The Senate met at 6 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to take a moment to mark the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 on March 9.
The flight, bound for Nairobi from Addis Ababa, carried 149 passengers and 8 crew. All 157 were killed when the plane crashed shortly after takeoff. Included among the victims were 18 Canadians.
I also wish to mark the horrific and senseless acts of violence perpetrated on Friday, March 15, in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Shootings at the Al-Noor and Linwood mosques left 50 Muslim worshipers dead, and a further 50 injured.
We extend our sincere condolences to the Muslim community and to all those affected by these tragedies, and I now invite everyone to rise for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of these tragedies.
(Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.)
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Christchurch Tragedies
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Colleagues, in our silence we have just spoken about the tragedies of Ethiopian Airlines 302 and about the events at two mosques in New Zealand, and today we had news of the tram attack in Utrecht. In the coming days I’m sure that other senators will join in their expression of grief and solidarity with regard to these events.
Today we mourn the 50 children, Muslim men and women who were brutally killed while at worship in Christchurch, New Zealand, last Friday. Today we send the 31 injured victims still in hospital our hopes for a full recovery.
When it comes to hate crimes, no country or community is immune, as the people of Sainte-Foy, Quebec, learned in January 2017. Such acts of violence rob the innocent of life and they rob the living of innocence. Unfortunately, when it comes to Islamophobia and other hate crimes, our innocence wanes with each incident, no matter where it occurs.
Honourable senators, no one should enter their mosque, synagogue, temple or church of worship looking over their shoulder.
We share the shock and anger felt by the people of Christchurch and every community affected by such atrocities.
This is why complacency in the face of hate, racism and violence is abhorrent.
No matter our faith, we must all do our part so that women and men can share this one earth peacefully and without fear of violence.
We also grieve today for the victims of the crash of Ethiopian Airline flight 302 in which 157 people lost their lives. Among the 18 Canadians killed were many who worked internationally to make life better for people in need far from their home. Let us acknowledge their important contributions, helping others lead healthier, more prosperous lives. And in the case of Ethiopian Airlines, losing their own lives in the pursuit of their humanitarian objectives is something we should acknowledge.
In our sympathy, we share a tiny part of the sadness and profound grief that fill the hearts of the family members and friends of the victims.
When they said goodbye to their loved ones, it was in the confidence that they would once again see the smile of those they loved and touched, the perfect cheek of a child, or hear the laugh of a friend or a colleague. Such a horrific crash violently erases the future for the victims, but also for those they were going to help and for those they leave behind.
Our hearts and prayers are with the lost and those who must find the courage to live through their grief. Let them know that this Senate of Canada mourns with you. We will not forget.
Hon. Salma Ataullahjan: Honourable senators, on Friday, March 15, in a heinous attack against Muslims, a White supremacist terrorist opened fire on two mosques in New Zealand, killing 50 people and wounding almost as many as they prayed.
Although the news of this massacre was devastating to Muslims around the world, sadly, it was not shocking. I cannot stand in this chamber today and say that I was surprised. These attacks have served as yet another example of the rising tide of intolerance, racism and Islamophobia that is quickly taking root around the globe. “When the flames of hatred are fanned, when people are demonized because of their faith, when we play on people’s fears rather than addressing them, the consequences are deadly,” wrote London Mayor, Sadiq Khan.
The world has already seen where this sort of rhetoric leads. It was not so long ago that the Jewish people faced persecution and massacre. Just last year, 11 people were gunned down at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. In Charleston, nine African Americans were killed during a prayer service at their church.
In Canada, the Islamophobic rhetoric that we increasingly hear regularly in the mainstream is a breeding ground for this kind of violence. Two years ago, we witnessed firsthand an abhorrent attack at a mosque in Quebec.
In the wake of the New Zealand attacks, the world has been shown the true face of Islam. It witnessed heroic acts by Abdul Aziz and Naeem Rashid, who confronted the shooter and put themselves in front of others to prevent more death and injury. When Daoud Nabi saw the attacker holding a gun entering the mosque, ready to kill, he said, “Hello, brother.”
Husna Ahmed was killed as she went back into the mosque to find her disabled husband. Following the attack, he said that the best thing is “forgiveness, generosity, loving and caring.” He would tell the shooter that, inside, he has the potential to be a kind person who would save people and humanity rather than destroy, and that he prays for him and does not carry a grudge.
The Quran teaches: If you do stretch your hand against me to kill me, I shall never stretch my hand against you to kill you.
The victims included refugees and immigrants from many countries. They had moved to a place where they thought they were safe. They were in a house of worship where they should have been safe. The Islamophobia that motivated these attacks is spreading like a disease. Western democracies must do more to counter white nationalist terrorism and all who seek to divide and destroy.
In Canada, we must work together in the fight against intolerance and hatred in all its forms. The only way to prevent such attacks in the future is to confront and challenge Islamophobic rhetoric whenever we encounter it, to call it out for exactly what it is: racism, bigotry and hate speech. Anything less would be a disservice to the memory of the victims of Christchurch and other such atrocious attacks.
Honourable senators, terrorism has no religion. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Christchurch and Utrecht Tragedies
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Bismillah hir-Rahman nir Raheem, in the name of Allah, the most gracious and merciful, honourable senators, I stand before you, together with Senators Ravalia, Ataullahjan and all my colleagues in the Parliament of Canada, to send our deepest condolences to grieving families of the victims in the New Zealand mosque attacks, to our Muslim brothers and sisters around the world, and the victims of the tram attack in Utrecht, Netherlands.
My heart is breaking for the families and friends who have lost loved ones in this senseless terrorist attack. Fifty innocent worshippers were murdered during Friday prayer. This planned attack, cruelly live-streamed by the gunman, will affect thousands of Muslims and New Zealanders forever. These innocent people were killed in an attack fuelled by racism and religious prejudice.
Honourable senators, I want to share with you the words of a man literally looking in the mouth of a gun. The first Muslim man to die, his final words were: “Hello, brother.” These words were uttered by a man who symbolized Islam. He had a rifle pointed at him by a man with clear intentions to kill him, and how did he respond? With anger? With aggression? No, with the most gentle and sincere greeting of “Hello, brother.”
This man’s final act was a sincere, courageous and warm way to stop the violence instead of fuelling it.
Honourable senators, I grew up in jamatkhanas and mosques, and my community is my family. I can tell you that Islam is a religion of peace. It is a religion that promotes tolerance and acceptance, a religion that teaches us that it is through good deeds that the soul finds true happiness. This indignity has been perpetrated not just against those who have suffered at the hands of the attacker but against all of mankind. That is why I know we all will not retreat and hide in fear. We will not be defeated, nor will we let this weaken us.
We Canadians are a strong and resilient community.
Honourable senators, I have faith that, as we did after the Quebec City mosque massacre, we Canadians will come together and support New Zealanders through their grief. As Canadians, we are invincible.
I kindly ask my fellow Canadians to do everything we can to push back against the hate that so easily takes hold and to support the families that mourn the victims of the terrorist attack.
Honourable senators, we are all stronger together than these acts of hatred.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Tragedy
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, on Saturday, March 9, I, along with a delegation from the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association, which included Senators Munson and Cormier, boarded a plane in Toronto for the long flight to Addis Ababa for a bilateral visit in Ethiopia.
Knowing the route well, I knew that there is always an atmosphere of friendship and discussion on the flight. So it was this time. Many were returning to visit relatives and friends, many were exploring Africa, many were attending conferences and workshops in Nairobi and elsewhere, and many were just coming home.
When we landed, we were welcomed by our embassy as we cleared customs and baggage, but many others continued towards the transit gates. Shortly after, our ambassador to Ethiopia notified us of the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302. The crash claimed the lives of all 157 on board, including 18 Canadians, of which some 10 Canadians had transferred from our flight as well as others.
The shock, grief and helplessness gripped us and the Ethiopian nation.
The flight carried citizens from at least 35 countries.
The world reached out in solidarity with Canada, which bore a heavy loss.
The delegation held a memorial meeting for the Canadians, with all embassy staff. Handling grief and caring, the ambassador noted their duty was to the service of Canadians. The delegation was impressed with the professionalism and compassion of all of the members of the embassy staff for the task ahead with the families of those lost and their responsibilities immediately and in the months ahead.
To the families and friends of those Canadians lost, we feel a bond with you, and we will be forever changed. As you struggle to make sense and cope with your loss and grief in trying to come to terms with this tragedy, Canadians mourn with you. The road ahead will not be easy, but rest assured that our memories will not fade.
Throughout our program in Ethiopia, each encounter led to a moment of silence for those lost and shared grief by our Canadian delegation and Ethiopian counterparts. I know all senators and Canadians extend condolences, thoughts and prayers for those who lost family and friends. We are with you and will continue to be with you.
Visitor in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Claude Bigras, President. He is the guest of the Honourable Senator Dawson.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Broadcasting Senate Proceedings
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I would like to echo the remarks of my four colleagues. As you know, this is a historic moment. For the first time ever, Canadians can watch the four senators deliver their messages thanks to video broadcasting. We are leading by example in terms of the quality of debate in this chamber and our non-partisan remarks that represent various perspectives. I congratulate my colleagues on that.
The Honourable Senator Housakos and I gave a few interviews today on this important development, the broadcasting of Senate proceedings. Things are going to change in this place. I may ramble at times, as some of my colleagues have said, but I would like to point out that 42 years ago, I was the first member to deliver a televised speech in the House of Commons. I can assure you that parliamentarians changed their behaviour from that moment on, knowing that thousands of people could be watching them on television.
I don’t imagine our ratings will be astronomical, but everyone will be able to watch us. I highly recommend that everyone take great care.
When Senator Housakos and I were members of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, we decided that the Rules of the Senate should be changed before broadcasting of our debates began. The good news is that we are broadcasting, but the bad news is that we still have the old rules. Anyone who watches the videos from the last two weeks — a privilege I enjoy as Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications — will see that we look bad. It’s actually a bit embarrassing.
Everybody wants to know who is “stand” and why he is never there. Last week, 22 times in a row, the clerk had to say “stand,” but everybody thinks it’s a guy. In French, “reporté.” If it’s not important, why are you even debating? “Pourquoi le reporté?”
We have to change those rules. People will be listening to us, and since they will be listening to us, we should be listening to each other.
When you listen to those tapes and when you see people reading their emails and looking at their iPads — I’m a guilty party, but I’m in the corner, so nobody sees me. We have to understand that if we want people to listen to us and hear what we’re talking about, we have to prove that we’re listening to what the other people around us are saying.
It’s a very bad image. Trust me, listen to those tapes.
Your Honour, I appreciate that you sent us those tapes. We have to do it. I have an advantage. I have a little clock that tells me I have to hurry up.
It’s an experiment. So far, I would say that if you listen to the tapes, we are failing. I think we can do a better job of it. People talk with their neighbours. I have a nice neighbour, and he behaves. People walk between His Honour and the cameras. Again, that will happen.
In the House of Commons, they had whips coming to tell them after a few weeks. They gave a presentation, saying, “Here is how embarrassing it is,” and they presented tapes of people going in front of the person who was speaking, showing their better half on television.
We have to learn. We have one chance to make a good impression, and that’s tonight. We have to improve. We have to do a better job over the next few weeks.
I implore you, ask each of your caucuses, whips or non-whips, to give you a breakdown of what behaviour has been happening over the last few weeks, because we have to improve. If we’re going to be televised, we have to project.
Everyone here must project the image of the new Senate, and we hope to do better in future. I encourage you to govern yourselves accordingly and respect what other people do in this chamber.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Bill Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families
Notice of Motion to Authorize Aboriginal Peoples Committee to Study Subject Matter
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, in accordance with rule 10-11(1), the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples be authorized to examine the subject matter of Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, introduced in the House of Commons on February 28, 2019, in advance of the said bill coming before the Senate.
Motion to Affect the Start Time of Question Period on March 19, 2019, Adopted
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(j), I move:
That, notwithstanding the order of February 28, 2019, Question Period on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, be at 3 p.m. rather than 3:30 p.m.
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.)
National Defence Act
Bill to Amend—First Reading
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-77, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Gold, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Agriculture and Forestry
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate
Hon. Diane F. Griffin: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry have the power to meet on Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at 6:00 p.m., even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Deposit Report on Study of Issues Relating to Agriculture and Forestry with Clerk During Adjournment of the Senate
Hon. Diane F. Griffin: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry be permitted, notwithstanding usual practices, to deposit with the Clerk of the Senate, between March 22 and March 29, 2019, an interim report on issues relating to agriculture and forestry generally, if the Senate is not then sitting, and that the report be deemed to have been tabled in the Chamber.
Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate
Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be authorized to meet on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 4:15 p.m., even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that the application of rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be authorized to meet on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 6:45 p.m., even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that the application of rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Special Committee to Meet During Adjournment of the Senate
Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Acting Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, pursuant to rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector be authorized to meet on Monday, April 1, 2019, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week.
National Security and Defence
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate
Hon. Gwen Boniface: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence have the power to meet for the purposes of its study of Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Special Committee to Meet During Adjournment of the Senate
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, pursuant to rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the Special Senate Committee on the Arctic be authorized to meet on Monday, April 1, 2019, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for more than one week.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade have the power to meet on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at 4:15 p.m., even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Extend Date of Final Report on the Study of the Impact and Utilization of Canadian Culture and Arts in Canadian Foreign Policy and Diplomacy
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade in relation to its study on the impact and utilization of Canadian culture and arts in Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy, and other related matters, be extended from April 30, 2019 to December 31, 2019.
Prime Minister’s Office
Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Thank you, Your Honour. My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Since we last met, the House of Commons Justice Committee heard the testimony of Gerald Butts, the Prime Minister’s former principal secretary, regarding the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The committee also heard a second time from the former Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, and Nathalie Drouin, the Deputy Minister at the Justice Department.
We witnessed a press conference on this matter by the Prime Minister, a so-called statement of contrition absent of any contrition or apology.
Last week the Liberal members of the Justice Committee shut it down in an attempt to have Ms. Wilson-Raybould return before them, denying her the opportunity to complete her testimony.
The question: Why won’t the government allow Ms. Wilson-Raybould to tell her full story? What more is the government hiding?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question and welcome him to live television for the purposes of Question Period.
As the senator will know, the government gave an unprecedented waiver to the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General so that she could speak fully and in detail. She was able to do so during her more than four hours of testimony before the committee in the other place.
With regard to the work of that committee, as the honourable senator will know, that committee is still actively meeting I believe as early as tomorrow. I leave it to the competence and confidence of the other chamber to deal with their matters appropriately.
Senator Smith: Thank you for the answer.
Canadians are still wondering what is going on. The former Attorney General wants to talk about what happened after she left the Department of Justice and resigned from cabinet, but she is being prevented from doing so. Last week, the Liberal members of the committee put an end to the meeting after less than 30 minutes. Obviously, they do not want Canadians to know the whole story. I think that makes it all the more important for the Senate to look into this matter. What do you think, Senator Harder? Did the events of the past two weeks make you rethink your position? Will you now support our motion without amendment or do you still believe that your colleagues in this chamber are just playing junior league second-guessers?
Senator Harder: The honourable senator speaks to a motion that hopefully we get to later today. He and all senators will know that Senator Smith’s motion would cause action in this place with respect to the potential of creating a committee and calling witnesses. There is an amendment to that motion which I put forward for the consideration of this chamber.
As I indicated in my remarks at the time I spoke, I reminded all of the chamber that it is the Senate itself that will determine how, whether and if the Senate were to undertake such an inquiry. I remain of the view that the work of the committee in the other place and the work of the Ethics Commissioner and Conflict of Interest Commissioner are important works that are appropriate in the context of the matters that we’re discussing.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Harder, first it was Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, then Jane Philpott, then Ms. Caesar-Chavannes. It has become abundantly clear that Prime Minister Trudeau is failing as a leader and doesn’t know how to listen or create an environment of trust. Yet he still is asking Canadians to just trust him. Now he wants Canadians to find comfort in the fact that he is going to seek the advice of experts regarding the mess he has found himself in, yet he got into this mess by failing to listen to the advice of his former expert Justice Minister when she chose a path different from what he wanted.
Senator Harder, how are Canadians supposed to have any confidence in a Prime Minister who says he is going to seek expert advice when he has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not listen and does not take responsibility when things go wrong?
Senator Harder: I would, of course, dispute the honourable senator’s preamble. If there’s a question there, let me respond by saying this Prime Minister has on no occasion directed the previous minister in terms of how she should exercise her judgement. At no time were any laws broken and there was no inappropriate behaviour.
As I said, there’s a committee of the other place examining this question. They’ve had a number of witnesses, including the former Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, as well as the present Minister of Justice and Attorney General. The matter is being looked at by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and Ethics Commissioner of the other place, who has appropriate jurisdiction in this matter, jurisdiction similar to a Superior Court judge, so that all matters that are relevant in the mind of the decision maker can be brought forward.
I would leave it to them to adjudicate the issues that the honourable senator is raising.
With respect to the confidence that he’s asking Canadians to have, I think that confidence expresses itself every day in the work of the government. I certainly look forward to tomorrow’s budget, where again, for the fourth time in this mandate, this government will have the opportunity to tell Canadians how the economic performance of this government is enhanced by the actions of this government.
Senator Plett: Deficits, deficits, deficits. Well, Senator Harder, as you know, the Prime Minister has characterized the SNC-Lavalin scandal as simply a misunderstanding due to the erosion of trust in his office. This seems about as credible as suggesting that a groping allegation occurred only because people experience things differently.
The simple fact of the matter is that the House of Commons Justice Committee is not going to get to the bottom of this because it is dominated by Liberals. The Ethics Commissioner will not get to the bottom of this because not only is he on medical leave, but the scope of these allegations are beyond his mandate. If anyone has the ability to satisfy Canadians with answers, it is the Senate of Canada. Yet, Senator Harder, you are standing in the way.
Will you do the right thing, leader, and withdraw your amendment to Motion 435 and instruct all senators to support you on this in order to allow the Senate to call Ms. Wilson-Raybould to testify before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs?
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Harder: Alas, senator, I have neither the temperament nor the capacity to instruct anybody how to vote in this chamber, unlike others. So let me simply say I will not withdraw the motion. I hope that we get to it tonight, and Senate willing, that we vote on it.
Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It is obvious to Canadians that your Prime Minister is doing whatever he can to hide the truth about his own inappropriate and likely illegal interference in the work of the former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, in the SNC-Lavalin case.
As a result of the Liberals’ unacceptable and disgraceful attempts to prevent Ms. Wilson-Raybould from clarifying the situation before the Justice Committee, committee members will have to make a decision based on only part of the picture. What is more, the Prime Minister and his staff will be retaining outside counsel to help them with their cover-up, all at taxpayers’ expense.
Leader, can you confirm that the government is once again trying to hide the truth from Canadians? More importantly, can you justify the money that is being spent on legal fees?
Senator Harder: Again, I think the honourable senator will know all appropriate steps have been taken with respect to ensuring that this issue was aired in the appropriate committee in the other place, that the appropriate actions are taken by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and while he is on medical leave, the office itself is vigorously pursuing this. It is only appropriate that those involved are supported in the testimony which they might be compelled to bring forward.
Senator Dagenais: Could the leader tell us whether the RCMP contacted the Prime Minister or his staff about the engagements made to the former Attorney General?
Senator Harder: I am not aware of that.
Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable colleagues, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Harder. The Prime Minister’s Office states that former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan has been hired to assess the structure that has been in place since Confederation of a single minister holding the positions of Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. I think you will agree, Senator Harder, that it’s not the responsibility of any one prime minister to ascertain and most certainly isn’t the job of any adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office. That’s up to Parliament to decide.
This government talks all the time about the trust in our institutions yet continues to show such disregard for them, especially Parliament. And because this Prime Minister, once again, can’t operate within the structure that’s been around for more than 150 years — and successfully, by the way, for more than 150 years — we have to change it all because it doesn’t fit his narrative?
Senator Harder, why is it that this Prime Minister thinks that those institutions and our system have to bend to accommodate him instead of the other way around? Why does this Prime Minister think that he is bigger than our Constitution and bigger than our institutions?
Senator Harder: Again, the rhetoric of the honourable senator and the preamble are inflammatory and, quite frankly, wrong.
The Prime Minister of Canada — any prime minister — has the duty and the obligation to form a ministry in the shape and the mandate that they wish, and those mandates and ministries often result in Parliament having to act to legislate various machinery of government issues.
What the Prime Minister is seeking from the Honourable Anne McLellan is expert advice on whether the present configuration of machinery of government, in which the positions are combined, remain the appropriate configuration and the appropriate machinery of government positions today.
The honourable senator claims to be an expert on Westminster models. He will know that there are Westminster models where they are separated, and there are some upsides and downsides to that, which ought to be reflected and studied carefully, not just on the back of an envelope. That is the study that the Prime Minister has initiated.
What is the appropriate relationship between staff, both public service and political staff, in terms of interventions with the role of the Attorney General? Those are all part of a very important study that will be undertaken by a very respected former attorney general and minister of justice and deputy prime minister of Canada.
Senator Housakos: Government leader, indeed, you’re absolutely right. The role of determining these things is up to the House of Commons Justice Committee, the Senate Justice Committee and the two chambers of Parliament, not some staffer in the PMO or some consultant.
The Prime Minister’s special adviser will also analyze operating procedures in the PMO and across cabinet, as well as the role of public servants and political staff in interactions with the Attorney General of Canada. This is as per the communiqué put out by the Prime Minister’s Office.
If, after more than three years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs a special adviser to explain to him that the independence of the judiciary is an essential element of our democracy, that no Prime Minister, including Justin Trudeau, has the right to interfere in a criminal judicial inquiry, has no right to give guidance and advice to the Justice Department, then this Prime Minister should maybe not have sought the job of Prime Minister if he wasn’t ready for it.
Let me ask you this, Senator Harder: If the Prime Minister is not up to the job of running his own office and cabinet, why should Canadians believe he’s up to the job of running this country?
Senator Harder: Again, I completely disregard the preamble and the hyperbole. I, of course, won’t quote Justice Vaillancourt. I will leave that to others.
Let me simply say this Prime Minister is being vigilant in ensuring that his government remains absolutely focused on the right and appropriate machinery relationships between the Attorney General, the Minister of Justice and the ministry as a whole.
Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Canadians have the right to know the truth.
SNC-Lavalin’s fraud and bribery charges date back to 2000 and 2011, which are now in different ways before Canadian courts.
What’s more, in 2015, it was sanctioned for illicit payments to an African development bank group.
It was under investigation by the Charbonneau inquiry in 2016.
SNC-Lavalin was also reprimanded for making illegal contributions to the Liberal Party — hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And, of course, in 2013 the World Bank announced the debarment of SNC-Lavalin for ten years.
In December 2015, less than two months after the Liberals came to power, SNC signed an administrative agreement with the Trudeau government, allowing it to bid and win work despite the still pending criminal charges.
The Prime Minister has lost two cabinet ministers, his principal secretary and now the Clerk of the Privy Council. When will this Prime Minister start taking real responsibility for the scandal?
Senator Harder: Without commenting on all of the hyperbole of the preamble, let me simply say this Prime Minister has never shied away from taking responsibility for that, from the moment this first arose and in questions and commentary throughout the last number of weeks. The actions he has taken with respect to the announcements of today reflect his ongoing commitment to doing just that.
Senator Ngo: Prime Minister Trudeau has said time and time again that he always fights to protect Canadian jobs, especially SNC-Lavalin, about 9,000 jobs, he says.
Senator Harder, Northern Gateway involves thousands of jobs. Energy East pipeline involves thousands of jobs. Trans Mountain pipeline involves thousands of jobs. Building pipelines involves thousands of jobs. All companies cancelled projects involve thousands of jobs. These are the most massive job losses in the Canadian economy, which involve the entire industry. They did not even get attention from the PM, the PMO staff or the PCO — none.
My question to the Leader of the Government is: Why the double standard? Who can seriously believe it now when the Prime Minister says, “I fight to protect Canadians’ job in the line?”
Senator Harder: Again I will discount the hyperbole and simply state for the record — and certainly we can report more fully on this in the context of tomorrow’s budget — of the job-creating record of this government. We have had job growth that has led the G7. Our unemployment rate is at the lowest level in a number of years and the Prime Minister and his government continue to be focused on jobs in the energy sector. That is why the government has taken the unprecedented step of actually buying a pipeline and working to ensure that Canada is able to export its important crude resources at the global level, not tied to just a North American space for this important product.
I think it’s important upon all of us to recognize that we all in Parliament share a responsibility to focus on jobs, wherever they are, in whatever sector, so that Canadians can benefit from the global economy, from the opportunities that come with better integration, better and higher levels of skills, learning computer and technology capacity, so that we can be truly a connected workforce, a workforce that has the tools to retrain and take advantage of the new opportunities of the new economy.
Hon. Donna Dasko: My question is for the Government Leader. Senator Harder, we’ve been away from this chamber for two weeks. I wonder if you can help us with some information. Can you enlighten us as to the timing of the activities of the house committee that’s looking into the SNC-Lavalin issues, the number of witnesses who are yet to appear, who those witnesses may be, the timing of the witnesses appearing before committee? This information certainly would help me with any decisions that I may have to make this evening around the amendment you proposed and the motions that were here two weeks ago. Thank you.
Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for her question. She will know that, like committees in this chamber, committees in the other chamber operate with their own mandate. My understanding is the committee will be meeting tomorrow to determine their schedule and what witnesses they may bring forward for further study. I would also reference the ongoing work that is under way by the Ethics Commissioner and the Conflict of Interest Commissioner which has, as I’ve mentioned several times, both the authority, mandate and the critical legal basis on which to advance inquiries in this matter.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Hon. Pamela Wallin: To the Government Leader in the Senate, I’m wondering if you could also give us an update on where we stand exactly in our discussions with China on the issue of canola. You will know the details that the Government of China has revoked Richardson International’s status as an authorized exporter. There is no evidence that there are health or contamination issues. Canola is my province’s most valuable agricultural export, accounting for $3.6 billion or 26 per cent of our total agricultural exports. If this matter is not resolved, the consequences will be massive.
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again I thank the honourable senator for her question. This is clearly a very important question for not only the farmers of her province but for the whole Canadian export relationship with China. The government at the highest levels has raised this issue. I’ve had occasion myself to raise it with Chinese officials to impress upon them this chamber’s interest in the issue of canola specifically and trade relations generally. This is a matter that the new Minister of Agriculture raised in her first meeting with a journalist as a priority which she intends to follow up. I’d be happy to report from time to time on what actions are being taken. This is a high priority on the minds of Canadians.
Senator Wallin: Of course, as you know, the timing is crucial. When I left home yesterday, the snow was nearly off the fields. Planting is going to start soon. I’m wondering if there’s anything that you know in terms of communication that might produce some immediate results.
Senator Harder: Let me make inquiries and get back to the honourable senator. I just want to stress that this is a matter of high priority and it is related to a number of other very difficult issues in the bilateral relationship.
Prime Minister’s Office
Hon. Claude Carignan: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On February 7, The Globe and Mail reported that Prime Minister Trudeau’s entourage put undue pressure on the former Attorney General to give SNC-Lavalin preferential treatment involving an agreement and a criminal trial. The Prime Minister immediately said that the report were totally false. Since then, however, two ministers have resigned. His best friend and principal secretary, Gerald Butts, has left his job, and the Prime Minister has admitted that everything reported by The Globe and Mail was actually true. The government is no longer disputing the facts in this scandal. Everyone involved in this affair, even the Prime Minister, has hired private-sector lawyers specializing in criminal law. In a fresh twist, the Clerk of the Privy Council also stepped down today.
Leader, could you confirm that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has launched an investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair and that this criminal investigation is the reason the Clerk of the Privy Council decided to retire?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I cannot confirm that. I can only confirm the basis on which the secretary to the Cabinet submitted his retirement. I would refer to the fact that Mr. Wernick has some 37, 38 years of public service, but he did cite in his letter:
It is now apparent that there is no path for me to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the Opposition parties. Furthermore, it is essential that during the writ period the Clerk is seen by all political parties as an impartial arbiter of whether serious foreign interference has occurred.
Therefore, I wish to relinquish these roles before the election.
This is a clerk of high integrity, making a judgment as to how the interests of Canada can be served.
Senator Carignan: As everyone knows, a good criminal lawyer will advise his or her client not to speak. Counsel will tell clients that they have the right to remain silent. Can the government leader confirm that if the individuals identified in this matter, the twelve or so individuals from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Office of the Minister of Finance, are called to testify before the House or Senate committees, they will not invoke their right to remain silent or to avoid self-incrimination and they will provide the absolute full truth?
Senator Harder: All I can confirm are the actions of those who have appeared before the House of Commons committee have stated: They have replied to questions honestly, directly and forthrightly and appropriately.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): My question is also for the government leader. Mr. Drago Kos, Chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions, told the CBC last week that the former Attorney General’s claim of political interference in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin “immediately raised all alarms.” In response to the serious concerns raised by the OECD, Minister Freeland issued a statement which pointed to the House of Commons Justice Committee as a robust and independent process currently under way. However, Liberal MPs shut down that committee last week before it could even debate inviting Ms. Wilson-Raybould to appear.
Leader, how can the government tell the OECD the committee’s work is robust and independent given what happened at committee just two days after the OECD issued its warning?
Senator Harder: First of all, what the honourable senator’s question fails to recall is that the former minister spent more than four hours before the committee, so it’s not, as the question would suggest, that the former minister didn’t have an opportunity.
Second, with respect to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and her statement with regard to the rule of law in Canada, it is certainly my view and the Minister of Justice’s view, and I hope the view of all senators, that the rule of law is strong in Canada and is respected throughout our administration.
Senator Martin: Honourable senator, I know that we’ve all been following what happened at the Justice Committee quite carefully, and we know that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was not able to speak as fully as you said she had. There was, I think, agreement among many of the committee members to at least debate whether or not she should be called back, as others were called back. So I was wondering whether the committee did its due diligence in allowing even debate to occur. I feel there are more questions as a result of what has happened. There is more information that we need.
Senator Harder: Again, the committee is, as I understand it, meeting tomorrow. It will make whatever decisions the committee makes as an independent committee of the other chamber.
I can only report that the Prime Minister in his order-in-council providing the waiver to the former minister for her testimony ensures that she is able to speak on matters which otherwise would be covered by cabinet confidences that are in respect of these issues and her time as the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General. That is an unusual, but it was felt necessary, step to ensure that the former minister spoke freely and fully.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Accessible Canada Bill
Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Munson, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dyck, for the second reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.
Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Tonight I rise to speak in support of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, or the accessible Canada act. I thank the bill’s sponsor, Senator Munson, for his leadership and tenacity in promoting disability rights.
As previously discussed in this chamber, Bill C-83 will help ensure an inclusive Canada that is accessible to all. The goals of the bill, I would dare say, are not up for debate. We all agree that accessibility and inclusion are fundamental Canadian values.
The term “lived rights” is part of how I’m going to discuss accessibility. It is a term that I coined as a professor more than 20 years ago to make the distinction in two short words, “lived rights,” between words about rights on paper or a computer screen and what happens when rights promised become rights lived. This is the heart of Bill C-81 before us.
Accessibility is more than a theory. Accessibility is a rights framework that requires us to shift our thinking beyond a focus on disabilities. Accessibility encourages us to see the reality of the spectrum of abilities where inclusivity is the guiding principle for theory and for practice within our institutions and systems where universal design benefits us all.
Accessibility means that the abilities of all individuals are respected and supported, not just tolerated or accommodated to the minimum required by law.
When I was the chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, I was privileged to be in the General Assembly of the United Nations hall when the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was officially activated, and I remember well the admonition from global disability rights advocates, “nothing about us without us.”
A framework of accessibility, as is outlined in Bill C-81, will ensure that lived rights are real for all Canadians.
Moreover, Bill C-81 is a mechanism for us as parliamentarians to keep the promises of equality made by Canada in constitutional and international human rights law.
Equality rights are at the core of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms entrenched within our Constitution. Guarantees of equality to all persons before and under the law go far beyond formal words in section 15 of the Charter. Upholding this right to equality is why we need Bill C-81.
Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada ratified in 2010, outlines our obligation to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities. This provision requires us to “. . . take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others . . . .”
Colleagues, please join me in voting as soon as possible to move this bill to committee, where senators can study it further and hear from experts to accelerate our capacity to deliver on the guarantee that all Canadians can live their rights to equality, inclusivity and dignity.
Thank you, meegwetch.
Hon. Marie-Françoise Mégie: Honourable senators, I rise today in support of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.
On February 19, our colleague, the Honourable Senator Munson, moved second reading of the bill in this chamber. As sponsor, Senator Munson eloquently presented the principles and terms of this legislation, which, if passed by Parliament would become a concrete measure ensuring that persons with disabilities in Canada could fully exercise their rights.
Senator Munson, I know this bill is very important to you and to many people with disabilities in this country. I was really touched when you recalled the memory of your dear late son, Timothy.
It’s not my intention to repeat what Senator Munson said, but I want to raise some important points he addressed in his speech. I fully agree with him that—
The proposed accessible Canada act represents a historic milestone for disability rights in Canada.
I resolutely support one of the bill’s essential principles: that Canadians with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect them. I enthusiastically support the passage in the bill’s preamble stating that “Parliament considers that it is essential to ensure the economic, social and civic participation of all persons in Canada, regardless of their disabilities, and to allow them to fully exercise their rights and responsibilities in a barrier-free Canada”.
I also believe that the federal government has made significant progress in its approach to addressing issues that affect accessibility for persons with disabilities.
This bill emphasizes a proactive, action-oriented approach instead of a reactive response to unfortunate incidents. In other words, it is high time that federally regulated institutions and entities took action to prevent such incidents instead of waiting until after a person with a disability has been denied service or access.
The bill puts forward mechanisms such as the creation of an accessibility commissioner and a Canadian accessibility standards development organization, or CASDO. Furthermore, Canada is showing that it is very serious about removing barriers to accessibility by imposing financial penalties for violations of the act.
I am pleased to see that the whole process for Bill C-81 was transparent. All of the interested parties, and in particular people with disabilities, had their say, and the bill includes measures to ensure that these people will continue to be consulted and can actively participate in developing standards and programs.
This bill was carefully studied in the other place. They made several amendments to improve the bill. Although some noted that Bill C-81 could be improved even more, ultimately it was unanimously passed at third reading in the other place on November 27, 2018. The bill is now before us. Honourable senators, I’m sure that we will thoroughly review it in this chamber and in committee. I hope that all senators will work together, beyond ideological and party lines, to ensure that it directly meets the needs of Canadians with disabilities and of the organizations that represent them. Many people have been hoping and waiting for this legislation. We cannot forget that we have limited time left in this Parliament.
All those who have the full use of their physical capabilities and mental faculties must never forget that we can all find ourselves dealing with a disability overnight, whether as a result of a simple fall at home or on an icy sidewalk, a motor vehicle or work accident, a stroke or a long illness. Even though our mobility may be reduced or our vision or hearing impaired, we would want to continue with all our professional and personal activities. Having a disability or impairment should not prevent us from reaching our potential or contributing to society.
I would like to remind you that although he was severely disabled, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking conducted exceptional scientific research and analyses his whole life to help us understand the universe in which we live.
A little closer to home, let us recognize the exceptional achievements of our respected colleague, the Honourable Senator Chantal Petitclerc, throughout her career as a high-performance athlete. All senators in this place know that she continues to have very high standards as she carries out her duties as a senator and chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
If I may, honourable senators, I would like to share my own experience with barriers to accessibility. On a professional level, back when I was working as a doctor, I often saw patients who just had severe osteoarthritis of the knee — by “just” I do not mean to minimize their suffering — who could not climb onto and lie on a standard medical exam table. Some of them therefore needed home visits in order to be examined properly. That problem was solved when adjustable electric exam tables were invented. These patients could now come to the clinic for their medical exams, if the clinic had that kind of table.
On a personal level, I want to say a few words about my uncle, Jean Sorel. He was the one who taught me how to navigate the streets of Montreal, despite being blind since birth. His parents were determined to help him overcome the accessibility barriers that were blocking him from getting an education and becoming independent. He had to go to the United States. He became the first Haitian person to learn Braille, and he even became a Braille teacher. He was licensed to practise law. He spoke six languages and taught English, French and Esperanto — at a school in Chicago, even though he lived in Montreal — to people with visual impairments. He also worked as a radio host. He contributed significantly to the integration of many visually impaired people. He co-founded the Haitian aid society for the blind and founded the association of blind and visually impaired Haitians of Quebec. When he passed away in 2017, Haiti’s Ambassador to Canada paid him a glowing tribute that highlighted the magnitude of his achievements.
Jean Sorel was an independent person who lived his life to the fullest. He also adapted to changing technology, using email to keep in touch with his colleagues, friends and us, his family. Despite his energy and his zest for life, he ran up against barriers every day and had to deal with many nuisances that would not even cross the minds of sighted people like us.
If he were still among us today, he would surely see Bill C-81 as a positive step toward eliminating barriers to accessibility.
Between 2004 and 2017, several Canadian provinces, including Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, passed legislation on accessibility and the integration of persons with disabilities. At the federal level, Bill C-81 will become another important and effective tool in Canada’s toolbox for ensuring accessibility.
I don’t want to go overboard with statistics, but I would like to remind you that in 2017, 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and over, or about 6.2 million people, had one or more disabilities. What is more, women were more likely to have a disability than men, with 24 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men, living with disabilities.
Among those with disabilities aged 25 to 64 years who were not employed and not attending school, 39 per cent were potential workers. That represents nearly 645,000 people with disabilities.
This data is taken from a Statistics Canada document entitled A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over. This report was published in November 2018 as part of the Canadian Survey on Disability.
In January 2019, the Office des personnes handicapées du Québec reported that, in my home province of Quebec, 16 per cent of the population, or over one million people, have disabilities. Given the growing aging population, it would come as no surprise if those numbers increased in the coming years.
A report published by the Conference Board of Canada in January 2018 entitled The Business Case to Build Physically Accessible Environments indicates that the number of Canadians living with a physical disability that impairs their vision, hearing or mobility will rise by 1.8 per cent per year between now and 2030, to reach 3.7 million. Meanwhile, total population growth in Canada will average less than 1 per cent a year over the same period.
That same report also indicates that implementing measures to improve workplace accessibility would enable 550,000 Canadians with disabilities to work more hours, which would increase the GDP by $16.8 billion by 2030. This larger pool of available workers would boost the total income of people with disabilities by over $13.5 billion dollars.
In summary, introducing measures to improve accessibility in the workplace would enable 550,000 Canadians with disabilities to work more. This enlarged pool of available workers would translate into a significant total income increase for individuals with disabilities.
In closing, we now have an excellent opportunity to continue moving forward with this bill. It’s time to take action to make Canada a more inclusive country where societal attitudes and systemic physical, informational and technological barriers will finally allow people with disabilities to fully assert their rights.
I am confident that we will examine Bill C-81 expeditiously and, if necessary, propose amendments that will only benefit people with disabilities living in Canada.
Although I’m naturally optimistic, I am also realistic, and I understand that, barring a miracle, we will have to wait until the first Sunday in May of 2020 to celebrate National AccessAbility Week for the first time, as set out in clause 133 of the bill.
Those who were consulted and who participated in developing this historic piece of legislation, as well as everyone who stands to benefit from it, are counting on us in this august chamber to make the Accessible Canada Act a reality soon. Thank you.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
Food and Drugs Act
Bill to Amend—Message from Commons—Motion for Concurrence in Commons Amendments—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Seidman, seconded by the Honourable Senator Boisvenu:
That the Senate agree to the amendments made by the House of Commons to Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children); and
That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that house accordingly.
Hon. Robert Black: Honourable senators, today I want to talk about a message from the House of Commons regarding Bill S-228.
This bill, an Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), was introduced by Senator Nancy Greene Raine in September 2016. It completed the legislative process in the Senate in September 2017 and was sent to the other place at that time.
We received the message currently before us in September of 2018, with two amendments.
I was only summoned to the Senate in February 2018 and so this is my first opportunity to rise on behalf of the agricultural industry to address this legislation.
When I came to the Senate, I brought with me over 30 years of experience in the field of agriculture. In fact, my work in agriculture was the very reason for which I was called to the Senate. Therefore, I look at every piece of legislation we discuss and every issue we examine through the agricultural and rural lens.
How will this affect rural communities? How will this affect primary producers, processors and the agricultural industry overall?
I support the intent of Bill S-228. Let me repeat that: I support the intent of the bill. I also support the study that the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology undertook to address rising obesity rates in Canada.
In addition, I broadly agree with the two amendments sent to us from the other place. The first amendment lowers the age to be considered a child from 17 to 13. The second implements a parliamentary review within five years to examine any unintended consequences of this piece of legislation.
However, because of my agricultural focus, I have a few concerns with the legislation at this time. They have been somewhat reduced based on confirmations given to me by Health Canada, but I still think they are worth putting on the record.
A five-year parliamentary review is a good thing, but if we can avoid consequences that we are already seeing, we should try our best to do so.
As my honourable colleague Senator Seidman stated in this chamber:
Rates of obesity have tripled in Canada since 1980, and one in three children between the ages of 5 and 17 years are either overweight or obese.
Many of us have been receiving correspondence from organizations like the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society asking for us to pass this legislation as soon as possible for the health of our children. Of course, the health of our children is of utmost importance. I want to ensure that my grandsons, Jackson and Connor, your children, your grandchildren and all Canadians regardless of age have healthy eating habits and that products are not inappropriately marketed to children.
That being said, some problems with this bill arose late in the legislative process during a November 5 meeting between Health Canada officials and agricultural industry stakeholders, concerns which I believe must be put on the record in this chamber.
The first of these issues is the use of the word “unhealthy.” The word appears in the bill six times. Using the word “unhealthy” to describe a certain food can be misleading. As far as I understand, it is not the individual foods we eat but the entire diet that should be looked at. Other countries like Australia, Ireland and the U.K. have laws around marketing to children. However, they use terms such as “unhealthy eating habits” or “unhealthy lifestyles.” They do not reference unhealthy foods. Again, this is because it is not realistic to label certain foods as unhealthy when it is someone’s overall diet we must consider.
If I eat a few slices of cheese, can we say that is unhealthy? No, because we don’t know all the facts. Now, if I eat a few slices of cheese with each meal, we could probably classify that as an unhealthy eating habit.
Classifying an individual food item as unhealthy could give that product a bad reputation here in Canada in domestic markets, as well as in the international markets.
In a letter to my office, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture stated that the use of the word “unhealthy”:
. . . provides international competitors a rationale to unduly demonize Canadian agri-food products.
Not only could this cause confusion for Canadians, but the spin-off effects to our reputation as having a world-class agricultural industry could cause serious economic impacts, both domestically and internationally, to the entire agricultural supply chain.
Fortunately, Health Canada officials have reassured me and my office that the word “unhealthy” will not appear in the regulations and guidance document. They have expressed their willingness to change the terminology. This is a positive sign, but it worries me that the word will still be in the act itself, and the only way to change the terminology would be to amend this legislation.
The second concern I have that is very much related is the 5 per cent limit this legislation imposes on sodium, sugar and saturated fats. Any food that has over 5 per cent content of sodium, sugar or saturated fats would be restricted from being marketed to children. My issue with this number is it seems arbitrary. I have yet to hear a good defence of the 5 per cent figure. No one has been able to tell me exactly where it comes from.
This number has raised concerns in the agriculture industry as well, notably among dairy farmers and grain producers. Food items like cheese, yogurt, bread, cereal and meat — things that are generally considered to be part of a healthy diet — would surpass this limit. Again, Health Canada has reassured me somewhat on this point.
As Senator Petitclerc stated in her speech last month, the first question asked will be: Is this product marketed to children? If it is not, we are told by Health Canada that they will not even look at the percentages and the industry can continue to market them as normal. Only if the product is clearly marketed to children will it be subject to the 5 per cent limit. I guess I can live with that.
Online and in TV advertisements, these products will not be able to be advertised if it is determined that children make up 15 per cent or more of the audience. On the other hand, in physical settings, the act will only apply to areas that are strictly targeted to children. For example, at a fair or exhibition, food products that exceed the 5 per cent threshold would not be able to be advertised in a designated children’s zone. However, according to Health Canada officials, they would be able to be advertised at the fair in general as long as the advertising is not targeted directly to children, such as using a sign featuring cartoon characters or a dancing mascot. This is regardless of the percentage of attendees that are children.
I am not opposed to this point. However, there has been some confusion among stakeholders. Some are still under the impression that the 15 per cent limit will be applied in physical settings as well. Along with some of my honourable colleagues in this place, I hope that Health Canada will make it very clear in the final version of their guidance document and accept to use input from the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, the Calgary Stampede and other groups.
My final concern with this piece of legislation, which is possibly the most serious, is the insufficient consultation that has taken place within the agriculture industry. I have heard from Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Meat Council, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, 12 grain organizations, Food & Consumer Products of Canada, Restaurants Canada, Ferrero Canada and more. The constant refrain has been that this is not good for agriculture, this will give a bad reputation to certain important agricultural products and that there has not been enough consultation with the agriculture industry and primary stakeholders.
Under this legislation, over 91 per cent of dairy products would be classified as “unhealthy,” as would almost all bread and cheese.
Along with a few of my Senate colleagues, I recently met with representatives from Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Quebec and P.E.I., who assured us that they do not oppose the principle of the bill and, as I have already said, neither do I. We all simply take issue with the use of the word “unhealthy.”
We discussed this issue at our December 6 meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. We heard from stakeholders in the grain industry, the Baking Association, Grain Growers of Canada and the National Millers Association. The discussion focused around the sodium content, as most breads marketed today would surpass that 5 per cent limit. Health Canada representatives were also present at that meeting, and they assured the committee that they would meet with stakeholders in the agriculture industry over the following weeks. In February, they had one meeting with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. However, I fear their consultation with agriculture has not yet gone deep enough. Even if this bill passes, I urge Health Canada to continue to seek feedback from primary producers and others, allowing these groups to have input on the regulations and the guidance document.
Although a parliamentary review after five years will still be valuable, I believe Health Canada should make every effort to hear from those in the industry now, which could reduce the unintended consequences over the next five years.
As I have stated, I have concerns with this legislation. I am somewhat less worried with the commitments from Health Canada that they will not use the world “unhealthy” in the regulations and guidance document, and that they will consult with the agriculture industry throughout the process of drafting the regulations.
Honourable colleagues, I worked with the Chamber Operations and Procedures Office to discuss options to address my concerns. The first option was to amend the bill on the floor of the Senate Chamber. The second was to refer the message to the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry and try to amend it there. All possibilities considered would involve motions that would be adjournable, debatable and amendable, meaning that, based on the current parliamentary calendar, we would need more time. However, as you know, we’re at the eleventh hour here, and I do not want to inadvertently kill this bill. Therefore, I have decided against these options.
Thank you for listening to my concerns, which reflect what I have heard from many in the agricultural industry. If this bill passes, I am going to continue to watch its progress to ensure that Health Canada keeps its promise to engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders, including primary producers. Thank you.
Hon. Pamela Wallin: I have a question, if Senator Black would take one.
Senator R. Black: Absolutely.
Senator Wallin: Thank you. I share your deep concerns about this bill on three fronts: jobs, costs and political promises. There are 65,000 grain producers in this country. That’s a lot of jobs. The bread and bakery industry is a $7.2-billion industry. That’s a lot of jobs. That is one issue we need to be looking at.
On the question of costs, this designation of “unhealthy” makes basic items much more expensive — bread for sandwiches, for kids going to school, for example. This is pretty basic.
My question to you is the following: Should we not be targeting the ingredients, not the end product?
My third point — I’ll put them all out now and let you respond to them, if you could. Around my concerns about political promises, what we have done through the legislative front door with the word “unhealthy” we cannot truly undo through the regulatory back door. The system doesn’t work that way. What’s in the legislation is in the legislation. This is flawed. I don’t think we should be convinced that we can clarify and ameliorate the situation through regulation.
I’d just like your comments on those three things.
Senator R. Black: Thank you, Senator Wallin. From my perspective, I agree with exactly what you’re saying, so thank you for sharing that.
With respect to the promises we’ve been given, that I’ve heard from Health Canada, we now know they will not use the word “unhealthy” in the regulations and guidance document. For that, I have to be at least a little pleased, because at one point, it was all throughout that, too.
You’re right: The legislation has the word “unhealthy” six times. I think we should all be concerned about that and watch that over the coming years as things are developed.
Hon. Douglas Black: Senator, thank you very much for the tremendous amount of work you have done on this piece of legislation.
My question relates to an organization that you mentioned in your remarks, the Calgary Stampede, which, as everyone in this chamber knows, is the largest outdoor show in the world. This matters to the Calgary Stampede.
Can you give me any comfort, based on your research, that the stampede is going to be able to move forward with the types of activities and selling the types of products they have over the last 100 or 120 years?
Senator R. Black: Thank you, Senator Black. It concerns me too. There are over 800 fairs and exhibitions across the country. It’s not just the Calgary Stampede; it’s all of them. With respect to the Calgary Stampede, as we’ve been assured by Health Canada during the meeting on December 6 and afterward, the marketing will not be able to take place if the Calgary Stampede has a children’s zone or area. General marketing can take place outside of that area, as long as they don’t target children under 13. That would mean dancing mascots, clowns or cartoons. But I’m generally assured that they can move forward.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Deacon would like to ask a question, but your time has run out.
Senator R. Black: Could I ask for more time, please? Five minutes?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senator, you’ve talked about Health Canada and a number of important groups you’ve been able to meet with. I want to come back to the monitoring and the review piece. To be very clear, what is it you’re looking for from organizations like Health Canada to make sure the interests and concerns you have indicated today are not lost in any kind of way, beyond word-changing and wordsmithing?
Senator R. Black: I’ll be monitoring and the thing about which I will be asking the stakeholders I connect with is whether this legislation has negatively impacted the selling of primary products, domestically and internationally, as a result of this legislation. That’s the piece we’ll be looking and watching for. We will be watching that Health Canada doesn’t slip in the word “unhealthy” in various places.
(On motion of Senator Wells, debate adjourned.)
Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ringuette, seconded by the Honourable Senator Moncion, for the third reading of Bill S-237, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate), as amended.
And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Cools, seconded by the Honourable Senator Bovey:
That Bill S-237, as amended, be not now read a third time, but that it be further amended in clause 1, on page 1, by replacing line 15 (as replaced by decision of the Senate on April 19, 2018) with the following:
“plus thirty-five per cent on the credit advanced under an”.
Hon. Nancy J. Hartling: Honourable senators, I move that further debate be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate.
(On motion of Senator Hartling, debate adjourned.)
Department of Public Works and Government Services Act
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Griffin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Mégie, for the second reading of Bill C-354, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).
Hon. David M. Wells: I move the adjournment of the debate to the next sitting of the Senate.
(On motion of Senator Wells, debate adjourned.)
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
Thirty-fourth Report of Committee Adopted
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, entitled Committee budget - legislation, presented in the Senate on February 28, 2019.
Hon. Sabi Marwah moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, this report contains a recommended legislative budget allocation for the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in the amount of $6,000 for the purchase of books and publications, including copies of the 2019 Criminal Code. This is a routine purchase made by the committee as needed. I urge all honourable senators to support the adoption of this report.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Motion to Authorize Committee to Examine Certain Events Relating to the Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to Call Witnesses—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Smith, seconded by the Honourable Senator Martin:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be authorized to examine and report on the serious and disturbing allegations that persons in the Office of the Prime Minister attempted to exert pressure on the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., M.P., and to interfere with her independence, thereby potentially undermining the integrity of the administration of justice;
That, as part of this study, and without limiting the committee’s right to invite other witnesses as it may decide, the committee invite:
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada;
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., M.P.;
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada;
Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council;
Kathleen Roussel, Director of Public Prosecutions;
Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister;
Gerald Butts, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister;
Mathieu Bouchard, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister;
Elder Marques, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister; and
Jessica Prince, former Chief of Staff to the Minister of Veterans Affairs;
That the committee submit its final report no later than June 1, 2019; and
That the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after tabling the final report.
And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Harder, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Mitchell:
That the motion be not now adopted, but that it be amended by replacing all words following the first instance of the word “That” in the motion with the following:
“the Senate acknowledge that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, an independent, impartial, apolitical and non-partisan officer of the House of Commons, has launched an examination under Section 45(1) of the Conflict of Interest Act into the conduct of public office holders alleged to have occurred in relation with legal proceedings involving SNC-Lavalin;
That the Senate observe that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has all the statutory powers necessary to summon the witnesses that his office will deem relevant and necessary to the said examination and to compel them to give evidence and produce documents; and
That the Government Representative table a copy of the report of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner setting out the facts in question as well as the Commissioner’s analysis and conclusions pursuant to Section 45 of the Conflict of Interest Act once it is public.”.
Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in response to the speeches by Senator Harder and Senator Pratte on our motion that the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be authorized to examine and report on the allegations that persons in the Office of the Prime Minister attempted to exert pressure on the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
These very serious allegations raise concerns about interference with the office and functions of the Attorney General of Canada that could have a negative impact on the administration of justice in our country.
Therefore, colleagues, based on the serious evidence presented to date, the Canadian government is faced by a scandal — a scandal that has Canadians wondering what is going on in the country’s highest-ranking offices.
Prime Minister Trudeau has been credibly accused by his own Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, of politically interfering in the criminal prosecution of a well-connected engineering firm. Jody Wilson-Raybould was threatened and bullied in an attempt to get her to interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and to cut a special deal.
It is beyond dispute that there was a sustained and coordinated political effort that took place in an attempt to get her to let SNC-Lavalin off the hook. In addition, it is most relevant that we be reminded that SNC-Lavalin was caught by Elections Canada funnelling illegal donations in excess of $100,000 to the Liberal Party of Canada. This is beginning to look more and more like a case of one set of special rules for the Liberals and their friends and another set of rules for everyone else. This is not the Canada that our grandparents fought for, and that’s not the Canada I want for my grandchildren.
The issue, therefore, strikes at the very heart of our democracy and system of government, namely, the rule of law, which is our oldest and most fundamental constitutional principle. This simply means that all persons are equally subject to the law regardless of their wealth, position in society or connections to the governing party of the day.
The protection of our fundamental constitutional principles is clearly a matter that has traditionally been of particular concern and responsibility of the Senate. Senator Harder, representing the government in this chamber, as well as some of the ISG senators may disagree with me and my Conservative colleagues over the proper role and function of the Senate, but surely not on this role.
In light of the fundamental constitutional importance of the matters raised in the wake of this growing scandal, I must admit, honourable senators, that I am very troubled by what I have heard people say here during the previous debates on this motion.
It is one thing for Senator Harder, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, to say that he does not believe the Senate should play a role in looking into the Prime Minister’s scandal, as he is the member of the Senate of Canada who chiefly is responsible for introducing, promoting and defending the government’s bills, along with defending the government. I kind of expected that, although I could have hoped for something better from him. As one of my colleagues said to me, “He would have to say that, wouldn’t he?”
But to witness other senators, including ISG senators, following suit in also opposing an inquiry to get to the bottom of this scandal, given what is at stake, is very puzzling to me. Why would they not want to get to the bottom of this matter, given that the government is doing all it can to prevent that from happening and not providing any detailed nor cogent arguments rebutting the most serious allegations and evidence we have heard from the former Attorney General?
Because average Canadians want answers. The Conservatives, NDP and Green Party have been trying to get answers in the House of Commons. Reporters have been trying to get answers. There is in fact now a united front of Canadians through those institutions trying to get satisfactory and complete answers and wanting to get to the bottom of this scandal. The press and the House of Commons so far have been unable to do so. In the case of the House of Commons, it is due to stonewalling by the government and by government Liberal members in the Justice Committee, more of which I will refer to shortly.
For the last five weeks or so, we’ve seen a relentless effort from the Prime Minister to change the narrative on this scandal in the hopes that we never get to the bottom of it. The Liberal members in the House of Commons, particularly in the Justice Committee, have blocked efforts to get to the bottom of the scandal. They have voted against the swearing in of witnesses, voted against recalling Jody Wilson-Raybould, while at the same time allowing the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, to reappear.
The Liberal members of Parliament have used their majority to protect Justin Trudeau by not allowing for other necessary witnesses to appear at committee, and just last week they shut down the emergency meeting of the committee probing the SNC-Lavalin affair. I will have more to say about this.
Both the Prime Minister and, therefore, the executive, along with their accomplices in the house committee are engaged in what can only be called a cover-up — I use that term advisedly but sincerely — to prevent more damaging information coming out about the inner workings of Prime Minister Trudeau’s office and cabinet.
Senators, allow me to repeat what Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said in 2014:
If the Senate serves a purpose at all, it is to act as a check on the extraordinary power of the Prime Minister and his office, especially in a majority government.
Colleagues, Prime Minister Trudeau has been campaigning and telling Canadians that he and his government will “restore a sense of trust in our democracy” and provide “greater openness and transparency.”
In the face of these damaging accusations by the former Attorney General, the Prime Minister continues to maintain there was no wrongdoing.
Therefore, this reinforces the need for all the facts to come out. There needs to be another body to look into this scandal.
These arguments alone should provide independent senators a clear mandate and a desire for a fulsome Senate inquiry in order to get answers about this scandal that has left the Trudeau government focused on damage control and virtually nothing else for weeks now.
Senators, I wish to address what Senator Harder, the Prime Minister’s senator in this chamber, has brought forward as arguments for why he opposes this motion and the opportunity for this Senate to get to the bottom of this most serious matter that has resulted in scandal for the government and a virtual crisis for them.
Senator Harder has raised concerns that the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee should focus on studying the government’s legislative business, such as Bill C-75 and Bill C-78. Senator Harder, I understand your responsibilities in ensuring the government’s legislative agenda. I have no doubt that the committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Joyal, has the ability to ensure a proper, thorough and nonpartisan inquiry into this most serious matter in addition to its other responsibilities.
Above all else, let’s not forget the severity of what is being alleged here: that the Prime Minister of this country and his associates have attempted to subvert the rule of law for party political advantage to benefit friends of the government and, in turn, the Prime Minister’s perceived party and political advantage.
Senators, we have a unique duty, obligation and opportunity to protect and defend the integrity of our democratic and legal institutions, especially when they are faced with potential corruption. I would go so far as to say that the Senate is tailor-made to conduct such a proper and complete inquiry into this scandal and get to the bottom of it.
I also wish to refute the argument also made by the government leader, that the Senate should just stand still and do nothing since a fair and impartial process is already under way by the Ethics Commissioner. We’ve all heard those talking points by the Liberals before.
The Ethics Commissioner’s investigation is very limited in what it can examine regarding the relationships between the Prime Minister, the former Attorney General and their respective staffs. Therefore, the Ethics Commissioner is not going to be able to provide sufficient answers to Canadians on this matter.
Just as a side note, unfortunately the Ethics Commissioner is sick and is not going to be available to be able to be fully active for at least 30 to 45 days, which also delays completion. It’s great to say that the office can do the work, but there’s one person who has to do the final reporting, and that is the Ethics Commissioner.
I would also like to raise the paradox that Senator Harder has raised, the point that the Ethics Commissioner is credible and trustworthy, and he is an independent and non-partisan officer. Is that not precisely what the government and ISG senators claim to be the main feature of the Senate, or is it another instance of words not reflecting the actions by the government? Does the Prime Minister and his Senate government leader simply fear the outcome of any inquiry conducted under the ultimate majority control of the ISG senators? Is it not a fact that the government, and through its spokesman here, concerned that given the power, scope and so-called independence of this body, we might actually get to the bottom of this scandal?
Another argument the Leader of the Government in the Senate raised is that the decree waiving solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidence for Ms. Wilson-Raybould does not apply to the Senate. It applies only to the House of Commons Justice Committee and the Ethics Commissioner.
The answer to solving that problem is in the hands and powers of the Prime Minister. He can and should simply have the order-in-council extended to apply to hearings conducted here. Therefore, the refusal by the government to do this is no argument for us not investigating this matter.
As I have said, Prime Minister Trudeau has been doing everything in his power to prevent the former Attorney General from providing what she has called “my truth” and thus her full story. However, after weeks of pressure, the Prime Minister finally realized this scandal wasn’t going away and allowed Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak, but to speak on his terms. She could only speak to matters arising up to the time she was demoted as AG and eventually shuffled to Veterans Affairs.
After she spoke to the house Justice Committee, the Prime Minister also got the Clerk of the Privy Council to again appear at the committee, and he also had his former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, attempt to put his spin on the scandal.
It is obvious that the house Justice Committee has been controlled by the PMO by way of its Liberal majority. I find this seriously problematic. That, obviously, would not be a problem if the Senate, as an independent body, looked into this matter. I will have more to say about this.
Colleagues, the bottom line that arises from the arguments raised by Senator Harder in an attempt to convince you not to do your duty in this case is: Are you willing to be part of the problem, or do you want to be part of the solution?
I’d now like to address the questions that Senator Pratte raised in his response to the motion for a Senate inquiry. I respect his experience and his knowledge, but with all due respect, I think he is wrong. His comments show that he has carefully considered this matter, and I thank him for that.
Senator Pratte asked whether this matter should be the subject of a parliamentary investigation.
Arguably, everyone believes that an investigation is required in order to get answers to the many questions that Canadians want to know and have not been answered. Unfortunately, what everyone has been witnessing is that the House of Commons committee will not suffice, as many protagonists have not been given a chance to provide their version of the facts. Why is that?
First of all, on the basis of straight partisan lines, the Liberal majority in the house committee has never allowed the former Attorney General to reappear to answer the testimony given to the committee by the Clerk of the Privy Council and Gerald Butts, the PM’s former principal secretary. They have just this week taken a furthermost gross partisan action in this regard, which I will make specific mention to in a moment.
In addition, the house committee has not allowed for the other relevant witnesses, including the Prime Minister, to appear before them. At the same time, however, the committee has allowed the Clerk of the Privy Council, an unelected official, to actually reappear, but again not affording the former AG the same opportunity.
I wish to make the case that the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, chaired by Liberal Senator Joyal, with a majority of ISG senators, would be able to act in a strictly non-partisan and thorough way.
I believe the numbers are, if I stand corrected, six, one, four, the breakdown, which puts the ISG members in a majority position. Just so we understand each other, this is not a case of who has more power. This is a case of real opportunity for representation.
The Senate committee is best equipped, as an independent body, to conduct such an inquiry.
The Senate committee would also, as we know, do a proper investigation and would surely both afford the former Attorney General the opportunity to be able to provide both her full story and rebuttal to what Mr. Butts and the clerk have said, as well as to call and summon all relevant witnesses to appear before it without fear or favour, based on partisan concerns or otherwise.
The second question raised by the senator: Is it the Senate’s role to investigate this matter?
In other words, should the Senate not be allowed to conduct a more adequate inquiry than what we are witnessing being conducted in the House of Commons on this matter? The Senate should be provided a chance to complete the work of the House of Commons, if we are of the view that their inquiry is less than adequate and thorough and/or the house committee is displaying a clear determination not to be so thorough and complete.
Senator Harder has on many occasions argued that it is very much the proper role of the Senate to complete inadequate work and inquiry conducted by the House.
As previously mentioned, to date, the House of Commons committee Liberal majority approach has been to limit testimony in an attempt to end their inquiry as quickly as possible. In light of their approach, we should adopt this motion now, as this will be a statement of our determination to perform our proper role, and, in fact, by such passage give an incentive to the house committee majority and the government that we are serious, and if they do not perform and complete the job properly, we are determined to do so ourselves.
Senator Pratte’s third question related to timing. Is this the right time for the Senate to examine this matter, or should we wait on the House of Commons to complete its work?
I agree with Senator Pratte that the Senate cannot wait for the report from the Ethics Commissioner, as it may come far too late for us to then conduct our own inquiry. The life of this current Parliament will come to an end soon, followed by the general election. It would be a travesty if we deny ourselves the opportunity to get to the facts in this matter, whatever the full facts reveal. We should ensure that this government and the Prime Minister will be ultimately accountable to all Canadians.
The Senate must prepare itself to deal with this question as soon as necessary, well before the end of this Parliament. This is why we must pass this motion right now.
The last question raised by Senator Pratte is the following: Given the wording of our motion, is our Senate committee the appropriate tool?
I would argue that the Senate committee is the most appropriate tool. What better parliamentary body would there be to ensure a proper, thorough and non-partisan inquiry?
This motion is necessarily anticipatory in light of the very serious constitutional nature of the issues at stake and the performance and attitude to date taken by the Justice Committee of the House of Commons . Our committee can be given the necessary discretion when to actually commence its proceedings on this matter.
Adopting this motion now will provide an incentive. If you will, it will be like the sword of Damocles on those who attempt to prevent Parliament from getting to the bottom of this matter and to, in fact, encourager les autres, as we might say. This matter either gets handled properly and completed by others, or it will need to be dealt with by us in the Senate.
Senator Pratte stated that he thought that this motion was partisan motivated. If it was, why would we be proposing that this matter be studied by one of our committees chaired by a Liberal senator with an ISG majority? What could be more non-partisan than that?
To quote Senator Pratte:
. . . our duty as independent legislators is not towards the opposition or towards the government. Our duty is to serve the truth. And by serving the truth, we serve Canadians.
Those duties and aspirations referred to by Senator Pratte will be fulfilled by the adoption of this motion.
I hope I have refuted the concerns raised by Senator Pratte.
I want to end these remarks by bringing us all up-to-date on recent developments.
I have received a note that says: And tonight we are learning that the Liberal members of Parliament on the Justice Committee have sent a letter basically claiming that they have finished their study in this matter. Furthermore, they claim to achieve their objective.
As honourable senators will know, we have now been met by the spectacle of the Liberal government majority on the Justice Committee of the House of Commons refusing to consider allowing the former Attorney General to come back to them in order to enable her to give further evidence and in rebuttal to remarks made by both the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Prime Minister’s former principal secretary.
I want to read this one more time because I just saw it: And tonight we are learning that the Liberal members of Parliament on the Justice Committee have sent a letter basically claiming they have finished their duties with this study. Furthermore, they claim they have achieved their objective.
It is therefore now clear that the Prime Minister and the Liberals in the house do not intend to allow the house committee to do a complete and thorough job of getting to the bottom of the serious matter.
This, therefore, simply reinforces our argument that having this matter for inquiry now taken up by our Senate committee is imperative and the only way now for us to get to the bottom of this matter. Our tradition of less partisanship and thorough committee studies is tailor-made to now complete the work of the house committee due to their and the government’s determination to shut this whole matter down before allowing Canadians the right to hear the full story.
This motion provides both an opportunity and a challenge, especially to the ISG senators in this place, to walk the walk of the independence that they talk so much and so proudly about.
If this motion is defeated, it will be defeated by the votes of our ISG senators, who will be seen as not prepared to display the independence they claim they have from the political executive and, in this case, especially the Prime Minister himself.
This is the moment of truth for my friends and colleagues across the aisle. How they proceed will be one for the history books.
I need a rest. Thanks.
Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Will the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Smith: I will do my best.
Senator Woo: I thank Senator Smith for his confirmation that independent senators are not partisan and will, in fact, make independent decisions.
By implication, you have said that your own group is partisan and will take a partisan position on any inquiry and any study that is undertaken.
Is it not appropriate, then, for independent senators to make a calculation on whether we support an inquiry based on the fact that there will be a large number of senators taking a partisan approach to this inquiry and, therefore, tarnishing the work of this committee and making this study unhelpful?
Senator Smith: Well, I must admit, I feel like Senator Harder now sometimes on the other side.
In addressing your question, I think what’s most important to understand is the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is led by a renowned, solid and credible leader, Serge Joyal, a man who is above any claims of, in my mind, partisanship, and that’s based on my eight years of listening. One thing I’ve learned how to do — tonight is the most I’ve probably ever spoken — is to listen to leaders, and he is one of the leaders I look up to, and he knows that because I’ve told him that.
When you look at the composition of the committee, and I believe it’s six, four, and one, you do have four Conservative folks on the committee, but you have the majority of the independent and Liberal members who have the power, if that’s the word you want to use, to be able to influence decisions.
So I don’t see this partisanship point that you’re bringing up about the Conservatives. We’re all Canadians. We look at things maybe a little differently than people on the other side, but one of the things we do is respect everybody. That’s the important element of this.
We may fight during the day or night when we’re sitting, but the fact is, after that’s over, you look at each other in the eye, you’re able to shake hands and you move on. And anybody who doesn’t think that is missing something, because I can tell you, and I’ve been criticized before, where people say: Senator Smith, you say politics is a sport. Politics can be a blood sport, depending on how you conduct yourself. But the fact of the matter is we’re all here to try to make Canada a better place, and the breakdown of the numbers gives that committee power or control to do what they think is the right thing.
What’s important to recognize is we submitted the motion so that you would have no pushback to the bad old Conservative side about partisanship because it’s set up in such a way that the committee should be able to do its work.
Having had the opportunity and the blessing to run a committee for a few years, the committee work that our groups do here is spectacular. We have great committee work because people put their hearts and souls and their knowledge into making the committees work. I truly believe this is set up properly to enable that to occur.
Senator Woo: Thank you, Senator Smith, for your admission that there will be a partisan element in any investigation that takes place coming from your group. Will you accept that independent senators, in making a decision on whether to support the amendment to the main motion, should consider the extent of partisanship that might infect and, therefore, damage any inquiry held by a committee?
Senator Smith: I thank you for your feedback. Not to drag this into a negative discussion, but I find it odd that you bring up these points of partisanship. Everybody in this room has a political belief. The people on our side have political beliefs, the people down the aisle have political beliefs and people on the other side have political beliefs. Everybody has a political belief. So what are we saying when you’re saying we have partisan beliefs?
You have a partisan belief for the beliefs you have because they’re important to you. Please don’t say that we only have partisan beliefs and you don’t. That’s BS. You’re not honest with yourself, and you’re not being honest with the people in the room.
If I made a bad comment, your honour, I apologize, but at the same time I think it’s important to call people out when people make less-than-credible statements. This is not about partisanship. This is about getting to the bottom —
The Hon. the Speaker: Excuse me, Senator Smith. When you’re speaking, could you stay by your microphone because when you move out we can’t hear you.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Would you take another question?
Senator Smith: You’re tiring me out, Senator Ringuette. One more because we have to move on.
Senator Ringuette: You’re an athlete. You can take it.
Institutional memory. Just a few years ago, this institution was in a “scandal.” Can you tell me which committee of the House of Commons investigated the Senate scandal?
Senator Smith: My understanding was it was fully disclosed. If we’re talking about the scandal that occurred three to four years ago, very early on in the process, I believe, the Prime Minister made sure that all information was available to the folks who were looking at this particular issue.
Let’s put it this way. There’s no question about an issue that took place. No one debates that there was an error in judgment that was made. No one debates that. This is more than an error in judgment. Let’s look at this based on the facts. This is about the rule of law. Thank God I passed my exams at the McGill University Faculty of Law because I did study what the rule of law was. It’s a fundamental principle of our country. Without believing and executing and staying true to the rule of law, we have potential problems. You have to be disciplined, but you have to have a belief system. The Canadian belief system is that we do have a rule of law. That is being challenged potentially because there are still alleged issues.
Let’s compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges in terms of making sure that when we say things, we’re putting things in a fair and balanced position.
Senator Ringuette: The short answer to my question is “zero.” The House of Commons did not investigate anything in regard to the Senate. The House of Commons didn’t even ask the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner of the other place to investigate. With regard to apples and apples and oranges and oranges in your previous statement, Senator Smith, here we have two alleged scandals. Why would we, the Senate, intervene in an issue that is in the other place? When we had a similar issue, the other place did not intervene and respected the process we had put in place. We should respect the process in the other place.
Senator Smith: I’m not going to tell you anything about the fact that I did receive some suggestion from my confrères. This is a question of the Senate committee looking at the activities of the executive, not the House of Commons.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, there’s a long-standing tradition here so we don’t get confused that one senator stands at a time.
Senator Ringuette: Exactly. I believe you’ve just provided the right answer for all honourable senators to consider in regard to this clause. The other leadership in this chamber, not even the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee, did not even investigate this place. Apples and apples and oranges to oranges. There you go.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Smith, there are a number of other senators that wish to ask questions. Are you prepared to take more questions?
Senator Smith: Your honour, if you wouldn’t mind, my blood pressure has been very high today. One more question would be fair because I’m not sure where this discussion is leading us at this particular time.
Hon. Patrick Brazeau: Would Senator Smith agree to answer another question?
Senator Smith: I will do my best, senator.
Senator Brazeau: Thank you, Senator Smith. I listened to your speech with great interest. I hate to say it, but I’m an Alouettes fan. They’ve been going downhill and so are some of your remarks.
I contemplated with my Indigenous colleagues here about doing something about the way that former Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould was alleged to have been tainted or dealt with by her party. As an Indigenous independent senator who used to be partisan — so you can’t say we’re not partisan. You were there in 2013, and I’m going to speak for myself here. To get to the bottom of the truth of the so-called Senate scandal, are you aware that I had asked your party when you were there — you weren’t the leader of the party at the time — the leader of the party at the time to have any investigation, any inquiry, any forum, public and televised, and your party refused.
Instead, you made the decision, because you so much believe in the rule of law, to throw people under the bus and to essentially say that people are guilty before they have a proper, impartial and fair trial.
If you will also recall, there are senators — Senator Tkachuk, Senator Stewart Olsen, former Senator Marjory LeBreton — and the former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Harper Nigel Wright who also lost their jobs because of this created, so-called Senate scandal. Why are you today proposing to have this issue dealt with on the Senate floor when you were not willing to do it back in 2013?
Are you in essence saying that you were wrong? Don’t shake your heads over there. You all voted against it.
Senator Smith: I recognize the experience that you and other senators lived through. We all lived through a very unfortunate experience. Three of us dealt with the Auditor General for, I think, 24 months, being accused of — I’m not going to say less-than-appropriate allegations to the vast majority of people. It’s unfortunate that you had to go through that experience, but it is what it is.
I’m not going to make any disclaimer other than this fact: I won’t say I would have done things differently if I were leader but all I can say is that I was not the leader at the time.
As painful as that period was to you as an individual and for other people in this house, we now have another incident. I won’t say this incident is more important than what happened to you because, to you, it’s the most important thing that took place in your life. I respect that. However, let’s look at what we are dealing with today. Let’s not get hooked on the past and whether it’s the same as what we did or what you did. I’m not going to say that this situation may be a step ahead, but I’m trying to say this is a very serious situation with very serious allegations. This is about not only individuals; this is about our country. We have to take that into consideration, but I do have a lot of empathy for you. I think you’re a good person and I’m very proud to see how you have made a comeback.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Smith, are you prepared to take more questions?
Senator Smith: I’ll tell you what; I’ll take one or two more but I was with you —
Senator Brazeau: Very short. I want to thank you for that. This is not about delving into the past. It’s about looking forward into the future so that what happened here in 2013 never happens to anybody again, whether it’s in this chamber or in the other chamber.
The point I was trying to make is you cannot, after 2013, make a decision to attempt to do what perhaps the Liberal party in the other place is trying to do today. You either want a full inquiry or you don’t. You have to be consistent. So there’s no question in what I’m saying, but it’s forward-looking and you can’t flip-flop on positions because this ruins people’s lives.
Senator Smith: I accept what you’re saying, but I think what’s important to understand here is that the motion has been set up in such a way that, with Senator Joyal and with the composition of this committee, you have true independence from an independent senator’s perspective, from the leadership perspective. So this issue of partisanship, in my mind, just as an observer, is not an issue.
There will be four Conservative members in that committee, but these people must use their best judgment in interaction with the majority of the people in the committee. So you cannot say that that does not exist. What we tried to create here is the best opportunity in a non-partisan way of getting to the facts. Canadians want to know the facts. Have you ever seen the media frenzy and the continuous media frenzy of people today trying to find out. Have you seen it?
Senator Brazeau: Yes, I have.
Senator Smith: With due respect, if I had been in your position, I would have felt exactly the same way. But the fact is when you look at social media today versus where we were four or five years ago, it is much different. We are trying to create the vehicle to address the concerns of everyone in this chamber so we can have a fair analysis of the situation.
The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry, Senator Brazeau, Senator Smith said he would take one more question and Senator Lankin has risen a few times.
Hon. Frances Lankin: Thank you, Senator Smith, for your speech and for the issues you’ve outlined. I concur with much of what you said; I imagine most senators would. I think of the importance of the rule of law, of understanding what transpired, and there are different perspectives about what transpired.
I would say that the cause to which you speak would be aided by not using words like “corruption.” I don’t know if “corruption” is the right word even if the facts as they unfold are damning of the executive branch or the PMO. As balanced as your words were, particularly in the question-and-answer, I think the allegations of a partisan motive behind this come from the catcalls that were going on and the joy at the prospect.
We understand that we are in a pre-election period and that there is a partisan goal to prolong this. All of those things feed into this. None of that strips away the political theatre from the question of whether this needs to be probed more and whether this is the right place.
Two weeks ago, I was hoping to speak to this. I checked and was told you would be adjourning it. I wanted to say that it wasn’t people over here who held it up and stopped it. Some of us want to speak to it. I have not yet decided. I was watching this unfold and you’ve just now provided new information that there will be no further testimony at that committee. I have to weigh that now.
I ask you to understand. On an issue as serious as this — and I concur with you on that — isn’t it better for us to approach this, if we do it, from the point of view of wanting to get to the bottom of it and not wrapping it in words that provoke a response that it’s just partisanship, by naming this already as corruption? You have already said that we don’t have all the facts yet and these are allegations. So please justify the back-and-forth of those two positions for me.
Senator Smith: There appear to be facts that have come forward through the various sources of information-gathering which lead to potential conclusions and words that have been spoken, i.e., corruption, manipulation. Now, as you said earlier, it all depends on your perspective. I think the most important element in trying to craft the motion as a group was to decide who could be the most credible leader to look at this fact.
We came up with Senator Joyal’s name, although obviously we have to ask formal permission. This is a proven individual who, over many, many years, has demonstrated tremendous credibility and competence.
Now, the second point was reality — reality that, in forming the committees, Senator Woo, Senator Plett and other members, participated in the actual creation of these committees. There were tough negotiations. In the Legal and Constitutional group, a breakthrough was made by the Independent Senators Group where they had the majority of the members.
In looking at the process under the leadership of Senator Joyal, it became clear to us as a group that the best way of addressing this is to strip off any potential for comments like, “Oh, yes, you have as many people as we have and this isn’t going to be fair.” That potential is gone because we have it set up in such a way as a suggestion to everyone that you’re going to have the proper leadership and you’re going to have the strength of a majority.
So if we’re true to ourselves in saying that we want to get to the bottom of this, and we look at the experiences of the Liberal house committee, we would, I think, normally ask the questions that are being asked right now in terms of shutting down debate, not letting witnesses come and not letting all the witnesses participate so that we can get all the facts on the table. I think that is a true statement.
I think the reflection has to be that if they’re going to get the right leader and if they’re going to have the majority in terms of independent members, there are other members, so they’re going to put their two cents in; there’s no question about that. But at the same time there are numbers in favour of the independent members. Why can’t we actually do the great committee work that we usually do and find out all the facts and then make a determination?
The Ethics Commissioner? Come on. A $200 fine for somebody having an estate in France or somebody doing something on a trip? The Ethics Commissioner may have the “powers of a Superior Court justice,” but the Ethics Commissioner does not have the power to do the type of analysis that the committee can.
Looking at it, you have to ask yourself the question: Are we part of the solution? What’s the answer? Each person has to make that determination in their mind. How important is it to you, as individuals, that the fundamental rule of law is a pillar? We each have pillars in our lives, but it’s a pillar that Canada was built on. You have to think that through, because that should help you form your decision here.
You know what? As Senator Brazeau said about things in the past, mistakes were made. Whether it’s us or former governments, mistakes were made. That’s what human existence is all about. But guess what? You said it, Senator Brazeau: We want to look forward. I’m suggesting that by striking this committee, we may be setting a fantastic precedent that can lead us on to other committees that may be formed that way to get the results we want on other key issues.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Smith, I saw one other senator rising.
Senator Dalphond, do you have a question?
Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
The Hon. the Speaker: Will you accept one other question, Senator Smith?
Senator Smith: Your honour, can I make one request? I flew back on the plane with someone, and I’m still jet-lagged from dealing with the Senate in another country, but I’ll take one more, because after that I really need a pill.
Senator Dalphond: Thank you, dear colleague, for your generosity. My question is simple, but I have a preamble.
I agree with you that this house has the power to oversee the government and ask questions. This is not about the ruling of this house and how it’s governing itself; it’s about how the government is being ruled and how the government is behaving. We have the right to ask questions of the government, and we have the right to opine and make reports about the separation of powers, and about the role of the Attorney General in our system compared to the Justice Minister in all these issues, which are fundamentally important in a constitutional order like we have here. Certainly, I believe it’s the role of this house to look at these matters seriously.
However, what I’m wondering about is your proposal to have the Justice Committee focus on this issue, so instead of going through Bill C-58, which is pending before the committee; without going through Bill C-78, amendments to the Divorce Act, which is meaningful for millions of Canadians; and instead of studying Bill C-75, which is also connected with the Jordan decision of the Supreme Court and makes improvements to the Criminal Code, the committee would delay or sacrifice these bills. If we refer this issue to the committee and ask that it report by June, the committee would be doing nothing else but that until June.
So should the motion be amended and given to a special committee instead of the Justice Committee?
Senator Smith: My first reaction is I think it should go to the Justice Committee. Senator Harder has met numerous times with Senator Plett and myself to discuss the logistics of legislation in front of us. So when you take the bills that you’ve mentioned, like Bill C-75 and Bill C-78, et cetera, and then you put those on the table —
Senator Mercer: Senator Day wasn’t at the meeting?
Senator Smith: He might not have been at that particular one. Sorry, Senator Mercer. If I forgot to mention someone’s name, I apologize.
Senator Lankin: It was bilateral. We know.
Senator Smith: The fact of the matter is if you look at the bills on the table and the issue in front of us, you have to ask yourself a qualifying question: What’s the priority of this particular issue on the rule of law versus the bills on the table?
I look at the rule of law as a fundamental principle of how we live as Canadians. Each of us has our value system. I have my value system from my mother, an Anglican minister’s daughter, my grandfather and my father. I was in church when I was six. My mother used to pound it into me. I had my values from my mom, and my dad was a great guy, but the fact is the value system that we’re looking at is about the rule of law, which is fundamental to our lives as Canadians.
How do we manage that with other legislation in front of us? Well, I guess we might want to be great managers because when you’re faced with a challenge, you find a way of managing through the challenge. This challenge is, in my mind, probably a priority in terms of importance for our Canadian society.
(On motion of Senator Gold, debate adjourned.)
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate Withdrawn
On Motion No. 427 by the Honourable Serge Joyal:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be authorized to meet on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, at 3 p.m., even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that the application of rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I will seek concurrence to withdraw the motion under my name since it refers to a meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that was supposed to take place on December 12 and, of course, it’s long gone from the calendar. With your concurrence, honourable senators, I would ask for authorization to withdraw the notice of motion.
(Notice of motion withdrawn.)
Motion to Urge the Government to Raise Awareness of the Magnitude of Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking and to Designate February 22 of Each Year as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Dan Christmas, pursuant to notice of February 20, 2019, moved:
That the Senate call on the government to raise awareness of the magnitude of modern day slavery in Canada and abroad and to take steps to combat human trafficking, and
That the Senate also urge the government to designate the 22nd day of February each year as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, to coincide with the anniversary of the unanimous declaration of the House of Commons on February 22, 2007, to condemn all forms of human trafficking and slavery.
He said: Honourable senators, this motion is being moved today on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. A similar motion was moved recently in the other place.
The group was launched in April of last year and its members include representation from the Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green parties in the other place, as well as the Independent Senators Group here in this chamber.
The group’s activities are also supported by a partnership with the Allard School of Law’s International Justice and Human Rights Clinic at the University of British Columbia.
Our priorities are as follows: to ensure that the Government of Canada does all it can to prevent and protect civilian populations from modern slavery, to increase prosecution of traffickers and to build partnerships with various organizations; to increase the flow of information and analysis to parliamentarians about modern slavery; to promote understanding of the importance of long-term approaches to the prevention of slavery; and to engage in communications and collaboration with like-minded bodies in civil society and other parliaments.
Honourable colleagues, we seek to cultivate a Canada free from exploitation and modern slavery; equally, we recognize the immense value in building strong partnerships to combat this insidious scourge on our society. Our group, therefore, seeks your support of this motion so that we may designate the 22nd day of February each year as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Wela’lioq. Thank you.
Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Honourable senators, this evening I rise to speak in support of the motion calling for February 22 to be designated National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, with appreciation for this initiative to Senator Christmas and the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, of which I am proud to be a founding member.
Human trafficking is, without a doubt, a critical issue. We need to address this phenomenon around the world, but also here in Canada. We need to raise awareness about situations of vulnerability and exploitation facing some people in our own communities. Sexual exploitation and human trafficking are not separate phenomena, and Canada is certainly not immune to them.
The trafficking in children, the business of adults selling access to other adults of children’s bodies, is well documented in Winnipeg, where I reside. My colleague, Diane Redsky, the CEO of one of the largest Aboriginal-led organizations in Canada, known as Ma Mawi, has testified on a number of occasions on rescuing Indigenous children from traffickers. Winnipeg police have repeatedly confirmed that the majority of these trafficked children of are Indigenous origin.
In 2018, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released a global report on trafficking in persons, noting that between 2011 and 2016, there was nearly a 40 per cent increase in detected human trafficking victims worldwide. Furthermore, an important finding that emerged from the global report was that countries that enhanced their anti-trafficking actions reported higher numbers of trafficking victims. This is a clear indication that to make evidence-based decisions on countering human trafficking, we must have credible evidence on the extent of human trafficking. We must do this in order to go beyond commitment to actually implementing stronger anti-trafficking strategies.
According to Statistics Canada, instances of human trafficking in Canada have been on the rise since 2010. Of these instances, more than half involve another offence. Typically, this other offence is prostitution. Of the 865 human trafficking victims from 2009 to 2016, 95 per cent were women and girls; 72 per cent of them were under 25 years of age; and 26 per cent of them were under 18 years of age, which means they are children.
Following her visit to Canada in April 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, stated that trafficking requires serious attention in Canada. She noted there is a general lack of data on human trafficking in Canada, including data on trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The Special Rapporteur also noted that Indigenous women and girls are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking.
The concern for Indigenous women and girls was also highlighted in Senator Sinclair’s final report on the Thunder Bay Police Services board investigation, released a short while ago. As a major hub for transportation in Ontario, and as a port city on Lake Superior, Thunder Bay continues to be a site of human trafficking. The report confirmed that the average age of Indigenous girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation is 14 years old. Some of these victims are as young as 10.
Honourable senators, these are not abstract numbers. They represent human beings whose lives are treated by us and our society to be, in essence, disposable if we do not take action.
Designating February 22 as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is a step we must take. In doing so, we will create a recurring mechanism to remind all Canadians and ourselves as parliamentarians that we cannot — we must not — turn away from the scourge of human trafficking in Canada and the world.
Thank you. Meegwetch.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Martin, on debate?
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): No, Your Honour. Actually, I just wanted to say that this is a very important motion. I want to thank Senator Christmas and Senator McPhedran for her words. I will take adjournment —
The Hon. the Speaker: Sorry, Senator Martin. Before you take adjournment, I believe there’s another senator who wishes to speak.
Senator Martin: I’m sorry. I thought there were only two.
Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: I see that it is late and will try to be brief.
I rise to support Motion No. 439 to urge the government to raise awareness of the magnitude of modern day slavery and human trafficking.
It is hard to fathom that, in 2019, we still tolerate forms of slavery on our planet. Slavery is often mistakenly perceived as a phenomenon of the past that no longer exists. The large-scale slavery of Africans remains with us and has become a literary theme.
In Véronique Olmi’s poignant book Bakhita, which is based on a true story, the heroin is born in Darfur in 1869. She is taken to Sudan, where slave trafficking is rampant. She is seven years old when her two abductors sell her to masters who beat and insult their slaves. I will read an excerpt.
The slave trader took her chin in his hands, forcing her to open her mouth and show her teeth. He threw a stick, expecting her to run to retrieve it and then bring it back. She did not understand at first. She did not run to get it. He slapped her and started over. She ran. The man spit when she fell. Her legs could no longer carry her...She did not understand what was expected of her. She was frantic. She did not know what they wanted. They inspected her. Everywhere. It hurt...
This passage carefully describes the violence that far too many people experience daily. In the meantime, forms of slavery may have changed a bit, but the violence still remains. Today, what we call modern slavery includes forced labour, sex trafficking, and forced marriages. As my colleague said, these phenomena affect girls in particular and women across the globe who are still victims of inequality and discrimination.
An estimated 4.8 million, almost exclusively girls and women, are victims of forced sexual exploitation, and 15 million people, again mostly girls, have been forced to marry. A vast majority of these forms of exploitation occur far away from here in countries where young girls are married or sold to much older men. They experience early pregnancies that result in horrible complications such as fistulas. Canada is not immune to this either. Barely a month ago, 43 Mexicans who were reduced to slavery were freed by police in the Barrie region in Ontario. These men were forced by their traffickers to work as cleaners for $50 a month.
At a time when the debate over prostitution is often reduced to a question of individual choices and women’s freedom, it is vital to remember that the line between so-called sex work and sexual exploitation is not always clear. I participated in researching and writing a paper entitled Prostitution: Time to Take Action that was published by Quebec’s Conseil du statut de la femme. I’d like to read you an excerpt from the testimony of a 25-year-old Montreal woman named Marie, who fell into the clutches of a violent pimp who forced her to hand over all her earnings, isolated her from her family and controlled all her movements. That’s a form of slavery too.
This is what she had to say.
He was always watching. I wasn’t allowed to turn my head, to talk to who I wanted. I danced every night. I was raped three times a week at the bar where I danced. I had to call his cell phone every 30 minutes to tell him what I had been doing, how many clients and dancers there were in the room. He calculated in his head how much money I had to bring back at the end of the night. If I didn’t bring back enough, I’d be beaten. One day, he broke two of my teeth. He liked to strangle me until I lost consciousness.
It is difficult to imagine that the trafficking of women and girls actually exists in Canada. What is more, it disproportionately affects Indigenous women. In Quebec, television series and the arrest of pimps brought to light this clandestine phenomenon in which young girls end up under the control of street gangs, where they are conditioned to their new reality through repeated rape, locked up and, most importantly, taken far from home to other provinces such as Ontario and Alberta so that the gangs can make as much money as they can from them by passing them from client to client. It is difficult to determine the scope of this phenomenon, and members of the Quebec National Assembly are proposing to conduct a parliamentary inquiry to take stock of the situation.
Laws are essential. Unfortunately, one of the tools to better prevent exploitation and human trafficking, Bill C-38, which amends the Criminal Code, has been stuck at first reading stage in the House of Commons for two years now, and I am worried that we will not be able to examine it here in the Senate before the election. It isn’t too late for the new Minister of Justice to get it back on track. Otherwise, it will be a missed opportunity. Thank you.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
Fisheries and Oceans
Committee Authorized to Meet During Sitting of the Senate
Hon. Fabian Manning, pursuant to notice of February 28, 2019, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans have the power to meet on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 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: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(At 8:53 p.m., the Senate was continued until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)