Skip to Content
Download as PDF
Text size:

1st Session, 42nd Parliament
Volume 150, Issue 232

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker


THE SENATE

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.


SENATORS’ STATEMENTS

The Honourable Catherine S. Callbeck, C.M., O.P.E.I.

Congratulations on Installation as Chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island

Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, this past weekend, our former colleague, the Honourable Catherine Callbeck, was installed as the ninth chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island.

The appointment is such a fitting choice. As all who knew her here can attest, she was a staunch advocate for literacy and post-secondary education during her time in the Senate, pursuing various inquiries on both subjects. She also initiated the motion that led to the Senate’s first study on post-secondary education in more than 20 years, undertaken by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

The final report, Opening the Door: Reducing Barriers to Post-Secondary Education in Canada, contained 22 well-received recommendations on the barriers to participation, funding mechanisms and research.

Indeed, colleagues, Catherine Callbeck has dedicated her life to public service. She was first elected to the P.E.I. legislature in 1974, and over the next 40 years she served as MLA, provincial cabinet minister, member of Parliament in the House of Commons, premier — the first woman ever elected to lead a government in this country — and then as senator.

Her accomplishments are many, and her commitment to public service has never wavered. Becoming Chancellor of UPEI is just one of various awards and distinctions that have rightly come her way in recent years: the Order of P.E.I.; Companion of the Order of Canada; and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, not once but twice. She remains an inspiration to others who might pursue such a life.

Over the course of her entire career, the Honourable Catherine Callbeck has worked hard for the betterment of Islanders and, indeed, all Canadians. Please join me in congratulating our former colleague on this well-deserved honour.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Latin American Heritage Month

Hon. Rosa Galvez: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on the occasion of the first official national Latin American Heritage Month. In June, Bill S-218 received Royal Assent, making every month of October an occasion to celebrate and share the Latin American culture across the country. I would like to thank our late honourable colleague Senator Tobias Enverga for introducing the bill in the Senate and for always promoting the sharing of culture. He said it himself: These celebrations are “. . . part of this continuous exercise in nation building that will signal greater inclusion for many Canadians . . . .”

As I was born in Peru, this is a celebration that is dear to my heart and to my fellow Latin American Canadians. Our community is vibrant, positive, colourful and resilient. We are a community of music, dance and hard work. It is only natural that we wish to promote it to our friends and neighbours.

[Translation]

Latin American Canadians have a rich heritage and culture in this country. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, Latin American Canadians made up 1.3 per cent of the total population and 5.8 per cent of the visible minority population. Our population is growing, and so is our desire to share our culture with Canadians.

This October, there will be dozens of events across the country to celebrate art, food, music, film, literature, and more. A few months ago, I contacted a number of organizations to encourage them to organize and support events in several cities. I was blown away by the response. Events will now be held across Canada.

[English]

Last Thursday, a celebration organized by the Hispanic Canadian Heritage Council launched the Latin American Heritage Month in Toronto with more than 200 people. Here on Parliament Hill, on October 16, we will be hosting Hispanic Day on the Hill, an annual celebration of Hispanic and Latin American heritage. These are some of the many opportunities for you, my fellow senators, to explore the Latin American culture around us.

I encourage my honourable colleagues to seek out and support these celebrations in your respective cities. I encourage you to participate in tradition and culture that you might not have experienced before. The Latin American community is very welcoming and would love to share its richness with you.

[Translation]

This October, I wish everyone a happy Latin American Heritage Month.

Celebremos juntos la cultura latinoamericana! Muchas gracias!

[English]

Civil War in Yemen

Persecution of Bahá’í Minority

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I rise today to draw attention to the perilous situation of the Bahá’í in Yemen. The civil war in Yemen, now in its fourth year, is one of the most devastating conflicts witnessed by the international community in years, and yet is very rarely commented on.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has labelled the situation in Yemen the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” The UN estimates that the conflict has left 22 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, 16 million people without access to basic health care and 2.9 million women and children suffering from malnutrition.

Among some of the most vulnerable victims of this conflict are the Bahá’í, a non-Muslim religious minority group. Their faith has been publicly denounced by authorities in Yemen. They are subject to increased discrimination, persecution, arbitrary arrests and detentions. Most recently, on September 15, 2018, charges were announced against 24 members of the Bahá’í community in the capital city of Sana’a. As reported by Amnesty International, among those accused are eight women and a young teenage girl. The charges include espionage and apostasy.

In light of this announcement, Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty International, stated:

Once again, we are seeing trumped-up charges and flagrantly unfair proceedings used to persecute Yemeni Baha’is for their faith. It is particularly abhorrent that some of these men and women could face the death penalty for their conscientiously held beliefs and peaceful activities.

(1410)

Court cases levied against members of the Bahá’í community have been marred by a deplorable lack of due process and transparency. Of note is the case of Mr. Hamed bin Haydara, who has been imprisoned since 2013. Amnesty International has raised serious concerns regarding his case, including “undue delays,” “torture” and “lack of access to counsel during interrogations.”

On January 2, 2018, Mr. Haydara was sentenced to death by public execution.

Colleagues, as we continue to call for an end to the conflict in Yemen, I urge you to stand in solidarity with the Bahá’í community and their right to exist free of persecution and intimidation, both in Yemen and elsewhere.

Treaty Day

Hon. Dan Christmas: Honourable colleagues, I rise today to speak of Crown and Indigenous treaties and, in particular, their significance to the Mi’kmaq peoples of Atlantic Canada. I do so in recognition of October 1 as Treaty Day in Nova Scotia.

Throughout the 1600s and 1700s, the seizure and settlement of the lands of the Wabanaki peoples led to ongoing violence and periodic wars with settlers. The Wabanaki Confederacy, consisting of the Abenaki, the Penobscot, the Passamaquoddy, the Wolastoqiyik, or the Maliseet, and the Mi’kmaq occupied modern-day New Hampshire, Maine, Gaspé, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

During this time, three major treaties were signed and ratified between the British Crown and the Mi’kmaq. These included the 1725 Boston Treaty, the 1752 Halifax Treaty and a series of treaties signed in 1760-61.

The 1725 Treaty of Boston included all of the Wabanaki peoples. Under its terms, the Wabanaki Confederacy agreed to “. . . forbear All Acts of Hostility, Injuries and discords towards all the Subjects of the Crown of Great Britain and not offer the least hurt, violence, or molestation of them or any of them in their persons or Estates.” The treaty marked the end of decades of hostilities between British settlers and the Wabanaki Confederacy. It was intended to establish the terms of a peaceful coexistence.

Unfortunately, violence erupted again in Nova Scotia in 1749 after the British had unlawfully settled the Mi’kmaq lands in the area known as K’jipuktuk, or Halifax. It was during this period that the British governor at the time, Edward Cornwallis, issued scalping proclamations against Mi’kmaq men, women and children.

However, peace prevailed, and the Halifax Treaty of 1752 was signed. It was this treaty that designated October 1 as the date on which the Mi’kmaq would come to Halifax annually to “renew their friendship and submissions.”

In 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that the Halifax Treaty of 1752 was still valid and in force, and, shortly afterwards, October 1 was officially proclaimed as Treaty Day.

For the past 32 years, Treaty Day celebrations have taken place in Halifax on October 1. It is a celebration that brings together our elders, our veterans and our young people, along with the members of our traditional Grand Council and Mi’kmaq chiefs and the representatives of the Province of Nova Scotia.

The third major treaty with the Mi’kmaq was the treaties of 1760 and 1761. Shortly after the defeat of Louisbourg, Quebec City and Montreal in the late 1750s, the British once again sought peace with the Mi’kmaq. A series of treaties was signed that renewed the previous treaties and guaranteed the Mi’kmaq the freedom to hunt, fish, gather and trade.

It was the treaties of 1760 and 1761 that the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed in 1999 in its landmark decision involving Donald Marshall, Jr.

Colleagues, I’m honoured to share this history with you as it reflects the aim and purpose of Treaty Day, to celebrate the peace and friendship between the Mi’kmaq and all Nova Scotians, indeed, all Canadians.

In 2015, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil declared on Treaty Day that “we are all treaty people.”

So it’s in the spirit of peace and friendship that I’m asking you all to support and recognize Treaty Day. Wela’lioq. 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 His Excellency Kimihiro Ishikane, Ambassador from Japan, as well as representatives from the Japanese-Canadian community. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Oh.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Japanese Canadian Redress

Thirtieth Anniversary of the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement

Hon. Victor Oh: Honourable colleagues, the first wave of immigrants from Japan arrived in Canada between 1877 and 1928. The rapid growth and prosperity of the community led to increased prejudice and discrimination. Many Canadians, especially in British Columbia, felt that their way of life had been invaded or threatened.

Fifty-four first-generation immigrants from Japan gave their lives in World War I to prove their loyalty to Canada. However, the community continued to be broadly perceived by many as a cultural and economic threat.

The situation worsened, following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, when Canada categorized Japanese Canadians as a threat to national security. Soon after, over 20,000 were stripped of their homes and businesses and sent to internment camps, work camps and farms in the interior of British Columbia and across Canada. Seventy-five per cent of them were Canadians by birth or naturalization.

Others were deported to Japan. Among them were 3,964 Japanese Canadians, 2,000 of which were Canadian-born children.

It was only in 1949 that restrictions used to control the movements of Japanese Canadians were lifted. The social, economic and personal losses suffered by the community endured across generations.

However, individuals mobilized together to hold the Government of Canada accountable for the extensive and systematic human rights violations suffered by the community. These efforts were guided by the National Association of Japanese Canadians, which led a successful campaign for redress.

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the signing of the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement, which consisted of a formal acknowledgment and symbolic individual redress payments.

The agreement helped our community and country to become whole again. It also opened the door to redress and reconciliation for other communities.

Honourable senators, we should never repeat the wrongdoings of the past. Individuals of all backgrounds, experiences and identities must feel valued and be included in Canada. Thank you. Arigato gozaimashita.


[Translation]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Privacy Commissioner

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and Privacy Act—2017-18 Annual Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2017-18 Annual Report of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Privacy Act entitled Trust but Verify: Rebuilding trust in the digital economy through effective, independent oversight, pursuant to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, S.C. 2000,c. 5,s. 25 and to the Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985,c. P-21,s. 38.

[English]

Parliamentary Budget Officer

Fiscal Sustainability Report 2018—Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Report of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer entitled Fiscal Sustainability Report 2018, pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, sbs. 79.2(2).

[Translation]

Auditor General

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development—Fall 2018 Reports Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the fall 2018 reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the Parliament of Canada, pursuant to the Auditor General Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-17, sbs. 23(5).

Cannabis Bill

Bill to Amend—Eleventh Report of Aboriginal Peoples Committee on Subject Matter—Government Response Tabled

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government response to the eleventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, entitled The subject matter of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, insofar as it relates to the Indigenous peoples of Canada, tabled in the Senate on May 1, 2018.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 12-24(4), this response and the original report are deemed referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

(1420)

[English]

Study on Emerging Issues Related to Mandate and Ministerial Mandate Letters

Thirteenth Report of Transport and Communications Committee Deposited with Clerk during Adjournment of the Senate

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that pursuant to the orders adopted by the Senate on October 31, 2017, and June 14, 2018, the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on August 21, 2018, its thirteenth report (interim) entitled The Tax Deductibility of Foreign Internet Advertising in Canada.

Aboriginal Peoples

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of a New Relationship Between Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That, notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted on Thursday, December 15, 2016, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in relation to its study on the new relationship between Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples be extended from October 31, 2018 to September 28, 2019.

The Senate

Notice of Motion to Revoke the Honorary Citizenship Bestowed on Aung San Suu Kyi

Hon. Ratna Omidvar: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rules 5-5(j) and 4-14, I give notice that, later this day, I will move:

That the Senate:

(a)endorse the findings of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar that crimes against humanity have been committed by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities and that these horrific acts were sanctioned at the highest levels of the Myanmar military chain of command;

(b)recognize that these crimes against the Rohingya constitute a genocide;

(c)welcome the recent decision of the International Criminal Court that it has jurisdiction over the forced deportation of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh;

(d)call on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court;

(e)call for the senior officials in the Myanmar military chain of command to be investigated and prosecuted for the crime of genocide; and

That the Senate, in light of the foregoing, resolve to revoke the honorary citizenship bestowed on Aung San Suu Kyi on October 17, 2007.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Agriculture and Forestry

Committee Authorized to Meet During Sitting of the Senate

Hon. Diane F. Griffin: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(a), I move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry have the power to meet on Tuesday, October 2, 2018, at 6 p.m., even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

Decimation of Atlantic Salmon Spawning Grounds

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. David Richards: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:

I will call the attention of the Senate to the decimation of Atlantic salmon spawning grounds on the Miramichi, Restigouche and their tributaries.

Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant to the motion adopted in the chamber Thursday, September 27, 2018, Question Period will take place at 3:30 p.m.


ORDERS OF THE DAY

The Senate

Motion to Revoke the Honorary Citizenship Bestowed on Aung San Suu Kyi Adopted

Hon. Ratna Omidvar, pursuant to notice of earlier this day, moved:

That the Senate:

(a)endorse the findings of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar that crimes against humanity have been committed by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities and that these horrific acts were sanctioned at the highest levels of the Myanmar military chain of command;

(b)recognize that these crimes against the Rohingya constitute a genocide;

(c)welcome the recent decision of the International Criminal Court that it has jurisdiction over the forced deportation of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh;

(d)call on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court;

(e)call for the senior officials in the Myanmar military chain of command to be investigated and prosecuted for the crime of genocide; and

That the Senate, in light of the foregoing, resolve to revoke the honorary citizenship bestowed on Aung San Suu Kyi on October 17, 2007.

She said: I apologize for not being entirely here earlier. I must say, the view from this corner of the room looks decidedly different from where I used to be before. Senator McPhedran is sitting in a very lucky chair, I would say. I had a wonderful two years in it, and I wish all the best to anyone who takes that chair.

I rise today to call on this chamber to take action concerning the violent persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar. While the motion tabled before you is in my name, I would like to recognize the collective efforts of Senator Ataullahjan, Senator Jaffer, Senator Munson and Senator McPhedran both in the chamber and outside the chamber as we have collectively and individually pursued our objectives.

Honourable senators, the motion before you today does two things. First, like in the other place, this motion calls for calling what is happening in Myanmar what it is — it is genocide.

(1430)

Second, it seeks to revoke the honorary citizenship bestowed to Aung San Suu Kyi on October 17, 2007.

The first part of this motion was moved in the House of Commons by MP Andrew Leslie on September 20, and the second part, dealing with stripping the honorary Canadian citizenship, was moved a week later by Bloc MP Gabriel Ste-Marie. Both motions were unanimously accepted and approved by all corners of the house, indicating the other place’s strong and undivided commitment.

Honourable senators, I think it is really hard for us to understand or imagine the scale of suffering in Myanmar. But now we have evidence from the UN fact-finding mission to lend credence to the horrifying narratives that we have heard.

Based on 875 interviews, the report’s findings paint a picture of horror and violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine State. They document how the military planned and took the lead in killing thousands of Rohingya civilians, how they systematically committed forced disappearances, ethnic cleansing, mass gang rape and the burning of hundreds of villages.

There is even more granular detail to help us get the full picture. Over 392 villages were partially or totally destroyed, encompassing 40 per cent of northern Rakhine settlements or at least 37,700 individual structures. Over 725,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh by August 2018 following the “clearance operations” of the Myanmar military. The mission has verified nine mass killings. In some of these, hundreds of Rohingya were killed. All told, they have documented at least 10,000 deaths due to the violence.

The report also outlines 54 violent “clearance operations” perpetrated by the military and 22 first-hand accounts of additional operations. All of them follow the same sick, horrific pattern. Villages were surrounded and civilians died in the indiscriminate shooting. Others were killed in targeted executions. Men were rounded up and taken away, never to be seen again. Children and senior citizens were also rounded up and killed. Women and girls were either raped or gang raped. And the story continues on from one horrific instance to another. The UN fact-finding mission has called it a genocide, and that is what it is, and we must call it in the same language.

Although the Constitution of Myanmar gives considerable power to the military, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi herself is a very powerful person. She is the leader of the National League for Democracy and the first and incumbent State Counsellor, a position akin to prime minister. She is also the first woman to serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs for the president’s office, Minister of Electrical Power and Energy and Minister of Education. This is not someone who has no power, as she has suggested. Instead, as respected human rights expert Irwin Cotler has stated: “She’s denied the atrocities, restricted access to international monitors and investigators, weaponized the denial of humanitarian aid and, when two Reuters journalists who were reporting on the killings of Rohingya were unjustly imprisoned last week, she defended it as being part of a proper process.”

I have to conclude, as I hope you will too, that she is therefore complicit in this matter. We need to send a strong signal here in Canada and around the world that if you are an accomplice of genocide, you are not welcome here, certainly not as an honorary Canadian citizen.

Stripping her of her honorary citizenship may not make a tangible difference to her, but it sends an important symbolic message. She has been complicit in stripping the citizenship and security of thousands of Rohingya, which has led to their flight, their murder, their rapes and their current deplorable situation. It is an appropriate message to send to her, to Myanmar and to the world.

I believe we must all come together with our colleagues in the other place and speak with one unified voice. By supporting this motion, all parliamentarians of all political and partisan persuasion, of all groups, will be of one voice condemning this atrocity and revoking Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary citizenship.

Finally, I would like to say this is definitely not the end of the past. In fact, this crisis is far from over. As of August 2018, close to 2,000 Rohingya continue to flee each month to Bangladesh. This is the result of ongoing violence and oppression. We still have a humanitarian crisis where hundreds of thousands continue to live in refugee camps.

Honourable colleagues, Bangladesh is a small country. It’s a poor country. In a spirit of generosity, it has opened its borders to the Rohingya, and not without significant cost to itself. We must stand by their side as this nation faces the challenge of providing for these people. We must back national and international NGOs to reach local communities with help and support.

In the long term, Canada must be a partner in the building and sustainable development of a peaceful federation in Myanmar. This requires more diplomatic engagement, more aid and supplies and more of our sustained attention over time.

Please join me in voting for this motion. By doing so, you will be sending a signal that we have consensus across party lines and groups, in this house and in the other place, in short, in all of Parliament Hill and across our country.

This will further demonstrate that there is political will to bolster Canada’s humanitarian assistance contribution, that there is support for ongoing Canadian diplomacy, and that there is a strong desire to help the most vulnerable, on the one hand, and, on the other, to bring the perpetrators of these crimes and violations within Myanmar’s military to justice.

I ask respectfully that you support this motion. Thank you very much.

Hon. Salma Ataullahjan: Honourable senators, I rise today in support of Senator Omidvar’s motion. Honourable senators, the persecution of the Rohingya population in Myanmar is an issue that I first raised with the Burmese delegation in 2012, and I have raised it many times in this chamber since 2013 by way of statements, questions and a motion, which passed in September 2017, asking the Government of Canada to call upon the Government of Myanmar to bring an immediate end to the violence and gross violations of human rights against the Rohingya Muslims, to fulfill its pledge to uphold the spirit and letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to respond to the urgent calls of the international community and allow independent monitors entry into the country forthwith, in particular Rakhine State.

Through these efforts, I had hoped, to no avail, that Canada would urgently take the lead globally in addressing the crisis.

Honourable senators, I fully support this motion, but I also implore the Government of Canada to remain steadfast in or increase its humanitarian commitments, particularly in the areas of education, health care and support for women and girls who have experienced rape and other forms of sexual violence at the hands of the Myanmar military and those who have given birth to children as a result of that trauma.

My commitment to this issue was a catalyst for the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights to hold two special meetings in the fall of 2017 to examine the human rights situation in Myanmar. At those meetings, UN officials, activists and diplomats urged Canada to take action to help end the Rohingya crisis.

Moreover, this past June, following his visit to the region and the production of an interim and final report, the Honourable Bob Rae, Special Envoy to Myanmar, appeared before the Human Rights Committee to speak to his recommendations and his findings, which included:

. . . strong signals that crimes against humanity were committed in the forcible and violent displacement of more than 671,000 Rohingya from Rakhine State . . .

And, further, that:

. . . evidence demonstrating potential genocide against the Rohingya must be assessed.

(1440)

When asked by Senator Hartling what he would say about the impacts of the crisis to make it real for Canadians, Mr. Rae emotionally spoke of a man with whom he had a conversation in the refugee camp in Bangladesh about what happened to him, the discrimination and his struggles, a man that was very articulate, controlled and very much in charge of his emotions until it was time to say goodbye. In that moment, when Mr. Rae asked what he would like him to tell the Prime Minister, the man grabbed hold of him and started to cry. He held on for a very long time and then said simply, “Tell him we’re human.”

I would like to acknowledge and thank Mr. Rae for his work as special envoy and, furthermore, for his humanity and leadership on this complex issue, both at home and abroad.

On the question of accountability and impunity, he wrote:

Since the end of the Second World War and the founding of the United Nations, the world has been involved in the establishment of basic standards of international law that are intended to ensure that crimes involving threats to human life and security do not go unassessed and unpunished. Those who are responsible for breaches of international law and crimes against humanity should be brought to justice. This applies to all those involved, state actors and non-state actors, armies, and individuals.

Subsequently, the United Nations fact-finding mission on Myanmar has concluded that top military officials should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar, where warranted, and called for the establishment of a special mechanism for collection of evidence.

In this regard, I am encouraged that the UN Human Rights Council has just recently adopted a resolution to create a system for the collection and preservation of evidence and to prepare files to assist prosecutors in bringing cases to trial. Perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law must be held accountable.

The UN mission further found that Aung San Suu Kyi had “not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding of events, or to seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population.” In fact, she often referred to the news coming out of Myanmar as “fake news.”

Honourable senators, through her inaction, Aung San Suu Kyi was complicit in the gravest of crimes under international law. I therefore ask that you support this motion and all of its provisions, including the revocation of the honorary Canadian citizenship bestowed upon Aung San Suu Kyi on October 17, 2007.

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I rise today to support Senator Omidvar’s motion to remove Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi of her honorary Canadian citizenship as a result of her failure to stem the violence against the Rohingya in her country.

Last Thursday, the other place gave unanimous consent to a similar motion. I would like to see the Senate do the same today.

Colleagues, as you know, last October, Senator Ataullahjan had an inquiry here in the Senate about the crisis happening in Myanmar. When I was Chair of the Senate Human Rights Committee, we had meetings to learn more about the situation of the people of the Rakhine State. During these meetings, the committee heard heartbreaking testimony describing human rights offences, which were shocking and horrifying, violations of the worst possible kind happening to the Rohingya people: torture, rape, attacks on young children, and villages being burned to nothing. Many died fleeing their homes, trying to escape the actions of their country’s own army. Many never made it to Bangladesh.

Bob Rae, who was Canada’s special envoy, has been to Myanmar, has been back here and has been talking about this issue for months now, and has sensitized Canadians to this issue. He said that one of the most devastating observations was the number of young people affected by the crisis and displaced in the camps. Mr. Rae said:

The camps are full of young people, and the thing that I felt as a father and a grandfather is, these are just kids.

Senators, in the early 1990s in my days as a reporter, I saw the faces of people in refugee camps in Cambodia every day, for days and days. I’ve seen what evil can do to the most vulnerable. I’ve seen babies and children crying for their mothers, hungry and scared. History, unfortunately, is repeating itself in Myanmar.

The United Nations has faulted Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to use her position to speak out and halt Myanmar’s military violence against the Rohingya ethnic minority. The UN, as we all know, has called for the investigation and prosecution of Myanmar’s top military officials for genocidal intent.

Canada is committed, as we know, to giving $300 million to help with the emergency assistance to stop the campaign of ethnic violence and, as mentioned by both senators, that hasn’t ended. The displacement hasn’t ended. Just because it’s out of sight, it can’t be allowed to be out of mind. We as a nation owe these people our support to ease their own refugee crisis.

But now, knowing what we do know from this UN report, we need to send a strong message by joining the House of Commons and unanimously voting to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary citizenship in Canada. Hopefully, honourable senators, that will happen today.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, I rise today to deliver remarks on behalf of our colleague Senator Jaffer who wanted to add her voice to this motion.

Honourable senators, I rise to speak on the motion to revoke the honorary citizenship bestowed to Aung San Suu Kyi on October 17, 2007.

I would like to thank my colleague Senator Omidvar for her tireless work and leadership to take this motion to the Senate.

As the first woman to receive an honorary Canadian citizenship, Ms. Suu Kyi was hailed for many years as a heroine of the human rights community. Most notably, she endured years under house arrest for her activism in promoting democracy under a violent military dictatorship. However, the Myanmar leader has failed to condemn the military campaign that has driven more than 700,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Ms. Suu Kyi has failed to stand up for what she claims her values are. In 2007, when Ms. Suu Kyi accepted her Nobel Peace Prize that she won in 1991 while under house arrest, she stated:

Ultimately our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace.

Why is it, then, honourable senators, that Ms. Suu Kyi is so hesitant to speak directly to the Rohingya and their right to citizenship in their native land? Why has Ms. Suu Kyi done nothing to foster peace and create justice for the Myanmar Rohingya? Is it not the injustices that the Rohingya are currently facing that Ms. Suu Kyi fought against when she was under arrest? We all fought hard for her to be released, and now she is silent.

Ms. Suu Kyi’s failure to recognize her power and ability to stop the mass genocide that proliferates throughout Myanmar is an affront to her commitment to human rights and democratic values. I was a very ardent supporter of Ms. Suu Kyi when she received honorary Canadian citizenship and then a Nobel Peace Prize. I believed that she would change the lives of Myanmar. It is unforgivable that Ms. Suu Kyi never lived up to her own promises. An honorary Canadian citizenship is a very special privilege that our country bestows upon people who help humanity, not destroy it.

(1450)

Section (a) of the motion before you says we must:

(a) endorse the findings of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar that crimes against humanity have been committed by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities . . . .

When I first started to write and speak against the persecution of Rohingya in early 2014, they were called “The world’s most forgotten people.” It is an unfortunate reality that this title remains.

When I hear that Ms. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader in her country, refuses to speak out against the atrocities in her country, I think of Rajuma. Rajuma is a young Rohingya woman who faced a situation so horrific that it is simply incomprehensible.

Rajuma and hundreds of women stood in a river, held at gunpoint, and were ordered not to move. Chest high in water, clutching her baby son while her village in Myanmar burned down behind her, the soldiers advanced towards her slowly:

“You,” the soldiers said, pointing at her.

She froze.

“You!”

She squeezed her baby even tighter.

In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped.

By the time the day was over, she was running through a field naked and covered in blood. Alone, she had lost her son, her mother, her two sisters and her younger brother, all wiped out in front of her eyes . . . .

Rajuma is a Rohingya Muslim, one of the most persecuted ethnic groups on Earth. She now spends her days drifting through a refugee camp in Bangladesh in a daze.

Rajuma’s story is just one of the countless examples of the Rohingya men and women who have senselessly suffered under a dictatorial regime.

Honourable senators, revoking Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary citizenship is a necessary first step in our effort to denounce the mass genocide that has happened under her nose. However, revoking her citizenship is merely a symbolic reaction to her inability to speak out against the atrocities happening in her country. It is not a long-term solution in our effort to solve the Rohingya crisis. It does not put the Rohingya on a path to reconciliation and reconstruction in Myanmar.

Honourable senators, I urge you to adopt this motion and to push our Canadian government to do more to help the Rohingya people. We must act like leaders. That’s what leadership is all about. The time to act is now.

Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Honourable senators, I would like to thank Senator Ataullahjan and Senator Omidvar for their leadership in this chamber on the human rights violations in Myanmar against the Rohingya people. The motion today is an important initiative taken by Senator Omidvar, and I strongly support her intent with this motion.

However, the Senate need not be an echo chamber to the other place. The intent of the House of Commons’ motion passed on September 20 and reiterated on September 27 is clear and strong, but the current text is weak in its application of, and effectiveness in, international human rights law.

From its first meeting over 150 years ago, on November 6, 1867, the Senate was intended to be substantively different from the House of Commons. This modern Senate has often been a protector of constitutional and minority rights. For this motion, please consider that our sober second thought should result in a friendly amendment by adding a few words that will enable senators to support and strengthen the proposed motion in a constructive, supportive manner consistent with our mandate and thereby producing a motion that would have more credibility for use internationally.

Motion in Amendment Negatived

Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That the motion be not now adopted, but that it be amended:

1.in point (a), by adding the words “and the State of Myanmar” after the words “by the Myanmar military”;

2.in point (b), by adding the words “and invoke the terms of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to ensure that the State of Myanmar is held accountable for committing crimes against humanity and genocide” after the word “genocide”; and

3.in point (e), by adding the words “and the State civilian leadership” after the word “command”.

On September 17, I hosted a media conference with the Rohingya Human Rights Network. International law experts —

The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry, Senator McPhedran, but I’m going to move the motion which you’ve just asked to be moved and then you can continue with debate on it if you wish.

Senator McPhedran: All right. Fine.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, rule 2-7(2) requires that when the Speaker rises, senators take their seats. I just caution senators about that and remind them, for decorum purposes, that they take their seats.

In amendment, it was moved by the Honourable Senator McPhedran, seconded by the Honourable Senator Deacon (Nova Scotia), that the motion be not now adopted but that it be amended — may I dispense?

Hon. Senators: Dispense.

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

Senator McPhedran: Your Honour, do you want me to continue my speech or to read, directly, the motion as amended?

The Hon. the Speaker: I moved the motion, Senator McPhedran, so just continue with your debate on the motion, please.

Senator McPhedran: The amended motion would read:

That the Senate:

(a) endorse the findings of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar that crimes against humanity have been committed by the Myanmar military and the State of Myanmar against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities;

(b) recognize that these crimes against the Rohingya constitute genocide and invoke the terms of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to ensure that the State of Myanmar is held accountable for committing crimes against humanity and genocide;

(c) welcome the recent decision of the International Criminal Court that it has jurisdiction over the forced deportation of members of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh;

(d) call on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court; and

(e) call for the senior officials in the Myanmar military chain of command and the State civilian leadership to be investigated and prosecuted for the crime of genocide; and

That the Senate, in light of the forgoing, resolve to revoke the honorary citizenship bestowed to Aung San Suu Kyi on October 17, 2007.

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

Hon. Senators: Question.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Omidvar?

Hon. Ratna Omidvar: Thank you, Your Honour. May I debate this motion?

The Hon. the Speaker: If you wish, yes.

Senator Omidvar: Thank you, Your Honour.

Honourable senators, I rise to speak on Senator McPhedran’s amendment. I will not be supporting it, on two grounds. I’d like to explain those grounds to you.

The original motion that I tabled today was based on the two motions in the other place that were unanimously supported by all parties. All MPs, from every party, supported the motion. It made headlines around the world and will make headlines today, because the Canadian press is watching.

(1500)

I believe that on an issue like this it is important to have one united voice for all of Parliament. I understand that we are not an echo chamber; we take pride in saying we are not an echo chamber. But on certain matters, it is symbolically important to speak with one united voice.

While your amendments are indeed laudable, they deviate from the united voice and the united message that is so important at times like this.

My second reason is predicated on the findings of the independent UN fact-finding mission. The UN fact-finding mission has called for the military to be held accountable. They said it is the Tatmadaw, the military of Myanmar, that are the main perpetrators of gross human rights violations and international crimes in Myanmar. They further called that the top generals be investigated and prosecuted for these crimes of genocide. They recommended that the commander-in-chief and senior military officers must be investigated and prosecuted by a credible international judicial body for crimes against humanity and war crimes. They must also answer the charge of genocide.

Honourable colleagues, this from the UN fact-finding mission.

I believe it is important to have one united voice from this chamber to join that of the other chamber. That is why, while I commend the sentiments — I really do — in Senator McPhedran’s amendment, I will vote against it, respectfully.

[Translation]

Hon. Renée Dupuis: I have a question for Senator McPhedran about her amendment.

The Hon. the Speaker: Unfortunately, questions are to be addressed to Senator Omidvar.

Senator Dupuis: Then my question is for Senator Omidvar. My question is more for clarification purposes. I am not trying to determine whether or not the Senate is a chamber of sober second thought.

If I understand correctly, the motion we are debating today seeks to endorse the fact-finding mission. We are only receiving existing findings that have been determined by a UN body. We are not commenting on any additional responsibility, for example, of the State of Myanmar.

[English]

Senator Omidvar: That is my understanding.

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Would you take another question?

While I understand your position and being the sponsor, and I understand unanimity is an important issue here, we are really talking about the revocation of citizenship. If I were to join forces with those proposing the changes — and I understand that’s Senator McPhedran and perhaps others — I would add more to the list, such as more UN and Canadian responsibilities. As I understand it, at this point, we’re talking revocation of citizenship. We want to signal that we gave citizenship, but it was an honour that we feel has been breached and we’re removing it.

The issue of Myanmar is much deeper and complex. There are many more responsibilities of the Canadian government and the international community. Those issues deserve our attention perhaps by a resolution or an inquiry. Am I reading you correctly, Senator Omidvar?

Senator Omidvar: I’m trying to parse out the statements from the questions.

In part, you are absolutely right. This motion is about revoking the honorary citizenship that was bestowed on Aung San Suu Kyi. By the way, this chamber voted unanimously in 2007 to grant that to her. The other part of the motion reflects the findings of the UN fact-finding mission and uses terminology of genocide against the military in Myanmar. I hope that answers your question.

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

Senator McPhedran, do you have a question?

Senator McPhedran: I have a question for Senator Omidvar. I want to make sure I understand clearly that you’ve informed us that the UN fact-finding mission did not address the responsibility of the State of Myanmar. Could you confirm that, please?

Senator Omidvar: The findings of the UN mission pointed primarily to the military. I’ve looked at the report, which a very big one. I am sure there is mention of civilian culpability, but the primary findings relate to the motion as it has been reflected here. I will not go the length to say there is no culpability of the civilian powers that may be in Myanmar.

Senator McPhedran: Thank you.

I’d like a further clarification from Senator Omidvar, please. You’ve referenced the genocide convention. Is it your understanding that the responsibility of the military is something separate and apart from the State of Myanmar? Are you aware of the fact that it is actually the military of Myanmar and not a roving band of mercenaries?

Senator Omidvar: I’m afraid I never suggested that it was a roving band of people. I’ve always called it the military. If I called it anything else, then I either misspoke or perhaps you misheard. I’ve always said the military of Myanmar.

When there are situations in the world and these kinds of gross human rights violations are committed — and we all know our history — we know that many parts of society are culpable. But in this motion, we are calling for the culpability to be placed on the military powers in Myanmar.

I am sure there is another chapter to be written in this book sometime, and I’m sure, Senator McPhedran, you will have a hand in writing that chapter, but at this point, this is the motion I have put on the table. I hope that answers your question as much as I can. Thank you.

Hon. Michael Duffy: I have a question for Senator Omidvar. Is there not an implied criticism of the Government of Myanmar by the very fact of the rescission of the honorary citizenship? In your remarks, you said she is a powerful woman in that country. Are we not touching that point by the rescission of her honorary citizenship?

Senator Omidvar: That is a very good observation. Thank you for helping me out here, Senator Duffy. When you speak about the powers in Myanmar, you’re speaking of the constellation of those who have powers. The military in Myanmar, as the UN fact-finding mission has stated, is primarily responsible for this genocide. I’m sure there are others as well, but I hope this chamber will appreciate that this is a step in the right direction. It is not the last step. I certainly hope this is not the end of this chapter. In fact, it’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

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

Hon. Senators: Question.

(1510)

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

Some Hon. Senators: No.

(Motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator McPhedran negatived.)

The Hon. the Speaker: The motion in amendment is defeated.

Are honourable senators ready for the question on the main motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Bill

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

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Sinclair, seconded by the Honourable Senator Gold, for the third reading of Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins), as amended.

And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Tannas, seconded by the Honourable Senator Batters:

That Bill S-203, as amended, be not now read a third time, but that it be further amended,

(a)by adding the following after clause 6 (added by decision of the Senate on April 26, 2018):

“Exemption

7(1) Section 445.2 of the Criminal Code, section 28.1 of the Fisheries Act and section 7.1 of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act do not apply to a person whose name appears in the schedule to this Act.

(2) If the Governor in Council is of the opinion that it is in the public interest, the Governor in Council may, by order, add a name to or delete a name from the schedule.

(3) In determining whether it is in the public interest to add a name to or delete a name from the schedule, the Governor in Council must take into account whether a person

(a) conducts scientific research in respect of cetaceans; or

(b) provides assistance or care to or rehabilitates cetaceans.”; and

(b)by adding the following schedule to the end of the Bill:

SCHEDULE

(Section 7)

Designated Persons

The Ocean Wise Conservation Association (Vancouver Aquarium)”.

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, as many of you may know, cetaceans are on the lips of many Saskatchewan residents. It is a big issue in our province, so I thought I would move a subamendment to Senator Tannas’ amendment.

Senator Tannas doesn’t usually make mistakes. He’s very competent, and I hope he doesn’t take offence to the fact that I’m trying to improve his motion.

Motion in Subamendment

Hon. David Tkachuk: Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That the motion in amendment moved by the Honourable Senator Tannas be amended, in paragraph (a), by replacing subclause 7(2) with the following:

(2) On the recommendation of the Minister designated for the purpose of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, the Governor in Council may, by order, add a name to or delete a name from the schedule if the Governor in Council is of the opinion that it is in the public interest to do so.”.

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

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Senator Tkachuk’s subamendment.

As I have stated before in this chamber and has been said by others, this legislation since its inception has represented a clear battle between activists and scientists. Colleagues, we are not an activist chamber.

While this legislation began in the Senate as opposed to the typical legislative process, that does not waive our responsibility in providing sober, deliberate thought to the legislation that comes before us. This bill is unnecessary and also damaging, not only to the very species that the activists have been claiming they seek to protect but to two reputable Canadian institutions whose practices have been grossly and irresponsibly mischaracterized by proponents of this bill.

As has been made clear in this chamber in the past, I find it incredibly troubling that the architect, the original sponsor of the bill, did not visit or speak to the two Canadian institutions that would be impacted by this legislation. He instead referenced a Hollywood documentary about an American institution and encouraged everyone to watch it. I, along with many senators who initially were undecided on this issue, took the time to visit the institutions and meet with the key players to get a balanced sense of the issue.

I have also familiarized myself with the important work of these organizations and have seen first hand how this work would be compromised if this ill-conceived legislation were to be enacted.

Colleagues, as you know, the government introduced Bill C-68 in February. While I am opposed to certain elements of this bill with respect to fish habitats, the clauses addressing the wild capture of cetaceans were carefully crafted and well thought out. Bill C-68 bans the wild capture of cetaceans, save for some circumstances surrounding injury and rehabilitation. But the government did not trample all over provincial jurisdiction by attempting to rewrite Ontario’s animal welfare standards as this bill seeks to do. If the government wanted to go further or felt it was appropriate to go further, they certainly would have done so.

When Minister LeBlanc, then Minister of Fisheries, was here for Question Period, I raised this with him. I told him that I believed Canadians support the principle of banning the wild capture of cetaceans. However, there are those, including American activists, who first initiated this bill, and closer to home, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who believed this measure should go much further, including preventing cetaceans from socializing and breeding while in human care and preventing reputable, state-of-the-art aquaria from ever displaying cetaceans.

On the flip side, our committee heard from acclaimed veterinarians, scientists and marine biologists who say there is absolutely no danger to allowing these social animals to interact and to breed, nor is there any scientific reason to prevent humans from viewing properly cared for cetaceans, especially as it has the ability to connect humans with cetaceans in a profound way, which has been well documented.

I asked the minister whether he believed that his government had struck the right balance. He indicated that yes, he did believe the right balance was achieved, and the minister said he had consulted with colleagues in this chamber and in the other place regarding how to achieve this balance. He then stated:

Since we were presenting amendments to strengthen and modernize the Fisheries Act, I thought one of the things we could do, certainly, is to put the intention of. . .

Point of Order

Hon. Murray Sinclair: I’m rising on a point of order, Your Honour. Thank you.

I wish to advise you and point out that Senator Plett has already spoken at third reading. He is essentially repeating his third reading speech. He is not speaking to the amendment. I would, therefore, on a point of order, request that he be directed to speak to the amendment and stop speaking as though this were third reading of the bill. He’s already spoken on the report. If he wants to speak at third reading, that will occur at a later point in time.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Plett is actually speaking to the subamendment of Senator Tkachuk. As senators know, there is a fair amount of leeway given to senators when speaking to amendments and subamendments as they relate to the main motion. So we will give Senator Plett a little leeway and see where he goes with it.

Senator Plett: Thank you, Your Honour. I lost my train of thought there for a second.

Since we were presenting amendments to strengthen and modernize the Fisheries Act —

— this is again Minister LeBlanc —

— I thought one of the things we could do, certainly, is to put the intention of what Bill S-203 was seeking to achieve into the Fisheries Act.

So we have done that. Minister LeBlanc then raised a constitutional issue that I first raised at second reading, which is undeniable. The minister noted:

A number of provinces — mainly the Province of Ontario, of course, with respect to Marineland — have jurisdiction with respect to some of the practices that take place there. I am conscious not to impede on provincial jurisdiction around animals that may currently be held at facilities like that.

Colleagues, many of the proponents of this bill, the American activists and a few Canadian activists, routinely cite Kiska and her poor health to suggest Marineland’s care standards are subpar and that cetaceans in human care are inevitably suffering. Kiska is the sole orca in human care in Canada and has lived for years at Marineland. There has been no capture of an orca in our country since 1975. And, on top of that, there has been no capture of a cetacean in Canada since the early 1990s. Colleagues, this bill is based on false premises.

(1520)

The independent experts who have actually studied Kiska have stated that despite her old age, which is the equivalent to a human in her late eighties, she is in excellent condition. However, again, while activists have been trying desperately to distract from the real issue at hand, the bottom line is that the housing of orcas in human care is a non-issue in the context of Canadian public policy. Again, orcas are no longer captured in Canada. Kiska is the only orca in human care in Canada.

Ontario’s laws prevent Marineland from bringing in a partner for socialization purposes, and Kiska will — indisputably — die if she is moved anywhere, let alone into the wild. Marineland’s hands are tied. While Kiska is in great condition, the matter is irrelevant in the context of this legislation.

Some of these activists who have been touted as experts, many of whom are American activists, appeared at our committee hearings and have stated on various occasions that whales, dolphins and even pigs should be given the rights of persons under the law. Colleagues, these are agenda-driven radical activists. Yet, for some reason, there is a tendency of some to give credibility to these claims, unsubstantiated as they might be.

Marineland is subject to routine surprise inspections. When the activists made unfounded claims of animal abuse of marine mammals to the Government of Ontario, the Ontario SPCA, the Niagara Falls Humane Society, independent experts from the Vancouver Aquarium, the Calgary Zoo experts, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the Minister of the Labour for Ontario and the entire team of independent outside experts from the Government of Ontario all conducted investigations at Marineland. After the entire process, which took well over a year, not a single charge was laid by anyone in relation to any marine mammal at Marineland — not a single charge, colleagues. This is indisputable.

In addition, as is well documented publicly, Marineland is subject to routine, unannounced inspections by the OSPCA’s inspection teams. Every single animal is looked at, as are all medical records and all of these facilities. No problems have been found — zero.

This proposed legislation has risen out of and is in direct response to a three-year legislative process in Ontario commencing in 2012, leading to the new Ontario provincial legislation and regulation directly governing the care of marine mammals. This provincially enacted legislation rejects what is proposed by this bill.

After lengthy public debate in Ontario, including the creation of an independent and international scientific advisory panel, the democratic process in Ontario, which lasted three years, specifically considered and rejected precisely what this bill now proposes to do. The same activists are trying yet another avenue — the Senate — to attempt to persuade us to enact something at a national level because they could not persuade Ontario to do what they wanted.

With respect to the Vancouver Aquarium, some proponents of this bill have been talking about the aquarium’s announcement indicating they would temporarily halt the displaying of cetaceans at their facility as if this somehow indicates the Vancouver Aquarium’s support for this bill. In that initial announcement, including their press conference and corresponding press release, the Vancouver Aquarium remains firm that this legislation will be directly damaging to their facility, specifically their rescue and rehabilitation efforts. They have continued to advocate against this bill ever since. I believe we all received an email from the Vancouver Aquarium outlining this in detail a few weeks ago. Dr. John Nightingale wrote:

Many Canadians were watching closely the very sad news of an ailing orca, known as J50, who was separated from her pod which resides off the coast of Washington State and British Columbia. The Southern Resident Killer Whale is an endangered species, with only 74 remaining orcas after J50’s passing. In the last ten years, there have only been three new births and 45 deaths among this threatened species. J50 was a female and only three years old, meaning she had reproductive capacity — critically important when looking to turn around the fate of an endangered species.

Tragically, J50 perished last week, despite a cross-border collaborative effort by DFO and NOAA research teams and veterinarians to help save her. Initially, there was a successful remote injection of antibiotics spearheaded by our head veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena. The next phase of intervention was to be a temporary capture of J50, to thoroughly diagnose and treat her more comprehensively, as a last effort to save her life, followed by an reintroduction once she was rehabilitated. This intervention did not go forward because she disappeared before being declared dead.

As part of the veterinary interjection project, Dr. Haulena would have been one of the key veterinarians leading the operation. The Vancouver Aquarium is the only marine mammal search and rescue institution in Canada. If Bill S-203, currently before the Senate, is passed into law, it would make this kind of intervention virtually impossible. When dealing with threatened species like the Southern Resident Killer Whales, this policy decision could be devastating. . . .

This legislation will not only significantly impact our ability at the Vancouver Aquarium to teach future generations of first responders, veterinarians, marine biologists and animal care professionals, but may also impact our ability to step in to help save another orca like J50 when needed.

The Vancouver Aquarium has highlighted for us some of the real-life implications of the passing of this bill. As they concluded, colleagues, “It is important we get this right.”

While department officials almost never offer an opinion when they testify at committee, sometimes, to the frustration of many of us, their testimony on Bill S-203 was as close to a direct opinion as I have ever seen. They made it patently obvious that this legislation was unnecessary and the minister could make this change by regulation, if that was his or her will. The respective minister already addressed this through other legislation while pointing out the unconstitutional nature of this Senate bill.

We do not pass bad legislation to support a friend or colleague, and I am sure that this is something that some of you may be struggling with. However, if you have not educated yourself on this issue beyond what has been said in this chamber, I would very much encourage you to do so before this bill comes to a final vote. This bill has serious ramifications and the stakes are too high. Let’s not embarrass ourselves or the Senate by passing such fundamentally flawed legislation just to support former colleagues.

Honourable senators, I urge you to support the amendment today and vote against this bill at third reading.

(On motion of Senator Sinclair, debate adjourned.)

(1530)

Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it is now 3:30. The Senate will proceed to Question Period. The minister has arrived. I’m sure all senators would like to join me in welcoming Minister Duclos.


QUESTION PERIOD


Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I’m sure you will join me in welcoming Minister Duclos.

Pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate on December 10, 2015, to receive a Minister of the Crown, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, appeared before honourable senators during Question Period.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Welcome, Minister Duclos. Some of us on this side of the aisle did not have a chance to prepare questions for you, as we expected Minister Morneau, so we will probably have a couple of our people ask the government leader a direct question. We hope this doesn’t disturb you, because I know there are other folks in the chamber who want to ask you questions.

My question is for the Government Leader in the Senate and concerns the steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the U.S. on imports from Canada. As all honourable senators are aware, the U.S. placed tariffs of 25 per cent on our steel and 10 per cent on aluminum at the end of May. These tariffs have damaged our steel and aluminum industries. The government has been slow to provide duty relief to Canadian companies hurt by the dispute. Not only are the tariffs still in effect, there appears to be no end in sight. While speaking about the new trilateral trade deal between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico yesterday, President Trump stated that the steel tariffs were staying in place.

Does the government have or do you have knowledge, sir, that the government has a plan for getting these tariffs lifted? Does it have a timeline for doing so, and how much longer could we anticipate that our steel and aluminum corporate companies expect the situation to continue?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again I thank the honourable senator for his question. In the interest of ensuring maximum time for my seatmate, let me be brief and simply recall for this chamber that this matter of steel tariffs is subject to a stream different than those that were part of the NAFTA, now the USMCA. They are in the chapter dealing with strategic matters; the United States invoked that and Canada has responded. All parties have committed, even as recently as yesterday, to continuing the negotiations to see how they can best be terminated; and it is the view of the Government of Canada the sooner the better for all parties concerned, including the American industries which are suffering from these tariffs as well.

Senator Smith: I’ll move forward so that we can get on with the questions.

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

Hon. Nicole Eaton: Thank you, minister, for coming, but my question is also to Senator Harder.

There is a clause in the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that says, “Entry by any Party into a free trade agreement with a non-market country, shall allow the other Parties to terminate this Agreement . . . .”

Can you tell me, Senator Harder, what “a non-market country” means? Further, what does it say about the prospect of a free trade agreement with China, which the Prime Minister was previously very keen on? Would you not agree that such a clause violates our sovereignty?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again I thank the honourable senator for the question. It is one that I’m sure we’ll be discussing here and elsewhere in the coming weeks, as it has had some attention in the last few hours as well.

Let me simply say that all agreements, including the NAFTA and now the USMCA, have had clauses that provide for the termination of the agreement. So this clause is not in that sense surprising to agreements that have been made by Canada in the case of NAFTA or in the case of other trade agreements, which always have an out clause so that there is a clear understanding of how parties can withdraw. This particular clause references the opportunity of all sides to review the agreements that any of the three of the partners might wish to enter into with third parties and to ensure that the signatories of the USMCA are not disadvantaged in those talks in any fashion and provide for the interest of the parties to be exercised as the clause provides.

Ministry of Families, Children and Social Development

Ready, Willing and Able—Program Support

Hon. Jim Munson: I have a question for the minister. Thank you for pitching in today because there are other issues besides NAFTA. There are issues of children’s rights, issues of autism; there are issues that matter to all of us here.

Minister Duclos, you are Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. You know that an incredible program called Ready, Willing and Able has been underway for a couple of years now in which the federal government is involved in employing adults across the country. There are private sector people involved. There are a couple of thousand people who would not be working, who would be at home playing a video game, but now are actively working in companies like Shoppers and Costco. This program has been supported by the autism community. There have been cutbacks recently, causing it to be phased out. I’m very disappointed to see that. For example, the cutting of funding has meant services offered to Canadians with disabilities have come to a halt in Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, P.E.I., Saskatchewan and Yukon. It remains active in only six other provinces.

I know there will be a budget submission, but this program, which began under a previous government, has been so successful. Minister, it is about inclusion. I implore you and your cabinet colleagues to take another good look at this to see how well it is working. I hope I can get a clear answer on that today from you. Thank you, minister.

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: Thank you so much for your warm welcome. I’m slightly sorry for the fact that I’m part of the disappointment of being with you today. I know you were expecting someone else. I’m still very pleased with your reception. I’ll make sure that my colleague understands that he is very much welcome to this house, and he will be looking forward to answering all of the other important questions that I will not be able to address myself.

I’m also pleased and proud to hear voices from this chamber on issues that matter to me very dearly, in particular the program you mentioned, which is not part of my department but is part of my colleague’s departmental responsibility for people with disabilities. And it has a slight connection to training and participation in our society, which are indeed very important parts of our mandate as a government. We are very much focused on two things: first, to make sure that every Canadian has a chance to participate to the fullness of his or her ability in the development of our society and our economy; and, second, to benefit fairly from the benefits of that growth and social development.

So I’m very pleased to hear that, and I will make sure that my colleague understands your questions and concerns.

[Translation]

National Housing Strategy

Hon. Raymonde Gagné: Minister, welcome back to the Senate. My question is about the National Housing Strategy. According to the strategy, priority will go to “the most vulnerable Canadians,” including women and children fleeing family violence, Indigenous peoples, seniors, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults.

Recent immigrants aren’t included in the list, yet a recent study by Professor Faïçal Zellama of the Université de Saint-Boniface found that francophone newcomers to Manitoba are struggling to find affordable long-term housing, especially in the communities hoping to welcome them. It even identifies access to housing as their most pressing need. This is happening in Manitoba, and I imagine it’s the same elsewhere.

My question is twofold. Does the National Housing Strategy do enough to address the challenges faced by newcomers, and are newcomers identified as a vulnerable population that should be given priority? Did you consult and collaborate with official language minority communities across Canada to see how your national strategy could help them welcome and integrate newcomers?

(1540)

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: Thank you very much. I’m delighted to have an opportunity to talk about the National Housing Strategy. This strategy was put forward, encouraged and proposed by many stakeholders and leaders over the past few years, many of whom are members of the Senate. I am thinking, for example, of Senator Eggleton, who retired just a few days ago. It’s because we have these kinds of people in the Senate and because of the vision proposed by senators of your calibre that we were able to quickly establish Canada’s first national housing strategy.

The strategy has three objectives. The first objective is about leadership. We want to restore the Canadian government’s leadership in establishing a vision and providing all Canadians with access to safe and affordable housing.

The second objective is about partnership, because we know how important it is to work with the provinces, territories and municipalities, as well as with the social, community and private sectors when it comes to investments in housing, since such investments are so essential to our families and communities.

The third objective is the one that was just mentioned, and that is meeting the needs of the most vulnerable Canadians and making that a priority. Income makes a difference, but other socioeconomic factors also play a role. These factors include being an immigrant, living in a linguistic minority community, or having a young family in a sometimes very expensive housing market. This can undermine families’ ability to find suitable housing in which to raise children, undermine seniors’ ability to live in dignity and security, and leave veterans, people with mental and physical health problems, and people with reduced mobility vulnerable.

The National Housing Strategy is a strategy for all Canadians, including those you mentioned, and it will be reviewed regularly over the next 10 years. It is a solid, long-term plan, which provides the most substantial housing investments in the history of the Government of Canada. This plan will continue to change over time with support and with feedback like what we just heard.

[English]

Sustainable Development

Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Thank you, minister, for joining us on short notice.

[Translation]

Minister, as you know, I was a member of the delegation you led at the United Nations in July 2018 for the High-level Political Forum where Canada presented, for the first time, a voluntary national review of the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda, which was well received by the international community. I would like to ask you a question in that regard. What progress is being made on creating a national strategy for sustainable development goals and how do you plan to engage youth in this strategy and its process?

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: Thank you very much. Once again, I am very pleased and privileged to have the opportunity to take this question and to answer it.

In 2015, the United Nations launched the 2030 Agenda, which sets out 17 sustainable development objectives. It is innovative in two ways. First, in contrast to the 2000 Agenda, which focused on developing countries, these sustainable development objectives apply to all countries. No country is excluded from the UN’s 2030 Agenda. The second important innovation is a broader conceptual definition of sustainable development that includes the social, economic and environmental elements that make our societies good societies. In that regard, we have to admit that Canada has a long way to go, and getting there requires ambition and whole-of-government collaboration. I am responsible for collaboration and coordinating our work on these objectives, but many other departments are involved.

Collaboration also involves provincial, territorial and municipal governments as well as Indigenous governments. As we just heard, we also have to collaborate with the many groups of Canadians, especially young Canadians, who care about sustainable development. If there is one issue that speaks to Canadian youth in 2018, it is sustainable development. They have sent us a clear message that this is about confidence in their institutions and in the future of our country. That is why we will be working very hard with our youth in the years leading up to 2030. They are and will be our greatest resource. Canada can and must look to them to guide future development, building on their motivation and confidence.

Agriculture and Agri-Food

Compensation for Dairy Farmers

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Upon taking office, the government you represent shelved the compensation program for farmers that had been planned by the previous Conservative government and replaced it with a Liberal program. This program was less generous, more complicated and cost over $23 million in administrative fees, not to mention that many Quebec farmers still have not received any money. I understand why our dairy producers, especially those in Quebec, are furious and, above all, worried. On the heels of this new agreement with the U.S., can you reassure dairy producers and guarantee us that your government will stop dragging its feet when it comes to paying the compensation promised and send out the cheques that farmers are owed as a result of this agreement, since your Prime Minister caved on supply management after promising to defend it?

[English]

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. Let me again reassure the Canadian industry that is affected by this agreement and by other agreements that the Government of Canada and the Minister of Agriculture in particular are in close contact with his collaborators in the province as well as with representatives and stakeholders of the affected sectors to ensure that a program of adjustment is forthcoming which is appropriate to the conditions and terms of this agreement.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable colleagues, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Harder. I’d like to take this opportunity, the first since the announcement of the new free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico, to ask the government leader a question.

I hope that the government leader, as a member of the Privy Council, was part and parcel of the ministerial briefings in order to be able to provide adequate answers. My understanding all along is that Canada engaged with the United States and Mexico in negotiations, even though at the end of the day the negotiations were really between Mexico and Canada, and we were just signatories toward the end. That is the way things seemed. The objective was to gain benefits for Canada.

In November 2016, Senator Rick Santorum from the United States came to Ottawa and gave an interview to the National Post claiming that Prime Minister Trudeau made a critical mistake by opening up the door to renegotiating NAFTA with the Trump administration. Of course he was belittled by the Liberal establishment at the time.

Well, here is what we’ve given away, colleagues, in two years of negotiations. We opened our dairy market. Supply management, we sold that down the river. We allowed better protection for patent drugs all of a sudden, meaning fewer jobs in our generic pharmaceutical industry and higher prices for Canadian consumers, so we sold down the river the generic pharmaceutical industry. We created an important breach in the auto pact with quotas that we have accepted on the Canadian content in cars, so we’ve taken a hit in the automotive industry. Tariffs on steel and aluminum remain as is and we have no protection against future tariffs, something that the Prime Minister was celebrating in June that he had rectified. Software is still not included in the new deal. My province knows all too well how hard we can get hit with that. And there’s a hidden clause that would give Mexico and the U.S. a right of veto over any future trade deal that Canada would conclude.

Senator Harder, we all know how desperately we need other markets, how we must diversify ourselves so we are not captive to the U.S. market, and how badly we need to expand our free trade with other countries around the world. What have we done? We’ve handcuffed Canada in future negotiations with future markets. How could this government accept this?

(1550)

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): That was a Vesuvius of blame. Let me respond, senator, by saying that I respect your question, but I prefer the comments of yesterday by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who knows something about this.

This agreement is a highly significant achievement for Canada, while benefiting all three countries, as it should. Canada appears to have achieved most, if not all, of its important objectives in this lengthy and challenging set of negotiations.

Or I could quote Rona Ambrose, former interim leader of his party:

A NAFTA deal in principle will help ease investor anxiety, stabilize trade exposed sectors and reassure the world that North America remains committed to free trade.

As to the other comments he has made, the senator that he’s quoting was a one-term, defeated senator who has not sat in the U.S. Senate for a decade, coming up here and offering advice as I’m sure that he is close to this senator as he’s an extreme republican.

Ministry of Families, Children and Social Development

Poverty—Guaranteed Income

Hon. Serge Joyal: I have prepared a question, of course, for the Minister of Finance, but I would defer to the next visit of the Minister of Finance.

[Translation]

My question is for Minister Duclos and has to do with the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy you launched in the summer, and specifically the creation of a basic income pilot project in northern Ontario. This pilot project was expected to yield some conclusions on how effective and impactful such a program would be.

I think I read that the current Ontario government would be abolishing this pilot. Do you plan on doing anything to launch another pilot project so that we can draw some useful conclusions?

My second question has to do with the Guaranteed Income Supplement program. Are you drawing a clear link between establishing such a program and achieving the actual objectives of reducing poverty? In other words, will poverty, which affects 10 per cent of Canadians, disappear one day because the federal government created a guaranteed income program?

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: I’m deeply honoured to answer your question, Senator Joyal. I know how much you have contributed to the Senate over the years.

Since November 2015, poverty reduction has been central to my mandate as a minister, and it’s certainly central to the mandate of the Canadian government as well. We have taken several measures that were directly inspired by the principles of a guaranteed minimum income. The most important one is the Canada Child Benefit.

The Canada Child Benefit is the first measure in the history of the Canadian government to help families with children. It provides a guaranteed minimum income for families with children nationwide.

This measure is based on three basic principles: a guaranteed minimum income system; simplicity, as the government has replaced five complicated, unfair and hard-to-implement measures created by the former government with a single measure that gives nine out of 10 families an average of $220 more per month tax-free. It is a simple measure for families because it consists of a single monthly payment. It is also a fair measure, which is the third basic principle of a guaranteed minimum income. We should celebrate this guaranteed minimum income system for families with children, which was implemented in July 2016. In addition, the benefit was indexed in July 2018, as had been anticipated for some time.

The support system for seniors, consisting of the Guaranteed Income Supplement and Old Age Security, which have existed since the 1970s, is also a guaranteed minimum income system.

As far as other provincial social support measures are concerned, the Government of Canada obviously cannot interfere directly. However, we have expressed our desire to support the Ontario government if it wants to move forward with its pilot project, by providing it with help to collect data and support for analyzing that data. It is up to the Ontario government, but it certainly knows that if it decides to change tack, it can always count on the support of the Canadian government.

In closing, all of this is part of our Poverty Reduction Strategy, which, again, is the first Canadian government poverty reduction strategy. By March 2019, thanks to the Canada Child Benefit, the Canada Workers Benefit, which takes effect next spring, and the improved Guaranteed Income Supplement, we will have reduced the number of Canadians living in poverty by 650,000 compared with November 2015. Although 650,000 is a significant number of Canadians, it is not enough. We have even more ambitious plans for 2020 and beyond.

[English]

Investment in Children

Hon. Gwen Boniface: My question is for the minister. I want to thank you, sir, for being here.

A recent report by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health painted a troubling picture of child welfare in Canada, particularly citing high rates of suicide, child abuse and infant mortality. It indicated that the UNICEF ranking for Canada, for instance, is 25 out of 41 OECD countries when assessing children’s health.

I was particularly concerned when I saw statistics such as hospital visits for people aged 5 to 24 for mental health issues having increased 66 per cent over the last decade.

The finding of this report says that Canada is out of proportion with any global trend. Minister, what steps is your government taking to address this report to ensure that our next generation is a healthy one?

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: Thank you. I certainly share with all members of this house the view that investing in our children is investing in our future. That’s why we need collectively to think not only of the too-large number of vulnerable Canadians in Canada, and vulnerable children in particular, but also the types of investments that must be made.

These investments must take into account the full number of dimensions of our children’s lives. As I mentioned a couple of minutes ago, we have been investing significantly, and we’ve also put an ambitious plan into place when it comes to lifting Canadian children out of poverty: 300,000 children are being lifted out of poverty with the impact of the Canada Child Benefit. Their 200,000 parents are also simultaneously lifted out of poverty because of the CCB.

We also need to invest in housing with the National Housing Strategy because it’s impossible to think of children being able to grow and to learn and to live healthily without a safe and affordable home for their family.

We also need to invest in early learning and child care, as we are now doing and will do until 2028, with the first multilateral agreement between the federal government and all provinces and territories in the history of this country. We’re going to invest in mental health for our children. That belongs to another department, but I’m certainly working very closely with the Minister of Health. We are going to work as much as we can, as much as we should, to ensure that every child has a fair and real chance to succeed and to prosper in our society.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Hello, minister. My question is also for the Government Leader in the Senate and it concerns the new trilateral trade agreement.

Under the agreement, many pharmaceuticals will have their patent protection extended from eight to 10 years. This means that Canadians who use these prescription drugs will have to pay more and wait longer for less expensive generic versions.

Yesterday was National Seniors Day, and we know that many seniors across our country already struggle with the high cost of medication. The types of drugs made more expensive by the new trade agreement include those used to treat arthritis and other chronic inflammatory diseases.

My question, leader, is this: What did Canada receive in exchange for the concessions on pharmaceuticals, and what does the government plan to do for our seniors, who will have to pay more for the medication they need?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question, and let me say that, as part of the balanced outcome of negotiations, the Government of Canada, the Government of Mexico and the Government of the United States were able to agree with certain provisions that deal with the protection of intellectual property.

I can tell you that the government is very conscious of the upward pressure on drug pricing. That is not just related to the NAFTA, or indeed this agreement, which senators will be aware of. The government is working with provinces and territories to improve the affordability and access to prescription drugs. Senators will know that the government has joined the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, which negotiates lower drug prices on behalf of public drug plans. To date, I’m informed this has led to $1.2 billion of annual savings for Canadians.

(1600)

The government is also investing more than $140 million to improve access to pharmaceuticals and support innovation within the health care system, and they are working with the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board to modernize regulations to better protect consumers from excessively priced patented drugs.

As senators will also know, the government has created the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. All of these elements are the government’s response to ensure that drug and drug availability for Canadians are addressed in an appropriate fashion, while ensuring through the USMCA — we’ve got to get that into our heads — that market access within this common economic space within North America remains secure.

Ministry of Families, Children and Social Development

National Housing Strategy

Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): Minister, first of all, thank you for being here; we do appreciate it.

I note that part of your mandate in your role as the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation includes working with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to conduct an inventory of all available federal lands and buildings that could be repurposed and making some of these lands available at low cost, or no cost, for affordable housing.

First, has the inventory been done? If so, could you provide it to us? And if so, what plans are there for possible distribution for affordable housing?

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: Thank you very much for that very relevant question. I’ll tell you in a moment why it is so timely and relevant. It’s part of the National Housing Strategy, which I mentioned earlier. It is the first ever strategy for the Government of Canada to establish leadership and partnership in our country, a vision to give every Canadian a safe and affordable home. It’s a vision that is also accompanied by historic investments of $40 billion plus over the next 10 years to lift, for instance, more than half a million Canadian families out of what we call housing need — to give more than half a million families over the next 10 years a safe and affordable place to call home, in the absence of which they would have run the risk of finding themselves on the streets. There is nothing more unimaginable and unacceptable than finding a Canadian on the streets in Canada.

Now, many of the elements of the National Housing Strategy have been announced in the last few weeks and months. The one that is yet to come, and will come soon, is called the Federal Lands Initiative, and it is exactly that: a $200 million plan to make federal lands available to partners — municipalities, provinces, the private sector and community and social sectors — to build safer and more affordable homes for more Canadians. The inventory is almost complete. It will, therefore, come with the program that will soon be announced, and I’m counting on everyone in this chamber, as well outside of this chamber, to make sure this important part of the National Housing Strategy is understood by Canadians and therefore can be used by many Canadians interested in supporting our government’s efforts.

[Translation]

Single-Parent Support

Hon. Renée Dupuis: Welcome to the Senate, Minister Duclos. I would like to ask about the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. You said more work needs to be done to generate good data about poverty so that we can track progress on poverty reduction among at-risk groups, such as women. Prime Minister Trudeau said that, in Canada, poverty has a gender. Poverty is female.

According to the strategy’s statistics, one in three parents is a single parent and 80 per cent of single parents are women.

Canada’s federal sustainable development strategy for 2030 seeks to achieve gender equality and eradicate poverty. Will the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy include maternity support in the form of a personal benefit paid directly to women who give birth or adopt a child regardless of their marital status or family status, two prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act?

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: Thank you for the question, senator. Let me digress for a moment. I know my personal history is of little interest to you, honourable senators, but I would just like to say that, in my previous academic life, I often heard criticism from academics and stakeholders on the fight against poverty. One of the things they said was that if the Canadian government wanted to be taken seriously about finding ways to fight poverty, it needed to start by defining exactly what poverty is in Canada. How can we measure poverty and, based on that, how can we fight it?

For the first time in the history of the Canadian government, we will soon have a legislated official measure of poverty, which will make the government not only more effective, but also more accountable, in achieving its poverty reduction goals.

As another example of the impact of this poverty reduction strategy, which establishes, for the first time, an official measure, clear objectives, and important accountability mechanisms, the Canada Child Benefit, which I mentioned a moment ago, one of our government’s flagship measures, is helping to lift 200,000 parents and 300,000 children out of poverty. Furthermore, of those 200,000 parents, 140,000 are single mothers, for the reasons mentioned earlier.

As Prime Minister Trudeau has said, poverty is sexist and racist, and unfortunately, for reasons beyond their control, too many Canadians are prevented from fully taking part in our society.

From the perspective of social justice and morality, this is obviously bad, but it is equally bad when our goal is to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. In the coming years, some of the measures that will be implemented will consider that women are more likely to end up in poverty and often, even in 2018, shoulder more of the burden of raising, educating, and caring for children.

[English]

Federal Lands Initiative for Affordable Housing

Hon. Michael Duffy: Minister, thank you for coming today. I’m intrigued by your reference to the catalogue, the inventory of federal government land. Will that include military land now held by the Canadian Forces? Will it include Crown lands which have been gazetted? Those of us in smaller and rural provinces find that most of the land that seems to get into housing is in urban centres, and yet we have many people in very poor housing in rural areas in Canada where this program that you envision might be of great help.

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: Thank you for that very good question, and again, it is very relevant in light of the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, this $200 million Federal Lands Initiative will be launched soon. Indeed, some of that land is currently being inventoried. I’m not sure that’s the proper word in English, but let’s say that. Some of that land will come from military land, land that is no longer of use to the federal government, and some of that land will indeed be in rural areas. That is very important and very good because, as we’ve just heard, rural Canadians also need to have access to safe and affordable homes, for all sorts of reasons. Incomes in rural areas tend to be a bit lower, and there are challenges when it comes to transportation and having access to health and education services. These challenges are sometimes even larger than those we find in urban areas.

(1610)

So the answer is yes, some of that land will be part of the Federal Lands Initiative, and yes, we’re counting on all Canadians, and people in this chamber in particular, to make sure every opportunity is being used by partners outside of this government.

Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for Question Period has expired. I am certain that all senators will want to join me in thanking Minister Duclos for being with us today. Thank you, minister.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


ORDERS OF THE DAY

The Senate

Motion to Urge the Government to take into Consideration the Funding of Literacy Programs in Atlantic Canada—Debate Continued

On the Order:

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

That the Senate affirm that literacy is a core component to active citizenship, a determinant for healthy outcomes, and, at its core, key to building an innovative economy with good, sustainable jobs;

That the Senate urge the Government to take into consideration the particular regional circumstances of Atlantic Canada based on smaller populations, many of which are in rural areas, when determining whether to implement programs using project-based funding compared to core funding;

That the Senate further urge the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour to make an exception to the present terms and conditions of the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills project-based funding programs in order to request an emergency submission to the Treasury Board for $600,000 of core funding for the Atlantic Partnership for Literacy and Essential Skills based on their 2017 pre-budget consultation submission to Parliament; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that house with the foregoing.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, I note that this item is on day 15 and I’m not ready to speak at this time. Therefore, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 4-15(3), I move the adjournment of the debate in my name for the balance of my time.

(On motion of Senator Mercer, debate adjourned.)

[Translation]

Challenges of Literacy and Essential Skills for the Twenty-first Century

Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Bellemare, calling the attention of the Senate to the challenges of literacy and essential skills for the 21st century in Canada, the provinces and the territories.

Hon. René Cormier: Honourable senators, I rise today to make a humble contribution to the inquiry launched by Senator Bellemare last January, and continued by Senator Gagné, on the challenges of literacy and essential skills for the 21st century.

I would like to start by thanking my colleagues for bringing to the Senate this important issue that affects our communities and has a significant impact on our democratic life and on Canadians’ participation in the development of our country.

[English]

I would like to thank all those who spoke on the challenges of literacy and essential skills for the 21st century over the past two years. According to many reports on literacy, awareness-raising plays a key role in this field. The Senate of Canada, therefore, has the important role of questioning the federal government and the population to make literacy a national priority.

[Translation]

Literacy issues are obviously not new. From an historical perspective, we can see that the literacy of citizens has always been a concern for legislators and civil society, particularly from the moment a particular society sought to combine the principles of universal suffrage and the secret ballot.

When the young democracy of France’s Third Republic wanted to give everyone the vote and ensure that citizens could vote as they wished, it had to deal with some very technical but real issues related to the fact that many individuals could neither read nor write and, consequently, were unable to record their vote themselves. Although short-term measures were put in place to ensure, among other things, the presence of scrutineers who could help citizens vote with almost full confidentiality, the long-term solution was much more radical and visionary for the times.

[English]

By the end of the 18th century, the right to free education for all was institutionalized in France. It was a means to increase the entire population’s level of literacy and a way to ensure that all would be able to exercise their rights as citizens. At the same time, it contributed to the welfare of the new emerging French political system of democracy.

[Translation]

At the same time, in France, the great poet, the immortal Victor Hugo, was writing about the emancipatory power of books. For him, books gave readers a gateway to the world and access to the accumulated wisdom of all the previous generations, and thus served as a powerful tool for democracy.

In his poem À qui la faute?, which asks who is to blame, Hugo explains to a young man who just set fire to a library the importance of this symbolic place and the sacred power of books by saying to him:

Books are your wealth,

Your inheritance and fortune, your treasure, your joy.

They are knowledge.

And all that you destroyed.

To which the vandal can only respond:

I know not how to read.

This young man had never discovered the power of reading and therefore did not understand its intrinsic value and the negative repercussions of his destructive act.

[English]

This challenge of another era highlights a very current reality, namely the central place that literacy should occupy in our society, and not only as a means for all to be active in a labour market and contribute to our country’s economy but to see that all may have the necessary skills to fully participate in democratic life.

Unfortunately, even today, there are significant divisions between those who are highly literate and those who face significant literacy challenges. If our reality is different from that of the time of Victor Hugo, our responsibility remains the same, namely that of creating an environment favourable to and ensuring the optimal conditions for increasing the level of literacy of every member of our society.

[Translation]

In that sense, the ability to read and access to books are certainly essential conditions for ensuring this paradigm shift. To this day in our societies, books continue to be a gateway to a world of knowledge and wisdom, and that is why it is important to support events to connect books with readers.

That is why I am especially pleased to be the honorary chair of the “Gift of Reading” campaign of the Acadian peninsula book show, an initiative to promote books and to encourage reading habits at an early age. The purpose of this campaign, which is currently under way, is to make books available to young school-aged children living in precarious situations.

Although access to books is an important component of promoting literacy, that alone will clearly not end illiteracy. The fundamental question we need to ask ourselves is the one that Senator Bellemare so wisely asked in her inquiry: What essential skills do people need if they want to live and work decently in the 21st century? To that I would add, “and that will allow them to participate fully in our country’s democracy in an informed way?”

To answer that important question, let’s take a brief look at what we mean by literacy in the 21st century. In Canada, we increasingly use the word “literacy” as a short form for the concept of developing literacy and essential skills. This means that literacy encompasses a wide range of basic skills, as well as specific skills connected to certain tasks involving different forms of literacy.

(1620)

[English]

Literacy applies to numerous sectors, whether it be related to health or financial issues, or even to digital, household or civic literacy. That being said, all literacy skills are understood as belonging to a particular contextual environment where the individual is required to have a more or less wide knowledge of an appropriate lexicon to understand a specific situation. A person can be literate in a given field of expertise and have poor literacy skills in other fields.

[Translation]

Organizations like the Réseau pour le développement de l’alphabétisme et des compétences, or RESDAC, consider literacy to be part of lifelong learning. We have to keep working to maintain these skills, and we must always be learning and refining new skills. Take, for example, digital literacy, which has been constantly evolving since the emergence of the Internet.

[English]

We see literacy as belonging to the big continuum of education, as we must continually work to develop and acquire these potential skills at every stage and in every aspect of our lives. That is to say, we must work on these skills at school as much as at work, but also in more informal contexts, such as at home, in the community and in various cultural settings.

[Translation]

What are the current key issues surrounding literacy? Senator Bellemare shared a troubling statistic in her speech. In Canada, 49 per cent of the population failed to attain the level 3 literacy threshold, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This does not mean that people do not know how to read. It means that they are not necessarily able to understand and interpret what they have read, which makes it very hard for them to carry out complex tasks. The vast majority of people in this group do not realize they are in it, which is why stakeholders believe that we must promote awareness about the challenges of literacy and increase the number of informal learning and development spaces.

[English]

But what are the economic, social, political and cultural consequences of this reality? While it is difficult to assess the full social impact, the World Literacy Foundation estimated in its 2016 report that illiteracy costs a little over US$32 billion annually to the Canadian economy. This statistic of 49 per cent also indicates that there is a significant gap between the graduation rates in Canada and the percentage of the adult population that does not have the essential skills necessary to obtain a high school diploma, a literacy level of 3 by the OECD.

[Translation]

The information provided by Senator Gagné on literacy challenges and the services provided to francophone minority communities, Indigenous communities, and immigrant communities clearly shows that the effects of illiteracy do not affect every region of the country in the same way. The literacy rates in these communities are lower than the national average, meaning that tangible measures need to be taken to improve not only employability skills and techniques, but also basic skills. For a whole host of reasons, the need for language training is part of the urgent measures that are needed for francophone minority communities.

Some communities are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of illiteracy, which results in greater disparities or even blatant inequalities in the distribution of skills and services offered in Canada and in the ability of all Canadians to engage in the democratic process.

[English]

For example, in my region of the Acadian peninsula in New Brunswick, more than 60 per cent of the population has a literacy level below 3, which limits the type of labour available in our region of the country and necessarily has an impact on the economic development of the region and its self-management. This alarming situation also has broader implications for our region and our province, particularly in considering the new access to information paradigms that will allow citizen participation in democratic life.

[Translation]

Today, in a highly computerized world where we are bombarded with information from sources of varying reliability, a greater level of skill is needed to understand and interpret the news. The emergence of “fake news” has had a real impact on the lives of Canadians, forcing them to acquire more and more skills in order to be able to differentiate between real and fake news and make informed decisions. Unfortunately, very few quantitative studies have been done on the tangible relationship between Canadians’ literacy levels and their electoral and civic participation. Nevertheless, a few reports and studies have addressed this issue, and we can draw some conclusions from them.

A document published by Elections Canada in 2007 entitled The Electoral Participation of Persons with Special Needs quotes a number of surveys, including one conducted by Elections Canada in 2005, which found, and I quote:

 . . . a clear link between proficiency in literacy and a set of key factors [related to electoral participation]: a person’s employability, quality of job, earnings, use of computers, health status and levels of community participation. . . . The survey found that lower levels of literacy are associated with lower levels of involvement in community groups and organizations and in volunteer activities.

The Elections Canada report goes on to say that the “[l]evel of literacy skills appears to be an important determinant of voter turnout.” Even more worrisome, the report points out that people with low levels of literacy are particularly vulnerable to misinformation campaigns.

As the report states:

 . . . literacy skill levels relate to the sources people rely on for their information about politics, their general knowledge about politics and the likelihood that they participate in voluntary associations.

Although there have always been misinformation and propaganda campaigns that distort reality, capabilities for circulating false information are exponentially greater today than at any other time in history. We witnessed it during the 2016 U.S. election, and we see it every day on social media and in our own elections. Whether or not they are deliberately wrong, false messages circulate, and many people accept them as being true. Things would be very different if our rates of civic and digital literacy were higher.

[English]

If we want to make sure our citizens develop the skills and reflexes necessary to cross-examine the information they see circulating on the Web, we need to increase awareness efforts and earning opportunities so that everyone can properly use and question the multiple new sources of information made available on the Web. We need to invest more in digital literacy, not only to counter the effects of fake news but also to make sure we have a population whose awareness on issues, such as cyberbullying, has been raised.

The Elections Canada report also highlights the importance of civic literacy for ensuring the good governance of our regions and our country. If we want our fellow citizens not to fall victim to misinformation, we must first make sure that the entire population better understands our political system at all levels.

[Translation]

In closing, colleagues, I fully support Senator Gagné’s suggestion about creating a national public literacy policy that “makes the success of the learner the focus of any endeavour.” Unless our approach is tailored to individuals, their baggage, their environment and their needs, we won’t be able to equip them with the skills they need. We won’t even be able to reach them and help them understand they need this training for personal and professional reasons.

What we need right now is a national public literacy policy that provides for services adapted to the unique linguistic, social and cultural landscapes across the country. We need to make sure the government and literacy organizations on the ground are on the same page. We need adequate funding —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Cormier, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but your time is up.

Senator Cormier: Can I have two more minutes to finish my speech?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Cormier: What we need right now is adequate funding for literacy organization across the country, especially organizations working in the Atlantic region that are struggling to survive. Basically, this would be a national public policy for literacy that would propose a holistic and long-term approach centred on individual development and based on the expertise of the communities involved.

(1630)

Honourable senators, I would encourage us all to do more to promote literacy in our respective regions and divisions so that all Canadians may enjoy an equal opportunity to thrive and fully participate in Canadian democratic life.

Thank you for your attention.

(On motion of Senator Bellemare, debate adjourned.)

[English]

Beneficial Ownership Transparency

Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Howard Wetston rose pursuant to notice of June 5, 2018:

That he will call the attention of the Senate to beneficial ownership transparency.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to discuss the issue of hidden beneficial ownership, primarily relating to corporations and other entities such as trusts — not a riveting subject, but an important one. Unfortunately, at this time, Canada is falling behind global standards on beneficial ownership transparency.

The Department of Finance refers to beneficial ownership as individuals who directly or indirectly own or control 25 per cent or more of a corporation or an entity and who are the trustees and known beneficiaries and settlors of a trust.

The absence of transparency of beneficial ownership information allows corporations and trusts in Canada to be misused for money laundering, tax evasion, bribery of officials and terrorist financing. According to Transparency International, this leads to significant corrosive effects on the integrity of the financial and taxation systems, security of individuals’ own financial security, competitiveness, productivity and levelling the playing field of honest corporations and distortion of the market system.

In a highly publicized example of hidden beneficial ownership at work, CBC News reported in 2017 that two Canadians named in the Panama Papers acted as nominee directors for nearly 200 companies. These individuals claimed to know nothing about the beneficiaries or businesses. They were a front for anonymous owners.

One of these companies was directed by a Spanish real estate developer who hid money in shell corporations around the world, including Canada. In 2011, he was convicted of tax evasion and fraud in the United States and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The two Canadians said they never heard of him until the bank contacted them to testify in a civil case. That is not an extraordinary event.

Honourable senators, this is only one example of numerous anonymous companies operating globally whose ownership is difficult or impossible to discern. These anonymous companies are being used as “getaway vehicles” for corruption, tax evasion and other crimes.

The lack of beneficial ownership transparency impacts all Canadians. Basically, it’s bad for business, it’s harmful to society and generally facilitates corruption. In Canada, there are a number of ways to legally remain anonymous in business transactions. It is currently very difficult for law enforcement, financial institutions and others to obtain and verify beneficial ownership information. Those of you who have practised law understand this very well.

Permit me to outline a few areas where the insufficiency of beneficial ownership transparency affects Canada. Let’s begin with tax evasion. Billions of dollars are lost to the Canadian economy annually due to tax evasion. When anonymous companies are misused, tax authorities cannot identify precisely who owns or controls a corporation, resulting in a huge amount of lost tax revenue. Our colleague Senator Downe has spoken on this issue in the past and is obviously aware and worked hard on this important issue.

Let’s move on to money laundering. FINTRAC, Canada’s financial intelligence unit and anti-money laundering agency, lists the consequences of such criminal activity. They range from individual impacts like coercion, threats and business risk, to societal impacts on security and the stability of the Canadian financial system. Their work informs us that billions of dollars are being laundered in Canada. I’m avoiding numbers, but it’s billions of dollars — to be confirmed at some point in the future, I hope, by the data that’s being collected by these agencies.

A 2018 C.D. Howe paper by Denis Meunier has outlined a clear link between money laundering and hidden beneficial ownership. The abuse of corporate vehicles and camouflaged beneficial ownership is a recognized means of money laundering — and a worldwide problem.

For example, the World Bank’s review of 150 grand corruption cases — those are government officials’ grand corruption; more than US$1 million per corruption case — indicated that companies were used to launder the proceeds of crime in more than 85 per cent of the cases. In more than half of these cases, corrupt government officials used nominees, shell corporations and trusts to disguise their beneficial ownership and the proceeds of their crimes.

Honourable senators, laundered proceeds of crime have also found their way into the Canadian real estate market. This was the conclusion of the Financial Action Task Force in 2016 — an international organization that develops policies to combat money laundering — as well as the federal government’s own risk assessment in 2015. Canadian land title offices do not hold information about beneficial owners of property, only registered owners, effectively granting true owners anonymity.

Beneficial owners can avoid or evade tax by having designated nominees claim a principal residence or first-time homebuyer exemptions. For instance, in Vancouver, reports surfaced in 2016 that foreign students with no known source of income were buying properties worth millions of dollars. The Economist reported this as a homegrown problem as the students were figureheads for anonymous firms where beneficial owners were not required by the land registry.

I don’t need to tell you, senators, that drives up the price of real estate in a manner which I think is totally unwarranted and not driven by market conditions.

In addition, in 2016, Transparency International Canada indicated that nearly half of the 100 most valuable residential properties in Greater Vancouver are held through structures that hide their beneficial owners. Twenty-nine of the properties are owned through shell companies, 11 have a nominee listed on title and six are held in trust for anonymous beneficiaries.

Fortunately, in February, the B.C. government took action and introduced the Land Owner Transparency Act, a public register of landowners which will require those behind shell companies and other entities to reveal themselves. A white paper for consultation has been released and the government has had consultations throughout the summer. Although this does not extend to all corporate owners, this is a first of its kind in Canada. Senator Woo kindly gave me a copy of that consultation paper and I thank him very much for that.

However, while there’s a clear public interest in making beneficial ownership information more transparent or even publicly available, there are privacy interests in such information. There are many legitimate reasons why businesses keep certain activities, investments, acquisitions and holdings confidential. Examples include entering new markets, for example through a subsidiary, acquiring property to expand operations, developing new products through acquisition, purchasing intellectual property rights and the list goes on.

Thus, there are privacy interests that need to be taken into account in formulating public policies relating to beneficial ownership transparency for privately held companies.

(1640)

When it comes to publicly traded companies, however, it should be noted that they are much more transparent than privately held companies, largely due to securities laws, which demand that more information be made public to protect investors and enhance market efficiency.

Insider trading rules require that beneficial ownership information of publicly traded securities purchased, held and sold by insiders be disclosed publicly on the System for Electronic Disclosure by Insiders, called SEDI, to avoid confusing it with the movie.

Owners of 10 per cent or more of the shares of publicly listed companies must disclose their ownership interest, which already is a significant intrusion into personal privacy, but one which legislatures have long decided was in the public interest.

When I was working in this field, a lot of investors like to stay at 9.99 per cent.

While there are public benefits of great transparency, legitimate privacy concerns, both for businesses and for individuals, must be considered in developing a beneficial ownership framework.

Honourable senators, the challenges related to beneficial ownership transparency are not limited to Canada. In fact, beneficial ownership transparency concerns are global and have elicited a global response.

In 2014, all G20 countries, including Canada, endorsed a set of core principles and committed to take concrete action to improve the effectiveness of their legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks with respect to beneficial ownership transparency. For example, it was strongly suggested that timely access to information could be implemented through central registries of beneficial ownership. Moreover, the 28-member states of the EU reached an agreement in principle in December 2017 to publicly disclose beneficial ownership information of companies and trusts who own companies. Laws implementing this agreement are expected in member states by the end of 2019.

In the U.K., a public register of the beneficial owners of corporations was introduced in 2016. Almost 4 million entities are now recorded. Since the introduction of a public register, data use has grown to over 2 billion data searches a year in the U.K. It’s a remarkable number. It is up from 6 million access requests in 2014-15, when one had to pay for this information.

The U.K. is further enhancing its corporate transparency regime by compelling company owners in its overseas territories, including Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, to list their names and other information in public registries. Australia is also considering doing the same.

Finally, on June 1, the Swiss federal government proposed three key changes to their anti-money laundering act, including the disclosure of beneficial ownership and the establishment of a commercial register.

Honourable senators, given the far-reaching impacts that I discussed earlier, as well as the global response to concerns raised by these issues, it is no surprise that the Government of Canada has recognized the importance of addressing these gaps. Budget 2017 included a commitment to improving beneficial ownership transparency by focusing on strong standards and developing a new strategy.

In order to achieve this goal, the Department of Finance Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada are working together, collaborating with provinces and territories.

In December 2017, ministers agreed in principle to pursue legislative amendments to federal, provincial and territorial corporate statutes or other relevant legislation. A meaningful, coordinated action plan amongst the FPT corporate registries and legislatures is being worked on. That’s federal, provincial and territorial. Specifically, the action plan is a commitment to introduce legislative amendments that will require all private corporations to hold beneficial ownership information and to end the practice of bearer shares by June of 2019.

There is also a commitment to pursue policy work on access to this information, including privacy concerns. But there are challenges, and you know what they are, due to Canada’s division of powers over business activities. There are 13 corporate registries in Canada at last count. Both the federal and provincial governments exercise extensive powers over certain business activities.

For instance, the federal government regulates banks, federally incorporated companies and, through its criminal law powers, certain rules for financial institutions to comply with anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing requirements.

Federally incorporated companies have a right to carry on business in each province. However, they are required to register in each province in which they do business.

Provinces exercise jurisdiction over provincially incorporated companies, trusts, most securities transactions, trust and loan companies, cooperative credit societies, savings and credit unions and caisses populaires. Provinces also regulate professions such as real estate agents and lawyers. Provincially incorporated companies may register to do business in other provinces. I say that to present the complexity of attempting to do something nationally.

It is not my intention to outline various possible options to address anonymity. But, for example, governments could collectively work together toward an efficient gathering of beneficial ownership information through the use of existing regulatory channels of annual federal and provincial corporation reports and initial incorporation filings. As an example, beneficial ownership fields could be added to the normal annual filings already made by corporations under corporate law. If desirable, beneficial ownership information collected could be published in the current federal and provincial corporate registries.

More ambitiously, a harmonization of new beneficial ownership information fields across federal and provincial governments would allow for a system of beneficial ownership collection that could be accessed from a single portal. To improve data accuracy, a unique identifier could be assigned to each entity and individual. Of course, a single cross-Canada portal and search engine would be ideal. But any of these policy developments would represent a major step forward.

In closing, on the global stage, Canada has been criticized as an opaque jurisdiction because it allows the true owners of private companies to remain anonymous. Transparency International has ranked Canada to date as one of the lowest in the G20 for meeting the commitments it made on beneficial ownership principles at the G20 summit in 2014. They described Canada as a prime destination to hide money gained from illicit activities. You’ve all heard this before.

In June 2018, Finance Minister Morneau stated:

To put it bluntly, these things [money laundering and terrorist financing] are a threat to the safety and security of Canadians . . . .

Personally, in my view, beneficial ownership transparency reduces risks to Canadians while enhancing corporate competitiveness.

While a centralized agency in Canada may be difficult to achieve, it does present an opportunity for the Canadian governments to show leadership and act quickly in the best interest of all Canadians. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Joyal has a question. Senator Wetston’s time has expired. You will have to ask for more time.

Senator Wetston: May I have more time?

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Hon. Serge Joyal: Thank you for the opportunity to ask a question of Senator Wetston.

Thank you, Senator Wetston, for your intervention.

Last summer the Canada Revenue Agency published an estimate of the amount of money that individual citizens in Canada avoid paying in taxes by resorting to tax havens. Do you remember the amount of money that the Canada Revenue Agency, under the request of Senator Downe, published?

While you’re thinking — because it’s like a quiz, I allow you 10 seconds to think of the answer — Canada Revenue Agency will publish the amount of money that corporations in Canada failed to pay to the government treasury by diverting their assets into tax havens. Do you remember the amount of money in relation to private citizens?

Senator Wetston: Thank you for the question, but at my age, I don’t remember a lot of things, unfortunately.

Senator Mercer: Welcome to the Senate.

Senator Wetston: You’ve just noticed. Thank you. I don’t have the number at hand, but I think it’s a very large number. I’m not necessarily going to suggest that I have this, but I think it’s in the order of around $15 billion. I think that’s correct. But my memory might be fading. I’d like to clarify that if I’m incorrect, senator.

Senator Joyal: You’re right, senators. We won’t quarrel for $1 billion or $2 billion more. But it is in the billions of dollars.

(1650)

I questioned myself when I watched the Minister of Finance, and it was a question I would have put to him today if he had been here. Considering the effort that they spent last year to try to go after professionals who incorporate themselves to try to avoid taxes, which I think represented in the order of $400 million, which is an important amount of money; no one will doubt that. And the small enterprises are trying to save some benefit to invest in the future.

You will remember the minister created turmoil all over Canada, and when you look at the end of it and draw a line to how much money he was looking after, it was in the area of a couple of hundred million dollars. But what you outlined is a clear illustration that, in fact, we are going after the small, but we let the big go away without really taking any initiative. You have stated quite clearly we’re at the lowest amount among the G20 countries in terms of fighting tax havens.

My question to you is this: What should we take as the initiative in this chamber to bring the Minister of Finance — and, I should say, the Government of Canada — to some action in relation to tax havens while, in fact, some other countries are much further ahead of us, and they can also meet the competitive world environment in which we live?

Did you pay any attention to the initiative that this Senate could take in order to bring the government to a clear understanding and recognition that the whole of Canada has a problem essentially financing what the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, who was here, the need for an additional billion dollars to fight poverty in Canada?

Senator Wetston: I’ll be brief. I didn’t really study that issue in the context of beneficial ownership, but I think many of us are aware of the challenges associated with tax evasion. I’m really looking at this as a tax evasion issue rather than a tax avoidance issue.

Fortunately or unfortunately, tax is based upon residency, and many of the issues associated with tax evasion occur offshore, which makes it much more difficult to collect those taxes, and the figure would be in the billions. Some efforts have been made by our government over recent years to have those who have offshore accounts to declare themselves and make those declarations publicly to Canada Revenue Agency, and they’ve been able to deal and settle with many of those nations.

I’m really dealing with tax evasion and the hardened type of criminal activity, much of which is offshore. I think you’re absolutely right that we can do more. And one of the things we should do more of is to implement some form of beneficial ownership registry so that at least there will be the capacity for CRA and police forces to investigate, gather the evidence and take the appropriate action. Right now, frankly, our hands are tied.

(On motion of Senator Woo, debate adjourned.)

Preservation of Independent Assessment Process Records

Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum rose pursuant to notice of June 18, 2018:

That she will call the attention of the Senate to the importance of preserving the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) records of those Indian Residential School survivors who claimed compensation for historic physical and sexual abuse, pursuant to the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA).

She said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to my Inquiry No. 52, which highlights the importance of preserving the Independent Assessment Process, or IAP, records of Indian residential school survivors who claimed compensation for historic physical and sexual abuse that was suffered while attending residential school.

Through this speech and inquiry, it is my hope that I will convey the importance of acting to preserve these records not only to my honourable colleagues but to the Canadian public as well.

We currently live in a world where tough conversations are far too easily overlooked, ignored or swept under the rug. Canada, like many other countries around the world, represents a microcosm of this greater phenomenon. We are a country proudly known for demonstrating freedom, fairness, compassion and equality. We pride ourselves on having these be synonymous with our standard of living here. While this reputation was hard-earned and is, for the most part, a very accurate portrayal of our country, it was not always so. I would further argue that in certain situations and instances, these sterling qualities still lack today. Canada is currently facing an identity crisis and it is my hope that steps will be taken to right the course of our ship before it heads too far into treacherous waters.

In the past, much more so than today, Canada has made decisions that, with the benefit of hindsight, are highly regrettable, including those around residential schools. There are those who muse that it was a different time or that it would never happen today. Although both may be true, it does not override the fact that unspeakable atrocities were committed right here in Canada. The truth of the matter is that morality and decency are timeless qualities and are not new social constructs. The sins of our collective past cannot be admonished with a simple shrug of the shoulders and a reference to a previous time. Instead, it is my belief that Canada should embrace its past — warts and all — and be willing to accept the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with it.

Honourable senators, without digressing too much, I would like to give one current example of the issue at hand in Canada. The example I would like to draw on is the removal of Sir John A. Macdonald’s statues from various cities around the country, which has been a hot-button topic in the news of late. I would like to refer to the words of one of our very wise and celebrated colleagues, Senator Sinclair, when he said the removal of these statues:

. . . is counterproductive to . . . reconciliation because it almost smacks of revenge or smacks of acts of anger, but in reality, what we are trying to do, is we are trying to create more balance in the relationship.

This is truly the crux of the overarching issue. To me, part of this balance is a recognition of the full scope of the picture and not simply cherry-picking the good while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the bad. The removal of these statutes is akin to sweeping the issue under the rug. While I do not doubt it is done with the best intentions in mind, it is an offering of the lowest hanging fruit to Indigenous peoples. It is an act of appeasement instead of having the difficult conversation and embracing the negative for what it is — a very real part of Canadian history.

With this larger issue now framed, I will return to the meat of my inquiry, which is the importance of preserving the aforementioned Independent Assessment Process records. This process itself was an out-of-court compensation process to resolve claims of sexual and physical abuse, as well as other wrongful acts that have resulted in serious psychological harm to former Indian residential school students. I went through that process myself.

There are two types of compensation: one based on the amount of time spent in residential school and the other based on abuse that resulted in serious psychological consequences.

The IAP was one of the five main components that came about as a result of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, or IRSSA for short. This agreement was announced by the federal government in May 2006 and was a direct result of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which issued a 4,000-page final report that included 440 recommendations. The agreement was created with the intent to promote healing, education, truth and reconciliation, and commemoration.

Along with the IAP, arguably the most well-known result of this 2007 settlement agreement was the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which I am sure most honourable senators are quite familiar with. The important work done by this commission culminated in the 2015 release of the executive summary of their findings, as well as a prescribed list of 94 Calls to Action, which are viewed today as a guiding light toward achieving meaningful reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

(1700)

Honourable senators, I have said it before, but it bears repeating. When I took my seat in this chamber, I carried with me the importance of ensuring that I would conduct my work in a way that would continually honour, uphold and aid in the journey towards reconciliation. For if we, as representatives of the Canadian public, will not step up to fight this fight ourselves, how can we reasonably expect the public to do so?

It was only last year that Prime Minister Trudeau issued a statement on National Aboriginal Day that stated: “No relationship is more important to our government and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples.”

While these are lovely words and a nice gesture, it is my sincere hope that all of our work be geared in a way that is reflective of this sentiment, regardless of partisanship or affiliation. Reconciliation is bigger than us as individuals and will take a collective effort to assist in repairing a relationship that has been badly damaged but is not in total disrepair.

Honourable senators, the volume of the IAP records and their importance in documenting Canadian history cannot be overstated. This comes full circle to the necessity of telling the entire narrative of Canada’s past and embracing the safekeeping of these documents as a reconciliation initiative. The documents in question contain testimonies and evidence from a staggering 37,000-plus residential school survivors. The reason this testimony had been collected initially was for the purpose of distributing the aforementioned compensation to the survivors.

However, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling last year that upheld a previous ruling by Ontario’s Court of Appeal, these tens of thousands of personal accounts and recollections of the sinister aspects of residential schools will only be retained by the IAP secretariat for a period of 15 years, after which time they are to be destroyed.

Honourable senators, understanding the weight of the Supreme Court’s ruling, my intent is in no way to undermine or challenge this decision. Although I fundamentally disagree with their conclusion, I must respect it. However, it is through this inquiry that I would like to inform Canadians, particularly those Indigenous peoples who had given accounts of the trauma and abuse they suffered at residential schools, that it is not a foregone conclusion that these records must be destroyed. On the contrary, another option exists, although I am afraid that it seems it is not well known or well understood by the public.

Colleagues, I feel it is utterly important to get the word out that every individual who made a claim in the Independent Assessment Process has the ability to share their records with anyone they see fit. Moreover, they have the option to have their records archived at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, which first opened their doors at the University of Manitoba in 2015. This centre acts to preserve the history of Canada’s residential school system.

For those interested in having their own personal records documented for historical purposes, I would strongly encourage them to do so either through sharing them with family, friends, scholars or directly with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, where they will serve to shine a light on this dark period in Canada’s past. It should be noted that those who choose to preserve their records will have identifying information about others in their document removed out of respect for the privacy of those individuals.

Honourable senators, it should be noted that this option of preservation is only available while the documents are being retained by the IAP secretariat, which, again, only lasts for 15 years from the end of the claim. After the 15-year window expires, if no action has been taken by the claimant, the documents will be destroyed and lost forever. As the earliest decisions were handed down beginning in August 2004, these first cases will expire in August 2019, meaning the records will then be destroyed. As this date is fast approaching, it is crucial that the word is spread on how individuals who are so inclined can keep these records safe and archived.

Colleagues, as one of the main intents behind the IRSSA was to promote truth and reconciliation, it is personally disappointing to me that the truth aspect has been given an expiration date. The seeking of truth is the mechanism through which Indigenous peoples who survived residential schools were able to finally have their voice heard. This is arguably one of the most important pieces of the settlement agreement, as the truth is a cautionary tale. It should be cemented in our history, accurate accounts from survivors’ own mouths, to allow Canada’s future generations to understand the horror and heed the grievous mistakes that were made.

There is a well-known and often referenced quote that states, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It becomes infinitely more difficult to learn from history if history becomes inaccessible. I firmly believe the truth behind one of Canada’s biggest blemishes should not be subject to a statute of limitations, only to be conveniently discarded at an arbitrary date. We should not be free to make subjective decisions on what pieces of our history are pertinent and what pieces are not. As Michael Chachagee, a residential school survivor himself, stated, “Once history becomes malleable, then is it history?”

Honourable senators, I thank you for your attention on this important topic and encourage you to join me in raising awareness of the importance and possibility of preserving the IAP records regarding Canada’s residential school system. Thank you.

(On motion of Senator Sinclair, debate adjourned.)

(At 5:08 p.m., the Senate was continued until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)