 9 mm pistol that he used, a restricted firearm in Canada, was properly registered.

On June 6 of this year in Toronto, near the corner of Queen Street West and Peter Street, two men were shot dead in broad daylight. The police issued first-degree murder warrants for a 22-year-old man and a 16-year-old teenager. Toronto Mayor John Tory has linked the double homicide to gang violence.

On July 22 in Toronto, on the Danforth, Faisal Hussain killed two people and injured another 13. Hussain, who committed suicide minutes after the shooting, suffered from severe mental challenges. He used a prohibited firearm taken from his brother, who allegedly had ties to street gangs.

On August 10 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, according to the charges laid against him, Matthew Vincent Raymond shot and killed four people, including two police officers. Raymond used a hunting rifle. He was a licensed firearm owner.

On September 11 in Desmaraisville, Quebec, two hunters got into an argument. Stéphane Morin, 55, is charged with shooting and killing his friend Serge Paré, 61. Morin had been convicted of assault in the past.

These five tragedies have one thing in common: guns. For the rest — type of firearm, motive of the shooter, whether he was licensed or not, whether he was a member of a gang or not — these are very different incidents, a fact which illustrates that gun crime in Canada is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon; it takes on many forms.

Some say we don’t have a gun problem in Canada, that we have a gang problem. Well, I would argue that we have both a gang problem and a gun problem. One does not preclude the other.

There are around 2.1 million licensed gun owners in Canada today. Colleagues, I ask for your forgiveness. This afternoon I will quote quite a few statistics. I know that statistics are not material for an enthralling speech, but in this case they are essential to dismiss numerous myths and misunderstandings regarding gun violence.

So here we go. The number of restricted firearms — essentially, handguns and semi-automatic weapons — increased from 660,000 in 2013 to 839,000 in 2016. This represents nearly 180,000 additional restricted guns in three years. This does not account for the presence of 180,000 prohibited guns and more than 7 million hunting rifles and shotguns.

It is often said that legal firearm owners are not responsible for gun violence, and therefore the government should not take additional measures infringing in any way on what some call their right to own and use guns. Well, obviously, the overwhelming majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who buy and use their firearms responsibly for entirely lawful and legitimate purposes, be they recreational, for safety or for subsistence.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that there are dramatic exceptions. People like Matthew Raymond from Fredericton, Joseph Anthony Raymond-Papatie, Richard Bain, Alexandre Bissonnette, Lionel Desmond and Kimveer Gill, people who should not have been licensed in the first place or who should have had their guns taken from them, people who became killers.

According to data provided by Statistics Canada, over the last 10 years, no fewer than 169 gun homicides were committed by licensed firearm owners. This is far fewer than the number of homicides committed by unlicensed shooters, but it is not an insignificant number. It is not only lifelong criminals who shoot to kill.

With all that is being said about gang-related shootings, we tend to think that this is the only problem, a gang problem. But the statistics again paint a different picture. For sure, gang-related shootings are on the rise, but so are other non-gang-related shootings, which account for half of all firearm homicides.

Many firearm owners find that stringent gun laws and regulations are cumbersome, unfair even, and we have to listen carefully to what they have to say. But isn’t it the case that most laws and regulations apply to all but aim to deter and punish the illicit activity of a very few? The drivers among us would have a much simpler life if we did not have to register our vehicles, carry a valid driver’s licence and obey traffic rules, but driving is a dangerous activity and therefore is subject to strict legal constraints.

The same applies to the recreational use of firearms. And when facts point to the need for a stricter regime, Parliament has a duty to act.

Over the last four years, we have witnessed an increase in gun-related crime in Canada. Some will say — you will hear them in the next few weeks — that this increase is not significant because 2013, the year when it started to rise, was a historic low point. They even accuse the government of manipulating the data to argue in favour of this bill. But, colleagues, this is not manipulation but statistical fact. The numbers and the police reports point to a very worrisome reversal of a downward trend that began over 20 years ago.

In part, this is happening in large cities and is due to criminal gang activities, but gun violence is also affecting rural and remote areas. In 2016, for instance, 61 per cent of gun crime in Saskatchewan happened outside a major city.

Gun violence, in large part, involves handguns. However, in 2016 alone, 50 homicides were committed with a rifle or a shotgun. This is the highest number since 2005.

In 2016 again, 14 per cent of firearm homicide victims were Indigenous, and yet we know that Indigenous people represent 5 per cent of the Canadian population.

Finally, let us not forget that gun violence also refers to suicide. This picture is troublesome as well. From 2014 to 2016, an average of nearly 600 Canadians a year killed themselves with a gun, the highest three-year average since 2004 to 2006. This is six times the number of seats in this chamber who die from suicide every year in Canada. In these tragedies, as in incidents of domestic violence, the weapon most frequently used was a rifle or a shotgun.

Now, faced with these facts, it would be irresponsible for the government, any government, to sit on its hands. It is not a matter of harassing law-abiding firearm owners in Canada, the huge majority of firearm owners, but the issue is saving lives.

The police need additional tools to fight the scourge of firearm violence. First, we must tackle the problem of gun crime committed by organized crime and gangs. To this end, the government announced funding of $327.6 million over five years and $100 million per year subsequently, a significant portion of which is earmarked to help provinces and territories combat gang activities.

That funding also means more resources and technology at the border to halt weapons smuggling.

Also, last March, Minister Goodale hosted the national Summit on Gun and Gang Violence in Ottawa — which many of our colleagues attended — which provided an opportunity to hear from provinces and territories, mayors, Indigenous communities, law enforcement, stakeholders and many others.

Finally, last July 18, Bill Blair was appointed Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, with the specific mandate of working on additional policies, regulations or legislation related to the reduction of organized crime. I cannot think of anyone better qualified for this task.

Combatting gang crime, therefore, is absolutely necessary. However, it alone is not sufficient. Women threatened or killed by their violent partner are not the victims of organized crime. People who commit suicide by shooting themselves are not the victims of gangs. Neither are the peaceful Canadians who are killed by lone wolf shooters. These tragedies account for hundreds of preventable deaths each year.


Besides, contrary to what has often been said, Canada’s gun problem is not limited to illegal guns smuggled from the United States. In fact, a significant proportion of the crime guns are domestically sourced.

For instance, in Toronto, in the last decade, half of the guns used in crimes were traced to a Canadian origin. These guns were either stolen from their rightful owners or bought by “clean” purchasers to then be diverted to the black market.

Those are the reasons behind Bill C-71’s introduction. The bill will not solve all the problems associated with gun violence, obviously. Its aims are much more modest. It proposes not a wholesale reform but legislative adjustments to strengthen Canada’s gun laws.

One thing the bill does not reintroduce is the long-gun registry, directly or indirectly. Indeed, clause 1 of the bill was amended unanimously in the other place to make it clear that the government will not and cannot recreate the federal long-gun registry. The new clause reads as follows:

For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to permit or require the registration of non-restricted firearms.

Now it could not be clearer.

Let me speak briefly to the six main initiatives contained in the bill.

First, background checks. Currently, when licensing authorities determine whether a person is eligible for a firearm licence, they are only required to consider certain factors over the preceding five years of the applicant’s life. Under this bill, specific new criteria will have to be considered over the life history of the applicant, instead of five years.

Licensing authorities will be required to consider whether the applicant has a history of threatening conduct, if they were subject to a no-contact order, and if they pose a risk to safety and security of any person.

They will be required to verify if the applicant was previously subject to a weapon prohibition order in relation to an offence where violence was used, threatened or attempted against the applicant’s intimate partner or former intimate partner.

Some have expressed the concern that because of the removal of the five-year time limitation for background checks, an applicant could be prevented from being issued a firearm licence because the person suffered, for instance, a depression 20 or 30 years ago. This concern is not warranted. The bill clearly indicates that the offences and mental health issues considered for the background check have to involve violence.

Second, purchase of non-restricted firearms. Currently, when you purchase a restricted firearm —handguns or semi-automatic rifles — you must demonstrate that you hold a valid licence. But since 2012, the same has not been required for the purchase of non-restricted hunting guns. The vendor may verify that you hold a possession and acquisition licence, or PAL, but it is not legally required to do so.

Bill C-71 proposes to re-establish this requirement in order to ensure that all buyers of non-restricted firearms are legitimate licence holders. Now, who could oppose such a common sense amendment?

To verify that the licence is valid, the vendor will call the firearms registrar or go on its website. To confirm the verification, a reference number will be issued, and this will take a couple of minutes.

The bill’s opponents cry: This is like the long-gun registry. That is not so.

The government will collect no information on the firearm acquired. The buyer will not be required to register the firearm or to hold any kind of registration certificate. Now, if long guns are not registered in a central database, and if owners do not have to apply for or hold a registration document, there is no long-gun registry, pure and simple.

Third, retailers’ records. Bill C-71 standardizes the good practices of most firearm businesses by requiring them to keep records of sales for non-restricted firearms, which responsible vendors already do. Making it mandatory will mean it will be the industry standard to do so, which in turn can help law enforcement better track firearms used by criminals.

Again, opponents say the new system is a backdoor registry. It is not. I repeat that long-gun owners will not be required to hold a registration certificate. The police will need a judge-approved warrant, in the course of a specific criminal investigation, to view the retailer’s records. Therefore, the government does not access the records.

This is not a long-gun registry in any way, shape or form.


Fourth, the classification of firearms. Bill C-71 gives the final say on classifying firearms into the three categories set out in the Criminal Code, namely, prohibited, restricted, and non-restricted weapons, back to the RCMP. In other words, the bill depoliticizes the classification of firearms.

Opponents of the bill say that this provision is undemocratic and that elected officials, MPs, should be the ones responsible for the classification of firearms. That does not make any sense. Those who visited the Canadian Firearms Program laboratory here in Ottawa know that the work done there is highly technical. It is not the job of ministers or MPs to determine exactly where a weapon came from or to establish whether a semi-automatic weapon can be converted to an automatic weapon. That is a job for subject matter experts.

Fifth, Swiss Arms and CZ858 rifles. There was a reason why the Conservative government gave itself the power to ignore the definition of prohibited firearms set out in the Criminal Code. Basically, the government wanted to overrule the RCMP’s decision to ban two popular families of semi-automatic rifles, the CZ858 and Swiss Arms families. The reclassification of these rifles as prohibited made a lot of people in the sport-shooting community angry, and the previous government was responding to that anger.

Bill C-71 confirms the decision made by RCMP experts to classify CZ858 and Swiss Arms semi-automatic rifles as prohibited weapons. Contrary to claims, there was nothing arbitrary about this decision. This decision was carefully considered. The RCMP clearly demonstrated that these two rifle models were essentially automatic weapons because they could easily be converted back to their original automatic functions. Converted automatic weapons are prohibited in Canada. This is set out in the Criminal Code, and it is just common sense.

Under Bill C-71, people who currently own these weapons will still be able to own and use them. It is completely wrong to use words like “expropriation” or “confiscation,” as many are doing these days.


Sixth, authorization to transport. The B.C. Illegal Firearms Taskforce stated:

The presence of firearms in vehicles, where they may be used offensively or defensively in rivalries and feuds, represents a risk to public safety.

Bill C-71 brings forward a small but significant change regarding authorizations to transport restricted and prohibited firearms. As you know, no authorization is required to transport non-restricted firearms, and this remains unchanged. Also unchanged is that automatic authorizations will be issued with the firearm licence for transport of a restricted or prohibited firearm between the owner’s residence and any shooting range in the province. This meets over 90 per cent of transportation needs.

What will change, compared to the current law, is that specific authorizations will be required for the transportation of restricted or prohibited firearms to places other than the gun range, a gunsmith, a gun show or a border station, for example. This will be an important tool for police officers. It will help them determine whether a person found in possession of a restricted or prohibited firearm in their vehicle is a legitimate user or not.

For the vast majority of gun owners, who only take their firearm to the shooting club, this measure will not change a thing. For the few hundred, out of hundreds of thousands, who will be affected, it will mean one short phone call or visit to the firearms program website. That’s all.

Honourable senators, all told, Bill C-71 amounts to a reform, which, in my view, is sensible, practical and fair.


Let me remind you that these measures were clearly stated in the Liberal Party’s electoral platform. Amendments adopted in the other place came from every party. Furthermore, the bill has been broadly welcomed by key stakeholders; for instance, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has said it is encouraged by the positive direction taken towards sensible firearms legislation, enhancing the tools available to police to ensure public safety.

Lives are at stake, so the debate that we will have on this bill is crucial. Since many Canadians believe that the bill is an attack on their rights, it is also a very sensitive discussion.

It is essential, notwithstanding the emotions and the politics associated with this issue, that we listen to what all stakeholders have to say about the bill and attempt to alleviate concerns while safeguarding Bill C-71’s essential goals.


I believe my role as sponsor of the bill is to provide credible information about the context and content of the bill, and to engage in open and honest dialogue with all parties concerned, in and out of this chamber.

Next Thursday, the government will hold its standard briefing on the bill. After Thanksgiving break, my office will organize briefings on gun violence, gun control, and the main components of this bill. My staff will always be available to help you in your own research, if needed, and, of course, I will always be here to listen to your concerns, learn from your experience, and take your suggestions.


This being said, let there be no mistake: I will be working hard to get this bill passed because this bill contains practical and balanced improvements that prioritize public safety, while ensuring fair and painless application of the law on responsible firearm owners.

Most of all, I’m convinced that the new provisions, as part of the government’s overall strategy to combat gun violence, will save lives.


Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: Would the honourable senator take a question?

Senator Pratte: Of course.

Senator Boisvenu: First of all, thank you for your very clear speech. Bill C-71 is supposed to prevent terrible crimes like murder from being committed. The current legislation allows authorities to confirm or check an individual’s criminal and mental health history going back five years. That’s as far back as they can go.

Quebec has seen some very tragic events, such as the 2008 murder of Constable Gignac in Laval, who was killed by a man with health issues who had just gotten his gun back. The judge had given him back his gun so he could go hunting, and that weekend, he shot Constable Gignac dead.

Lac Saint-Jean went through a similar tragedy when a mother was killed by her partner. She had previously reported his mental health problems, but police had not yet had time to seize his firearm.

This bill will make it possible to run a background check covering an applicant’s entire lifetime. My question is fairly simple. We know that police are already overwhelmed by all the checks they need to run for various crimes — sexual predators, et cetera. With that in mind, have you assessed the resources that major police forces like the Sûreté du Québec and the RCMP would need to conduct these checks? Have they been consulted about whether they have the necessary resources to run these checks?

Senator Pratte: Thank you for your question, senator. I can tell you that, based on the information at my disposal, and even though the law says background checks can only go back five years, what is actually happening in practice, following a court ruling, is that firearms officers already go back more than five years in some cases.

Also, my consultations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Sûreté du Québec indicate that they feel confident they have the necessary resources to run all the checks Bill C-71 would require.

Hon. Raymonde Gagné: Would my colleague take another question?

Senator Pratte: Of course.

Senator Gagné: The incidents you described at the beginning of your speech had one more thing in common: most of them took place in rural areas. Some people say that gun violence is more of an urban problem than a rural one. How do you respond to that? I know some people say this bill will have a disproportionate impact on gun owners in rural areas. What do you think?

Senator Pratte: Thank you for your question, senator. I have two things to say to that. First, as to whether this bill will have a greater impact on people in rural or in urban areas, I think it is important to remember that Bill C-71 will have very little impact on law-abiding gun owners. Once the dust settles, the vast majority of lawful gun owners will see no change as a result of the measures in this bill.

Now, when it comes to comparing rural and urban crime rates, Statistics Canada data clearly show that gun-related crime is just as present in rural regions as urban regions. One of the differences, and there are several, is the kind of gun that is used. In big cities, most homicides are committed with handguns. We have heard a lot about this problem in Toronto, for example. In rural areas, the weapon of choice, so to speak, for homicides tends to be shotguns and hunting rifles.

As for the gravity of the problem, statistics consistently show year after year that rural, remote and northern regions are just as likely as big cities, if not more so, in some cases, to have high rates of gun-related crime.

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: Would the senator take a question?

Senator Pratte: Of course.

Senator Dagenais: We know that there is always a cost associated with amending a law. When the first gun registry was established by the Liberal government, it was very costly. We are talking about roughly $2.5 billion. Have you estimated what Bill C-71’s amendments will cost?

Senator Pratte: I know that when debating this bill we will often hear the words “registry” and “$2 billion” because I imagine there is a lot to gain politically from doing so. I will say once more that this has nothing to do with the gun registry and that the firearms program and the chief firearms officers assure us that they have the necessary resources to implement Bill C-71 to the extent permitted by the resources currently available to them.


Hon. Tony Dean: Senator, would you take a question? First of all, Senator Pratte, thank you for a very helpful and important setting of the stage for what will be a critical set of discussions in this place. I want to follow up on this question of the gun registry, because despite repeated clarifications, and indeed an amendment in the House of Commons, I certainly continue to hear that this bill involves to some extent or another a backdoor gun registry, a return to a registry for non-restricted weapons. Could you enlighten us further on this, please?

Senator Pratte: Thank you for the question, Senator Dean.

What is a gun registry? What was the former gun registry? It was a central database of firearms. That’s what it was.

What we’re talking about today in this bill is that there is no central database. The government does not collect information on non-restricted firearms. The government won’t have it. As for the records that will be kept by retailers, and are in most cases already kept by retailers, these records will not be accessible by government except by police investigators after they have a warrant related to a specific criminal investigation.

Now regarding the amendment, let me read it again in case it didn’t register. For greater certainty:

. . . nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to permit or require the registration of non-restricted firearms.


Now, it’s important to note that this amendment was put in the interpretation section of the act, and it is, my lawyer friends tell me — I have many lawyer friends. I don’t know why. I don’t know if I should admit it or not. Probably not. Anyway, my lawyer friends tell me that the fact that it is in the interpretation section of the bill means, first, that it applies to the whole act; and, second, that courts will understand from this very clearly that the intent of Parliament is not to have a long-gun registry.

Hon. Art Eggleton: Perhaps you covered a little bit of this already, but the City of Toronto, the City of Montreal and various other mayors have called for a ban on handguns. Do you believe this bill should be amended to ban handguns?

Senator Pratte: Thank you for the question. The government, as you know, has tasked the new minister, Bill Blair, with looking into the possible ban of handguns and assault weapons. I believe the government intends to consult Canadians about these issues, which would be controversial issues, a major change in our gun control regime. I believe that this is the right way to go, that is, to consult Canadians, stakeholders, police officers and so on.

Not everyone agrees. Even though the polls show that the majority of Canadians agree with the idea of a handgun ban, many people, even in police forces, don’t agree that it would be a good solution.

The idea is that Bill C-71 is one thing, a significant but modest change in our gun-control regime. The idea of banning handguns or even assault weapons is another possibility that the government is looking at, and the government will take its time before making a decision after consulting Canadians.

Hon. Mary Coyle: May ask a question of the honourable senator? This summer I was in Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, which is right next to the town where I live in Nova Scotia. One of my friends there, former Chief Kerry Prosper, actually expressed a real concern on behalf of the people in his community and himself personally as a person who hunts and harvests wild fruits in the area. I did not have answers for him, and he didn’t express, really, the detail of his concerns.

Could you let me and others here know what has been done to consult Canada’s Indigenous people, and what sorts of questions are you and others receiving, and what are the answers that I should be giving to Kerry Prosper?

Senator Pratte: Thank you for the question. As far as I know, the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association were consulted.

I know that the concerns expressed by your friend are expressed by many people in the Indigenous communities, including the Assembly of First Nations, who appeared in front of the committee in the other place. They have important concerns. The concern is that they’re afraid that the bill would infringe on their constitutionally protected hunting rights.

Now, this is a very important concern that I and the government take very seriously. I will undertake to discuss with the AFN, other representatives of Indigenous communities and the Indigenous communities in this house. We’ve already started to work together to see whether we can alleviate some of those concerns or accommodate some of these concerns, in one way or another.


Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: Honourable senators, I rise today in support of the purpose and general terms of Bill C-71 on firearms. This bill is on the right track.

Like many women and many Quebecers, I was deeply disappointed when the previous federal government watered down gun control laws. Let’s be clear: in Canada, gun ownership is not a right, it is a privilege. The more firearms there are in society, the more accidents there are and the more gun-related crimes are committed and that includes injuries and murders in cases of domestic violence, spousal violence, and suicide.

In recent years I have worked on issues related to violence against women and I know that there are important connections to make. The presence of a firearm in a home is one of the key factors, if not the main factor of risk for predicting mortality in each case of spousal violence.

Between 1989 and 2005, the number of women killed by guns dropped from 74 to 32 across the country. The interesting thing to note is the correlation between this sharp drop and the coming into force of stricter gun laws in 1991 and 1995. Although there were certainly many factors at play, it is worthwhile to note that the number of gun murders has dropped much more dramatically than the number of knife crimes, for example.

The extent of this phenomenon varies from one province to the next. In Quebec, 3 per cent of domestic violence cases involve firearms. This figure is higher in Manitoba, at 13 per cent, according to a 2009 study. Many know that gender plays a role in this type of violence. Gun owners are overwhelmingly men, not women.

Statistics Canada calculated that, in 2016, nearly 600 Canadian women were the victims of spousal violence or intimate partner violence committed with a firearm compared to 100 men. In Ontario, from 2002 to 2015, one-quarter of spousal murders were committed with a firearm. Women are disproportionately affected by these crimes. In Quebec, one-third of spousal murder victims were women.

What is more, when it comes to this serious issue, it is much too easy to pit those in rural areas against the urban elite, as some people do. It is not just law-abiding hunters and firearms enthusiasts who live in rural areas. Let us not forget their spouses and families. Rifles and shotguns are the weapons that are most often recovered from crime scenes. They are the most commonly used weapons in cases of domestic violence, suicide and the murder of police officers, particularly in rural regions.

It is also too easy to limit this gun violence to street gangs in the city, when in fact women in rural areas are more at risk because they are more isolated.

Here are some shocking examples, including a murder that happened last spring in Calgary. Nadia El-Dib, a 22-year-old woman who had her entire life ahead of her, was brutally murdered. She was stabbed 40 times and shot twice by her ex-boyfriend, who had purchased a semi-automatic rifle legally two weeks before the attack. According to the victim’s sister, the young man believed he had the right to murder his ex-girlfriend because she wanted to take ownership of her life and said no to a man who wanted to control her. This tragedy clearly shows the instruments at work in this kind of violence: power and the use of violence to control a woman’s body, even if it means killing her.

In 2016, a 26-year-old Ontario woman was shot by her ex-boyfriend. Her assailant managed to get a licence to possess and acquire firearms despite having a criminal record and a history of mental health problems.

In the summer of 2015, in Renfrew County in rural Ontario, a man killed three of his former spouses with a sawed-off shotgun. He had a long history of domestic violence.

There was another incident in 2015, this one in Manitoba, that attracted a lot of attention. Kevin Runke shot and killed his ex-wife, Camille, at her workplace even though he was under a protection order. His ex-wife had told the authorities that he had a weapon and that she was living in fear.

Bill C-71 has much to recommend it, but I would like to raise some issues for the committee to consider.

Perhaps the list of criteria officials use to issue firearms licences should be informed by a prevention approach to encourage more thorough checks. Denying an acquisition licence should be viewed not as punishment, but as a way to prevent crime. The officials who issue these licences have a very difficult job to do. They need the act and regulations to provide clear rules for how to do their work properly. For example, are written statements from respondents good enough, or should officials try to speak to them directly to confirm that they have no concerns about their significant other or spouse obtaining a firearms licence?


Here is something else to think about. Should police officers be given more discretion so that they can quickly consult the registries of commercial or private firearms vendors without first obtaining a warrant? That is what is provided for in Bill C-71. Time is often of the essence in investigations. When it comes to cases of domestic violence, it is crucial that police know how many guns are in the house.

I am sure that we will have the opportunity to consider these issues in committee, but it is obvious to me that Bill C-71 is welcome and needed. Of course, gun control is just one aspect of the strategies to prevent and reduce spousal and family violence. We all know that laws are not enough, but they are essential, since reducing the gender inequality that leads to violence requires radical changes in attitudes. This will take time, a lot of time. This is about saving lives, because every life counts. It is about preventing thousands of women from having to live in fear because there are weapons in their homes. Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

(On motion of Senator Wells, debate adjourned.)


Budget Implementation Bill, 2018, No. 1

First Report of Special Committee of the Arctic on Subject Matter Discharged

On Government Business, Reports of Committees, Other, Order No. 13, by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson:

Consideration of the first report of the Special Committee on the Arctic (Subject matter of Bill C-74, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures), tabled in the Senate on May 30, 2018.

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 5-7(k), I move that Order No. 13 under Reports of Committees — Other, which deals with the subject matter of Bill C-74 that was adopted last June, be discharged from the Order Paper.

The Hon. the Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Patterson, seconded by the Honourable Senator Stewart Olsen, that Order No. 13 — may I dispense?

Hon. Senators: Dispense.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable 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.

(Order discharged.)

Seventeenth Report of National Security and Defence Committee on Subject Matter Discharged

On Government Business, Reports of Committees, Other, Order No. 15, by the Honourable Gwen Boniface:

Consideration of the seventeenth report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence (Subject matter of Bill C-74, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures), tabled in the Senate on May 31, 2018.

Hon. Gwen Boniface: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 5-7(k), I move that Order No. 15 under Reports of Committees — Other, which deals with the subject matter of Bill C-74 that was adopted last June, be discharged from the Order Paper.

The Hon. the Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Boniface, seconded by the Honourable Senator Wallin, that Order No. 15 on the — may I dispense?

Hon. Senators: Dispense.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable 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.

(Order discharged.)

Speech from the Throne

Motion for Address in Reply—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Jaffer, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cordy:

That the following Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor General of Canada:

To His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.


We, Her Majesty’s most loyal and dutiful subjects, the Senate of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

Hon. Yvonne Boyer: Honourable senators, I rise today for my first speech in the chamber.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Boyer: I am both honoured and humbled to rise in this chamber to call attention to an issue that is very important to me and to encourage us as senators to focus on a particular area dealing with the health of Indigenous peoples and, in particular, Indigenous women.

I would first like to acknowledge the unceded Algonquin territory on which we are guests and thank the Algonquin people for their hospitality here.

I received my call to the Senate on March 8, which is International Women’s Day. A few days later, when I knew my appointment was going to be announced in the news, I eagerly opened my online news feed. The first thing I saw was that Leah Jade Lavallee Matthews, a young Indigenous woman who had been reported missing in Bonnyville, Alberta, had been found. I held my breath, as I had been watching and waiting for her to be found. But she was not safe. It was her body that had been found.

Leah was 18 years old — a vibrant, beautiful young Indigenous woman, who became another statistic on the day I was appointed to the Senate. She was a beloved daughter, granddaughter, sister, auntie and cousin. My heart sank, my stomach turned, and my throat was like cotton. My eyes filled with tears. When will it stop? When will the lives of Indigenous women matter? And that is how my journey in the Senate began.

Honourable senators, my speech today is not going to be particularly joyful. You have heard many of these issues here in the Senate, and I have humbly watched with careful and respectful ears while you’ve spoken about issues that are close to your heart while your words resonate with the principles of fairness, respect, equality, health and justice in making Canada a fairer and more inclusive country. I consider it a great privilege to join each of you in this Senate as we continue this important work together.

I am a lawyer, and I was previously a nurse. I am Metis. I am a mother and a grandmother. My lifelong and professional work is grounded and focused upon the intersection between health and the law, in particular the myriad issues with Indigenous health.

Before I discuss this topic in more detail, I want to explain where I come from and why I work in the area that I do. I was born into a Metis family in southern Saskatchewan. My grandparents came from the Red River in Manitoba. My grandmother is Mary Rosalie LaRocque. My grandfather is Louis Amable Boyer. Introducing our families and where we come from is important, as it highlights our kinship relations and our interconnections in this place, and it informs my perspective as a senator.

My grandmother was born in 1881, and my father was the youngest of 13 children. He had sisters 20 years older than he, and he was very loved. I lived with his sister, my Aunt Lucy. When I was a little girl, my bedtime stories were stories of the tuberculosis sanatorium where she spent 10 years of her life. It was at Fort San in the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan. She had tuberculosis, and those were the days before antibiotics, and the only treatment was bed rest and cold air. She lay on her back for 10 years, five of which she spent in a complete body cast. She brought to life for me what life was like for a tiny Chippewa Metis girl in the tuberculosis sanatorium.

She tried to keep upbeat, and even through her struggles, she gave me three important life lessons. The first is that health care for brown children is different than for white children. The second is that there are some very mean people who hurt others because of their race, especially when there is no family watching close by. My aunt saw her family once in those 10 years. The last lesson she taught me was that there are predators in the hospital system.

My aunt was institutionalized from 1925 to 1935. She was never able to bear children, although I do not know whether she was sterilized, as her records were destroyed.

I had many aunts and uncles. My aunties and grandmother were healers and health care providers. They cared for each other and others. It was expected that I go into nursing, and when I graduated from high school, that is exactly what I did. What I saw as a nurse were the same realities my aunt had described to me as existing in the 1920s and the 1930s: There were racism, discrimination, intentional meanness and sexual abusers.

I worked in small, 50-bed hospitals, and as the years went by I got angrier and angrier with what I was seeing: the institutionalized racism and the candid comments made to me because the racists thought I was like them, as they spoke of my sisters, my aunties and my brothers, and how those Indian women should be sterilized to prevent them from breeding. Those words haunt me to this day.

I began complaining, and I decided I would either have to become complacent or do something about it. So I started taking university night classes. I was a single mom with three kids, and I went back to school to become a lawyer. I wanted to make a change to the injustice within the health field. I really believed that if I had a good set of tools, I might go about fixing some of these things. I had my fourth baby during my first year of law school. I managed that gruelling schedule because I was completely driven and on fire to make a change to the atrocities that I saw. There was no stopping.

That is what I did: I got started, and I couldn’t stop. I completed a master’s in law and then a doctorate in law, all while I was practising law. My research focused on the relationship between Indigenous health and the law. From the beginning, I have been vocal about the racism and substandard care for Indigenous people in the health care system.

I’m going to skip ahead a few years and talk to you specifically about a particularly sinister practice. It may be surprising for many to learn that Indigenous women have been coerced into sterilization during routine care in our health system, recorded in my books as recently as 2015.


That same year, a reporter from the StarPhoenix in Saskatoon called me. Betty Ann Adam advised me that two Indigenous women had contacted her, saying they had recently been sterilized against their will in a Saskatoon hospital. I was asked for my opinion on the matter and I freely gave it. I asked, “What about consent? What about Aboriginal rights? What about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and free, prior and informed consent? What about negligence, assault? What about battery?”

The stories of these two women, namely, Brenda Pelletier and Tracy Bannab, were published. These brave women stood up for themselves at a great cost and told the world what happened to them. Soon another woman came forward and then another woman came, and another and another.

I was asked to do a few media interviews, and I reiterated my statements on how fair and equitable treatment is not given to Indigenous women. The Brenda Pelletier and Tracy Bannab stories demonstrate an attitude in the health care system that informs all government policies towards Indigenous people. Their stories have the underpinning of the guardian and ward theory in which the health system assumes they know what is best for Indigenous people because it doesn’t believe Indigenous people are capable of making those decisions on their own. These concepts were implemented through colonialization, imported into Canadian laws in the 1800s and continue to underpin many Canadian health policies toward Indigenous people today.

In Brenda’s case, she was on the operating table and clearly said she did not want the procedure done. The doctor stood over her and asked the nurse if Brenda had signed the consent form, which she had, and he went ahead and sterilized her even after Brenda revoked consent on the table.

One could easily argue that in these circumstances, the doctor breached the United Nations standards for free, prior and informed consent. Indeed, her consent was not free. She was under duress. It was not informed consent, as she believed that the procedure would be reversible. It was not prior because the nurse said the operating room was ready even before Brenda signed the form.

She clearly revoked her consent while on the operating room table. The whole procedure should have stopped there. It did not. In addition to the legal liability issues, this situation smacks of racism in health care, guardian and ward theory, and the medical profession thinking they know what is best for Indigenous women.

Then, surprisingly, in October 2016, I received a message from the Saskatoon Health Region. They asked if I would conduct an external review on their health region based on the complaints they had received about the coerced sterilization issue. I asked if they were sure they knew who they were speaking to because I had been very vocal with my opinions. They said the elders had asked me for, so I agreed to do it.

That was the beginning of the uncovering of one of the most heinous practices in health care.

Dr. Judith Bartlett, a Metis physician and researcher, agreed to assist with the review process. Our report was released in July 2017 and describes the women’s experiences of being coerced into tubal ligation after childbirth, with some being coerced into signing consent forms either while in active labour or on the operating room table. Tubal ligation is the surgical sterilization of a woman by severing through, burning or cutting and tying the fallopian tubes. Many of those who underwent the procedure believed it was reversible, but it is considered a permanent procedure.

Our study used a community-led research process, which is in keeping with the proper cultural protocol of the Indigenous peoples whose land we were on. Dr. Bartlett and I acted as facilitators of this process. The review was limited to the Saskatoon Health Region and its catchment area, with an approximate population of urban and rural peoples totalling 350,000.

Our review was also limited to those women sterilized immediately postpartum. We advertised in Cree and in English. Sixteen women called our toll-free line and we interviewed six severely traumatized women. Seven others made appointments but for various reasons could not attend. We interviewed eight people from the Saskatoon Health Region, including two physicians and an additional two social workers.

The relatively small number of Indigenous women interviewed was, I believe, the tip of an iceberg of many more that could not or would not come forward with their own stories of horror.

Nearly half of the women who contacted us were unable to move beyond the call to be interviewed. Some tried on more than one occasion to attend an interview. It is important to note that for reasons and factors related to the colonial residue negatively impacting Indigenous women, this inability to be interviewed was expected. It can only be imagined the courage it took to make the appointments, and there were probably even more angst and guilty feelings when a woman could not follow through.

All the women interviewed shared that they had received psychological pressure to be sterilized. They were harassed by nurses, doctors and social workers. Scare and intimidation tactics were used by the staff, one woman being told that because she had one child with cerebral palsy, the others would suffer the same fate and therefore must be sterilized.

Another physician told one of the women who had given birth to six children, when she was brought to the operating table against her will, that “You’re tied, cut and burnt; nothing will get through that.”

These women were powerless, and this powerlessness was enforced by the health care providers who said it “was best” that they were sterilized.

We also heard from health care providers, and their stories were as equally as grim if they were Indigenous. For example, one participant was told by a colleague that “I [blank] hate you people more than any other race on this entire Earth.”

And then there is the story of Morningstar Mercredi, a well-known and respected First Nations storyteller who, at six months pregnant, went to a hospital in the Saskatoon Health Region because she was spotting blood. She woke up sterilized with the baby and a portion of her reproductive system removed. She did not consent to an abortion in her second trimester and she did not consent to the surgery. She was damaged beyond repair, and at age 20 she realized she would never have another child.

In October 2017, a class-action lawsuit against the Saskatoon Health Region was launched by two of the affected women, each claiming $7 million in damages. Nearly 60 women have since joined the lawsuit.

This class-action certification has been filed in the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon and a hearing was held on June 8. They are awaiting a decision on the preliminary defendant applications.

The external review report is a clear example of the atrocities and inhumane treatment of Indigenous people in our health system. When news of the report ricocheted across the country, numerous Indigenous people from outside of Saskatchewan came forward describing, in detail, the horrors they have experienced in the health care system. They have been asking for help. Since the report, I have received and continue to receive emails, calls and pleas from women all across the country who have endured complete horrors at the hands of our health care system.

An Anishinaabe woman from Ontario wrote to me and painfully attested to a coerced abortion and tubal ligation at 18 years old, very much against her will, stating that the Children’s Aid Society insisted they would take the baby “one way or another.” She said:

I had nowhere to turn for help. CAS became the voice of my unborn child. That voice told me in no uncertain terms to have an abortion because either way they were going to take the baby from me. I was forced and coerced by CAS and my attending Doctor supported their recommendation to both ABORT and STERILIZE me. I did not understand all of what was happening as my being was clouded in a time and space of total bewilderment. There was a sense that what was happening was not right. Yet, how can I fight these people who have already deemed my life unworthy and what’s more they have deemed my unborn baby unworthy. So much so, that they backed me into a corner and also deemed my right to bear life, as unworthy. They cut me down and what’s more they cut any chance of me ever having the God given right to further bear life. This system became my judge, jury and executioner. What’s worse, they became that to my unborn child as well.

What can be done to stem the tide of coerced sterilization and other poor treatment that seems to — even now — happen to Indigenous people across the country?

The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry, senator, but your time has expired. Are you asking for five more minutes?

Senator Boyer: Five more minutes.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Boyer: Indigenous peoples carry direct and intergenerational trauma from the residential school system. The policies that governed the schools were rooted in racism, colonial superiority and wardship beliefs. Unfortunately, today, a substantial power imbalance continues to exist between non-Indigenous health care providers and Indigenous peoples, which underpins their negative experiences in the health care system. Yet this problem is not well understood or even perceived by many health professionals.


I believe that by entering this place, I have been allowed the opportunity to champion these issues. I believe it is our responsibility to speak for those who have no voice. They are not heard and the voices of their future children are silenced. In this new role as a senator, I look forward to working with each of you to help address this problem. I urge all honourable senators to work together and ask what can be done to help remedy this shameful situation. Meegwetch. Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

(On motion of Senator Bellemare, debate adjourned.)


The Senate

Motion to Affect Question Period on October 2, 2018, Adopted

Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate), pursuant to notice of September 26, 2018, 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 2, 2018, 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.)


Motion Adopted

Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate), pursuant to notice of September 26, 2018, moved:

That, when the Senate next adjourns after the adoption of this motion, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, October 2, 2018, at 2 p.m.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)


Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Pate, seconded by the Honourable Senator Gold, for the second reading of Bill S-251, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (independence of the judiciary) and to make related amendments.

Hon. Howard Wetston: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill S-251, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (independence of the judiciary) and to make related amendments.

I want to thank the sponsor of this bill, Senator Pate, for bringing this bill forward.

Basically, the thrust of my comments deals with mandatory minimum penalties, the sentencing patchwork created across Canada and its impact on judicial discretion in sentencing. Judicial discretion in sentencing is a prerequisite to a fair and just result. Affording judges the discretion to achieve that result is at the heart of this bill.

Punishment needs to be proportionate to both the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. The sentence must reflect and condemn their role in the offence and the harm they caused. However, it is always limited by the principle that an offender’s sentence must be equivalent to his or her moral culpability and not greater than it. It is a principle so fundamental that it is codified in section 718.1 in the Criminal Code. A grossly disproportionate sentence would outrage society’s standards of decency.

So we come full circle, in the recognition that proportionality is difficult, indeed in some cases impossible, to achieve where a mandatory minimum sentence must be imposed and judicial discretion is denied. By giving judges the discretion to sentence the offender and not mete out the one-size-fits-all jail term required by mandatory minimum sentences, Bill S-251 will not only better ensure proportionality, it could materially assist in addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal and racialized persons in our prisons.

So what happens presently, honourable senators, when the mandatory minimum sentence might be grossly disproportionate? The offender must seek a remedy under the Charter. This happens far too frequently.

According to the Department of Justice Canada, as of May 2018, there were 174 constitutional challenges to mandatory minimum sentences proceeding through the courts. The Criminal Code contains about 80 MMPs or mandatory minimum penalties, and there are at least 26 more in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The Supreme Court of Canada and other appellate courts have struck down as unconstitutional several mandatory minimum sentences. The courts rely on a two-step process, in my view a complicated two-step process, to assess disproportionality which consumes precious court time, both at the trial and at the appeal level.

The final report, prepared in June 2017 by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, entitled Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada, cites numerous witnesses sharing their view, “That use of mandatory minimum sentences was one of the factors contributing to trial delays.”

The challenge in the application of mandatory minimum sentences in Canada has been described by Kent Roach, who may be known to many of you as he is a well-known law professor at the University of Toronto. He stated it this way:

. . . blind to whether offenders live in abject poverty, have intellectual disabilities or mental-health issues, have experienced racism and abuse in the past or have children who rely on them. The mandatory-minimum sentence does not allow a judge to decide if incarceration is necessary to deter, rehabilitate or punish the particular offender.

Honourable senators, I have three points to make. First, the judicial straitjacket that mandatory minimum sentences impose has contributed to particularly high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal offenders and racialized individuals. As stated by the Supreme Court, minimum sentences function as a blunt instrument by emphasizing general deterrence, denunciation and retribution at the expense of a fit sentence.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the TRC — which is well-known to all of you — summary report noted that, while the causes of over-incarceration of Aboriginal people are complex, the result reflects a systemic bias in the Canadian justice system. One reason for this is recent legislation prescribing mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment for certain offences. Call to Action No. 30 seeks government action to eliminate this over-representation within the next decade.


The commission’s Call to Action No. 32 recommends the federal government amend the Criminal Code to allow trial judges, upon giving reasons, to depart from mandatory minimum sentences and restrictions on the use of conditional sentences.

In November 2015, a mandate letter from the Office of the Prime Minister to the Minister of Justice instructed the minister to “. . . conduct a review of the changes in our criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade . . .” with a view to increasing the “. . . use of restorative justice processes and other initiatives to reduce the rate of incarceration amongst Indigenous Canadians . . . .”

Yesterday, we had a productive open caucus session which was held on restorative justice, yet here we are, in 2018. It has worsened. The sentencing patchwork continues unabated.

Honourable senators, Bill S-251 would address a number of the aforesaid concerns by providing sentencing judges with the necessary discretion to order a fit sentence, a proportionate sentence. I want to emphasize that this is not about tough on crime.

Point number two is that the Supreme Court has indicated a need for this change and has set out some guideposts. The majority judgment in R. v. Lloyd states that Parliament could narrow the reach of mandatory minimum sentences for offences that cast a wide net, so only those offenders that merit them would receive them.

The second guidepost is the one that Bill S-251 specifically addresses in giving judges a broader range of sentencing options, allowing judges to exempt outliers, with reasons, for whom the mandatory minimum will constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

I don’t need to remind anybody here about section 12 of the Charter.

The third clause of Bill S-251 proposes that courts retain the discretion to delay sentencing in order to direct a person found guilty of an offence to attend a treatment or counselling program. This would only be done if the offender consents and the interests of the victim — obviously and apparently important — and justice are taken into consideration.

Point number three is that the minister’s mandate letter also suggests:

You should conduct a review of the changes in our criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade with a mandate to assess . . . that current provisions are aligned with the objectives of the criminal justice system.

As part of the review, the Department of Justice has held a series of round-table discussions — about 12, 13 or 14 of them, maybe more; Senator Pate would know, I’m sure — since May 2016 and released a report entitled What we heard — Transforming Canada’s criminal justice system: A Report on Provincial and Territorial Stakeholder Consultations.

It suggested a number of improvements, and I’ll highlight just a few of them: Give judges and others working in the criminal justice system the discretion they need to make decisions based on a person’s circumstances; immediately repeal mandatory minimum penalties, or MMPs, for Criminal Code offences or at least look at the effects of these sentences; apply MMPs to only the most serious crimes — we talked about firearm issues today and the unfortunate murders that flow from the illicit use of them — and use guidelines or presumptive sentencing as an alternative.

These recommendations are in line with those of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Supreme Court of Canada.

Honourable senators, Bill S-251 will no doubt benefit from a thorough review of its provisions, but Bill S-251 is a worthy starting point in the discussion to address those considerations raised by the TRC and departmental consultations.

Taken together, these proposals have the potential to partially address the concerns of mandatory minimum sentencing raised by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Lloyd. They may also avoid or reduce the costly Charter litigation and court delays witnessed in recent years.

A patchwork — and it is a patchwork — of sentences has been created across Canada. As a result, one could reasonably contend there’s also an important efficiency rationale for the proposals put forward by Senator Pate.

As such, honourable senators, I hope you will join me in support of referring Bill S-251 for committee consideration. I want to thank Senator Pate, once again, for bringing these amendments to our collective attention.

(On motion of Senator Plett, debate adjourned.)


Voluntary Blood Donations Bill

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Wallin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Boniface, for the second reading of Bill S-252, Voluntary Blood Donations Act (An Act to amend the Blood Regulations).

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-252, introduced by Senator Wallin. This bill would amend the Blood Regulations to prohibit blood or plasma donors in Canada from being paid for their donations, except in rare circumstances. Compensation for blood products is already prohibited in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.


Honourable colleagues, if I may ask, how many of you took 10 minutes to donate blood this year? Are you among the 4 per cent of Canadians who give blood every year to Canadian Blood Services or the 3 per cent of Quebecers who contribute Héma-Québec’s blood supply?


To be perfectly honest, I have yet to donate blood even though I know that it’s important and that it literally saves lives. I think that I’m an example of the challenge faced by Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec. We support them, we know how important they are, we trust them, giving blood does not take much time, and yet many Canadians do not donate blood on a regular basis. Imagine how hard it is to get people to donate plasma, which is not as widely known and takes about 90 minutes of our time. That is the issue this bill seeks to address: How do we ensure that blood and plasma donation remains voluntary, which I support as a matter of principle, while maintaining our ability to meet demand?

The subtlety of Bill S-252 is also found in the distinction it makes between blood and one of its components, plasma, which accounts for 55 per cent of the total volume of blood. Plasma is used for transfusions, of course, but this liquid is also rich in plasma protein, which is increasingly being used in the development and production of medications and treatments. Medications derived from plasma are essential, and in many cases there are no alternative therapies.

As you can appreciate, plasma is invaluable to the hospital system and increasingly for the pharmaceutical industry. The reality is that today, the global plasma industry posts annual sales of more than $14 billion. According to Canadian Blood Services, the demand for plasma-derived pharmaceutical products increases by 10 per cent a year. It is the same thing in the United States, Europe, and Australia.


Thanks to voluntary donations of blood to Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, the supply of plasma for transfusions in Canada is self-sustaining most of the time. However, these two public bodies, which offer no financial compensation, struggle to meet the demand for plasma used to create pharmaceutical products.

According to Health Canada, only 17 per cent of our plasma needs are met by donations. The rest of it must be purchased, mostly, right now, from the United States.


The plasma scarcity argument is the same one the federal Minister of Health made when she allowed the commercialization of plasma in Canada in 2016. Minister Philpott argued that paid plasma collection clinics might help fill the gap between the supply and demand of plasma products.


Basically, the main question that Bill S-252 urges us to answer is whether commercializing plasma donation is the only realistic way to have a self-sustaining supply in Canada. Otherwise, we need to make sure that Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec will be capable of meeting the demand, which is sure to increase.

Some organizations assert that it is unrealistic to rely on an entirely volunteer-based model, especially since there is no need to worry about the safety of the product itself, they say. Just because products are made using plasma from paid donors does not mean they are any less safe. Again, that is according to them. It should be noted that all centres in Canada that collect plasma to produce plasma products, whether donors are paid or volunteers, must comply with the same Food and Drugs Act and Blood Regulations. However, other organizations, such as BloodWatch, whose diligence and reputation have been firmly established, have pointed out that any time commercialization and profits are involved, the risks could go up.

The safety of the product itself is not the only issue. Canadian Blood Services is concerned that commercialization may have a negative impact on the existing volunteer donation model. It is difficult to quantify, but, on a large scale, it is conceivable that paid plasma collection centres could be in direct competition with our not-for-profit supply system.

Canadian Blood Services recognized this possibility in February 2016 when Health Canada issued a permit to Canadian Plasma Resources to open a plasma collection clinic in Saskatoon where donors are compensated with $25 gift cards. The clinic also encourages donors to give more to be eligible for monthly draws for prizes worth over $2,000. The company has since been allowed to open another location in Moncton and plans to open 10 more plasma collection clinics by 2020.

Senator Wallin informed us that 18 more permit applications from private companies are currently being processed. Some people believe that these companies will cause the number of volunteer donations to drop. Others contend that volunteer donors differ significantly from paid donors and that plasma collection organizations are not necessarily in competition with each other. I think that is a crucial question we need to consider carefully in committee.


One thing, however, became clear to me and worries me. We have to be concerned about what appears to be a deliberate targeting by these companies. Indeed, many of these collection centres with financial compensation have settled in zones frequented by vulnerable, poor and disadvantaged people. Morally, we must admit that this is a big problem. When we know that we can donate plasma every week, in fact, every six days, with $25 compensation, it’s easy to imagine scenarios where a vulnerable individual uses plasma donations as an additional source of income. Personally, I am very uncomfortable with the idea that those who sell blood products are mainly the poorest and most disadvantaged people in society. In my view, it is not ethically and socially acceptable for such a vital system to be based on the most vulnerable of us; on the contrary, we have the responsibility to protect them.


It starts with voting to refer Bill S-252 to committee for a thorough study. Among the questions that need to be answered, naturally there will be questions of an ethical nature. For example, is it morally legitimate to pay for a blood product? If so, how do we ensure the safety of that blood product, but also, how do we protect those who are paid for giving blood and plasma? How do we protect Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec and ensure that their volunteer model can compete with an industry that will be on stronger financial footing?

If this bill becomes law, how can we make sure that our two blood collection agencies meet demand for blood and plasma and continue to save lives? In Canada, voluntary donations of plasma meet just 17 per cent of what is needed to manufacture plasma products. Currently, we buy the rest. Héma-Québec and Canadian Blood Services have well-defined strategic plans to become self-sufficient, but the reality is that we are far from achieving this objective. If it becomes illegal to pay for plasma in Canada, what will happen, at least during the transition? Will Canadians stop getting treatment? Of course not — that would be immoral. Will we continue to buy from the United States, as we do now? That seems counterintuitive and, once again, some would say this is a difficult position to defend, morally speaking.

Obviously, banning remuneration will not be enough. We will also have to equip our agencies to rapidly meet demand without jeopardizing the health of Canadians.


In short, the questions raised by this bill are much more complex than one might think and above all very important. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Senator Wallin for bringing this important matter to our attention. It is for this reason, honourable senators, that I invite you to send this bill to committee for study as soon as possible. I also would like this opportunity to invite you, if I may — and invite myself, in fact — to take 10 minutes of our time, and why not 90 minutes, to donate blood or plasma. It saves lives — we know it — and every life is precious.

(On motion of Senator Omidvar, debate adjourned.)

Riding Name Change Bill, 2018

Second Reading—Debate Continued

On Other Business, Commons Public Bills, Second Reading, Order No. 7, by the Honourable Peter Harder:

Second reading of Bill C-402, An Act to change the name of certain electoral districts.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I see this is now on day 14. I would like to adjourn it for the rest of my time.

Hon. Patricia Bovey (The Hon. the Acting Speaker): It is moved by the Honourable Senator Harder, seconded by the Honourable Senator Bellemare, that further debate be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Debate postponed until the next sitting of the Senate.)


Senate Modernization

Seventh Report of Special Committee—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Massicotte, seconded by the Honourable Senator Moore, for the adoption of the seventh report (interim), as amended, of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization, entitled Senate Modernization: Moving Forward (Regional interest), presented in the Senate on October 18, 2016.

Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Madam Acting Speaker, since this order stands at day 15, if no one is moving adjournment of the debate, I will do so in my name.

(On motion of Senator Housakos, debate adjourned.)



Study on the Minister of Finance’s Proposed Changes to the Income Tax Act respecting the Taxation of Private Corporations and the Tax Planning Strategies Involved

Twenty-fourth Report of National Finance Committee and Request for Government Response Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mockler, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk:

That the twenty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, entitled Fair, Simple and Competitive Taxation: The way forward for Canada, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on December 13, 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 Finance being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Study on Issues Relating to Social Affairs, Science and Technology Generally

Twenty-fourth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee and Request for Government Response Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eggleton, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Mercer:

That the twenty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, entitled The Federal Role in a Social Finance Fund, tabled in the Senate on May 10, 2018, 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 Families, Children and Social Development being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Twenty-Sixth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee and Request for Government Response Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eggleton, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C.:

That the twenty-sixth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, entitled Breaking Down Barriers: A critical analysis of the Disability Tax Credit and Registered Disability Savings Plan, tabled with the Clerk of the Senate on June 27, 2018, 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 Revenue being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report, in consultation with the Ministers of Finance and Families, Children and Social Development.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)


Regional Universities

Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Tardif, calling the attention of the Senate to regional universities and the important role they play in Canada.

Hon. Lucie Moncion: Honourable senators, I move that this matter stand adjourned in the name of Senator Cormier until the next sitting of the Senate.

(On motion of Senator Moncion, for Senator Cormier, debate adjourned.)


Banking, Trade and Commerce

Committee Authorized to Study the Potential Benefits and Challenges of Open Banking for Canadian Financial Services Consumers

Hon. Carolyn Stewart Olsen, for Senator Black (Alberta), pursuant to notice of September 20, 2018, moved:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce be authorized to examine and report on the potential benefits and challenges of open banking for Canadian financial services consumers, with specific focus on the federal government’s regulatory role.

That the committee submit its final report no later than February 22, 2019, and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.

She said: I move the motion standing in the name of Senator Black.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

(At 4:16 p.m., the Senate was continued until Tuesday, October 2, 2018, at 2 p.m.)

Back to top